July 5, 2003 - Personal Web Site: The Best of the Black Flag Newsletter

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The Best of the Black Flag Newsletter

The Best of the Black Flag Newsletter

The Best of the Black Flag Newsletter

Saturday, 05-Jul-2003 15:44:40 GMT You are the to visit my page.

View and write to our BFN Letters to the Editor

"Have you had your WID movement today?"

What's New...
In order to appeal to our much beloved TEFL colleagues, we have boldly stricken the SED from the title of our humble newsletter. We do not apologize for any noses that may have gotten bent out of shape, nor do we much care who reads us, but our business manager tells us it is a simple case of demographics. If we are to overtake the BalticPeace in terms of readership, then we must take whomever (whoever?) we can get. We acknowledge that many TEFL's have journalistic talents which likely surpass our own, and we welcome any submissions they would like to make, as long asthey do not include pompous, anal, lecturing about English grammar, or whiny, envy based diatribes: "...wah wah wah... I wish I was a SED so I didn't have to teach four days a week, my life is so shitty... wah wah wah." Finally, we recognize that most TEFL's are women, and we are especially fond of women. Enough said.

Factoid: In 1978, an estimated 51,000 people died from alcohol poisoning in the Soviet Union, compared to 400 in the United States. - Hedrick Smith, The Russians

News of the Weird
Last week, they dragged a body out of the little pond that I walk by every day on my way to work. The same pond the kids merrily skate on in the winter and fish in in the summer. In fact, the body was in such a progressed state of decomposition that it must have been there all winter as the little tykes laughed and slid about a mere ten feet above. They don't know exactly how the guy bought it, but I suspect he was an anonymous drunk that simply passed out one night and rolled to his watery death.

This got me to thinking about all the untimely deaths which occurred in my little town of 12,000 in the past year. The first one was a friend of a friend of mine who was shot six times in the chest and tossed into the Daugava nearby. Probably mafia connected, they say. A week later, the guy's best friend (wink, wink) hung himself in his flat. Then a guy fell out of his fifth floor window, my only question being, why was his window wide open in January? And in June, a guy was beaten to death with a crowbar, the same month in which Chris passed a dead guy on the side of the road on the way to my flat. I think the murders per capita here in Aizkraukle may actually rival, say, Washington, D.C. I don't know. But I do know that my town is not alone.

In Gulbene, some thug beat an apparently innocent guy to death at the local disco and wasn't even going to be charged because his family payed off the family of the victim. And in little old Daugavpils, the police want Chris to testify against some thugs who may have burglarized his apartment last winter, and just happen to be the prime suspects in a double murder. But nothing tops DS's tale of actually witnessing a mafia hit and seeing the victim take his last breath. If you have a similar report of wanton death and violence, by all means send it in. We live for this sort of thing.

Quote of the month:
"There are two ways I would consider extending for a third year: No way and no f---ing way." - KB

Arts and Leisure
A new addition for the BFN, Arts and Leisure will entertain and inform. The editorial staff usually frowns on printing lyrics, but this Oingo Boingo tune so accurately describes the FSU (That's Former Soviet Union, not Florida State, so settle down Terry) lifestyle, we had to include it. Submitted by hardcore Boingoid, Dave, who gives the album a twisted thumbs-up.

Countless long nights, I stare at the wall, I ask myself over again, how did I end up in this little hell, how did it ever begin? Ohhh helpless!.

Helpless to turn back the clock that ticks with its cruel, shiny face, it laughs while it watches my every disgrace. I was born a sap, all the nurses laughed, when they saw me the first time they giggled and said, this poor little monster'd be better off dead. Ohhh helpless!

Helplessly trapped in a body I'm sure should have never been mine. I'll bet that my real one is doing just fine, and I don't belong her, I should be quite rich, with a big shiny car, a house with twelve rooms, I deserve to go far. Ohhh helpless!

