Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A clarification

Tim is a little unhappy with the previous post. He's asked me to make things clear. He washed his jumpers on 60 degrees INTENTIONALLY because he wanted to shrink them. Only it went wrong. He also would like me to point out that he is (in his own words) 'A domestic goddess'. He's gone wrong, if you ask me.

Also I forgot to put a picture on before. Its a good representation of Russian technology coupled with taste. It sums Russia up quite nicely.

Actually, this one that Tim took is probably even better.

The fall of the iron bathroom ceiling

We came home from the pub a few nights ago and the false ceiling in the bathroom had fallen down. Imagine trying to communicate that with a landlady who barely speaks any english. Tim had to phone someone at work to translate the problem for him. Also Boris Yeltsin died. The two events might not be as unconnected as you might think because Yeltsin was actually earning a few extra roubles on the side putting up cheap plastic bathroom ceilings. Ours falls down, he dies. What delicious irony. To be honest no-one seems very bothered about him dying that I've spoken to, and I can't really be bothered to go to the cathedral and check out the mourners. Not my cup of tea.

In other news, we went to this big park with all sorts of old buildings that I can't be bothered to tell you about. Highlight was this man ringing the bells. He was up a tower and was playing them by hitting the ropes that the bells were connected to. He could teach some of those jazz idiots a thing or two I reckon (about playing bells up a tower really annoyingly for about an hour).

Ps. Andre has not heard of Pacman.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Have you heard of Space Invaders?

At work the 3D tutor, Andre, listens to his eighties electro music on his laptop in the office. One song features the robotic chanting of 'Space Invaders' over and over again. We had a chat about his musical tastes and he asked me that question: 'Have you heard of Space Invaders?' What a great question. Its now become a recurring joke, in fact Tim has just asked me 'Have you heard of cars?'. Russians sometimes ask fabulous questions, but they're not as good as the answers they give. My favourite was when we saw one of the students on her bike just cycling away from the college. I aked her, 'Where are you going?' She answered, 'I'm going to ride my bike'.

I erroneously spelt the word for bye 'Puka' in a previous post. This should of course have read 'Poka', as 'Puka' is an extremely dirty word, so dirty that people won't even tell what it means.

As a final treat I thought I'd show you a tube sign to give you an idea of what you face in Moscow. Enjoy and poka!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Behind the iron shower curtain

Well, Tim's birthday was a lot of fun, the students went for it big time, much to Tim's chagrin. The cake, by the way, was odd. In the way only things in Russia can be.

We went out for dinner with Victor and his wife, Sacha. (everybody is called Sacha here, including me) There was some honky-tonk music accompanied by a 100 year old tap dancer and a good time was had. The best bit though was Victor eating Tim's prawns whole, without pealing them. Then he proceeded to eat a fish head which you may be able to make out in this photo.
He was disappointed that the eyes had been removed, though, as they are apparently the best bit.

I mentioned the rush hour briefly before, but I think you need to see it. The volume of people is unbelievable. You just get carried along by the people and they ram themselves into each carriage before people have got off. They close tubes at times in the rush hour so you have to get on at the other connected station (10 minutes away) then walk underground for another 10 minutes to get back to where you started. Its all the simple, basic bits of life which strike you as so different. I imagine it's just the same for a Russian in England.

This is around 9.30 in the morning!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Rootin Tootin Putin

The weather has got nicer recently, although can still be bitter. A few days ago it was like this, though:

Its Tim's birthday today, so shame on all of you for not wishing him a happy one. We went out for dinner at this nice place with a weird honky-tonk band on and a 90 year old tap-dancer. I've had a bit of Uzbek cuisine too recently, which is entirely the same as Russian. Natasha, who is the boss, Sacha's girlfriend invited us to jump out of a plane tomorrow for Tim's birthday. We politely declined. Her friend Vera flies a plane and we assumed they'd be jumping out of that. But after some complicated conversation we discovered that she is only allowed to fly in a circle and the invitation was to jump out of a helicopter. She doesn't speak much english so it took a while to get there.

I am certainly not going to jump out of a plane in Russia. The technology cannot be trusted.

More soon...

Monday, April 9, 2007

Many Happy Returns

Happy Easter to you people out there in non-Moscow

Went to a Jazz Club the other night to see Billy Cobham. He's some kind of big fish in the land of Jazz apparently. A jazz drummer, he played with a band of Russians who Tim said were crap, although I couldn't tell, as it was jazz, which is of course, all crap. Highlight of the evening was when we passed Billy as he was coming off stage and Tim said; "Nice one Billy!". I'm not sure this was jazz etiquete, but Billy was fine with it. I'd have given him an icey death stare. Each to his own.

Its been snowing here and is freezing, but on the whole its an enjoyable adventure. The students are frustratingly unmotivated but a joy in comparison to working with school age students. Getting used to the signs and the weird customs, the terrible service and crazy roads. And after a good 20 minute search in the supermarket managed to find some basil and oregano.

Been waiting for money which has finally arrived so buying a camera tomorrow, so photos will be appearing soon for the less imaginative of you...

Puka! (with the stress on the last syllable.)

Saturday, April 7, 2007

The General

This post will give you some idea of the general oddness of things round here. When I went to the supermarket with a rucksack on, the security guards at the door made me put it in a big plastic bag and then stuck a sticker round the top so I couldn't steal anything. There are people in Russia who have jobs where they don't have to do anything. There are so many employees at the supermarket, that everything on the shelves is moved every two days! You can't find anything. People in glass boxes sit at the bottom of escalators watching 4 monitors. In fact, there are security guards everywhere with nothing of value to keep secure. When we went to the sports bar which has a casino in it, the guy runs some kind of detector over you, which beeps over mobile phones etc, but he doesn't want to check them. I assume that he knows what he's doing and the thing beeps differently over guns and shit. Although I am suspicious that he hasn't got a clue what he's doing. When Tim went to the police station, he said there were about thirty coppers sitting around smoking. Thirty! Also, everyone is late and unmotivated. The students just can't meet deadlines and so many of them can't work independently. Its all rather frustrating.

