Saturday, December 4, 2010

2010 12 04 - Ya Mascovich: Kyltyra - B Teatr

The Russian word for Theater is TEATP - the P is an R and it is pronounced TEE-A-Ter.

We went to an extremely nice theater to see a play titled "Journey into the Whirlwind" based upon a auto-biographical account written by Eugenia Ginzburg.

The play was in Russian and I understood very little of it. Here is what I can tell you - it was set in a Stalinist Era Womens Prison or Gulag. Plotwise that is about what I got - Ginzburg served 18 years for Treason. Her book was smuggled out of Russia and published (in English) in 1967. It was not published in Russia until 1990.

The production was very impressive with large moving sets that had a very industrial feel, perhaps alluding to the automation and mechanization which developed and thrived during the era. We have seen a few excellent productions at the Wilma in Philadelphia the past couple of years and I would definitely classify the Ginzburg play in the same category as those shows.

As part of the show the lobby of the theater was decorated in with Communist era slogans. A prop statue of Stalin Rested near the entrance to the theater. These props actually served a dual purpose, when you exited the theater following the performance the banners were removed revealing 8x11 B&W head shots of the artists and performers involved in the play.

Language Lesson

You may notice prior to Theater or TEATR in the title above I have a Capital "B". As noted previously the B is actually a V or Vah sounds in Russian. VLAD is actually Spelled BLAD - the L and D are goofy non-english characters. The standalone B means (at least in this context) to go somewhere. B TEATR - going to the Theater. B Restauran - Going to the Restaurant. B KENO, going to the Cinema B PARK - Going to the Park.

GULAG is actually an Acronym - Chief Administration of Corrective Labour Camps and Colonies - I have no idea how the letters match up but you get the idea.

Chistii Prudi

The Moscow Theater District resides near a park named Chistii Prudii. When we left the play we were able to "Walk" on one of the iced over ponds that is part of the park.
Jo Walks on Water

If you look over Billie Jo's Right Shoulder you can see a girl ice skating on the bond. If you enlarge the photo you can make out a small white light in front of the skater - that is a cell phone - she is texting. The Skating Texter did eventually fall on her butt.

Pond in Summer

This the Pond under warmer conditions.


Saw a Girl wearing a Celtics Hoodie near the Mall and a Dolphins Fan on the Metro. Good to see the Miami logo - helped make me feel a little warmer in the Moscow Winter.

New York Yankees 9
Boston Celtics 3
Los Angeles Dodgers 2
Solchi 2014 2

U of Michigan 2
Elliot Sadler 1
Atlanta Braves 1
Chicago Bulls 1

Oregon U 1
Denver Broncos 1
Miami Dolphins 1

Friday, December 3, 2010

2010 12 03 - Ya Moscovich: Kyltyra - Myzika

My father asked me what radio is like in Moscow - To which I replied what's a Radio. Indeed the last time I lived at home, I was in my teens, it was maybe 10 yrs ago (perhaps a bit longer) and Radio was a big part of my life and American Culture. Well times have changed. Nobody gets there music from a radio anymore. In fact people don't get their music via CD either. I am not even sure if mp3 remains a growing format.

Alas, they do have Radio and Music in Russia. The word for Radio is...Radio and the word for Music is Muzika.

I have always been fascinated by pop music. With Globalization and the shrinking of the world it has become even more interesting to me which artists manage to crossover into other cultures.

The Moscow and Petersburg areas have hosted the following acts either prior to my arrival, during my stay or in the near future:

ZZ Top - Played the weekend after I arrived - They are in their 6th decade of playing together and this was is their first trip to Moscow.
Toni Braxton
Deep Purple
The Residents
Iron Maiden
Elton John
Diana Krall - We looked into this and I think her show was equal to a Months Rent
Tatu - Attractive Russian Lesbian group who made a bit of a dent in the US scene maybe 7-8 years ago.
Skid Row

Concert Billboards

I am really not sure who Toni Braxton is but she has always had great legs. And I have no clue who the other woman is, but I think this ad could have saved Arnold Schwarzenegger a great deal of trouble 25 years ago.

There are numerous references to current pop stars through the paper. Lady Gaga is particularly noteworthy.

On the other end of the spectrum, during our visit to Petersburg I saw an add for an upcoming exhibition inspired by the work of legendary albeit enigmatic producer, Brian Eno.

Returning to Radio there is radio here and our Satellite systems picks it up. While in Petersburg I asked a waitress about he Music being played and she said that it was from 90.1 the Hermitage - likely inspired or produced by the Museum. I couldn't get the link to work, perhaps when I get back home.

Pop Quiz - anybody know who this is??

Thursday, December 2, 2010

2010 12 02 - We Win!!

On the Second of December, Russia was awarded the World Cup for the Year 2018. I was sitting in our apartment in Moscow, but because of the electronic age we live in I got the news via a Baseball Blog that originates out of Atlanta. This may say more about my strange life then it says about the electronic media.

Still an event that is almost 8 years away is cause for great excitement in Moscow and was trumpeted via all of the major papers. The 2014 Winter Olympics will also be hosted by Russia in the resort town of Sochi which is located on the Black Sea.

Moscow Times WC 2018 Story - Don't bother going to the Link, I didn't read the story either.

Zenit Logo

The Russian Cup or Rambler Cup in 2010 was awarded to Club Zenit from St Petersburg - They won the championship game by a score of 1-nil (Shocking).

I know virtually nothing about soccer/futbol, but I do enjoy having a favorite team so Club Zenit has joined the foray of favorite teams in the Ember household - This deicision was base on two factors: They are from St Petersburg and Billie Jo found one of the players attractive.

If you look at the above logo (click to enlarge). Zenit (pronounced Zen-Neet) is in the circle. The Top Left of the circle (9 - 12 o'clock) says "Futbol-Nee". The Top Right area (1 o'clock) specifies KLYB pronounced CLOOB - with a long U for Club. Finally the balance of the circle says Saint Petersburg.

