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Location: Atlanta, Georgia, United States

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Another blog...

Sorry to not have done this earlier, but for anyone who read this blog and liked it, I have started another blog called I just felt silly to keep writing as if I'm in Moscow when (sadly) I'm not. Hope you enjoy it and I very much look forward to your feedback!


Saturday, March 03, 2007

On Borat

On the back cover of the Borat DVD that I purchased yesterday, it says the following:

‘In the movie theater, you couldn’t even hear all of the jokes because the audience was choking from hysterical laughter. People choked on their popcorn and slid off their seats onto the floor. If you don’t find this movie funny, take out a drill and drill a hole in your head.’

Unfortunately, I don’t have a drill.

I decided to watch this movie to see what all the bustle was about – to see why Russia banned it from the silver screen. I got my answer loud and clear. The first emotion I felt during and after the movie was disappointment in all of the people who raved about this film. Those of you who said that my political correctness and overactive cultural sensitivity would clash with this movie were absolutely right. I saw nothing funny about it.

I understand that the message of the movie was less about Kazakhstan than about America – a parody on Americans and the way they bask in the rays of their cultural ignorance. However, for an overwhelming majority of Americans, this film put Kazakhstan on the map and sprouted a bouquet of stereotypes that even the most backward Texan couldn’t have dreamt up. In a time when cultural misunderstanding leads to atrocities all over the world, Sasha Cohen has defaced an entire people and nation in a base, primitive film that says more about his personal neurosis than about any of the peoples he managed to stuff into this cinematographic abomination.

It is also interesting to note that none of the scenes of ‘Kazakhstan’ were actually filmed in Kazakhstan. The scenes of his hometown were filmed in Romania and the languages spoken ranged from Hebrew to Polish – Kazakh not included. Most of the scenes in the movie were not scripted. The only actors in the movie were Borat, his traveling companion and the black prostitute that he marries in the end. So being, everyone else was told that they were taking part in a documentary about an immigrant from somewhere in the former Soviet Union, and so they went into it the way one would go into a serious documentary and were shocked, upon seeing the film, that they had been tricked. The people who were filmed in Borat’s ‘hometown’ also claim that they had been lied to about the nature of the film.

Nonetheless, the entire time, I couldn’t help but feel a sharp pain in my chest for the people of Kazakhstan, who in this film are portrayed as dirty, mentally handicapped, incestuous, godless, fascist cave people capable only of defecating and masturbating. A friend of mine said that Americans already think this way and that this film would not affect their net perception of the peoples of the Newly Independent States (NIS) of the former Soviet Union. I have to disagree. Although it is clear that the absurdity of the image that Cohen has created for the Kazakh people is intended to testify to how ridiculous cultural stereotypes can be, for people who have never been to or heard of Kazakhstan, this film becomes their reference point, even if only on a subconscious level. I have no doubt that upon meeting a Kazakh person, every young American who has seen this film will immediately pull Borat out of the thin rolodexes of their cultural records. The association has been made.

I will admit that what the film does do is bring to the table the ignorance of the West about Eastern Europe and Central Asia. But the problem is that this kind of film can only have the effect intended by Cohen on people who understand the ludicrousy of the assertions made about the Kazakh people. But when such humor aims to reach a public that has no real knowledge about the culture to fall back on, jokes begin to cross the line that separates comedy from bigotry.

I am aware of the fact that I sound like an old lady who has just awoken from a 30-year comma, but I am truly disappointed that this film has gotten such raving reviews. I can have no faith in a society that has so loudly lauded a film that has, in my mind, committed outright culturecide.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

My Holiday Photos

Hello all and Happy New Year!!! I hope you all had a great time and I wish you all the best in the coming year and years to come. If you are interested, you can click the links below to see how I have spent the holidays. Unfortunately, some of pictures are out of order and I can't seem to fix that because of a gliche at google. Also, there are a couple of pictures that will start loading when you click them, and those are videos. Enjoy!!

From How I spent t...

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Just a few of the many reasons I don’t watch movies

Today, I went to the movies for the third time in more than a year in Russia. Me and three friends attended the 9:50 Friday night showing of ‘Holiday’, staring Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law and Jack Black. Having watched the movie with my movie filter set to turbo mode [filtering out the banality of the script; the same old shot of smiling faces taking up the entire screen; and the corniness that makes me want to gouge my own eyes out with a blunt pencil] I can actually say that it was a decent attempt at the genre. Aside from the fact that Jack Black was severely mis-casted and that there appeared to be no reason for a fox like Jude Law to fall in love with the beautiful-but-shallow-as-a-puddle Cameron Diaz, the movie moved me. However, the emotional rollercoaster that I rode in those two hours is in no way to the credit of the filmmaker: I just happen to be female and have had almost everything that happens to the women in the film – except the happy ending, of course – happen to me.

