From Russia With Robot

It seems I got stuck on robot theme.

A few months ago, the 2045 Initiative  movement (previously known as Russia 2045) unveiled the first realistic Russian android head, based on its founder, Russian media enterpreneur Dmitry Itskov. Three years back, I blogged about Russia 2045 and an immortality seeking Mr Itskov2045_avatar_project-2

Itskov is a big believer in the prophetic technological singularity, and claims that by 2045 we will have developed the means to transplant our minds into computers and android bodies.2045_avatar_project

His android surrogate, built and programmed by Moscow-based Neurobotics, has been dismantled and turned into the country’s first female android. Her name is Alissa. Here she is:neurobotics-alissa-android-0

Alissa’s face may look somewhat realistic at first glance, since the silicone mask was made from one of Neurobotics’ employees.

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However, while some other more advanced heads have more than 30 points of articulation, Alissa has only 8. This works out to be just enough to add movement to its eyes and mouth, which are controlled with a standard game pad. The head is mounted to a mannequin, which stands on a wheel base for mobility.

And this is how she talks in more than one language:

In telepresence mode, the operator uses Skype to communicate with the outside world. The cameras in Alissa’s eyeballs provide a video feed, while the operator uses a headset. The company is experimenting with a relatively simple EEG (electroencephalography) set-up to allow the operator to drive the robot’s base using thoughts alone.

Neurobotics is working closely with the 2045 Initiative, which claims androids will be commonplace by the end of the decade. However, given the humbling reality of the current state-of-the-art in countries like Japan, such predictions should be taken with a heavy grain of salt.

Sources: Neurobotics (Russian) via Habrahabr (Russian) and an article in Gizmag,  Russia builds its first realistic female android (English)

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Seven Wives of Ivan the Terrible

ivan-grozny-vasnetsovIvan IV Vasilyevich (1530 – 1584)  commonly known as Ivan the Terrible Tsar of All the Russias from 1547 until his death in 1584, was a controversial historical figure: Tyrant and a reformer, a monster and a strategist. He was given to sexual excess and was marrying often. Officially, Tsar Ivan IV had 7 wives. Unfortunately, not one of them lived long enough to enjoy golden years. By coincidence or by design, most of them met their Maker when still young, sometimes very shortly after the wedding bells and coronation.

In this respect, Ivan the Terrible of Russia was no better (or worse) than England’s poly-amorous Henry VIII  (1491 — 1547), born 40 years earlier, who was married 6 times.

1 - Анастасия Захарьина

Wife No 1 — Anastasia Zakharyina.

When it came time to marry, a young Tsar Ivan IV, 17 at the time, conducted a search and a rigorous selection among potential brides. His choice fell on Anastasia Zakharyina. According to the chronicles, she was Ivan’s only true love.  Anastasia died in 1560. This was by far the longest marriage of Ivan’s life, lasted more than a decade.  Some historians claim that Tsarina Anastasia was poisoned by the Tsar’s enemies envious of the Anastasia’s influence on him.

2 - Мария Темрюкова

Wife No 2 — Maria Temrykova

The same year he lost his first wife, however aggrieved, Tsar Ivan sent ambassadors to look for a new wife. And soon enough, they found one. She was the daughter of the Kabardin Prince Temryuk, Maria. It was said that her beauty was mysterious, dangerous and mesmerizing. In addition to her many attractions, the new Tsarina  shared at least one of Ivan’s interests — she loved to witness executions, the more gory and elaborate affair they were the more they delighted exotic Tsarina.

She often whispered into her husband’s ear the names of those she didn’t like. Those unfortunate people would eventually become next victims of Ivan’s terrible temper and Maria’s love of blood and gore. Maria died of a rather mundane cause —  succumbed to pneumonia.

3 - Марфа Собакина

Wife No 3 — Marpha Sobakina

Another wife gone, and the Tsar was open for marriage again. This time, 2,000 beauties participated in the pageant. 24 remained after the first round of selection, then the pool was thinned down to 12. The contenders were subjected to a number of scrupulous checkups and humiliating  scrutiny by courtiers and doctors. Marpha Sobakina met every criteria. However, almost immediately after the wedding, she became unwell and died two weeks later. Rumors abound, however, no one could say for sure whatever befell otherwise healthy and vivacious young woman.

4 - Анна Колтовская

Wife No 4 — Anna Koltovskaya

Be that as it may, Tsar Ivan married again. So many church weddings in such a short time was against the church rules. The priests agreed to conduct a ceremony very reluctantly, on pain of death.

The 18-year-old Anna Koltovskaya was the darling of the people, but wasn’t held in high esteem by the boyars (ranking courtiers.) A few slanderous accusations too many against the young Tsarina and Ivan couldn’t stand it any more. Eventually, he sent Anna to a convent, christening her Daria in nunnery. She lived the rest of her life in an underground monastic cell.  This was the last of his weddings, authorized by the Church. Later, former Anna, Tsarina of Russia, was   canonized as Saint Daria.

5 - Анна Васильчикова

Wife No 5 — Anna Vasilchikova

Soon thereafter, the Tsar remarried. A pretty young girl he choose was the daughter of Prince Peter Vasilchikov, Anna, age 16. This time, the church stood firm and did not recognize the marriage that lasted — alas! — all but 3 months. Young and healthy before the nuptials, Anna suddenly died. Her death was eerily similar to the demise of Marpha Sobakina, wife No 3, not that this curious fact went unnoticed. Anna’s  body was taken out of the palace secretly, in the dead of the night.

6 - Василиса Мелентьева

Wife No 6 — Vasilisa Melentyeva

Vasilisa Melentyeva was happily married when Tsar Ivan cast his roving eye upon her. Immediately after the Tsar took liking of Vasilisa, her husband died for “no apparent reason.” What luck!  Historical records indicate that with the appearance of Vasilisa in Ivan’s life he became somewhat less “terrible.” He stopped his sexual escapades and orgies, send away from his chambers all his “spare” women and  settled into a happy married life.

It lasted for two years. Then, one fine afternoon, Tsar Ivan caught his wife with a lover. The terrible ways swiftly returned to Tsar Ivan. His punishment, indeed, was swift and terrible. Both Vasilisa and her lover were buried alive.

7 - Мария Нагая

Wife No 7 — Maria Nagaya

Tsar Ivan’s last wife was Maria Nagaya. She was a melancholy woman given to dark moods and bouts of sadness. His new wife’s frequent tears and moodiness unnerved the Tsar a great deal. Ivan was ready to devise ways to get rid of Maria and already started looking for a new Tsarina, but died suddenly, while playing chess, of stroke. The year was 1584. Ivan IV was 54.

Touched By Putin

Putin and Animals 1

Photo: Alexei Druzhinin / RIA Novosti

Russia and the world saw the president puts the collar on the Amur tigress. Then there were more tigers, snow leopards, white whales and even the famous flight with Siberian Cranes. (See my own timely post on the subject  Vox Populi, Siberian Cranes  And Putin in Machina from Jan. 13, 2013.)

