Weirdness Diary: 30 September 2016

There’s a Cracked podcast where they’re talking about logical fallacies that are hardwired into our brains, using as one example Russian dashcam footage that you find on Youtube. Even people with no interest in Russia (AKA most of the Western world) have run across these “meanwhile in Russia” videos, most of which are taken from dashboard cameras used by many Russian and Ukrainian drivers. As the hosts of the podcast explain, it’s not that wacky things are happening more often in Russia, it’s just that due to the prevalence of dashcams Russians are more likely to catch crazy things on camera. Like this:

The howitzer in the video above later resigned from the Russian armed forces just before it rolled across the border, founded a pseudo-state, and created yet another frozen conflict. Russia denies all involvement. 

While yes, it is true that not every day in Russia involves soldiers cutting a tree down to save a cat or tanks jumping onto the road in front of oncoming traffic, anyone who has lived here for even a short while will tell you that you will experience some seriously weird shit. Today’s examples wouldn’t be too bizarre compared to what I’ve seen in the past decade, but firstly, I’m holding those back for my book, and secondly, they happened within the space of maybe a couple of hours.

The first was a young man who stops me on the street. I pull out my headphones and he asks me if I’m a skinhead. I find this odd because skinheads are not known to wear very baggy cargo pants, blouse their boots (they roll up their jeans), or navy blue peacoats. And while my head is indeed shaved, a haircut nature itself forced upon me, I was wearing a hat, so for all he knew I could have had a high-and-tight or a Ukrainian cossack chub underneath.

I informed him that no, I am not in fact a skinhead, and he then asked me if I’m an artist. Now these are both interesting choices I have to say. Hipsters are associated with art, and they have been known to appropriate all different sorts of styles. That being said, I have never heard of hipsters dressing up like skinheads and being neo-Nazis “ironically.” This was quite an odd pair of guesses- skinhead or artist.

He then told me he is a practitioner of yoga, and asked me about my karma. I told him it was fine. He tried to offer me some kind of book, no doubt on some Hindu-based faith, but I thanked him and went on my way. In retrospect, I should have told him to look up Savitri Devi if he ever wants to recruit actual skinheads to yoga classes.

A little bit later I come home and stop at a local grocery establishment. There is a crowd of young men gathered a few steps away from the door. At the door, I see a very old woman with a cane who appears to have trouble opening the door. Realizing that these ill mannered rapscallions are indifferent to the old crone’s plight, I promptly open the door and stand aside. And she moves forth…about an inch. Then a bit more. And a little bit more. I should point out that while she had a cane, she was not exceptionally frail, nor did she appear to be in pain. She was just moving extremely slowly for some reason.

Moving inside I am dismayed that my favorite tvorog is nowhere to be found. I might have consumed all of it this week. Thus besides having to acquire a few other provisions I took extra time examining and comparing the various brands and types of tvorog available. I then pay for my purchases. All in all, I’d say it was eight minutes.

I get outside, about to go my normal route home, and there’s that same old lady, who has managed to make it maybe twenty meters from the door. Still moving, seemingly inch by inch. Again, not rickety or visibly in pain, just super slow. Judging by her speed I’m guessing she works in the Russian post office.





16 thoughts on “Weirdness Diary: 30 September 2016

  1. Asehpe

    Weirdest thing seen in the Russosphere? Old men peddling anti-semite literature at the Maidan (before it was the Maidan, i.e., when it was just a square, the Майдан Незалежностi…). I felt as if I were in 1925 Vienna. Second weirdest thing? At the bookstores on the Arsenal’naya metro station in Kyiv. I see a Hungarian translation of the bible I wanted to buy, sold by some weird-looking guy who didn’t even have a proper store, just a bunch of books on a few boxes. He looks at me and says: ‘why do you want to buy it?’ I say, ‘because I like languages.’ He answers, ‘and what do I do if a Hungarian who wants to read the word of the Lord comes by? I think I should keep this for him, not for you.’ And he gives me back my money.

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      Those book guys are still there on Maidan. They used to have guys selling books like that next to Dom Knigi and Biblio-Globus in Moscow, but they were all cleared out.

      1. Asehpe

        Don’t you find that weird? I mean, after all that has happened in Ukraine in WWII, after Lenin and communism and the USSR, there STILL are old guys there selling stuff that says it’s all the Jews’ fault? How does that happen?

