Saturday, February 28, 2009
I'm sick. The fever has given me no extra creativity or motivation to impart on you anything of my life. While I did start work on an experimental novel (experimental in that I don't write novels), I accidentally deleted it in a fever.
So here are some pictures from the past few weeks. Maybe they'll entertain you on some level. I'm going to get some whiskey.
Yeah, this is safe. All the sidewalks are like this.
Need this hat.
Holy crap it was sunny one day. This is where I attend Ruskie classes. I learn things like walking in stilettos on 3 inches of ice and snow and wearing scarves on my head. Thankfully I already love ABBA, so I klepped (sp?) out of that class.
Nevsky at Night.
See I imagine this babushka was like, "The chair Must go in that corner!" And they responded, "But it's a hallway!, Where will it fit?" And she glowered and repeated "The chair MUST go in that corner"
Money, Money, Money, must be funny.
Found this down an alley.
Lenin statue near Chernobyl.
My apartment building.
Back stage at a Russian concert. Tea and sandwiches. Really? Don't rock too hard boys...
I thought Jesus threw out the money changers....
Train ticket office. I of course noticed the big "NO PHOTOS" sign on the way out.
This truck says: Coffee Machine Service. Does this explain at all a little about the quality of coffee in some places here?
From the bus.
From the bus.
Listen, you use potato chips to mask the flavor of fish eggs if you are forced to eat them. You don't make potato chips that are actually flavored with fish eggs!
Ladies on a bus.
Yep, It's time for bed. And it's only 10am.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
The above video is an up and coming new artist from the Ukraine. (Sidebar--why do we always put "the" before Ukraine?) It just so happens that this artist is also the Mayor of Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. According to a friend in Ukraine, this guy also enjoys a fair amount of mind-altering substances, and has a reputation for increasing taxes on a whim. Our good friend Wikipedia gives one example, he increased "the price of household services (such as hot and cold running water and gas) by 340%."
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Маnhole covers. The biggest danger in SPB. Not like in Bucharest, where they may not even exist. They exist here. They exist as small circles of death. The sidewalk can be clear (not often) and you can be in your stride, because after all, strut when you can strut. And then, without warning, in the middle of a clear sidewalk, one foot is suddenly not where you put it. In the smallest fraction of a second it is two feet further forward and perhaps one foot higher than the calculated step you had intended. What happened? Manhole covers. No matter the conditions, they are like pure ice. Step around them. For god’s sake, step around them.
First, a news article some weeks back. You may have read it. It concerned a certain world leader and an ABBA cover band. I don't think the Russian's in general try to hide their love for ABBA (for the record, I have recently come out of the ABBA closet. Super Trouper!) It may, however, not be the best thing for a man attempting to scare people with his stern looks and even sterner policies, to admit to a perhaps unnatural love for ABBA. The story is that Putin may or may not have attended a very private concert of Bjorn Again, an ABBA cover band. How private? There were I believe 8 people in the audience. There was a curtain between the band and these 8 people, though thin and the band has sworn, as there was no non-disclosure contract, that Putin himself was among them. The Kremlin has denied this, and the band says they have been contacted by the Kremlin and asked to stop discussing this. Well, Vlad, it's ok with me if you love ABBA.
Moving on. I've already discussed the Wailers concert. Here are some photos. I had no idea David Cross was moonlighting as a reggae singer!
Then I caught a pretty sweet Russian band at a local club. It's been difficult. Not all the clubs translate their pages into English, my Russian is minimal, and my patience with translating things non-homework, even less. Most of the Russian's I've met are interested only in hip-hop and techno. Through some searching I found a club to see a band called Everything is Made in China. They are from Moscow, but sing in English. Pretty talented trio. Perhaps the scene is a bit dated, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Backstage was bit interesting, in that it was not. No alcohol to be found! Is this Russia? Is this a band? What? Tea and sandwiches? Have I been invited by the queen?
Nadia has been kind enough to take me along to an art house type place to catch some music. Mostly acoustic. Last night was quite the mix though. Before we arrived there was a children's birthday party. I met one of the gentlemen that played in the band for this rather prestigious event. He looked just like Ron Jeremy. I'm sure the kiddies were not frightened.
We came to see an array of artistic endeavors. Some acoustic guitar (which honestly, is not my favorite form of entertainment, as in my experience, usually the artists are neither gifted guitarists nor vocalists), some incredibly entertaining spoken word, and a short film. The guitar was mostly tolerable. The spoken wordster informed me, earlier in the evening, quite matter of factly, that he is a doctor, a neurologist, not a musician or artist. Well, of course, he ended up being the most entertaining part. While I had nearly zero idea what he was saying, he was beautifully theatrical. The film was quite interesting, but then this is meant to be about music.
