It all started this morning around, I think it was, 5:45 a. m. Pack! Pack! Pack! I say to myself, “Those were gun shots.”
The neighborhood has been a clusterfuck since. Two major LA thoroughfares closed. The dreaded Fairfax-San Vicente-Olympic junction has been closed about a mile in each directions. Now the news crews are here and probably will be well into the night. It’s headline news, baby.
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By Sean — 13 years ago
Two weeks ago, while waiting for the bus at the corner of Sevastopol’skii and Nakhimovskii prospect, I noticed a big billboard of the Jack and Meg White from The White Stripes. To my surprise they were playing one night in Moscow to promote their new album, Get Behind Me Satan. I excitedly noted down the website to order tickets and promptly did so when I got home. 800 rubles (about $26)? No problem. Considering tickets for their show at the Greek Theater in LA were around $40, I was willing to pay up to $35. Plus seeing the Detroit duo in Moscow added a special incentive. How often can you see the White Stripes in Moscow? I ordered two tickets and told my friend Maya that she was going whether she liked it or not. Surprisingly, I was able to convince two more grad students to plop down the money and join us.
It was raining the day of the show. I hesitate to say night because it doesn’t get dark here until around 11:30 pm. Plus the show started at [7:00], hardly the standard 9:00 pm of shows in the U.S. I assumed the early time was because the Stripes were playing St. Petersburg the next night, which is a good 6 hour train ride from Moscow. Let me tell you, it’s pretty strange leaving a concert and it still be light out. Anyway, yes raining, as it has been off and on for the last two weeks, and when we approached Klub Mekhanika, we came upon a large crowd waiting to get into the show. You could hear five languages emanating from the crowd: Russian, English, German, French, and even some Italian. It took us about 20 minutes to get inside. Luckily, the rain broke into a light drizzle.
Located near metro Avtozavodskaia (Auto factory), Klub Mekhanika is well located but badly placed. Not only does its moniker from the car motif, the place looks like it used to be a giant car garage. It is also adjacent to the “Tret’e transportnoe kol’tso,” or the third ring highway that circles the city. Klub Mekhanika claims to hold 2000 people, but I estimate that there were close to 3000. Plus there is no reason to believe that the Russians abided by any building code, if there are such things. The stuffy air was the combined stench of sweat, cigarette smoke, and Moscow. It was impossible to swim through the thick crowd to reach the middle so we settled to stand in the back. Our glimpses of Jack and Meg were sporadic. The six roof supporting columns and the several Russian girls perched on their man’s shoulders did help the view either. The place was so hot that in the middle of the performance, Jack sarcastically asked, “Do you want us to turn up the heat in here?”
The Stripes started relatively on time, around 7:30. A miracle according to Maya, because when she saw Front 242 there two months ago, they didn’t go on until 9:00. Jack and Meg came up to the roar of the crowd dressed in their trademark attire. Meg was in red pants and sleeveless white shirt. Jack in red pants and a black t-shirt. The only difference was the addition of the top hat he sports on the cover of the new album. Meg thumped her bass drum twice. Jack lightly strummed his guitar and then broke into “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground.” At first the sound was shit but was properly leveled by the time they played “Apple Blossom.” I can’t remember the entire track list order, but I remembered that including the aforementioned, they played: Blue Orchid, One More Cup of Coffee, Hotel Yorba, The Hardest Button to Button, The Nurse, Little Ghost, I’m Lonely (But I Ain’t That Lonely Yet), The Denial Twist, Stop Breaking Down, Passive Manipulation, Red Rain, I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself, and Seven Nation Army. “I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself” was by far the most amazing. The whole crowd sang the chorus, leaving Jack silent. Jack’s responded, “See they can speak English.” It was one of those great concert moments when everyone was in harmony with the band.
Plus, Jack just puts on an amazing performance. He truly becomes possessed by his blues. He runs around, drops to the floor, and writhes with the sounds screeching from his guitar. Meg’s drums were great, despite charges to the contrary by Sasha Frere-Jone’s in an otherwise fair and interesting review of Get Behind Me Satan in the New Yorker.
It was a treasure to see them in Russia. Apparently it wasn’t easy for them to come here. At one point Jack said, “My sister and I always wanted to come and play Russia, but we were told it was too expensive to fly the entire crew and equipment. Well, thanks to many people, especially the people you see around dressed in suits and derbies, we were able to do it, because they volunteered their labor and are working for free. Give them a round of applause. . .” The crowd didn’t disappoint. And neither did Jack and Meg.Post Views: 449
By Sean — 9 years ago
It has been a long haul and I’m slowly crawling out of my hole.
