poemless. a slap in the face of public taste.

January 12, 2010

Odds & Ends: Yes, I’m still writing about Russia Edition.

Filed under: Odds & Ends — poemless @ 2:46 PM

“Hey Vova, come look. Odds & Ends is back!”

You should not have to rely on crappy immitations.

Contents: 2009’s Russia hatin’ hack=2010’s Russia lovin’ weatherman; 2009’s enemy of Putin=2010’s enemy of Oligarchs; 2009’s vodka=2010’s street cleaner; 2009’s Tylenol=2010’s vodka; 2009’s cosmetics=2010’s penicillin; 2009’s man’s best friend=2010’s toxic avenger; 2009’s Pradva=2010’s MosNews and much much more!

It is a New Year. It is a Recession. I present to you, New Uses for Old Stuff:

The Month In Journamalism:

~ Ed Lucas: Cold? Try Siberian winters like I did!

Stop the presses! Tovarishch Lucas has written something I not only agree with, but actually enjoyed reading! (Note to RosKosmos: That asteroid might be closer than you think.)

Timidly shivering in their badly insulated houses, or tottering along unswept pavements in unsuitable footwear and inadequate clothes, the British present a pathetic sight in winter.

Not just incompetent in the face of the challenge of a cold snap – but too often joyless to boot.

What a contrast to Russia and other East European countries where I have spent most of my adult life.

Supposedly these countries are the continent’s poor relations. But when it comes to dealing with General Winter – the deadly foe of all invaders from the West – they are streets ahead.[…]

Unlike us, our fellow Europeans in the east know how to dress properly too. My most treasured possession is an Estonian ‘lunt’, a supple lambskin cap.

With the flaps turned down, it keeps me warm even in temperatures of -50c (my record, encountered in the eastern Siberian mining town of Kemerovo).

I once hosted a glamorous English couple in the depths of an Eastern winter. As the wind howled and their ears turned blue, both refused even to fasten their coats, let alone accept the hats, gloves and scarves I tried to lend them, during a brief walk.

‘I would look silly in a hat,’ said my friend. ‘Nobody in my family has ever worn anything like that,’ said his haughty wife.[…]

Best of all was the sauna culture – a world away from the feeble version of British spas and health clubs filled with thin-lipped women desperate to sweat out a few pounds. The real thing is a hut, preferably self-built and fuelled by logs you have chopped yourself.[…]

I cannot recreate those beloved Russian winters in Britain. But I have installed (against the strenuous objections of my wife) what must be one of the very few outdoor saunas in Chelsea.

She looks in dismay at the kit: The wooden bucket and ladle, the strange mushroom-like hats, the linen loin-cloths, the small bottles of birchbark oil, dark brown and pungent (for scenting the steam), the canister of salty sauna honey (for rubbing on the skin) and the birch-branch whisks (imported from Estonia and stored in the freezer).

Today, though, I’ll scarcely hear her objections: I’ll be too busy looking for snow to roll in.

Ok, first of all, Eddie’s going to have me shot for quoting so liberally from his article. And to frame Vova. So this might be a good time to put in writing my request for cremation. No stuffy funerals with little pink chairs. Have a big drunken orgy and scatter my ashes in some dank Moscow alley.

I just can’t agree enough with Eddie, though. Anyone complaining about the cold and the snow, acting like you are some kind of gladiator just because you had the balls to go to the store, anyone who cancels classes or work or public transportation because of … winter, y’all are wimps. Also, I’m sick of snow and cold being referred to as “bad” weather. Not only is it obnoxious to refer to a whole ecosystem as “bad,” like mother nature’s sole responsibility is to make your life easy, penguins and reindeer be damned, but it professes an ignorance of the joys that come with such weather. Playing in the snow, hot chocolate, down comforters, saunas, sledding, the beautiful twinkle of snow beneath a streetlight and the way it makes everything a little quiter, big comfy sweaters, not having to see men’s feet in flip flops… Anyway, it gives me hope that Russophobe or Putinista, moron or genuis, we Russia-watchers can all find common ground when it comes to judging the rest of you pansies freaking out about the white stuff.

~ Hindu: Reliance installations attacked in Andhra Pradesh.

