Posts Tagged ‘Moscow’

A southerly is a coming.

January 5, 2019

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Moscow University.

With the unrelenting heat finally ending with a solid promise by BOM ( Bureau of Meteorology) that the temperature is set to drop by  ten degrees over the next hour or so. It is early yet, but a southerly change is coming! We have been mainly inside during the last few hot days, spend reading or on the internet. I discovered a book picked blind-folded out of our book shelves. It is ‘Fathers and Sons’ by Ivan Turgenev. отцы и сыновья иван тургенев

It is large brown coloured hard cover bound and published by Foreign Languages Publishing House Moscow, and even has coloured plates of the different characters pasted in between the pages. A beautiful book to look at even without reading the words. But talking about Moscow. Moscow’s university is so big, that even if one spent just one day in each room, your life would not be long enough to have lived in each room. The statistics are staggering.

Many years ago I visited Moscow and St Petersburg. I wrote about it in ‘Frank Story’. Here is ‘n extract from the visit to the Hermitage Museum.

“It was the next day, when we were all ready to be bundled into the bus, with Natasha our guide, and remarkably, also the two Queensland girls who came to Russia to ‘shop and drop with two enormous bags’, to do the visit of all visits, namely, ‘The Winter Palace and The Hermitage’. It seems inconceivable enough to have gone through life without having experienced those two icons, but to have visited Russia and not to have done so, an unconscionable offence. The so affable and unrelenting larrikin of our Aussie Moscow librarian took yet another turn and this time serious. He became seriously ill, out of breath and appeared to have a heart attack. Within a few minutes an ambulance arrived and he was taken to hospital. He, sadly, would miss out on his Hermitage experience, which he had told me, he had never visited during his stint at the Moscow library. We, after this short delay were whisked away and soon arrived at the Hermitage Museum. Much to our surprise we were led past a queue at least a kilometre long and invited through the gates within a couple of minutes of our arrival. Was communism with its heart supposedly embedded in the welfare of its proletariat already slipping that fast, to now give preference to rich foreign cashed-up capitalist tourists?

The Hermitage Museum with The Winter Palace defies anything that I had seen so far, even the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Not just the buildings but the space in front of it. The sense of what space can add to buildings is nowhere as clear as that of the Red Square in Moscow and the huge square in front of The Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. So, by the time you reach the front of the buildings you are already in awe of whatever there might be inside. I suppose, this is also when you approach Sydney’s Opera House when viewed from the expanse of the Harbour.  The Hermitage Museum houses over 3.000.000 pieces dating from the Stone Age to the 20th century and presents the development of the world of culture and art throughout that period. You cannot possibly do justice in spending a few tourists’ hours but, alas, that is all we had time for.”

But let me finish with a beautiful poem;

Those Shadows.
Here’s a Song;

When I am dead, my dearest,
Sing no sad songs for me;
Plant thou no roses at my head,
Nor shady cypress tree;
Be the green grass above
with showers and dewdrops wet;
And if thou wilt, remember,
And if thou wilt forget.

I shall not see the shadows,
I shall not feel the rain;
I shall not hear the nightingale
Sing on, as if in pain;
And dreaming through the twilight
That doth not rise nor set,
Haply I may remember,
And haply may forget.

( Christina Rossetti 1830-1894 )

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The rain, glorious rain

February 7, 2017

 

 

!cid_B39359ED-0A74-4D2D-B20B-21CE39AA684EWhat is it about rain that is so uplifting? Does it soothe the world or at least calms it? You know the patter on the metal roof or the drip drip echo in the down-pipes has a melody. Listen carefully and soon it begets a rhythm all by itself. It is music. With heat so relenting, who wants sunshine? Yet, this is what many desire away from sun and warmth. The millions dreaming of lying in the sun, baking away. So depressing. My dad hated beach and its abrasive sand and stark sun beating down, scorching bodies. I must have inherited the same gene. People living in the tropics always seek shade and so do I. Most fortunately, we both share this need to escape from sun’s glaring stare.

I took time off to get quotes for air conditioning. There are many variants of cooling and heating houses. The mind boggles. Choices have to be made. One can have models that are bolted on the wall. They can blow hot air during winter and cold in summer. Other types do the same but done through ducts that are fixed above the ceilings. They are more efficient and can do the whole house instead of just one room. Another choice is to get the temperature regulated by using both gas and electricity. Then the latest, having all this done through ‘inverter’ technology.