The big letters at the bottom tell us that this is a bag from the OFFICIAL MAGAZINE - Magazine is the Russian word for store or shop. And indeed Zenit has it's own stores. The stores are fully stocked in apparel and other merchandise. Uniforms and Tees are available for the entire Zenit roster, both home and away colors, in shirts sponsored by Nike - the Goddess of Shoe Branding.

I stuck to US teams in my Branding Survey - pretty much because that is what I know. I am sure that we have crossed paths with Man U shirts and caps at some point but I have no idea what any of the Futbol Logos look like. I am pretty sure I also noticed some Formula 1 Jackets. F1 is pretty popular throughout Europe and while we were here the championship drew a fair amount of coverage.

I do now Know Zenit's logo but will not be counting it in the branding survey.

I did come across someone wearing a Broncos Sweatshirt today - Who would have guessed that the first NFL logo I would spot would belong to the Broncos?

New York Yankees 9
Los Angeles Dodgers 2
Solchi 2014 2
Boston Celtics 2
U of Michigan 2
Elliot Sadler 1
Atlanta Braves 1
Chicago Bulls 1

Oregon U 1
Denver Broncos 1

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

2010 12 01 - Ya Moscovich: The Big Freeze

I would like to let you know that the AM temp in Moscow on November 12th is -9F. That is Farenheit not Celsius. The Wind Chill an astounding -27F. I should have done a screen capture from, but I was to stunned to do anything. And of course this means it is a school day which involves at least 30 minutes of walking at an extremely brisk pace in this cold.

On the plus side - I have lost an incredible amount of weight since arriving in Russia - I may have lost 20 lbs. This happens when you live somewhere where you cannot order any food. You walk and climb stairs for a couple of miles each day and subsist on a slightly higher quality of junkfood (No HFCs here).

At any rate I am down 2 to 3 notches on my belt. Luckily this allows me enough room to place my sweat pants on under my jeans - I am serious. I am going to school everyday wearing my sweat pants underneath my jeans. Remember that several Stages of Cold Post from a few weeks ago. Well I have needed to add another stage today.

We got onto the metro and there was a young man passed out on one of the benches. He was wearing an knit cap bearing the NHL logo. I explained to Billie Jo this is a Hockey thing.

Since the weather has gotten colder there are a lot more folks passed out on the metro and in metro stations. And, you can smell a lot booze on the breaths of the metro patrons. Stray dogs and homeless folks are also more present in metro stations, but are not really a significant problem.

New York Yankees 9
Los Angeles Dodgers 2
Solchi 2014 2
Boston Celtics 2
U of Michigan 2
Elliot Sadler 1
Atlanta Braves 1
Chicago Bulls 1
Oregon U 1


A dollar will get you 31.5 Rubles today.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

2010 11 30 - Ya Mosovich: Kyltyra - Televisor

The Russian word for Culture is Kultura. This week I plan to look at some of the cultural phenomena in Moscow - which since I am the author here means Pop Culture. A few days ago I alluded to a conversation in my textbook regarding American Football - I will start my TV Discussion by mentioning that there is no American Football on TV here.

Actually, I am not sure if there is an American Football broadcast here - I have not watched my TV. Partially because our reception via satellite is sketchy. We have maybe a dozen to 20 channels depending on the day. And I don't understand most of it - this takes a lot of fun out of surfing TV - which is the only thing I use a TV for. Like most men, I don't really care whats on, I only care what else is on.

OH before I forget the Russian word for Television is Televisor.

They broadcast many American shows here in one of two forms A) Dubbed or B) Translated.

The dubbed shows are American Shows with all the dialogue translated into Russian. There is no rhyme or reason to the shows - Among them are Sex & the City, 3rd Rock from the Sun, Dharma and Greg I think, ,Several MTV Reality Shows (Next..., Top Model etc), and Many Animated Series: The Simpsons, Family Guy, Sponge Bob, and we just recently spotted that show with the pixared Lions, which Eddie Murphy did a voice for - it was on for roughly a moment back home.

The shows which I refer to as translated are ones where they take an American Show and put in an entirely Russian cast but use the themes from the American Show. Among the shows which can be seen here that have their roots in American TV are ...Everybody Loves Raymond, CSI, and the Bundys.

We watched an episode of the Bundys and I am pretty sure they lifted the script directly from the American show. Peg Slips on a Banana, hits her head, and loses her memory. When she awakes she is a model wife and mom. The rest of the Bundy clan keeps her in the dark about her condition and enjoys having the new Peg around etc.

There is also a Translation of the dreadful "What not to Wear". Very bizarre - Billie Jo would have to explain you the nuances of this show. I am embarrassed to bring up that I even know the show exists.

There are three basic Russian channels I have Identified Russia 1, Russia 2 (Sport), Russia K (Kultural). 1 is your general entertainment, We get this at home - it has CSI, and the Russian version of Who wants to Be a Millioinarie etc. Sport is sort of like ESPN, except they have a lot of Steven Seagull/Van Damme flicks on when there are no sports - so it is sort of like Spike when it isn't ESPN. and Russia K is their PBS. Lots of Documentries and weird Music Programming.

TV News
I don't know about the rest of the newscast but they are very specific with their weather graphs. The temperature is given to the 1/10th of a degree and the Time is ticked off by the second. I think the Barometric Pressure is also part of the graph, but I have no clue when it's good bad or otherwise.

One other thing - the chic that gives the newscast has the worst haircut ever. I think she is Spock's mother.

November 30th

Speaking of weather , it is the coldest day so far in Moscow. They are calling for colder weather tomorrow. Ugh. Of course it is a School day so I will be traveling in the wonderful weather.

The Dollar is trading at 31.35 R/Dollar.

Monday, November 29, 2010

2010 11 29 - Are Moscovich Men Often in Trouble?

