I woke up in a strange place

By Marc Heiden, since 1997.
See also: a novel about a monkey.

December 22, 2005

I have new software for managing this here website. On the right, you can see a list of Categories. Click on one, and it'll take you to a page with all of the entries I've written on that subject. The archives have grown too unwieldly, and since I only have four or five different things that I write about, I wanted people to be able to find, say, all of the panda porn entries with ease. If you have recommendations about categories that I should add (e.g. stuff I'm always yammering on about), please let me know. So far, I've assigned categories for everything from Japan onwards and the entire college era. I'll get the rabbi era done eventually, but I don't know if I'll ever do the Beelzetron entries, because there are so many of them, and I need to do new things to write about.

A lot of people are up in arms over the recent article claiming that Stalin had a secret plan to breed half-man, half-ape super warriors, but I don't really buy it. Look, everyone wants to make a connection between communism and monkeys. If we could place a chimpanzee at Trotsky's side during his "dustbin of history" speech flinging poo at the Mensheviks as they left the hall, we could pretty much draw the curtain on the human drama, take a bow and exit stage left. But we can't. The basic idea of this story is that, in 1926, Stalin found a scientist who had built his reputation on the artificial insemination of race-horses for the tsar and gave him a bunch of money to create obedient, powerful monkey-men who were "insensitive to pain, resistant and indifferent about the quality of food they eat." The scientist failed, as the story goes, and was duly punished.

Predictably enough, there are no corroborating sources on the web other than one brief reference to the scientist in question and bloggers linking to the article and going "woo woo monkeys". (Has anyone ever noticed how much the proliferation of blogs has diluted the usefulness of search results? It'd be fine if any of them had something to add to the topic. Instead, you just get a two hundred winners linking to the article and going "woo woo monkeys".) As I said, I don't believe the story. I could be wrong, but let me drop some history and see what you think.

By 1926, Stalin had the upper hand in the leadership struggle, but he was not the absolute ruler yet. He was still cutting deals under the table with other members of the Politburo and pitting various factions against each other. Trotsky was still on the scene; Zinoviev wasn't far removed from his power base in Leningrad, and Bukharin was at full strength. The Five Year Plan was still up for debate. Stalin and Bukharin hadn't even allied yet, let alone agreed about the shape of collectivization. There's no way Stalin could blow the 1926 equivalent of $200,000 on a whim. Also, armies of super-soldiers were not really his area of concern. Back then, Stalin's thing was Socialism in One Country. It was Trotsky who wanted to get other countries involved in the revolution early and often, and Stalin built a bunch of political capital by deriding him for it. (Yes, that's a deliberate turn of phrase.) People mistake the Iron Curtain Stalin of post-WW2 for the original version, who was far more interested in screwing with Russians than anything else. He was infinitely insecure; he probably would have been content to exert his dominance over the psyches of Russia for the rest of his life if Hitler hadn't forced him to deal with, you know, fighting a war.

But it's the quote about wanting soldiers who were "insensitive to pain, resistant and indifferent about the quality of food they eat" that gives the lie to the whole thing. Since when did Stalin give a fuck about whether anyone liked their dinner? Whenever he needed a new labor force for a construction project, he just arrested a bunch of people, sent them off to the work site and told their families to mail them food care of the labor camp if they wanted them to eat. He loved that sort of thing. Read his memos: arresting people was the light of his life. It would have stressed him out if the prisoners were "indifferent about the quality of food they eat". He'd have moped around for days and worn the same underwear until it had holes in it.

VOROSHILOV: "There's a petition going around the gulags to have Pizza Night moved to Mondays."
STALIN: "Why?"
VOROSHILOV: "Bit of a pick-me-up. You know, hard labor is hard enough without a case of the Mondays."
STALIN: "Oh, those gulags. I try to say no to them, but one look just melts my heart."
VOROSHILOV: "Ho, ho, ho."
STALIN: "Ho, ho, ho."

December 21, 2005

I did some hand modeling today. Soon, poll workers in some counties will receive a manual instructing them on maintenance of their new printer modules, which are designed to print voter-verifiable receipts for electronic voting machines. It was pretty dry material, so I sexed it up a bit, and the finished product was dynamite, aside from one extreme close-up of the tip of my index finger, which was a bit ragged. "I'll Photoshop you a manicure," the photographer assured me.


1. Do you detect a certain sauciness about the hands in question?
2. Does the left thumb have a freckle below the thumbnail, off to the left?
3. Are the fingers shooting lightning at their target?

If the answers to questions 1 and 2 are 'Yes', then those are probably my hands. However, if the answer to question 3 is also 'Yes', the hands are more likely to be Emperor Palpatine's.

That's not okay. Stop that.

I woke up in a strange place is the work of Marc Heiden, born in 1978, author of two books (Chicago, Hiroshima) and some plays, and an occasional photographer.

Often discussed:

Antarctica, Beelzetron, Books, Chicago, College, Communism, Food, Internet, Japan, Manute Bol, Monkeys and Apes, North Korea, Oregon Trail, Outer Space, Panda Porn, Politics, RabbiTech, Shakespeare, Sports, Texas.


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Written by Marc Heiden, 1997-2011.