An Inverter is used to control the speed of the compressor motor, so as to continuously regulate the temperature. The DC Inverter units have a variable-frequency drive that comprises an adjustable electrical inverter to control the speed of the electromotor, which means the compressor and the cooling / heating output.”

So, you can see where my thoughts have been lately. I try and get Helvi on site by giving her some literature given to me to study by the installers of air conditioners, but she declines to get involved or enthusiastic about technical stuff, especially the ‘variable- frequency driver..’  The proliferation of ‘choice’ is what seems to become more and more embedded in what we buy. A new oven now comes with so many buttons, so many options, people end up not using the ovens. Some are forced to go and eat out or take out meals. I see now so many running through the main street with pizza boxes or plastic bags with square boxes towering on top of each other. You can smell the Black-Bean beef, the Szechuan chicken and boiled rice, if not the foot-long bun with Frankfurter trying to escape lubricated by the tom-sauce.

Someone stole my ‘Apple’ account and even gave me a ‘Cloud’ address based in Moscow. I could not download e-mails. Not a disaster but I frightened they would steal money next. I went ‘on line’ and changed the Apple account. It was again forced in having to decide on so may options and choices. A nightmare. How do we cope?

You can now make transactions by tapping cards here and there. My brother’s car opens up by waving his hand near the door. I don’t really like those choices of tapping and waving. It feels idiotic.

My sister in law is a hard-core traditionalist and insists on always making her transactions in real person by first insisting on seeing the real person teller at the bank and making withdrawals and then go to the Post office to pay her bills to a real person. I too used to do this. I must confess of having failed the traditionalists and pay ‘on-line.’ I haven’t used the tapping card mechanism at Aldi. I always pay cash because it is quicker. I sometimes can’t contain myself and shuffle impatiently when a shopper seems to take forever tapping and putting in numbers over and over again. I yawn loudly or sigh loud. It is especially annoying when this card tapper is also guilty of buying rubbish pre-digested processed food or worse, lots of Coke or Corn-fruity loops.

Normally, I am easy-going.

 

The learning of Fox Trot and my V8 Ford.

May 25, 2015
Ford V8 Singl spinner

Ford V8 Single spinner

Of course with the powder-blue Ford V8 sedan and the family being treated to a few tours around Sydney, thoughts went to try and get to know more about the opposite sex. These were lean times spent with females.  Harking back to the Scheyville migrant camp with the very limited and lonely Polish-pubic- bush peek through the shower partition, the experience had exhausted itself. I decided to take the bull by the horn and take some dancing lessons. I had noticed that in some magazines of  the ‘boy wants to meet girl’ kind (or the reverse), photos of the boys were often taken while nonchalantly leaning with one foot elevated into the door- way of a car.  A photo leaning one footed in the side-car of my motor bike wasn’t all that exciting a prospect for a girl to be taken out in. I mean, on A Roman Holiday the girls rode around on a Vespa but that was a bit different from driving around mute Sydney suburbia and its nodding petunias in an ex-police motor bike, even with a side-car.

The nous for someone with a guttural accent to get to know a girl in a strange country might now have  to include a photo of myself leaning casually in my FordV8.  Even then, I feared it might just not melt the tigers enough to make the butter.  I needed some flair, more oomph, chutzpah even. Before placing an ad in a lonely heart’s magazine I decided to take dancing lessons from Phyllis Bates dancing academy. I had already learnt that the word ‘academy’ was used in Australia with careless abandon.  I mean, that word in Holland meant professors and  Leiden University or an eight year ballet course in Moscow with the Bolshoi. Here an ‘academy’ could be doing Jiu jitsu , car repairs, or jigging about above a Greek milk bar. In any case, this dancing academy offered a booklet of twenty tickets on ‘special’. In the late fifties and sixties, everything was ‘special’. Even a local built car was Holden ‘special’. You did not have much that was sold being ‘not-special.’ The one thing that remained static and fixed, even till now is, that some cheese survived today, is still sold as ‘tasty.’

