24 December 2005

Taking the bull by the horns (of plentitude)

Last month I had written a short review of Canongate's new series - updated creative stories rooted in age-old myths and produced by the current literary superstars like Atwood and Pelevin, in which I had focused on the latter author. Essentially, this was review of a review, based on my previous familiarity with other works by Pelevin, since his Helmet of Horror was not yet available in the Russian bookstores I frequent. (Frequent is a euphemism, because this bookstore chain is located up in north Toronto and is not easily accessible.) Having finally ventured into this frostbitten wilderness and purchased the book, I must say that I am impressed.

Perhaps my reaction can be explained by the fact that I have further invested myself in modern cultural theory since my last less satisfying reading of Pelevin's publications, such as Chapaev and Emptiness or Generation P a number of years ago. Or perhaps this kreatiff about Theseus and the Minotaur, as Viktor refers to it, really is a short, funny, and enjoyable read; its initial simplicity soon transformed into theoretic complexity by the middle of the story.

First and foremost Pelevin's new release is another consistent showcase of his sophisticated humor and postmodern trickery. Both aspects situate the updated myth in our here-and-now. This is not to say that this book does not posses cultural longevity like cheap mystery novels, but that Pelevin deliberately emphasizes his stylistic methodology. As anticipated, this methodology engulfs the story - from the characters' conversations to the the direction of the plot itself.

At first, the labyrinth embodies the co-existence of different realities pertinent to each participant. In their turn, they manage to interact in real time in cyberspace - after all, the world wide web is not a far stretch from from the intricate pathways of the original labyrinth outlined in Greek mythology. Pelevin lightly mocks our technologically oriented culture by giving them amusing chatroom names like Monstradamus, UGLI 666, and Nutscracker. He even describes a person named Sliff_zoSSchitan, who only communicates in a specific type of Russian internet slang, which focuses on profanity, deliberate spelling errors, and never writing words the same way twice. This chatroom also possesses all the required traits of a typical internet community - a man who knows everything about everything, a religious freak, and a web romance, while Minotaur's servants are thought to be the moderators. Even smilies abound.

In contrast to the bombardment of advanced up-to-date technology, certain personal labyrinths embody rather different realities, whether it be an ancient Minoan setting or a gothic cathedral. The puzzling inscriptions found within the latter are almost reminiscent of a simplified version of the Name of the Rose.

Pelevin's caricature of the current strains of Western civilization is quite welcomed. For example, as the master of the labyrinth, the Minotaur is also known as Asterisk. However, since it is politically incorrect to refer to the Minotaur as simply Minotaur, the second name - Asterisk should be used. It is additionally politically incorrect to use the name Asterisk; therefore in this case, the name Minotaur should be used. Consequently, the general rule is that each of the names can be used, but only when the other name is meant, respectively. This caricature is also a clear demonstration of the disconnect between the signifier and what it represents. Such eyebrow-raising humor seems to be Pelevin's choice method for introducing token postmodern notions into the specificity of his new novel: "When I hear the word "discourse", I grad my simulacrum", Monstradamus, the know-it-all character states facetiously during a complex discussion regarding the nature of the Helmet of Horror, worn by Minotaur.

The Helmet's characteristics determine the understanding of the labyrinth for the trapped. It appears to be an intricate machine comprised of curiously named components, such as the horns of plentitude, the labyrinth-separator, the lattice of now, and so on. For example, the labyrinth-separator is responsible for the divisions between the past, present, and future, while the bubbles of hope indirectly cause a flood of impressions. The complex interaction between the Helmet's components define Minotaur's existence and therefore affect his domain and its unwilling inhabitants. When searching for a way out, these inhabitants engage in lengthy analyses of issues like virtual reality animation or attempt to determine how the Helmet is able to exist inside its own component. The Helmet of Horror splits that very singularity, which is, into that very multiplicity, which is not.

Towards the myth's completion, Pelevin almost slips into being Prigov. His characters' apparently random and entirely insane exclamations at the time of the myth's climax are highly reminiscent of Prigov's mammoth poetic oeuvre in its totality. Prigov's authorial penchant for assuming different personas in his literary and visual projects is somewhat publicized, yet Russia's original postmodernist must not have anticipated that his Dmitri Becomes X formula would be sabotaged and transformed into Viktor Becomes Dmitri.

And if Viktor becomes Dmitri and maybe even Umberto for a split second, then who becomes Theseus, and where is Ariadna?


06 December 2005

Vladimir's choice

The head of Russia's islamic committee urges to replace the current two-headed imperial eagle because it "corresponds to an entirely different spiritual reality". Apparently, mister Jemal is insulted by the crosses on the eagles' crowns and feels that a multicultural society cannot maintain religiously specific national insignia. Duma's politicians had already addressed this issue previously, citing that in this case the cross does not represent an exclusively religious symbol. In fact, renowned muslim expert Primakov confirms that this type of cross is also located within the muslim culture.

Religious minorities are not the only ones expressing their discontent. More "progressive" social contingent, mainly atheists, want all references to "God" removed. They find Russian anthem's lyrics such as the "land kept by God" unacceptable in a modern secular state. Not unlike Duma's clever defense of the cross, the Russian Orthodox Church is a powerful body closely tied to the government, despite official separation, and as such need not take such requests seriously. Perhaps a result of my own ignorance and my disdain for the Patriarch & Co. notwithstanding, the latter sounds like a case of extremely bored mimicry of similar debates intrinsic to the American society just as much as the remnants of our recent atheist soviet past.

Is the so-called rise of nationalistic feeling in Russia, seemingly dormant far too long, yet feared by many as a result of its presupposed ethnic implications, linked to this somewhat unexpected (at least in my eyes) idea surge? Do the minorities within the Russian state find this moment particularly opportune in light of the government's upholding of the fashionable tolerance principles such as Rodina party's ban from Moscow's municipal election due to its allegedly discriminatory slogans? More specifically, are muslim clerics' requests to remove integral symbols of Russian culture from its official symbology going to now be used as leverage in religious conflicts, such as the ongoing north Caucasus wars? Are we ready to ultimately give up Russia's heart, Moscow - the third Rome, little by little the way we gave up our second Rome, Constantinople, five hundred years ago?