Every blogger dreams of the day when his words will inspire class warfare and widespread rioting. For Mark Ames, that day has come.

Several installations of the Reliance group across Andhra Pradesh were attacked late on Thursday night after a Telugu television channel aired a report alleging a high-level conspiracy behind Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy’s death in a helicopter crash on September 2.
It was based on a report on a Russian website, The Exiled, which alleged that YSR was the victim of a plot centring around offshore gas reserves in the Krishna-Godavari basin. Reliance Industries Limited owned by Mukesh Ambani is operating these gasfields off the Kakinada coast.

No political party, barring some Congress leaders, gave credence to the report of the website, which could not be accessed. But mobs took to the streets and indulged in vandalism in at least ten districts and Hyderabad city.[…]

YSR’s supporters went on the rampage in Guntur, Anantapur and Kurnool districts and Hyderabad city, where they attacked retail outlets and malls, cellphone towers and petrol stations operated by the two Reliance groups.

They burnt effigies of Mukesh and Anil Ambani. Local Congress leaders called for a bandh in Kadapa and Anantapur districts and several towns in other districts.

Guntur witnessed the maximum attack on the Reliance groups’ outlets, with the mobs attacking fuel stations, cellphone towers and other retail outlets. Tension prevailed in the district as senior Congress leaders led the attack on the outlets till late in the night.

In Kurnool district, activists set ablaze two buses at the Nandyal bus stand and attacked over a dozen others.

Mark responds here.

BTW. “… a Russian website?” I thought he was supposed to be “banned” in Russia. Though I see that tagline is no longer up. That’s too bad, if only because of a missed opportunity to sew more confused outrage among our Indian friends.

The Month In Switzerland:

~ RT: Swiss politicians ponder ban on assisted suicide.

Apparently suicide tourism is booming in my favourite country, where, for a price, they’ll euthanize you even if you don’t have a fatal disease. Switzerland: where people go to kill themselves!

The number of people coming to Switzerland to seek help in ending their life has been steadily rising. Plans to revise the law on assisted suicide stem from the government’s fears that Switzerland may become a “suicide Mecca.” In the meantime, campaigners are worried that changes to the law could deprive people of their last chance to die with dignity.

Dignitas – a Swiss group that helps people die assisted by doctors and nurses – maintains that everyone has the right to choose when to die. Although the group rarely speaks to journalists, the doors of the organization have been open the terminally ill for more than 10 years.

However, critics say what Dignitas is carrying out is “a murky business.”

“EXIT (a group similar to Dignitas) and Dignitas are very commercial,” says Ruedi Aeschbacher of the Evangelical People’s Party of Switzerland. “They say they are non-profit, but they make money. And nobody can control them. Nobody can check their books.”

The story goes on to say that while they’ll end your life even if you don’t have a chronic illness, they won’t put down depressed folks. Which, to me, is a bit like offering hospice care to anyone but cancer patients.

The Month In Vova’s Sporty Holidays:

~ Guardian: Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev meet on the slopes for a cup of tea.

In this month’s installation of: “We don’t resent each other. Honestly. What?”

After the shots of him manfully – and shirtlessly – tugging fish from a Siberian river and sitting proudly astride a magnificent chestnut steed, the latest pictures of Vladimir Putin are something of a letdown. Not only is the Russian prime minister riding a snowmobile rather than an awed polar bear, he is also wearing a ski jacket with what looks to be a rather snug red fleece. His image as a solitary outdoorsman at home in the most inhospitable of environments is further undermined by a photo in which he and the Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, enjoy an après-ski cup of tea.[…]

Their body language suggests the closeness between the two most powerful figures in Russia. But shirt or no shirt, it’s plain which one is the alpha male. Despite Medvedev’s claims that he lifts weights, Putin’s physique, black belt in judo and record in office make him all but unassailable.

Letdown? I know, right! Listen, Vovka darling, it’s all nice and lovely if you want to go romp in the snow and have tea, but next time you could save some money to put toward the starving orphan problem and keep the press pool (and Dima) at home. Unless you are romping shirtless. Or having tea shirtless. Or riding a polar bear. Shirtless. Wait. Why has he not thought of this before?! Gives a whole new angle to the “bear cavalry” myth… If I were Putin’s PR person, I’d be scheduling a polar bear photo-op ASAP. Or not. Maybe closer to 2012. Mark my words: you’ll see VVP in a polarbear-riding beefcake shot before the next presidential election.

