I haven’t had the time to write anything substantial about Russia thanks to my chapter deadline (which is tomorrow). In a moment of boredom, I decided to add the “Top Commentators” widget to the site. The widget displays the top ten commentators since I started the site in October 2004.
And the winner is (drum roll please) . . . Mike Averko! Of course it is. Mike never rests when there are not so Russia friendlies to expose as, well, not so Russia friendlies. As of this post, Mike has a whopping 1885 comments. Second is Mike’s arch enemy, Chrisius Maximus with 1018. Even if we add his pre-Roman transformation quips, which stand at 330, he still doesn’t come close to Averko. Following Chrisius is Tim, the Irishman, Lyndon, ivanov, Shedd, me, and mab.
Now none of you should take this as an invitation to engage in a commenting frenzy in an attempt to beat Mike. I don’t think, or should I say hope, that none of us has enough time, let alone the carpels, to surpass him. As to what these numbers signify about each individual commentator, I’ll leave that you all.
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Loyal Readers! Friends! Family! Countrymen! Greetings from Moscow, Russia! Where one can always find warmth in the subterranean caverns of its metro system! This post will be a bit long, not just because I have much to tell, but because I finally got my internet up and running.
I arrived in Moscow on Monday after a 15 hour journey. The flight was pretty uneventful. Things went smoothly, except, of course, when the plane hit the worse turbulence of the flight when I was on the can. That was not pleasant! I arrived in Sherometevo airport around 11 am Moscow time.
Getting through Russian passport control and customs was also no trouble. Andrei, my driver to my apartment, was also there. A good way to start my stay. Andrei was very nice. A stocky ruffian type clad in a black leather jacket (which incidentally seems to be the winter uniform for all 25-40 Russian men). Russian men dress very Sopranos. The ride from Sherometevo into Moscow a bit long mostly because of the traffic. There has been an explosion in cars since I was here. Cars completely choke the city. The traffic, however, gave me a chance to look at some of the new malls erected along the highway.
These malls deserve some attention. First, because I think they are indicative of how much Moscow has changed. Imagine a box store that is three or four stories. Some, like the one near Kalushkaya metro station, are like our malls complete with whole shops, boutiques, cinemas, and food courts. There are no department stores, but the American influence is found in places like “Kabab Khaus,” a shish kabab place in the food court. Now, “khaus” (spelled «????» in Cyrillic) means nothing in Russian. The Russian word for “house” is “dom,” yet this seemed to not make it to me marquee. Of yeah, I should also mention that the food court had a Sbarros. But what fucking mall doesn’t have a Sbarros. They must have some kinda of lifetime contract with all malls. What truly impressed me about this mall was “Cinema Center,” a huge movie theater with flat screens in the ticket area that show previews for featured movies. Very chic!
Other malls are like well organized indoor swap meets. Instead of whole shops, there are small spaces. These, like the one on Novye Cheremyshki, tend to concentrate on electronics, home appliances, etc. I bet there were about 15 places on one floor that sells cell phones. DVD players, both for the TV and handheld, video cameras, flat screen TVs, stereos, and computer stuff was also well represented. Unfortunately, these are just as or more expensive that in the US. I have no idea how Russians afford all this shit.
My first week in Moscow was hampered by problems with my new cell phone. My plan was to buy a cell phone that I could also use as a modem for my computer. Being the prince that I am, I shuttered at the thought of going back to dialup. Once you’ve had high speed internet, you can never go back. Of course, my plan was stifled by software and hardware problems, and I have yet to use the damn thing as a modem. I finally broke down and bought an internet card.
I also had to learn that using a cell phone to call the States is not a good idea. My cell phone money ran out quite quickly. (In Russia, you buy time up front to use the cell phone. When your money runs out, they block the phone. This has some advantages because you don’t have to worry about bills and you use it as you can pay. Ingenious system.) I bought a card for international calls too.
Unfortunately, Bush is back. The two questions Russians have asked me: Have I voted? And for who? With much pain, I voted for Kerry. And the outcome of this election signifies a major crisis in the Democratic Party. Again, I declare that I will never vote for them again. At least this time they can’t cry Nader and might have to actually look at how bankrupt their party is. The Russian’s I’ve met don’t understand how Bush has support. They see him as both dangerous to the whole world and an idiot. Thanks okay because I don’t understand how they support Putin. And for the record I have yet to meet a Russian that likes Putin either. But I only know Russians with university education. At any rate, I cannot express my great disappointment with the American people. As much as I hate to say it, we deserve what Bush gives us.
