The Zürich Interviews - Anna Khachiyan: Bent Over

Anna K on the American Dream, Houellebecq the Genius, Žižek's sex appeal, her love of Lasch, understanding Paglia, the importance of Surkov, and being loved by all

Anna has been begging me for several weeks now to conduct an interview with her, politely but firmly explaining to me why she’s smarter and more important than my previous subjects, some of whom she pretends to be on friendly terms with for the sake of appearances. I finally relented after coercing her into sending me some (tasteful) nudes of herself. The fact that she was audibly sobbing when doing this sealed the deal. Best known as the co-host (with Dasha “Beat Them All” Lukashenka) of the wildly popular and influential podcast Red Scare, Anna is a figure adored by all. Never once have I come across any criticism of her or hatred directed against her in all the years that I have very closely monitored her from a distance, from Friendster through to Kink.com and MySpace. One of the rare universally loved public figures, her greatest achievement in 2020 has been her purchase of a bed frame. Transethnic, she claims Russian, Armenian, and Jewish heritage, but is actually a New Jersey Guida Wop and not at all born in Moscow, USSR. Anna joined me in a chalet near Interlaken, Switzerland for this interview, where she is working on a romance novel to be published soon.

You have a very popular podcast that I have listened to once but you're not as good a woman as my mother.  You should try to be more like her, but no matter how hard you try you will never be as good as her.  This interview has just begun and is already a debacle. 

When I was a little girl my mother sat me down and said marry an orphan because while you will never measure up to his mother at least that way you can live in her shadow not under her thumb. I’m increasingly convinced the best thing you can do in life as a woman is have children of your own, preferably sons, so you can turn them gay and break the cycle.

YWN (You will never) be a Fox TV Network Blond.  You deep down and desperately want to be one, but it is simply out of your reach.  Imagine a gilded life of calorie-free political discussion tailored to a geriatric audience, landing you a criminally-rich husband who probably made his money in shady real estate speculation or federal government contracting.  Instead you are a Soviet emigre, full of secret resentment for the founding stock, without four generations of assimilation like the Ellis Island Fraternity behind which you could hide.

Is this testing whether I’m a careerist or a lesbian?

"Always trust a snake before a Greek.  Always trust a Greek before a Jew.  Always trust a Jew before an Armenian.  But never, ever trust an Armenian!" - Ottoman proverb popularized by George Orwell.

Hmm I’ve heard this one before. As a matter of fact, I may have even posted it myself at some point. Between us girls, I prefer the Russian proverb I lifted from a vintage travelogue back when I still knew how to read: “The Armenian is obsequious in a subordinate role yet tyrannical in a position of power.” What can I say? All stereotypes contain a modicum of truth? Not every stereotype is necessarily bad? One of the highlights of 2020 was Trader Joe’s telling woke people to go fuck themselves when they tried to mount a petition over its use of ethnic names to label its ethnic brands.

What I like about Armenians personally is that they’re un-ironic people; which if you think about it actually makes them highly predictable and therefore trustworthy. In general, I dislike and mistrust overly ironic people, though of course a little irony is essential. In other words, I’d trust an Armenian over a leftist any day. 

Deloitte & Touche were contracted out a few years ago to do a deep-dive analysis on the Daily Mail's advertising revenue.  The DM's sidebar is legendary in web design and development circles as its addictive quality and 'stickiness' is second to none in the industry.  What shocked everyone though is that Deloitte & Touche found that The Daily Mail made over $80 million in revenue on photos of Kim Kardashian alone.  Is Kim's big, fat ass the Armenian peoples' greatest natural resource?  And does OJ Simpson deserve a finder's fee for elevating her family to prominence due to being framed for Nicole Brown Simpson's murder?

I’d refer you to a tweet of mine from several years ago that says we have OJ not Ray J to blame for the Kardashians. But I can’t because ever since I got banned and restored I haven’t been able to access my archive for some reason. These days I depend on the goodwill of strangers to comb through my old tweets in search of incriminating material to try and cancel me with. I appreciate the effort because it keeps me close to my roots. 