Fortunately my attractive leader actually vacations where it is warm:

Unfortunately my attractive leader isn’t a very good leader…

~ Reuters: Putin on the Ritz.

This is cute.

“Blog Guy, you know those dudes that run Russia? President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin?”
I’ve heard of them, yes.

“Boy, I bet those are great jobs to have. They probably live the high life all the time and do whatever they want, eh, eh?”

Not really. Times are hard. They carpool to work together in Medvedev’s Pobeda, and as you can see here, it’s not even light yet when they head to the office.

“Gosh, I would have expected big limos or something. Well, what about when they have those huge snows? Do they still drive that car, or do they just get a snow day?”

Snow day? Hah! When it snows, they go in together on a snowmobile. Have a look.

“Wow, this is all pretty low rent, isn’t it? Still, probably lavish meals with the best food and drink?”

Ya think? Here they are having the luncheon special at the Kremlin Coffee Shop.

Why are they wearing parkas and hats at lunch? Isn’t the heat turned up high enough?

Why *are* they wearing parkas and hats at lunch? This looks like something from a J.C. Penney’s catalogue. I thought they were all, “Forward, Russia!” If the future looks like a J.C. Penney’s catalogue, I can see why people are ambivalent…

The Month In Vodka:

~ AFP: Russia imposes minimum vodka price.

In an effort to curb alcoholism (or at least people dying instantly from alcohol … baby steps) and black market production (which causes most of the “instant deaths from alcohol”) Dimochka’s being a party-pooper and raising the price of the little water:

MOSCOW — Russia on Friday imposed a new minimum legal price for vodka in a bid to hinder the sale of cut-price black market moonshine blamed for the deaths of thousands of Russians every year.
From the first day of the New Year, a new law came into force stipulating that the minimum price of a half-litre bottle of vodka is 89 rubles (2.9 dollars), official Russian news agencies reported.

The measure is aimed at preventing the sale of black market vodka which is often made from dubious ingredients but sold at rock-bottom low prices.

I know it’s more difficult to part with $3 in Russia than in America, where “$3” means, “Hell, why not just give it away for free, asshole?” in Capitalismese. But I’m thinking $3 for a bottle of vodka is not the solution. You know what discourages me from buying vodka? It’s $20 bottle. If it were $3, I would be dead now, too.

~ UPI: Vodka byproduct used as road de-icer.

And they say drink and driving don’t mix!

Vodka may be considered “antifreeze” for humans but a byproduct is also good for melting snow and ice on roads and sidewalks, makers say.
A byproduct of the vodka distilling process being marketed as “Magic Salt” is proving useful for keeping driveways and walkways clear of ice, WANE-TV, Fort Wayne, Ind., reported Wednesday.

The broadcaster quoted a local distributor who said Indiana hospitals and the city of New Haven is using the stuff as an effective de-icer.

“It’s basically the leftovers as they are doing the distilling … and they used to just basically dispose of it in retention ponds,” said Fort Wayne “Magic Salt” distributor Eric Hitzfield.

Hitzfield told WANE it works at minus 35 degrees, about 50 degrees colder than the average rock salt.

And if it doesn’t work, you can always just get drunk and not care.

Bit of trivia: Chicago uses something made from beets.

~ Luxist: Sam’s Club Launches Vodka Brand, Rue 33.

OMG. Econo-size bargain basement-priced vodka. While Russia, desperate to maintain a live population, is busy pricing proles out of their vodka, America is making affordable access to alcoholism a right of all citizens. Once the riff-raff have all died of liver failure, then the Congress will pass that universal healthcare bill. Democracy in action!

Sam’s Club has long been a place to get liquor at a lower price. Now it has introduce its own vodka, a a private label Member’s Mark ultra premium French distilled vodka under the label Rue 33. It is the first spirit to be launched under the Member’s Mark brand and joins several several control label wines.

