Wed May 7th, 2008 at 05:41:16 PM EST
Is there anything more beautiful than these bowed Christian Louboutins? I mean, besides equal rights, living wages, and world peace?
As I sat down on the train heading to work the other day, the woman across the aisle from me leaned over and said, "Excuse me." Oh God. I dread talking to strangers on the train on the way to work. First, it is too early for anything intelligible to exit my mouth. Secondly, the primary purpose of a train is to convey one from point A to point B - not to provide a forum for mingling. Intense socializing aboard a train usually means some disaster or inconvenience has occurred, some collective trauma has been suffered, a trauma that makes us aware of our own morality or afraid of terrorists, a trauma we are talking ourselves through because this might be our last moment on earth and we don't want to be alone, afraid, helpless... Mostly I'm just annoyed by chatty people while I'm trying to read, write, sleep, daydream or whatever other antisocial activity I am engaged in while commuting.
"I just love your shoes. Those are just great."
"Oh. Thanks." I smile politely and go back to pretending she doesn't exist. But on the inside, I am relieved. Because I wasn't sure if I should be wearing these shoes. They are pointy-toed Mary Janes. Not unlike the Manolo Blahniks on SATC, but very cheap and probably made in a Thai sweatshop by a 6 yr. old.
They look just like these:
Exactly. Except for the brand printed on the insole... Spooky. Anyway, not what you'd expect a Marxist librarian type to be wearing to work, perhaps. Esp. one who has spent the last 7 years in Danskos and Merrells.
Sat Apr 26th, 2008 at 10:06:06 AM EST
Update: Sven is wrong. Watching a movie and reading a couple of articles is NOT work. So PLEASE do not feel intimidated or overwhelmed. We're talking about movies here. It is meant to be ENJOYABLE. And it's a really painless way to learn about another culture. It's fun, in fact. So, I really hope you will give this a chance. I think it can be totally worth whatever "effort" you put into it!
Contemporary Russian Film (1991-) : Everything But the Kitchen Sink
I know everyone decided to nix the ET Film Blog Series, but I'm always the person who stays after they've started putting the chairs on the tables. So I'm going to still do mine. It's for May (date tbd), so you all have a month to prepare. And just to make sure you all show up for the final exam, I'm going to use this diary as office hours where you can drop by and tell me what movie you plan to see. I like office hours...
Anyway. I was originally thinking of limiting the May Film Blog to "The Cinema of Alexandr Sokurov." But I am worried about what is available to everyone in the ET diaspora. I also want it to be a learning experience for me. So, like, why write about what I already know?
Promoted by Migeru
Tue Apr 22nd, 2008 at 06:19:12 PM EST
Contents: Vladimir Putin, and Other Animals, etc...
So, normally I'm your source for all breaking news Putiniana. Heck, normally I'm your source for all breaking news having to do with Russia. Which is either absolutely nuts or a complete lie, since you are, on average, 7 hours ahead of me. Heck, sometimes people who really honestly do concern themselves with such matters on a professional basis come to me clandestinely and offer juicy inside scoops and are amazed to find, yeah, I already knew that. Heck, every once in a while, Dima needs to read Odds & Ends just to find out what the hell is going on in his vast Princedom. It is a really big country, after all. Not Putin, though; he knows all. (How do you think I find everything out?) Anyway, it appears that our fine Russian President-PM-General Secretary-Soulless KGB Agent-Shirtless Fisherman has finally repaid my long hours spent spinning to his advantage every catastrophe and scandal and gaffe and outright violation of all things noble coming outta Russia. He's returned the favor with a "Made For Odds & Ends" special event!
It's not breaking news - I know. Bit of a problem, that. Still, I couldn't possibly live with myself if I didn't mention it. So get out your clubs. We're going to beat this naughty dead horse!
Thu Apr 10th, 2008 at 03:03:45 PM EST
"What's in a name? That which we call a dustpan by any other name would smell as bad."
"You really must write that sovok diary. It's so true. And all the signposts are there, complete with the Brezhnevian corruption and mediocrity..."
