The Random European Airport Lounge Mini-Interviews: David Polansky - No Idea Who He Is
The Expert with a PhD in something tries his hardest to be witty on subjects ranging from Bob Dylan's coming glorious death, American global power, film snobbery, and more!
(We are segueing back into interview mode, so here’s a mini-version to get the ball rolling - ed.)
David Polansky wants everybody to know that he is NOT related to Roman Polanski, except in France and in Poland where he DEFINITELY is Roman’s favourite nephew, being the famed director’s greatest inspiration for his film work (THE PIANIST being the best-known example), and CERTAINLY NOT for his sexual proclivities.
As we now live in the post-MLK Judge Not By the Colour of Their Skin era, I must inform you that Polansky is a mischling; half Italian/half Jewish. He is a Judeo-Dago, scientifically speaking. Also acceptable is the populist label: Jew Wop. David has a PhD in something, I forget what exactly. Do not fret, as he will remind everyone that he has one, if given half a chance. He also owns a mansion and a yacht while being gainfully employed as a Research Fellow at the Institute for Peace & Diplomacy.
In our 25 years of friendship, you have repeatedly pointed out to me that the greatest hypothetical moral dilemma that I can pose to you goes as follows: given single-use access to a functioning time machine, would you choose to kill Baby Hitler? Or would you instead travel back in time to make love to Claudia Cardinale in her prime? For me, the choice is a very simple and obvious one......but I am not the subject of this interview.
That quarter century really flew by didn’t it? This is obviously a question of the highest moral seriousness and one wants to respond: ¿Por qué no los dos? But my fear is that traveling back in time to hurl baby Hitler into the lion exhibit of the Tiergarten Schönbrunn would create a butterfly effect that would ultimately prevent Claudia Cardinale from coming into existence in the first place, thus depriving me of the opportunity to enjoy intimate relations with the world's most beautiful woman. Indeed, it might even prevent me from coming into existence in the first place. The choice I think is clear.
I personally cannot wait for Bob Dylan to die. When God finally decides to kill him, the heavy energy that has collectively weighed us down since the 1960s will finally be lifted from our sore shoulders. Boomergeddon will usher in a new age; one characterized by peace and love, and one that will simply be too difficult for my loser generation to manage.
I’m glad to see that we agree that there is really no hope for Gen X either way. But I’m not quite sure why you’d concede a great artist like Bob Dylan to the Boomers, especially when--like nearly every consequential figure of their era that they took credit for in a generational display of stolen valour--he isn't actually one of them. Suffice it to say, the quintessential boomer artists wouldn’t be Dylan at all but rather The Eagles or Fleetwood Mac, whose songs are mostly about how massive quantities of cocaine + rampant infidelity are not in fact the recipe for lasting happiness. This is the kind of obvious message that only a generation as smug and solipsistic as the Boomers could possibly find revelatory. In any case, I fear that not even sticking Don Henley and Stevie Nicks into a giant Wicker Man and setting it alight in a ritual act of mass cultural cleansing will bring about a new golden age, and we’ll just be stuck cleaning up the Boomers' messes for basically the remainder of our lifetimes.
I will defend Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer” to the death! Any time that song comes on the radio, I will belt that chorus out no matter who is in my vicinity. Same goes for Stevie Windwood’s “Higher Love”. Anyway…….
You take umbrage with my position that the USA has never been stronger on the global stage than it is now. You insulted me by asking me to compare today's USA to 1991. Use this opportunity to take a hammer to my steel balls of logic.
This is really starting to sound pretty sadomasochistic, and my concern here is that you’re just going to use whatever I write for the purposes of self-gratification. Or maybe this is just how you guys settle arguments over in the Balkans. Nonetheless here goes:
With the collapse of our only strategic peer competitor, we reached an apex position of relative power that we wouldn’t quite enjoy again. The successor states of the Soviet Union would spend the ensuing decade engaged in various forms of economic collapse, gangsterism, civil and ethnic warfare, seccesionism, and so forth (the back half of Svetlana Alexievich’s Secondhand Time provides a humanly compelling portrait). China’s geo-strategic challenge still lays a couple decades in the future, as it is worried primarily about domestic concerns like violently ensuring that it’s own version of Glasnost would never come to pass, and urbanizing its vast peasant population. Meanwhile, we were well-positioned to direct Europe as we saw fit (witness Bush-Baker’s oversight of German reunification). Cripes, even the Israelis had to listen to us back then.