The shops are weird too. They are glass fronted with all the products on display on shelves against the glass, packing the entire front wall of the shop. In the middle of that is a tiny window that you poke your head through to ask for beer or chocolate or Russian Grazia or paracetomol or a religious figurine. Its all just a little odd. And you have to pre-pay for everything: internet, gas bill, everything.

Everyday I see something that just makes me chuckle at the silliness of it.

On another note, I've been fiddling around with type and using that as the basis of some cartoons. Here's an example using an idea I had a while ago:

Whether working for a living or just riding for your pleasure, let the world see your life is something that you treasure...

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

The Schizoid Man

We had fun today in a Russian restaurant. Tim ordered a steak and it came with nothing else. Just meat no vegetables. I ordered a chicken dish and it was chicken with banana sauce. Sounds like one of Hilde's experimental recipes. It was nice, though.

Its quite work intensive this visit to Russia. We're currently planning a typography workshop with slides and all sorts of shit. I'm trying to fit cartoons around that as well. I've been playing with a drawing tablet today, for the first time. Its pretty cool. Here's my first go:

Drawn entirely on the computer, luddites. It's hard trying to do some of my own work, experiencing Russia and focussing on a new job, but as always I'm up to the task.

I remain your humble servant,


Monday, April 2, 2007

Free for All

Got a pizza from pizza hut after work today. They didn't have a box big enough so they put it in 5 seperate small boxes. Also: It was the wrong pizza.

There are some people with really bad acne here, Tim thinks its a virulent form of leprosy but I know better. You don't see acne like that any more in England. There was one policeman with it. He looked silly, particularly with his giant green hat.

There don't seem to be any rules for drivers here. They're all mad. And there's no parking fees. It's total anarchy. It actually makes me think that labour have got it right over-regulating drivers. Without rules where would we be? Fucking Moscow, that's where.

I know you lot are incredibly busy but I'd like some comments please so that I know you're reading this. Come on people. This is for your benefit! Pictures will be on here soon. That should make you come back for more.

Be seeing you.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

A, B and C

Right, day 3. Went into the centre and saw Red Square and the Kremlin. Half of the square was shut so couldn't see most of it, including Lenin's Mausoleum. I'll have to go there again soon. I'm not sure why they have the onion things on top of the towers. Isn't that a muslim thing? More research required. It feels very Russian though.

Went to the national gallery. Full of traditional painting including that one on the cover of Crime and Punishment. Massive place. Got tired and had coffee and cake. Yum Yum.

Tim took me to a little gallery of contemporay art which was showing Georg Baselitz, Chris Ofilli and the amazing Jonathon Meese. His stuff is brilliant, the scale and humour and energy in it was fantastic. I would go so far as to say I loved it.

That evening we went out out with Sacha (the director of the School) and his girlfriend Natasha. First we had Vietnamese. And now a word now about the service. Natasha got her starter at the same time as her main, Tim got his main after we'd finished and when I got my main the waiter said I had to wait ten minutes for the rice to go with it! Why he didn't tell me that 10 minutes earlier, I don't know. Its not rocket science people! Got over that and went to this crazy party...

Sacha drove in his crazy Russian way, which is basically completely illegal and like Popeye Doyle in The French Connection and we got to this weird broken down warehouse. There were girls with big hair and next to nothing on giving out free beers, a car outside with a video in the boot playing awful house music and loads of photographers. On stage to begin with 2 skinny girls danced badly to the terrible music. One was wearing tiny pants and a top. All the Eurotrash were dancing in the way only Russians can and I was immediately feeling like this was exactly the place I never wanted in my entire life to find myself. Then the Russian hip hop group came on.

The Miller girls started dancing out of time to them, guys who couldn't see a thing in their sun glasses started flicking their arms around like gay down syndrome suffererers and I pursuaded Tim to leave, who was in the same mood as me. Sacha, it turned out had left after a night of arguing with Natasha.

We got a taxi back. It cost 2 quid.

The Chimes of Big Ben

Second day in Moscow: First I wandered around in a bit of a daze, looking at all the strange signs, dust flying about and went to the 'British School of Higher Art and Design' where I'll be working, via Metro. Loads of people, cramming on to ancient looking trains, completely inscrutable signs. Got to crack the alphabet.

All the girls are really skinny here, they make English girls look rather porky. Note that there aren't fried chicken shops on every corner. Some are even pretty, although this is rare. All dress 'distinctively' in the oddest combinations. Terrible fake Versace, gold bits and all. Bad jeans, eighties suits. Saw one Russian guy check out a couple of girls and walk straight into a billboard like on YBF.

College is really nice and modern, met my colleagues, some can speak english, some can't. Feels good there, very creative and comfortable. I reckon I'll enjoy it. Worked with a couple of students, including Tutu (Ekaterina Tyutyunnik) who I met in England. Her typography sketchbook was awesome. She'd also illustrated a childrens book. Tim said that she basically lives at the studio and she at one point did an experiment where she stayed at the studio for three weeks, not sleeping. She's not crazy then...

Made some alphabet flash cards. I'm getting there now. I'll give you an example of the craziness of the alpabet. 'Pectopah' is 'restaurant'. P is R, H is N, C is S and E is YE. So you get Ryestoran. That's basically what they do with words. Approximate them with Russian letters. When you find a word that you recognise its a nice little moment.

Went out and had Moroccan for dinner. There was a belly dancer. Russians are unbelievably dreadful dancers.

Touristy things tomorrow:

stay classy England.