The flooding of the love-market was heavily tilted towards single bull necked males with strong gnarled horned hands. They were the ones to build the Snowy Mountain’s  Electricity supply scheme, now  redundant; the digging of mines at Mnt Isa, now redundant;  the cutting of sugar cane in hot Queensland, now by giant machines. I thought that by learning to do a nifty fox-trot or even a quick-step I would have an edge over the Queensland cane-cutters and bulky Bulgarians when it came to getting to know a girl with a lovely smile. I duly took the train to Sydney after donning a clean Pelaco shirt, finely ironed by my mother and a smart Reuben- Scarf suit (two for the price of one). I walked to Pitt Street and clambered the stairs up to Phyllis Bates Academy. (above the milk bar) and presented my booklet of twenty tickets After a ticket was ripped out of my booklet I entered a room from which before I could hear a lively tune being emitted. A very nice cone bra encased woman came to me and after introduction told me she would start teach me a fox trot.

‘ Just follow the painted footsteps on the floor’ and ‘I’ll guide you’. Just start one two…one two….I hopped along but could hardly believe a woman was holding me, I mean a real woman!  To think I still had nineteen tickets left. I could hardly contain my pleasure but did notice that most of the dance students were all bulky cane cutter males. The teacher in the meantime said; ‘ you have to hold me in such a way that a book must be firmly held between us and not fall on the floor’. The last thing I wanted for future memories was the misery of unable to even hold the book between me and a female body and suffer the ignominy of a failed book holder while learning the fox trot.

But, where were the girls? So much to come yet.

Of Sardines between St Petersburg and UK’s Whitby

April 8, 2015
The Hermitage

The Hermitage

The week in St Petersburg was somewhat marred by a bout of intestinal hurry I suffered within minutes of entering The Hermitage Museum.  The origin  of this was perplexing as the night before we had enjoyed a terrific meal of genuine Russian fare. The borscht was part of it together with potato dumplings drowned in a rich sauce of red wine with lots of bay leaves, sage and pepper. As a side dish we had piroshkies.

Our dinner was very interesting in that, apart from the delicious food, it included a large Russian wedding party which intermittently  in between eating and imbibing copious Vodka would repeatedly shout gorko, gorko which actually means ‘bitter, bitter’ but bitter would only cease if the groom and bride would get up an make bitter sweet in a long-time kiss and more kiss. This would happen every ten minutes or so. The noise was terrific and soon the bitter vodka was made sweet. The bride looked lovely and very happy.

But back to this annoying intestinal hurry the day after and inside The Hermitage.. After asking for toilet directions they kept pointing towards the distance. Anyone who has been inside the Hermitage would know it takes about a week to walk from beginning to end. I did not have that much time so I started running through gilded room through gilded room. I lost care and interest. Monets, Manets, Gauguins were rushed past. Things were percolating madly to unbearable levels. I was in great panic. I remember the sad look on  Rembrandt’s The return of The Prodigal Son, the father’s eyes following me as I ran past. The moments of such great importance now  in total avoidance and ignorance of the world’s greatest art. Can you believe it?

Whitby? Captain Cook's cottage

Whitby? Captain Cook’s cottage

Final, triumph…the toilet is in sight. It was as huge as the rest of this museum.  The reader would know that Russian communism at that time was in flux but had as yet not changed with holding on to having full employment. A large seated lady overseeing the comings and goings in this huge toilet was part of this full employment. Ladies seated on chairs were everywhere in Russian society. The toilet I was in did not have a door or perhaps not a functioning door. I don’t know or remember if all the toilet cubicles were like that but mine was not door inclusive. I could not care less, I was so happy. Afterwards I calmly sauntered back and took some time to atone to The Prodigal Son  for my strange hurried behaviour, all was forgiven. The Monet’s looked so peaceful now too.

All good things come to past as so did my Russian trip. The time for departure to London had come. We all said goodbye and I made my way to the airport to fly back to Moscow and from there connect with a flight to London. Alas, the flight was delayed. Aeroflot was apologetic but made good with a ravishing lunch dish of freshly grilled sardines and salad. Butterflied sardines deeply grilled are my favourite. Soon after the sardines we took off and within an hour or so landed at Moscow. The connecting flight to London again was not forthcoming. I suppose with Russia in political flux or even without flux, patience gets rewarded. Soon a lunch was provided for the traveller. I was somewhat surprised to again be given the grilled sardines. They weren’t the last ones!

