Russian Graffiti Part IV

revolution. evolution. novolution?

i just want to be heard amid the chatter.

имя или шапка?

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As some of you know, one of my passions lies in the performing arts and using them to facilitate peaceful international relations. What better way to start a dialogue between two countries that seem to be at polar opposites than art? It really is universal. This is why I was ecstatic when I read Juan Cole’s post about the Iranian movie “Separation” winning Best Foreign Film last night at the Oscars. His comments are about the Director’s, Asghar Farhadi, speech. Excerpt from speech:

“At this time, many Iranians all over the world are watching us and I imagine them to be very happy. They are happy not just because of an important award or a film or a filmmaker–but because at a time when talk of war, intimidation and aggression is exchanged between politicians, the name of their country, Iran, is spoken here through her glorious culture, a rich and ancient culture that has been hidden under the heavy dust of politics. I proudly offer this award to the people of my country, a people who respect all cultures and civilizations and despise hostility and resentment.”

It is easy to get caught up in the political high talk of the world’s leaders but at the end of the day we need to remember that we are all just people trying to live the best we can.

Read Juan’s comments here: informed COMMENT

Muscovites Form Human Ring: Peaceful Protest within Politics?

In a political arena that seems increasingly violent and antagonistic; extreme partisan mud slinging in the US, politicians talking of wars in countries that don’t want them (ahem Iran), etc. the show of peaceful anti-Putin solidarity in Moscow yesterday was, well, quite refreshing.

“On Sunday, amid slush-clogged streets and a steady snow, a carnival atmosphere prevailed, with vendors handing out free hot tea and pancakes to mark the last day before the beginning of Orthodox Lent. The protest was called the Big White Circle, and demonstrators arrived decked out in full-length white furs and huge white hats. Long lines of people unfurled rolls of paper towels and waved them while cars drove along the road, the Garden Ring, honking furiously and displaying their own white flags and banners.”

– from Thousands Ring Central Moscow in Anti-Putin Protest, Michael Schwirtz. Read more at  NYTimes.com

Sometimes I think I should have moved to Moscow. That place is where things are cooking– this picture makes me so happy.

backyard of champions

This past Thursday I moved into my new apartment in Saint Petersburg. It feels so good to finally be in my own space that I can manipulate, decorate and make feel like home. And every good home has a great backyard.

We live around the corner from the Fontanka, one of the prettiest canals in Saint Petersburg.

Across the street from our apartment.

Right across the Fontanka is the Russian Museum.

And a hop and a skip away is the Church on Spilled Blood.

#backpackswag

I was standing behind this gentleman on the escalator today. He is about 60 (well in Russian years. he could really be like 42…), rocking a beanie, a very worn-in winter jacket and this backpack. This backpack struck a chord with me not only because it says “I’m the best,” but because several times while I am on the metro I have been struck by an article of clothing, a bag or an accessory and thought “how much would an LES hipster have paid for that?” Heck, how much would I have paid for that?

Usually the Russians I see sporting these items are not the type preoccupied with their appearance. This purple backpack could have made a strange discarded thrift store journey from Milwaukee to Irkutsk. It could have been found in a trash bag or simply chosen for the color. Yesterday, I saw a teenager in such perfectly worn-in Nike high dunks from the 80s that I almost asked to buy them off of him to ship to a friend in California. When he turned around, however, I noticed that he was missing several teeth and that his gums were blackened from neglect. I don’t think he was wearing the sneakers to give off a certain image. I think they were that worn in because homeboy spent a lot of time on the street. What may be deemed vintage or high-end thrift in the states is just a person’s wardrobe here. Many Russians own few clothes, repeating outfits in a week (gasp!).

First, the previous statement makes me feel like an asshole with too many clothes. Second, it’s a by-product of the fact that clothes are extremely expensive in Russia and its the social norm to buy a few items that look good on you and wear them until they fall apart, a la Frances. Although Russians don’t have that same kind of je ne sais quois fashion sense. Third, maybe I am underestimating these people? Maybe they read the same hipster tumblers of people walking around the East Village that I do. But probably not.

All in all, the point of this rather pointless post is to highlight this incredible backpack and to announce that I will be now be posting pictures of rockin’ metro fashion I encounter.