sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue

June 12, 2014

Queen of The Rock — Will You Help Me Roll?

Filed under: music — Tags: — edge of the sandbox @ 11:59 am

It’s almost Friday, and so…

May 30, 2014

Sauce on The Tablecloth

Filed under: feminism, Soviet Union — Tags: , , — edge of the sandbox @ 4:50 pm

A lady who once wrote that “it has taken me 32 years to understand how to take care of myself” penned an essay calling for a national conversation on 3rd-wave-feminism-compliance of feminine hygiene products.  She proposed the thesis that the use of tampons alienates women from the natural power bestowed on them by menstruation.  (Question: why do menses stand for female power but childbearing is scoffed at?)  The revelation was all inspired by a rap video, titled “Tampons and Tylenol” (what else?) because to really understand where we are as a society, look no further than popular culture, especially black popular culture as it’s more authentic.  (Actually I kind of agree about pop culture being a mirror of society, but, gosh, it’s such a feminist cliche!)

The onset of menses is a huge event for girls, who talk about it quite a bit among themselves –so I’m not surprised that in our let-it-all-hang-out culture the topic finds its way into a song here or there or a sitcom features a joke about it.  More interesting is that the contemporary Western grown ups are so uninhibited about the whole monthly trouble thing.

In my early teens in the Soviet Union, which happened to be in the 1980’s, I had to deal with pretty heavy logistics.  Our only option was a special rubber “belt”, panties really, and inside of the “belt” we laid a runner of cotton which had to be removed and replaced once soaked.  On a heavy day, we’d carry around a spool of cotton.  Once the “monthly” was over, we cleaned and stored the device.  The “belt” was purchased at pharmacies, where, once there was no men around, we whispered the name into the ear of a woman behind the counter who then discreetly slid it into the shopper’s purse.

My “belt’s” edge rubbed against my hip, and by the time I left USSR at the age of 16, I developed a scar that did not heal until a few years later.  I suppose as far as the scars of socialism go, that one was rather superficial.

Once we crossed the border, I could choose from a variety of products, all more convenient and humane than the ones I had before.  But what if some peeping Tom was watching me shop?  To my astonishment, Western women dragged colorful plastic bags of tampons to the check out counters of supermarkets where they were often rang up by men, and the men seemed to pay little or no attention to what went down the conveyer belt.  Heck, no-one at the supermarket expressed any interest in what was rolled in the shopping cards in the plain view of the customers.  What, no sex maniacs of capitalism?

And Western women, have they no shame?  Or maybe that’s what civilization is like because, to quote Chekhov: “A good upbringing means not that you won’t spill sauce on the tablecloth, but that you won’t notice it when someone else does.”

Somewhere on the way to motherhood periods ceased providing endless fodder for girl talk.  Then childbirth and nursing became preferred subjects of powder room conversations.  Mostly I’m happy that consumer society makes it easy for a woman to go on with her life, even when bleeding and in pain.  I don’t believe a feminist needs to take any position on feminine hygiene products other than to promote economic system that eases inconvenience and perhaps celebrate the society that does not make a big deal out of it.  Then again, I don’t believe that personal is political.

May 2, 2014

The Whereabouts of This Blogger

Filed under: everyday, Ukraine — Tags: , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 4:26 pm

It’s Birthday season in the Sandbox household.  Mine was last week, and my daughter’s next week.  Son’s coming up soon.  What it means is that my husband took kids shopping for chocolates for mommy while I got to wrap presents.  It also means that I’m chasing parents in my daughter’s class trying to get them to RSVP.  Some of the parents speak no English, and about half of the kids lost their invitations.

I’m not sure immigrant parents understand the concept of RSVP.  We certainly had no such thing in the Soviet Union.  When I was a  kid, I invited my girlfriends all by myself, gave my grandma the headcount, and she baked a cake or two.  Our Birthday parties had no themes and presents were unwrapped.  Occasionally the informal system gave in.  For instance, one of my cousins, born in summertime when all the kids including her were vacationing, really wanted a Birthday party.  One spring she invited a few girls from her neighborhood, who, to the amazement of her family showed up at her doorsteps holding gifts and dressed up for the occasion.  Her mother and grandmother had to improvise a party.