On the day I arrived in Moscow, I asked Billie Jo what the Hell UBETies were because they had signs for them EVERYWHERE. Every Metro Stop has at least one and many times more. And if you look at the top of the Photo above you can see as sign that specifies 24 with the word below shielded by yet another UBETbl Sign - well the hidden sign is for the Hours they are open.

Language Lesson
If you haven't guessed this is a flower stand - check the pic on the stand between the Red Signs - And this is a pretty modest one - I pass it everyday on the way to school. The UBET word is pronounced something like TSVETTY - it makes me think of a certain sketch on SNL with Alec Baldwin. The U like character with the tail makes a TS sound (as in TSAR). The B is a a V - E and T are the same the lower case b and l are actually part of a single character (sometimes referred to by outsiders as the 61 character) the "bl" character is the long E sounds as in frEEzing.

I am not exaggerating when I state that the stands are all over the city. And every one of them is 24 Hours.

This is what has led me to the Question in the title of this Post. I mean why else would you need so many flower stands, and why would they need to be 24 hours?

I mean if your running out to get flowers at 4am, my guess is a bouquet of roses lined with gemstones ain't gonna solve your relationship issues!!

Now if we're dealing with some clown that just made some sort of sexist blog posting he is probably ok - First off - He can probably convince the young lady that he was only joking, and secondly, He can hopefully fallback on his Extremely Good Looks and Infinite Charm.

Turns out the joke is likely on the Author of the blog posting - Sasha is one of those unisex nicknames in Russian (it is short for both Alexandra (f) and Alexander(m) - Like Chris/Christine/Christopher). Imagine a certain students dismay when he was listening to the mp3 of this particular exercise and Sasha turned out to be an Alexander and not an Alexandra.


Maybe this is a me from hickville thing - Moscow is a Gihugic city and it runs 24/7. Perhaps in New York they have these 24 hour Flower stands on every corner, Is Duane Reade some fancy French Phrase for Flower Shop that I am unaware of?

Flowers in Moscow are serious business and there are customs related to them. You are to give flowers only in Odd Numbers (3,5,7 etc) - A single flower can be given, but this is rarely done. Even numbers considered bad luck and are only given for funerals.

The Russian words for Flower and Color carry the same root and are quite similar. This makes sense, The flower stands across the city are very colorful and do help to brighten up the dreary winter days in Moscow.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

2010 11 28 - Moscovich Women

This is a Sunday during Football season and I would like to quickly draw your attention to one of the early lessons in my Russian Language Textbook that references American Football.

Russian Telephone Language Lesson

You will likely need to enlarge the photo (by clicking) to read the text above.  You need not read the Left Side (unless you would like to pick up some Russian Vocabulary).  I am primarily interested in the English translation of the conversation that is occurring. 

Go Ahead Read It, I'll wait.

Did anyone notice anything about Ivan and Sasha? 

Sasha had the good sense to:

A) Let Ivan return to watching the Football Game
B) Apologize to Ivan for interrupting. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

2010 11 27 - St Petersburg: Russia's Puff Daddy

Name Wise St Petersburg is likely the Puff Daddy of the World. The City changes its name every time there is a shift in Power or Philosophy with the Russian governing structure.

Names for St Petersburg
1) St Petersburg (from it's founding in 1703 through 1914)
2) Petrograd (1914-1924 - More Russian Sounding)
3) Leningrad (1924-1991 - Death of Lenin)
4) St Petersburg (1991-present - Perestroika)
Additional Nicknames

Names for Puff Daddy
1) Puff Daddy
2) P. Diddy
3) Diddy
4) Sean John
5) Sean John Combs
and many other combinations and variations of (but not limited to) "Sean" "John" "Daddy" "Puff(y)" "P." "Combs" and "Diddy"

Regardless I am sure that both Sean Combs and Petersburg will experience several more name changes throughout their existence.

While Moscow is considered the governing capital Russia, St Petersburg is considered the Cultural Capital and is also sometimes referred to as the Capital of the North. In fact Peter the Great moved the Capital of Russia to St Petersburg when he founded the city.

The City is the northernmost city of over a million people in the world. It consists of several islands that lie on the banks of the Neva river. Due to its low altitude there are many canals throughout the city. St Petersburg is also sometimes referred to as the Venice of the North.

St Petersburg Canal

Most of the info above comes from Wikipedia. The one thing I can tell you about St Petersburg based on our experience is that they must have an awful poor snow shoveling ordinance. It snowed the entire six days we were there - the snow was never really heavy and in fact only may have been steady a few times, but it Snowed every day and most of the day. This amounted to six maybe eight inches by the time we left. When we arrived, the river and the canals were flowing. When we left, the canals were completely frozen over and the river had major ice forming.

Billie Jo and Snow Covered (and Frozen Canal)

St Petersburg is becoming a very Modern European city in some ways - lots of new upscale trendy shopping but the city has retained much of the traditional architecture that contributes to its beauty.

Snow Covered Courtyard of the Hermitage

ugh Michigan

New York Yankees 9
Los Angeles Dodgers 2
Solchi 2014 2
Boston Celtics 2
U of Michigan 2
Elliot Sadler 1
Atlanta Braves 1
Chicago Bulls 1
Oregon U 1

While in a store I came across an odd (and Expensive) T-shirt with the stencil Featuring the Denver Broncos AND the Chicago Bears. I am not sure this is a game that ever happened. They are not rivals, and off the top of my head I cannot remember the two teams playing each other in a Super Bowl. It was on a Label called Real Vintage or something like that - couldn't find them on various -net searches. And the shirt carried the new Broncos logo so it certainly could not be considered Vintage. I am sure that shirt will still be on the rack the next time I return to St Petersburg.

Friday, November 26, 2010

2010 11 26 St Petersburg: The Neva, Kunstkammer and Zoological Museum

Kuntskammer is an anthropology and ethnography museum.

During his reign, Peter the Great sent out explorers to the corners of the earth to bring back artifacts from the different cultures that were encountered.  The results of this journey are housed in Kunstkammer.

