Monday, September 29, 2008

(----) In Russia Vol.3

Ah, here he is in his full glory, advertising the Black Russian malt beverage.

Some more billboards:

This is for a blockbuster out now in Russian theaters called "Hitler Kaput" (but there's no "H" in Russian, so it turns into a "G", and therefore is "Gitler Kaput"). It's supposed to be a campy romp about the end of the titular dictator. Famous Russian rapper Timati (the guy on the top left) hams it up alongside the daughter of St. Petersburg mayor Anatoly Sobchak.

An ad for a bank.


Graffiti in the stairwell in my hosts' building. This took some dedication. I also like how the dandelion looks like a character from the Mr. Show skit about the altered state of "Druggachusetts".

While taking the trash out a few nights ago, I came across this chair next to the dumpster. Judging from the rest of the contents filling the dumpster, it was apparent that someone had just passed away, and I guess their family just put this wheelchair/toilet out to get thrown away with a huge pile of hospital tubing and clothing. To comment upon how intensely sad this scene was in person would be redundant, and in all seriousness, there is no making light of the situation going on. It just struck me as an example of how things seem to be in a city like this, at least to me so far: shit happens, move on.

Watching the debate on my hosts' laptop with 6 other Americans. The candidates failed to impress anyone with their (lack of) knowledge about Russia. FAIL.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

(----) In Russia Vol.2

The metro. It's a beast. Smelly, crowded, full of people who think they are the only people in the world walking around, forcing you to have to dart all over the place to get where you are going in time. At certain times of the day the cars are so full that to get in you have to make yourself part of a human wave that just shoves its way in and out at each stop. And as a foreigner, you must be prepared to get stared at. A lot. By children, swarthy men, nosy babushkas, snotty-looking women in 5-inch pencil-thin heels, etc.

But the metro has its, um, charms. There's always some type of crazy/bizarre/absurd/massively depressing thing to see. For example: two days ago I was in one of the metro tunnels, crossing from one line to the other, and in the span of one minute, I saw:
--a very pregnant (as in ready to pop) woman playing violin
--a man with no arms begging for change
--an old lady in a blue rainslicker selling flags with a skull and crossbones on them

Visually, though, it's pretty stunning. Some of the stations have amazing architecture and crazy Soviet-era statues and sculptures. And there's always the ads on the walls to look at. Like this one, which I couldn't get a proper photo of because you're not allowed to take pictures in the metro so I had to be discreet. It's an ad for some sort of alcoholic drink called a "Black Russian". If you can't tell, it's an eagle wearing a suit and tie.


At my second job interview I was escorted into a room to wait for the interviewer, and these guys' portraits were hanging on the wall facing me. As if to say, "You want job? You must wear tinted spectacles."

Russians hackey-sacking near Red Square.

Russian dogs. There are tons of homeless dogs all over the city. I have heard legends of dogs who actually ride the metro and get off at particular stops.

Russian cat postin' up outside my new hosts' place.

The front door of my friends' place where I am crashing.

My "bed".

Sunday, September 21, 2008

(-----) In Russia 2008 Vol.1

Quick and to the point:

These British tourists in the Helsinki airport had an animatronic moose in yellow raingear that would play "Singin' In the Rain" when they pushed its tummy.

Gandalf checks his email in the Helsinki airport.

After an 8-hour layover in Helsinki, this was served on the plane. I was not sure what it was supposed to be and therefore did not eat it.

The view from the first apartment I attempted to stay in. I moved out within 24 hours after learning that there was not what you would call a strict policy among the roommates of locking the front door.

The ubiquitous set of beat-up Russian cars outside the place I am currently staying.

The front door of my current host's building (from the inside). The apartment itself is really swanky.

The hallway.

Russians breakdancing at the DMC World DJ Championship Finals in Moscow (first time ever they have been held in Moscow).

More breakdancing. These guys were really awesome, as were the DJs at the show. And there was a Russian beatboxer named Vantahng who was the best beatboxer I've ever seen. His voice had so much bass in it that I could feel the hairs on my head shaking.

ЩЕКАТЬ (shye'kat) v. 1, to shake one's face from side to side vigorously. 2, to ruin one's parents' expectations of normal photos of their child at historically important locations around the world (like, say, Red Square). 3, to jowl.