Much earlier - a thousand years ago, our premier ruler and saint, Prince Vladimir, defined the future course for young Rus. A shrewd pagan seeking unification of his people via monotheism, he interviewed several representatives of different religions in his chambers. Rejecting Jews, muslims, and Catholics, Vladimir accepted Byzantine Orthodoxy. Romanticism of this ancient legend aside, eastern Christianity and its traditions have stayed in our blood for centuries, even despite the 74 years of imposed godless communism. Now the requests to modify our national insignia resemble distant mosquito buzzing.

The article I initially quoted concurrs that Russia maintains "Byzantinism in politics, "wild" capitalism in economy and soviet obedience among the people". Ironically and as if to support its latter premise, it is collectively credited to Gazeta.ru.

Reference: http://www.gazeta.ru/comments/2005/12/06_e_491342.shtml

27 November 2005

A failed pop-cultural vaccination

So-called 'free newspapers' that mainly survive on advertisement and are available on every corner tend to make my stomach polically upset, which is the reason for my usual avoidance. As I walked past one of such newspaper stands a couple of weeks ago, I noticed Floria Sigismondi's face on the front cover and had to break the pattern and pick up the issue of Toronto's NOW from November 11, 2005 and read Kevin Temple's article regarding Floria's career and her new photographic publication Immune.

This curiosity was rooted in my early interest in Floria's work: back around 1997, as I struggled with learning HTML, my fan site was one of the first unofficial tributes to this artist. I admired her video work for Manson and Bowie and found her fashion photography to be quite unique. Floria also was a bit of an inspiration - after all, she went to the same art school my friends attended, and look at her now!.

At the same time, I dared to call her a less shocking, repackaged Witkin rip-off. I must emphasize that in my book everyone in possession of a remotely similar style is a Witkin rip-off, which in turn makes everyone and Joel-Peter himself an Arbus rip-off. Naturally, I exaggerate, but my gods must maintain their Olympic pedestals.

Years went by, the brief life of a virtual fan art gallery had run its course, and I lost track and interest in following Floria's projects. Yet there she is on the cover of a politically unsound pop-cultural magazine. This magazine informs me that Floria's career is booming more than ever, which prompted her recent move from Toronto to Los Angeles, where she barely has any time to spend with her husband and baby daughter due to excessive work demands. NOW also details her second photography book.

Author Temple presents a short synopsis of some of the works included in this new release - as much as a two-page newspaper spread would allow. In particular, he describes one of the photographs as:

"A female manikin (sic) posed naked, revealing her enhanced body with four breasts (doubles her pleasure) and spikes running down her spine, an added defense to compensate for her missing right hand"

Despite the article's limits, this attempt at visual analysis could and should have acquired further depth. Do the doubled breasts double the mannequin's pleasure or ours - that of the voyeur? If the spikes are defense mechanisms - spine extensions tearing through skin to counterbalance the disrupted bodily totality, then could the mannequin function as a cyborg? On the artist's website this same figure mechanically rises from behind a cityscape depicted from below, not unlike Rodchenko's early 1920's famous balconies featured on the Left Front of the Arts cover. Floria's photographic training points in the direction of purposeful referentiality. The mannequin becomes a modernist triumph - the fusion of man and machine. At the same time, the spikes appear to be organic - this animates the perfect one-size-fits-all artificial human canon and transports it into the 21st century.

Is the absent elaboration a sign of the author's misguided writing or Floria's self-unawareness? I read further. The artist proceeds to comment on a "futuristic family who's been numbed by society" and is "eating media", because they've been "fed and brainwashed". The family's heads are large white blobs with holes, because Floria "wanted to see if you took away expression and eyes, could you still get emotion?"

While the mass-produced seriality of consumerist humans floats at the surface, had I seen the photographs prior to reading her comments, my initial concern would have been with whether the subjects are able to return the gaze. That is to say, do the holes where the eyes should be provide this family with any kind of agency in contrast to lacking any indication of sight at all? Are they aware that they are being visually consumed just as they themselves consume the media? Even more obviously, where is the sense of cognizance regarding being the producer of this very media by which this family had been brainwashed?

Last year New York artist Nikki Lee, famous for her photographic documentation of infiltrating various subcultures, gave a talk at the University of Toronto. While I was not present at the event, I learned that Nikki avoided discussing certain obvious implications of her work for no other reason than a somewhat poor preparation. This alleged lack of responsible self-awareness is inexcusable for a photographer who holds a Master's of Fine Art from a prestigious American institution and undoubtedly encountered the same types of questions while she earned it. Are her poignant candid photographes subconscious to a much greater degree than initially assumed, and does the same then apply to Floria?

Perhaps what I seek is located in Floria's book, but I currently only have her website accessible. An artist statement detailing the apparent sophistication of her work would do, but I find none. Nothing, nothing at all. Lacking evidence for the contrary, we the fans inadvertently transform into Subliminal Floria's Futuristic Family, getting a little more infected with mass media through the artist's aesthetically pleasing visuals, as a result of her attempts to vaccinate us against it.

You can decide for yourselves by checking out http://www.floriasigismondi.com

18 November 2005

An article about an article that never was

I am not a professional journalist, nor do I aspire to be, though I consider some of my more polished essays and critiques to be of at least above-average quality.

Ever since my (now-deleted) succinct and colloquial Sucks to be you, France entry, I've been attempting to write a well researched, lengthy editorial regarding the immigrant riots. I read dozens of articles from all over the globe and saved a draft in my blog. I investigated the rioters' demographics - ethnicity, religion, and immigration status, looked into the type of social services and welfare rates available to them, and compared it to the rest of Western Europe, particularly Germany. I proceeded to look at the response tactics - both by the average citizens, and the government and analyzed the latter's currently implemented policies and future political aspirations. I paid close attention to the vastly ranging media coverage these events produced. The more I read, the more links I added to this unpublished draft, but recorded very little of my own thought.

As days went by, I began to question the seemingly subconscious deterrent that has been impeding my progress on the editorial. Sloth? Fatigue? During this period my free time was spent on commencing work on several artworks, posting other rants, and updating my website. The French draft, on the other hand, remained in its pristine state. I've ceased adding reference links as well, despite the fact that I regularly read the news. Then I just stopped reading.