I realized the weight of my baggage right at the beginning of the movie. It starts with desperate Kate Winslet looking at the man she has loved for three whole years, but whose love she can’t gain in return. As we learn of the details of her devastation, we instantly come to hate him and love her and, vuallah, five minutes in and I am already upset, but not because I feel bad for her. No. I completely empathized with her, but I am like a fish in water in that misery. I was upset because I knew this was Hollywood and that, in the end, everything would be ok. That this movie is just another fairytale plagiarizing from life, making it a recipe for disaster.

Recipe for Disaster

1 Filmmaker (ranging from decent to good)

1 Writer (ranging from not very good to very good)

4-6 actors (i.e. 2-3 couples)

5 sad songs (for the the first and third quarters of the movie)

5 happy songs (for the second and fourth quarters of the movie)

So where’s the disaster? It builds throughout the film. First, they give us (I hate to do it but I think when I say ‘us’ I mean ‘females’) a negative situation that we can all relate to. We bite. Then, the actors all start, quite miraculously, falling head over heals for one another and, naturally, we fall with them. And here the film begins to act like a mirror: after reflecting all of the pain that we once had, we think it natural that the happiness that the actresses found is bound to reflect upon us, too. Then about ¾ of the way through, the love stories encounter a slight bump and everyone is upset. We are then subjected to shots of each person sitting alone at home in their pajamas, loading up on crap-food and watching TV – the entire scene overlaid with some corny “Have yourself a merry little Christmas” tune. And then – but of course – missing a plane, running through the snow, traveling across the globe or any other number of unrealistic, grandiose sacrifice, just to say the magic words. Then passionate kissing, sex and the good ole’ happy ending.

So we have a beginning that, to some degree, is realistic – as can be the middle of the film. But the happy endings just plain don’t happen that way in real life. So my point is this: Today’s cinema culture – at least where blockbuster chick-flicks are concerned – give birth to unreasonable expectations of relationships. When we [now I’m speaking only for hyper-emotional females, like myself] watch these movies, we can’t help but personalize the experience of our fellow she-tigers on the screen. We manage to internalize the feelings so that we walk out knowing how nice it is to finally be appreciated. But when the movie is over, we return to our reality in which we begin looking for that same high in our own lives. But it doesn’t exist – not in the same effortless form that it takes on in the movie. Real relationships that breed the kinds of results that screen relationships do, take a lot of work: its not enough to bat your eyes just right; smile on queue; or recite a cute story over a romantic lunch. Subconsciously, after watching enough such films, young women begin to develop a completely false sense of what constitutes a good, healthy relationship. And so, the gap – between the idyllic scenario portrayed on the silver screen and the situations that we are likely to encounter in reality – is insatiable.

So then what is the point of such films as “Holiday”? To stir up feelings and emotions that I worked so long and hard to put to rest and to remind me that, in real life, there are no happy endings? I pretty much just paid 25o roubles for two hours of reverse-psychotherapy.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Stream of consciousness on the way home from work on Monday, September 9, 2006

I was walking alone in the dark and the wind was blowing and the air was cold and I was happy. And the music emanating from my headphones was so becoming of everything around me that, at some point, I could no longer decipher where it was coming from: was it really the small mp3 player tucked away in the warm pocket of my jacket, or was it the trees, the air, the buildings—my soundtrack. And as I walked—more like strolled—I could barely stop myself from swaying—more like skippingto Nikitini, husband and wife, singing about the ephemeral nature of all but the waltz. And that, too, made me happy. Normally, I am able to drive myself into an almost theatrical melancholy simply by playing the right tracks…just to remind myself that I’m alive—that and I like to be sad sometimes.

I like the bitter sadness that comes with acknowledging that I’m merely human. That this is it: this is my life, for better or for worse. That no matter what the hell else is going on in that—my life—I always have this: the night, the street, the music. Ok, so maybe the music is terminable, after all, I can lose the mp3 player, or have it stolen, or the battery might die. Although I won’t deny that the absence of my mp3 player would put a kink in my self-inflicted sadness, there’s always comfort in knowing that I can’t lose the street—nobody can steal the trees and buildings and the moon can’t run out of batteries.

Likewise, nobody can take away the building on the corner of my street that has, in just 10 months, grown right before my eyes. When I was still broken, I would visit the building, which, at that point, was not yet the sum: just parts. I would look at the mounds of materials that, when arranged, would become a building. I don’t remember when he told me, but I remember that he loves construction sites—loves watching them progress from nothing to something. Actually, I do remember when he told me. The point is that, 10 months ago, the building and I were an equal mess and 10 months ago I didn’t know what I, or the building would look like in 10 months’ time. To be honest, I couldn’t think that far ahead. But, time passed, and I checked up on my building, every now and again, just to see how it, and I, was doing. Today I went again. The building is tall, hovering up somewhere near the sky. Ten months ago, when it was approximately my height, I cowered before it. I couldn’t stand looking at it because it served as a reminder…much like everything does when your heart is bleeding. But today, I realized that we did it, and more. And I stood there with the monument to my personal growth, and I wondered whether the guys building it knew how important it was.