Rue 33 is a wheat vodka from the Cognac region of France and is six times distilled and three times filtered. Sam’s Club will sell 1.75 liters of Rue 33 premium vodka for about $28 and club membership is not required to purchase alcohol on location. Of more than 600 Sam’s Clubs only around 240 are licensed to sell beer, wine and spirits.

Ok, I am freaking out, kids. First America invades Afghanistan, then we have an economic collapse, then all the hooligans start wearing furry shapkas and now vodka is the drink of choice for the underclass. I don’t mean to scare you, but I think someone is fucking with the space-time continuum! I hope this means David Tennant is about to magically appear in my life…

p.s. I don’t recognize the right of anything made in France to call itself vodka.

The Month In Self Care:

~ USA Today: Study: High heels better than running shoes.

Yes. I know.

Walking in high heels is easier on your knees and ankles than jogging in running shoes, report researchers Monday in the journal PM&R, and bare feet might be best.
The injury, function and rehabilitation study led by D. Casey Kerrigan of JKM Technologies LLC in Charlottesville, VA, a team handed 68 young adult runners, 37 of them women, running shoes and observed their running motions in treadmill and video studies. All of the runners regularly ran at least 15 miles a week.[…]

“Remarkably, the effect of running shoes on knee joint torques (twisting) during running that the authors observed here is even greater than the effect that was reported earlier of high-heeled shoes during walking,” Kerrigan says in a statement.

All of this talk of shoes has me thinking about a problem I face this time of year: Winter Boots. And the inability to find the perfect pair. Here are some of my current options along with their pros and cons:

Snow Boots. Pros: warm, waterproof, keep me from slipping and falling on my ass. Cons: ugly, too short to protect my calves from grey slush.
Ugg Boots. Pros: warm, tall, fashionably acceptable. Cons: not waterproof, don’t keep me from slipping and falling on my ass.
Rain Boots. Pros: waterproof, tall, keep me from slipping and falling on my ass, super cute. Cons: not warm.
Motorcycle Boots. Pros: warm, somewhat waterproof, keep me from slipping and falling on my ass, fashionable. Cons: not waterproof enough, too short to protect my calves from grey slush.
Pirate Boots. I only wear these inside as they are not waterproof or warm and don’t keep me from slipping and falling on my ass but look spectacular.

Can anyone recommend a pair of winter boots that could conceivably protect me if I were accidentally stranded in Antarctica yet I could also wear with a skirt to a hip restaurant? Thanks!

~ BBC: Cleopatra’s eye make-up ‘had health benefits’.

“You wear too much eye makeup. My sister wears too much. People think she’s a whore.”
“It’s for health reasons, asshole. And you should stop beating your wife.”

The heavy eye make-up favoured by ancient Egyptians such as Cleopatra may have had medical as well as aesthetic benefits, French research suggests.

The study, published in the journal Analytical Chemistry, suggests it helped to protect against eye disease.

The key appears to be lead salts contained in the make-up.

At very low levels, salts produce nitric oxide, which boosts the immune system to fight off bacteria which can cause eye infection.

The make-up used by the ancient Egyptians to darken and enhance the eyes sometimes took up to a month to concoct.

In theory, because it contained lead it might actually have posed a risk to health.

But an analysis by scientists from the Louvre Museum and the CNRS research institute found that in very low doses lead could actually have a positive effect.

And a positive effect on the French beauty industry too… Quelle coïncidence!

~ Chicago Tribune: Is acetaminophen a social-pain reliever? Perhaps, study suggests.

For when drowning your misery in vodka won’t kill your liver quick enough.

Over-the-counter painkillers that alleviate physical aches also can ease mental anguish, according to a study in the journal Psychological Science. Researchers found that acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, may have an off-label benefit.

The experiment involved 62 healthy volunteers who took a daily dose of acetaminophen or a placebo. Hurt feelings decreased over time in those taking acetaminophen, researchers found, but not in those given the placebo.

In another test, researchers gave 25 volunteers a double dosage of acetaminophen or a placebo, but this time they participated in a computer game rigged to create feelings of social rejection. Acetaminophen reduced neural responses to mental anxiety, while the placebo did not.

“People trivialize the pain of rejection,” said University of Kentucky psychologist C. Nathan DeWall, who led the study. “This research has the potential to change how people think about physical and social pain. We hope our findings can pave the way for interventions designed to reduce the pain of social rejection and ostracism.”

