Wednesday, November 26, 2008

(----) Vol.10

You know you're in Russia when you step out of the metro train at your stop and there's a dead guy lying on the ground, already wrapped in a black plastic bag with police taping the scene off, and the only part of him that is exposed are his shiny businessman shoes, and because it's Moscow and everyone is in a huge hurry, you can't really even stop to see what is going on and ponder why there is a dead human being whose last sight and smell was this disgusting grey metro station, you just have to keep treading water in the wave of humans that swells towards the escalator.


First day of snow. The view from my bedroom window.

Some more images of snow. It's really beautiful until it melts and turns into black slush and you only have sneakers. And look! It's Josh Carpenter's van! He's learned how to park like a Russian! Just put it that fucker on the curb!

Only in Moscow would you see adjacent billboards featuring Gloria Gaynor, Whitesnake and Timbaland.

Bigger is better when it comes to advertising.

So I went to this ice sculpture gallery in a specially constructed building in a park. The shit was pretty damn psychedelic. Peep this knight fighting a dragon.

You know I had to get a jowl going on up in the ice gallery.

Once more into the dog breach. Outside of the ice gallery there were a bunch of stray dogs. This one ran up to me, I assume looking for food. I started to take a picture and then noticed the terrifyingly blank look in its eyes. I wondered for a moment if it was about to attack, and then thought, "Will my last thoughts be of Rikk?"

Just look at those eyes. The madness this one has seen.....

Seurat's "Early Sunday Morning on the Isle of the Lost Dancefloor."

Yo! Chocolate Friends! What am I watching?

And last but not least, the "creme de la creme" (!). This is a bag of mayonaise. In Russia, mayonaise comes in bags with pour spouts. And this particular brand is called "СКИТ". Now let's spell that out phonetically. The "С" is an "S" sound. The "К" is your normal "K" sound. The "И" is an "EE" sound. And the "Т" is normal. So what's that spell?


Sunday, November 16, 2008

(----) In Russia Vol.9

You know you're in Russia when (this one's for you, Rikk) find yourself in a 2nd-floor VIP booth at a club located in the seediest neighborhood you can remember being in so far in Moscow, where there are somehow no pedestrians anywhere amongst the abandoned warehouses, mud and gravel, yet the line to get in stretches out the door, and you're listening to a Euro-remix of Nelly Furtado's "Promiscuous Girl" and watching a bunch of promiscuous people dancing to it from a room that normally costs $700/night just to sit in, and you're having a conversation with the club's gorgeous PR woman, because all the clubs here have gorgeous PR people, male and female, who will cater to your every need if you show up and you know somebody who knows somebody else that happens to be kind of affiliated with someone else slightly important, and you and this woman are talking about God and Catholicism and Jews loudly over the earth-shattering bass coming from the soundsystem and your eyes are clogging shut because everyone in the room is smoking, including, to your surprise, yourself, and you decide, "Shit, it's time to go, I'm breaking my own rules here," and you wander out into the night and there is still no one around in this barren wasteland of a neighborhood, and a beat-up car comes barreling down the wet street so you stick your hand out to stop it, and as usual it stops, and the driver opens the door and you try to negotiate the price for the ride but you use the word for "30" instead of "300", which the driver finds quite amusing, but he agrees to take you home, and as he barrels through the streets of south Moscow at 4am, between the naively saccharine Russian pop and R&B clogging the playlist of whatever radio station he is listening to, up pops R.E.M.'s "Losing My Religion," seemingly the most random fucking thing you can imagine until you remember that you were just talking about religion (or rather, screaming over the Eurodisco about religion) with a woman in a room that costs $700 to sit in.

The view from the room that the aforementioned theological discussion took place.

A go-go dancer, one of many, at this club.

Look! Vomit! And it's still fresh! Usually you only see the splatter stain but the content has been picked away by either the ravens or the rats. I kid you not, these stains are everywhere.

Look! It's 2pm in north Moscow but it looks like a) the fucking Apocalypse and b) 6pm. Can't wait for winter to really kick in.

Check it...another award-winning airbrush job.

So I teach English to a few middle-aged Russian guys; one of them is the editor of "Kinobusiness" magazine, about the film industry in Russia. We meet once a week and he just talks for 90 minutes and I correct him when he says something incorrectly. He has this drawing hanging on his wall; it's supposed to represent what it's like to make a movie in Russia. The monkey is lifting reels of film on his barbell.

This is one of the Seven Sisters, seven enormous buildings built by Stalin in the late 40s/early 50s. This one is the Red Gates building, which is a 3-minute walk from my apartment.


These shots are from Patriarch's Ponds, which is where the Devil appears at the beginning of Mikhail Bulgakov's novel "The Master and Margarita."