Promoted by Migeru
Wed Apr 9th, 2008 at 03:46:48 PM EST
Flames carried: Russia-Expert-o-Sphere: the New Cold War ; Bush: Putin ; Donkeys: Chubby kids ; Pirates: the Jolly Roger (ok, not a torch but a flag, but I think some pirates do carry torches...) ; Me: the Russian language ; Bloggers: other bloggers, in pine boxes ... and much more!
Can I just get one little thing out of the way? I like the Olympics. No. I love the Olympics. I cry over the Olympics. They make my heart jump out of my throat the same way the story about the cat who ran into a burning building and saved her baby kittens does. I mean, I shed real tears over the very idea of the Olympics. Not because I care about sport. I don't, really. I don't even care much about competition. I care about the Olympics for the very same reason I write at ET and not my own blog or a specifically American one. (Well, aside from the fanbase...)
I really wish to fucking god we could all just get along. I really do. It's what deep down I want more than anything in the entire world.
I think countries are lies we tell ourselves and fragile foundations for personal pride. I think the games are rife with corporatism and corruption. I think synchronized swimming is embarrassing. I think I don't care if your nation gets the most medals. But at the end of the day, I am not a cynic. At the end of the day, I see people from every corner of the world parading through the opening ceremonies without shooting each other or arguing about language in resolutions, and I think to myself, "It's a start at least." Then I cry. I won't even answer the phone, I get so consumed with the beauty of the moment. Your country is fascist and treating people like animals? Your country denies everyone free healthcare? Your country limits freedom of speech? Your country is arrogant? Your country is not recognized by some as even being a country? Your country invaded mine? For a few days every few years, someone besides your power elite gets to represent your country. For a few days every few years in America, we turn on the tv each day, and we are told "day-in-the-life" stories about people in other countries. Crazy. Almost like school! For a few days every few years, people from every corner of the globe tune in for the same international convention, the results of which determine who gets a silly prize, not who gets killed or ignored or nuclear weapons or the right to all of your money. The worst that can happen is that we will be reminded that we share a little planet with a bazillion other people who, if we are to judge by looks, we have to admit, are mostly not psycho-fascists from outer-space who want to kill us. This is sadly something of which we need to be regularly reminded.
I don't want to sound like my grandmother who used to tell the same stories all the time, so I wont tell you about the time I was in this little cafe in Paris, and it was just me, this guy from Russia, and the French fellow running the place, closing up, and how on the television monitor the Olympics were playing, and they listed the top-ranking countries: and they were America, Russia and France, and well, Americans are supposed to hate the French and Russia and all that, but we were all happy and chummy and like, wow, how small is this world!, and the whole little episode in that French cafe just blew my mind a little bit and remains near the top of my why list of "why it is good/why it sucks", in the first column. Instead of telling you that old story, I will just say, Free Tibet, protest your little hearts out, I really hope this chaos will lead to Chinese gov't. realizing they should not and cannot shelter their citizens from reality or otherwise treat them like shit.
But ... forest ... trees. Understand?
Ok, now that I've finished proselytizing on the global community and the virtue of humility, please join me on the other side the fold for some unabashed hypocrisy, in which I repeatedly exclaim the superiority of one country and demand you to support me in the pursuit of my own selfish desires! Willl be fun!!
Fri Mar 28th, 2008 at 06:07:35 PM EST
Contents: The usual suspects: nomenklatura, sovoks, bears, poets, ballerinas, blondes, spies, atheists, oligarchs...
N. Korean Soldier 1: Ooooh, the elusive Siberian Crane, Grus leucogeranus. So elegant, so beautiful...
N. Korean Soldier 2: Lemme have a look.
Soldier 1: Ok, I have to go read the Odds & Ends anyway, upon orders of Dear Leader. Frankly I don't know what DL sees in it, but you know how grumpy he gets when everyone doesn't read his favorite blog series. And, well, you know what happens when he gets grumpy...
Soldier 2: I didn't even know a new Odds & Ends was posted.