Tylenol won’t alleviate a bloody headache! It’s supposed to reduce the pain of finding out your longtime partner has been fucking a girl at the office, that you’re facing another round of layoffs, that no one called you on your birthday? What kind of “hurt feelings” are we talking about here? No one saved a cupcake for you? Christ, this is why exploiting broke college students as guinea pigs for science experiments is a bad idea, world.

The Month In Zoology:

~ RIA Novosti: Green dogs run wild in Russia’s Urals.

I will not pet them on the head,
I will not pet them in a bed.
I will not pet radioactive beasts,
I will not pet them, Sam I Am!

A pack of some 20 stray dogs has turned green after scavenging for food at an illegal dump on the outskirts of Russia’s Urals city of Yekaterinburg, police said on Friday.

“Either local residents or a factory have been dumping some kind of chemical waste there,” a police spokesman told RIA Novosti, adding that police had asked the local council to take steps to clear up the site.

Or… They’re showing their support for the Iranian protesters. Homeless doggies don’t have access to facebook groups, ya know.

~ Pravda: Mutilated Farm Animals Most Likely Victims of UFO Experiments.

This is one of the greatest masterpieces of reportage I have read in ages. I don’t know why people say that journalism in Russia is dead. Jesus, I hope VVP and his goons don’t off the author for exposing this horrifying story!!!

Now diseased UFO investigator German Kolchin wrote that in Russia, mutilated animals missing internal organs were found in Primorsky Krai and the Volgograd Region. In 1987, a mutilated carcass of a cow was found at a collective farm near the Ural Mountains, and at the same time UFOs were observed in the same area.
On May 22, 2002 the Krasnodar city newspaper “Kuban News” published a letter describing strange events. The author’s grandmother heard her dogs barking at night and stepped outside to see what was going on. All her dogs were looking at the rabbit barn in the yard. She found three strangled baby rabbits with their ears cut off. On the way to her house, the woman saw a light ball flying out from under the rabbit cage.

In 1996, Vladimir Chechurin, a hunter residing in Amga village, Yakutia, lost his horse. A few days later the horse was found dead. The horse’s bones were intact, but his internal organs were a mess and his heart and lungs were missing. The hunter remembered that he saw several UFOs in the area a few days before the incident.

The good news is that aliens are not hunting humans after practicing on animals.


The Month In Writing:

~ The Eagle & The Bear: A “verbal chain” culminating in God: Mikhail Shishkin on Russian literature.

I don’t know who Shishkin is, but according to Wikipedia, he wrote a book titled, “Russian Switzerland,” so I assume he writes horror.

At the end of October, I heard a lecture at UW-Madison by acclaimed Russian author Mikhail Shishkin that I have only just had time to revisit […]

Russian writers never depended on the interest of readers, writing only for themselves or the Party, but were nonetheless accorded respect (see the old adage, “A poet in Russia is more than just a poet.”) After the fall, “Literature was left for those who cannot live without writing. Then the dollar came.” Shishkin, who wrote his first novel in teh 1980s, said that the new dependence on print run in the ‘90s was no better than previous dependence on the Soviet regime’s approval.

Shishkin accurately describes the current situation in which literature, its decline marked by the ascension of pop authors like Oksana Robski, is so marginal and meaningless as a product for profit, it can paradoxically exist freely in Russia for the first time. But he sounds a tad curmudgeonly and simplistic in his rote condemnation of the downsides of the market economy.

For his third theme, Shishkin totters out onto a metaphysical limb and gets all mystical: The Russian author—Shishkin suddenly adopts the guise of a parenting help guru—loves his hero unconditionally, as Gogol does Akaki Akakievich. In this he touches the sacred, since in the beginning there was only a “clump of love, or, rather, the need for it,” which prompted God to create “his own child in order to love him.”

What follows is a bit of metaphorical logic stretched to the breaking point: “If the author loves Akaki Akakievich, who does not deserve to be loved, then the reader knows that God exists and loves him.” Thus, the author’s task is to combine words into “verbal chain” that culminates in God. The additional duty of the Russian author, it would seem, is to fight the totalitarian consciousness intrinsic to the Russian nation and the humiliation reflex intrinsic to the Russian language.