There were little to no reports of the Frenchmen's retribution for "reversed colonization". Perhaps the media failed to report such acts of righteous vengeance in fear of instigating further cultural hatred? Perhaps the French were at least adequately defending themselves, as their government sold them out with promises of even better social support to fund the rioters' chain-pot-smoking habits, joke sentencing, and inadequate damage control in hopes of reelection?

Perhaps not.

13 November 2005

Somewhere between the male lion and a sloth...

....on Discovery channel's laziest animals list must lie the male dachshund.



First name: Polygraph (Polygraphovich)
Last name: Sharikov
Former names: Buster
Formal address: Comrade
Age: 3
Occupation: Cat Exterminator
Status: Castrated. Adopted.
Favorite activities: When not sleeping or yawning, comrade Sharikov enjoys replacing cats with squirrels or swans and sorting the garbage.

Ordnung muß sein? This German's motto is Schlaf über alles!

11 November 2005


I was recently asked whether I wanted to contribute to a charitable donation for Christmas via my department. The donations will allegedly go to those proverbial "inner city kids, who have nothing". I am unsure whether in this case majority rules, and I would be forced to contribute regardless of my opinion, or whether the decisions would be made on an individual basis. Likewise, I am unsure as to how I should go about not coming across as the Meanest Woman in the World by declining, and whether I should even be concerned if such a perception were to arise.

I've always been somewhat intrigued by the fairly related (oxy)moronic notion of forced volunteering, which I had initially encountered in high school. Having only been in Canada for a couple of years at that point, I was astonished to find out that 150 hours of volunteering were part of the requirement for the International Baccalaureate program. For the first time in my life shockingly my academic achievements alone were insufficient (of course, that was before grad school entry ;)).

Even those who do not participate in such activities for an immediate purpose like a program requirement are fully aware of the resume benefits that an act like this would provide afterwards. The obvious positive effects of "forced volunteering" aside, we could at least choose another title for it - the lack of financial gain is not enough reason to maintain its current name.

During my first years in Canada, I was similarly shocked to see just how much fundraising was done for just about every imaginable cause. Unimaginable, yet real causes included encountering parents in an attempt to raise money for their children's dance classes! Most of the time I would not even answer the phone calls or open the door, and if I did, my negative response incurred angry looks or even commentary. One of the more recent examples includes:

"Welcome to Tim Horton's. Would you like to donate a dollar to the Tsunami victims"?

"No, thanks"


"Can I buy a coffee in peace and not get harrassed about donations?" - Okay, I thought that one, which doesn't make it any less valid.

Would you like to buy a bracelet to fight lupus?

Would you like to sponsor a child through World Vision? What about the Christian Children's Fund? What about United Way? What about..........

And if you indeed would like to sponsor such a child for the mere price of a cup of coffee a day, you aren't even given the choice of the child's location! Apparently, feeling greater affinity towards a youngster from a related culture is unacceptable!

The biggest mass hypnosis donation mockery is, of course, Live Aid. It is particularly infuriating to witness financial demands from the likes of Russia due to its membership in the G8, while it cannot feed its own. And it gives, it gives! Remants of tearing a shirt (skin) off your back and starving yourself - a standard Soviet mentality - is alive and well, while third world dictatorial moochers continue perfecting their beggary skills.

In general, Canadians pay high enough (~30%) taxes to cover many of these causes (whether or not we'd like our money to be spent in such a way) - so when a country's leader decides to increase financial aid drawn from these taxes towards [insert a third world disaster here] and you are approached to donate further, a raised eyebrow response is to be expected in the very least.

Even considering our taxes, there are a number of causes towards which I would not mind contributing. The common thread shared by these selected causes is the fact that they embody a personal interest - dog shelters and hereditary familial ailments, for example. I also do have an interest in helping children, however, I would a) bypass an organization and b) focus on slavic children in orphanages only. Such charitable financial support out of personal engagement is directly pertinent to complex political and economic structures within a given state, which involve the way in which issues like social welfare, healthcare, and tax designation are dealt with, and is clearly beyond the scope or purpose of this rant.

It suffices to say that for every cause there is bound to be someone interested; hence personal engagement leads to improved results due to heightened motivation - the kind that cannot possible arise out of a guilt trip. More often than not, those individuals agitating for saving the world most ardently and accusing everyone else around them of "selfishness" also demonstrate the greatest lack of concern for their personal microcosm - even something as simple as giving up your seat to an old woman on public transportation. And I would much rather "start with the man in the mirror"! (Tee hee hee!)

01 November 2005

Commissioned postmodernism

"When I hear the word discourse, I grab my simulacrum" - Victor Pelevin's facetiousness never fails, including his new Helmet of Horror. Having been released this past week, the book features eight characters, with names like Monstradamus, trapped in separate labyrinth rooms (not unlike Saw II, which also shares its release date!). They know not what they are and await Theseus the Liberator, while Minotaur, crowned with the Helmet of Horror, a source of illusions and false impressions, lurks in the shadows.

The most engaging aspect of the book is not Pelevin's expected mastery of dialogue or his equally expected application of just about every authorial trick a good self-[mocking]-respecting postmodernist shares, but the fact that it pertains to an ongoing series published by UK's Canongate. The series focuses on reestablishing famous age-old myths by modern literary classics - from Umberto Eco (!) to Margaret Atwood. Atwood's Penelopiad customarily offers agency to Odyssey's quintessential faithful wife Penelope. She must've grown rather bored in those twenty years after all!

Despite the obvious danger of turning this act of Retelling into an instant cliche, Canongate's clever marketing technique is at least worth looking into. Or not.

18 October 2005

Into the enemy's territory!

This dude just came by:


Didn't realize that party candidates themselves participated in canvassing. Major props to this conservative representative for venturing into the enemy's territory - i.e. the downtown.

This, however, does explain the NDP flyers I've located on my doorstep before. Too bad Jack Layton himself doesn't taint his hands by communicating with the "common man" he claims to represent in this manner - that way I would at least be able to get some poignant feedback on his feelings regarding his being "commie scum" and will keep accidentally referring to him as "Mr. Lenin".

08 October 2005

Former Soviet "borderlands"

This week I came across (purely accidentally) an interview conducted by Dominika Cosic with a Russian political scientist and Putin's advisor Gleb Pavlovsky for Wprost.