Soldier 1: You didn't receive the message? How is that possible, an order was issued to every subject of the DL. ... Why don't you ever check your facebook page, comrade?! Think you are too special for facebook or something? EVERYONE is on facebook. EVERYONE is doing it. Your dangerous anti-socialist networking ideas are subverting the goals of the great DPRK! Give me back those binoculars - I'm going to find the idiot who just took our picture. I can't afford to be documented in the presence of an enemy of the State, an enemy of ... Facebook!
Soldier 2: Ok. But can I look at the pretty bird when you're done?
Thu Mar 13th, 2008 at 06:26:37 PM EST
Look, someone elsewhere in the Internets has posted a link to the greatest Putin-homage site, which I can't not share with you, if only because I need to prove I am not the only deranged one out there, and then someone in the ET higher-ups (well, the higher up...) asked me to write about this supposed 2 party United Russia split and I guess I should do it because the fact is I really, really do want to come to Paris - OTHERWISE, I would not be here, writing this. I'd be hiding from all of you. Because you infuriate me. That's right: I am blogging while infuriated. Get a helmet and a stiff drink if you plan to proceed.
Oh, yeah. And some hot guys.
Tue Mar 4th, 2008 at 03:26:40 AM EST
or, a case study in narcissism.
Yes, it is a true and sad fact: I have become the very person for whom I have the deepest disdain: The Russia Expert. On what grounds do I make this bold assertion? Well, because Jerome said so. And in case there is anyone here who does not take Jerome's word as gospel truth (after his "yes, you should contact Sergei," I'm inclined to count myself among those people), there is also the fact that Peter Lavelle let me join his "expert" discussion group. So right there are two facts in support of my audacious claim. And that, my dear readers, is twice as many facts as you're bound to find in anything you'll ever read in anything calling itself an expert analysis of anything having to do with Russia.
Now, on to the analysis:
from the diaries. The best commentary on the net on all things (and men) Russian! -- Jérôme.
Fri Feb 22nd, 2008 at 02:02:21 PM EST
Contents: Adventures in Capitalism ; The Gordon Brown/Misha Khodorkovsky Beauty School Face-off ; Category: Things you might find at an NRA brunch ; How do you say, "Scooby Snacks" in Russian? ; Cured Meat ... and much much more. Plus, Viggo Mortensen.
"That Loud Sound You Hear is Capitalism, Democracy, the BBC Sucking ..."
As of about 5 hours ago I have completely exhausted every comment, insight, rant, brilliant revelation or cynical witticism I could ever possibly make in relation to these topics. From now on Odds & Ends will be agit-prop free.
Listen closely, can you hear its breath getting weaker, more delayed? Such a tragedy to pass so young... "Hold on, Odds & Ends. You can't go just yet! That charming Putin fellow still has a few months left in office, and Viggo Mortensen is hopefully going to be on the Oscars this weekend. Don't die on us now..."
Thu Feb 14th, 2008 at 03:41:39 PM EST
Contents: Sean Guillory is Hot ; Small Problem with "Face-control" ; Limon-icheskii ; Misha and Mr. Darcy.
Some days you wake up to discover that George W. Bush has been elected President, that madmen have hijacked planes and are flying them into buildings or that your brother has a brain tumour and needs surgery. At these times it is normal to feel that, after today, nothing will ever be the same. "What's next?" you wonder, "Will the earth stop spinning on its axis? Will I come home to find my cat building a time machine? Is this the beginning of the end?" The screeching sound of metal on metal as your world grinds to a stop drowns out the voices in your head which are telling you to sleep, eat, mail your bills. Functioning becomes what other people do. You crawl into bed and close your eyes with the hope that when you open them, you'll awake to the hours before you found out. Like nothing ever happened to disrupt your routine life. Like a computer problem you can rectify by making the settings retroactive to an earlier date.
You pull the covers over your head.
