Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

23 Jun 2001, 7:56 a.m.

"I need a syllabus to listen to you talk!"

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2001 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

I continue my previous entry, which was quite rudely interrupted by the end of my chas na internyete (hour on the internet) here at the International/Intercity Telephone Office in St. Petersburg. Quote in title is from a gal with whom I went to dinner at the Idiot Cafe last night.

To continue my ramble from yesterday:

Death, continued
What if Lincoln had lived? I know I'm pulling a hypothetical that "Head of the Class" (1980s TV show) would have considered trite (and believe me, some of the historical hypotheticals brought up by the history teacher in that show were pretty darn trite; that show really seemed to advance a rather superficial, "final cause" rather than "first cause" kind of understanding of history, in which individuals and not historical forces were crucial).

But I had just watched Bamboozled that day when I saw Arlington and then Lincoln's deathbed. And I wondered whether my country would be more whole today if some sort of racial reconciliation had occurred back 150 years ago.

I've been meaning for a long while to talk about my experience on June 11, when I first saw the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. It was the morning that Timothy McVeigh had been executed. The death-synchronicity was heavy in my heart.

(In one of the Dekalog films, Kieslowski contrasts the brutal, senseless killing of a taxi driver with the orderly, legal execution of that killer.)

Arlington -- far away from urban centers, acres and acres of headstones and grass -- had tried to be quiet, I think, allowing the silence of the graves to speak for themselves. The Holocaust Museum (in downtown D.C., opposite the U.S. Department of Agriculture) had the opposite strategy. It fairly shouted that we must never forget. From the moment of entry -- after the metal detector -- everywhere I looked was something to read, to experience, to absorb. Exhibit after exhibit. (I came too late to get a pass that day for the Permanent Exhibition, the rather famous one in which you walk chronologically through the period and carry a small biographical sketch of a Jew from the era. A friend of mine told me that his friend, after several visits to the museum, thought of that card as a lottery ticket. "Does mine die this time? No! Woo-hoo!")

A woman in my freshman-year English class at Cal -- one of something like ten twenty-year-old Jews in that class -- once said something to the effect of, "We're Holocaust kids. Our entire lives, we've been told, 'Never again.' And we've got that message." And she continued that there must be more to teach our children than "never again." (Seth's diary is relevant here.)

I think I need more time to figure out the rather profound problems I have with the Holocaust Museum. I'll write more when I've articulated it better.

Now, on to other topics.

It is rather blind to enjoy the cost of living here whilst complaining about the standard of living. Yes, I'm going to an opera at the Marinksii on Tuesday and I paid US$4 for my ticket, and therefore I will not complain about having to drink bottled and/or boiled water. A metro ride is about twenty cents, and as such, I don't whine about the lines. I get what I paid for.

I went to The Idiot last night, with four? three? girls and one guy.

You mean I'm not the sexiest geek alive? Oh, pish-tosh.

Must speak of cafe experience. The harrowing one.

Independently coming up with the same thing as someone else is cool. Like the calculus, or a joke.

There's a Pushkin story named "The Queen of Spades." The other day I passed by 10 Nyevskii Prospekt, where the story is set. "Once I was the Queen of Spades..."

First published by Sumana Harihareswara at