Helplessly falling in love, but does love really last through the night? To love and honor, to kick and bite. And I don't belong here, I don't belong here. It's all a mistake, I was destined for greatness. A leader, a prophet. They're just too blind to notice. Where did the whole story begin? It seems that my mind has gone blank, I think that I've messed up a chapter or two. Perhaps it is best if I'm frank. Ohhh helpless!

Helplessly lost like that poor chap who came for an innocent dance, he left with his brains spilled all over his pants (see News of the Weird). 'Cause he didn't belong here, he didn't belong here. He never should have left that warm cage at the zoo, his face was so ugly, what else could I do? Can you really blame me? I had to smash it, he left me no choice, he was just like the others, I just had to kill him (just like my poor, dear old mother). Ohhh helpless!

Helplessly f---ed in the ass by a legion of 40 ex-cons, that's what it feels like when you walk all over me. I don't belong here, I don't belong here. Your eyes burn right through me, they fill me with fear, I could have been home watching football and drinking beer. Ohhh helpless! Sooooooo Helpless....

A Camp Catherine Moment...

A beautiful summer day on a beach somewhere near Liepaja. Not a cloud in the sky, the temperature a balmy 20 C. The sand is soft and white, and so are the twenty to thirty nubile, teenage Latvian and Lithuanian "camper", sunbathing and frolicking in the clear, blue surf.

One of these little darlings nonchalantly lights up a cigarette, prompting comment from the small group of entirely un-nubile Americans nearby:

DS: "I can't believe she's smoking, she looks so young. And she's cute as a button!"
Amy: "Yeah, she'll be really cute on a respirator in thirty years."
KJ: "I can't take all this negativity."
KJ strides off down the beach, and disappears like a ghost into the sea...

Quote of the Month:

After borrowing Mike's phone to call the woman he loved, Mike's drunk neighbor, in a frenzy of apologies for his intrusion:

"I'm sorry I bothered you... so sorry. It was just that it was the first time I've woken up in a week and knew where I was, so I thought I'd take advantage of it."

And if you though we were jaded and cynical, get a load of this brief commentary from our contributing political correspondent, Steve. A former ad-man and democratic campaign spin-doctor, Steve has recently joined the Oregon Libertarian Party. Keep in mind, he's never even set foot in the FSU.

American politics is an old man peddling a creaking bike with a large pot of hot stew balanced on his head. The world is the rest of traffic (bumper to bumper) waiting for him to find his inevitable ditch, so they can hurry to the cliff edge beyond.

BlackFlag Contest
"In the last years of Brezhnev, the authorities began doing something truly bizarre. They began looking for adjectives to describe, officially, for propaganda purposes, the nature of our great socialism: "real socialism", "completed socialism", "built socialism", etc. They put everything aside to find the proper adjective. What was it? Inside our magical culture this was a completely logical act. They had to find the true secret name, and as soon as it was pronounced, the object would begin to serve you. It was a wonderful case of concentrating reality in a tiny concept, a little piece of language. It was tiny formula of culture..." The New Yorker, "Letter from Moscow. Exit of the Saints." by David Remnick

After living in these former "worker's paradises" for a while, we have all probably, at one time or another, muttered our own favorite descriptive adjective to sum up the beauty of socialism. Words like "f---ing", "smokestack heaven", and "grey pit" immediately come to mind (Those of you from small, northeastern, flaming liberal arts colleges who still think socialism has positive attributes, just SHUT UP.) So, send in your best adjective, and win the Boingo tape featured in A&L.

Baltic Boyth Club
Recently, the first meeting of a new PC-sponsored organization was held in Riga. Apparently, there was some misunderstanding as to what "BBC" stood for. At least one volunteer showed up thinking it was the Baltic "Bi" Club. Upon realizing his mistake, he got very embarrassed, threw a hissy-fit, and stormed out, heels clicking and hands on his hips. We were still unclear about this new group, so we spoke with the organizers.