Whatever happened to the “presidential” tigers, Siberian Cranes, leopards and whales — all those animals, birds and sea creatures blessed by magic touch of Vladimir Putin?

On August 31, 2008, Vladimir Putin visited the Ussuri Nature Reserve, and “took a shot” at tigress Serga from a pneumatic gun charged with a potent tranquilizers.  Then he helped to put a  GPS-collar on a sleeping animal. Serga is still a resident of the Ussuri reserve. Twice she brought kittens, and the third litter was expected at the time Serga was observed in the wild.

Putin and Animals 2

In 2008, Putin helped to put GPS-collar on a tigress Serga (Earring). Photo: Alexei Druzhinin / RIA Novosti

On May 22, 2014, during one of his working visits to the Primorsky Krai, Putin visited the wild life refuge “Zheludinsky.” Together with zoologists, he unleashed tigers Borya, Kuzya and Ilona with electronic chips to monitor their movements.

This story was preceded by the sad events. A few years back, in the forest, were found three tiger kittens — later named Borya, Kuzya and Ilona — hungry and exhausted. Their mothers were killed by poachers. Kittens were sent to the rehabilitation and reintroduction of tigers in Primorye.  For nearly 2 years scientists groomed the animals for be reintroduced to their natural habitat.  Vladimir Putin was invited to take part in the event. Everyone was excited: the president, the scientists and the three little “tigretts”.

One of the tigers in the refuge "Zheludinsky" Primorye Photo: Dmitry Azarov / "Kommersant"

One of the tigers in the refuge “Zheludinsky” Primorye
Photo: Dmitry Azarov / “Kommersant”

Tiger Kuzya, exploring the surroundings in search of future residence, swam across Amur River (some 700 meters wide) thus crossing the Russian-Chinese border. Chinese  scientists were warned about the arrival of a distinguished guest and were ready to provide a heard of cows to feed him. However, such welcoming gift would have drastically altered the whole program — the tiger was trained to hunt in the wild and survive on its own. Two months later, after tasting plenty of Chinese wild boars, Kuzya safely returned home, crossing Amur once again when the river has frozen over. Now Kuzya resides in the vicinity of ​​the wild life refuge Zuraviliny.

Borya and Ilona reside in the Amur region. Ilona settled in Khingansky refuge, occasionally giving visitors a rare chance on a “tiger selfie”.  Once, while in a foul mood, she found a comfort food in a rather expensive scientific equipment and cameras set up specifically to capture her image.

Borya was spotter not far from the place of his release. He looks healthy and very well-fed. His hunting trophies include at least one bear. The quietest of them all, the tigress Sveta, dwells in the area where Kuzya recently moved. Scientists hope for the two of them to meet and, perhaps, fall in love.

On the video, Zolushka (Cinderella), a young Amur tigress whose fate is similar to that of  Borya, Kuzya and Ilona, is being released into the wild.

And now back to Putin.  On the eve of the Olympics, Vladimir Putin entered the cage of a beast once again. This time it was an Amur leopard.

Note: The Amur leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis) also known as the Far Eastern leopard, is a leopard subspecies native to the Primorye region of southeasternRussia and the Jilin Province of northeast China. It is classified as Critically Endangered since 1996 by IUCN. In 2007, only 19–26 wild Amur leopards were estimated to survive. Census data published in February 2015 indicate that the population has increased to at least 57 Amur leopards in Russia, and up to 12 Amur leopards in adjacent areas of China.

On February 4, 2014, Putin visited the leopard breeding and rehabilitation center in Sochi. The President was informed that adult leopards can mate up to 274 times a week. Putin immediately turned to one of the journalists, “274 times! Take an example!”

Six-month old leopard  kitten named Grom (Thunder, in Russian) was very nervous when unexpectedly visited by so many guests. Agitated, he jumped one of the journalists, scratched the hapless photographer’s hand and sank his teeth into the operator’s knee. The rest of Putin’s entourage choose to retreat. Putin, however, was able to charm the little guy: in a few minutes, the leopard kitten settled on Putin’g lap and purred when the president touched his paws and stroked his chin.

Putin and Animals 3

In 2014, Putin entered the aviary to six months leopard Grom (Thunder). Photo: Alexei Nikolsky / RIA Novosti / Reuters

“Little leopard had never seen Putin before and wasn’t trained to meet the president in any way whatsoever. Big cats clearly feel the person’s aura. Little Grom felt Putin’s protectiveness and his confidence. Journalists, on the other hand, disregarded warnings and crowded the cage,” commented Umar Semyonov, the center’s director.

A bit of brown-nosing here from Mr Semyonov, but never mind — after all the center of rehabilitation is funded by the government.

Grom is a full grown adult Amur leopard now. He won’t be released into the wild because he got used to humans and won’t be able to survive on his own. For now, Grom resides at the center, later he might travel to some European zoo to improve the leopard’s genetic line. Several other young leopards will be released from the center. Unlike Grom, they weren’t exposed to human contact — men and beasts must remain strangers, even if man is Putin.

Putin and Animals 4

In 2012, Putin took part in an experiment to save Siberian Cranes, rare species listed in the Red Book. Photo: Alexei Druzhinin / RIA Novosti

On September 6, 2012, while on the Yamal Peninsula, Putin took part in an experiment to save the Siberian Cranes, yet another rare species listed in the Red Book. The aim of the experiment was to show the nursery-grown birds a flying route for migration to warmer climes. The experiment was not as successful as the scientists (and Putin) hoped for.

Inclement weather and political problems of 2012 halted planned motorized migration of Siberian Cranes. Only one of the birds, male named Para, eventually joined migrating flock of Eurasian Cranes and flew with them from Belozersky reserve, located in the south of the Tyumen region, to Kazakhstan. During one of the stops, the flock was attacked by a pack of stray dogs.  The wild birds flew away, leaving injured and crippled Para behind. Para was saved by the locals. The bird was identified by a special label and sent back to Russia.

In the end, Para remained to live with people, fed and cared for by employees dressed in white suits) crane. An object of special attention of the people and the media, Para has become tame. Similar fate befell another Siberian Crane named Vorona (Crow in Russian). Both Para and Vorona were later resettled to zoos and successfully bred in captivity.

The fate of а male Siberian Crane named Saval turned out sad and tragic. Saval was mortally injured as a result of intraspecific aggression. For scientists it played out like a very personal drama.

Putin and Animals 5

In 2009, Putin fed belugas contained in cage on the Chkalov Island in the Sea of Okhotsk. Photo: Alexei Druzhinin / RIA Novosti

In July 31, 2009, during his working trip to Khabarovsk region  President Putin visited Chkalov Island in the Sea of ​​Okhotsk. Dressed in a wet suit, waist-deep in the water, Putin helped the group of fishermen to strengthen the satellite transmitter on the back of beluga named Dasha. “She won’t eat us, I hope,” said the President, patting the whale.

