Saturday, January 30, 2010

Тихий Океан

Опробовал видеокамеру на берегу Тихого Океана в Half Moon Bay (California) несколько часов назад.
На моем домашнем экране качество картинки изумительное. Похоже на то, что передо мной окно прямо на океан. Не уверен, как будет смотреться через Youtube...

Friday, January 29, 2010

Hospitable park in San Francisco

Табличка на входе в один из парков в Сан Франциско.
Поневоле задумаешься, заходить ли в такой парк или лучше - ну его...

Monday, January 25, 2010

Burnt by the Sun

This weekend I was introduced to two "classic" Russian films: Burnt by the Sun and Brother 2. First of all, let me define the word "classic" in the sense that I am using it. These movies are both, supposedly, quoted an incredible amount by Russian citizens, and since I am trying to learn as much about Russian (pop) culture as possible, I decided to add these movies to my archive.

Burnt by the Sun is truly art if I have ever seen it. The film starts out as though it will be predictable, but ends with an interesting curve to the plot as the main character realizes that his hero (Stalin) may actually be his villain, rather than his savior.

The movie takes place during the reign of Stalin in Russia, and it's purpose is to show the horror that was faced by even the most loyal followers and warlords of that time. The title , "Burnt by the Sun" is probably symbolism for the idea that the main character (Nikita Mikhalkov) became so blinded by his loyalty that he was unable to see the terror that was taking place in front of him, and was "burned" by Stalin in the end.

To show Mikhalkov's blindness, one scene shows Mikhalkov having a relaxing afternoon by the river with his family, when they are all forced to interrupt their fun to have a mandatory military drill, which includes gas masks, stretchers, and evacuations. Some of the characters show their distaste for these drills, while others are playful and try to laugh them off, despite their allowed annoyance. Mikhalkov brushes off the incident as a normal, civil requirement.

In another scene, Mikhalkov acts playful and unmoved by the news that he will be picked up by a government car in just a few hours. This again shows his naiveness to the fact that Stalin will not always protect him. It is only when Kotov (Mikhalkov) sees Stalin's magestic banner waving in the blue sky, that he understands his loyalty was given for nothing.

Mikhalkov does an excellent job portraying the war hero, Kotov. He acts as a loving father to his young daughter, Nadia, and a nobel husband to his beautiful wife, Moroussia, despite her obvious attachment to another man. Kotov is extremely likable in the movie, and it is very easy to feel sorry for him as the plot starts to unravel near the end. The irony is that Kotov is highly ranked in the Communist Revolution, which should make him a villian in the eyes of history, not a "good family man".

All of the characters are interesting and properly portrayed by their actors. The plot is very engaging and full of surprises after the climax. The directing is done tastefully, despite the obvious attempts to glorify Russia. There is a nice balance between love, humor, and a dark seriousness in the film, which make it very entertaining for any viewer. I highly recommend this film to anyone interested in the history of Russia, or anyone who enjoys high quality, non-traditional story lines.

Out of 10, I would rate this film an 8.

Side Note:

After I watched the movie and explained to Lyosha how I felt about it, he told me that it won an Oscar for best foreign film, AND the adorable Nadia (the daughter of Kotov) is Mikhalkov's actual daughter :)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Remembering Soviet Union

Наткнулся на интересную статью про Советский Союз 70х-80х годов. Крайне рекомендую к прочтению: Воспоминания о совке

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Смерть бодишопам.

USCIS, видимо, прочитал мою давнюю статью "Что такое бодишоп" о том, что софтверные h1b-бодишопы - это зло. :)
А может им еще кто сказал. Главное, что бодишопам, возможно, настала хана.

Судя по разрозненным откликам в интернете, гайки понемногу начали затягивать уж минимум полгода, но теперь все зафиксировано официально:

Отныне USCIS четко требует, чтобы разрешение на работу (которое часто называют "h1b", хотя на самом деле h1b - это виза и статус, которые оформляются на основе work permit) - так вот, чтобы это разрешение было оформлено на компанию, где на самом деле работает сотрудник, а не на рабовладельца ака "бодишоп". Напомню типичную схему H1B-бодишопов: тушки (программисты) завозятся занедорого из дешевых стран вагонами, потом бодишоп ищет контракты и сдает работников "внаем" по часам. При этом разрешение оформлено на компанию-бодишоп, хотя реально сотрудник может годами сидеть в другом штате и работать на тот же IBM, Гугл или кого угодно.
Что подразумевается под "компания, где на самом деле работает сотрудник", расписано очень четко, в 11 пунктах - см. ссылку выше.