"Bathically, we offer men volunteerth in Latvia a chanthe to meet and dithcuth thenthitivity iththues. It'th not eathy being a man in the Balticth. We thwap rethipes, knitting techniqueth, and jutht thare our feelingth. Then thereth alwayth the occathional thircle jerk. Hee hee hee. I'm jutht being thilly, of courthe!. And our firtht meeting wath Thimply Thuper!

The VAC Insider

Editor's note: The following are the official transcipts of the Oct. 8 meeting fo the VAC, acquired from an anonymous VAC representative for an inordinate fee. However, we feel it was worth it, as this document sheds some light on the powerful, secretive world of the VAC.

9:00 am. Call to order. A brief prayer. Discussion of the bylaws. Very important. Decide to discuss the bylaws at the next meeting. After one rep. moans and says, "I don't give two hairs on a rat's ass about the bylaws", he is shunned henceforth.
9:25 am. Money issues. Latvian delegation takes control of the living allowance issue, blasting away with statistical research which stuns the other reps like "deer in the headlights". Issue is settled peacefully.
9:45 am VAC officially gives complete censorship control to PC staff concerning Baltic Peace. Concerns that the Peace will be transformed from its current state as a "milktoast/fluff newsletter" into a "mouthpiece for the bureaucracy" are overruled.
9:50 am The incessant whining begins: "Why do we have to go on an all-expense paid vacation to Vilnius?" "Can't we just have the money instead"? "Your resource center is nicer than my resource center". "I wasn't invited to this PC function". "Who's gonna hold my hand when I'm SADD?" Blah, blah, blah, blah...
3:45 pm. The obligatory, self-congratulatory session. Current VAC thanks the prior VAC for its hard work and commitment to democracy. Current VAC thanks itself for having the foresight to recognize the prior VAC for its hard work and commitment to democracy. VAC thanks PC staff for allowing VAC to exist. PC staff has already thanked the VAC for existing (see by-laws, version 3.2), and for this the VAC is grateful. VAC thanks the CD for allowing it to ponder such important questions concerning the wellbeing of volunteers. (The CD is privately thankful that the VAC has no real power and can always be ignored. VAC thanks WID, EBDP, SPA, GOBID, BBC, and all the other relevant acronyms for their commitment to furthering the art of bureaucracy. VAC thanks the Baltic Peace for its hard-hitting journalistic style (especially those "madcap" travel diaries). VAC specifically thanks the BFN for nothing.
4:15 pm VAC adjourns.

Bad TEFL Poetry
I look at my class, and in their reflection I see,
I hear...techno. One, two three
It's all the same, so boring
I want to Metallica all over their faces.
You little rodents, smoking till there's nothing left,
Looking like bricks of the grey house I just left.
Torture, Torturous, Tortory, you factory.
We're all in a factory, pumping out lives.
Dealing with complacency.
Your job is harder than mine, you SED?
You're dead.
You've got nothing to do,
But go through Latvia, through and through,
Your job, about as interesting as the Moscow Zoo.
I'll be telling this somewhere ages hence with a sigh,
What I'd give for an American pie.
Does Uncle Sam have the same problems at home?
As I leave school and walk into my broken-down flat,
I'd just have to say no. Oh. no.

Quote of the month
In a relatively progressive Daugavpils bar, Mike's drunk, gay nemesis, in a fit of dejective desperation, cries out in Russian:

"But Mike, you just don't understand, I love you!"

Interview with Tony, the Former Peace Corps Baltics Cat
BFN: Tony, its nice to finally speak with you. You're a hard man to get a hold of.
Tony: Yeah, right. I'm almost as busy as these SED volunteers.
BFN: So, how's life treating you lately?
Tony: Shitty, thanks. Who the hell are all these people in my house?
BFN: That's the new PC Staff, Tony. The "kindler, gentler" PC Staff.
Tony: Ah, quit jerking my tail. Those bastards kicked my ass out. I don't know about your Peace Corps. You know, I used to have a reason to go outside, but then they cut my balls off. Now, I'd just as soon stay inside and relax, but they don't want me around. Do you have any idea what it's like to have your balls cut off?
BFN: Why do you think they kicked you out, Tony?
Tony: I dunno, but I was pretty close to the volunteers, and I think they felt threatened by that. Plus, sometimes I like to lick myself and I don't much care who's around.
BFN: So what will you do now?
Tony: I'll probably go to Spain for a while and chill out. Maybe work on my memoirs. I see it as a sort of an expose, like Patti Davis' book about Ron and Nancy. You see, I know all the secrets. I can bring that place down if I decide to. They'll rue the day they ever messed with the genitals of Tony the Cat.