Kunstkammer musical Instruments

I think this is actually an item from Jordan, but it looks like a Thai Piano.  Of course after we found this we found the real Thailand Exhibit which included the following: 

Thai Instruments at Kunstkammer
I am familiar with the Lute - standing upright on the R side of the photo and of course the conga.  Not sure if I have seen the bell thing and there is a Harp or Guitar type instrument in the middle.

To get to Kunstkammer we crossed the semi-frozen Neva River.

Neva River - Hermitage to the Right

Neva River at Night

Ice Breaker on the Neva
It is hard to capture the beauty of St Petersburg on the Neva in a photo.  Even under the grey dreariness and biting cold of the incoming winter the city and the river are stunning to see.

OK here is a good place for the animal lovers to jump off and read the next posting.

We are headed next door to the St Petersburg Zoological Institute and Museum.  Similar to the Ethnography Museum, the goal was to span the globe and bring back examples of all the species of animals.  The animals that were found are displayed at the Zoological Museum.

Polar Bears

Since it is Deer Season I thought we might feature some Racks

For the Orioles Fans

Butterflies which are part of a rather large Insect Collection
The Institutes Star Feature is this Skeleton of a Blue Whale which spans the length of the entrance hall
Fin of the Blue Whale
There were also skeletons and stuffed versions of practically any animal you can think of including several varieties of Cats and Dogs.  There were Mammals, Reptiles, Fish and Birds.  There was a Wooly Mamoth an other Dinosaurs.  Crocodiles, Zebras, Walrus and Penguins all inhabit the large interesting and packed exhibit.   


This has nothing to do with the sports branding survey I have been doing but the girl working the counter in the Kafe at Kunstkammer was wearing a Rammstein shirt.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

2010 11 25 - St Petersburg: Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving All!

T-Giving is not a holiday in Russia and we really had no facilities to cook so we had dinner out.

Kafe Lunch

I cannot remember the name of this Kafe but they were really good - we had a couple of sandwiches and probably a dessert - My sandwich is a Turkey Sandwich at least - the wrap is a Cheese Steak Wrap I think.
Thanksgiving Dinner w/ Ozzy (click to enlarge)

That night we had a pizza at a wine bar - but Ozzy wasn't there - I am questioning the Authenticity of the plate but we enjoyed coming across the item.  I mean juxtapose that Handwriting with anything you know about the honorable Mr Osborne.


Another Day another Yankees Fan - Sweatshirt.  And a Celtics Cap worn off center with stickers still attached.

New York Yankees 9
Los Angeles Dodgers 2
Solchi 2014 2
Boston Celtics 2
Elliot Sadler 1
Atlanta Braves 1 
Chicago Bulls 1 
U of Michigan 1
Oregon U 1

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

2010 11 24 - St Petersburg: Hermitage

On our first day in St Petersburg we visited the famous State Hermitage Museum. The Museum, which is among the largest in the world, sits on the banks of the Neva River and houses over 3 million works and artifacts. The Museum was the setting for the rather unique film "Russian Ark" which is noted for being done with a single shot covering 96 minutes.

Here are some random highlights from our trip to the Hermitage.

Astronomical Globe by Georg Roll and Johann Reinhold (16th Century)

This is sort of the Google Skymaps app from 500 years ago.

One of the more popular exhibits is a group of State Rooms which are supposed to replicate the way a room in the Hermitage may have appeared during the 19th century.

Hermitage State Room
Hermitage State Room

Not sure but I think that is a Piano with Hammers, just that the strings are exposed.

Henri Matisse
Dance - Henri Matisse (1910)
Fruit Flowers and the Panel "Dance"

Matisse "Dance" Corner of the Hermitage

I am guessing that this is one of the things that curators do - The latter Matisse painting above is at the right of the photo directly above, while "Dance" is on the left. In this photo you can sort of get a feel for the way Dance appeared to Matisse when he was creating "Fruit Flowers and the Panel Dance"

The above are all housed in a wing of the museum dedicated to the European painters from the Romantic period. Van Gogh, Matisse, Cezanne etc.


Jupiter (1st Century AD)

I think from what I gather in the description that Jupiter himself is from the 1st century - while everything else was added as part of a reconditioning in the 1800s.

The Goddess Victory held by Jupiter
There are bunches of statue rooms and Jupiter is the king of the sculptures.

Billie Jo with Jupiter
But Billie Jo cut him down to size. Speaking of Billie Jo there was this:

Interestingly the work is titled "Billie Jo's Wild Years"


2 Yankees Caps at the Hermitage, including one worn by a woman. Also spotted a college aged person in and Oregon U Sweatshirt - Go Ducks!

New York Yankees 8
Los Angeles Dodgers 2
Solchi 2014 2
Boston Celtics 1
Elliot Sadler 1
Atlanta Braves 1
Chicago Bulls 1
U of Michigan 1
Oregon U 1

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

2010 11 23 - St Petersburg: Speed Train

First off Happy Birthday to My Mother - she is 37 I think. Hope that you all had a good day in the States - I am sure that Thai Food was on the Menu for the big Day.

Today is a Travel Day - Moscow to St Petersburg via Speed Train.

Speed Train Window

Some things you cannot get away from - oh and for all you Rubes out there I do not work on anything as cool as a Speed Train

The SAPSUN train runs between Moscow and St Petersburg - a distance of over 300 Miles by car. The "standard" takes 8-9 hours to make the voyage. We elected to ride the new hip and stylish Speed Train which cuts the trip to 4.5 hours (at a bit of a cost).

For us it was worth it - first off it is a bit of a kick to ride in such new transport. The train travels smoothly and is significantly more comfortable then the claustrophobia of air travel. They do check your passport prior to boarding and have drink and food service (not complimentary however). There is an overhead compartment for luggage and closets to hang jackets.