At any rate, Moscow is great, though it’s changed a lot in four years besides the explosion in malls. There is construction everywhere. Everyone seems to own a cell phone. Traffic chokes all the city’s roads. One nice change is that the police presence is really light. I expected after Beslan, the cops would be everywhere. I was told they were, but their presence has since dissipated.
On Thursday, I went to the Komsomol archive (for those who don’t know, Komsomol means the Communist Youth League. I’m writing my dissertation on it.). The militia at the entrance of the archive wouldn’t let me in because I didn’t have a letter to work there. I promptly asked to use the telephone to call upstairs to the archive. They pointed to the phone. I dialed the posted number. “Hello?” “Yes, Galina Mikhailovna, this is Sean Guillory. I worked here 4 years ago. Do you remember me?” “Oh, Sean!” Galina replied. “I’ll be right down to let you in.” It’s a great feeling when you enter a place and the police won’t let you in, but because you know someone, everything just falls into place. I was very happy that Galina remembered me. Come to find out, the cactus I gave her four years ago, now about four inches taller, still sits on the reading room windowsill.
There is one last thing I need to report before I go. The Russian visa registration process requires some comments, especially for those of you who are thinking of coming here. See you just can’t show up in Russia, go wherever you want, and not worry about you legal status. First the cops stop people on the street to check documents. They mostly stop people with dark features who look like “Chechens.” Whatever that means. So you have to carry your passport at all times. Secondly, upon arriving in Russia, you have 3 days to register your visa. This is a interesting process. If you are staying in someone’s home like I am, the owner of the apartment has to write a “zaiavelnie,” which is statement saying that the owner is letting such and such person to say in your home. Next, and this is the worse part, you have to hand over you passport, visa, and immigration card (which you fill out on the airplane) to get registered. This process takes about a week. Now, keep in mind that the cops can stop you to check your documents. As of now, I have no passport. I just photocopies of it, my visa, and my immigration card. With them I was able to buy a train ticket, but I wasn’t about to exchange money. I leave for Ryazan on Monday for five days, and I won’t have a passport the whole time. I’m a bit worried to sat the least. But I’m sure I’ll be fine.
My apologies that this first post is so long. A week has passed and I wanted to include some things. I promise future entries will be more specific. I doubt these ramblings serve as good reading. These entries will be better as I figure out an effective way of operation. Oh yeah, I’ll try to include some pictures next time.
Next time, my meeting with the anarchists!Post Views: 227
My flight back to
was without incident. I slept most of the four hours to Atlanta and some of the ten to Moscow . Believe it or not Delta has direct flights from Moscow Atlanta, of all places, to . I guess its one of the perks of being a main Delta hub. Moscow
Ilya, my driver from Sheremetevo to my apartment, was a friendly guy. A bit obsessed with cars, though. I spent the whole one and a half hour ride listening to his various takes on cars. He’s a big Nissan fan (he claimed that he was buying a new one next week), and thought BMW and Mecedes were good in band only, while the cars themselves were shit. When I asked him if Russian cars had any merit, he went on a rant on how they were total shit. When I jokingly suggested that perhaps Russian car companies might disappear in ten years, he added that this would be a good thing.
Yes, cars are the shit in
. They clog the streets, freeways, alleyways, and sometimes, even the sidewalks. Compared to four years ago, the last time I was in Moscow , the auto problem is out of control. Before, it made some sense to save time by taking a car rather than the subway. Now, that logic doesn’t make any fucking sense. My friend Greg astutely noticed a few months ago, that Moscow had fewer tramways than before. Many of them seemed to have been removed probably due to the increase in car traffic. Moscow
To really experience the congestion and to know makes traffic in
Moscowmore unbearable than from, say, a car addicted place like , is the fact that there are no emission laws here. At least it doesn’t seem like it. More than once have I had a walk spoiled by an inhale of car or truck exhaust. Or worse, riding in a car with your window down is just asking to have car exhaust from a neighboring car to blow into your window. Many Russian big trucks have their exhaust pipes on the side of the truck which blow poison gas out sideways rather than up. Los Angeles
Pimp My Ride just came on Russian MTV. “Pimp my ride” in Russian is pronounced “Tachka na prokachu.” There is nothing special about the Russian version, except that it is apparently really popular.. It is just the regular Pimp My Ride dubbed in Russian. The Russians just aren’t as inventive as say the Germans, who have their own version of the show, but it’s called Pimp My Bike. Makes sense since few German youths have cars.