Not surprisingly, the interviewer brought up Belorus. While it is customary to bash Lukaschenko, Pavlovsky mentioned a crucial point: Belorus' economy has been steadily growing by 5% annually, not due to the expected export of natural resources (as in the case of Russia), but via the manufacturing and services industries! He admitted that the main receptacle of Belorussian exports is Russia, however this is partially based on the fact that the rest of Europe had decided to ostracize Belorus for ideological reasons and left it without much choice. He then expectedly warned against American/W. European democrazy exportation (as in the case of Ukraine election funding or even Iraq) and underscored the small respresentability of the new Belorussian opposition.

More important, Pavlovsky then emphasized the emotionality, which characterizes the current Polish foreign policy towards Russia (throughout the Kwasnievski / Putin rule), in contrast to the Walesa / Yeltsin period. He demonstrated this via maintained stereotype-based anti-Russian attitude in the Polish press, whereas Russia has no such anti-Polish attitudes.

This emotionality particularly affects the issue of the planned Russo-German gas pipeline: he explained that the pipeline is not a method of political circumscription (this is not the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, part II!), but a result of sober decisions with economic gain in mind, in which Poland is not even in question - for better or for worse.

The second issue that Pavlovsky attributed to irrationally driven foreign policy is the Katyn question and the current halt in the investigation procedures. He reminded the interviewer that Yeltsin already officially apologized for this particular example of Stalin's brutality - should every consecutive Russian leader be obliged to do the same? Historic tolerance is an essential democratic tool, and Kwasniewski initiated the ongoing faux pas.

Pavlovsky concluded that the current Russo-Polish relationship is classified by a vacuum, which explains the unnecessarily extended focus on the recent incident of the Russian teenagers' beatings in Poland / Polish diplomats' and journalists' beatings in Russia. If real issues are to be resolved, then two-sided discussions are more productive than historic grievances!

29 September 2005

Theory in practice

First I nearly get killed by a giant airborne black backpack, which fell within two feet of me from the fifth floor of a building I walked past, due to someone's exotic eviction techniques. (*This reminded me of dear Winnipeg and its lengthy True Frostbitten Collosal Prairie Icicles Falling Off Roofs season and my vast expertise in this somewhat related field. If Zeus were Canadian, he'd certainly prefer those over lightning bolts.)

Then I end up working into wee hours of morning oooooooooooooovertime on a project that'll surely result in dreams of Swan Lake. Only instead of youthful ballerinas gracefully mastering the stage, I shall picture a colorful array of logos for various yellow pages companies. It is time to test the theory....

27 September 2005

September 26th, 2005

I illustrated today at work. Drew by hand with further additions in Illustrator and Photoshop. For nearly seven hours. Cartoons. CARTOONS!!

Our office had a single pencil in its possession. And no pencil sharpner. I used an exacto knife, risking serious injury. And a red ink pen instead of a black one. I barely remembered the necessity of nourishment, while everyone else spent at least an hour on choosing a takeout location, deciding on and consuming the edible time-killers and work-avoiders. Whether this invitation-in-progress ends up being used is irrelevant.

Cue a daunting reminder of how much happier I'd be if I were to do this all the time.

Of course, I don't think that the world is ready for a Nina frolicking with bunnies in the fields of daisies and would much rather deal with the expected, if not mandatory "piss off, motherfucker" demeanor. So perhaps a limit of half a dozen colors, a single font, and software that leads much to be desired, shouldn't be too unwelcome after all.

16 September 2005

Black, gold, white

In between projects at work I accidentally and shockingly came across a Russian Orthodox patriotic right-wing website: http://www.pravaya.ru/. Shockingly in a "pleasantly surprised" type of way. Already found a ton of things of interest - from a nice book review of a Russian translation of a Barthes publication to links to other patriotic sites of similar nature. For example: http://www.fap.ru/ - discussions of famous Russian battle anniversaries, like the upcoming Kulikovo, and histories of specific icons, Russian patriotic resources: http://www.rossija.info/index.html or the Russian Imperial Movement: http://www.rus-imperia.com/ (These are the true Russian colors!)

Conservative, patriotic, AND Orthodox? Sign me up!

Considering that I've spent the past few weeks closely following various up-and-coming unfortunately left-wing young politicians out of sheer curiosity, I'm extremely pleased that I've located so much current likemindedness on the same day.

01 September 2005

Off-color commentary on color "revolutions"?

Was reading a not-too-reputable (in my view) ePublication utro.ru today and came across an interview with political scientist Mikhail Leont'ev, in which he made a number of curious comments in regards to the post-Soviet space and consequently the countries that had hosted recent "color revolutions", the Baltics, as well as the relatively "new" states of central Europe such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland "to a certain extent". Interestingly, he classified most as artificial and having no basis for existence other than the self-establishment of the new nationalistically-minded elites. He used Kievan "dislike" of Russia as such an example and located the foundation for this type of nationalism in, and I quote, "the dumb contrasting of themselves to Russia. After all, they have nothing else!"

Furthermore, Leont'ev highlighted the type of special status that Georgia enjoyed as a Soviet republic due to having rather favorable climatic and financial market factors (tourism and export of goods such as tea, tangerines, wine, and tobacco). With the fall of the USSR, Georgia had been left in shambles; by extension, without its massive neighbor Russia, Leont'iev's prognosis for Georgia was highly negative. He noted that its reliance on American aid as the means of underscoring itself as an entity separate from Russia, is too near-sighted, because Americans are only interested in using Georgia as a transit zone and a pawn in political manipulation (implying countries that truly matter on the world scale, i.e. Russia.).

One could question the man's background, motives, and most important - funding in order to situate this somewhat extreme analysis. This is not my concern. It suffices to state that I am in agreement with a somewhat more moderate variation of this view. It, however, is somewhat bothersome, that Leont'ev lumped countries that had been part of other empires (hence his emphasis on a search of an ethnic identity) like that of Austro-Hungary (or the Russian empire itself) for most of their existence with others, like Poland, which although had been part of the Russo-Germanic power struggle for a considerable time period, had also functioned as an empire itself.