The real question is what’s Kim’s cut? No doubt she’s too much of a pragmatist to pass up an opportunity as low in dignity or prestige as this one. Even her public displays of support for battered women and death row inmates and the like have a cold, utilitarian quality to them. As someone who generally thinks it’s undignified for the ultra-rich to hustle like the bourgeoisie, I can’t help but admire her outlook. And I can’t help but admire The Daily Mail for cornering the market of influencers who hire PR teams to plant stories about them in the tabloids so they can muse on it in other slightly more reputable outlets as a means of shoring up press for themselves. It’s a winning model, in part because of how low-stakes it is and in part because there’s virtually no fallout — outside of the mental health of the parties involved. We’ve all heard the saying there is no ethical consumption under capitalism. We’ve all seen the meme. Well, this is about as ethical as it gets. 

You are often criticized online by the wonderful people who loathe, and hate, and detest you for 'playing up' your Armenian and Jewish heritage, and your Russian cultural roots, decrying you as little more than a standard fare American trying to cash in these ethnic chips for social cred.  But I take a different view: you have shown that you, like I (a Slav), have a finely-tuned bullshit detector.  We Slavs may not have high-trust societies, nor are we that good at civil administration, but we can spot when we are being fed shit a mile away, and Americans, by and large, can't.  I think that this is a big reason for the success of the USA; people will sell anything and buy anything there, and those that have been cheated will just brush it off or accept it as the price of admission.  "The business of America is business", and I think that this Prime Directive is so deeply-embedded in the American Psyche that Americans cannot fathom a society outside of it even though the grossly-inflated spectre of socialism is frequently brought up in media on the right.

First things first, I’d like to take a moment to congratulate the both of us on finally getting our POC card. The guy behind the counter told me you get a free latte after ten swipes. 

I’m more or less in agreement with you here. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: pathologizing normalcy and normalizing pathology in service of turning a profit has always been the American way. Lately though it feels like we’ve entered the next, sentient phase of advanced capitalism or whatever you want to call it, characterized by its enhanced ability to absorb and neutralize any dissent or opposition. 

To that point, I don’t know if the spectre of socialism is grossly inflated so much as grossly misrepresented. Both sides are equally guilty; it’s not just the right-wing media getting its panties in a bunch to boost traffic but the left-wing media getting high on its own supply of workerist nostalgia. It’s a mistake to think that socialism can’t thrive here. You might even say it’s already thriving. What is Amazon if not a centrally planned economy? It’s just not the socialism anyone thinks it is or wants it to be, unless of course you’re trying to run some kulaks off the road en route to your diversity commissarship.

The Part in Which I Let Anna Pretend That She is Smart and Intellectual and Shit

The American Dream of old is dead.  It has become rather difficult as a newcomer to the USA to start a small business and make a success of one's self.  Instead, all sorts of barriers to entry (and success) have been raised in the meantime, leaving opportunity only for the truly sociopathic who find themselves scheming on Wall Street or bullshitting investors in Silicon Valley with the next, new big 'disruptive' nonsense, that, if successful, fucks over a shit ton of workers.  There is, however, another new American Dream: aping the conventions of radicals only to cash in with powerful positions or sinecures among the elite once they are within grasp.  Is this a matter of selfishness and self-rationalization post-fact?  Or is this a testament to the strength and robustness of the American system to co-opt potential challengers to its rule rising from its left?  Is it all fake like AOC?

Why not both? The survival of any system driven by speculation depends on the delusion of the participants. I’m a little fuzzy on the specifics but it stands to reason that obsolescence is baked into the cake of radicalism. Not only due to the more material, cynical explanations you provide but also because in order for the concept itself to have any meaning it must at least in theory be responsive to the times. 

This is something I bet Taleb would have a better answer for. I’ve been begging him to explain the difference between robustness and anti-fragility to me forever but he won’t return my calls. 

You claim to be non-political (rather than apolitical) but are constantly dragged into discussions involving politics even when you try to avoid them.  Cocaine enthusiast Andrew Breitbart once famously said that "politics is downstream from culture".  Is it?  Or is culture downstream from politics?  I have no idea what the fuck either means but felt that it's very important that I ask you this.