During our commute the train topped out at 250 Km/h and made several stops. Every stop is announced as 1 or 2 minutes - and passengers are told not to get off the train - but every stop lasted longer then 1 or 2 minutes and at every stop passengers get off the train to smoke. In the Restaurant they do offer Electronic Smokeless Cigarettes for those that would like to heed to the conductors request or cannot await the next stop.

Overhead TV and Travel Information

There is a TV that had an informational Video about the train including some Siemens personnel (but no one I knew). There was also a Russian Film that played for the majority of the ride - it was in B&W and involved a school and a bunch of birds.

The Travel information in Red above rotates between English and Russian and also brings up other information such as the outside temperature which plummeted about 5 Celsius degrees the moment we left the station.

View from the Train (Click to Enlarge)

This is one of several towns we passed between Moscow and St Petersburg. This is one of the advantage of traveling via train over plane - you get to see a bit more of the country. Although we mostly saw snow - which became deeper and more prevalent at each passing --- and was ominously foreshadowing of our vacation.


Somebody at the Train Station in Moscow was Toting a rather large NBA League Logo Gym Bag. There was also some flyer handler outside the station sporting a Solchi 2014 Tee.

New York Yankees 6
Los Angeles Dodgers 2
Solchi 2014 2
Boston Celtics 1
Elliot Sadler 1
Atlanta Braves 1
Chicago Bulls 1
U of Michigan 1

Monday, November 22, 2010

2010 11 22 - Vacation!

I am going on vacation - Ok some of you snarks may want to point out that I am already on vacation. Well this is my Vacation within (or possibly from) my Vacation.

Actually Billie Jo and I are both going on an excursion to Russia's Cultural Capital of St Petersburg. This means for a week neither of us will have class and Billie Jo will not have to work. I am not as fortunate - since I am already not working, I am not getting this break from work that Billie Jo is getting.

But as we head off for Vacation, I thought I would scratch out some general thoughts on living abroad - and summarize them in two broad categories. Things That I miss and Things that I don't.

I will start with...

Things I don't Miss:
1 - Working
2 - Television (Fight Club is right again - although Jo and I have been catching up with "Modern Family" OnLine)
3 - Driving (including all the garbage that goes with it: Pumping Gas, Scraping Windshields, Parking)
4 - American Food - I may have mentioned this before - Russia is a Meat and Potatoes country so the diet is pretty comparable. I may expand on this in future post - not sure.
5 - Clocks - when there is no work there is no time - And really for the most part Moscow really lacks in clocks - There are no clocks at school and I can only think of one on the side of a building in all of Moscow.
6 - Shaving - due to my quality Asian Skin, I don't shave that often as it is - well while I am on the road I have managed to cut down that routine down to about once every other week.
7 - Liquor Laws - Moscow being the good capitalist society that it is doesn't even bother with an open container law. You can buy a half litre of beer at a corner Kiosk for 89 rubles and drink it next to Lenin's Tomb in the heart of Red Square if you like.
8 - American Beer - Baltika is perfectly fine as is the wide variety of European Beers at the local magazin(or kiosk)
9 - NFL Football - knowing the banalities of Brett Favre's travels, Mike Vick, Ben Rothliesberger, The Vikings, The Eagles - I Don't Miss ESPN's overhyped coverage of the entire spectacle either.
10 - Black Friday and Christmas Hype - Although the Christmas Hype here is just as bad - The Holiday here is actually New Year's so it occurs a full 7 days later, but they had decorations up on the first of November - There is no Thanksgiving so they skip right through that holiday.
11 - Getting Messages from Barack Obama, Sarah Palin, John McCain, Ed Rendell, Arlen Specter, The Clintons or anyone else on our answering machine while we were gone.
12 - The 10-20 pounds I must have lost since I've been here. Between lugging my old legs up and down stairs and going back and forth to the Metro, Eating a little healthier and not knowing how to order any food I have definitely lost some weight - and 2 notches off my waistline.
13 - Mondays - They are part of my weekends here!!

Things I Miss:
1 - Chicken Wings - Ok this is a direct contradiction of #4 above - so what - if you don't like it go write your own blog.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

2010 11 21 - On Tour: Tretyakov Gallery (Modern) and Gorky Park

The wintry mix of the weekend turned into just snow over night - we had our first significant snowfall in Moscow. It was pretty and quiet.

2010 11 20 - Gorky Park

but also cold and windy which led to a Museum day.

The Treytyakov Gallery houses primarily Russian and Russian connected works. There are two museums--the original Tretyakov and a modern museum that is dedicated to 20th century art. Today we attended the latter of these outposts. We hope to get to the Original, but time is quickly running out on our time in Moscow.

In addition to the Museum Collection there were 3 special exhibitions at the Treytakov the weekend we visited. The first was a large collection of tranquil Land and Riverscapes by Isaak Levitan. This exhibition was in a rather large gallery which Jo and I perused quickly as it drew a fairly large claustrophobia inducing crowd.

The next exhibition we came across was a series of bread & wine photos by Gor Chahal - the project was of a religious nature - one of the works features a photo-still-life from several different angles - I am questioning one of the angles - I think something got moved.

The final exhibition was by K V Edelshtein - it was the most interesting of the three and of course I cannot find any links to her work. I can only summarize by saying that her paintings varied from some pretty traditional pictures of common folks going to and from church work or school and some "Cafe at Night" paintings to more abstract and reaching works reminiscent of Edvard Munch.
Then Something Happens

I am not an art snob - I am somewhat of an art plebe - that's fine - I don't know anything about wine, but that doesn't keep me from enjoying a glass or two (or ten).

But that does not mean I am a complete novice either - I have been to several major art museums in the states as well as the Louvre in Paris and even one dedicated to a single artist (Dali). And I certainly would know the difference between a Rembrandt Exhibit and lets say a Carnival.

But every once in a while something happens - On this day it happened at the Tretyakov.