And -voila!- you open them at 7am, and NPR is running a story about how evil Putin is and how desperate the Kremlin is, and they are telling you the Cliffs Notes version of something you read in the eXile last year about clan infighting, and assuring you that just because Putin will no longer be president in a few days, things will still be bad under Medvedev, just you wait and see, and thank god we live in a sane lawful society, whew, but don't get too comfortable because the Russians want to start a nuclear war with us. What's this? Groundhog day? The same old recycled New Cold War story every morning? They are more reliable than the sun! (which has not shone for months) And you sigh, a deep sigh of relief. You close your eyes for 10 extra minutes of the best sleep you've had in days. You get up and eat some Cheerios and write some checks to some large evil corporations and Working Assets, and you thank Vladimir Putin and NPR for their continued evilness and incompetence, which have given you the peace of mind to face your fears, be they Republicans, terrorists or brain tumours.
Ben Franklin remarked that there are only 2 certainties in life: Death and Taxes. He was wrong; there are 3 certainties in life:
Death. Taxes. And anti-Russian propaganda.
(Also, Pride and Prejudice was on the other night, which really really helped. There are few kinds of suffering that cannot be cured by a healthy dose of Firthian Darcy.)
Follow me below the fold for the recycled stories NPR should have been reporting.
Wed Feb 6th, 2008 at 06:10:13 PM EST
Updated with minor corrections, additional links.
Thu Jan 31st, 2008 at 05:27:57 PM EST
Contents: Kicking the Corpse of Dull-mocracy ; The Fetishization of Dyevushkas & Jerome K ; Literacy and its Discontents (now with cannibals) ; Starving Misha.
So, imagine my deep disappointment when I learned that the rogue French banker bad boy who bucked the system was not, in fact, my Jerome a Paris, who, as it turns out, has been on some disgustingly bourgeois bankers' ski trip instead of on the lam. And who is still a capitalist, keen to inform me of my "competition" at ET. Competition? Surely there is room in this world for a Vysotsky fan who likes to translate in his spare time and a brilliant political satirist who is going to make you do your own translating, no? Competition exists for those who need constant reassurance and money. Impoverished geniuses need not apply. We spit on the grave of your competition! We kick its dead corpse! Jerome is dead! Long live Jerome!!
Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 05:10:30 AM EST
Contents: The mad ravings of a post-holidays crash. Featuring French existentialists, Edible clones, and Putin's [Soul].
This calendar is inhumane.
Must.not.FP.O&E... Can't resist - Diary rescue by Migeru
Tue Jan 8th, 2008 at 06:23:54 PM EST
I had intended to include the following reviews in Odds & Ends but decided that they warrant their own diary. Both for the sake of length, and because I suspect some of you - you know who you are - only read Odds & Ends ... well, let's say, it's not for the articles. Now I have something meaningful to contribute, and I don't want it lost amid gratuitous fawning over Russian Presidents and jailed Oligarchs. Don't run off! This won't require complete sobriety and heavy cerebration. It's not like I'm writing about the Georgian elections. Between you and me, I'm writing this as a way to avoid the Georgian elections and the endless madness they have brought to my Inbox. Damn you, Saak!
Mon Dec 31st, 2007 at 06:11:13 PM EST
Contents: Year in Topless Review; Year in Vindication; Unsung Blogs of 2007; New Year's Resolutions.
Happy New Year!
Well, I'm not precisely happy (though that could change after a few glasses of champagne.) But then, happy is not my default setting. Which is good, because it's terribly exhausting, all that smiling and chit-chatting and stopping every 10 seconds to smell the roses. Do happy people ever actually accomplish anything? So a personal spasibo! to JohnnyRook for snapping me out of that momentary bliss. A round of applause! Sadly, I can't aspire to that level of genius, but I've never let the prospect spewing utter nonsense stop me from posting this series. And since it is New Year's Eve, "shall olde diaries be forgot and days of auld lang syne" and all that jazz. Whatever that means...
Thu Dec 27th, 2007 at 06:34:07 AM EST
Contents: Man of the Year v. Santa Claus: a comparison chart ; Great gift ideas for the Oligarch in your life ; The Grinch who stole Rupert Wingfield Hayes' brain ; 'Tis the season for terrorists ; and indecent amounts of Putin and holiday cheer!