Honestly I have no clue either. I thought you said you were going to make this easy for me. 

Politics is only downstream from culture if you have a culture that’s intact. The right mistakenly believes it does, instead of a smorgasbord of arbitrary and symbolic cultural signifiers they’ve cherry-picked to “own the libs.” To be fair, that’s more than the left has, unless you think wearing a hardhat once amounts to a culture. The problem, it seems, is that there’s been a collapse of the distinction between mainstream and subculture. Liberals stay winning on the most important level, the level of ideology, because they’re good at exploiting this loophole. For one, their self-craft depends on maintaining an image of themselves as the underdog when in fact they dominate the mainstream through their control of the media, the institutions, private capital, and so on, and have for some time. Secondly, and to that point, everyone is kind of a liberal now, including conservatives. Liberals stay winning, but they win by being losers. For instance, if all goes as planned, they’ll have their black woman president on technicality. I don’t know what this says about our culture but it’s not promising. 

I’ll put it this way: if your politics isn’t downstream from culture, your culture is in serious trouble.

There's a famous comedians' story about how fickle and explosive Larry David would be during his standup comedy era.  He would constantly lose his shit and walk off of the stage if he was unhappy with the tone or demeanour of the audience.  One time he started a set with a joke about a house and said the word 'bungalow', at which point a woman in the front row mouthed that same word to the person next to her, obviously unaware of its meaning.  Larry David screamed at her, incredulous that she didn't know what it meant.  He then cut his set short and stormed off stage.  I felt that feel when I tried watching The Sopranos after my friends were all raving about the show.  I started watching it and then realized that the daughter's name was Meadow.  I lost my shit because I grew up with real, fresh-off-of-the boat Calabrian 'Ndrangheta mafiosos who would never, ever give their daughters such an Anglo name.  I haven't been able to shake this and return to the show since then.  In an interview two years ago you claimed that The Sopranos are one of the two most important popular culture touchstones of these past 20 years.  Is this in part due to the decline of the American Mafia foreshadowing the decline of America itself?

I recently watched an episode of the PBS show Finding your Roots featuring Bernie Sanders and Larry David. It’s peak liberal programming but also kind of fun if you like archival footage and race science. Among the explosive revelations — Larry’s relatives were slave owners in the Deep South! Larry and Bernie are distant cousins! — it turns out Bernie had a great half uncle who was shot by the Nazis for refusing to hand over some rebels in his capacity as treasurer of the local Judenrat. Of course, the slavery and kinship stuff is way more of a headline grabber. Who knew there were Jewish settlements in America before Ellis Island and that they owned slaves? On the other hand, it’s not all that unexpected that these two would be more closely related than most people but heartwarming nonetheless! 

But by far the most poetic and prophetic detail buried in the lede was this bombshell about the uncle. Bernie’s ancestor taking a stand against the Nazis while working for an organization that recruited Jews to manage their own communities on the Nazis’ behalf is a mirror of the quasi-collaborationist role Bernie himself would wind up playing as an “outsider” within the Democratic Party — shepherding vulnerable populations into the enemy’s arms while trying to do the right thing and maintain a principled stance. It’s a total “first as tragedy, then as farce” moment. By the way, I’m not dragging Bernie here because, all in all, he strikes me as a standup guy and comes out looking better than Larry. 

But the point is tragedy repeating itself as farce is what happens when you lose the plot, or worse when it’s done for you under your nose. The Sopranos is a show about a middling, middle-aged schlub diabetically groping his way through the end of history. Even the main narrative hook turns out to be a mere technical device. The genius of the show is that making Tony a mob boss instead of, say, an accountant or high school principal or owner of a used car dealership is what allows us to finally see what’s been right in front of us the whole time. Tony is the proverbial boat salesman. There’s a great scene from the first season that captures this dynamic nicely.

At any rate, it’s not so much that the decline of the Mafia foreshadowed the decline of America but that organized crime was an early casualty of selling off its productive base. Something else I watched recently was this Netflix docuseries called Fear City about the RICO case against New York’s Five Families. I instantly regretted it and wouldn’t recommend it, but one of the things that stuck out at me, other than the low production value, is how the feds and prosecutors being interviewed kept bringing up that these guys were shaking down mom-and-pops. Look, I’m not saying that’s cool or fine, but it beats some faceless warehouse chain that put you out of business and gave your kid cancer telling you that, actually, it’s racist if you don’t think looting is based.