I recognized a painting I had seen in another exhibition - this is somewhat monumental - Any painting I had seen prior to this I recognized from seeing the picture hundreds likely thousands of times on Posters, TV, in books, magazines, or in promotional material for the exhibit. Chances are I knew the painting was going to be part of the exhibit I was visiting.

How Does this Happen?

Well you need to be involved in a culture for which you have very little frame of reference. I know a few artists that everybody knows - Van Gogh, Matisse, Monet, Cezanne, Warhol, Mapplethorpe, Jasper Johns, Jackson Pollock, Frida Kahlo - or any other artist portrayed by Salma Hayek on Celluloid, That Wyeth clan down in Chadds Ford, The Loner Girl who painted all those erotic flowers, the Scream, Picasso (note: if you produce 20,000 works are they all really art - seriously some of those would have to be considered doodles or at least sketches), etc etc and of course I have a few favorites like Dali and Edward Hopper who I know pretty well.

But as far as Russian Art is concerned I know very little. I mean what American does?

We really have very few cornerstone for Russian Art in American culture.

A few years back over Billie Jo's Christmas break we ventured to NY to see a special exhibit of paintings a the Guggenheim from Russia. The Exhibit was simply (and excitedly) titled "RUSSIA!"

First off, just going to the Guggenheim for the first time is pretty exciting, the architecture of the building is it's own work of art.

The exhibit was mixed - I repeat I had even less frame of reference for Russian art 5 years ago then I do now. but...

One of the paintings I saw that day - I saw at the Tretyakov today.

I am not sure that I consider Vicktor Popkov's "Builder of the Bratsk Hydroelectic Power Station" a great painting - or why I remember it - It is fairly large in scale - The picture is of common people who are involved in the drudgery of performing unglamorous work but a necessary task - This can describe much of the State Backed Artwork of the Era. Maybe that is what makes it memorable.

Viktor Popkov, Builders of the Bratsk Hydroelectric Power Station

Saturday, November 20, 2010

2010 11 20 - On Tour: Ice Sculpture Museum

On this rather rainy/snowy/raw Saturday we checked out the Gallery of Russian Ice Sculpture.

Gallery is a very elegant term for the corrugated tin building building that houses the Ice Sculpture Museum. The building looks like one that houses tractors and other large farm equipment - you know the very unassuming glorified sheds that are typically in some sort of dull green or yellow color. The building is identified as the Gallery of Russian Ice Sculpture by a plastic banner hung from an awning.

It is a bit of an eerie sight as you approach the museum in the dreary wintry mix of the night - once the time change occurs, any time after about 4:30pm can pretty much be defined as Night in Moscow (note: Dreary Wintry Mix can define a lot of November days in Moscow as well)

The Staff on the day of our visit isn't particularly helpful either - but at least they didn't make Billie Jo and I wear special suits to enter the museum. Yes, to enter the museum you need to wear suits - not to keep you warm but to shield the sculptures from your body heat.

I was pretty happy to not to wear the special cloaks - in all the promotional materials it makes it look like everyone is in a cult - given the remote location and sketchy appearance of the building I was fearing that we might be tricked into quaffing a mystical kool-aid potion and getting beamed onto a passing comet.

Staff (a single disinterested young woman - similar to my dates in the early 90s) also did not let us know that there was some sort of TV or movie shoot occurring within the small museum.

Despite all the above, and the lengthy trek to get to the gallery it was pretty cool to see:

Billie Jo at the IceGirl

There was also a throne to sit on next to the PopOut - I had Jo sit on that cold slab for about half an hour while I took her picture - she was not pleased.

St George Slaying the Dragon

Billie Jo next to the Ice House

You may notice that she is asking, "What is this room?" - I explained to her that is called a kitchen.

Ice Butterfly
Me with Giant Ice Faberge Egg

Friday, November 19, 2010

2010 11 19 - COK

Russians drink stuff other than Vodka - they also drink COK but that isn't COKE - in fact they don't drink Coke at all - rest assured Coke fiends - If you want a Coke here you can ask for a Coca-Cola - However I am pretty sure it will have Sugar in it rather than HFCS. If you want a Diet Coke - you are also out of luck - but you can get a Coca-Cola Light - I think this is a European thing - they also had Coca-Cola Light in Paris and London.

oh, yes, back to COK - pronounced SOK. That is the Russian word for Juice. Russians are big Juice Drinkers. And they have many varieties - unlike America where we have Orange and everything else which is usually a blend of some Cranberry Apple and Grape with heaping amounts of Sugar.

COKE & COK (click to enlarge and if we are luck Billie Jo will translated what is written on the coke bottle - The Tropicana is Cherry juice)

Indeed here I am going through at least a bottle of Cherry Juice a week which I can get relatively cheap at the local supermarket (rather than a specialty shop like Trader Joe's). Cherry Juice is supposedly good for my tortured liver and it is good to be able to get it so easily here.

The Russians take their Juice very seriously. Many Cafes have fresh juices - and I mean Fresh Juices - the Apple Juice has pulp in it and actually taste like Apples.

Studio Kafe Lebedev Juices

Those are fresh Juices there - Mandarin on the <-left and the aforementioned Apple on the right->


Fresh OJ Vending Machine (click to enlarge)
Check it out - A vending machine that actually squeezes real oranges. I will not confirm or deny that one of those buttons controls the amount of Vodka dispensed.

Billie Jo thinks this may have something to do with the long winters and the extensive use of the canning process. Yes, canning is a big deal here - you can get an endless variety of jarred veggies and fruits.

Pickling is also a big deal - Eating Pickles is part of the Vodka drinking process ergo the Pickle is an important part of the culture.

They do have a different variety of cucumber here - The Russian pickle is smaller and tastier then it's American or English cousins. I don't know if we are getting them fresher here or what but they are better.

Note - Eating Dried Fish is part of the Beer Drinking Process here - If there is enough support for the idea, I may experiment with this at some point - but presently the thought make me a bit quesy. I will have to ask my mom - I think they may eat dried fish in Thailand.