Contest Entry
Dear Curmudgeon Newsletter (BlackFlag) Contest.
As I am not, in your own words, a "flaming liberal from a small, Northeastern college", but rather a "moderate, liberal from a small, Western arts college", I am assuming I don't have to follow your profound advice to just SHUT UP. (See, we're everywhere-but don't fret, I think this will be good for your readership.)

Foremost, I am hesitant to refer to ex-Soviet countries as Socialist. The Soviet Union was a "command economy", starkly different from the "managed capitalism" which the socialists are currently championing across Europe and the U.S. If the New Yorker is searching for an adjective to describe communism, then why not "non-fastidiously satiated". For communism might not have provided its citizens with a choice of 57 types of bread (which they can't afford now anyway), but its provision of lackluster white bread tended to satiate the hungers of the "old fossils" who we currently see peddling everything from boys briefs to bananas in major Baltic cities.

However, for all its vaulted egalitarianism, I am the first to agree that the communist social contract is pathetically pedestrian. Having tasted the good-life, I'm sure most of us would prefer to be "pretentiously satiated" so long as it did not adversely affect other societal members. Since most SEDs have an economic erudition, I'm sure they are cognizant that Keynes solved this distribution dilemma fifty years ago. The solution - don't divide up the pie, make it bigger!

The Baltic States have gone Laissez-faire gag-gag, and a retraction towards liberal economic policies is the only way to increase the pie (ie. generous social programs). If the Baltic States continue on such a conservative path, a much more important institution might be lost - Democracy. You can have bread without freedom, but you can only have ephemeral freedom without bread.
- The Left SED

Editor's response: We regret that we have had to bring such a serious discussion into our normally carefree newsletter, but this was the only submission to our contest. As such, the author would have received the prize, an Oingo Boingo tape had he included his name. Unfortunately, all we know is that the author hails from Liepaja, Latvia, and likes to use big words that he thinks will bewilder and confuse us. No, as a matter of fact, we don't understand words like curmudgeon, fastidious, or ephemeral, but maybe you should ask yourself who has a newsletter, Mr Smarty-Pants! We have sent some "friends" to Liepaja to search for our winner, and after we fulfill our obligation of awarding him with the contest prize, we are going to f---ing brutally kick the motherf---er's ass with a f---ing crowbar for daring to critique the Black Flag.

Editor's note: This conversation was recently recorded in a small, dingy flat inhabited by an increasingly small and dingy SED volunteer, somewhere in the Baltics.

Beavis: I'm sick of this peasant mentality. Heh heh.
Butthead: That's because they're f---ing stupid. Heh heh.
Beavis: No, they're not stupid. But, what I want to say is, that you can either join the twentieth century or just do subsistence farming. Because if you just want to subsist, I can't help you. I don't want to help you. Heh heh.
I guess you could say I've gone macro. To hell with this grass roots shit. Heh heh.

Quote of the Month

Latvian Independence Day, 1994. As Chris proudly displays his newly acquired Soviet-era hammer and sickle flag in the window of his Daugavpils flat, Craig expresses his concern:
"Dude, I'm not sure that's a good idea."

The Black Flag Thanks-giving
Thanks to the money men in Washington, for allowing us a free Thanksgiving weekend in beautiful Vilnius, Lietuva.
Thanks to the PCB staff, for wording the "free Thanksgiving weekend" in such a way so that the money men in Washington think it is really a conference of some sort.

