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Nein! Nein! Ich kann nicht mehr! March 18, 2006

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“…advisory bodies and capacity-building initiatives…”

Someone get me away from this computer.

Tips, please March 17, 2006

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Cor, friendship, eh? As I say, I’ve very kindly been asked to blogsit over at Bren’s place, which I think says much for the wonders of blogdom that two people of pretty different world views have hit it off through the ether. He’s a religious Christian, just leaving Israel for a job on the other side of the world. I’m not religious. Actually, that’s the only big difference, and I’m long past the age where I think another person’s views being different to my own preclude friendship. Well, but as for him being Australian…

Anyway, technical advice, please. If I want to blog chez lui, how do I make the post not end with ‘posted by Bren’ as my first humble offering does? Do I have to turn myself into a team member? Gosh it feels naughty snooping around someone else’s virtual home. But nice.

BREAKING NEWS Don’t panic everyone. I’m sure thousands, maybe even millions, of people are hurriedly writing me tip-comments AT THIS VERY SECOND, but delete them all immediately. I’ve worked out how to become a team member – I’ll be able to put it on my CV – and I can now blog as me chez Bren with gay abandon. By the way, is it because my computer is struggling to cope with being two bloggers at once, or has blogger got BSE today? It keeps telling me, “There were errors”. Oh, don’t I know it, blogger. Don’t I just flipping well know it…

Responsibility! March 17, 2006

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I’m blogsitting

C-words March 16, 2006

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C-words I’m bored of. Capacity-building. Confidentiality. Community. Community-building. Confidentiality-capacity. Capacity-community. Confidentiality-building. Confidentiality-community.

C-words I haven’t had enough of. Crap. Claptrap. Crock of shit (Thanks, Bren. Not technically one word, I know, but it can be run together to scan like crocodile). Cunting.

Apologies in advance.

Candles out! March 16, 2006

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Nothing is more likely to guarantee a deafening silence in my comments box than the mention of the word Belarus in a post. But, comment-slut that I am, it would be doubly naughty to ignore Belarus today, the 16th of the month, a date which has seen a series of ‘Solidarity with Belarus’ days over recent months, and all the more so when we remember that the elections are being held this Sunday.

The coverage of these elections has been not too bad from a European perspective, especially in view of normal coverage levels where Belarus is concerned. The beeb has featured more than the odd piece. Bloggers do their bit. There’s the amusing spectacle of western Lukashenka-supporters (or their commenters) ‘hoping’ that he’ll win this Sunday’s election in a snub to all those wicked people hoping there might actually be democratic elections (with links to and reproductions of Lukashenka speeches. Thank god they’re in translation. You’d struggle to understand his Russian and, remembering what a great defender of Belarusian sovereignty Alyaksandr Ryhoravich is, he rarely chooses to string a sentence together in the native tongue). Um. Why hope? Do you really think he might lose?

Well, Belarus on Sunday is more likely to do a Kazakhstan than a Kyrgyzstan. The opposition has done better this time round than last time and had been even more united till Kazulin added his candidacy to the ranks of the opposition. Some think a suspicious move. Almost certainly a counterproductive one as far as the opposition is concerned, although he has been the person involved in the most headline-grabbing events. One positive thing to take away from the outrageous litany of arrests of people connected to the opposition is that it shows that Lukashenka clearly believes this is a force worth fighting against, so he’s sticking them in prison till the events are out of the way. You just have to hope that Lukashenka’s grim project is stopped in its tracks before he succeeds – thankfully, this looks unlikely – in achieving his ultimate aim of tagging Belarus bag on to Russia (in a soyuz of two equal nations, you understand).

