• Move ’em On, Head ’em out, Then Hide!

    Another key to an 83% approval rating? Put all your political opponents in jail.


    The comment above was posted on my recent post about Vladimir Putin. Today my blog feed brings an illustration.

    Here we see a participant of a legal non-violent picket of the Moscow City Hall being carefully handled by the militia (Russian name for police).


    Here we see his partner being picked up as well.


    And after a short pampering…


    …being loaded in the van.


    Single-person pickets do not require permission. According to the article these people were asked to leave and when they refused, were carried out and taken away. To the best of my knowledge protesters are usually let go the same day or the next morning, apparently Russian militia just enjoys the process and resulting news reports.

  • Depression Foods

    My Mom was at the grocery store the other day buying beef tongue and attracted attention of some older lady who told her that her kids were recently asking her what people ate during the Great Depression; seeing the tongue in my Mom’s cart reminded her about eating it in her childhood.

    Today Consumerist brought up the subject of increased demand for organ meats in the U.K. What people eat always fascinates me mostly because our acceptance of different foods is not a matter of taste but of a cultural upbringing. People who just a minute ago were describing the delicate taste of snake will make puking noises when they see me eating tongue. Someone who likes possum, turtle, armadillo will cringe when they see me eat beef liver and so on.

    In this country organ meats are often more expensive than regular beef, pork and chicken, so calling them “Depression Foods” is somewhat of a stretch, they are more of a delicacy for us.

    There are not many irregular food stuffs that I will eat: beef or chicken liver, chicken gizzards, beef tongue; nothing else too weird comes to mind. I like duck, I eat turkey and rabbit but very rarely. I tried a brain sandwich once without knowing what it was and it was delicious, but I will probably never knowingly volunteer to eat it again. I recently got a comment about eating smoked but otherwise uncooked bacon. I like salt-cured uncooked fish, smoked fish and dried fish. I can drink a raw egg. My Dad ate beef lungs, kidneys and whale meat when it was still sold in the USSR. This is probably as exotic as it gets in my family. I don’t have any valid reason for not trying other things except always popular “it’s disgusting!”, but I will understand how you feel about me grimacing when you talk about eating snails or whatever else you like, I get the same look when ordering tongue taco at the Mexican restaurant. Maybe some day I will become more open to eating other things, hopefully by choice and not by necessity, until then I am interested in what unconventional foods you find irresistible.

    Note:deer meat is pretty conventional around here, unless you eat some non-meat parts of the deer it doesn’t count.

  • Top Ten

    PresentMagazine.com is putting together Top 10 Lists for the year including Top 10 local blogs. Care to submit a list to us? We’d like to hear from as many local bloggers as possible about what blogs they’re following and would recommend. Responses can be sent to us via email – present@presentmagazine.com – no later than December 21.

  • Flip

    Just as I wrote about my omnipresent awesome tipsters they came through for me again. Today on my way from work they were flagging me down from the opposite lane of the highway with lights and neon-striped suits. I couldn’t pass it up and had to get off the road to join other onlookers so I can photograph the upside-down car which backed up the traffic from the Johnson Drive all the way to the 87th street.

  • Master and Margarita At The UMKC

    After reading an article in the Pitch imploring me to see the Master and Margarita at the UMKC I knew I had to go. The Master and Margarita is one of only a few books that I read more than once and discovered something new every time. It is also one of a few Russian masterpieces  that no matter how well translated could not be fully understood by a foreigner (that would be you); it’s somewhat similar to me trying to decipher Cris Packham’s pop-cultural references (not that I don’t try). The book was written during the times of the strictest censorship when even a hint of anti-Soviet criticism could literally threaten the writer’s life and that’s why Mikhail Bulgakov had to insinuate just as much as he wrote down. The average Soviet reader could easily read “between the lines” and see the satire in the most innocent dialogues and descriptions. Some of the references were to the specific characters in the author’s life and are not easily recognizable but the barbs thrown at the Soviet bureaucrats, censors, informers, dimwits, careerists, sellouts and the regime itself were obvious to the people who still encountered them in their everyday life for another 50 years after the book was written.
    Not too many people risked producing it on the stage or on the screen, it could not be easily condensed and the characters were so well-known and beloved that any such attempt would be criticized by the fans. That’s why I was pretty skeptical going to the UMKC performance. I didn’t expect the cast to have an understanding of the book required to convey it onto the stage and it couldn’t possibly be shortened to fit into the regular length of the theater performance. What I saw was pretty amazing and truly one of the best theatrical performances I’ve seen in my life – honest, funny, enthusiastic, smart, inventive and, although not very close to the book, with plenty of Blugakov’s spirit in it. Once you get past the fact that some male roles are played by girls (i.e. Koroviev and Azazello), the character of the devil – Woland is wearing hooves, and the Cat Behemoth is a black guy with the red Mohawk dressed in some kind of leather corset and a shaggy trench coat, everything else falls in place. The actors were outstanding but Patrick DuLaney who played Woland was on par with the Russian actors who played this role in the movie versions of the Master and Margarita. He was able to convey Woland’s millenniums-old age, his exhaustion with life, his disgust with people which could only be defeated by the true love and selfless sacrifice. Julane Havens as Margarita was also very impressive, as a sensitive, sensual, defenseless but determined woman ready to sacrifice everything just to be with Master. The actress who played Hella gets a special mention, nice job keeping every male eye locked on the stage!
    I also would like to specifically praise the costume and stage design. The Soviet people are all dressed in the same gray uniforms lovingly adorned by red stars; even their underwear is gray (as was revealed later and you missed it). I also liked the use of projection screens.
    During the show I (illegally) made a few videos, sorry, serious-looking-bearded-usher-guy, I didn’t spend years in the KGB school in the USSR to be told what to do by the Man.

    (By the way, in the bottom part of these videos you’ll see a jackass who didn’t feel it was necessary to take his stupid hat off in the theater; maybe the usher should have concerned himself with this view-obstructing clown instead of making sure I can’t record a low-quality video.)

    After the show I overheard  one lady ask her friend if she enjoyed the show, “it was too weird” was the reply. It’s hard to convey the whole complexity of the book on the stage to an unprepared viewer, but to people who understood it was an amazing effort worthy of a professional venue.

    P.S. Alan Scherstuhl is my new Facebook friend on the condition that I will never have to pronounce his last name.