• Russian Gourmet: Mushroom Soup With Barley

    Well, I am actually not so sure about it being Russian, but it’s definitely a gourmet recipe shared by my Mom. What prompted me to make it was a visit to a local soup place where I paid four dollars for a ladle of mushroom soup. For some reason that price really bothered me; I’ve always thought that the soup was a poor man’s meal, often seen dispensed to the hungry people waiting in line in the Depression movies. Unless the soup is made of some exotic ingredient, I don’t see why it should be pricey, and mushroom soup is no exception. So the same night I called my Mom and wrote down the recipe.

    Back in the Old Country© mushrooms were sold at the farmers market by the individuals who looked like they’ve spent their days in the woods, rarely coming out to sell their bounty.

    Mushroom Vendor ©Sergei Rostegaef

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  • Old Ads: Alcohol

    Some vintage ads for alcoholic beverages.

    Beer manufacturers had a dream. We can now safely say they didn’t dream big enough.

    ©Time/Life

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  • Behind the Iron Curtain: Prison Tattoos

    I you’d like to find out what’s going on in American prisons you have two choices: commit a small crime or read the best-selling Prisons For Dummies series. It’s a lot harder (but not entirely impossible) to get yourself locked up in a Russian correctional institution, so for the only other practical choice I recommend renting the documentary Alix Lambert’s The Mark of Cain. The film crew seemed to have unlimited access to prison facilities and inmates (they are called “ZK” in Russian jargon) which resulted in many candid interviews and interesting inside footage. While the movie starts off as a research in prison tattoos, their meaning and role in prison life, it goes on to describe living conditions in said prisons, which make some American lock-ups look like a picnic in a park, albeit with bars on windows and barbed-wired fences.

    When I was growing up© the legends about prison life were passed from person to person. Everyone seemed to know somebody whose uncle’s cousin served time or something like that. Prison life wasn’t idolized, we all knew it sucked, but at the same time it had a touch of a legend. I can draw a loose parallel to Jesse James: he was a bloody murderer but somewhat a celebrity at the same time. We knew about tattoos and how a person could get killed for drawing something that wasn’t appropriate for his prison ranking. (The movie actually mentions that there were known cases of tattoos being cut off with the skin.) We heard prison songs, it didn’t matter to us that some of the singers had never seen prison in their life. The songs were sad and hopeful, remorseful, defiant and we all knew them. Tapes were copied thousands of times and sold or passed around. Large part of Russian pop-music still sounds like old prison songs.

    You can find some information about the Russian prison tattoos online and in literature, but if you don’t mind subtitles I recommend you take a look at the movie for a quick intro

    By a strange coincidence – another tattoo-related post from XO on the same day when I was watching the movie.

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  • Mustachioed Celebrity I Resemble The Most

    Let me preface this by saying: I despise ugly video-bloggers. If you don’t look like this but still have something important to say, please do everyone a favor and type it; your wife lied to you when she said you were handsome, you are not. That said, my charity participation gives me a temporary excuse to use any means possible to collect the money and help out the people with prostate cancer.

    So far my team has almost $500 collected and even more pledged. Thanks to your generous support and your sudden unexplained interest in Google Ads on this website I collected $50 so far and another $90 was donated to me and the team as a direct result of my various forms of begging for money on Facebook, Twitter and in person. As a cheap person I feel your pain, but extend your hand and feel the pain of prostate cancer (not there…little lower…still  lower…to the left…right here…ooooh) and you will understand why I defaced my own face by growing a mustache.

    As the Month of Movember progressed along, my uncanny resemblance of a certain celebrity became obvious.

    I am sure after seeing this you immediately recognized my mustache-double, but below is a clue for the slow ones among you.

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  • Complaints One Floor Up

    Continuing with some photos I take during my walks around downtown Kansas City.

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