The Moscow Times, with some hint hint US, backing is trying get it shut down. The problems of pirated music are rampant, but it strikes me as only fair that Russians should be able to buy cheap music as well. They don’t have the hot DVD/CD burning technology, which most Americans have and make ample use of. Just because Russians aren’t as wealthy and don’t have the luxury of buying and iPod shouldn't deprive them of things Westerners have. In addition, the outrageous prices the some companies charge for software are certainly unfair to developing countries—letting only Western companies be able to afford such software.
That said, how to deal with intellectual property rights is of huge concern. Surely, a country that cannot protect intellectual property rights, will have a huge problem in developing their economy. In a recent move, many music sellers are talking about lowering their prices in order to compete with the pirated music vendors. Perhaps this is a step in the right direction—though it is interesting that this moves comes only from market pressure from illegal vendors.
I live near the edge of the Moscow city limits in the north of the city next to a Metro station named Bibirevo in the neighborhood of the same name. The neighborhood is the peak of Soviet hideousness with prefabricated high-rise buildings built in the early 80’s that are now in quite a state of disrepair. It is, however, quite family-oriented and the community in the building seems quite strong with many children playing around the buildings. This last weekend was council clean-up weekend, and it was nice to see the community effort of raking up leaves and sweeping up broken glass—something certainly missing in the U.S.
In addition, there has been a spate of building in the neighborhood and two large malls have been erected right near our building so that we have all the conveniences of modern American mall life. I can eat me Sbarro pizza, then go to the hardware store pick up some bolts, and finally sashay over to the grocery store to buy some imported soy sauce and tofu. Thank goodness for these little pleasures.
Our flat is perfectly comfortable except that it hasn’t been remodeled since Soviet times and has no washing machine or television, and the only radio it has is the old state-controlled type that you have to plug into special jack and only receives three stations. But these, nevertheless, are part of its charms as it is quite easy to pass an evening reading and writing with very little interruption.
Part of this quietness is due to my English (from outside of Birmingham) flatmate (roommate) Mark (known to some as Darth) Vada. Mark is a self-described strange guy. In fact one of the first things he uttered to me was: “I am an antisocial person.” Needless to say this was a strange welcome to Moscow, and I was a bit worried.
I must say now , however, that we get along very well and Mark is a kind and intelligient person—albeit still very strange. We have had good conversation on topics ranging from illegal immigration to the best way to navigate Moscow by bus.
Physically, Mark measures about 6’4 and weighs maybe a hundred and twenty pounds. Okay, he is scarecrow-thin and very tall. He as lanky straight black hair that falls down over his eyes and a red face with what appears to be bad acne scarring.
Mark does not talk unless talked to. I am still not quite sure how he teaches. He works seven days a week, and, until he was forced to go on holiday in order to renew his visa, he had not taken a day of vacation since he arrived in September.
Mark is very neat. He assiduously mops the floors every two weeks and keeps the place generally spotless. He is also an avid student of the Russian language—though since he doesn’t speak to anyone he can’t really say anything. He does have a good passive knowledge though.
This, I hope, will provide you all a small insight into the lodgings in which I now find myself.
P.S. Sorry for the strange prose. I think I am being effected by the Gogol novel Dead Souls , which I am currently reading, and have been suffused with a strange style of writing common to Penguin paperback translations of classics. Read Dead Souls if you have a chance.
I went with a friend to Gorky Park last weekend. I had heard of Gorky Park but didn't know what it was. I am actually still not sure what my fifty Rouble entrace fee was for, though I did ride the ferris wheel for another fifty Roubles, which was good fun. From the top it was interesting to look down over all of Moscow and seen Stalin's Seven Sister popping up in different spots on the horizon, and I was again reminded of the crazy disjuncture of the city and the strange angles at which everything meets.
The ferris wheel itself was quite clunky and made strange noises. The locks on some of the carriages were broken. On Monday I read here another ferris wheel had collapsed and several people had been injured. Guess I won't be doing that again.
The class was four guys, and, both encouraged by my student Alex and loving everything scatological I asked them if they wanted to learn a disgusting idiom with the word “head.” The said they did. Bypassing all the common vulgar idioms with the word head, I decided to teach them “turtle-heading,” which they thought extremely amusing.
After the laughter subsided, my students then asked me if I knew the word стул or stool (which is chair in Russian). I said that I did. They responded, “no, no, no the second meaning--like liquid stool.” I burst out laughing when I realized that for some mysterious etymological reason that I would definitely like to get to the bottom of, the Russian words stool shares both the same definitions as the English word. I told my students and they were glad to learn a new word that was so easy—unlike diarrhea, which they though too difficult..
The subject, however, wouldn’t die. For some reason, which I can no longer remember, one woman in a mainly-women group I teach in a recruitment agency asked me if I knew what a “пупок ” (poopok) was. I misheard her and asked: “Did you say poop?” Like all good intercultural exchanges we eventually worked out our confusion. I found out that poopok was a belly-button and my students found out that poop came out of your butt. My women students also thought this was funny, though they blushed quite severely, and told me that the subject was absolutely taboo in Russia, so much so that parents won’t even ask their toddler if they need to do number 2.