Monday, 29 November 2010

British columnists writing on Russia and a genuine example of 'Scottish cringe'.

I don’t suppose Ria Novosti, the Russian state news agency, is everyone’s idea of required reading, but if you enjoy good writing it's worth bookmarking.  The website has added two fantastic British columnists to flesh out its Opinion pages.

Marc Bennetts wrote ’Football Dynamo’, a vigorous and personal book about soccer in Russia, and his articles just as lively.  The latest ponders recent events on the Korean Peninsula, vis a vis the prophecies of a long dead, blind Bulgarian psychic.  The author is currently working on a book about Russia’s fascination with the occult, so this singular topic is right up his ally.

Daniel Kalder covered similar territory in his book ’Strange Telescopes’ and the cynical Scotsman’s weary take on the world is also carried by Ria Novosti on a weekly basis.  Kalder now lives in Texas and his columns form a series, ’Transmissions from a Lone Star’, which highlights some of the quirkier aspects of American and Russian culture.

The writer, who coined the phrase ’anti-tourism’ in his travelogue ’Lost Cosmonaut’, this week muses upon inappropriate messages on advertising hoardings.

He finds one particularly fine example in his native land:

A few years ago in Scotland we revived our national parliament after a three-century hiatus. The country’s new leaders immediately started blowing lots of cash on huge billboards proclaiming our cosmic superiority:  
SCOTLAND: THE BEST (SMALL) COUNTRY IN THE WORLD. In spite of this apparent self-confidence however, Scottish men continued to enjoy the shortest life expectancy in Western Europe (I believe even the men of Belarus, who suffered the worst effects of Chernobyl and are governed by a baldy tyrant with a comedy-like moustache, live longer). 
The Scottish death spiral is brought on by too much drinking and smoking, too many drugs, casual violence and the unhealthiest diet in Europe. These habits in turn are inspired by a mixture of despair, boredom, poverty, dreary weather and an almost Dostoyevskian pleasure in self-annihilation- not to mention the fact that many of these vices are intensely pleasurable, at least in the short term. Nevertheless, the Scottish Parliament got straight to work paying for enormous billboards with giant pictures of fruit on them that were posted around the country. You know when you’ve been mango’d said one, echoing the slogan for a popular fizzy drink, thus insulting the intelligence of millions.

Now that’s what I call a Scottish cringe, but will his compatriots in the SNP see the humour?  If he'd written this for the Scotsman he would need to strap up tightly and don a crash helmet.


DougtheDug said...


I'm not sure why the SNP would take umbrage at this article, they dropped the Labour slogan, "The Best Small Country in the World", almost as soon as they took power in the Scottish Parliament and Scotland is also not so bad as it's made out. If you take Labour run Glasgow out of the equation then Scotland isn't that bad as far as health goes.

I can't see anything he says as being anti-SNP and even if it was anti-SNP no-one would raise an eyebrow if it appeared in the Scotsman as that is a paper that hates the SNP.

These habits in turn are inspired by a mixture of despair, boredom, poverty, dreary weather and an almost Dostoyevskian pleasure in self-annihilation

Yep, what Scotland needs is the confidence and self-reliance that independence brings. It's quite obvious that the Union has bred a dependency culture.

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