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WHITE ON WHITE: a film noir — LENIN’S TOMB
rufus corporation

LENIN’S TOMB

Lenin’s tomb is fantastic like a Christmas tree in Alcatraz National Park. A red granite marble pyramid with a miniature Parthenon on top. Inside the red velvet, a perpetual stream of silent pilgrims to the man who brought down the Kings and buried the History of the World. Could he know he would make way for the sunny nightmare of the free market? He has no legs. A blanketed torso of skin and sewn shut eyelids. Every two weeks he descends into a secret underground laboratory to have his taxidermal skin wiped down. Then he slowly floats back up into the glowing red vitrine for the unending funeral. Millions of us shuffling by the hairless animal; the dead idea. The one who wanted us to live humane, dog beside dog. And failed, the paranoid system destroying them murderously. Crushing them with the weightlessness of the idea. Crushing them, crushing them. And now, every night, every comrade’s daughter, is a fireworks display. What we’d rather live with – the labyrinth of contradictions; the ferocious quests for identity, nationalisms and possessions; a place in the strobing black-light of famousness; and to not grow old never. Buying a beer out on the sidewalk two girls ride by on horseback. It’s after midnight. It’s just gotten dark. The street is screaming. There’s nowhere to go on a horse.

Star City, outside of Moscow. You put your cameras away until you get inside. You are permitted to take pictures inside. But the guards outside don’t know that. The place is deserted. The splotchy brown grass is long, ratty and gone to seed. The edges and hedges are not trimmed. The sidewalks cracked and buckled. Several windowless buildings are ambiguously teetering between renovation and demolition. I can’t hear anything happening at all. This is the facility where they train men, women and dogs to ride the tip of a warhead out of the atmosphere and into the colorless, odorless heavens. They just don’t give a darn how it looks. The goal is to get there and get back. Nine minutes of sheer, bone-pulverizing terror. The adult animal body crammed into an asbestos coated pea-pod outside of which is immediate cardio and cranial edema, followed by a sickeningly bloated and silent death. At the end of two days, finally, a symphonic docking with the floating hunk of metal that is the International Space Station. Docking literally means that this piece of metal fits into that one, and is secured with a lever. In space. The rationale of course is that you cannot work on RAM with a monkey wrench. If your OS freezes up you go at the damn thing with your toothbrush and some fishing line and you get the damn monkey back inside. The fine clothes of rocket science. And yet I think “cosmonaut” must be one of the most lyrical words in any language.

The zero-gravity simulation tank is empty. But again, naturally, I imagine a family-man with a leak in his suit. Panicking momentarily as his helmet fills with water. Hauled up limply at the end of a crane. A demonstration monitor is yelling descriptions of stuff in heavy English while the tour guide is augmenting these descriptions with loud descriptions of his own in heavier English. The ISS simulator is covered in tarpaulins while the hall is being renovated around it, giving the place the look and feel of Boy Scout Jamboree. It is a possibility that it might rain inside the building. Laptop computers are lying around on the floor in the dust, hooked up to stuff. The most extraordinary thing about the interior of the International Space Station is that there really is no floor. There’s the indication of one, for the general sanity of it’s socialized occupants. But for all practical purposes, there is no floor or ceiling, up or down, or side to side. The nauseating sensation of practical relativity begins to creep into the mind as an intolerable condition.

The very real possibility that if one panics, in space, due to the plain and simple conditions of space, there is nowhere to claw your way out of your own skin to. One must live with oneself, in the vacuum, unadorned, as the seconds tick, and the seconds tick, and sleep comes to the corpse of weightlessness, hanging there, without even the pressure of a baby blanket to comfort the terror that a single fearful thought is the heaviest and loudest sensation for light years in any direction.

The centrifuge is an inspiring contraption. With a concrete shed built around it, a smooth blue arm capable of gracefully warping the body in four simultaneous directions until the monkey’s eyes roll back into his head and his grip goes limp on the emergency-systems-down red-release button on the joystick. Limp animal is once again dragged from hell-machine, eyes skewered, capillaries bursting, lungs heaving and heart wrapped around spine like a pig in a blanket.

by Jeff Wood