I shouldn’t but I shall March 14, 2006

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I really shouldn’t. I mean, I should be working… But as I thrashed around in bed, thinking about work and bills and how bad my hair is, I sought solace in literature. Well, actually, solace is a lie. I just thought it might knock me out, but it didn’t. Now the disenfranchised bookseller very generously gave me Steppenwolf some time ago, having decided that, at 35, I am still not too old to be educated. And quite right he is too. (He’s still giving away music, by the way.) I letched voyeuristically through another few pages, guffawing in places, thinking, “I must put that line on my blog,” in others (I won’t ever, of course) and worrying that Harry is, of course, me (except I’m dim, am not alone and, leider, don’t drink a pint of wine a day (usually)) in others still. But what I really got to thinking about, as I ploughed onwards, is that I never want to read a word of Russian literature ever again. Germans just do this type of… what? Nastiness? Not that I find Hazza nasty, of course. Erm. OK, outsiderishness, SO much better than the Russkies. With Russians it’s all so fucking moral and innocent and naive and uncynical. Hazza pisses all over the underground man. And as for Oblomov, who actually is me, except I don’t have a man-servant, well he can just fuck off in comparison. Absolutely fuck right off. No, give me German torture over Russian torture any day of the week. It’s darker, more twisted, more perverse and so much more fun. And no stinking, effing moralising being pummelled into you at every turn. Although far be it from me to make a ludicrous generalisation on the back of the last few days’ reading material…

Quick and lazy March 14, 2006

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No, not a description of a certain type of unsatisfactory sexual encounter. No, a quick and lazy post because I just haven’t got time for anything proper these days. If I’m not as rich as pants in a matter of weeks, you can call me… well, anything you like (bar Croesus).

So, for you wannabe Russians in London, howzabout this then?
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More details from this London Russian rag.

Piter March 9, 2006

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piter.jpg

A lovely snap from Leningrad in 1930, purloined from this nice Moscow photographic site, which I can’t remember how I came across. (I can now, I was looking for a photograph of Nizhinskij further to talk of him on Radio 4.) It’s an especially nice and peaceful bit of St. Petersburg up there by the Hermitage and I don’t have to bemoan how the city has changed since that 1930 snap as, bar the clothes, that view would be identical to this day, Millionnaja Ulitsa remaining mysteriously empty and quiet. Parallel to this street, on the other side of the Hermitage, in other words, is the embankment, which is utterly unexploited as regards tourism potential. A kilometres-long street, dotted with landmarks and wonderful views across to all sorts of other landmarks and yet it is nothing more than a high-speed thoroughfare, choked with Ladas and black with fumes. (Trying to cross it – to get right down to the river – is to dice with death.) And, equally mysteriously, it doesn’t yet seem to be a desirable address (at least it wasn’t four years ago). The houses house the regular choice of non-fronted shops, such as chemists, giving a hint to their identity only as you peer right into the grated windows and, I suppose, erm, houses. Noisy but nice. Which is all splendid, in a way, of course, that a (potentially) main drag of the city isn’t just a string of tourist traps but then it would actually be RATHER nice to sit and soak up the endless rays by the river on a perfect Piter summer day.

Girls, girls! March 8, 2006

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Get your glad rags on (although admittedly it’s a bit early). We’re goin’ dancin’. As any of you with any connection to Russia (or the rest of the formerly commie bits of Europe) will know, today is March 8th. OK, everyone else knows that too, unless you live in flagrant ignorance of the calendar (or by another one, of course). But any Russian baba worth her salt – and they’re all worth their salt – knows that March 8th is International Women’s Day (and thankfully this is a late arrival on the holiday front so no calendric dissonance here and it isn’t oddly called The Great February Women’s Day or something like that po-russki), when Russian ladies are overwhelmed with floral offerings and total puke chocolate. (God, I just fancy some total puke chocolate.) It is also, I was once (un)reliably informed, one of the two days of the year when a Russian gent does the washing up, the other being the woman-of-the-house’s birthday. Any Eastern Bloc damsels born on March 8th must for ever be cursing their ill fortune. I’ve already ‘congratulated’ every lady with a Slavic sinew I know. I might even get a tipsy SMS from my mother-in-law later on, flush on shampanskoe and, hopefully, being flirted with by all the men she meets today. Hurrah for crap holidays. (I never really felt I was entitled to wallow in pride on the Russian male equivalent – February 23rd – Defenders of the Fatherland Day, though I probably scoffed my choc, if I got any, proudly enough.)