When we were finally put on board to London and dinner arrived soon. I had already enjoyed a couple of very fine Georgian white wines. As the food trolley slowly made its way towards my seat a familiar waft came towards me. You guess right, sardines again. I could only surmise a rich Russian oligarch  had gone long on the sardine option market and was forced to take the stock of a hundreds of tonnes of sardines at a loss. This loss was now shared by putting the whole of Russia on sardines including passengers on Aeroflot.

I arrived at Heathrow’s airport and was met by an Australian friend who took me to a house of a Lord and book-publisher at Shepherd Bush. Life can be very strange, even stranger than fiction. Who could imagine I would sleep in an English Lord’s house being full of sardines?

Robyn Hood Bay.

Robyn Hood Bay.

Moscow and overnight train to St Petersburg.( valley of Lily)

April 6, 2015
The red square with queue from l/r to see Lenin in his mausoleum.

The red square with queue from l/r to see Lenin in his mausoleum.

( About 1985) After a week or so in Moscow with the obligatory viewing of Red Square with the mile long queue at the Lenin Mausoleum,  the Stalin built but magnificent underground railway  with marbled statues and chandeliers,  an evening at the theatre watching ‘An American in Paris’ by American composer of Russian parentage, George Gershwin, we all took a late evening overnight train to St Petersburg. It was in July, very hot and days were interspersed with short but violent lightning storms. I was surprised that the giant  down pipes of those large buildings jettisoned the pelting rain straight onto the footpath whereby pedestrians had to perform large leaps into the air not get washed into the kerbs. I was astonished how high the Russians could leap but it did give me a better perspective on The Bolshoi Ballet phenomenon.

The overnight trip to St Petersburg has been covered earlier but is now buried at the bottom of this pile and in any case, my memory might well have shifted to even greater heights.  Here another retell. After getting on-board we were given the seats as shown on the pre-booked tickets. My compartment had a couple and a woman of typical generous Russian proportion and spirit. The two compartments behind me were taken up by an American group of singers who had performed in Moscow and now on their way to St Petersburg.

The Winter Palace (Hermitage)

The Winter Palace (Hermitage)

We soon settled and when I took a walk around my wagon I noticed the Americans who after introduction told me they were part of a choir. As I told them I was Australian they were keen for me to give an impromptu performance of  a Paul Hogan ‘Crocodile Dundee’ and several versions of   ‘Goodyaj, howszego’en maitey?’. I obliged but quickly escaped back to my cabin.  I can only perform on my own without an audience or mirror.The woman and couple introduced themselves and so did I. The Russian woman’s name was Lily and she could speak some German.

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One has to understand we were all going to sleep together so a kind of bonhomie and familiarity might ensure a reasonable and peaceful slumber later on. Russian trains do not segregate and at least in USSR sleeper trains, sleeping is not fraught with fear of an opportunistic sex maniac creeping in. That seems to be more the domain of those cultures that believe men and women are  so entirely different they ought to be separated from birth whenever possible.  For some, to attack remains the only option to get together.

Lily became instantly the epitome of what their race is known for. A socially, inclusive and talkative person. Friendly and keen to exchange talk on almost anything and everything. It was easy for me when we could also talk in German, but I am sure that even without a common language she would have seen that as a minor obstacle, easily overcome by gesture and body language, facial expressions. It was a hot and somewhat brooding thunderstorm threatening train journey. We were all sweating profusely and while talking Lily would pat and dab in between her generously forthcoming bosom with a crocheted hanky. ( I remember it well) that she kept sprinkling with  Eau de Cologne number 4711.

The Hermitage.

The Hermitage.

We exchanged small talk the best we could of which I have forgotten most but not all. What I did not forget is what ensued after she asked me what I did. “Ich bin ein Kunstler (..) und Lehrer. I answered”. I am an artist and teacher. Well, it was instant pandemonium.  You would know that teachers in Eastern Europe and especially Finland and former USSR countries are regarded and revered like lawyers and doctors, if not a new Dostoevsky or a burgeoning Tolstoy as well.   To be an artist and teacher is like being 2 doctors in one. She took out a small bottle of a greenish colour and poured some of the liquid in a metal beaker. The cabin immediately smelt strongly of aniseed.  She also had a packet of sugar cubes which she had opened earlier and given me some.