Sometimes I play Norah Jones. Most of the songs start with a very mellow and melancholy acoustic guitar. And I’m walking, and the wind blows—or it doesn’t—doesn’t matter—and, again, I get the feeling that the music is pulsating through the air, that everyone hears it, and if they don’t hear it, then they can’t possibly be as alive as I am. After the first few counts, another instrument comes in, and I’m always disappointed. It’s not that I didn’t know it was coming: I’ve heard the song a hundred times, but I always hope that Norah realizes that the melancholy guitar was just perfect.

Then there’s Cake:

People you love, will turn their backs on you.

You’ll lose your hair, your teeth,

Your knife will fall out of its sheath,

But you still don’t like to leave before the end of the movie.

People you hate will get their hooks into you,

They’ll pull you down, you’ll frown,

They’ll tar you and drag you through town,

But you still don’t like to leave before the end of the movie.

No, you still don’t like to leave before the end of the show.

That one always gets me: how could it not…did you read it? The music makes it even sadder. But the kind of sad I like. The kind of sad that makes me realize that even if the world turns hostile, I can always lean on myself – and my MP3 player.

There’s everything else, and then there’s Dave Matthews:

Work ourselves, fingers to the bone, suck the marrow, drain my soul.

Pay your dues and your debts. Pay your respects.

Everybody tells you ‘You pay for what you get.’

You pay for what you get.

Everybody asks me how she’s doing, ‘Has she really lost her mind?’

I said ‘I couldn’t tell you: I’ve lost mine.’

Words, words, words: Have you heard a burdened hand is much better than

Any number of feet to wander? Fly away. Stay.

You pay for what you get. You pay for what you get.

Everybody asks me how she’s doing, ‘Is she really all she says?’

Everybody asks me how she’s doing, since she went away.

I said ‘I couldn’t tell you, I’m ok.’

Surprise, surprise: You pay for what you get. You pay for what you get.

What does it mean? I’m not sure, but today I listened (also on my handy mp3 player) to a lecture by Rabbi Akiva Tatz, in which he says that it is unfortunate that when we think/talk/reason with ourselves, we do so in the form of an inner dialogue: using words. We no longer think in terms of what really is, but are rather limited to working with and through emotions that can be, in one way or another, named, labeled and explained with the hardly sufficient reservoir of elaboration that is the human vocabulary. And so, Dave frees me from the chains of semantics, by combining words and ideas in – at times – such an illogical manner (of which the above lyrics are hardly an example) that I feel as though what he wanted to say just plain and simple can’t be said. There’s not ‘hidden meaning’ behind ‘clever words’. The contrary: he uses plain words and sometimes almost nonsensical images to conjure up a feeling by association.

Of course I don’t know that that is precisely what Dave does when he writes, and I am actually prepared to argue that he does no such thing. But who knows? Below, another song by Dave Matthews:

Story of a man

Who decided not to breathe:

Turned red, purple, then blue, colorful indeed.

No matter how his friends begged and pleaded, he would not concede.

Now he’s dead, you see,

Cuz’ everybody knows you got to breathe.

But, oh God, under the weight of life, things seem brighter on the other side.

Another one, see this monkey sitting in his tree,

One day, decided to climb down and run off to city.

Look at him now: tired and drunk, living in the street,

As good as dead, you see,

A monkey should know ‘Stay up your tree!’

But oh God, under the weight of life, things seem brighter on the other side.

Another one, a big-eyed fish swimming in the sea,

Oh how he dreamed he wants to be a bird, swoop and diving through the breeze.

One day, caught a big blue wave up onto the beach.

Now, he’s dead you see,

A fish’s dreams should stay in the sea.

But oh God, under the weight of life, things seem brighter on the other side.

And I realized today, that, for me, music, the night and being alone is the optimal combination drug. I’ve got uppers and downers and the emotional, psychological and physiological sensation that I experience—the high—is indescribable.

While in that state, I am wholly overwhelmed and humbled, by the towering apartment buildings with the warm yellow—sometimes bordering orange—lights bursting through the curtains of the windows. The buildings are all huddled in a bunch, and when I turn the corner that brings me to the final stretch of my walk home, I am faced with a site that takes my breath away every time: The huge and yet objectively unattractive apartment buildings all standing on different plains—a different window-light mosaic gracing the façade of each one. I walk, not taking my eyes off the buildings and the windows for even a moment, and with every step, the entire picture changes. I determine the perspective: I can move forward, backward left or right, and the entire picture, all of the buildings will change and move around me. They can’t move me, but I can move them.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

My New Haircut, Part II

My most radical cut yet! What do you think? =)

Monday, November 20, 2006


It took a while but I finally got my pictures from Istanbul up. I was there for 5 days at the end of September. To see the pics, click on the photo below. Enjoy! All comments are welcome!