Day off for me while Billie Jo was working so I snuck out for a bit - was going to split a six pack with some Russian dude but he insisted I have some dried fish with him.

Anyways spotted a couple of baseball caps in my travels an LA Dodgers cap by the E-Centre and A stinkin Yankees knit cap in my local supermarket.

New York Yankees 6
Los Angeles Dodgers 2
Boston Celtics 1
Elliot Sadler 1
Atlanta Braves 1
Chicago Bulls 1
U of Michigan 1
Solchi 2014 1

Thursday, November 18, 2010

2010 11 18 - Zima

ZIMA is the Russian Word for Winter - This is easy for me to remember because back in the early 1990s there was a huge marketing blitz by Miller Brewing for an alcoholic beverage named Zima and it sucked - sucks is also an apt description for the Russian Winter.

On Thursdays Billie Jo works and I typically have class later in the afternoon.  This particular Thursday, She called me from work and told me to "dress warm it's starting to get cold outside".


uhm.....I have been wearing a Parka for a month and NOW it is getting cold.

oh and if you check the calendar - ZIMA actually doesn't start for another month!!!

5 Stages of Cold

I think I can break Moscow's Urban Winter into 5 Stages

Open Parka - I wear my jacket but it is not really that necessary - but since I am traveling it is the only coat I own and much easier then transferring all my necessary items(sunglasses - used Ticket Stub) from one jacket to another.  On open parka days it is nice enough I stroll rather than briskly walk from the apartment to the metro.  I may even take a few minutes to walk around the park on Ukraine Blvd and take a few snapshots or perhaps admire the young ladies in their fine fall outfits.

Park on Ukraine Boulevard

Hat - These days are slightly colder - and I really don't stroll on Hat days - I walk at a pleasant pace.  But I don't need gloves and it is fairly easy to carry my book bag  I don't have to remove my gloves when I need to rummage through my pockets for my Metro card - which I forgot I needed because I was distracted by some fair young lady exiting the metro.

Hat N Glove Days - Things are getting more serious now - Any Walking outdoors is all business - there is no strolling to be done - Fair Maiden do still get a quick head turn.

Scarf Days - I don't know of scarf days - Never liked them and don't wear them.  Many a Fair Maiden have assured me they are wonderful.

Today is a Knit Cap Day - For the first time this year I have broken out the Knit Cap.  I prefer the Baseball Cap.  I am used to the baseball cap it is utilitarian - keeps rain off my head, keeps me warm, folds up into my pocket easily and went for something like $5 at a Phillies Closeout Sale.  Note: Many a Fair Maiden look  good in Phillies Caps as well

The Knit Cap is dual purpose - 1) it will be much warmer then the well traveled Phillies cap.  2) It will help me to blend in to the swell of Russians in the city.  For the most part I actually pass for Russian (by sight) - There is a historically large Asian community here as the Mongol Empire stretched to Moscow and beyond during the latter part of the 13th century. About once a week somebody asks me for directions - I usually either shrug or point to my right.

Unfortunately There are many more stages of the Moscow Winter.  but as of 11/18 These are the only ones that I know about.

I am doing all this travel talk because it is a school day and that always involves the metro more me.  Today I had class with Vladimir who always breaks on the hour for a cigarette - today when he went out he raised a cigarette and said "I go Kill the Stick"  I am not sure I have heard this in English before but I like it - Almost makes me wish I was a smoker just so I could use the expression.

First off - on the escalator in front of me some guy was wearing a baseball cap with the "Quilted Northern" toilet paper logo on the back.  I cannot make this stuff up.  If QN or any other TP company ever sponsors hat day for the Phils please remind me not to attend.

Even more distressing on the way back from school I saw some weasel wearing a Michigan Letterman Style Jacket at the Bus Stop - Score 1 for the Wolverines I guess.

New York Yankees 5
Boston Celtics 1
Elliot Sadler 1
Atlanta Braves 1 
Chicago Bulls 1
Los Angeles Dodgers 1
U of Michigan 1 
Solchi 2014 1

Post Script
I am not positive, but I think they still sell Zima in Russia.

For Further Reading

If you would like to learn more about Zima Click Here - Yes it is worth your time.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

2010 11 17 - The e-Centre

Yesterday, I introduced you to some nuances regarding the Ruble - today we will look at spending them.

The e-Centre is the Mall located at our Metro Station (Kievskaya). Similar to the MacDonalds post earlier this week - I am no expert at what goes on in an American Mall, thus I am not really qualified to tell you what is happening in a Russian Mall.

I think I can say with some degree of confidence that the e-Centre is an upscale European mall - there are some familiar stores or more correctly brands - bunches of stores that girls may know - Benneton, Probably Prada, The ones I remember were Timberland, and the athletic gear stores - Puma Adidas and Reebok - Nike is here but not nearly as ubiquitous as in the states. Adidas is probably the most dominant of those brands here - note from my Sneaker Warehousing days - ADIDAS is an acronym for "All Day I Dream About..........Sneakers".

Among the many restaurants is a Fridays and they have a Burger King in the food court.

Victoria's Secret has not made it to Moscow yet, but there may be a reason - there are more lingerie stores in the mall then one could count.

The e-Center is extremely large 5 floors and probably rivals the KoP mall for square footage. There is this rather cool clock that is the centerpiece of the restaurant which is on the ground floor of the e-center.

E-Center Clock

click to enlarge - can you tell what time it is?

The current exchange rate is 30.80 Rubles/Dollar

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

2010 11 16 - Rubles

I can start by saying that there are roughly 30-32 Rubles to a dollar. And secondly there is no such word as Rubles.

Yes today is a Tuesday - which means school for me so that means your in for a Language Lesson.

Language Lesson - Plurals

The whole plurals thing in Russian is a bit more complicated then English. We just have singular (one Dollar) and Plural (Two Dollars, 35 Dollars, A Hundred Dollars a Million Dollars) - You simply add an S to indicate the fact that you are dealing with more than one of an item.