She went around the wagon telling all that here was, an Australian artist on board, while sharing the aniseed dipped sugar cubes all round. They all came and wanted to inspect this Australian ‘teacher – artist’. It was my moment of fame. When things calmed down we retired back to our cabin while she kept up the talk while  dabbing and giving  absinthe laced sugar. Around midnight we had enough and  as the aniseed euphoria and drowsiness was starting to wear off, all decided to go to sleep. The couple and Lily promptly pulled the beds of the wall.  We all took turns going to the corridor allowing ablutions and getting ready for bed. I took the top bunk and Lily the bottom one.

We were woken up early by the train lady conductor and given tea and sweet bread which famously gets served in a large very ornate silver  teapot with drinking glasses held in equally ornate silver holders with swan-necked ears.

We had arrived at St Petersburg.

St Petersburg Fortress which had held some very famous people including Trotsky.

St Petersburg Fortress which had held some very famous people including Trotsky.

My Russian Camera.

April 5, 2015
1958 Gerard with his sister on the Lambretta Scooter

1958 Gerard with his sister on the Lambretta Scooter

I’ll try and find my box of photos that I took while I was in the USSR during the mid eighties. I don’t write in diaries so my dates have to be given much leeway by those readers diligent and tenacious enough to keep following my words. Most of what I seem to write is from many decades ago. With old age also comes a kind of carelessness. Why not enjoy at least that luxury?

What is true so far, is that back in the eighties, or so, I noticed an advertisement in the travel section of our biggest Newspaper, The Sydney Morning Herald, about an all inclusive trip of USSR. It included as one would expect Moscow and St Petersburg, and would end in London. All hotels and all meals included. Russia was also going through a profound change whereby its last leader was being challenged by a more modern and forward looking man named  Mikhail Gorbachev. He was the last of Soviet Union’s Presidents.

I have now found the box of photos taken by the Russian Camera. As I mentioned it had a very powerful shutter mechanism which reminded me somewhat of my BSA 22 single shot rifle I used for rabbit hunting during the late fifties. The shutter spring must have been so strong the film was exposed twice during the release of the shutter on the bounce back.

Moscow University.

Moscow University.

Lomonosov Moscow State University is so big students have been found at an advanced age simply because they lost their way to the exit, and finally gave up preferring instead to live in its library with 9,000,000 books, 2,000,000 in foreign languages. The university has 1 000 000 m2 floor area in 1 000 buildings and structures, with its 8 dormitories housing over 12 000 students of its 40.000 students and 300 km of utility lines. All free of course, even the foreign students.

A Babushka paying respect to a noble forefather, probably a Tolstoy.

A Babushka paying respect to a noble forefather, probably a Tolstoy.

  • The Russians are big on visiting graves and so they should. Some say, you can tell a culture by the way they look after their departed souls. The graves are often surrounded by Syringa vulgaris (lilac) both pink and white, are well kept and thankfully not a plastic flower in sight. As you dear readers might know, I too am fond of graves and grave yards. There is something so life confirming about them, especially when you know it befalls everybody. A life well lived deserves a nice farewell and a good grave.
  • A bit of a drink party in Moscow.

    A bit of a drink party in Moscow.

    This photo shows a group drinking. I did not investigate what it was they were drinking. It might have been some soft drink or Vodka. Who knows?

  • Bartering in the USSR (Moscow)

    Bartering in the USSR (Moscow)

    A group of women exchanging goods. This was very common and westerners cunningly used to bring lots of jeans and quality goods for exchanging but I never understood what was wanted in exchange. You could not really buy much and had to account for all money spent by showing receipts when you left the country.

  • Moscow shop showing some fashion articles.

    Moscow shop showing some fashion articles.

At last a photo of a shop with some fashion items clothes. We had some Australian girls in our group who thought they would like to shop. They hadn’t done their homework on the USSR. I found it to be a very fascinating insight and absolutely enjoyed my stay there. People were curious and knew a lot about literature and art. I was ashamed to admit some students knew more about Australian writers than I did. On the train Moscow -St Petersburg I met a German speaking Russian woman named Lily who kept giving me sugar cubes dipped in Absinthe and when I told her I was an artist she told the rest of our train compartment. I was just about carried on the shoulders of the Russian travellers. But of that more next time.

I might call next article. ‘Valley of the Lily’.

ps. The scooter photo also shows my mother in the door of our temporary dwelling.  It was on ‘own’ block of land at 51 McGirr Street Revesby, Australia. It was made of the lethal asbestos cement!