Tonight I’m having dinner with a friend from
. She’s leaving Illinois in a week to go back home. I’ve been honored with meeting her girlfriend, .. An honor I probably shouldn’t take lightly. . (and I use . . because she is pretty closeted) needed a lot of convincing to allow me to meet her girl. When she came out to me, I wasn’t too surprised. My gaydar was on a medium buzz around her already. What I was a bit surprised by was her hesitance to be “out” to many of her friends and colleagues. I understand being in the closet to family, but to friends and colleagues? After she explained it to me, I understood. After all, who am I to tell a gay person how they should publicly handle their gayness. I don’t have to worry about any possible “repercussions.” E explained that the reason why she isn’t out at school isn’t because she’s afraid of any discrimination. Academia is filled with enough gays for it not to be a problem. What she feared is that if she was out, people would only view her as a lesbian. Her homosexuality would become the center of her life, whether she wanted it to be or not. Her identity would be reduced to a singularity determined by what gender she likes to fuck. Her sexuality would become the alpha and omega of her being not because she expresses herself that way. No. Because people, even good tolerant liberals, have a tendency first reify and then ascribe identity, whether it be race, gender, or sexuality, onto that person. Such is the dialectic of identity politics: our identity is reduced to this or that, black or white, straight or gay, etc. There is rarely any room for hybridity, let alone play of subjectivity. And people say Michel Foucault was wrong when he spoke to sexuality and the productive discourses around it. Moscow
Speaking of Foucault, the conservative online newsletter Human Events just published its “10 Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries.” Foucault’s Madness and Civilization only got an honorable dangerous mention. The 10 Most Harmful Books according to Human Events are:
10. John Maynard Keynes, General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, 1936.
9. Freidrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, 1886.
8. Auguste Comte, The Course of Positive Philosophy, 1830-1842.
7. Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique, 1963
6. Karl Marx, Das Kapital, 1867-1894.
5. John Dewey, Democracy and Education, 1916.
4. Alfred Kinsey, The Kinsey Report, 1948.
3. Mao Zedong, Quotations from Chairman Mao, 1966.
2. Aldoph Hitler, Mein Kampf, 1925.
And the number one most harmful book of the 19th and 20th century is:
1. Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto, 1848.
Not bad for a newsletter that features the rhetorical Manichaeism of Anne Coulter and the conservative crust of Robert Novak. Not surprising either. Notice how if you remove Hitler’s Mein Kampf, all the books deal with liberalism, sex, feminism, or anti-capitalism. It is clear that Nietzsche only makes the list because of the Nazi “affinity” for his philosophy. To think that such reductions of great thinkers of the modern era would be old hat by now.
The list makes me wonder about a few things. First, why include Hitler at all. Given the general trend of the list, it makes me wonder why give das Fuehrer a shout out at all? Clearly the conservative scholars and right wing think tank fellows think that Hitler is just a token evil compared to the real evil words of Karl Marx, Alfred Kinsey, Betty Friedan, and John Dewey. I think Hitler is listed more because to not do so would make the whole list a complete joke. The truth is when tabulating texts that harm, Adolph bring credibility. The fact remains however, that Marx only wrote books and Hitler wrote a book and started a world war, invaded and occupied several countries, and, and was directly responsible for the extermination of 8 million Jews, Slavs, Romi, mentally ill, homosexuals, and others. By placing the Communist Manifesto over Mein Kampf is to suggest that Marx’s text is more horrible that Hitler.
As I wrote that last line I can already hear the conservative response. Yeah Hitler was responsible for a lot of people’s deaths, but compared to killings inspired by Marx’s writings, Hitler pales in comparison. Hence Hitler’s second most harmful and Marx is first. Okay even if I buy this argument, my point isn’t about rehabilitating Marx and further demonizing Hitler anyway. Let’s remove Hitler and Marx from the equation. How the hell can you explain the presence of figures such as Alfred Kinsey, Betty Freidan, Auguste Comte, Jonh Dewey, and John Maynard Keynes? (I leave Mao and Nietzsche out purposely because they can be collapsed into one point for Marx’s team and one point for Hitler’s)? Clearly their sins are liberalism in economics, education, thought, sex, gender. I think that their real ire is not so much directed against the radical left or right, but at the five liberal texts that standout as a bit strange and, frankly, paranoid of the perceived specter that is haunting our present existence: the specter of liberalism.Post Views: 125