Yay! Christmas is here! I love Christmas, even though I'm not such a fan of Christ himself, or of the religion he spawned. (Note to self: must invent more fun Atheist holidays... "Christopher Hitchens Day" we can all get sloshed. "Marx Lenin Day" we can dress in funny beards and overthrow a government. Feel free to add suggestions below!) Anyway, my lack of medieval cult membership hasn't deprived me of fetching the small bone of fun the Christians have thrown us. In fact, my parents wanted to name me Natasha, a diminutive of Natalia, because I was conceived at Christmas. Even more curious, they thought they'd shorten the name a bit and spell it is a creative way, so that I would be unique. In case I wasn't actually, I suppose... Basically, they botched the job, but I got stuck with Christmas Child duty anyway. And I took my job very seriously, being a perfectionist, convinced that if I did not perform well, Christmas might not happen. Which is a lot of pressure for a kid. So now I am some kind of Christmas Nazi. I don't think your throwing tradition to the wind is radical. It is not enlightened of you not to exchange presents. Christmas songs are not "ironic." And there will be a family dinner or people will hang. ...People assert that Putin's kitschy patriotism is feigned, his desire to hold on to Chechnya an evil political calculation, his control of elections megalomaniacal. Well, maybe he's just a perfectionist and traditionalist and takes his National Leader duty very seriously, aware that if he doesn't keep everything and everyone together, no one will. Has anyone ever thought about that? Maybe it's easier to bitch and complain. Maybe you aren't responsible for the future of a whole county or a major holiday...
Where was I? Oh, yes. I've bought & wrapped presents, solidified travel plans, made arrangements for quality time with the cool people in my family ahead of time - why did I just now figure this out?-, and have arranged to have the cat looked in on. On top of the mandatory Christmas Day gathering and the Christmas Eve dinner I finagled (Victory is mine!), I'll also be spending one lovely evening at a French restaurant with my recently acquired replacement parents, and one night out drinking whatever she's got in the car with a distant cousin (who my real, a.k.a., dead mother raised, so she's like a sister somehow, but not..) Anyway, for those dreading time with the family this holiday season, I suggest you pick out the best relatives (the ones who will take you out for roast chicken or meet you at the train station with a bottle of champagne) and start a clique. And if that doesn't work, drink. Have back up drink around just in case...
You might want to have it around right now, actually. Because this was meant to be a Christmas edition Odds & Ends. Until Time Magazine went and named Putin "Person of the Year." Which, he obviously is, and would be, regardless of their opinion. And Time Magazine isn't exactly the type of news outlet I'm willing to stop my festive presses for. Frankly, I forgot the publication existed, assumed it had gone the way of Campari and Lucky Strike commercials. Apparently it still lives, and still knows cool when it sees it. And as a result, the web is plastered with photos of Vladimir Vladimirovich today, and ... I'm finding it difficult to contemplate much else. I'm a sick girl. ... I'm a spiteful girl. So I'm going to demand your company while I celebrate.
Well, what are the holidays for, if not overindulgence? ;-)
We need a little comic relief - Diary rescue by Migeru
Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 06:14:19 PM EST
Contents: Everything you ever needed to know about this Medvedev fellow, Another little something to add to my wish list, A full length documentary (For real? Yes, for real!), The Nietzsche v. Kant smack down, and Blogging for Charity! Plus, Misha!
So it was apparently not enough for me to come down with a head cold on top of a hangover (was a great party Sat., btw) on top of PMS on top of 2 weeks till Christmas and not one bloody present purchased. No. Lest I imagine I could muster some willpower and venture out into the world, brave the grumbly crowds (I'd fit right in, and have a legitimate medical excuse...) and return home with anything resembling a feeling of accomplishment, not one, but TWO ice storms just hit the area. Upstanding citizens who had spent the previous week shoveling their sidewalks every other day, following numerous snowstorms, have inadvertently created 235 square miles of DEATH TRAPS. Emergency rooms are overflowing with ankle sprains, dislocated hips, heads cracked wide open with brains gushing out all over the place. Shopping bags with their contents spread in disarray in busy intersections and slushy gutters. General hysteria. Age old dilemma between procrastination and assured physical harm. Otherwise known as Winter In Chicago: the global warming years.
Bet the Russians wouldn't let something like a hangover and an ice storm cramp their style. Well, especially given how hangovers and bad weather pretty much constitute the foundation of their style...
