Tag Archives: Russia

The good, the bad, and the ugly in 2015

We start with the ugly because it’s always good to finish on a high note, right?

  • Daesh (which is apparently what we should be calling those evil turds in Syria).
  • Trump.
  • Green grass and high temperatures in places where it’s supposed to be freezing in December. (Yes, it sounds nice but nope.)

On to the bad —

  • My book sales (nowhere near Gone Girl at the moment).
  • My book’s movie rights (none forthcoming).
  • My invitations to appear on high-level talk shows to discuss my book (none as far as the eye can see).

And to the good —

  • My book came out this year! (And people seem to like it)
  • I’ve had publications in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Christian Science Monitor, the Smithsonian, and many, many others.
  • I’ve excelled in meme-making:

Putin and Obama Meme

I think the good wins. Y/N?

 

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A very short post

This will be a very short post.

Because it’s the Friday after Thanksgiving and I don’t feel like writing a lot.

Because I just spent two hours organizing my office.

Because it’s still not properly organized.

And because this is really to let you know that my publisher has decided to run a Black Friday sale (who is not doing this nowadays?) and discount the Kindle version of my book to 0.99 cents. Really.

Screen Shot 2015-11-26 at 5.17.25 PM

Best Black Friday deal ever. I think.

So click here, grab a copy, and travel to Russia without leaving your couch.

Because books are more effective than airplanes in bringing you places.

Going, going,… gone! The free original art piece that was … raffled off to celebrate the launch of my book

And the winner was … one of Facebook users who commented (and shared!) on a Free Original Art contest with a simple math problem (it involved the cover of WHO IS MR. PLUTIN? and counting).

Then there were days and days of me working with oil paint, gold leaf, matryoshkas, and recycled wood — and voila.

I give you the piece that’s called RUSSIA.

Russia

Any thoughts on what I am trying to say here?

Just in time for Thanksgiving: pet peeves and snide gratitude

In the spirit of Thanksgiving – the holiday where many American families get together to devour a carcass of a dead bird and sneer behind the backs of relatives they didn’t want to see – I’d like to offer some snide gratitude. What is snide gratitude, you ask? And how can the words snide and gratitude even go together in the first place?

Glad you were wondering.

I am defining snide gratitude™ (note: trademarked as of today) as the gratitude you feel for learning about things you actually never wanted to learn. But since you’ve learned about them, you now know to stay the hell away from them and, thus, in the spirit of our times of personal growth and Tony Robbins, you are expressing gratitude.

Now that we got that tricky definition out of the way, I’d like to share the three things I am “grateful” to have encountered in my life:

Going to a club to interact with people. Unless it’s the kind of club where most patrons are out on the dance floor, you’ll probably find yourself trying to converse with your friends while sustaining both eardrum and vocal cords damage simultaneously. If you cannot hear the words leaving your own mouth, what makes you think you can maintain a conversation? And how much fun can you actually have sipping a drink worth two pairs of shoes, wistfully looking at people who – unlike you – have summoned enough courage to dance, and occasionally exchanging grunt-like sounds with your companions? Seriously. Take me to a Starbucks anytime. Even if I cannot tolerate their coffee, I can at least tell you about it.

People who think their opinion matters to you even though it totally doesn’t. Because you either barely know them or you don’t know them at all and only occasionally interacted with them on social media. Still they believe they are well within their rights to ask you questions about your choices and then express their opinion about those choices in a manner worthy of Simon Cowell, Dr. Phil, and Deepak Chopra combined.

“I am sorry you feel this way” apology. This is just some first class passive-aggressive bullshit right there. Anyone who delivers this kind of apology even once deserves to have their Thanksgiving flight diverted to Russia where they can spend the holiday – and the rest of their life — dancing to the new, famous tune “Go hard like Vladimir Putin”. Yes. It’s real.

Enjoy:

Victory Day time machine

I feel nostalgic towards my birth country twice a year. Due to current and historical reasons, none of which I am going to discuss here because of both space and your sanity, I never think of myself as Russian. I left Moscow long ago, have no plans to return, and only enjoy Russian food when prepared by my mother and no more than once a year.

But today, on the 9th of May, I feel Russian. It’s not really a choice I consciously make but a feeling that overtakes me when I log into my Facebook account. Even though my friends’ list is international, on this day my newsfeed is overwhelmed with posts from those either born in Russia or now working there. And most posts are about World War II.

Every year on the 9th of May Russia marks its victory over Nazi Germany. It celebrates by putting on a military parade worthy of the Oscars, the Emmys, and the Golden Globes combined. The reasons are purely political and those have been examined to death in other, more high-brow outlets. Which is why I am not going to focus on that or any other ridiculous exhibition of might that today’s Russia employs to make its people feel good. It’s not news to me — I already know about those tricks. I’ve lived through them.

But that’s not the reason that makes me feel Russian on the 9th of May. I feel Russian because remembering that war transports me directly into my childhood. The childhood in which we didn’t learn only the historical facts of that war (heavily edited by the Communist Party, of course) but we learned to identify with it on a primal, almost visceral level. I’ve been now away from Moscow for longer than I lived there but I still get goose bumps when I see clips of Soviet war movies and hear melodies of war songs. And I am not the only one. Those religions of the world that have trouble spiritualizing their followers should research how the Soviet propaganda machine turned World War II into the reliquary for the masses.

First as a young girl and later as a teen, I spent every 9th of May in Moscow’s Gorky Park with my grandfather. He fought in the war, survived it, and went to Gorky Park every year to see his former comrades-in-arms. Regardless of the weather, on that day the grounds of the park filled up with people young and old. Old, scanning the crowds for the names and numbers of their Red Army units, and young, walking from one group of veterans to another, thanking them for their courage, and giving out flowers to everyone with a medal on their chest. It was a day of profound sadness and profound happiness—both at the same time.

This would probably be an appropriate spot to break into criticizing the role that Russia is playing in the world today and the way Putin’s been using World War II for his rhetoric on Ukraine and Crimea. But I’ll save it for another post. The post that I can write on a day when I am not thinking of my grandfather, his fellow servicemen and women, the red-carnations-full Gorky Park, and the time when everything seemed much, much simpler. My childhood.

Winter in St Petersburg, Russia

I generally don’t like winter. The cold air of the outside, the dry and staticky air of the inside, sweaters, jackets, boots… you name it.  Yet I like pictures of winter. I like seeing the fairly-tale-like combination of the fresh white snow and the orange-yellow lights of cafes and streetlamps. It just looks full of magic.

I spent my most recent winters in St Petersburg, Russia and so here is my representation of the beauty that is St Petersburg in the winter.

Winter in St Petersburg, Russia

Winter in St Petersburg

Oil on canvas, 24 cm x 19 cm or 9.5″ x 7.5″