What There Isn’t Is What There Is

Content advisory 18+ There is a song called "The Boxer" by a once-famous duo (and deservedly so) in America known as Simon & Garfunkel. One line goes as follows: "... Still, a man sees what he wants to see and disregards the rest." Another valuable (for me) insight is provided by William Blake: "The eye, altering, alters all" -- the beautiful language of which can be a bit confusing until … Read the rest

Megapolis of a Different Kind (The Fields of Bliznatsi)

Content advisory 16+ Walking in the valley this morning with Poppy and Casper, we came across a dead forest dog. They are small creatures and you could not describe them as beautiful -- they seem almost deformed and probably lead lives of great deprivation at certain times of the year. At night, they set up a great plaintive howl in unison, and it seems they are creeping closer to our … Read the rest

Soap Operas and Redneck Morality Plays

Content advisory 18+ Have you noticed that when one couple or family invites other couples or families as guests, they try to present a positive image? It doesn't always work out that way -- sometimes the grim and gritty truth of mounting disaffection spills out spectacularly over the dinner table and someone (usually female) flees the room in "flood of tears" (to use the British expression). But usually, the hosts … Read the rest

India’s Daughters; An Overview

Content advisory 18+ Being a woman is not easy. Being a woman in India is even tougher. Invariably, you are going to be subjected to so much discrimination since birth, that it eventually becomes the norm.

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Discrimination starts even before you are born. Pregnant women are made to undergo antenatal check-ups not to detect fetal abnormalities, but to find out the gender of the baby. And if it’s a girl, … Read the rest

A Long Night’s Journey Into Day

Content advisory 18+ F. Scott Fitzgerald (author of "The Great Gatsby") was, like many artists, an unstable person and drunkard. He was never among my favorite authors; nevertheless, amid his many collapses and psychological crack-ups (having Hemingway as a 'friend' probably didn't help), he came up with a single line I always remember. He said: "In a real dark night of the soul, it is always 3 o'clock in the … Read the rest

The Narrow Road to the Far North

Content advisory 16+ I was having a spirited conversation today, early, with a really bright man -- he was frying breakfast eggs while talking with me on Skype (the ONLY way to eat breakfast !) -- about the best way to go about living one's life.

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Of course, the thing about this very bright man (aged 47 and me -- a stout 69 as of today, 8 May--) is that … Read the rest

Victory Day Among the Spoils

Content advisory 18+ Thinking to write about the up-and-coming "Victory Day" in Russia on 9 May (the whole world celebrates it today, 8th May - Artem), I decided to consult Artem regarding the wisdom of saying ANYTHING negative. And since I am not one to mince words whatever the subject, this was quite a concession for me to make.

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The reason for my indecisiveness stems from the enormous … Read the rest

Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo

Content advisory 18+ I used to believe that the world of “surfaces” which we usually navigate is a false world -- a superficial icing on a cake of deep and interwoven ingredients. I used to think that, in order to maximize my experience of life, I had to somehow “get to the bottom of it” -- as my old English teachers would have us plumb the depths of this or … Read the rest

How Not To Waste Your Life

Content advisory 18+ In America, guys approaching or just past 40 (In Russia it is 30, according to my friends) are always having what is known as "the mid-life crisis". I never had it because I never grew up and never wanted to deal with anything as boring as 'adult responsibilities'. Well, I jest, but maybe it says something about me that for my last Happy New Year gifts, I … Read the rest

JUST SAY NO ! (to drugs and thugs)

Content advisory 18+ When I used to write a lot for SNOB (a once-promising project that I came to by chance in 2009 or '10), they always wanted me to present the point of view of a foreigner who had been in Russia for a while. Not as some guy who just got off the boat (there are no boats) and looking for polar bears in Red Square, or who … Read the rest

The Dawns and Twilights of Offices

“What did I know, what did I know
Of love’s austere and lonely offices?”
Robert Hayden, Those Winter Sundays

Content advisory 18+ Somehow I found myself reading ancient Chinese poetry translated into English. This was years ago. The other day I tried to relocate some of those verses, but not a chance. There is plenty of ancient Chinese poetry to be had, but not the ones I remembered.

beverage books contemporary 904616_result  Here is … Read the rest

Don’t worry, It’s coming to Your town soon!

Content advisory 16+ Back in the days when bottled water first appeared en masse in America, I recall that a lot of people just shook their heads and mused: "What will be next? They'll start selling us air?" And everyone would nod in amusement at such a preposterous notion.

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Well, muse and smile and nod no more. IT'S HERE !! So, today, as a follow-up to my blog posted Friday … Read the rest

Demoralizator, or Hello, monkey!

Content advisory 18+ I decided to start writing my posts in English as well as in Russian. Why so? Well, I’m here for the future, and English is an international language. I honestly think that limiting yourself just to one language is a demonstration of laziness…or stagnation, or stubbornness.

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Many nations consider themselves as indisputably ‘great’, forgetting the darker sides of their history, ignoring the fact, amid the shifting … Read the rest

Imagine Empire

Content advisory 18+ Imagine walking down the street in spring, dust sifting through the air, horns of impatient cars blasting, sad people rushing towards old buildings, tensions of all sorts smoldering in the air.


Imagine people fainting because of hydrogen sulphide in the atmosphere, and lamenting their choice to buy apartments in such a miasma.


Imagine your salary dropping down 50% two years ago, and 20% more today, … Read the rest

Where Torches Burn

Content advisory 18+ The other day a friend of mine was trying to explain something during a lesson we were having on Skype. He is a 49-year-old Russian businessman who used to live in America. He is very pro-American, or, shall I say, pro-West, in terms of what he considers its more highly evolved way of life. BUT he is Russian at heart, which I can only explain (to myself … Read the rest

The Summer of ‘18’

Content advisory 18+ When I think about the two great wars of the 20th century, my memory is of course fed by all the ghastly footage that is on hand to help us relive the horrors. As most of this documentary stuff is cast in film noir style black and white, the effect is even more sinister than it would be otherwise. Soldiers frozen in paralytic agony as bullets rip … Read the rest

The Strange Hero Beside Me

Content advisory 18+ A good question is this: how much do we really want to know about the people we have the highest regard for? This can include our parents, husbands and wives, the president of the country, the highest priests, and all our favorite football heroes and film stars. It could include Jesus Christ himself.


Assuming there ever was a real man Jesus -- the one many worship as … Read the rest

The Good Old Days

Content advisory 18+ What differences are there between friendships that are mostly face-to-face and those that are mostly online?"

So ran one of the questions in a student book that formed the basis of my Skype lesson this morning with a fellow named Roman, who has studied with me since 2009. He was Pre-Intermediate then, and now we have gone through five or six Advanced level books together. Most of … Read the rest

The Dark Side of Cyberspace

Age advisory 18+ I have a new friend in a nearby village called Priseltsi (Bulgaria) who has a successful business in Varna selling very stylish and often flamboyant hats. The hats are actually made in Priseltsi and sold in Varna. Theater groups use her work as well as individuals. Both my wife and I are proud owners of one hat apiece. Mine is a white cowboy hat and Liuba's looks … Read the rest

The Last Refuge of Scoundrels

Content advisory 18+ The great old Englishman Samuel Johnson of the 18th century (back when Englishmen were worthy of the name) once declared that "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."


It is hard for me to know if that statement is comprehensible to all of my readers, so, without meaning to be patronizing, let me break it down. It means, basically, that when an individual has forfeited, through … Read the rest