Wednesday, May 05, 2010

moscow in general

alright, so i am off to irkutsk shortly. will be on the train for three days or so, so don't expect to hear much from me. i trust you will survive.

i've really enjoyed moscow. the high points were probably the conversation with that guy andrei who i spoke of in the last post, and a trip to sergeiv pasad (st. sergei's settlement), a town and monastery and cathedral type thing about an hour and a half by train from moscow. touraya, this guy steen (australian guy who has been traveling for a couple of years) and i went. we bought some monastic kvass, which is a russian drink made from bread i believe, and possibly fermented in someone's shoe, though i have no hard evidence of this. 20 minutes or so of wandering around the various buildings revealed to us that we had no idea really what anything was, and that knowing nothing we could learn nothing. so we signed up for a tour.

our guide was a russian woman, somewhere between 60 and 70 i think. she was very opinionated. in particular she held opinions on which i believe some people would find disagreement on the subjects of communism and the funding of the russian revolution, the reputation of ivan the terrible (a better translation would be ivan the awesome in her opinion), and when touraya could use the restroom.

in general though, i had an enormous amount of respect for her. she was pretty understated on the subject of soviet oppression of the church, but from what i understand to be as devoted as i understood her to be would have been sorely trying. she was very patient with our questions, as long as we kept our hands out of our pockets, and had a love of and respect for the traditions and art of the russian church that i don't have and don't really understand but respected and admired. also, she was subtly very cutting on the subject of catholicism, to which touraya and i, rounding up, both professed.

she did say this, which i thought was strange: "now it's a known fact that the russian revolution was funded by american and german banks." i have never heard this, and have no idea if it's true or not, but it seems a bit strange. anyone have any ideas?

after that we went to a cafe where no one spoke english. the meal was interesting but not bad (though in touraya's words, "war food". i liked it. i would do well in a war probably. and we couldn't have the beer the waitress suggested because, as she said "the armenians drank it all". damn armenians...

reagan, what a prick

last day in moscow. more later/eventually on my time there, but basically i have really enjoyed it. one incident in particular was really fascinating. touraya and i were in the liquor store by where we were staying. i showed her the bottle of vodka shaped like a kalashnikov and we were examining the beer selection. a russian looking guy was also trying to make up his mind. touraya wanted to know what was the difference between a couple of different kinds of baltika (russian beer). i didn't know, so i asked the russki. he said, no difference, they are both piss water. she asked him if he could recommend anything, and he pointed the cooler full of non-russian beers and said "any of these." i quoted something vladimir said to me in somewhat similar circumstances in college, "vui bolshoi patriot" (you are very patriotic). conversation ensued.

eventually we ended up drinking with him by a statue of gogol in a nearby park. he was about 30, had been in the army for a few years, married to a japanese woman with three kids. it was generally a very nice, interesting experience, but the most interesting part was at the end. we were talking somehow about the russian nuclear weapons command center, which he pointed out. he then mentioned reagan's famous open mike "joke" ("ladies and gentlemen, we have just introduced legislation outlawing the soviet union. bombing begins in five minutes"). for me, i have always though of that as just an unimportant piece of evidence that reagan was a jackass, but he told the story of how he'd experienced it. his father was called up to duty and told to report in ten minutes. his father went to grab the then ten year old, where he was building a model car with a friend, and drag him home at high speed. he didn't go into too much detail, except to say that he never got to finish building the model car, but by the end he was crying.

anyone have any memories of that incident? for me, it just seemed like a footnote, but obviously i can understand now how terrifying it could have been here.