The dog was nice but hated the postman who came by motorbike. It was always a race between the bike flat tack uphill and the dog chasing him.

Dutch News. “Us and Them.”

November 10, 2012

Annemarie van Gaal: Developing countries

Thursday 08 November 2012

Developing countries are catching up fast. Development aid can be more of a hindrance than a help, writes Annemarie van Gaal

We are cutting the development aid budget by €1bn a year and this is a good thing. The inequality in the world is no longer a matter of ‘us’, the industrialised world, and ‘them’, the third-world countries. Inequality is mainly a problem within the countries themselves and throwing money at it is not going to solve it. If anything, it will make it worse.

In 1990 the Dutch gave massively to ‘Help the Russians through the winter’, as the slogan had it. We were bombarded daily with images of desperate Russians in empty shops, shivering children and long queues outside soup kitchens. Sonja Barend hosted a programme from a shabby little studio in Moscow and the Dutch donated generously. The whole thing was a great success and the Russians were ‘saved’.

Free market

In fact, there was no lack of food in Russia. The only problem the country was struggling with was its rapid development. Russia was emerging from a communist regime and had trouble adapting to the free market. Under communism, goods were produced and trucks trundled back and forth according to a fixed route. Nobody asked whether the goods were actually answering a demand or whether the trucks were going to the right place.

Moreover, Russian officials had no intention of giving up their comfortable positions, so they preferred to keep the food-laden trucks waiting at customs for weeks instead of promoting a quicker flow. The real problem was a lack of compassion from the haves for the have nots, the division of wealth and the inequality between the different layers of Russian society itself. No amount of money was going to solve that.

Gap

On Ted.com Hans Rosling, one of the founders of Doctors without borders, compares our perception of third world countries with the reality on the ground. According to Rosling, third world countries are catching up fast. Some differences remain but these countries are developing at a much quicker rate than any western country.

He supports his comment with a graph showing child mortality on the y-axis and the gross national product on the x-axis. If you look at these data over time you will see that third world countries are gaining rapidly on the industrialised countries.

A century ago the gap between a country like Chile and the United States and Western Europe was huge. Right now, Chile’s economic welfare level is comparable to that of the US in 1957. But because the Chilean economy is growing at a faster rate than that of the US, Chile could well be replacing the US on Gosling’s graph in twenty or thirty years’ time. Ghana is now where Sweden was in 1900. In 1920 Sweden was where Egypt is now and in 1950 the Swedish economy was at the level Mexico is at right now.

Healthcare

Former third world countries in Asia, the Middle East and South America already have better healthcare systems than the industrialised nations. It won’t be long before they beat us economically as well

Rosling thinks the term ‘third world countries’ should be scrapped. If we didn’t hold them back by handing over our money – which ends up lining the wrong pockets and keeps the wrong people in power -these countries would develop a damn sight more quickly than many a western country. The greatest problem that these countries have to tackle is the difference between ‘us’ and ‘them’ within their own borders.

Annematie van Gaal is head of publishing company AM Meda. She is also a writer and television personality

© DutchNews.nl

In Praise of Sex and Moscow State University

March 23, 2012

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Years ago, a movie about sex education was shown in a George Street cinema. It might have been during the mid or late fifties or so. The movie could only be seen by strictly segregated audiences. Women were on even, men (as always), on uneven days.

I was still young but mustardy keen about sex, very curious about finally viewing female genitalia. The ticket prices were more than usual. Sex, even the educational type, was exploited already then. The queues were long, but I finally got in. The ticket seller a male and so were all the ushers. Not a woman in sight.

The Hammond organ rose majestically from the bowels of the cinema, while large pink curtains slid open soundlessly. A stirring rendition of ‘God save the Queen’ was oozed out of the organ. We all stood up in Royal reverence and lustful expectation.

There was a short introduction by a lanky Liberace-like man dressed in a sparkling white suit, warning us all not to get over excited. Please, all stay calm throughout the entire film, he advised with stern authority. We would finally be shown the act of human re-production in all its black and white glory, he enthused. Far out!

Apart from the sighing of hundreds of young men with penises semi expectant, you could hear a pin drop. Not as much as a rustling chips packet.

The film finally started and with lots of diagrams and arrows there appeared shot after shot a plethora of ovum and sperm. Nothing actually moved. It was rather disconcerting when after some ovum and sperm finally getting together; a real live woman was shown to wheel a baby around in a pram. Not a twitch of anything sexual or erotic, in fact the opposite. No genital let alone genitalia.The disappointment was palpable.