  2. Mr. Hack

    Going into a public restroom in Kyiv, taking a leak alongside many others, and noticing a little old Babushka within sweeping the floor…noone pays any attention except me…

    Can anybody really ever forget their first experience taking a crap in such a place? squatting down cossack style and unloading into a little hole at the bottom of a slightly nuanced concrete slab elevating downwards? Praying all the time that you keep your balance and not fall into the god-awful mess? It’s been at least 10 years since I’ve performed this act of relief in Ukraine, and my legs are not what they once were?…..:-)

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      It’s good that squat toilets are increasingly disappearing from Moscow and the surrounding area. In Ukraine I think I saw one or two, and if there was another one it was definitely in the east.

      Georgia had far too many squat toilets and thus I was forced to write it off as a third world country in spite of enjoying everything else.

      China. You are dead to me.

    2. Asehpe

      I had this toilet experience once in Kyiv, near Zolotie Vorota, there’s this public building (I think it was part of the Ministry of Transportation or something), and I suddenly feel the urge. I enter the building, there’s a babushka sitting at a desk at the entrance and I ask (in Russian) if I could use the toilets. She looks at me as if I had just fallen from the moon or something, and points in the direction of the central yard, where there is something looking like an outhouse. I go there, and yes, it’s the squatting type. I do the deed, what can you do, etc., then I come out, hoping this would be the last time… to see a young man in a military uniform with a submachine gun there waiting for me. Що ти тут робиш? he says, in Ukrainian, and I reply, in Russian, that I don’t speak Ukrainian, so he asks again what I was doing there, this time in Russian. I explain I needed a toilet, and thought about using this one. So he turns around and without even looking at me, says “follow me.” He marches imperiously down the corridor. I begin to sweat, thinking I’d now see just how violent the Ukes can be… quotes from Koestler’s “Midnight at Dawn” started cruising through my mind… We stopped at the entrance, he turned his gun to me, and said “Go! And never come back! I don’t want to see you ever again!” Overwhelmed by relief, I left, as quickly as I could. Phew! What had I escaped?… Better hold it next time…

      1. Mr. Hack

        I did hold one in onetime while visiting Ukrainian Crimea,,,stepping off of touristy boat taken from Gurzuv to the Nikitsky Botanical Garden, the urge took over, however I was denied the privilege of reliving myself in this posh looking hotel right near the shore. I was told to use the public toilet across the street. Upon entering this small building, I was stunned at the sights within. Dante’s inferno had nothing on the sights within: knee high piles of pies strewn about in almost neat order. It was amazing to see such a close approximation of hell so close to another one that resembled heaven..

  3. TimoT

    Things are going to get a lot weirder once Putin and his cronies have wasted all the government savings in order to maintain his superpower illusion, The Soviet Reunion.

    The most idiotic decision was to attack into Ukraine. It has created another bloody frozen conflict, a large money pit with no returns or perks at all and stopped basically all western investments. 15 years of worth of oil money almost all have been also wasted on “white elephants” that produce nothing but more costs or are simply wasted totally.

    His propaganda machine is also failing. The Russians rather watch a movie in another channel unlike maybe just three years ago. Instead of watching the “news” of how the West supposedly once again screwed poor little Russia this or that way. Propaganda bored.

    Hard to really believe in that propaganda when you go to work and order another set of spare parts from Germany or try to order (food) products in high demand from France but are forbidden because of Russian counter-sanctions.

    He is like an incompetent, wannabe dictator who just cannot do anything right in the long term. Strategic blunders, one after another. His basic principles from the KGB of the 1970’s are just so out of sync with the reality.

    The end of Putin’s rule is hard to predict but he is not the type of going out with guns blazing and missiles flying. Otherwise he would have applied to Afghanistan KGB jobs where the real action was in the early 1980’s, instead of safe and sleepy Dresden, not that important town in Germany. He would have also not put a lot of his ill-gotten gains into the western banks.

    I think he would try to negotiate some sort of safe haven deal instead, when he sees there is no other way out. Before that he will try to keep the power by any means necessary as long as it is not his own ass on the firing line or somebody powerful enough to flip and go against him.

  4. gbd_crwx

    I have a serious question though: Could some of this more frequent weird stuff come from a more traditional male role, where own initiative and following your own head is higher valued?

      1. gbd_crwx

        Well, that was kind of what I was aiming at. The improvisation stemming from a manly ideal to be a man and solve the problem, not to follow rules and all that.

        Btw, I read in the Guardian some people being upset by Robbie Williams most recent video, any truth to that story?

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