My mother passed away a few months ago. She was very ill in the '90s, almost died twice and then came back, so to speak, so I used to cherish every moment with her like a gift. I even wondered sometimes whether I became so interested in all things Russian precisely because I somehow wanted to imagine a chunk of her youth. She had learned Russian in school and liked it, so when I told her that I started to listen Russian music and to understand a few words, she was glad and even wrote me a birthday card calling me Весночка (I was born in spring). I was delighted in 2008 when I went to Moscow, because I knew she would like to hear my stories and see my pictures from there.

Below are some songs among so many others that were on my mp3 player in the happy years when she was around. When I listen to them I see a lot of places, all of them happy places because she was around. I used to listen a lot of Russian music while I was going to visit her and then when I was going back to my home, while I was doing shopping for her, while I was in the kitchen cooking for her, while I sat on the balcony of our old house at night, trying to remember the park and the stars and the blocks of flats as they looked when I was a child. Many sunny days when I went out to buy groceries or clothes or gifts for her and I was so happy that I almost danced on the street. Many cold and snowy days when I felt so lucky because she was alive and I could visit her and cheer her up and decorate a little Christmas tree for her.

And no, I wasn't beside her when she passed away. I was away on vacation, because I have feared so much that I could lose her someday that I ended up by rejecting this thought like it were an impossibility. How foolish I was.

DDT - 180 cm


Nautilus Pompilius - Zver

Auktsyon - Vecher moi


Kino - Konchitsya leto

Inna Zhelannaya - Mama


Nastya - Na schastye

Impuls (Vadim Samoilov before Agata Kristi) - Listopad


Akvarium - Severnyi svet

GrOb - Nochyu


DDT - Beda



I happened to see "Brat" 1 - 2 and "Syostry" a few days ago and felt almost ridiculously proud to recognize almost all the songs on the soundtrack, even the CDs bought and played by Danila (RIP Sergey Bodrov). I vaguely remember that I had previously seen "Brat 2" on TV, maybe 10 years ago, having no idea who Butusov and Nastya were and what's with all the music that the main character was so fond of. Then in 2005-2006, when I came to know a thing or two about Russian rock, I saw the clip of the song "Pulya" by Agata Kristi, but this time I had no idea what movie was it from :)

And since one song leads to another, various other songs have woken up in my mind, out of the blue. When "Deseat' strel'" woke up, I searched for it on Youtube and discovered its newest performance, at the June 10th concert in Moscow. Now this was really a gift of fate! So here are two of my favorite songs:


Odna ruka, odna golova...

I wish to thank this guy for having removed pretty quickly some of the most gruesome pictures I've ever seen. One of them showed a broken arm and hand, far from the nearest crushed body. It could be anyone's - a Russian, a foreigner, one of the terrorists, a man, a woman. Someone twitted yesterday that now the blood of terrorists has desecrated the airport (only that we can't distinguish between their blood and the innocents' blood). Then came the news about the head of the "Arab" (how did they know it was the bomber and not a passenger?) and now the gruesome picture of the severed head.

As always, death makes people look the same and mixes their limbs with a lot of ridiculous sadism. But the way we value, respect and care for our bodies and the bodies of the others, dead or alive, shows our humanity and protects us from this sadism. A suicide bomber is terrifying and despicable firstly because he or she doesn't care at all for his or her own body and gets rid of it when it explodes like one gets rid of an useless rag, unworthy of burial and mourning. No solidarity between a man (woman) who is reduced to only one dimension (the suicide mission) and the unique body that carried his thoughts, feelings, pleasures and illnesses for so many years, the body that carried his childhood and youth. And the more a man tries to imitate death, using weapons that terrify by the body count and manage to destroy bodies and reduce them to numbers, the more he strips himself of his humanity. A person that reduces himself or herself to a mere weapon is the logical consequence of this.

So a newspaper or blog shouldn't publish gruesome pictures of destroyed bodies, seen simply as collections of pixels meant to bring web traffic and money. The guy on Twitter removed the grisly pictures, including the one of the broken arm, because exposing them would have been disrespectful to all the victims. However, LifeNews.ru published a picture and a video of the severed head of the "Arab" terrorist. Surely, they did it because the authorities allowed this - the head is like a war trophy and serves to persuade the people that they are somehow in control - but mainly because they felt no need to show respect to a corpse of a man who freely accepted to reduce himself to a mere weapon and treated his own body as an object. All the more moving is that someone who commented on the article talked to him, trying to imagine a man with rational thoughts, beyond all the madness: "Смертник,,очем думал последние минуты ,,о нивинных людях?"

May all of you be healthy and well, my friends. And may your country be protected from other such tragedies!!

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Druzya moskvichi

I hope you're all well and healthy.
May God protect you and your families and your city and your country and help you cope with this tragedy.
May the victims rest in peace and no more harm be done to anyone.

I wish I were a giant, to take your city in my arms and hug it and wipe all the tears and take away all the sorrow inside it. My dears!

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Moya Moskva

Maybe the most unexpected and memorable thing that happened to me last year was a short trip to Moscow, as part of a work assignment (a few interviews for a feature about expat managers in Moscow - yes, the crisis was not talked about at that time). Two full working days, with very little time for walking and the city seen mostly through the car windows. I spoke a little about it here and here and since then I didn't find enough time not only to write about it, but not even to update this journal or to read the friends list, because I had some very tough months - and I'm sorry for keeping silent for so long.