So I see what you mean but I think you’re being overly literal. Meadow’s boutique Anglo name is designed to provoke that reaction. There’s no way David Chase didn’t factor it into his calculus. But at least you’re in good company. Paglia famously hates The Sopranos for similar reasons.

(Anna appeared in the 1974 hardcore porn flick Pen Pals)

Michelle Houellebecq is the other 21st century cultural titan that you named in that 2018 interview.  Yet you famously turned down his proposal of a ménage à trois involving him, yourself, and Dasha.  That was rather rude of you.  Think of how much post-coital self-loathing would have resulted, and how hilarious it would have been once he immortalized the act in an upcoming novel, barely concealing your identities.  In an interview I conducted with Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry a few weeks back, I stated that Houellebecq is like the Sin-Eaters of old; he has taken all the nastiness and evil of our modern age and let it disfigure his face which serves us as a mirror of ourselves.  How brilliant and spot-on is my characterization (which I stole from a Brazilian friend of mine)?  Has Houellebecq captured the rhythm and cadence of sexual relations today?

I’m happy to see I’m not the only one who’s made the sin-eater analogy, and even happier to know we’re stealing from the same source. 

Houellebecq has captured the noncommittal, transactional and mutually recriminating nature of today’s sexual relations. In all fairness, it doesn’t take a genius to see this or write about it. Then again, most of the writers I respect, many of whom you mention here, are less interesting as theorists or philosophers in their own right than as hoarders of common sense. This is exactly the sort of stuff that’s worth paying attention to and taking stock of because the invisible contortions of ideology actively work to deny it.

Feminists love to accuse Houellebecq of “objectifying women” by writing substance-less, one-dimensional female characters. This is supposed to be indicative of sexism or misogyny on his part. First of all, asking a French guy to not be a sexist pig is sort of like asking a French guy to not be a racist pig. The French are the only ones who can make chauvinism look charming. Personally, I’m endeared by his horny descriptions of the local trim. His sex scenes are great for airplanes. They bring a joie de vivre to his otherwise joyless view of global monoculture. In my mind, you can’t have one without the other. Or you could I guess, but then he really would be the miserable nihilist his critics imagine.

Secondly, all of his characters are one-dimensional and lack substance. That’s the whole critique! The men have no more depth than the women; it’s just that as a male author who writes exclusively in a male voice, it would be weird and presumptuous if he suddenly tried to simulate female subjectivity. Who wants that anyway? Though frankly he could probably pull it off better than most. When it comes to storytelling, I’m a big fan of Aristotle’s idea that the convincingly implausible is always preferable to the unconvincingly plausible. That’s my beef with all these Staff Picks Table young women writers: for all of their claims to relatability, none of them could write a relatable character, dialogue or plotline to save their lives. They’re programmed to think exclusively in memes and Joan Didion pull quotes.

The fact that so many of his critics, the feminists in particular, miss the point proves the point. In making it about themselves, they reveal the lack of perspective and generosity inherent in their approach to criticism and probably to life in general. 

"No one will ever win the battle of the sexes; there's too much fraternization with the enemy".  This famous line has been attributed to Henry Kissinger back in the 1970s, a very liberal decade where sexual freedom was at its peak.  There is now another battle between the sexes, but it seems like the trenches have been dug much deeper, with fraternization between the two at an all-time low.  No one is having sex anymore, and if they are it's largely performative and self-obsessed, feeding one's own ego.  This leads us into a discussion of narcissism and Christopher Lasch.  But before we discuss Lasch, I'd like to bring up the subject of men today and your comments on how males in NYC are rather too pretty for their own good, and lack that primal sex appeal.  Can this be chalked up to narcissism?  Is today's heterosexual man spiritually gay?  Who are the notable exceptions?