The intangibles also matter here too: our shrewd management of the first Gulf War—not just corralling allies, but (gasp!) getting them to pay for stuff meant as much as our demonstration of force projection. We didn’t just seem powerful and rich; we actually seemed like we knew what we were doing, which is not a trivial consideration from the standpoint of other powers. Two decades after 9/11—after Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, etc.—we no longer present quite the same picture of competence.
There is also the fact that our elites really are far, far stupider now than they were then, and we are presently ruled by the kind of gerontocracy that one typically finds in the late Soviet Union or one of the weirder peoples Herodotus wrote about. Finally—and this is a less obvious geopolitical factor— we really do seem to have less asabiyya. A lot of things were materially worse back in the 1970s—crime, domestic political violence, access to raw materials, etc.—but we evidently still had greater collective psychic resources to deal with them. (plus, we had a lot of labour we could still sacrifice to capital, Reagan/Thatcher-style….but you can’t really push that button again), Of course, we might could still turn things around by eliminating some of the most enervating features of our society. Were I Tyrant of America, I’d probably start by banning Tik Tok and liquidating Twitter. Also Substack but that last one mainly out of sheer spite…
Consulting the experts is both patrician AND the right thing to do. My go-to guys on the issues are Noah Smith and Matty Yglesias. They provide insights that I cannot find elsewhere, especially among the chattering classes, the perpetually-bankrupt blogosphere, and foreigners who have not yet shown up to reside in the USA where they can secure life-long sinecures that instantly bestow credibility on them. You're an expert, therefore I believe every single thing that you say.
Yes, I get what you’re doing here—with my kvetching about our imbecile expert class, I have lately put myself in the same rhetorical position as the Cretan who claims that all Cretans are liars. That said, I really can’t think of better guides to becoming an informed consumer of political news and analysis than Smith and Yglesias. If I had any notes to give you here, it’s that you’d be a damn fool not to include Jeet Heer, Tom Nichols, Robert Reich, Max Boot, and Anne Applebaum in your daily readings. Alongside those, I’d throw in subscriptions to The Economist and The Atlantic, and also suggest you maybe try listening regularly to Pod Save America. Your goal should be to reach a point where if you were to ever have an unconventional thought again, your head would literally explode like that dude in the movie Scanners.
We've known each other for roughly three months now, and you express shock that I have never watched a Jean-Luc Godard movie. Wait until you find out that I haven't even sat down for a Kieslowski flick! What do either of these men have to say about our present condition that James Cameron hasn't already said in a very entertaining way?
I understood you to be Croatian, but I’m now starting to think you actually descend from one of those Amazonian tribes that Daniel Everett studied that lacks a concept of complex numbers, and so now you’re simply unable to describe the length of our acquaintance with any precision. In any case, I can’t really complain about your ignorance of Godard given that he was—as Truffaut memorably remarked—"a complete shit." But to skip the work of Kieslowski would render you completely unable to appreciate the brilliance of my seminal essay on the politics of Trois couleurs. Worse still, you might not even be allowed to consider yourself a European any longer but rather a Canadian, that lowest of G-d’s creatures. James Cameron is, after all, one of those figures like Neil Young who seems too interesting to be Canadian, but isn’t. Admittedly, I can’t really quarrel with your claim that his films provide most of what one needs to know in life--for example, that we should be mistrustful of both killer robots and Paul Reiser. Even True Lies—probably his most critically reviled film—nonetheless both predicted 9/11 and warned me about the perfidy of attractive women — two themes that would dominate most of my early 20s.
It is argued that Jews invented Jazz music to confuse white people and to get Blacks addicted to the heroin that they sold to them. My primitive Balkan mind can't get into Jazz beyond Miles Davis' "On the Corner", and that one song by The Weather Report. Jazz, schmazz.....I like to say.
It goes without saying that we Jews are behind most developments of this sort, but I’m having trouble with the "Cui bono?" question here. It’s just difficult to see what the ROI would be on getting white people to listen to Charlie Parker and then killing him. In any case, if I considered Weather Report to be jazz then I’d probably hate that stuff too. It’s been awhile since I’ve read Dante, but my understanding is that when you go to Hell, the album Heavy Weather is playing just a little too loudly for all eternity, and also you’re getting continuously sodomized by a gigantic demon.
As for your general dislike of jazz, this is something that can be attributed to what I would call “bad taste”— a condition that is generally non-fatal but nonetheless unfortunate. For this, I prescribe a regimen of heavy drinking in combination with listening to Relaxin' with the Miles Davis Quintet on repeat until something breaks through for you.
David Polansky can be found roaming the streets of Toronto where someone should physically confront him about his love of Bob Dylan. You can check out his essays at his site Strange Frequencies, and troll him on Twitter @polanskydj.