Then Putin decided to feed the belugas. Scientists kept saying that belugas never take food from human hands. But — surprise! — Dasha happily swallowed the fish it snatched from the presidential hand. “Gentle, be ve-e-e-e-ry gentle and you’ll succeed,” Putin said and smiled… gently.

For Russian readers, see more on Lenta.ru, the article Жизнь после Путина. Что стало с «президентскими» тиграми, стерхами, леопардами и китами.

Adventures of St Luke, Part 1

Image
Frans Hals (1580 – 1666). St Luke. Oil on canvas (70 × 55 cm) — mid-17th century. Museum of Western and Eastern Art, Odessa St Luke can be recognized by his personal attribute, the ox. His gospel starts with the sacrifice by Zechariah, and the ox was often used for such purposes.

The year was 1965. No, let me turn the clock back a few years. Or a few centuries, and start again.

The year was of Our Lord 1771. Now hang on to both of these dates, and let me make another try. The year of the same Lord was 1625, give and take a few, but no later than 1628.

hals

Frans Hals, a Dutch Golden Age painter, was mainly and most recognized as a portraitist. He rarely — as in almost never — painted saints or explored religious themes. A chance of finding Biblical theme in Hals paintings is as rare as finding a still-life by Michelangelo.

But, as the saying goes. never say never. Sometime midway his illustrious career he managed to complete a series of paintings of the four Evangelists: saints Luke, Mark, John and Matthew.

Painted crudely, freely, the saintly images look so vital that their laborious breathing is almost audible — Luke’s and Mathew’s in particular. With exception of John, none other conveys “saintliness” or emanates “godly light”. They look rather ordinary — local folks, farmers, toiling over the unfamiliar and tedious tasks of writing (Luke),  reading (Matthew), thinking (Mark).

1771.  That year the four Evangelists were acquired by Catherine the Great, Empress of All Russia, for the collection of “her baby”, the Hermitage Museum. The same year, the transport of 2 ships embarked on a voyage to Russia, carrying the four Evangelists and a great number of other artwork acquired by the Empress for the museum. The ships were caught in a storm, one of them sinking, the other, Frau Maria, sustaining huge damages. Miraculously, Frau Maria made it to Saint Petersburg in one piece, with all four pieces of the Hals’ series of paintings intact.

The first mention of the paintings appears in the catalog of the Hermitage in 1774. However and unfortunately, the curators of the Hermitage rendered them inferior, “not outstanding” as it were, and the saintly foursome was banished to the museum’s vast underground storage.

St Matthew oil on canvas (70 × 55 cm) — mid-17th century Museum Museum of Western and Eastern Art, Odessa
Frans Hals (1580 – 1666). St Matthew
Oil on canvas (70 × 55 cm) — mid-17th century
Museum of Western and Eastern Art, Odessa

In 1812, Tzar Alexander I decided it is as good time as any “to decorate Catholic churches in Tauride province.” Franz Labensky, Hermitage curator, has selected 30 paintings from the storage, Hals’ four “not outstanding” Evangelists among them, and the load left Saint Petersburg on March 30.

Frans Hals 1580 – 1666 St Mark oil on canvas (68 × 52 cm) — mid-17th century. Private collection
Frans Hals 1580 – 1666

St Mark

oil on canvas (68 × 52 cm) — mid-17th century. Private collection, The lion’s head in the background is Mark’s attribute. His gospel begins with the story of John the Baptist in the wilderness, where the lion lives. As of March, 2010, the painting was in the collection of a German art trader.

In the turmoil of the October Socialist Revolution (1917) all four  paintings disappeared and were considered to be lost. Decades later, one of the pictures has emerged at the Odessa flea market. The curator of a local art museum bought it for 9 rubles. The identity of the painting has not been established, and the painting’s authorship has been arbitrarily assigned to “unknown Russian painter, early 19th century”.

In the fall of 1958, browsing  the reserves of the Museum of Western and Eastern Art in Odessa, the art historian from Hermitage (Saint Petersburg, then Leningrad) noticed two unusual paintings. In the corner of the paintings, clearly visible, drawn in large red print were numbers 1895 and 1896.  Ms. Linnik identified the numbers as a 2 centuries old Hermitage brand cataloging (№ 1895 — Luke and 1895 –Matthew). At the first examination of the pictures Linnik was convinced that “unprecedented in its boldness style of painting, broad and energetic, could only belong to the most brilliant innovator of painting technique – Frans Hals”  The pictures were thus identified as the lost Franz Hals’ Saint Luke and Saint Matthew. No longer “not understanding” the two Hals’ paintings became the museum’s most treasured masterpieces.

In the spring of 1965, Saint Matthew and St Luke arrived from Odessa to Moscow’s Pushkin Museum as showpieces of the Dutch painting exhibition.

on the wall

Both saints hung symmetrically on the wall until March 9th, which happens to be a “cleaning day”. The museum was closed for the occasion. The next day, much to the horror, panic and amazement of the museum staff, St Luke was gone. Only the frame has been left hanging on the wall, slightly askew.

Saint John the Evangelist, painted about 1625 - 1628. oil on canvas. Currently atThe J. Paul Getty Museum
Frans Hals 1580 – 1666. Saint John the Evangelist. Painted about 1625 – 1628. Oil on canvas. Currently on display at the J. Paul Getty Museum

Art theft was almost unheard of in the USSR, thus making a disappearance of St Luke the first major case of theft of artwork in the country.  Ironically, only a few weeks before, the Minister of Culture of the USSR, Yekaterina Furtseva has infamously declared that unlike the West, in the Soviet Union museum robberies do not exist.

The fate that befell St Luke was a closely guarded secret. The Dutch exhibition folded and the museum closed its doors “for scheduled repairs”. Soviet media kept mum.

Investigation was put under the special supervision of the Ministry of Interior. KGB and police (then called militia) were put on high alert and joined forces to search for St Luke. Detectives worked round the clock. The Minister of Culture found herself in a hot seat…

Every art collector in Moscow and beyond was under suspicion, mercilessly harassed. Every foreigner ever so slightly interested in art was followed and investigated.

In spite of all this tremendous effort, however, five months have gone by with no progress in the investigation, and no trace of the painting. The case was quickly becoming cold.

St Luke has vanished…

>>>>to be continued in the next post<<<<<

Jackass Conference

  hare1

In 2013, Vladimir Medinsky, Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation, set his mind on reforming the entire system of academic research institutions and financial support.

Arguing for the reform, he brought up “Philosophy of Hare” as an example of ridiculous research topic and a complete waste of government funds. Medinsky, it was reported, was either misinformed, for no such project was running  under the auspice of his department, or he came up with a fictitious project just to make his point.

The uproar in the academia was tremendous. Horror! Horror! How can the government official — even as senior as a minister — decide which subject is worthy of study and financial support and which isn’t.