Это должно убить все бодишопы, живущие за счет H1B, на корню. Возможно, кто-то из них перестроится, но большинство должно умереть (надеюсь, вместе с владельцами). И система H1B вернется в человеческое состояние: прямой работодатель, которому сильно нужен конкретный высококвалифицированный специалист из-за границы, сможет оформить разрешение, не мучаясь из-за того, что индусские бодишопы сожрали всю годовую квоту в 65000 виз за один день. По крайней мере, похоже, что так все задумано. Как выйдет на деле - скоро узнаем...

(Кстати, в 2009 году годовую квоту израсходовали только в конце декабря, т.е. за 9 месяцев вместо 1 дня, как предыдущие 2 года. Но этот факт не отменяет того, что схема H1B была дико abused бодишопами).

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

New Years 2010

From New Years 2010

New Years 2010 will never be forgotten in my mind. Not only was it my first New Years spent with Lyosha, it was also my first spent in the snow.

From the moment New Years holiday was mentioned for the first time by Lyosha, it was made clear to me that it would be spent in the snow, most likely in Tahoe. I did not object to this suggestion because I thought it would be romantic, and I also wanted to be involved with anything which could help me to better understand the culture from which my new beau had emerged. A couple of weeks before New Years our sleeping plans were decidedly changed after an eventful weekend at the original cabin of choice. After working out monetary details with 2 of my roommates, we all finally decided to book a hotel for 2 nights in South Lake Tahoe. As I said before, I have never been to Tahoe for New Years, so the location of the hotel was mainly decided by my roommates and the proximity to the casinos. We ended up taking two separate cars to Tahoe after there was a horrible confusion with our original plans to rent an SUV, but in the end it worked out for the best.

On December 31, 2009 Lyosha and I arrived in chilly Tahoe and checked in to our hotel before my roommates showed up. The room wasn't glamorous, but it was comfortable and it was warm. Also, with a little help from some Christmas lights, the room quickly became quite festive so I could not complain. The beds were not big, but at least there were 2 of them and Lyosha and I certainly did not mind cuddling.

After my roommates arrived nearly 2 hours after Alyosha and I, we immediately began mixing drinks and getting ready for the big night. All 3 of us ladies somehow managed to match very well, all wearing black and silver dresses. Kory brought "Happy New Year" crowns for all of us (including Lyosha), which we wore throughout the night and helped us to keep an eye out for each other in big crowds.

After a few hours of makeup, changing shoes, drinking and laughing, we were ready to venture out into the snow. Luckily, before heading outside, Lyosha persuaded us girls that we needed to wear jackets, which we were all very thankful for after less than 1 minute of shivering in our tiny outfits. We could not book a taxi, so after standing in front of our hotel for 20 minutes with our thumbs in the air and being repeatedly disappointed by cars full of men honking as they drove past, we decided to walk.

Typically on New Years, I am with my family or my closest friends and we try to stay home away from the cold. I have never lived in the snow, so the type of cold that I was experiencing last weekend was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. My favorite celebrations in the past always consisted of family, lots of champagne and other festive alcoholic drinks, fireworks, watching the ball drop in Times Square on ABC, mistletoe, huge amounts of delicious food, and New Years resolutions. I have also been to big parties in college, but they are not nearly as interesting as small ones with my closest family and friends.

Arms linked, the 4 of us marched forward, trying to drown out the freezing cold temperatures and the immature suggestions shouted out by cars full of American pigs. After a few minutes I became immune to the cold and my body efficiently built up a numbness which shielded me from the torture. The icy sidewalks were less than ideal for our heels, but this we also grew used to over time. We didn't know exactly where we were going, but we didn't know of any Russian parties in the area either, so we figured we would find some Russians among the crowds in the casinos and make plans from there. Finally, after about 20 minutes of walking, we spotted the casinos. We had to plow through fences of security guards, but after they let us through we had the heart of Tahoe at our feet.

