Sixteen people to not hang out with in 2016

Sixteen people to not hang out with in 2016

Happy New Year!

I’ve been accused of being “too negative” around the blogosphere lately. “Cheer up, Natalia,” a bunch of you are saying. “Stop using indelicate words and hating on people quite as much.” I’m sure most of you have a point. But since none of you will read me if I’m going to go all zen and peace-love-and-incense-sticks on you this year (admit it. It’s true), here’s a definitive list of people you should resolve to avoid in 2016 (and all subsequent years too).  Continue reading “Sixteen people to not hang out with in 2016”

All the king’s sweets (a song for overgrown children)

All the king’s sweets (a song for overgrown children)

When you walk out into this night
You will find what you’re looking for
– Or maybe a little bit more.

Gunpowder on a stick
So sweet that it hurts to lick;
A border where lace confronts thigh
Patrolled by a a jealous eye;
A star in the forehead,
A golden sieve,
And all you can see
Is all you believe.

My darling, I took the rather bold step
Of stabbing the dragon
With a pen
In the back.
But nobody comes
And nobody cares,
I’m alone with the beast
I have not taken care.
He’s rather amused, giggling into his gold,
He’s not shy with his smile
Though his fangs smell like rot.

My darling, other heroes will come,
To fuck all the women, to drink all the rum;
I will not be among them, I was silly, it seems,
My bones will be toothpicks,
My memory will dim.
They’ll make armor from dragon scales
And wear it down to the pub
While my scattered molecules
Still demand all the credit.
(I told you, I’m silly,
I told you, it hurts)

You keep trying to reach me
Through other men
When they put their hands
On my exposed neck.
I wish you would fucking stop it,
But honey runs thicker than water.

This is my city, and I won’t share,
I’ll scrape the moonlight off the asphalt
I’ll pack away the flaxen air.
You’re only allowed
To exhale.

I told you, being a wife
I’m as dull as a butter knife,
Dull blades hurt so much more;
The last czar’s daughters would know.

Pearls of moisture
Gleam like satellites
In the spiderwebs
Between the trees at night.

Pearls of moisture
On my skin
Swiped by a burglar
As my years grew thin.

When we were young
We didn’t know
Our lover was night;
Night was the cream on the upper lip
Clotted to butter
From body heat;
Night was the watcher
On the cemetery wall;
Night was the angel
In the hospital hall;
Paint peeling off walls
Like silks off your mistress,
Tell me, who among us
Would dare take it all back?

very long engagement

Mikhalkov’s “12”: One of the most glorious moments in modern Russian cinema


I don’t think you even need to like this movie in order to feel goosebumps crawling up your arms as you watch this one. If you can’t read the Russian subtitles and don’t understand Chechen, the kid expresses admiration for the knife, and the man gives it to him. After the dance, the kid’s wary father calls him home. The kid says that he’s sorry, he’s being called to do homework. The man answers with a pretty terrifying and accurate line,

“Don’t worry, boy, there will be enough of this war left over for you too.”

These are Chechen fighters, in a movie made in a post-Beslan world. And the beauty portrayed here cuts through all that. I never expected a conservative Russian filmmaker such as Nikita Mikhalkov to shoot a scene that can humanize and illuminate and goddamn it, hotify (from the word “hot” – the word “beautify” will not do) this particular group of people in a way that no amount of political debate can match. This scene is not didactic. Instead of being buggered by an agenda, you are enveloped in the intimacy of a childhood memory that stands apart from rhetoric. It’s a Lolita moment, in the sense of a work of art twinkling like a star through the fog of social commentary that immediately gets heaped upon it due to its very nature. You respond to it as an individual.

A (cranky) fellow writer recently told me, “how racist! What ‘ethnic’ people just randomly break out into dance? What kind of BS…” I had to interrupt him there, because I do actually randomly break out into dance. I’ve done it on sidewalks while waiting for a bus with my cousin, and on Independence Square with my uncle’s drunk brother, and countless other times, which I won’t mention, because I blog under my real name.

I can’t do the lezginka, but I sure as hell can shake my bum or wave my scarf when I get in the mood, which is often. When I do it, it’s not an artform, and it won’t give you goosebumps (in fact, it will probably just make you raise your eyebrow like that mustachioed guy in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and say “I weep for the future”), but if the above scene is racist, then so is my life. You know being an “ethnic” person in someone else’s eyes, and all.

Leaving me aside, it’s not at all abnormal for groups of people to break out in traditional dance. I’ve seen it happen in Brooklyn, Montmartre, and the legendary Borshagovka. They don’t always do it as beautifully as above, but they do it nonetheless.

I’d like to have a world with more dancing. The more people dance, the less time they have to kill each other.

Happy Victory Day! – С Днем Победы!

My grandmother started crying on the phone:

“I don’t want you to ever know what it’s like to hear the shelling and know that it’s coming for you.”

War is banal and blind and savage and ultimately meaningless. But there is still something to smile about today, at least for me. If only because its survivors had children, and those children had children, and one of them was me, and another one was my beautiful baby brother. And there’s a reason why we’re here, and we’ll spend the rest of our lives finding out what that reason may be.

Here’s the chorus of the song we shared with our Allies (the text is not strictly the same, but the tune is identical, and the general gist of the song has been preserved in the Russian version):

“Comin’ In On A Wing And A Prayer
Comin’ In On A Wing And A Prayer
Though there’s one motor gone, we can still carry on,
Comin’ In On A Wing And A Prayer

What a show! What a fight!
Yes, we really hit our target for tonight!
How we sing as we limp thru the air
Look below, there’s our field over there

With our full crew aboard and our trust in the Lord
We’re Comin’ In On A Wing And A Prayer”

“Мы летим, ковыляя во мгле,
Мы ползем на последнем крыле.
Бак пробит, хвост горит и машина летит
На честном слове и на одном крыле…”

Ну, дела! Ночь была!
Их объекты разбомбили мы до тла.

Мы ушли, ковыляя во мгле,
мы к родной подлетаем земле.
Вся команда цела, и машина пришла
На честном слове и на одном крыле”

And here’s a video of Chizh & Co. doing a song that features both the English and the Russian words (the accents are awesome, I’ve decided – makes me wish I still had mine):

(I would have liked to include the live version of this one more, since it’s Chizh himself who sings the English part there as well, but alas, YouTube failed me on that count…

Nevertheless, bud’mo!)