Shishkin claims it is impossible to offer a universal prescription as to how to achieve this, then proceeds to do exactly that, speaking from his own experience: To create his own “Russian arc,” the Russian writer must become hermit, i.e. leave, physically or metaphorically, bringing only his own experience and “ten centuries of the Cyrillic language.”

Although by the end I was worried Shishkin was trying to surreptitiously convert the audience to Scientology, I will admit the lecture was the most inimitable and far-reaching analysis of Russian literature that I have yet heard.

I personally worry ALL writers are trying to surreptitiously convert me to some new age cult. It’s PTSD incurred from dating an English major/self-help addict. In fairness, he only became a self-help addict after we began dating. That industry should pay me royalties, I swear.

~ FP Passport: Lee Harvey Oswald’s request for Soviet citizenship.

FP highlights the National Security Archives letter, part of a girft from Boris Yeltsin to Bill Clinton. I wonder if he busted these out before or after the naked midnight pizza run…

“I Lee Harvey Oswald, request that I be granted citizenship in the Soviet Union, my visa began on Oct. 15, and will expire on Oct. 21, I must be granted asylum before this date. [Unreadable] I wait for the citizenship decision.
At present I am a citizen of the United States of America.

I want citizenship because; I am a communist and a worker, I have lived in a decadent capitalist society where the workers are slaves.

I am twenty years old, I have completed three years in the United States Marine Corps, I served with the occupation forces in Japan, I have seen American military imperialism in all its forms,

I do not want to return to any country outside of the Soviet Union.

I am writing to give up my American citizenship and assume the responsibilities of a Soviet citizen.

I had saved my money which I earned as a private in the American military for two years, in order to come to Russia for the express purpose of seeking citizenship here. I do not have enough money left to live indefintly [sic] here, or to return to any other country. I have no desire to return to any other country. I ask that my request be given quick consideration.


Lee H. Oswald”

“Sic” is right, bitches!


As always, thanks for reading!




    Comment by poemless — January 13, 2010 @ 2:40 PM | Reply

  2. Eddie was a bit timid recently… I don’t read his Economist right now but on BBC he commented on Putin’s veiled threat to any possible START agreement. I think he tries to adapt to new situation in Washington and remould himself as a kinda realist (so we can forget his neocon past).

    About riots – YSR was tragically killed during rain while on inspection. He was genuinely popular politician dislodging powerful Chandrababu Naidu. This state Andhra Pradesh is the biggest in South India and most developed. However this tragic accident made political situation very unstable. YSR was replaced not by his young son MP (35 year old) but by his octogenarian and lacklustre deputy Rosaiah. YSR’s supporters unsucessfully lobbied and made many protests. Thern local Hyderabadi party’s leader KCR launched fast unto death till central government agrees to creation of separate state Telangana out of northern districts of Andhra Pradesh and he was supported by many students and lumpens. New Delhi surprisingly gave in to such blackmail just to cool down heated atmosphere and interrupt the KCR’s fast then after protests in other parts of the state backtracked. So rioting is quite the order of the day in this state, many ill-educated unemployed youth (otherwise lumpens) need slightest provocation to go on rampage. I feel so sad for the state, it was one of the best ruled in the country.

    Comment by FarEasterner — January 16, 2010 @ 10:27 AM | Reply

    • Of course Eddie would blame the delay of the new START on Russia.

      And yes, I did get the feeling that it does not take much to start a riot in India. Still, that they’ve blamed Mark Ames is hilarious.

      Comment by poemless — January 19, 2010 @ 12:34 PM | Reply

  3. Obviously after I told Edward Lucas to lay off Cathy Ashton and hippies in general (a,b,c), he mellowed out a bit. Still, he’s celebrating the to-be NATO contingency plans for the Baltics in his latest post, so…

    Speaking about Parker Posey, you should watch Happy Tears when it comes out… next month (hee hee) and buy those boots.

    Comment by nanne — January 18, 2010 @ 4:54 PM | Reply

  4. Was someone speaking of Parker Posey? What boots?

    I just got these:

    Comment by poemless — January 19, 2010 @ 12:32 PM | Reply

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