September 05, 2019

Cosmic Robots, Cosmonaut Rituals, and Classrooms Resplendent


Cosmic Robots, Cosmonaut Rituals, and Classrooms Resplendent
Setting a new standard for alumni contributions. Учителя тоже люди

Quote of the Week

“On the road by the sea, I’ll buy watermelons.
On the beach, we’ll eat corn.
Then, we’ll look at the red sun.
And again, I will sincerely say:
If there is a heaven on earth, it is Krasnodarsky Krai.”

— A viral rap about the beauties of Krasnodarsky Krai

1. Most rich alumni give back to their schools and some may even get a building named after them. But one Yekaterinburg alum went above and beyond all that, redesigning his entire school in the style of a palace. The school now features ceiling mosaics, marble bathrooms, Roman pillars, and gold trimmings that Louis XIV would envy. Explaining his design choices, the alum said he chose this lavish style, “So that the kids don’t have to go to Versailles or the Louvre. It will immediately give them a better mood.” Who said altruism and fancy tastes were mutually exclusive?

2. Having conquered soccer fields and military academies, Russian robots are now conquering the skies. Robot Fedor, an anthropomorphic AI robot, arrived aboard the ISS on August 27 and will head home on September 7 after learning the secrets of dangerous space-borne operations. Although he was dogged with snark from the start, Fedor is learning fast. In just the last few days, he tested the ISS exoskeleton, requested a name change, and gave an interview to human cosmonauts (no video, but reportedly he responded “adequately”). So, never underestimate someone/something that might become your overlord.

Fedor works with a screwdriver. / FEDOR37516789
 

3. In other space-related news, due to a spacesuit redesign, Russian cosmonauts won’t be able to pee from their spacesuits anymore. This may sound trivial (people in space wear diapers on spacewalks), but it’s actually a big deal. Cosmonauts have a surprising number of weird traditions, one of which is urinating on the back wheel of the bus taking them to the launch pad. The new spacesuit designer has heard of this tradition, but he doesn’t really care and argues that the convenience of his new spacesuit is worth it. One small step for convenience, but a leap backwards for cosmonaut camaraderie.

In Odder News

  • Wholesome Thursdays: A brave Muscovite ran across three lanes of traffic in order to rescue a cat.
Cat rescue from highway
Cat hero of the highways. / Moslenta
  • To celebrate the start of the school year, kids in Chelyabinsk were treated to… songs about vodka. (It later emerged that that was more for the parents than the kids.)
  • Many Russian orphans leave orphanages with little support and know-how for surviving the outside world. This NGO seeks to change that.

Want more where this comes from? Give your inbox the gift of TWERF, our Thursday newsletter on the quirkiest, obscurest, and Russianest of Russian happenings of the week.

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Stargorod: A Novel in Many Voices

Stargorod: A Novel in Many Voices

Stargorod is a mid-sized provincial city that exists only in Russian metaphorical space. It has its roots in Gogol, and Ilf and Petrov, and is a place far from Moscow, but close to Russian hearts. It is a place of mystery and normality, of provincial innocence and Black Earth wisdom. Strange, inexplicable things happen in Stargorod. So do good things. And bad things. A lot like life everywhere, one might say. Only with a heavy dose of vodka, longing and mystery.
Chekhov Bilingual

Chekhov Bilingual

Some of Chekhov's most beloved stories, with English and accented Russian on facing pages throughout. 
Maria's War: A Soldier's Autobiography

Maria's War: A Soldier's Autobiography

This astonishingly gripping autobiography by the founder of the Russian Women’s Death Battallion in World War I is an eye-opening documentary of life before, during and after the Bolshevik Revolution.
Murder and the Muse

Murder and the Muse

KGB Chief Andropov has tapped Matyushkin to solve a brazen jewel heist from Picasso’s wife at the posh Metropole Hotel. But when the case bleeds over into murder, machinations, and international intrigue, not everyone is eager to see where the clues might lead.
Woe From Wit (bilingual)

Woe From Wit (bilingual)

One of the most famous works of Russian literature, the four-act comedy in verse Woe from Wit skewers staid, nineteenth century Russian society, and it positively teems with “winged phrases” that are essential colloquialisms for students of Russian and Russian culture.
Marooned in Moscow

Marooned in Moscow

This gripping autobiography plays out against the backdrop of Russia's bloody Civil War, and was one of the first Western eyewitness accounts of life in post-revolutionary Russia. Marooned in Moscow provides a fascinating account of one woman's entry into war-torn Russia in early 1920, first-person impressions of many in the top Soviet leadership, and accounts of the author's increasingly dangerous work as a journalist and spy, to say nothing of her work on behalf of prisoners, her two arrests, and her eventual ten-month-long imprisonment, including in the infamous Lubyanka prison. It is a veritable encyclopedia of life in Russia in the early 1920s.
Turgenev Bilingual

Turgenev Bilingual

A sampling of Ivan Turgenev's masterful short stories, plays, novellas and novels. Bilingual, with English and accented Russian texts running side by side on adjoining pages.
Bears in the Caviar

Bears in the Caviar

Bears in the Caviar is a hilarious and insightful memoir by a diplomat who was “present at the creation” of US-Soviet relations. Charles Thayer headed off to Russia in 1933, calculating that if he could just learn Russian and be on the spot when the US and USSR established relations, he could make himself indispensable and start a career in the foreign service. Remarkably, he pulled it of.
Faith & Humor: Notes from Muscovy

Faith & Humor: Notes from Muscovy

A book that dares to explore the humanity of priests and pilgrims, saints and sinners, Faith & Humor has been both a runaway bestseller in Russia and the focus of heated controversy – as often happens when a thoughtful writer takes on sacred cows. The stories, aphorisms, anecdotes, dialogues and adventures in this volume comprise an encyclopedia of modern Russian Orthodoxy, and thereby of Russian life.
At the Circus (bilingual)

At the Circus (bilingual)

This wonderful novella by Alexander Kuprin tells the story of the wrestler Arbuzov and his battle against a renowned American wrestler. Rich in detail and characterization, At the Circus brims with excitement and life. You can smell the sawdust in the big top, see the vivid and colorful characters, sense the tension build as Arbuzov readies to face off against the American.
Fearful Majesty

Fearful Majesty

This acclaimed biography of one of Russia’s most important and tyrannical rulers is not only a rich, readable biography, it is also surprisingly timely, revealing how many of the issues Russia faces today have their roots in Ivan’s reign.

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