My son, the adventurer, did something that can probably be considered an American classic.  He found some loose pill in a drinking fountain and, thinking it was a smarties candy, put it in his mouth.  By the time he realized he didn’t like it, half of the pill was consumed.

I called the advice nurse who called poison control who advised her to tell me to go to the nearest emergency room for 4-6 hours of observation.  I thought that the pill was probably an aspirin, but who’s going to take the chance?  I took him to the hospital where after an hour or sitting around the doctor called poison control.  My son was exhibiting absolutely no symptoms of any kind of poisoning.  This time poison control told the doc that the chances of that pill being prescription medication are very slim, and that my son should be observed at the hospital for one more hour and then released.

Did I tell you about the one time he stuck cheerios up his nose?

Last but not least, read my post on federalization (or decentralization, anyway) of Ukraine on LI.  It’s something discussed in Ukraine and Russia in connection with the current crisis.

April 21, 2014

Social Contract in Ukraine

Filed under: politics, Ukraine — edge of the sandbox @ 7:11 pm

I found this photo of a one-man protest on the feed of my onetime classmate from Kharkov, Ukraine.  This woman lives in the south-east of the country and is of ethnically mixed origin, Russian and Latvian, if I remember correctly, and is married to a man with an Ukrainian surname.  Although she opposed the Maidan protests and considers the current government illegitimate, she wants to live in a country called Ukraine She also opposes a war between her country and Russia as well as the partial mobilization declared by the temporary government in Kyiv.  This is a pretty common sentiment in Ukraine’s south-west.

The man is holding up a poster that reads “My son didn’t go to pre-school — he will not go to the army!”

Somewhere in Ukraine

His son didn’t go to pre-school because the lines to subsidized pre-schools are often so long that children grow up before their turn comes up.  Ukraine is in no way unique in this regard; I hear the situation in France is no different.  In any event, a viable nation doesn’t need an elaborate welfare apparatus to produce defenders of the state.

March 31, 2014

Odessa Conflict – March 30th

Filed under: politics — edge of the sandbox @ 2:46 pm

Near-riot on Potemkin Steps in Odessa, Ukraine between Maidan and Antimaidan:

March 28, 2014

Second Revolution Underway in Ukraine?

Or third, if we count the Orange Revolution of 2004.  The Orange Revolution peacefully reversed election theft by Russia-supported Viktor Yanukovich.  For a moment, Ukraine united behind democratically elected nationalist Viktor Yushchenko supported by the West.  Yushchenko eventually deflated, receiving a mere 5.5% of the vote in 2010 presidential election.  He was replaced by his former arch-nemesis Yanukovich (they’d since kissed and made up), now democratically elected.

In November 2014, demonstrators demanded the resignation of Yanukovich, who by now signed an agreement to enter Russia’s Customs Union, leaving the EU association.  Demonstrations, that had support of about 1/2 of the country quickly turned violent.  The violence was perpetrated by neo-Nazi groups Svoboda and Pravy Sektor.  One of the three chief leaders of Euromaidan, as the protest became known, was Oleg Tyagnybok (I’m going to spell his name with g‘s because I can and with an y because it sounds funny to a Russian speaker — inside knowledge, I know) of Svoboda.  Those protests were marked by chants of “Moskolej na nozhi” or “Stub moskals (derogatory for Russian) with knives” and wild hopping teens screaming “Kto ne skache, tot moskal” or “The one who doesn’t hop is a moskal”. Certainly, there was more to it.  Most Ukrainians, whatever their political leanings, were clearly fed up with poverty and corruption.  Many wanted to be a European country.  Most understood that neither the EU not NATO are in a position to include them.

Protesters waved the black and red flags of the Nazi-collaborating Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists/Ukrainian Insurgent Army alongside Ukrainian flags.  Nazis attacked riot police.  In other words, if Occupy or the Tea Party were doing it, they wouldn’t last a day.  Because we are not a failed state.  Yet.