Philosophy of a hare? A rabbit? A jackass or a bunny? Or Philosophy of Hare in the same sense we say Philosophy of Mathematics. And why the hell not? Might be as worthy a subject as any.

And — surprise, surprise! — it was. The St. Petersburg Institute of Russian Literature of the Russian Academy of Sciences — nicknamed Pushkin House — announced an Interdisciplinary Scientific Conference Philosophy of Hare: Unexpected perspectives in Humanities”.

The conference generated unprecedented interest in the scientific community. The organizing committee received more than 120 submissions from all over Russia as well as research institutions in Ulan-Ude and New York, Sofia and Jerusalem.  58 best papers were selected, touching on a broad range of topics.

The event, held on June, 2014, exceeded all expectations. Here is a partial list of presentations at the  conference.                    

  • “Sociology of being a jackass: Moral status of the academic profession and bureaucratic culture of suspicion,”
  • “Fauna of morality. Russian classics and Russian hares.”
  • “What’s up, Doc? Wisdom of a hare, based on Bugs Bunny cartoons.” L. Bugaev (SPSU)

bugs_bunny_Falling_Hare_1943

  • “The image of a hare from Villard de Honnecourt  to Albrecht Dürer. Semantic consistency and iconological mutation.”  F. Furtay (Leningrad State University))
Partridge, Hare and Cat Jean Baptiste Simeon 1730

Partridge, Hare and Cat Jean Baptiste Simeon 1730

Ann Vallayer-Coster. Still Life With Dead Hare

Ann Vallayer-Coster. Still Life With Dead Hare

  •  “Trickster Rabbit in Mayan mythology,” (D. Belyaev, A. Davletshina (Moscow State Humanitarian University)

haida_hare_by_laurax

  • “Rabbit out of a hat and other stories of magic.” N. Kamelina (St. Petersburg, Pushkin House RAS) magic
  • “Game as a gift: Bunny in the context of homosexual eroticism, based on an Attic vase painting VI-V centuries.” (C. Reshetnikova (Paris Graduate School of Social Sciences)
Detail of the exterior of an Attic red-figure kylix, ca. 480 BC. From Vulci. Заяц A bearded man gives a hare, a popular erotic gift, to a boy

Detail of the exterior of an Attic red-figure kylix, ca. 480 BC. From Vulci.  A bearded man gives a hare, a popular erotic gift to a boy

  • “Scenes of hare mutilation by a raptor as theme of Roman armament adornment.” (A. Negin (Nizhny Novgorod State University)

hare_of_the_long_patrol_by_fortunatafox-d6m32h3

  • “Hare, rabbit and their ilk — lexical typology of leporidaes.”
  • “Pedagogical experiments on hares in the children’s literature of the XIX century.”  (O. Galanin, O. Luchkina (St. Petersburg State University))

 

fiddling-hare

  • “Images of hare in Internet  folklore.”  (T. Suchanova (Moscow))
  • “Man-Hare” in the concept of Charles Lebrun.” (Y. Belova (St. Petersburg Institute of Design))
Charles Le Brun (1619 - 1690) Man-Hare

Charles Le Brun (1619 – 1690) Man-Hare

  • “Hare from Apicius to Dumas: Recipes, food and culinary symbolism, ” (C. Noses (St. Petersburg))

recipes and culinary

  • “Insidious nihilists, tame hares and ravenous wolves in Russian literature of the 1860s.” K. Zubkov (Saint-Petersburg State University / Pushkin House RAS))
  • Lepus Cruentus: angry hares in pop culture.” (S. Komogorov, (Sofia.)) 

hare

  • “Catching rabbits” in English criminal pamphlets XVI – early XVII century: Alternative hierarchies, “rabbits” and the author between genres.  (Kirill Zubkov, St. Petersburg State University / Pushkin House RAS)

giant hare

  • “A weak King. Heraldic Hare — a victim and a victor. 

heraldry-hare-parker200

  • The March Hare and the White Rabbit: The dichotomy of  natural and artificial in the works of Lewis Carroll and culture of the XIX century, “ (V.Degtyarev, (St. Petersburg, RIII))Carroll
  • “Bunny and Hare: the problem of the addressee in the children’s poetry.” (D. Magomedov, A. Blok (Moscow State Humanitarian University))

long_hare_by_somefield

 

Hello, My Name Is Ashchf Lshtshfum

This post is a promised continuation of  the  Crime Scene Investigation. Russian Mafia. The focus, however, will be shifted from movie reviews to nit-picking.

It’s a tedious task, primarily because is has to do with laughably ridiculous Russian inscriptions in American films. It’s not easy to explain just how ridiculous and why it’s so laughable. Russians, naturally, need no explanation. A few dozen of these “pearls” have been posted on various sites, such as this one Русские надписи в американских фильмах.

Burne Identity

The Bourne Identity (2002) stars Matt Damon as Jason Bourne, suffering from extreme memory loss, attempting to discover his true identity amidst a clandestine conspiracy within the CIA. 

This is the Russian passport of Jason Bourne, otherwise baffled by his identity. He doesn’t have to be baffled anymore. His name is Ashchf Lshtshfum. Seriously. If he looks only at the right side of his “Russian” passport, he might introduce himself as FOMA KINIAEV.   FOMA KINIAEV, a rather unlikely name very likely to raise a few bushy Russian eyebrows. Still, it’s kind’a sort’a sounds remotely Russian or at least  pseudo-Russian.  Written in Russian,  FOMA KINIAEV should look like ФОМА КИНИАЕВ — a rather simple transliteration, letter for letter.

What do we see on the Russian side of his document? Practically unpronounceable  ЛШТШФУМ AЩЬФ, which, in transliteration, is equally unpronounceable  ASHCHF LSHTSHFUM.  Well, hello, sweet prince! With the name like this, any CIA super-agent is simply asking for a failed mission.  Unless, of course, he has been trained in Hollywood. 

terminalIn the Terminal (2004), an eastern traveler from fictional Krakozhia, Viktor Navorski (Tom Hanks), arrives at New York’s  JFK airport… only to find that his passport is suddenly no longer valid. In the movie, the reason for this misfortune is the outbreak of a civil war in his homeland. As a result, the United States no longer recognizes Krakozhia as a sovereign nation. Poor guy is not permitted to either enter the country or return home.

However, let’s take a look at Mr. Navorski’s travel documents. In all appearances, it’s a Belorussian driver license of a female person Гульнара Гулина, that should’ve been transliterated as Gulnara Gulina, NOT Victor Navorski. No wonder there is no country for the guy!

hanks

Hitman (2007) was shot, among other locations, in Sofia, Bulgaria.hitman

That is, Bulgaria stands for Russia in this movie. And it shows. Народен Театър Иван Вазов is a real place, but nowhere near Russia. It’s an Ivan Vazov National Theatre in Sofia. 
theater

From Russia with Love (1969) is the second James Bond film made by Eon Productions and the second to star Sean Connery.

dixat

Here, fictional MI6 agent James Bond happen to visit a no less fictional Russia. In the huge letters on the doors of the embassy, in fictional Russian, there are two words. If my imagination doesn’t deceive me, these words meant to mean PUSH and PULL for the weak-eyed MI6 agents.