After this session was over, everyone leaves and a new audience comes in. For such a tiny joint, it is happening place. So the next session of entertainment is...a Russian Zeppelin cover band. Yes. It's true. How could I not stick around for this? The drummer is wearing pants like David Lee Roth, black and white vertical stripes. Unfortunately, because he is overweight and sporting a massive beard, he looks more like Captain Hooks first mate. When they started, the front man rallied the 60 or so audience members with a Russian version of ACDC's "ARE YOU READY??!!" And then they started. Well the band did, the audience did not. As I mentioned in my bit about the Wailers, Russians seem to overly respect musicians, or perhaps just show it inappropriately. They sat still as if they were at the opera. One girl moved in her chair, but she was the youngest there. I imagine these guys (they were older) had this band during soviet times, which I'm sure would have been dangerous. And did their fans rock then, in some form of rebellion? Or even then did they sit quietly with small smiles and nod their head occasionally. Soviet remnants.
Well, so you have an idea of the audience. The location is surreal. The ceiling is covered in various colors of bright fabric, draped like clouds. And Christmas balls hang from that. I'm sure the children's party was more appropriate in this place.
And the band. Well, I'd guess two were in their early sixties. The guitarist in his early 50's. The bass player was young, my guess is the original succumbed to alcohol poisoning, or the disease of the America's, he succumbed to a middle class job. They were decent showmen, though the guitarist would be better suited as Kyle Gas's understudy. I stayed for 3 songs. Make that 2 and a quarter. After the frontman feebly, nay, brutally attempted the intro to Immigrant Song, I packed it up.
Well I'm glad I witnessed it. My next concert date is for some "acid-jazz" bands. People love Tom Waits here, so I'm stoked to catch these shows.
I really should have some witty closing line here...
Thursday, February 19, 2009
I was nearly soaked yesterday. As I was walking home, a marshrutka honked and within seconds, "WOOSH!" The girl 3 feet in front of me was soaked. Her boyfriend had not been walking on the street side of the sidewalk. Grounds for relationship termination if you ask me. I was spared. For what reason I don't know. I have a bad habit of reading everything as a sign, which inevitably leads to contradictory messages.
How do we hail cabs and buses in America? I've never had to. I think it's different than here and SE Asia. In both, you extend your arm out at a 45 degree angle with palm down. A little shake of the wrist adds flair and hopefully gets the attention of the driver as a bonus. It's almost a contest sometimes. If three people hope for a ride in the same marshrutka, they line up and shake wrist vigourously hoping the driver stops in front of them, as there are limited seats on these things. I really enjoy this method of hailing. I think the way you shake wrist says a lot about your personality. Of course, my form changes everytime....
Friday, February 13, 2009
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Vyborg. We were meant to go to Novgorod, but transport proved too difficult to figure out. Even to Vyborg, we had to go to 3 places before we could even find how to get tickets. Using a varitey of sources, I have ascertained how to get to Novgorod, and will journey there this weekend. As I can find no central source of information. I plan to copy all the names of destinations from the board in the train station. Then maybe I'll just draw a name out of a hat on my next day off.
I want to take this down and put it in my house. How chic would I be?
This is the most daunting "Cloak Chamber" I've ever seen.
Getcher hair did and a brew at the "Hairdressing Saloon"
If you click on the photo to see the large version, you see that the sign says, "Exit to the city". This just amused me. Like there's some sort of Willy Wonka door, and when you enter it, its a land of pure imagination!
"AHHHHH, get this bear off my leg!"
Again, clicking on the photo for the large size, you see this is a giant pile of scrap metal from Kazakhstan. Or maybe its scrap metal destined for Kazakhstan. Maybe that's what they build their houses out of. Old metal from the great white north of Russia.
I just love the lady on the side of the building. Close up below.
An Orthodox church:
So as we're walking, we see this girl walking with an owl on her arm. Then as we're desperately searching for a restaurant, we find one called "Sava", or Owl. It was this or a place called Kamelot. I often believe too much in signs. This was one of those times. While the place was really cute, the food was nothing to speak of; except I just did. Anyway, it did provide this great photo op!
I have a thing for frozen water. Especially when it occurs in less than comfortable places. What does that even mean? It's early. Anyway, I like the way these gutters just hang off the side of the building. I mean, in summer, does rain just shoot on the passers-by? And when it just starts to warm up do icicles shoot off the side? Ok, maybe I'm being too imaginative, but its a funny image.
So one of the videos above is a man with a giant "Screw". It took me a bit to figure out why the train was full of men with giant screws. They're ice fishermen! While I didn't get to go fishing with them that day, its on my list of things to do....well photograph anyway. I don't fish.
St. Cog. Patron saint of "The Machine"...and I don't mean Jordan....
This building reminds me of Sweden. But then Vyborg was inhabited by Swedes I think, so I imagine they left their mark.
This is great. Finish the outside first. Make sure you get the sign up in nice gold letters. We'll worry about the inside structure later. Just make sure people know its going to be great...one day.