Karaoke in Russia

I just got back from Moscow.  It was the best trip I have ever had there.  Heck, it was one of the best trips for work that I have ever had – not to mention one that involved a trade show.  I discovered a new facet of the Russian people that I’ve never seen before.  As it turns out, they have an intense love of karaoke.  Bad, shameless karaoke, to be exact.  For three days in a trade show booth, I watched as the proud people of the Russian Federation butchered English language songs – all in the name of promoting a new English teaching product.

Did I mention I got paid to do this?  Between that and the Russian models hocking all sorts of Internet goods, it was pretty awesome.  Not to mention, the product got promoted.

That’s Capitalism, comrade.

Opulent Yeliseyev Grocery Store on Tverskaya – Moscow, Russia

Moscow Digital ClockI have been in Moscow for the past few days on business and have cemented my opinion of the city.  It’s big, hard and completely impenetrable to somebody like me.  That being said, amid all of the rabid consumerism, stern faces and horrible traffic, the city still has a trick or two up its sleeve.  On this trip, the first trick was a beacon of Moscow’s future – in the form of a digital clock.  The clock shines futuristically on the side of a building in “Moscow City,” the new, skyscraper-laden area of the town.  For awhile, much of the progress on this part of town seemed doomed by the economic crisis.  However, on this trip, work seemed to continue apace and witnessing a digital clock (not blinking 12:00) seemed to reinforce the notion that progress continued.

Yeliseyev Grocery Tverskaya MoscowDespite all of the new construction in the city, reminders of Moscow’s czarist past remain.  The opulent Yeliseyev Grocery Store (renamed “Grocery Store I” when the communists took over) looks more like a palace than a place to pick up cold cuts.  However, once inside, the store reveals typical upscale grocery store fare in a palatial setting.  The gilded arches, columns and chandeliers tower over smoked fish, caviar and even jars of peanut butter.  Additionally, in the “souvenirs” back room, there is the most interesting selection of spirits [READ: vodka] that I have ever seen.  I had never heard of Red Army Vodka, Black Vodka or Matrioshka Vodka.  But the bottles and not necessarily the spirit inside, were the selling point.  For all I know, what was inside could have been completely rotten.

So it seems these bottles that line the shelves may be the perfect metaphor for the city – striking and opulent on the outside, while the inside remains a mystery.  And, as with any mystery, there is a real possibility that to sample what is inside may subject you to a very unpleasant flavor.

CNN International Shills for Putin

CNN International’s “Eye on Russia” is a farce.  It’s a 5 minute (several times a day) ad for the great things that Russia is doing.  You get to see the Sochi Olympic development through the eyes of a skiing Matthew Chance.  Guess what, he’s not a good skier! So he falls!  Funny stuff and hard hitting.  Makes me long for Eiffel Tower birthday coverage.

We’re worlds away from Bernard Shaw, folks.

Clinton Pushes the Red Button on Russia

No, not the red phone.  The red button.  The poorly translated red button. (Be sure to watch the video for the cackle.)  Sheesh.

Keep telling yourself, “Bush was an idiot and Condi Rice was a lightweight, Bush was an idiot and Condi Rice was a lightweight, Bush was an idiot and Condi Rice was a lightweight…”

Or, just have the media do it for you.

Clinton just lost all respect in Russia.  They love this kind of stuff.  Anything that they can hang their hat on to make them look smarter is HUGE.  This will make them feel good about Mother Russia for weeks.  And Lavrov may be made king.

This diplomacy stuff is a kick in the pantsuit, innit, Madame Secretary?