I’m short on blog-juice these days. Work dictates. But I still like to do my daily (and nightly) trawls. And I see the old disenfranchised bookseller is up to his giveaway tricks again. He’s just too generous for his own good, and he’ll even post to Europe and beyond. No wonder he’s disenfranchised. He’s probably posted it to someone in Cochabamba…

Melancholy March 3, 2006

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melancholy.jpg

You can’t beat a nice bit of gloom sometimes. And all the more so when it’s inspired a whole lovely exhibition that I’ll dash to the second I get the chance (and which I highly recommend to everyone. No doubt I’m the last person in Berlin to have discovered it, but folk from abroad, if you read this, sell your internal organs, if necessary, to get here and have a look). The blurb warns us that, “A separate section of the exhibition looks at late 19th century scientific exploration of melancholy as a phenomenon positioned between insanity and genius”. I like the idea of positioning emotions. I had my nerves measured by a doctor once, so it’s not as bonkers as it sounds. Anyway, what better way to spend some leisure time than letting my eyes feast on gloom? I love gloom. Not gloomy gloom, as such. And not a gloom that could be called depression, or even, necessarily, sadness. No, it’s a happy sort of gloom. A comforting gloom. A kitchen-sink gloom. A mix of worry, despair and indifference which combine to concoct a sort of bemusement that has me Slavically shrugging, with a wry smile, of course, at my inescapable fate.

I think this type of gloom is awfully good for one. Not if it spirals out of control and makes you do bonkers things like jump off buildings, go to Wigan (for example) to find yourself or enjoy French films with a fucking annoying angst-ridden and troubled teenager who sets fire to things that you’re meant to feel sorry for. No, not that type. I mean a gloom-laden realisation – I think it hits hardest at about 33 – that this is life, it ain’t all it’s cracked up to be, that, indeed, many of our fellow humans are execrable cunts, it’s all a bit of a struggle and YET, and yet, this is such a happy realisation. Yes, this is as good as it gets, perhaps. And d’you know what? That’s pretty OK. Yes, there are the execrable cunts, but they’re only a fairly huge majority of our fellow man, which still leaves a nicely whopping minority of wonderful folk. (You only actually need about two or three of these in any one lifetime, by my rough calculation (after half a nanosecond of uncorroborated research).) And settling, not in a resigned way, or in a way that means you never have to make any effort at anything ever again, but settling for the fact that maybe grown-upness has struck, that you’re probably never going to go to bed with Frédéric Deltour and that life isn’t going to be one long succession of impossibly good parties, acute sensations, yachts, truffles, sex and beauty but rather a bit of a plod with quite a lot of drudgery but then also a fair dollop of comfort and jolly times thrown in, well, that’s not a bad settlement.

So I highly recommend a nice bit of gloom. If you’ve just done something utterly ludicrous like falling in love and have just gone out on your first joint saucepan-shoppery, well, enjoy it while it lasts, of course, but hurry up and get to the difficult bits. They’re so much more fun. If you’ve won the lottery and are currently doing your training at Star City for that trip into space that was a snip at $75 million, well, hurry up and piss the rest up the wall too so you can get onto the anguish, torture and recriminations of knowing you’ve blown it. I don’t want to discourage happiness altogether, of course, but strive for a bit of gloomy contentedness. As the artists prove, there’s so much to be learnt from the hard times.

No Minsk spring March 2, 2006

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Belarus seems to be getting some much-deserved media attention in time for the presidential elections on March 19th. And today is a fairly momentous day, with one of the opposition candidates, Aliaksandr Kazulin, being beaten up and arrested when trying to enter an All-Belarusian People’s Congress (where the happy workers, the women in headscarves, no doubt, come to praise their dear leader and hear the details of the next pyatiletka). I’m happy to see the BBC having fairly frequent updates on events, as befits the occasion, and all the usual suspects are on the ball, as ever. Incidentally, the last of those sites, the ever-so-slightly over-testosteroned Charter’97, is having its site attacked so access is limited. And with tensions no doubt somewhat heightened after Kazulin being beaten up and detained, Milinkevich is due to hold a (n unauthorised) rally in Minsk this evening. The authorities appear to be cracking down pretty hard on any signs of dissent in the run-up to these elections so who knows how events might turn out later today? Still, one can hardly expect the police to just sit by and ignore a rally which hasn’t received official approval and which ghastly central Electoral Committee stooge Lidziya Yarmoshyna has called a provocation. Is it really the place of someone from the electoral commission to comment on anyone’s election campaign?

The opposition had hoped there would be just one opposition candidate, of course, and there has been some suspicion at Kazulin’s intent. Although he and Milinkevich are making noises of solidarity, it is hard to think anything other than the fact that all they will do is divide the opposition vote. I suppose as neither of them expects anything but a first-round Lukashenka win, perhaps this isn’t that important. In any case, for far better-informed blogger views of election goings-on, visit these three sites.

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