I have never been too fond of casinos. First of all, I HATE the smell of smoke, and second, I hate being surrounded by people who waste their life savings on stupid machines or card tables with tempting dealers in sexy bikinis trying to lure in pitiful, unsuspecting men. Call me practical, but isn't working a normal job a much more satisfying way to earn money?

After just a few minutes in one casino, I was already starting to feel my disappointment set in. I thought it would be interesting to spend New Years in a different setting than usual, but after all was said and done, I would have much rather preferred staying home with friends and doing the same types of things I do every year.

After a couple of hours spent walking around, we finally ended up in the first casino where we had started. My roommates found two dance partners and Lyosha and I went in search of some champagne for the midnight toast. With just 15 minutes before the clock struck 12, Lyosha and I finally gave up on the champagne because every bar had at least 50 people waiting in front of us. At midnight, however, champagne was the last thing on my mind as Lyosha and I danced and embraced each other as we brought in the new year with a passionate kiss. I cannot explain how proud I was to have him standing in front of me and holding me the way a man should hold his girl, as though he was proud of me as well.

As the romance of the moment wore off, Kory and Melaney went back to dancing and Lyosha and I decided that we needed to breathe something other than smoke for a while. It was freezing outside in the snow, but the cold seemed more bearable when compared to Nicotine swamped air.

After a few minutes we decided to go back and find my roommates, but when we could not spot them on the dance floor, we decided to head back to the hotel by ourselves. We did not make much attempt to flag down a taxi because we assumed it would take just as much time standing around as it would to just walk again. In no time at all, we were back in our hotel and the first thing I did was remove my shoes and dress. Lyosha tried to thaw out my ears and my hands with his warm skin, but in the end I still needed to take a warm shower to warm my body completely. We had tea and he made sandwiches for us, which settled perfectly in my empty tummy. After a few unanswered phone calls and text messages to my roommates, Lyosha and I finally decided to go to sleep.

As far as I am concerned, this is where New Years ended for me because the rest of the night was a disaster which will only be remembered as a nightmare for me. No one got hurt, but I have never felt that worried in my life and I can't remember a time when I have gone without that much sleep before. I still love my roommates, but I was very unhappy with them that night. We all left the next day after canceling our second night at the hotel, and New Years 2010 will never be forgotten. Hopefully 2011 will give me a real Russian celebration!

Peace ya'll!

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Barber of Siberia

Last night I was introduced to one of the Russian classics, "The Barber of Siberia," and I was asked to give an honest, unbiased review of the film. Please keep in mind that I am not the best film critic and many of my favorites consist of brainless romantic comedies, however, I have seen many films which have left an imprint on my brain and which I hold high esteem for, such as: Schindler's List, The Shawshank Redemption, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Casablanca, The Green Mile, Seabiscuit, etc. This in mind, here goes my first movie review...

After the movie started, my first thought was that it must be an old movie, based on the camera views and acting. After Lyosha assured me that it was not that old, my criticism began to ease and I started to view the movie as purely a source of entertainment, rather than art.

All of the actors were mediocre in the film. The only two which seemed relatively convincing were Douglas McCracken and the General, who both seemed to be stereotypical drunks of Russia.

The movie is supposed to be a love story, however, I was less than convinced that there was any hint of love or other emotions being transferred from one character to the next. When the idea of love was mentioned for the first time, I was rather confused because I did not understand where it was coming from.

The plot itself was very entertaining, especially for someone who is unfamiliar with Russian traditions. I understand that the director of the film is famous for his attempts to glorify Russia, but he did it in a tasteful and fun manner. Full of snow, alcohol, fights, explosions, and hormone driven men, this movie is truly a good laugh. Although it was entirely predictable (as most movies are), Nikita Mikhalkov proved that even unoriginal story lines can be satisfying.

I don't know how much truth there is to any of the traditions mentioned in the movie, but I would recommend this movie to anyone who is interested in Russian culture, as there is not one hint of unhappiness portrayed by the country or it's inhabitants, only cheerful citizens and beautiful scenery. Out of a possible 10, I would rate this movie a 6 or 7.

ps If you have any other Russian movie recommendations, please don't hesitate to share them!