In Russian there are two plural endings - ya - which is used for 2-4 items - as in Two Rublya and there is a second plural ending of -ay - for 5-10 items as in 5 Rublay.

The seperate 1, 2-4, and 5-10 endings extend up through the entire spectrum of numbers. If you are dealing with 31 it is specified as Ruble while 32-34 are Rublya and 35 would be Rublay back to 41 would be Rublya.

There is an exception to this - 11-14 are all Rublay - probably because the Russian Numbers in the teens don't quite follow the conventions of other numbers.

The same rules apply when talking about the Dollar - there are no Dollars just Dollara and Dollarov - Dollarov has a different ending then Rublee due to a gender difference for the words.


Time also has the same 1, 2-4, 5+ plural differences for both hours and minutes. Russians use the same word for Time, Clock, and Watch - although they do have two words for Time.


Russia uses the same calendar as us, but it is almost always written in vertically rather than horizontally - with the days of the week running Top to Bottom - One of the things I like is that they start the weeks on the calendar on Mondays with the weekends listed at the bottom.

The whole extra plural thing extends to ages - but there is a twist - the Word for year is pronounced GOAD and is also the term for your age if it ends in a 1(exception for 11) with the plural for numbers ending in 2-4 as GOADA. But for the 5+ variations (including 11-14) the term is LET.

Phone numbers are given out in the form 123-45-67 rather than 123-4567. and rather than saying the number is ONE, TWO, THREE etc. Russians say One Hundred Twenty-Three, Forty-Five, Sixty-Seven.

There are area codes - not sure how they use overlays but Billie Jo thinks the historic Area Code for Moscow is 495.

The newscast temp in the bottom corner lists the temps in Celsius of course, but they also listen them in decimal as in -9.4 degrees - I suppose so you know precisely how cold it is. The Time is also listed in Military form and down to the second. 22:07:39 = 10:07 PM and 39 seconds. They also list something in MM which is millimeters I suspect - I don't think it is snowfall, but possibly barometric pressure - it is typically in the 750 range I think.

The Russian words for Plus and Minus are Plus and Minus - with more of a long U sounds "PLOOS" - of course sometimes in conversation a Russian may do the C -> F conversion for you but retain the "Minus" when converting a low temp ex) Minus 5 C = 23 F but they will say Minus Twenty Three - which is about what it feels like.

Monday, November 15, 2010

2010 11 15 - MacDonalds

As noted before the Russian McDonalds is spelled with an extra "a" in the MAC portion. I am no longer the McDs authority that I was in college and cannot remember the last time I was at one of the chain franchises in the US. There is a McDs in Wayne but I don't believe I have ever been inside the building. Regardless I will try and sum up the Russian MacDonalds experience here.

First off, the restaurant is always busy - there are 8 maybe 10 cashiers and every line is a half dozen deep. Everytime I have been to a McDs here it has been packed - yet very efficeint. They have picture menus (like at Denny's) for non-native speakers like myself to quickly point at what we want.

The one near our hood is across the street from the e-center - a huge European shopping mall and draws many shoppers, teens, collegians,and urban families from the mall. Despite the incredible crowds, the restaurant is basically spotless - I also like the European-style seating with hi-top seating and counters that look out from the stores windows.

The Menu is generally the familiar McDonald's menu with a few Russian Touches. The Quarter Pounder has the "Royal" moniker that we all learned about from Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction. There is a MacChicken and a Big Mac that all go by those names - The words for Hamburger and Cheeseburger are both the same - Hamburger is a German word - which was brought both to Russian and English.

Russian MacDonalds do carry a special variety of French Fries that Billie Jo said sort of translates to "Country Fries" - which are more like potato wedges with curly fry seasoning - and are quite tasty. The Royal and the McChicken are exactly the same as they are at home - The McChicken may have had a bit more mayo in Russia - everything has more mayo in Russia. There is also a charge for Ketchup in Russia - 15 rubles (roughly 50 cents) for one of those rectangular containers that McDs typically supplies for Nugget Sauces.

Prices are cheap for Moscow but still a bit more then in the US. Sandwiches are in the 160-200 Ruble range.

MakKafe on Arbat (click to enlarge - snapshot taken right before an employee sternly told me that pix weren't allowed - I wonder if that is a McDs regulation stateside)

Attached to any MacDs I have seen there is a MacKafe - which as it's name implies is a full service Kafe - Coffee, Tea, Hot Chocolate and a very appealing selection of desserts and cheesecakey looking items.

I have also seen MacExpress - which is basically a walk up version of the drive-thru - I have not seen any actual Drive Thrus here.

I think B-Fast foods are a relatively recent concept to much of Russia and MacDs here is still trying to grab their piece of that market - indeed there are 8 different variations of the McMuffin here including double MakMuffins and Fresh MakMuffins (Lettuce Tomatos and Mayo) - I think they also have MakMuffins featuring Chicken.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

2010 11 14 - Moscow's Trees of Love

A relatively recent phenomenon that has begun in Moscow is that of the Lock Trees of Love. The idea is that couples can symbolize their love by attaching a lock to one of several iron trees on the Luzhkov Bridge. The Luzhkov is a pedestrian bridge that spans the Moskva River near the Kremlin and Red Square.

Billie Jo and I at our lock tree

See the Giant Lock with two huge hearts above Billie Jo's head. That's not our lock.

Ours is the quality possibly American made gold one that you can only see the side of - it is to the right of my eye and sort of points in the direction of 4 o'clock (bottom) oand 10 o'clock (top).

Moscow Trees of Love

There are many trees on the bridge and a few more that dot the sidewalk near the bridges landings. We elected to place our lock on the top tree at the bridges apex, which was of course the fullest tree on the bridge. The photo above shows a few of the trees on the Bridges North? side which leads towards the Kremlin.

2010 11 14 Sunset over the Moskva River

This is a picture of the Sunset from the Luzkhov Bridge.