ДЕРГАТ and ДИХАТ is what is actually written. The misspelled first word, given the corrected spelling, could mean JERK. The second word is made up of 5 letters. Put together, they have no discernible meaning. Bond — James Bond was a real clever chap. He pushed when it came to shove. But, honestly, if he were fluent in Russian, he wouldn’t know what to do with that bloody door. Well, that’s  from Russia with Love for you.

Russians have several explanation, often contradictory, of why Hollywood does what it does.

  • Filmmakers cut corners and didn’t want to hire Russian-speaking consultants: Hollywood knows how to make money and how to count it.  If corners can be cut without much damage to the product, corners will be cut. Not hiring Russian actor to play Russian character, and forfeit the services of Russian editors… Most of it could be explained by the fact that these films weren’t intended for distribution in Russia.
  • Americans have no respect to other cultures and disregard feelings of non-Americans;
  • The hired Russian consultants did it on purpose because they hate Russia and Russians.
  • Filmmakers did it on purpose, out of spite and disregard for Russians;
  • Spelling mistakes and stylistic fuckups, rather than being a  profound  manifestation of the lack of professionalism is, quite to the contrary, an elaborate strategy of psychological warfare: Russia means so little to us, we are too lazy to spend money on correct translation.

However, nowadays, rare movie, particularly mega-blockbusters, escapes being shown in Russia. Much to the chagrin of the Russian moviegoers, blunders and bungling happen even in hundred million dollar Hollywood blockbusters.

Whatever… And lastly,

Fantastic Four 

Latveria

The upper line says — no misspellings here — “Head of the finger of the foot”, or, perhaps, Tip of the Toe. That would sound more “poetic”, particularly for the transport barge LATVERIA (a completely meaningless word as well).

 

Crime Scene Investigation. Russian Mafia

Russians are bad… again. Definitely bad. Just like when they were Soviets — clear and present danger.

Soviets were dirty, smelly, wore fur hats made of endangered species, drank vodka by the buckets, slept with bears. Just look at ’em. And look at the  Americans lads, playing in the sandbox — what a children of light!

Russian Theme1
Then Soviets stopped being  Soviets and become “Russians”. Some of ’em happen to be so cool that they were allowed to play in the same sandbox. Just look at ’em. As non-threatening as can be. Although it’s been said that of all the benefits of civilization they favor feminine pads “Always”, and routinely use them instead of insoles in their sandals.

Russians

Pic. by Vladimir Lubarov

Vladimir Lubarov

Pic. by Vladimir Lubarov

Now the pendulum seem to be swinging back. Russians no longer look cuddly, and scented maxi-pads in their sandals no longer smell of rose petals.

However, a notable difference between then and now is that a staggering number of Soviets and post-Soviets became Russian-Americans. Not Putin but Obama “rules”. Thus the rest of the Something-Or-Another-Americans don’t have to strain their collective imagination to check the insoles of “Russian” sandals for unorthodox use of “Always”. They can simply look and sniff.

Since it became thus, Hollywood took notice and discovered that Russian organized crime, operating outside Russia, although looked and smelled different from Sicilian mafia, Irish gangs, Middle-Eastern jihaddists and whatnot, was… well… quite serviceably cinematic.  Russians had become villains du jour yet again, now on a silver screen.

The trend started mid-90th with  James Gray‘s Little Odessa. Before Gray switched to more universal melodramas, he was the main “supplier” of epics about the adventures of Russian criminals in new-found lands. Little Odessa was his first such film. Generally speaking,  Gray turned out a kind of  Scorsese’s Mean Streets where everyone speaks with Russian rather than Italian accent.

Little Odessa (1994)

Cortesy Fine Line Features

Cortesy Fine Line Features

In the opening moments of Little Odessa, a hit man, Joshua Shapira,  played by Tim Roth, walks quickly across a street toward a man on a park bench, and shoots him dead. Next, he phones in his report about the job having been done.

Much to his dismay, he learns that his next job will take him to the Brighton Beach neighborhood of Brooklyn. Not there, he panics. He can’t go back there. But he does. Because he has to… He is a hired killer for the Russian Mafia. Native son returns to his old neighborhood, and the whole slew of troubles begin.

This is a film about atonement with a noticeable influence of Dostoevsky. A rather unsympathetic lead, skilfully played by Tim Roth, is Dostoevsky’s “serial” Raskolnikov of sorts, god bless his lost little heart.

Lord of War (2005)

Cortesy of Lions Gate Films

Written, produced and directed by Andrew Niccol and co-produced by and starring Nicolas Cage, playing  an illegal arms dealer with similarities to a real-life post-Soviet arms dealer Viktor Bout.

Once, Yuri Orlov (played by Cage with his courageous eyes of a tortured doe) witnessed a scene of a gang violence. Melodious sounds of falling shells, the poetry of flying bullets and harmonious disembowelment of human bodies caused Yuri to experience sort of personal epiphany — a pure aesthetic pleasure. He knew immediately what his vocation must  be. It had to do with weapons. He’d put his hands on them and sell them. All kinds of them, from Kalashnikovs to combat helicopters.

He is a true professional. He doesn’t care what kind of folks his customers happen to be. Only money talk in his business. Yuri’s business blossoms, thanks to global destabilization. In a world with more guns than teachers for every 12 people and bullets changing governments far surer than votes, Orlov sees transactions where others see travesty.

Eventually, Yuri’s secrecy and tyrannical control unravel as his business collides with his trophy wife (Bridget Moynahan), cocaine-addicted brother (Jared Leto) and a dogged ATF agent (Ethan Hawke, in a rare less-is-more moment). Neither Yuri nor the film arrives at any conventional clarity. (BY )

This is a carefully choreographed devil’s dance in which Cage (doe eyes and all) is playing a man who knows evil can’t exist without good, but that evil generally prevails.

Lord of war

In one of the most memorable scenes Jared Leto (playing ne’er brother of the protagonist) draws a map of Ukraine with cocaine line, then snorts it whole.

 We Own the Night (2007)

Cortesy  Columbia Pictures

Cortesy Columbia Pictures

Another James Gray’s Russian-themed crime drama, starring Joaquin PhoenixMark WahlbergEva Mendes and Robert Duvall. This one has an old-fashioned narrative and a compelling premise: two brothers operating on either side of the law, pitting the immigrant pursuit of the American Dream against the fatal determinism of a Greek tragedy.

Cliches clashed. Credulity stretched: In the small world of Brooklyn cops and robbers, wouldn’t a lot of people who grew up with them know Bobby was related to Joseph and Burt? Can you just change your name and lose your identity?