The crowd was getting restless. A trickle made for the exit, soon followed by a torrent. Then, and I have never forgotten this, a very miffed young man shouted at the back of the cinema in a rasping strong Aussie accent…” has anyone cracked a fat yet?”  I still laugh in the sweet memory of it.

In those days, sex was totally kept subterranean and one was lucky to have seen a girl’s nude knee. Girls were kept at arm’s length. The mothers gave daughters sex information based on; if anything moves on the boy, no matter where or how, move away and come home immediately, darn a sock or boil some Brussel sprouts.

Haven’t things moved forward since? Just type in V A G I N A on the computer and one is greeted by 32.900.000 responses in one ninth of a second, compliments via Google. While the issues surrounding sex were cloaked in secrecy and mystery at earlier times, not anymore now. We certainly don’t need queue up in George Street cinema anymore. At the same time I wonder if the pendulum hasn’t swung the other way a bit too far. I mean, 32.900.000 times too far.

It all reminds me of standing in front of Moscow’s university, apparently one of the largest in world. Our lovely Russian guide Natasha informed us, that even if we got to a hundred years old, our lives would not be long enough living in a different room at that university every week.

The Lomonosov Moscow State University enrolls over 40.000 students annually with another 4000 foreign students. Its library alone has over 9.000.000 books with 2.000.000 in foreign languages. More than 6000 professors and lecturers are employed plus scores of researchers…

http://www.msu.ru/en/

Now, they are impressive numbers that surely matter more than the 32.900.000 vagina Google entrees .You would have thought that the world’s interest in sexual matters would now have subsided, calmed down a bit and shifted away to more pressing needs.

While the interest in the female genitalia continues unabated, it’s a different kettle of fish with penises. Amazingly, there are only 9.440.000 penis entrees on the internet. What do we make of that? Are we men not good enough? Are there some design flaws or the aesthetics unappetizing? We men need to feel secure and strong, you know.

Perhaps, it all comes down to choice. Our lives will not only be long enough to traverse through all of Moscow’s university rooms, neither do we have time to peruse all those vagina or penis entries. One thing is for sure. I would rather traverse through any university than trawl the net for genitalia. They are all so boringly uniform and the same. It’s just something with hair on it. Surely, there has to be more to life.

Moscow – St Petersburg ( Leningrad) Express

January 28, 2012

Originally from ABC The Drum:http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/32238.html

It is one thing to see sports players going overseas but worse still would be losing artists to greener pastures.

I am reminded somewhat by the reverence shown to Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who died recently. Thousands filed past his open casket. Television showed metre long roses placed there by Putin and Gorbachev. I wonder whether we would revere our writers and artists the same.

I can’t remember when I have last seen a PM opening a book show or being photographed at an art gallery, or even commenting on the importance of art. On the contrary, the Bill Henson affair brought out suspicion, disregard and ignorance from those that ought to know better.

Why is it that sport is the Holy Grail above everything else?

Years ago I took the overnight train from Moscow to St Petersburg (Leningrad) in midsummer and shared the sleeper with a couple and an ample-bosomed and beautiful Russian woman by the name of Lilly.

Most of the sleeper cabins behind me had groups of American choir singers, both boys and girls of around 20-30 years of age. They had performed in Moscow and were booked to sing in St Petersburg. Being midsummer, and so far north, the days lasted forever. It had also been very hot with thunderstorms in the late afternoon. The Americans were pleased to meet someone from Australia and, as proof of it, I was asked to give an impromptu impersonation of Crocodile Dundee star Paul Hogan and say “goodiaye and hozygoin” over and over again.

This was nothing compared with what would follow next. The beautiful Lilly in my cabin spoke some German and so did I. The train was air conditioned but it was stifling hot and, as Lilly and I got acquainted, she, now and then, modestly dabbed her bosom with an Eau de Cologne sprinkled silken and embroidered handkerchief. She kindly asked what I did when I was not travelling and I told her I painted pictures. Ach nein, du bist ein Artiest? Wie ist das möglich? (An artist, how is that possible?) The hanky started working overtime.