For those who don’t already know, I filed my dissertation, We Shall Refashion Life on Earth! The Political Culture of the Communist Youth League, 1918-1928, on Monday. The process of filing was a bureaucratic nightmare in and of itself. Back and forth between UCLA’s Murphy Hall because my middle name, “Christopher” (which I never use, but I somehow put down when I registered at UCLA), was not on the the dissertation. Then two trips to the library to get it checked over by the dissertation lady. What a thankless job that must be! A quite unpleasant, though somewhat charming, woman sits in a small office surrounded by dissertations, goes through each and every page to make sure the margins and typeface are correct. I was told she busts out a ruler but this must be an urban myth. I made a few slip ups and had to go back to the History Department to repair them, then go back to her to get her signature on the appropriate form. Then it was back to Murphy to get my “Certificate of Completion.” It was a journey that started at 10:30, and should have been over by noon at the latest, but ended at 2:30. The last time I experienced this many bureaucratic entanglements was paying for photocopies from the Komsomol archive and dealing with my health insurance provider. But what am I really whining about? After all, at the end of this red-tapist’s wet dream was a PhD. Still, the 1968 slogan “Humanity won’t be happy till the last capitalist is hung with the guts of the last bureaucrat” had renewed relevance.
So what now? Well back to blogging is an immediate goal. I have a lot of catching up to do in the world of Russia, and sadly, as I peruse the hundreds of news stories I’ve neglected over the past several weeks, I am reminded once again how much of the reporting is a rerun of the shame shit over and over again. Will Putin run for President in 2012? Will Medvedev? Who’s really in charge of Russia? Are US-Russia relations hot? Cold? Do they exist? Does Medvedev really like hobnobbing with Obama? Was dropping the missile shield a concession or appeasement, or just the US facing reality? Who really started last year’s war? Georgia? Russia? A pox on both houses! Iran? Is Russia an abettor to who my wife’s grandmother calls the “Second Hitler”*? Or are they on the side of the “good guys” i.e. the West? The specter of Stalin.** Back in vogue or never left the room? What to make of Medvedev’s stinging critique in his manifesto “Forward Russia!”? Does he mean business or was it just yet another empty gesture? Chechnya, Ingushetia, and Dagestan are looking like more of a mess everyday. Oh, and by the way, it kinda sucks to be a journalist (please feel free to substitute “human rights activist” or “oppositionist”) in Russia. Um, like, duh?
It is not like these issues aren’t important. They are. It’s just that when you’ve read one, you’ve read it all. There has to be some expectation of new knowledge, or at least a fresh way of looking at it. Sometimes I wonder if journos have a keyword database of ten topics that are randomly spirited to their Blackberries. A word like “Putin” appears and the article flows accordingly. The names change but the narratives always stay the same.
Now, don’t ask me how this rehashing of narratives can be avoided. Its ideological hold is so strong that even its most aware, dogged opponents (of which I include myself) can’t help but be pulled into its vortex. Events in Russia certainly don’t help. But the news filter is so thick and the categories of thought so rigid, that what’s really going on there is impossible to pinpoint. At most, we, who watch and write about the place, are only able to dance around the periphery of truth in an everlasting rendition of the hokey-pokey. Much of our thought about Russia is governed by a silent watchman akin to what Michel Foucault called a “regime of truth.” This regime is backed by a whole host of apparatuses, economic, cultural and political forces, “scientific” knowledge, categories, and rhetorics that are all deployed by a long list of christened “experts.” All of this makes anyone’s attempt to think about Russia otherwise a poster child of deviance: Putin apologist, Kremlin shill, FSB agent, etc. (See the great Anatoly Karlin’s blog for a full list of said deviants.) It is this power over knowledge, or in Foucault’s terms power-knowledge nexus, that engulfs us. It is the reason why I think everyone, Russophile and Russophobe (two categories which already delimit thought), are ultimately engaged in an orientalist project.
As I enter into a new era of intellectual exploration, armed with a degree that is equally revered and vilified, perhaps I can add a few new steps to the hokey-pokey. Perhaps I can inch a bit closer to the truth lurking behind the mystifications that govern the discourse about Russia. It is this modest task that serves as my manifesto.
Lastly, everyone, and I do mean everyone, should read Claudia Verhoeven’s The Odd Man Karakozov: Imperial Russia, Modernity, and the Birth of Terrorism. I’m about half way through it and it is hands down one of the best books I’ve read in a while.
Oh, and Anna Applebaum has really gone over to the side of lunacy. Whereas before she was merely an intermittent visitor.
*I wonder who was the first post-Hitler Hitler. A friend swears that it was Sadat.
**Another friend recently sent me the best Stalin quote ever. Unfortunately, I can’t reveal it all, because, well, it’s an academic thang. Anyway this tidbit should suffice. Stalin on Party appointments based on personal connections in Transcaucasia in 1931:
“If you pick people that way, then they will fuck you up. It’s no good. They will just fuck you up. It’s a chieftain system, totally without a Bolshevik approach to picking people…. But they do it otherwise: who is their friend, who supports them. Everybody says, “we have no disagreements; why fight?” It’s a gang.”
Makes you wonder how different this is from political appointments anywhere.Post Views: 475