Saturday, May 01, 2010


so i am in position. the following complications arose en route:
1. delta wanted proof of a continuing voyage from russia, and it took about 45 minutes for them to decide that my ticket from piter to istanbul was good enough
2. i somehow contrived to lose my passport on the plane. uh. yeah. when i first started wanting to go to russia 18 years ago or so i had some dreams that i was on my way there and couldn't find my passport. well done, precognition. fortunately it had just fallen out of my pocket, but it was a bad couple of minutes.
3. some idiot forgot the map that showed where i'm staying. that worked out pretty well. i went into a building that made some allegation of having internet, which seems to have been unfounded. but i asked a security guard where this street was. she didn't know, but grabbed a couple of office workers as they were going past ("rebyati, skaji, blah blah blah (basically, boys, where is whatever the hell this street is?"). they also didn't know, but one of them took me up to his office and printed me out a map. so that was nice.

met a cool guy on the plane. he's american, also from texas. him and his wife spent a lot of time working on a baptist mission in rwanda, including, and this is key, the years 1994 and after. he is in russia for about 36 hours, after which he is going back to alabama. if you're scoring at home, that's a travel to vacation ratio of about 1:1. many experts suggest a different ratio is preferable, but he's meeting some loaded friend who is here adopting a kid. hopefully he will not send it back on a subsequent flight.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

if anyone's interested

i got a new blog with some stories i've written here

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


well, they got scooter. hee hee. i doubt if they'll keep him, on account of cheney will be after the dauphin to pardon his ass, but still, it's nice while it lasts. though this will take some of the air out of the fired prosecutors hearings going on today, and maybe the walter reed scandal. i really think that's the only reason the bastards have even 30% approval, cause there are too many scandals for anyone but the obsessed to fully absorb any of them.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

how screwed are the republicans?

put it this way: the sheriff of dallas county is a hispanic lesbian.

Monday, February 26, 2007

the greater east asian co-prosperity sphere (now three times cuddlier!!)

i can't decide if i should be horrified, amused or impressed:
Perky cartoon character Prince Pickles -- with saucer eyes, big dimples and tiny, booted feet -- poses in front of tanks, rappels from helicopters and shakes hands with smiling Iraqis.

The cutesy icon hardly calls to mind the Japanese military that conquered and pillaged its way across Asia in the first half of the 20th century, and that is just the way the country's leaders want it.

As Japan sheds its postwar pacifism and gears up to take a higher military profile in the world, it is enlisting cadres of cute characters and adorable mascots to put a gentle, harmless sheen to its Self-Defense Forces deployments.

"Prince Pickles is our image character because he's very endearing, which is what Japan's military stands for," said Defense Ministry official Shotaro Yanagi. "He's our mascot and appears in our pamphlets and stationery."

Such characters have long been used in Japan to win hearts and minds and to soften the image of authority.

The Metropolitan Police Department tries to lighten its stern image with Peopo, which looks like a cross between a rabbit and a space trooper.

The government hopes the same tactic can work overseas.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

scalia family values

see what liberal permissiveness and failure to strictly interpret the constitution has wrought?
Daughter of Supreme Court justice charged in DUI

By Angela Rozas

Chicago Tribune


CHICAGO - A daughter of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was arrested Monday night in Wheaton, Ill., and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol and child endangerment, Wheaton Deputy Police Chief Thomas Meloni said.

Ann S. Banaszewski, 45, was stopped about 7:25 p.m. in a 1996 Ford Econoline van after a citizen reported a possible drunken driver was at the McDonald's restaurant near there, Meloni said.

Three of Banaszewski's "small children" were in the van with her at the time, leading to the child endangerment charge, Meloni said. He would not disclose their ages. Meloni would also not disclose details of her alleged intoxication, but said she submitted to a field sobriety test, though he could not disclose its outcome.

"Probable cause was established to arrest and charge the driver with DUI," Meloni said. Banaszewski was taken to the Wheaton Police Station, where she was released on her own recognizance, Meloni said. A police officer dropped her children at a family friend's home, a "common practice" when someone is arrested with children, he said.

A court date has not been scheduled, he said. Meloni said police knew Banaszewski was one of Scalia's daughters because of "previous contact with the justice" and "common knowledge" in the Wheaton Police Department.

Meloni said he has never spoken to Scalia directly, but the department's police officers routinely patrol Banaszewski's neighborhood to ensure her safety, a courtesy the department extends for others associated with law enforcement, the court system or anyone who requests extra patrols.

Banaszewski, reached by phone at home, declined to speak about the arrest, or whether she was Scalia's daughter.

"I have no information and I certainly would not speak with a reporter about my father," she said.