There’s an old Khachiyan family saying that one third of the men in New York are gay and the other two thirds are fags. Sadly, this is no longer an issue confined to coastal elites. Nor does it seem to be going away anytime soon. Testosterone levels and sperm counts in American men have reportedly been halved within the span of generation or two. Even the bodybuilding revival popularized by certain corners of rightwing and “post-left” Twitter is too compensatory and high-maintenance to be taken seriously as anything but a marketing campaign. No disrespect to BAP, whose book makes a great holiday stocking stuffer, but there’s a fine line between mastering yourself and masturbating to yourself. Twitter torso is the male equivalent of Instagram face. The purpose is not to impress the opposite sex but to compete with the same sex. 

Granted you could make the case that this is at least aesthetically preferable to being a fat Marxist irony poster whose flesh has fused to their gaming chair and you wouldn’t be wrong. But functionally they’re one and the same. One side has turned itself into an object of sexual scorn and ridicule while the other side has turned itself into a sex object.

When you really think about it, what is narcissism in a nutshell if not borrowing against the future? On the most basic level, this manifests itself as fear of aging in hot people and fear of growing up in everyone else. We now have a population of hypochondriacs — both men and women alike — who simultaneously want to cheat death and have a death wish. 

That said, I know a lot of gay guys holding it down for old-school manhood. I have a friend who’ll show up to your house with a toolkit and install shelving for you. He’s like 6’5” with godlike good looks and a domestic sensibility. Another friend of mine was an ICU nurse at the height of the pandemic. He takes care of his elderly parents and has the manliest voice I’ve ever heard. I hope he doesn’t see this because I don’t want it going to his head, but I admire Glenn Greenwald. Not only because he’s one of a handful of journalists who doesn’t belong in prison, but for his beautiful family and dog rescue. Joe Rogan seems like the type of guy who would be the subject of gay rumors. Whatever you may think of him, he’s the most obvious example: the small businessman/sole provider mindset on a mass scale.

Louis Menand fended off critics of Christopher Lasch by explaining that the latter saw the origins of the "Culture of Narcissism" in the 19th century, and that in no way did he mean that the 1950s were 'better'.  The United States of America is a Protestant construct with the individual at its centre, and his/her rights as paramount.  This rabid individualism has manifested itself in many ways, such as "The business of America is business", or the Baby Boomers and their self-certainty in that their counter-culture would triumph over the staid Cold War nuclear family.  Was this Culture of Narcissism inevitable?  Is it a historical process whereby individualism must reach its finish line?  Are Millennials and Zoomers able to overcome this culture?  Or are they already lost to it?

A little-known fact about Lasch is that Žižek actually wrote the introduction to the 1986 Croatian edition of The Culture of Narcissism. In it, he argues that Lasch’s contribution was being the first to describe the transition from the autonomous Protestant individual of the turn of the century to the heteronomous “organization man” of the mid-century to the pathological narcissist of our day; a hybrid type that combines the worst aspects of individualism and conformity. Whatever that entails, it’s nice to know that American exceptionalism is always finding new ways to evolve. Instead of asserting itself through the “convex” values of patriotism and bootstrapping, it now defines itself through the “concave” frames of victimhood and oppression. I can’t say for sure whether Millennials and Zoomers are doomed in this regard. But I’m rooting for them and will do my part. 

Another favourite of yours is maverick feminist Camille Paglia.  I will never, ever forgive her for championing Madonna in the 1980s.  Madonna represents to me the worst of the excesses of the Culture of Narcissism, best exemplified by her refusal to age gracefully.  I wish that she lives to the overripe age of 150 so that she physically shrivels into a prune-like object, no matter how much Dorian Gray-like reverse-age engineering she will attempt.  This witch planted the most poisonous of seeds in the minds of women these past four decades and deserves no better fate.  Paglia I like though, and not just for the easy reach of anti-feminism (she has been labeled as the feminist anti-feminist), but for her willingness to call out frauds as she sees fit, Foucault being one of the better known examples.  Today's feminism is in many ways a revolt against nature.  Can Paglia be then described as a 'nature realist' in that she has clearly in the past noted substantial differences in the two genders?  In Sexual Personae she made the argument that men make great art and build great civilizations BECAUSE they rape and kill.  This violates all current norms of gender theory and of equality.  To her, art is God and these historical gender roles are necessary for it to thrive and explain why art has declined these past several decades.

Paglia deserves a pass for her Madonna takes. To begin with, she’s right that Madonna should’ve stuck to making art instead of trying to explain or politicize it. Not to mention, her intellectual obsession with Madonna clearly stems from personal affinity (both are working-class Italian girls from cold Northern states with features that look like they were chiseled out of marble).

And feminism deserves a pass for its hostile and confused attitude toward nature because it’s merely marching in lockstep with the culture as a whole. Feminists, like all progressive activists, are essentially taking credit for cultural battles that have already been settled in advance by economic forces outside of their control. In this sense, the progressives of today are the real reactionaries inasmuch as their utopianism is actually a kind of nihilism.

I’m reminded here of my favourite quote by your countryman Ivan Illich: “Of everything economics measures, women get less.” It’s one of Illich’s most profound and most misunderstood quotes — profound because it’s so easily misunderstood. The contemporary liberal mindset will of course be tempted to interpret this as meaning that women have always faced economic discrimination, but the real takeaway is that women lost as much as they gained when they began measuring themselves in economic terms. 

Paglia has lashed out at the French Post-Structuralists, but one of our favourites, the Slovene philosopher Slavoj Žižek, is a devotee of Jacques Lacan.  You recently interviewed Žižek for Red Scare, but he didn't ask you for a threesome.  Were you disappointed?  Žižek is a study in contrasts as he looks like your typical Central European Slavic peasant farmer in green boots with tractor motor oil all over his hands and shirt, but has an overabundance of charisma, charm and wit.  How does he do it?  Is he possible in America?  Or are you guys stuck with Steampunk Reddit Nathan J. Robinson?   Žižek clearly sympathizes with disaffected types across the political aisle, which gets him in a lot of trouble with the left.

Žižek’s appeal is that he knows how off-putting he can be and doesn’t try to deny or make excuses for it. In fact, he owns it. That kind of self-knowledge is a powerful aphrodisiac. It signals for credibility, which is the most important factor in winning over intellectual converts and attracting women. Way more important, for example, than being right or having expertise. 

Žižek is a world famous public intellectual, one of the last of his kind. His getting blacklisted from The Guardian or piled on by the left only makes him stronger. When he goes, the whole field will be over as we know it. Nathan J. Robinson is some guy with a personal blog no one outside of leftist Twitter has heard of or cares about. His own mother admitted he was faking a British accent. That’s not a diss, it’s a fact. I hope that answers your question. 

Deep Inside Anna

Another man that speaks to your soul is Vladislav Surkov, the half-Chechen, half-Russian, once considered the Éminence grise of Russian politics and Putin's most important advisor.  Credited as the father of the Russian political concept of "Sovereign Democracy", he is described as having managed the theatrical aspects of Putinism not only to keep Putin in power, but to keep America off balance in how it approaches the Bear.

"Crybabe, though particularly strange, was like all women in one respect -- she wanted to be an actress.  She had the desire to leave her image wherever she could: in films, in commercials, in photographs, in Internet articles, in fan art......One day she declared that she wished to exist purely for art, for scenes and drama...."

You have singled out this passage by Surkov because, according to you, he has encapsulated the essence of the female better than any of his contemporaries.

Although I’ll never be as dangerously suave as Surkov I do find him relatable on some level as a fellow half-breed who’s also been described as “sexy Mr. Bean.” 

I should probably refine my argument a little while I have the floor. I’ve singled out this passage not because it describes all women but because it describes the most typical and contemporary sort of woman: the borderline. (Incidentally, Surkov’s Almost Zero, where the passage comes from, along with Bret Easton Ellis’ Less Than Zero and Peter Thiel’s Zero to One, form a kind of literary trifecta on the existential malaise of decadent societies in my mind — that is, if you choose to view the latter as a canonical work of autofiction at odds with his other, more theoretical writing rather than as a bestselling business guide for startups.)