So this guy was performing "magic" in the Arbat, which is the most touristy area of Moscow outside of Red Square. He had a large collection of nails, glass, swords and fire. One of his tricks was setting a pile of broken glass on fire and then putting that out with his bare feet. Then he put a large needle through the skin on his arm. Between each trick he would walk around with a huge black trash bag, asking the spectators to throw money into it.

His master's nails, embedded on a piece of wood. And trash bag.

He did manage to blow fire, which was cool.

Oh shit, THESE GUYS.

This lady was tearing it up in one of the underground crosswalks on a Casio.

Metro, midnight.

Bonus: a real, authentic 2am gypsy cab ride in Moscow. A lame attempt to recreate that one scene in Andrei Tarkovsky's "Solaris." Forgive the length. But check that turtleneck! And listen to that pop jam! All that is missing is the smell of cheap cigarettes...if only that could be digitally processed and blogged as well....

Sunday, November 09, 2008

(----) In Russia Vol.8

These three tags were all found in the neighborhood where I work. "Выход есть" means "there is a way out." Not the most uplifting of sentiments in the not the most uplifting of societies.

This has got to be one of the best of the airbrushed cars in Moscow. Click on this picture and check out the details; it's a fucking club, complete with girl in bikini dancing on the stage. The other side of the car is the same thing, just different details. My cup runneth over.

More detail of this car. I saw the owner outside of it last week and he didn't seem like the kind of guy who would appreciate his car getting blogged, so I was hesitant to try and get more photos than this.

This calendar ("ГОД БЫКА" means "Year of the Bull") hangs in a kiosk that I pass every day, and I've been trying to be subtle about getting a photo of it for you all. The previous image had been a cow with a basket of US dollars on its head. Unfortunately, the day I saw my opening (meaning there weren't a shitload of nosy babushkas who might have given me a hard time), someone had changed a page on the calendar. A cow with imperialist currency on its head vs. a cow snuggling a very uncomfortable-looking cat....6 of one, half-dozen of the other.

An ad for a circus that is playing here for a few days. I cannot imagine why anyone would take a child to this. Only in Russia do you have clowns that look like residents of Nilbog.

The gate of the Moscow zoo.

Billboard for a movie called "The Very Russian Detective" ... notice that watermelons have returned to the blog, in the form of the Statue of Liberty's head. And this Carrot Top-esque character is eating a piece of it. I have no insight into the political meaning here.

Mujuice again, this time at a club called Solyanka. I made a lot of friends at this place; everyone kept asking me where I was from, and almost every time I said "America," they started freaking out about Obama. One guy jumped up and down, chanting, "O-BA-MA! O-BA-MA!" People here are pretty excited about it.

This is me trying to get a few seconds of footage of Mujuice, only to get smacked down by the security guard. Watch closely, about 9 seconds in, you'll see his face appear before he shuts my shit down.

A rare sight: an empty metro car. Empty except for the 2-liter plastic bottle of beer rolling around on the floor.

Most of the windows in the metro cars have words scraped into them, like this one, which says, "Sory." I was trying to get a shot of all these people sitting under one that had the Russian word for "meaning" a few weeks ago, but I would have gotten spotted. It was pretty awesome, though ... all these disaffected-looking people under this word.

SPECIAL ELECTION COVERAGE: Stayed up all night to watch this shit. It was totally worth it. The experience of leaving my friend's house at 8:30am, walking through the coldest wind I've felt since I've been here, and realizing that our president was no longer going to be a reason to be ashamed to be from the US was awesome. McCain's speech was humble enough to render all of us speechless.


To answer RB's question, well, I am not sure why so many dogs. But I can say that they even have dogs on their Internets. This image was on the BBC Russia site today, accompanying an article about a future meeting between Obama and Medvedev. Again, for some reason, dogs always remind me of Rikk.

Friday, November 07, 2008

I was there when Change happened

So, thanks to former 'XYC DJ John Lee and his wife, Shana and I were able to be their guests and attend the Obama rally in Grant Park the other night. We got there around 4:00 when the doors didn't open until 8:30, but there were already plenty of people in line of course. While we didn't have an incredible spot, we were still fairly close. When the big screen showed CNN counting down to the California polls closing, everyone was counting along out loud, and then when it showed BREAKING NEWS - OBAMA ELECTED PRESIDENT, everyone went nuts of course. Then we had to wait a bit longer before Obama actually came out - there was someone who did a blessing, then someone reciting the pledge of allegiance, then someone singing the national anthem (she actually messed up a few words even), but finally the announcer introduced America's new first family. Afterwards, there were a slew of people selling bootleg Obama shirts, buttons, playing cards, etc etc. We got a pretty sweet poster with a rendering of Obama with a basketball, the White House, and a basketball goal, that said Coast to Coast Obama. Here are some photos from the occassion: