The Table is Set: For Russia, Vodka or Champagne

Content advisory 18+ So, will the REAL Russia stand up and be counted? That is the question to be answered in tonight's Russia-Egypt football match which will likely determine whether or not Putin's boys advance to the next round. I will be watching and pulling for them, anxious to find out if the 5-0 shellacking of Saudi was a fluke.

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Of great interest will be (1) whether or not Mo … Read the rest

1-0 After Penalties. But Who Will Be the World Cup Winner?

Content advisory 16+ So, at last, the long-awaited World Cup kicks off today. In fact, by the time this post hits the board, the Russia-Saudi Arabia match will be underway. Frankly, under normal circumstances, I wouldn't walk across the street to see an encounter between these two worse-than-mediocre sides, but, hey, it IS the World Cup.

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A few observations, based on recent World Cups. Look for the most entertaining football … Read the rest

Skyscrapers and the Mourning Morning Sky

Content advisory 18+ (Restricted content) Long ago I stood atop the Empire State Building and peered down at Manhattan far below. I don't remember my feelings precisely, but I am sure that I was in awe of where I was -- you know, the mere Fact of it ("Damn -- this is really the top of the Empire State Building!"). I do recall that we were securely fenced … Read the rest

Those Who Read Books Will Always Rule Those Who Only Watch TV

Content advisory 14+ There were times when libraries experienced heavy traffic as readers pop in to find the latest release. Days when one could hardly go to bed without reading a chapter or two, but what is happening nowadays? More time is spent on leisure and scrolling up and down a screen. That doesn’t mean that books are not treasured. There are few serious readers left. Are you one of … Read the rest

SEX 101: Did YOU Make the Honor Roll. Sex Talk. USA.

Content advisory 18+ My Indian blogging colleague Roopsa has written today on the subject of sex education in India, and this has likewise awakened echoes of my own 'training' in the sphere, which of course happened many, many years ago. It was back in the days when babies really DID come from storks.

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Seriously though, I grew up with my grandparents and I was lucky enough to have a grandfather … Read the rest

The Wild Face of Patriotism

Content advisory 18+ In the last couple of days, Russian "patriotism" has had its finest hour. First, a famous painting was well-nigh destroyed by a vodka-swilling nationalistic fool at the Tretyakov gallery; and, second, a Russian journalist, well-known for his criticism of the Kremlin, was fatally shot in the back as he tried to enter his apartment in Kiev, where he had fled in fear of his life in Moscow.… Read the rest

The Love Game: Mildew or Barbecue?

Content advisory 18+ I have been exchanging letters with a friend who writes novels. She is a woman of Moscow with long-established connections to New York City. Clever, sophisticated, and talented, she is, in fact, among the most unforgettably beautiful women I have ever seen. Hauntingly so, like the Mona Lisa. Or the Girl With the Pearl Earring. Except better.

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Feminist trash-talking being what it is -- if we can … Read the rest

What There Isn’t Is What There Is

Content advisory 18+ There is a song called "The Boxer" by a once-famous duo (and deservedly so) in America known as Simon & Garfunkel. One line goes as follows: "... Still, a man sees what he wants to see and disregards the rest." Another valuable (for me) insight is provided by William Blake: "The eye, altering, alters all" -- the beautiful language of which can be a bit confusing until … Read the rest

Megapolis of a Different Kind (The Fields of Bliznatsi)

Content advisory 16+ Walking in the valley this morning with Poppy and Casper, we came across a dead forest dog. They are small creatures and you could not describe them as beautiful -- they seem almost deformed and probably lead lives of great deprivation at certain times of the year. At night, they set up a great plaintive howl in unison, and it seems they are creeping closer to our … Read the rest

Soap Operas and Redneck Morality Plays

Content advisory 18+ Have you noticed that when one couple or family invites other couples or families as guests, they try to present a positive image? It doesn't always work out that way -- sometimes the grim and gritty truth of mounting disaffection spills out spectacularly over the dinner table and someone (usually female) flees the room in "flood of tears" (to use the British expression). But usually, the hosts … Read the rest

India’s Daughters; An Overview

Content advisory 18+ Being a woman is not easy. Being a woman in India is even tougher. Invariably, you are going to be subjected to so much discrimination since birth, that it eventually becomes the norm.

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Discrimination starts even before you are born. Pregnant women are made to undergo antenatal check-ups not to detect fetal abnormalities, but to find out the gender of the baby. And if it’s a girl, … Read the rest

A Long Night’s Journey Into Day

Content advisory 18+ F. Scott Fitzgerald (author of "The Great Gatsby") was, like many artists, an unstable person and drunkard. He was never among my favorite authors; nevertheless, amid his many collapses and psychological crack-ups (having Hemingway as a 'friend' probably didn't help), he came up with a single line I always remember. He said: "In a real dark night of the soul, it is always 3 o'clock in the … Read the rest

The Narrow Road to the Far North

Content advisory 16+ I was having a spirited conversation today, early, with a really bright man -- he was frying breakfast eggs while talking with me on Skype (the ONLY way to eat breakfast !) -- about the best way to go about living one's life.

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Of course, the thing about this very bright man (aged 47 and me -- a stout 69 as of today, 8 May--) is that … Read the rest

Victory Day Among the Spoils

Content advisory 18+ Thinking to write about the up-and-coming "Victory Day" in Russia on 9 May (the whole world celebrates it today, 8th May - Artem), I decided to consult Artem regarding the wisdom of saying ANYTHING negative. And since I am not one to mince words whatever the subject, this was quite a concession for me to make.

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The reason for my indecisiveness stems from the enormous … Read the rest

Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo

Content advisory 18+ I used to believe that the world of “surfaces” which we usually navigate is a false world -- a superficial icing on a cake of deep and interwoven ingredients. I used to think that, in order to maximize my experience of life, I had to somehow “get to the bottom of it” -- as my old English teachers would have us plumb the depths of this or … Read the rest

How Not To Waste Your Life

Content advisory 18+ In America, guys approaching or just past 40 (In Russia it is 30, according to my friends) are always having what is known as "the mid-life crisis". I never had it because I never grew up and never wanted to deal with anything as boring as 'adult responsibilities'. Well, I jest, but maybe it says something about me that for my last Happy New Year gifts, I … Read the rest

JUST SAY NO ! (to drugs and thugs)

Content advisory 18+ When I used to write a lot for SNOB (a once-promising project that I came to by chance in 2009 or '10), they always wanted me to present the point of view of a foreigner who had been in Russia for a while. Not as some guy who just got off the boat (there are no boats) and looking for polar bears in Red Square, or who … Read the rest

The Dawns and Twilights of Offices

“What did I know, what did I know
Of love’s austere and lonely offices?”
Robert Hayden, Those Winter Sundays

Content advisory 18+ Somehow I found myself reading ancient Chinese poetry translated into English. This was years ago. The other day I tried to relocate some of those verses, but not a chance. There is plenty of ancient Chinese poetry to be had, but not the ones I remembered.

beverage books contemporary 904616_result  Here is … Read the rest

Don’t worry, It’s coming to Your town soon!

Content advisory 16+ Back in the days when bottled water first appeared en masse in America, I recall that a lot of people just shook their heads and mused: "What will be next? They'll start selling us air?" And everyone would nod in amusement at such a preposterous notion.

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Well, muse and smile and nod no more. IT'S HERE !! So, today, as a follow-up to my blog posted Friday … Read the rest

Demoralizator, or Hello, monkey!

Content advisory 18+ I decided to start writing my posts in English as well as in Russian. Why so? Well, I’m here for the future, and English is an international language. I honestly think that limiting yourself just to one language is a demonstration of laziness…or stagnation, or stubbornness.

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Many nations consider themselves as indisputably ‘great’, forgetting the darker sides of their history, ignoring the fact, amid the shifting … Read the rest