As much as I gloat at his "scholarization" of what I always refer to as the chihuahua syndrome (the smaller and less important is the country (see Baltics)), the louder it has to proclaim its nationalistic values, real or perceived), Leont'ev seemed to have left the justification for a country's existence unclear. That is to say, ethnicity, one of the primary bases for state formation (in the "Old World"), translating into customs - cultural and religious, does not seem to satisfy his requirements for a "non-artificial" country (particularly in the cases of a nation, whose core values were maintained, rather than being assimilated into those of its ruler.)

25 August 2005

Zombie attaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!

She certainly looked like a zombie. Must've been the coke.

Alas, I'm not going to praise Tankard, though I do fully aknowledge both their genius and the cheese(cake) factor. In fact, today the mood has been oscillating to the vile depths of the most rotten abyss worthy of a mediocre cookie monster-vocaled death metal band's lyrics. You know, that usual people suck, and I do(n't) give a fuck deal. By the end of the day, this sort of (all too frequent) disposition can only arrive at one logical conclusion: sheer apathy. The latter cannot possibly presuppose a bloggerific entry or any entry at all!

Despite my shudder-inducing lapse into Rand-like objectivist reasoning, I did want to record the fact that today I got attacked by a bum! A female bum, no less! A black female bum! Anywhere between the ages of 25 and 50! High as a kite! Filthy!

Before you begin salivating at the thought of an exciting injury earned, for voyeuristic reasons, or simply because you cannot stomach me (haha, and you're still reading this!!), I have none to report at this time. Simply put, I was on my way from work, tuning out the outside world to the sounds of Swedish music. Conveniently enough, the outside world was in dire need of being tuned out following a hectic corporate day at work and other personal disappointments. A half hour+ walk clad in a tight ankle-length skirt and considerable platforms did not contribute to the trip's enjoyment.

As I was bordering on solipsism, she approached, after a failed attempt of harassing those walking in front of me. Life in Babylon, or any other metropolis for that matter, forces any- and everyone, to get used to the homeless. One's reaction to the grown muscular 25-year old men sporting brand new Nikes and begging for money will spawn a myriad of justified complaints and thus shall be avoided. The same applies to the potential discussion about the vast availability of social services in Canada, funded by your tax money and mine, which just about eliminate the reasons for such existence. Furthermore, the ridiculous act of apologizing for not providing any money to many of these homeless is nonetheless preferred over angry exclamations of "get a job!" or a more blunt "fuck off!" It simply serves as the method of avoiding the chance of having various weaponry pulled on you.

And so I turned down my music and prepared to make just this kind of an apology. Instead, she charged at me, screaming, "Miss! I have a problem, miss! Miss!! I have a problem!" and proceeded to grab my right arm. I tried to shake her off me, as my platforms implied a size advantage, but that made her grab on to me tighter, nearly piercing my forearm with her nails. I at least challenged her vocal attack, suprisingly sans profanity, as I continued to shake her off.

The zombie must've noticed the police car parked a block away near a convenience store, or she just saw another approaching "Miss!!" to resolve her "problem", because she let go of my arm. I could think of nothing better than to return to the aforementioned musical global tune-out as I approached my house.

There I washed my hands thoroughly. My arms too. Take that, Lady Macbeth!

13 August 2005

Paging carpal tunnel OR a strange diasporal church program

I barely manage to catch the last train to get home, after what seemed like a gazillion billion hours of overtime (thanks to my eye allergies combined with a variety of equally useless eyedrops and lack of breaks, nourishment, and sleep), but instead of dropping on the bed half-dead (and crushing my poor dachshund in the process), I sign online! And type some more! And email jokes to people! And read news sites! And drink tea! And worst of all - check the church schedule, to see whether I can make it tomorrow!

Last time I went to church was two weeks ago and two thousand miles away. My tiny Winnipeg church is really an entire post in itself. I just wanted to mention that at that particular time, we had a personal service for an anniversary of the passing away of my grandfather, and as usual, I spent the entire time analyzing the limited resources of the (artistic) program, which made the effort and imagery collected itself all the more...charming. I realized that there was an icon out of sync with the rest of the program in one of the top rows of the iconostatis: the Old Testament Trinity somehow got placed within an entirely christological set of imagery.

Every program is planned, but the image did not fit chronologically or feast-wise (although I am no expert on the latter), so I mentioned this inconsistency to the priest. He seemed puzzled too, because apparently those icons were placed there by a Serbian (?) monk, who had to have known what he was doing.

This short conversation yet again made me realize that I really have no one to discuss these issues with. Art history students? Old ladies in church? As if there are any Byzantinists out there who are additionally interested in program development in contemporary Russian Orthodox Church (and Russian Church Outside of Russia)............

Funny how this remains at the forefront of my thoughts, yet I had resolved to study modernism........................I'm too in love with Rodchenko to just give him up!

10 August 2005


As I was reading the ton of fiction I usually try to gobble up on vacation to make
up for time lost otherwise, I came across a statement, which suggested that people in the south speak (live) faster than people in the north. For example, Eeeeeeeestooooooooooooooniiiiiaaaaaaaaaaans speak slower than Italians and the Spanish. (Where does this leave us?!) This was right up the alley of linguistic games that I often play in my head (example: monstro -> demonstrate, dico -> indictment) and therefore had to be noted for further observation.

The above was probably one of the only memorable aspects of the combined reading I had done, excepting Voinovich's Fur Hat (the collection, not the short story alone), some of which I had already read, I soon realized. (A nice change from the usual sense of doom in terms of the inability to grasp an "adequate" amount of literary culture.)

In contrast, I've watched a whole bunch of Russian films, THREE (!!) of which were EXCELLENT: (Unfortunately, both recent movies based on Akunin's novels were sub par - too Hollywoodized and trivialized; even some of the acting by the stellar cast (i.e.
Menshikov) plainly sucked.) Dreaming of Space (literally: Cosmos as a Premonition),
Harvest Time, and Koktebel. All three were quite recent - released between 2003-2005, and as I'm just now finding out, all three expectedly are prestigious award winners. (Note to self: I should really do the English subtitles for these festivals. ;-)

The 1950's must be a popular subject nowadays, since the first two dealt with this decade. Dreaming of Space covered the period between the launching of the first sputnik(s) to Gagarin's pioneering voyage into space, while Harvest Time focused on a family living in a small village/kolkhoz. The plot in both cases was overtly subjugated to impressive cinematography and implied narrative interweaving: in the first film, the trope of space was remarkably emphasized by remaining on the periphery of the majority of the plot.