Now that I'm here again on LJ, browsing the few pics that I've took then, I remember everything as if it were yesterday; I didn't talk too much about that trip, because people want to know mainly how is Moscow from an economic point of view - prices, street fashion, urban development, tourism, signs of wealth, while I was interested in the traces of its history, the soul of the place, the people. It is indeed how I've imagined; all that has been happening to the whole Eastern Europe in the last 20 years can be seen here as through some magnifying lenses, and when you come home, you understand better your own life as an Eastern European through this recent history.

Our car stopped once at a semaphore, near Belyi Dom, and in my head was the memory of this, just as it is sung. The deeper the suffering, the greater the pride, the wisdom, the madness, the kindness, the struggle to keep one's identity, beyond old Soviet signs, Starbucks cafes, triumphant banner ads and new monuments that steal the eye of tourists. I know the looks of the people who were waiting for a bus on that windy morning and the looks of the teens who were later sitting and drinking on the small streets of Arbat. For a Western eye, probably all of them would have seemed unfriendly, if not completely inexpressive. Our driver saw the first drops of rain and said, as if to himself, with his shy and inexpressive smile: "daa, nebo plaachet". And yes, my heart is still there.

S Novym Godom, Moskva!


If I were to name a single good personal reason to love America, this would be Sparks. I mean, the two brothers from California, Ron and Russell Mael. It's hard to write about such strange musicians, who started in the '70s as glam-rockers, evolved as pioneers of new wave and synth-pop, experimented with disco and electronic dance and define themselves as a pop act, though their sophisticated and cerebral lyrics and complex sound are the farthest possible from what pop music usually accepts.

Like many people in continental Europe, I found out about them only because of their great album "Gratuitous Sax and Senseless Violins", from 1994, and rediscovered them thanks to "Lil Beethoven" (2002) and "Hello Young Lovers' (2006). The new Sparks were different and even better and much more refined after all these years. I like to see here the symbolic world of American pop culture facing the European one (the Maels themselves have always loved Europe) and the old world of American pop culture facing the new, darker America, with all the nostalgy, melancholy, detachment, grace, irony and mockery that these songs can incorporate.

And now they have a new album, "Exotic Creatures of the Deep" - again an album for repeated listenings, with many layers of sound and meaning. These definitely ageless people had the unusual idea of promoting this album by a series of 21 consecutive concerts in London - a gig for each of their 21 albums, ending on June 13 with the latest one. I hope that my capricious Internet connection will help me to watch at least a part of the live streaming of their latest three concerts here.

This "Good Morning" is the first single of "Exotic Creatures" (lyrics of the album are here, covers here and here). A review says that it's a cynical song about an old man who remembers a one night stand, another says that it's a hilarious song about a drunkard who can't remember what he did last night. But I guess that, like the other songs on the album, this one is about cultural cliches and their mechanics that "monkey" the reality. If you mock them too harshly, you'll end up by mocking and devaluing the very reality (love, loneliness, pleasure, art, beauty, humanity), as long as cliches are structuring the reality up to the point that without them it may seem unbearable or worthless. The forbidden, loved and idealized fruit may be only a banana in the hand of a monkey, but well, we all come from monkeys and end up by behaving accordingly, whatever this may mean.


Nado tolko vypit' more

Thanks to forum.rrock.ru, I listened to the new (and forgettable) album of Vyacheslav Butusov. Some forumists said that Butusov turned pop, because the album doesn't even remind the listener of any old albums of Nautilus, while others praised the album because of its technical excellence. Elsewhere, commenting the last album of Krematorii, another forumist says that nobody should expect anymore "hits" in the realm of Russian rock, but only quality and enough good songs, because the times have changed - "не та страна, не тот портвейн и драйв уже не тот".

In 2005, were it not for the generous site of Agata Kristi, I wouldn't have known anything about the world of Russian rock. Agata was indeed a good starting point for such a trip. I liked their desperate and nonchalant songs, drowned in dark electronic sounds, with those "so Russian" sound of synthesizers, sharp and melodic. Thanks to them I understood something about the Russian '90s and, somehow in a vicarious way, I also understood something about my own past - the foggy '90s of all Eastern Europe, with high hopes and painful dissapointments about the post-Communist events, with cheap clothes, cheap bars with ads for Coke or chewing gum, naive Westernization and cheerful craziness.
Indeed, in a curious way, Nautilus Pompilius, Kino, Aria, Tsentr, Akvarium (in this order) and many others also led me to recover this past - and to glimpse further into the '80s, an even more foggy epoch, a completely other life, almost like in a dream. Not that I would ever have had such an intention (on the contrary, I wanted only to listen something new and unknown), but, well, it happened. Again in a curious way, nothing in the Western rock, folk or new wave from these epochs can do this in such a way.

Now, the site of Agata Kristi is much less friendly, almost like the website of a corporation, and their previous craziness is gone. Instead of a new album, they issued anew their old albums, this time with fashionable covers made by the Lebedev crew; no doubt, the sound has all the required technical excellence. Maybe the forumists are right and maybe Butusov or Krematorii are right too in what they are doing now. Neither the '90s, nor the '80 are to be regretted. But is the present time so lackluster as to deserve only quality and enough good songs?