The secret was out and went like wildfire through the whole train. The next thing, passengers were lining up to meet me, vodka was offered and Lilly unpacked some ‘kuchen’ with cubed sugar soaked in almond essence. (I remember it well.) I was almost carried around on shoulders and tears were flowing. I was feted like an emperor.

Some hours later, when darkness finally announced itself – and consider Russian sleeper trains are not gender separated, and the vodka had settled – the four of us, including the beautiful Lilly, calmly undressed. I hopped in the top bunk and she underneath. I slept on a cloud of Eau the Cologne and almond essence.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0lNFRLrP014

Next morning, breakfast was served in those ornate silver plated urns and glassware. The Americans behind us, thankfully, had had enough of Aussie imitations.

Getting back to the reverence shown to artists, dead or alive, in countries elsewhere, it seems doubly annoying to hear in all details the latest exploits of an AFL player who went to play in France for more money. Why is that of such enormous importance?

What I am trying to get at is that if I would have gone around the Goulburn-City Rail Link announcing I painted pictures, the best I could hope for would be the question “Do you sell them, and how much?”

How many more years will be wasted in giving so much credit to sport and so little to art?

When will we finally start recognising that art is important because it lasts and also defines us as a nation that always strives above the mundane.

A Pox on Advertising

January 6, 2011

A Pox on AdvertisingPosted on January 6, 2011 by gerard oosterman

  

 

Here in our compound of 8 villas/town-houses there is just one post box which has ‘no-junk’ on it. This is rather surprising because each week now we get a bundle in one package of about 12 different advertising folders. They are colourful brochures singing the praise of many different bargains to be had for the canny shopper. They run the gamut from Big W to The Good Guys and include such mouth-watering shopping venues as Fantastic Furniture, Dick Smith, IGA and even good old Woollies.

Did you know that SUPER IGA this week has, wait for it: Whole Economy Rump for $ 5.99 a kilo and it includes 200% guarantee on freshness & quality. Now, I ask you, how could anyone resist the 200% guarantee? But it gets even better. They have Peters Overload ice cream at $3.99, Minties at $1.99 and a 2 litre tomato sauce and 2 litre Barbeque sauce at both for a mere $3.99. Can you imagine 4 litres for $3.99? The mind boggles. I simply can’t imagine rushing out and get 4 litres of sauce to squeeze over food. I am not going to live that long, neither would you want to suffer that fate.

And that’s just the beginning. Cop this. At Fantastic Furniture, just for you, and as advertised, the magnificent Dallas Chaise in ‘living fabric’ reduced from $ 399.- to $299.- included 5  year structural and 10 years foundation guarantee. It’s all too much. I’ll just have to lay down on my own battered Euro Chaise and rest, rejoice in all those bargains.

Seriously though, who in earth studies those brochures? I must admit I have always felt a terrible bout of weariness coming on when it comes to anything with advertising. I just don’t get it. Do people really look at TV ads or newspaper ads? I must confess to having peeked into a Real Estate window when we were looking for a place to live. Mind you, I probably would look that up on the computer now.

When the kids come over they watch The Simpsons and they now know how to get to that channel.  Apart from SBS we never ever watch a commercial channel. SBS has ads but I never really know what they are advertising because my eyes are on automatic when faced with advertising and just glaze over, and I take a nano nap.

I remember going to Moscow many year ago. It was heaven, not a billboard or ad in sight. No shops either. On SBS’s I love watching global village especially when it features continental Europe.  It’s pure bliss seeing street scapes without those advertising hoardings so familiar here. Do Europeans buy less because advertising is so much more modest? It is all rather puzzling. I do think much man made architecture in Australia could be improved by making advertising subject to some sort of control.

Any trip along Sydney’s Parramatta Rd almost results in the need for a rehab, or a solid bout of counselling. Nothing in the world could possibly get any uglier. How can addicts to alcohol or drugs remain clean when visually assaulted everywhere they go? Trying to get repeat tourism to Australia the best thing would be to get some kind of aesthetics committee up and running and try and introduce standards in public use of advertising space like they do in most countries that are more sensitive to the world of vision. After all, why should we have the freedom to visually insult so many locals, let alone tourists, by imposing ugliness in the form of hoardings and screaming advertisements?

Anyway, Coles Beef has No added HORMONES and No added COST to you.

Fantastic, I must rush out, go to IGA for the 4 litres of sauce and 200% fresher Economy Rump then of to Big W to snap up the 5pack of Bonds hipsters.