A naive young cook nicknamed Konyok ("Horsey"), who lives in a town on the USSR/Norwegian border, meets and becomes enthralled with German (Herman), who listens to forbidden Western radio stations, studies languages, and boxes. This almost turns into an innocent version of Single White Female (!).

German dreams of escaping the country and as part of his multiple audacious plans, which include seducing Konyok's girlfriend ("...He kissed me....DOWN THERE!"),
he disguises them by informing Konyok, who at this point even dresses like German, that he is involved in top-secret spaceship pilot testing. German soon attempts to swim after a docked Western ship and fails to catch up. Konyok decides to try his luck at space exploration and heads to Kustanay. During the train ride, he makes a brief acquaintance with a young military man with a warm smile named Yuri.

The film concludes with documentary footage of the Red Square parade in Yuri Gagarin's honor soon after his historic flight in space and flips back to fiction as it shows Konyok running after Yuri's car.

This fusion of documentary/fictional visual interweaving creates the tension between
the assumed factuality or lack thereof of each kind of film and raises further implications in regards to such fusion - its seamless, rather than collage patchwork-like nature. This fusion as well as German's myth-turned reality along with Konyok's own mythologizing (with German standing in as the mythic, non-existent
symbol of his desire) should be considered against the background of stagnant Soviet social realism and its rotten comic modernity.

Because it deals with the same decade, Harvest Time cannot help but raise a number of similar issues found in Dreaming of Space. On its own, the cinematography makes this film a masterpiece. It is narrated from the point of view of the deceased (as we later find out) son, who speaks about his award-winning combine-operating mother, his WWII crippled father, and his slightly older ~7 year old brother.

The entire project is disguised as "home video" (for this reason many photographs are included) - a skillfully shot documentary; consequently, there is little-to-none dialogue between the characters, and the film largely relies on visual factors. The boy's mother is the only female combine-driver in the region; her excellent performance always gets her the first annual farming prize - the exceedingly symbolic red Marx/Engels/Lenin flag, while her dream is to win a little bit of fabric - second and third prizes. Due to the presence of mice, mending and resewing the flag become her obsession. Her husband, who lost both of his legs in the war, slips into nothingness from alcoholism - not from the lack of work or his disability, but from the lack of love.

Idols - communist (the flag), christian (prayer), and pagan (bird sacrifice) define and dominate the simple, extreme poverty-ridden life of this average kolkhoz family. Similar to the documentary inclusion of Gagarin in Dreaming of Space, Harvest Time's format enhances the presupposed documentary truthfulness of the film, not unlike the living myths at the end of the Stalinist era, while the high quality of the cinematography continues to undermine this gained factuality. However, the cycle is not continuous - the film is concluded with a scene where the flag, or what is now left of it, is employed as a bandana by a teenage girl who sports cut-off jean shorts and a trendy USSR tshirt. The myth is finally dead.

Yay, I ran out of steam before even getting to Koktebel, and lo' and behold - another excellent movie seen tonight!! Who would've thought that the life of old women in a forgotten, electricity-lacking village would be so damn interesting?!

Since when am I writing so many half-assed film reviews? It's okay though, I'll make up for this by watching nothing and sticking to occasional CSI for the next many months.

I know, I know, I wouldn't read all this either...

29 July 2005

Danelia and Monty Python?!

Three months out of grad school - I must be dumbing down at accelerated rates: I've been unable to force myself to study for anything substantial, though, I *have* been busy with other things. A good lesson of what not to do on a vacation. To be fair, however, I have gone through a third of my German textbook and read a couple of modern classics for *gasp* fun.

I've also been watching quite a few Russian classic films (yes, I said FILMS) - old and new, including the recent and highly acclaimed The Tuner. Even though the largely black and white surrealist (Lynch-rips-off-Arbus twins, for example) articism is to be appreciated both visually and theatrically (the scene with the ever-so-Germanesque Lina climing down the spiral staircase in her shiny black heels and a vintage skirt alone was worth it!), the 2.5+ hours of footage was redundant.

As I was watching the amazingly pants-pissing-hilarious Kindza-dza for the first time (I'm no movie buff), I discovered the eerie resemblance between John Cleese in the Monty Python's Holy Grail and Yuri Yakovlev, which even included costumes.

GAH!!! Georgy Danelia conspiracy theories?!

25 July 2005

Resonance and the Ancient of Days

I had just finished Galina Scherbakova's The Story of Ustinia Sobakina, Who Did Not Exist, which only took me a few hours, just like in the good old days. I would have preferred not to have read another book by her, even despite her praiseworthy writing skills and her cultural status. Scherbakova's work is too sentimental, if not nostalgic, and therefore qualifies to be called a "chick novel" (of the upper literary echelons, mind you), capable of having quite the depressing effect on its reader.

(As a slight tangent - I would also file Ulitskaja's work into the same category, and ironically enough, I will probably be reading yet another one of hers soon enough. )

Scherbakova needs to be dug out from beneath the pile of linguistic, no, convention-based uselessness.

I shall avoid going into detail in regards to the ways this chick novel compilation resonated with me, because I maintain my refusal to make this any more personal than it needs to be. (I'm sure a few slip-ups will occur here and there for shock value alone!) I just wanted to comment on a short part that stood out. Of course, almost every piece of literature contains such sections, and their number is directly proportional to the quality of the work.

The section of interest described the fading thoughts of an elderly dementia-ridden woman who was left to die in the middle of nowhere by her own loving daughter and then picked up by some local farmers. One of such prolonged thoughts was based on her feelings of empathy, if not pity for God. This notion automatically invoked Byzantine idea of the humanizing of Christ for the layity in the visual culture. Here, however, the woman felt pity for God the Father (an image of the Ancient of Days from, say, a medieval Macedonian church, is very appropriate).

She pictured Him faced with the grand problem of creating Man in his own image, yet out of Nothing. The difficulty of the endeavor was magnified by the fact that God, the Ancient of Days, began sculpting Man out of wet clay, and so she felt pity for this Old Man, because it must have been extremely difficult creating all those little creases that people's hands have and their nails. This is why, she thought, God had decided to give people the ability to reproduce themselves (not as a result of the "original sin"!), rather than having to recreate the task Himself over and over again.