Powerful drug dealers may be evil, but I doubt they’re as stupid and oblivious as depicted in We Own the Night. And, although Bobby suffers from anxiety over his life-changing decision, any rational man going on the dangerous mission he undertakes would surely be more careful about the items he carries along with him. (Rotten Tomatoes)

Eastern Promises (2007)Eastern_Promises_10

Eastern Promises is a 2007 British crime thriller directed by David Cronenberg, from a screenplay written by Steven Knight. The film stars Viggo MortensenNaomi Watts and Vincent Cassel, and tells a story of a British midwife’s dramatic interactions with the Russian crime family in London.  The film has been noted for its violence and realistic depiction of Russian career criminals, its plot twist and exploring the subject of sex trafficking.

A teenage girl hemorrhages profusely — her throat has been slashed. She dies in a hospital soon thereafter, but not before giving birth to a baby. Anna Khitrova (Naomi Watts) is a midwife, a second generation Russian Londoner, is determined to protect the infant. Her Russian-born mother and uncle (Sinead Cusack and Jerzy Skolimowski) help her to translate the dead girl’s diary…

a1The gears of the story shift into place when the diary of a murdered girl, the midwife who saved her newborn baby and the notorious crime family become interlocked.

This is by far the first non-Russian film about Russian mafia where almost everyone speaks Russian with remarkable fluency, including German actor Armin Mueller-Stahl, Frenchman Vincent Cassel, Danish-American Viggo Mortensen and a Polish actor Jerzy Skolimowski.  

In preparation  to his role, Mortensen  traveled to Russia and lived there for two months, visiting Moscow, St. Petersburg, Ekaterinburg and the Urals, studying the language and meeting various unsavory elements with connections to criminal world to seek authenticity. A remarkable fit of dedication.

 Siberian Education (2013)

Ascot Elite Entertainment Group

Ascot Elite Entertainment Group

This movie is an astounding piece of Russian exotica by Oscar-winning Italian director Gabriele Salvatores   (Mediterraneo).

a2John Malkovich is a colorful Russian godfather from the steppes, growing up as part of a violent clan in a multi-ethnic, dirt-poor town populated mostly by criminal outcasts. But even assassins have a childhood, laying the moral groundwork for the future man.

Their non-materialistic tradition emphasizes loyalty and respect for women and children, the elderly, disabled and all living creatures — excluding their police and army antagonists, who are always fair game.

The film is mainly an engrossing duet between the young hero and his guru-grandfather.  John Malkovich, plays with clipped precision and power-laden ice.

The movie is based on a much-translated memoir by Nicolai Lilin, a Russian-born author who writes in Italian.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)

Jack

The plot  takes Ryan to Moscow. Viktor Cherevin, played by the film’s director Kenneth Branagh, is a sadistic mad oligarch and  an alcoholic  with an agenda — what else? — to bring America to its knees by means of cataclysmic attack, economic collapse and such. He is holed up in an opulent skyscraper, giving the boot to his underlings (literally) and speaking in a Russian accent as thick as a bucket of borscht.

Ryan is mostly a gung-ho, all-American spy guy who gets into situations where he has to save the world from massive calamities. Yet you get the feeling that if you waved a hand in front of his eyes he wouldn’t blink. It’s hard to find anybody in there.

What he discovers is a Russian bad guy (Kenneth Branagh, also directing) on the verge of both a financial and terrorist attack on the United States (as if we’re not capable of engineering our own financial disasters). And thus begin all the Bond-Mission:Impossible-Bourne hijinks, including time-ticking sticky situations, assorted car chases, fisticuffs and — good news, locals! — a terrorist plot hatched in Dearborn. Tom Long, The Detroit News.

Mikhail Baryshnikov makes an appearance.  A big part of action takes place in, well, some sort of  Moscow. Moscow looks, feels and sounds rather odd. There is very little Russian exotic here: luxury hotel, fancy restaurant, ultra-modern office, everyone speaks nothing but English and from every window any which direction it faces, one can see the same view of Red Square.  Just as easily it could’ve been Dubai with the Burj Khalifa in place of Red Square. Rumor has it, the original version of the script indeed called for Dubai.

… to be continued…

Balalaika-Vodka-Matrioshka

Pic. by Andrey Remnev

Pic. by Andrey Remnev

With Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics approaching, much has been said about Russia, Russians, their mentality, idiosyncrasies, mannerisms and habits…

Nearly as many balalaika-vodka-matrioshka stuff as I remember from the 80th, when there were very few of “Soviet” Russians in the USA, and many Americans could recite the names of defected Russian ballerinas and KGB operatives. In the 80th, we were asked of bears roaming the streets of Moscow. Oh, bear-infested Russia, mon amour!

I could've said S'est moi, but I won't

I could’ve said C’est moi  as a child in Russia but I won’t

Tell you what: These days, Russians are no less susceptible to the offences by the foreigners than they always were. Give and take, they are no more touchy or paranoid than people of other nations. As someone you wouldn’t want to know said, “I can rant for hours about barbaric Russia and rogue Russians but if any foreigner agrees with me, I’ll punch him in the nose.” So Russian. And not only Russian.

L'Umanite

The comic gist of this picture is that these Russians drink  something that isn’t tea from tea cups, and the table setting is the French communist party newspaper L’Humanité (the name – l’Umanite — is misspelled, perhaps intentionally)

Then comes James Clarkson, an English broadcaster, journalist (The Sunday Times and The Sun) and writer  best known for his role on the BBC TV show Top Gear.  After a short sojourn  to Russia on his Top Gear business, he publishes an article As Russians say, manners maketh the British late in The Sunday Times.

Jeremy Clarkson in Moscow

Jeremy Clarkson in Moscow

Innocently enough, James Clarkson starts out talking about… time.  Clarkson hates wasting it. He really does.

Clarkson: “…We fume in traffic jams and curse when people on pavements walk too slowly, yet we are prepared to waste hours and hours of every day gurning and engaging in idle chitchat with people we don’t know.

The British middle-class obsession with good manners means we feel obliged to discuss the weather with our postman and our holidays with our hairdresser. We write ridiculously long thank-you letters to people we’ve already thanked verbally. In business emails we use words that aren’t necessary simply because we feel the need to be polite, and if we want directions we always start out by saying, “Excuse me. I hate to be a bother but . . .”

Been on a flight recently? The obsequiousness is now so rampant that it takes half an hour to make every announcement.”  

And many more words to that effect about British way of exercising good, time-tested but time-wasting British manners. Russia seem to have delighted Jeremy. Because, you see, Russians are not quite as obsessively polite, refined and well-mannered as Brits. So bloody refreshing!