And most of all...

Thanks to the less developed nations of the world, for being less developed, so we may defer the inevitability of career, marriage, family, mortgage, and all the other mind-numbing drudgeries of the American Dream, for an enlightening two years in another place.

Shattering Those Baltic Travel Myths

Myth #1: There are no good, affordable restaurants in St. Petersburg.
People told us that there was no decent food to be found in St. Pete, with exception of tea and crumpets at the posh Literary Cafe. To the contrary, we discovered all manner of ethnic delights - Georgian, Arabic, Armenian, Indian, and Mexican. All costing no more than $3, including drinks. Each can be found listed in the St. Pete Times, and are within short walking distance of the Russian Youth hostel and Nevsky Prospekt. We found one restaurant, however, which is not listed and is close to Peterhof. "Pedro el Grande's" serves the most authentic TexMex outside of San Antonio. Craig had the Ensenada style fish tacos, and Damon went for the vegetarian Chili Rellenos, filled with cheese and smothered in an incredible picante. All washed down with several margaritas, on the rocks, of course. "Pedro's" is a little more pricey, but worth it. You must take the hydrofoil out to Peterhof and ask the captain, who spoke English, for directions.

Myth #2: St. Pete has a stringent and well enforced leash law.
To quote Dostoyevsky: "Petrograd is the 'poopiest town I've ever sunk foot into".

Myth #3: Russian border guards are all grizzled, cranky old men in bad uniforms.
We were awakened on the night train by three charming, Slavic beauties who spoke English and thanked us for visiting their country.

Myth #4: Strip and cavity searches at the border are always unpleasant.

Myth #5: The Peace Corps ID card is completely worthless.
That flimsy little piece of laminate saved us veritable wads of rubles and kroons at museums, boat cruises and other attractions. Simply flash your ID and mutter "student" in the respective language.

Myth #6: Bus rides are tedious and unpleasant experiences.
We rode the bus almost everyday, and found it bearable and in fact pleasurable. Riding the bus in the morning is best, and we find that coffee makes it go much more smoothly.

Myth #7: All Baltic toilets are smelly, fly-ridden pits.
Not true, in Estonia many public toilets even have seats. In fact, just about everything in Eesti is just plain better. Particularly the food, which is much cheaper (than in Latvia) and in most cases, edible. We even noted fewer drunks and mafia thugs.

Myth #8: It is a good idea to avoid hospital stays in the former Soviet Union.
On the lovely island of Saaremaa, we stayed in a hostel for visiting doctors at the local polyclinic, for under $9 per night. Jim's credentials as Doctor of Alternative Theology were enough to get us in, but anyone can stay there, space permitting.

Myth #9: Baltic travel guides are useful and up-to-date.
The Lonely Planet led us to the hospital, but described the location of the hostel as "out back". What's more, they listed the price as a mere $2. If it sounds too good to be true....

Myth #10: The unwashed traveller is bohemian and cool.
As we were boarding a train in St. Pete, two grimy Brits asked us if we were on the train to Tallinn. These chaps were so grungy, they looked as if they had been mistakenly buried with Kurt Cobain. We helpfully pointed them to the next train to Vladivostok.

Myth #11: When travelling in Eastern Europe, you either meet "ugly" Americans, or cultured, friendly Europeans.
We were snubbed by two Frenchmen at breakfast in the St. Pete hostel when Damon, in his best French accent, kindly asked "Would you please pass, Le Cheerios?" In total contrast to this, on the ferry to Saaremaa, we met Ashley. She was American, a Californian. She was beautiful and intelligent. Short blond hair, blue eyes an engaging smile, and completely unaffected. She was in Med school, and described with great feeling her desire to specialize in fertility medicine. No kidding.

Myth #12: The average Peace Corps volunteer has numerous sexual partners over the course of their service.
Not a chance. Ashley actually cringed when Damon mentioned his home state of Indiana, and Craig was looking characteristically geeky in is "Prague is for Lovers" T-shirt.

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