Silly demented old woman.

12 July 2005

"America, f*ck yeah!" and Soviet "imperialism" in Central Asia

Less than 48 hours in the historic parts of the north-eastern US on the weekend, 20+ of which were spent on the road: a shameful lack of time to reassure one's (okay, mine!) "culturedness". At least my kultness had been proven more than adequate!

In addition to the landscape (though not quite as gorgeous a drive (I should say "ride", not "drive", as I drive rarely, period) through Wisconsin), I was yet again impressed by American patriotism. Almost every car sported stickers, most commonly and expectedly the "support our troops" kind and of course, flags - a lot of flags. The only time I see such numbers of patriotic memorabilia here in Canada is on Canada day and on Canada day only. In fact, at any given time I notice more "gay pride" insignia.

This simple observation reassured my preference for the American model of immigration, for example, as opposed to that of Canada - we all remember our junior high social studies classes and being taught (if this sort of thing can even qualify for being educational) that Canada exceeds the US because it has a cultural "mosaic" and integration, as opposed to the American "melting pot" and assimilation. It should be noted that both of these North American countries regretably prefer pop instead of time-tested culture, what little of it these youngsters do have in comparison to mother Europe. At least in the case of the US, however, beer and mindless mass (often sporting and/or hyperrealistic) spectacles of choice are supplemented by a greater sense of unity and national allegiance than what we see in the Babylonian city of Toronto.

On the way back from "America, f*ck yeah!" I finally finished Chingiz Aitmatov's (a Kyrgyz author) errr.....Executioner's Block - I have no idea how else to translate the title of this late Soviet novel into English. My mother bought it for me along with his other best seller when she visited me here in May, because it seemed like I had read just about everything worth reading offered in the local Russian bookstore we visited. I was not familiar with this author, and frankly the novel was just above mediocre, although its ending would make a great Hollywood flick. I was particularly annoyed by the Bulgakovesque (I am aware of the fact that he is not the only author to have done this, but at least he was the best) inclusion of a thematic "time warp" back to the mental torment of Pontius Pilate after his decision in regards to Christ.

The reason I mention this, other than to rant about the fact that I used to read a book a week back in the good old days, is the fact that I have just come across an interview with Aitmatov in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Apparently he now resides in Brussels and plays quite the diplomat. I was intrigued by his praise of Russian/Soviet "imperialism" and the benefits that it brought to the former Soviet asiatic republics - a breath of fresh air in contrast to the bullsh*t we have been fed for the past two years by the simpleton Western media like the Washington Post and such (re: Georgia, Ukraine vs Russia). His frank late Soviet nostalgia likewise reminded me of my own plight. In the case of the younger generation, however, this nostalgia is doubled- mourning the loss and the inability to experience this loss to a fuller extent.

23 June 2005

7 signs of Russianness

This is really retarded of me to write now, because I don't think I can last much longer. It's 1:30 am, I've been losing a lot of sleep for the past week, and I'm seemingly getting sick. <-AVOIDIG RUN-ONS -> The latter is not a surprise, considering that half of the department is in full sneeze mode, and that I have no immune system. Workouts, carrots, no alcohol, and here we are.

One of my favorite newspapers, Izvestia(.ru), published an article in regards to the the traits that make a Russian - well, a Russian (please, no vodka/polar bear/communism jokes). Before I get into the article, I feel the need to explain that I prefer Izvestia over most other publications (excluding Gazeta(.ru), because of its surprisingly patriotic bias. (It is also quite impressive because it covers more general Western issues, which are no longer considered politically correct to discuss in the actual West. ) In constrast, most other Russian papers are highly and overtly politically and socially critical (insert angry rant on the faulty "Western" perception of the alleged censorship in the Russian press here). My own nationalistic leanings (admittedly somewhat mythic) lead to much disappointment due to the lack of patriotism on the part of both Russians at home and abroad, even in contrast to other slavic nations.

This is not the time nor the place to get into types of nationalism of the Old World (based on ethnicity) verus that of the New World realities (based on citizenship), though it should be said that what I call the "chihuahua syndrome" is of obvious importance (the smaller the country, the greater the self-defense mechanism expressed via nationalistic tendencies). (Unfortunately, Russians still do not realize the violent demographic changes comparable to medieval plagues that are currently occurring and the consequent noticeable country size change likely to come.) Of course, the political turbulence of the past 100 years has also made us too cynical and apathetic as a nation, leading to decreased love of the Fatherland. This is the reason why I am pleased with a slight lean towards patriotic youth movements within the country and the potential improvements they may bring about.

Returning to the specifics at hand - I just noticed that Izvestia's website is too slow to cooperate, which means that I won't be able to recall the entire article. It suffices to state that its points were somewhat primitive - grouping through language, blood, religion et alia. Many of these groupings were expectedly limited by the author or dismissed entirely. One of the main issues linked to this obvious list and completely ignored is the fact that Russian seems to be the only language that I am aware of, in which there is a distinction between Russian (Russkij) and a citizen of Russia (Rossijanin). However, the author did make a somewhat related distinction between Russian-speaking (Russkojazychnyj) and Russian - a term used increasingly abroad for obvious reasons. I am unaware of the word's (Rossijanin) etymology and the origins of this distinction, but I strongly suspect that it too is based on the geo-historic limits of our Empire.

Second (I believe this was the author's conclusion), I was a bit puzzled by the author's suggestion that we, as Russians, must adapt and change our souls, which he describes as too open and easily susceptible to being hurt, in order to survive. In addition to the fact that the assumption of our collective possession of a thing called a Russian soul is in direct contradiction to his earlier cosmopolitan points (I guess there is hope for him yet!) , the proposition to artificially self-modify was bothersome, as it suggested the removal of the properties that distinguish us as a nationality. The author ignored the past century and the effects of communism, which has made Russians much less trusting and open than their prior ("original"?) state - therefore, he should've suggested a return to this very state instead.