Russian E-Line

Russian E-Line

Clarkson: “I bring all of this up because I’ve just spent a week in Russia where manners don’t seem to have been invented. When a hotel receptionist needs your passport, she doesn’t say, “Would it be possible to see your passport for a moment, sir, if it isn’t too much trouble?” She says, “Passport”. And if you can’t find it within three seconds, she says, “Now!”

When you order a dish from a menu that isn’t available, there’s no tiresome hand-wringing explanation from the waiter. He just says, “It’s off”. And if you are struggling to get your luggage through a revolving door, no one waits patiently until you’ve sorted the problem out. They repeatedly shove the handles until everything in your suitcase is smashed and your fingers have been severed.

Ever been stuck behind two British people while waiting for a ski lift? “After you.” “No, you were here first.” “No, really. I’m sure you were.” “Oh, it’s OK. I don’t mind waiting. It’s such a lovely day.” “Much warmer than last year.” After a while you are consumed with an urgent need to stab both of them with your poles.

Queuing is much easier in Russia — because no one bothers. You just walk to the front and if anyone objects — this actually happened — you pull out your wallet and show the complainant your credit cards. This is Russian for, “I am richer than you, sunshine, so shut up.”

If Russians were Egyptians

If Russians were Egyptians

And Clarkson continues: It’s the same in what we call polite discussion. You don’t dress up counter-arguments with subtle innuendo. Russians just say, “You’re wrong” and move on. Here’s one conversation I had:

“Jews are running the world.”

“I hear what you say, but I don’t think that’s the case.”

“You’re wrong.”

“But there are plenty of examples . . .”

“I said, ‘You’re wrong.’”

Being British, it’s all very upsetting. But after a while I started to realise that being impolite saves an awful lot of time and costs you nothing. When someone is wasting your evening with their harebrained nonsense, just tell them they are wrong and walk away. When you are in a butcher’s shop, don’t bother with small talk. Just say, “Two chops” and wait to be told the price. When someone is dawdling on the pavement, push them out of the way. And in a bar, don’t try to catch the barman’s eye. Just shout what you want from the back of the queue.

…Back at Heathrow, the immigration official was very chummy. “Been away long?” he asked politely. I saved two seconds by not bothering with an answer.

I felt terrible. Guilty as hell. But that’s the curse of being British. …Because they free up more time for writing very long thank-you letters and making small talk with the milkman.”

In a word, it was a very wordy piece. His audience must’ve loved it bloody awful.

Brits may or may not have felt  inspired to abandon their manners and “do as Russians do”. Russians, however, took immediate offense. Oh, boy! Did they ever!

Let’s listen to Vox populi:

Marina • Who would go to the front of the line and show their wallet to the people? This is bullshit, like many other things in this article, that
were probably aimed at showing a higher cultural level of British people in comparison to Russians, but it created an opposite impression on me.(–Written in English, original style preserved)

♥♥♥♥

Incognito •  Pity you haven’t come across his earlier article where this SOB denigrated Russian women. You might’ve toned down your adoration [for him]. He is a typical Brit — duplicitous, deceitful, slippery and toxic.  “Born with masks and bred to lie” — this isn’t me saying, this is the opinion of  British “classic” lyricist about his own  compatriot. 

Here it is, I’ll give you his [Clarkson’s] own words, “Of course, many believed that because Lada (Russian lightweight sedan) is capable of withstanding Russian roads, Russian winters and Russian women in the passenger seat, the vehicle, at least, must be reliable.” Now go ahead, admire Clarkson as much as you want.(–Written in Russian and English, translated by me)

♥♥♥♥

Sergey •  Russians usually speak politely if they know language. I am afraid Jeremy simply met people with a short English vocabulary. US Americans usually know few words in Spanish. Ask someone in Spanish and wait for answer in Spanish too. You will get response even shorter than ‘You’re wrong’. (–Written in English, original style preserved)

♥♥♥♥

Incognito • You are wrong [being offended by Clarkson’s remarks]. Jeremy Clarkson is a comedian and a humorist appealing to the tastes of British working men. If his main topic was not cars but, say, biology, his popularity would be zero. So do not take [his rants] literally. He is merely entertaining his target audience with his chatter. It has very little to do with Russia, it is the rules of the genre. (Translated by me)

♥♥♥♥

Aleksey Simeonidi •  He must have forgotten how  his countrymen in central London behave when drunk, or while on vacation in Greece. I’m not defending Russians, but the British do not behave like noble lords all the time either. He spoke of the Greeks the same way. ‘Tell you what, fu*k him.  (–Translated by me)

Yes, we are fucked  up! So what?

The banner says: Yes, we are fucked up! So what? 

Well, never mind my own opinion of Jeremy Clarkson’s opinion of Russian and British manners, and the Vox populi voiced by offended Russians.  Let me know if you have better translation of an inscription on the picture above.

My Favorite Saint

Russians are spiritual people. They like their spirits.

Russians are spiritual people. They like their spirits.

I came across this essay… At first, I thought the topic would be too “ethnic” and Russia-specific for this blog. On the second thought, however, I changed my mind…

The author, a controversial and upstanding Russian journalist, laments the latest Russian official trend of encouraging “religiosity” in the country in dire need of positive symbols and heroes worthy of adoration but not rock-stars. Who else but the holy men and women, Christian saints, have a great chance to become shiny examples of spirituality, devotion and morality? Tongue-in-cheek, the author suggests a list of his “favorite” candidates. The ones I’ve chosen for this post have across the board appeal — none of them is Russian.   These holy men are pillars of the faith hailing from centuries back.

Origen 

Called the Father of Christianity, this third century religious fanatic  gave up his job, slept on the bare floor, ate no meat, drank no wine, fasted twice a week, owned no shoes, and reportedly castrated himself and fed his penis to the dogs… all for the faith.

Origen. "… there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven."

Origen. “… there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.”

St. Simeon Stylites, the ElderSt. Simeon Stylites, the Elder (around 390 – 459) 

This  monk chose a previously unknown mode of asceticism. He went up a pillar six to eight feet high, and settled upon it in a little cell, devoting himself to intense prayer and fasting, while enduring many temptations.  The monk gradually increased the height of the pillar. His final nesting place surged 80 feet above ground. A double wall was raised around the pillar to fend off gawkers.  St. Simeon spent 80 years in arduous monastic feats, 47 years of which he stood upon the pillar. This perfectly saintly lifestyle, however, proved to be highly unhygienic.  Worms bred “in the sores of his flesh” encouraged by the man’s habit to rub excrement into his skin.

Theophilus The Weeping

This holy man lived and  cried non-stop for 14 years, sometime between the end of the XI and the beginning of the XII centuries. He wept day and night, and lost his sight because of it.

The Holy Eusebius 

This guy earned his sainthood shedding buckets of sweat. Eusebius ran around, drugging some 260 pounds of iron chains behind him.

St. Paul of ThebesSt. Paul of Thebes 

For 90 years, it is said, Paul ate nothing but dates he stole from ravens. “Official” sources, however, insist that God took interest in Paul’s sustenance and kept on sending raven to feed him figs and dates.