Before anyone calls me a misogynist, I’m not interested in raking women over the coals, but instead in putting the link between narcissism and liberalism under the microscope. What we’re really talking about here is a shift in governance styles: from the “prohibitive” paternal superego which sets the parameters in advance and punishes you in kind if you defy or violate them, to the outwardly “permissive” but latently punitive maternal superego, which enforces no terms or boundaries ahead of time but retaliates arbitrarily and disproportionately after the fact — in part because it doesn’t know what it wants until all is said and done. Roughly speaking, this describes any number of events that can be filed under the #MeToo movement and/or “cancel culture.” On a positive note, Žižek makes an interesting clarification to Lasch, defining borderline as a bridge case between narcissism and hysteria — or the moment when the narcissist must confront the paradox of his situation. 

At any rate, the renewed interest in Lasch is a sign that his prescient and, in my opinion, never adequately challenged thesis is due for an upgrade. This is perfect timing because just the other day I received an email from a weird Nigerian address offering me a prestigious and lucrative book deal.

Why are Americans incapable of understanding Russia and Russians?

It’s nothing personal. Americans are barely capable of understanding themselves, let alone some distant land and its alien culture. This is why psychoanalysis has taken off here like nowhere else. The better question is: why are Russians so good at understanding other people, Americans included? As much as I’d like to attribute it to some innate advantage, Russians aren’t normally a people known for their genetic fitness. I’ll go out on limb and say it probably has something to do with the trauma of seventy years of communism immediately followed by three decades of privatization.

Proper Cocaine Etiquette

You and two female friends are stuck in the men's washroom at a bar on a Friday night.  He has the coke, but he's a bit creepy.  How do you and your friends extricate yourselves from this predicament?

While I wouldn’t welcome this predicament I can’t say I’d resist it either. I haven’t set foot in a bar in almost a year because of the lockdown. I haven’t had a drink or smoke for over half of a year for reasons unrelated to the lockdown. My skin looks great but I’d sacrifice it for a martini. 

How intimidated are you by Susan Sarandon's highly-principled and uncompromising big naturals?

Didn’t you already ask another one of your interview subjects a different version of this question? Maybe you’re the one who’s intimidated.

Don’t tell me who’s intimidated, bitch! Nassim Taleb blocked you on Twitter.  Your father unfortunately passed away, and Taleb was your new father figure.  How betrayed did you feel when he did this to you?

To tell you the truth, I felt more betrayed that it was obviously part of a mass block and not on account of anything special I said or did. But isn’t that the purpose of a father figure? To be a disappointment. Ideally, there’s a lesson in there somewhere. 

We are not like the ostrich that sticks its head in the sand so as not to see danger. We are brave enough to look danger in the face, to coolly and ruthlessly take its measure, then act decisively with our heads held high. Both as a movement and as a nation, we have always been at our best when we needed fanatic, determined wills to overcome and eliminate danger, or a strength of character sufficient to overcome every obstacle, or bitter determination to reach our goal, or an iron heart capable of withstanding every internal and external battle. So it will be today.

The fact that you went through the trouble of warning me not to look this up when it never would have dawned to me in the first place means it’s a piece of Nazi propaganda. You have my word I haven’t cheated and if it turns out I’m wrong please feel free to add a postscript using one of my own jokes against me. 

In light of this, what comes to mind is the lesson from the previous question, which is that it’s a more flattering narrative to imagine yourself as a target rather than the collateral. Granted there will always be individuals, groups, entire populations even who are first in line to get fucked through a combination of bad luck and historic circumstance, but the mistake is thinking there’s something unique about them that places them outside of the economic paradigm. More people should meditate on that point.

You find yourself in a comfy lodge in Breckenridge, Colorado.  A warm, glowing fire comforts you alongside the strong embrace you find yourself in with Mel Gibson.  He is wearing a Christmas sweater and is whispering his desire into your left ear with gentle force as he holds you tight to his powerful chest. He smells of Givenchy Gentleman (1974).  The snow is falling outside as you can see through the window over his shoulder.  How does this make you feel Anna?

Speaking of father figures, where I come from if your dad wasn’t a Jew or out of the picture, chances are he was a raging anti-Semite. What I’m trying to say is, I can work with this scenario.

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