Third, my quest to self-situate as a Russian is another consequence. There is a tension between my incomplete ethnic Russianness and my patriotism (including my Orthodoxy); the tension is inscreased by my emigre status - its decreased awareness of the factuality of life in Russia-as-it-really-is (in the modernist sense) and its simultaneous heightened purist and fierce preservation of Russian culture-as-it-should-be. (" ")

Dot. Dot. Dot. Time to sleep.

19 June 2005

The indifferent bishop

I lied.

I ended up going to church today after all, despite the inconveniences described below. Of course, I only attended half the service, which today amounted to one and a half hours (plus a half hour walk each way in stilettos (okay, they are only 1.5 inches high and are actually comfortable; must be the fact that I purchased them in a small German-Canadian town))!

I didn't realize that this is Pentecost Sunday, so for a second there the presence of the bishop was a tad unexpected. I am assuming that he is one of Canada's bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, because I am fairly sure that there is only one archbishop in North America, and he is situated in NY. This bishop had a rather telling expression of total disregard on his face (of course, I could be wrong, and it could've been a face of a righteously fatigued man, tirelessly serving *JEEBUS* during such an important holiday.) Although my insulting presumption is further supported by the fact that he could not be heard without a microphone (!! Do I sense a televangelical future for this servant of god?!).

Our usual priest, despite his somewhat condescending paternalistic front, has an amazing tenor, sings the entire mass, and theatrically addresses the crowd with the strength of his own voice. On that note, given the right mood, I'll take Byzantine signing in old slavonic over genre-comparable metal any day (tee!). Of course, hearing it LIVE makes all the difference.

This bishop did have two things going for him - he wore an impressive bejeweled crown, not unlike those of Byzantine emperors, but without the "dangly thingies"; he also possessed a long well-groomed signature beard. Mind you, most Russian priests prefer to sport long hair and beards (a la crustified deathmetallers, plus the showers) , which by that alone places them above clean-shaven nerdy Catholics. Our priests also exceed the latter due to their ability to marry, up to a certain rank; I wouldn't be around, if this were not the case for my ancestors. As another aside - I recently discovered that my great-great priestly grandfather had a PhD in theology, at the time when most clergy did not, and consequently when this degree had more value than, perhaps, it does now. (I hope he isn't offended by my incessant usage of "JEEBUS" or any number of metal-related complications!)

This clerical celebrity attracted quite the crowd, which made moving and breathing more difficult than usual under these circumstances (I particularly enjoyed being hit in the face with giant hats, adorning the fashionable not-always-pink-"flamingos", with peroxide blonde coiffure reaching the ceiling) , not to mention imaginative parking techniques rivaling those of Moscow. Here I should note, that even though I hardly know anyone in this church, despite near-regular attendance for almost a year, I've begun classifying its members via mimetic appearance. Most notably, today's list included many of the usual suspects - the 6-foot tall red-haired Russian Britney Spears with cute "cankles", the Cancerman from the X-Files, and a now-shaggy-haired (a real shame!) Robert Downey Jr.; as always, the attendance was sprinkled with a few Putins of all ages.

On the way back from the packed, elbow-pushing mass, some men in a truck attempted to pick me up. Ahh, that pseudo-conservative church-going attire and its appeal! As far as pickups this week are concerned, we also have the Stalone-speaking black man who approached me in the park to inform me that I had a "nice dog", followed by "you are nice too!", or the two individuals who proceeded to lecture me on my worthlessness as an object of female worship, because I did not return their "well, HELLO THERE!!". None of them compare to the recent prize recepient, however, "Tell me where you work, and I'll stalk you". Where art thou, O Knight, I finally bought some dog repellent!

Finally, I've managed to overcome the temptation of going to Timmy's. I NEVER EVER drank coffee before moving to Toronto; this "never" turned into "a couple of times a week" upon relocation, then into "I'm trying to stay awake"....Funny, as it used to put me to sleep back in the day. At least I'm not doing so badly as far as bad habits are concerned otherwise.

Alright, time to indulge comrade Sharikoff in squirrel-chasing and find some pigeons to pose as dragons (yeah, I won't explain that one).

18 June 2005

Now that my dog and I are done chasing squirrels, and it's too cold for him to harass white swans in the waters of the ultra-polluted lake Ontario (which requires a mandatory shampoo bath, as he absorbs the delightful smells of rotten algae, sewage, and god-knows-what-else), I'm trying to decide whether to attend church tonight.

Evening services are more serene, because, as opposed to Sundays, hordes of new Russians wearing cheap Turkish leather jackets and massive bling-bling slavic-style (they must find think their gold matches the icons) are out socializing; they are also shorter, as standing around for two hours in a non-airconditioned-heated-by-hundreds-of-candles sacred space doesn't feel all that spiritual.

I also skipped last week's service due to attending a rather laughable Russian "festival", where teenage female attendees deemed it necessary to be clad like hookers, with approving parents gazing tenderly at their liberated offspring nearby. (Russian goths looked classic as well - black lipstick is NOT supposed to stain your teeth, boys, unless you are going for an authentic medieval look. Your hygene certainly pointed in that direction.... ;)) At least I bought some decently priced DVD's.

I apologize for cutting this short, dear diary, but I just realized that I'm almost out of my beloved sour green apples. The situation must be resolved at once!

16 June 2005

Be alert and be vigilant

It's almost 2 am, and I've just come home from work. (Thank you, "dog repellent" for making me feel a tad safer, and even a greater thank you to the assorted prostitutes of both genders (and genders in disguise!) on my walk from the subway for being somewhat more obvious targets for harassment.)
So, as I registered for this "dear-eDiary-for-the-world-to-see" yesterday, I couldn't help but think of the futility of this endeavor, considering that this will be linked to my site. As a result, I won't be able to criticize misbehaved friends (tee hee), condescending coworkers, the academia (damn you, U of T!); more importantly, the limits of my political and cultural views shall be kept at bay (through no wish of my own, mind you).
Paranoia-cha-cha-CHA!!! aside, I [rhetorically] wonder whether a non-censored (i.e. sans big brother consequences) form of communication is at all possible? Compromise and speaking in puzzles gets tiring. You're still an inspiration, Iron Felix. :(

14 June 2005

Three months or less?

Taking bets as to how long this would last, as a replacement to message boards, perhaps?....

But for now, pop cultural temptation - here I come! :)