Anyway, complain about Russian governance, but apparently they don't take off for bad weather and holiday cheer. No slackers in Novo-Ogarevo. The rest of the world looks out at gray skies and impassible highways and thinks. "I just want to go home, order a pizza and watch tv." Ok, maybe that's just America. Politicians take the holiday season off, knowing fully well that the weekly quota allotted every citizen for critical thought has been exhausted from pricing HDTVs and because they think so lowly of themselves that they suspect any major political decisions announced around the holidays will just bum everyone out and make them switch the channel to America's Next Top Model. Hell, we could bomb Iran next week and you know it would only be discussed once everyone became bored with ice storm tales of horror and had finished their holiday shopping. Only 2 weeks to go! Shut up! Don't interrupt me, I'm trying to concentrate! Americans aren't struggling to decide between Hillary and Barack, but between the pink iPod or the green one.
Not the Russians! The winter arrives, the holidays draw near and the nation's civil servants are all like, "Let's get this party started! Everybody in the house? Listen up, people (little zakuski spoons tinkle against vodka glasses). Can I have your attention? Hey, you Nashi kids, can you stop making out for a second, we have an big announcement. Thanks. Now, .... The next President of Russia is ... Give it up for Dmitrii Medvedev!!!! And his charming PM, you know who I'm talkin' about, VVP himself!!! A Toast! Za Rossii!, Za zdorovye!, Za Operation Successora!"
One year Americans were forced to wait until Dec. 11 to find out who our next President would be. We all remember how nicely that turned out...
Yeltsin actually announced Putin's nomination on New Year's Eve itself. Can you imagine? ...
Mon Dec 3rd, 2007 at 02:57:18 PM EST
I haven't slept and am much too tired for this. But unfortunately this deserves a diary. Someone has to fight the Kasparov Noise Machine.
I'm pulling things from everywhere in order to glean a clear picture of the elections, which, according to Jerome, were not a "triumph for democracy." If my selection seems biased, maybe it is, maybe it isn't. I'll let you decide for yourselves. I've tried to use the latest numbers, articles, knowing that all of the facts are not yet in. So keep that in mind.
Fri Nov 30th, 2007 at 04:52:57 PM EST
Posted sometime back on EuroTribune. Then disappeared. Now back, at the request of rdf, to contrast and compare with his Capitalism and Democracy Diary.
Frequently asked questions:
Is Chavez a Dictator, or does he respect Democracy?
Is Putin an Autocrat or Strong Leader?
Is the US a Representative Democracy or a Plutocracy?
Is Nationalism always Fascism?
Can Co-ops be Capitalist?
Can Socialism and a Free Market co-exist?
I'm an expert in neither political science nor economics, and don't want to survey in one blog entry what academics will spend their entire lives trying to wrap their brains around. Not unless someone's offering me tenure.
But I have the unsettling feeling that we've entered a chapter in history when the dictionary is failing us. Words have lost their meaning. And we are confused - not just by the insanity we read in the news, but by our own inability to express just what's insane about it. First I though it was just me, in the throes of shock, having witnessed my own dear country's tail spin into despotism. Then I read that diary about our brains and was reminded once again that when you have a square and life hands you a circle, it might just be that what you've been calling a square is, in fact, not one at all.
So I'd like to take a step back and shine a light on some things we've been taking for granted, which have been the foundations for our positions on all issues, and suggest that they are just ill formed ideas (the nerve, I know...) and that any solutions will require radically altering our way of describing the world. I'm not advocating "re-framing" but putting these words into the museums where they belong.
Fri Nov 30th, 2007 at 02:13:19 PM EST
Contents: Curious history of the OSCE, Gorbachev's endorsement, Buying votes with Viagra, and a Deeply disturbing campaign ad.
Well, I hadn't planned on doing another diary so soon, but the following items are just too delicious to keep all to myself. I'm about to head out for the weekend, so I won't be around to comment on any election chaos which may occur in my absence. I'll just let Jerome post a story that goes something like, "Authoritarians win!" or something. In the meantime, read this.