Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Ice is Terrible and other Random Thoughts
I hate the ice. We had freezing rain all last night, I slipped and fell down while going to my car.
Which reminds me of something I pondered while in Moscow ... why are so many stairs and sidewalks in Russia made of polished granite? I mean, after thousands of years, you would think that Russians would have come up with a smarter alternative.
Because, I do hear this rumor that it gets pretty cold in Russia.
After walking the winter streets of Moscow, I can understand why Russians make such wonderful figure skaters. Their sense of balance has to be extraordinary to manage the icy sidewalks of Moscow. No joke.
I should also add, that the polished granite stairs and walks are a pet peeve of Natasha, also. She also believes that our President should make Americans get out and walk more. He just said that we are addicted to oil and need to break our habit .. so maybe Bush and Congress should outlaw driving your petroleum-burning car to work on Tuesdays and Thursdays, or something. Ha. Ha.
Isn't it a little bit "me too" that Putin does a press conference on the same date as the US President's State of the Union address? Even though many Russians try to tell me that they don't think about or compare themselves to the US, it certainly seems that their politicians spend large amounts of time talking about and goading "the west" and US. Iran policy (blatantly cold-warish behavior on Russia's part), general talking about the superiority of Russian missles (blatant salesmenship in the wake of Iraq), and then timing a press conference for the same time as the US Presidents annual State of the Union address (blatant frontpage headline grabbing). Katja says she hadn't even heard that Bush was giving such a speech (she doesn't follow politics) but numerous news sources in Russia were discussing it and comparing it to Putin's press conference the next day.
I don't think that Putin's alternately bullying and then flirting press conference style would fly very well in the US. I'm sort of amazed that he can get away with it in Russia ... this is the behavior that women write songs about? A man who loses his cool when questioned about Russias defense of a massacre in Uzbekistan ... and implies it was all some plot by foreign states? Flirting and silly questions, coming from "all blondes"? I am also surprised that the reporters, even at the end of a long press conference, would ask such a silly question as to how Putin stays in shape. Like they don't know that already? Even I have read about Putins physical regimen ... I am sure that most Russians alternatively take pride in that or make jokes about it.
If you don't know the story of Andrei Sychev or aren't familiar with the system of Dedovshina (дедовщина) that occurs in the Russian Military, you should definitely read this blog entry and links including photos of a recent protest. Basically, as the Russian government requires military service and pays rather poorly ... the army operates on a system of seniority thuggery. Think of a perverse version of college fraternity 1st year hazing ... the kind of hazing and beatings that cause young men to kill themselves to escape it ... and you get the general idea.
It isn't a great thing and it makes me feel bad for Russian people that their leaders don't take this problem seriously. Maybe some general imagines it toughens up the soldiers. However, I can promise you it does nothing for the fighting morale of an army. Russia would be better off with a smaller army, that is paid better, and is comprised entirely of volunteers. I know this is what Putin says they are moving towards; sooner would be better.
I ordered a book on Katja's recommendation, The Golden Calf (Zolotoi Telenok) by Ilya Ilf and Evgeniy Petrov (translation by Richard Shupbach). Seems the movie was on television the other night and it got her thinking about this book, which she really enjoys and wished I could read. Maybe someday I will be able to read it in the original tongue. I'll report back when I am done with it in a couple of weeks.