St. Macarius

Paid a high price for his sanctity. His method of getting rid of the ungodly thoughts was painful. He bought by enduring considerable discomfort by immersing his buttocks and genitals into an anthill.

Now, who is your favorite saint?

Martyrs and extreme fanatics of the faith, it’s been noted, more often than not,  are deeply disturbed people devoured by their obsession. The early Christian martyrs and “holy men” have been researched, and hints of paranoia, masochism, and manic depression observed in their response to life and death. Some of them are said to be socially ill–adjusted people who seek to draw attention to themselves, their behavior psychologically no different from the exhibitionism of the psychopath…

No wonder mothers would rather have their children grow up to become bankers than saints.

To the Russian “spirituality  activists” the author suggests a reality show (the kind of Survivor, perhaps) which would test the true faith of the participants. Based upon the lives of Christian saints, it’ll have a bare-butt-in-the-anthill event, fight with wrens for figs, growing worms in the crevices of the flesh… What a glorious TV it would make!

Nobel And Noble Mugs In Glossy Mags

Some time ago, I “exposed myself” to the internet presence of one semi-respectable magazine. Under the banner PEOPLE there were names of featured “personalities” and the tally of comments, relating to each.  Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson got over two thousand comments each, while Jesus (yes, Mr. Christ) got 19. Among featured “others” — politicians, sports stars, money embezzlers, artists, killers etc. –- no one was nowhere near as high as the first two, still leaving the Son of God in the dust.

Granted, it was a peak of high drama: with morbid fascination our nation and the entire universe was following the development of the two actors’ break up… Oh, the perils of young love! Betrayal! Shattering of broken hearts!  Well, you know the story. You must. Even if you swear that you don’t. The capacity of our brains to absorb the information is limitless. Or, rather, inability of our brains to tune out the information is — like, wow! – totally unimpressive. (This out of character turn of phrase should appeal to the younger outcrop of readers, who wasn’t careful and got here by mistake.)

But I digressed right off the bat. All I hope to accomplish here is to re-post some pictures I found in the Russian edition of Esquire magazine, of all places.

Bear with me for a moment. As it appears, the Russian Esquire is a bit different in spirit than its venerable “father”, a men’s magazine, published in the U.S. by the Hearst Corporation, with its enticing motto: Esquire – Beautiful Women, Men’s Fashion, Best Music, Drink Recipes.

The Russian Esquire lists its main topics as being fashion and style, culture and arts, business and politics, personalities and interviews. And it “acts” accordingly, featuring a somewhat more “intellectually loaded” material.

In a way, while the U.S. Esquire is no more than a super-fat-and-glossy tabloid, the Russian one is still trying to infuse a touch of sophistication into Russian gentlemen everywhere. Without making anything resembling an actual difference, though, and still in every sense just an elegantly packaged pablum of entertainment.

Pablum is a processed cereal for infants originally marketed by the Mead Johnson Company in 1931. The trademarked name is a contracted form of the Latin word pabulum, which means “foodstuff.”

In a word, the magazine provides  readers with a kind of pseudo-elitist experience, giving them a minute feeling that they are about to change the world… without the discomfort of getting off of their ergonomic chairs.

Now the images. It’s not beautifully photo-shopped  ladies in dishabille, men’s fashion or pictures of designer cocktails.  It’s — don’t you say! — several Nobel Prize laureates. The scientists agreed to explain their stellar achievements, sketching diagrams on large sheets of drawing paper…

Whatever for scientist is awarded the Nobel Prize? Can really great scientists make really great pictures?

Tip of a hat to the Russian edition of Esquire Magazine and the photographer Volker Steger.

Paul Crutzen,  Dutch Nobel prize winning atmospheric chemist

Paul Crutzen, Dutch Nobel prize (1995) winning atmospheric chemist. A meteorologist from Amsterdam, Director of the Max Planck Institute of Chemistry in Mainz, together with two colleagues, he proved that air pollution weakens the Earth’s ozone layer, which prevents the penetration of ultraviolet radiation on the planet, thus making it suitable for life.  

jack Steinberger  for the neutrino beam method and the demonstration of the doublet structure of the leptons through the discovery of the muon neutrino

Jack Steinberger, German physicist, Nobel Prize in Physics in 1988, co-discovered the muon neutrino, along with Leon Lederman and Melvin Schwartz, for which they shared Nobel Prize.

Peter Andreas Grünberg   German physicist  Nobel Prize in Physics laureate for his discovery with Albert Fert of giant magnetoresistance which brought about a breakthrough in gigabyte hard disk drives.

Peter Andreas Grünberg, German physicist, Nobel Prize in Physics (2007) laureate for his discovery with Albert Fert of giant magnetoresistance which brought about a breakthrough in development of gigabyte hard disk drives.

Aaron Ciechanover   an Israeli biologist, who won the Nobel prize in Chemistry for characterizing the method that cells use to degrade and

Aaron Ciechanover, an Israeli biologist, who won the Nobel prize in Chemistry (2004) for characterizing the method that cells use to degrade and recycle proteins using ubiquitin.

Robert Kerl, Professor of chemistry at Rice University in Houston, Texas, Nobel Prize laureate in Chemistry.(1996).His work led to the creation of entirely new materials for nanotechnology and made possible the further miniaturization of as computer components.

Robert Kerl, Professor of chemistry at Rice University in Houston, Texas, Nobel Prize laureate in Chemistry.(1996).His work led to the creation of entirely new materials for nanotechnology and made possible the further miniaturization of computer components.

Tim Huntwas awarded the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Paul Nurse and Leland H. Hartwell for their discoveries of protein molecules that control the division (duplication) of cells.

Tim Hunt was awarded the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Paul Nurse and Leland H. Hartwell for their discoveries of protein molecules that control the division (duplication) of cells.

Richard Royce Schrock   an American chemist and Nobel laureate recognized for his contributions to the olefin metathesis reaction used in organic chemistry

Richard Royce Schrock, an American chemist and Nobel laureate (2005), MIT, is recognized for his contributions to the olefin metathesis reaction used in organic chemistry

Kurt Wüthrich  is a Swiss chemist and biophysicist and Nobel Chemistry laureate, known for developing Nuclear Magnetic Resonance NMR methods for studying biological macromolecules

Kurt Wüthrich is a Swiss chemist and biophysicist and Nobel Chemistry laureate 2002), known for developing Nuclear Magnetic Resonance NMR methods for studying biological macromolecules.

Craig Cameron Mello (born October 18, 1960) is an American biologist and professor of molecular medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, Massachusetts. He was awarded the 2006 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, along with Andrew Z. Fire, for the discovery of RNA interference.

Craig Cameron Mello  is an American biologist and professor of molecular medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, Massachusetts. He was awarded the 2006 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, along with Andrew Z. Fire, for the discovery of RNA interference.