Maidan leader from Svoboda party Oleg Tyagnybok

The protesters achieved their goal of overthrowing Yanukovich and installing their own “people’s trust” government.  Ukraine’s south-east, which voted for Yanukovich, is not exactly pleased with this turn of events.  Wasting no time, Putin chopped off majority ethnic Russia Crimea.  His previously waning popularity soared among the Russians; the nation was Crimea-crazy since the break up of the Soviet Union.  Now, the US, along with Britain and France found themselves in a curious bind.  Being the signatories to Budapest Memorandum, we promised to guarantee Ukraine’s territorial integrity in exchange for nuclear disarmament.  Needless to say, we have no appetite for going to war.  But why did we recognize the current government in the first place?  So far they’ve achieved two goals: Replacing one set of oligarchs with another and moving up the regularly scheduled election by a whopping 9 months.

Now, I’m happy Ukraine is disarmed because their current equivalent of secretary of defense is a Nazi, as are many other members of the provisional cabinet.  There are moderates in the cabinet, of course.  Among the Kerensky figures is the “people’s trust” PM Arseni Yatsenyuk who looks like a mix of a grass-hopper and a rabbit.  He proclaimed himself a “kamikaze” ready to make unpopular economic decisions.  That he did.  In the meantime, Putin annexed Crimea waiving the carrot of higher pensions and capital investment before the residents of the peninsula.

“Brilliant green” Yatsenyuk. The political leader was assaulted in the north-eastern city of Kharkiv in February. In the country where politicians are flamboyantly charismatic, this one was destined to be a kamikaze

The provisional Ukrainian government turned off Russian television and is readying prosecution of separatists from the south-east.  To behead pro-Russian opposition, “lustration” of political adversaries, Yanukovich’s Party of Regions is in the works.  Pravy Sektor, displeased with the slow speed of “lustration” and general lack of revolutionary progress, vowed a new, more radical revolution to accomplish the goals of Maidan.

In the meantime, former Chechen fighter and Pravy Sektor YouTube super-star “Sashko Bilyi” filmed on multiple occasions threatening and assaulting officials in the Western Ukrainian city of Rovno (Rivne), was shot and killed by local law enforcement, allegedly resisting arrest.  Rovno is the territory of Batkivshchina, the moderate nationalist party of Yatsenyuk and formerly jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

Some call Tymoshenko the drama queen of Ukrainian politics

On the other hand, in the opening salvo of her Presidential campaign Tymoshenko released that audio of herself promising to “kill Russian-speaking Ukrainians with nuclear weapons”.  This didn’t deter Pravy Sektor, who, in the aftermath of Bilyi’s death immediately pledged to avenge him, from surrendering the Ukrainian Parliament, the Vekhovna Rada.  The radicals who strong-armed the revolution and now found themselves in positions of power don’t poll well, so it’s in their interest to start a civil war.

To add to this mess, Russian tanks are positioned on the Ukrainian border, and Russian TV aired national weather forecast that included Ukraine’s north-eastern regions of Donetsk, Kharkiv and Luhansk.  Protests across the south-east are ongoing, sometimes calling for federalization of the country, sometimes — for restoration of Yanukovich and/or the Soviet Union and /or the Russian Empire withing the 1917 borders.  Since Sacramento, CA, which boasts a sizable Russian and Ukrainian population, was not a part of the 1917 borders, the US might be off the hook.  But neither Poland nor Finland are.

Many observers anticipated that after the victory Kyiv nationalists will relocate their protest onto the enemy soil of south-east Ukraine, but that didn’t really happen.  Some Pravy Sektor revolutionaries did attempt to occupy government buildings in these areas, but they were kicked out.  A few shoot-outs notwithstanding, Maidan presence on the Party of Regions strongholds was limited.  Revolutionaries stayed home, parading through the streets of western Ukraine, and, being the only armed group there, harassing locals.

In a highly televised (in Russia) video, the citizens of the eastern Ukrainian industrial region of Donbas attempted to stop a Ukrainian tank.  (X-rated Russian language, real action starts at about 5:05):

Interesting times lie ahead for Ukraine.

March 17, 2014

The Bear Roars

Filed under: Russia — Tags: , , — edge of the sandbox @ 9:57 pm

Russia is back, mostly due to incompetence of the US foreign policy.

You might had heard of a state Russian TV host opining that Russia is the only country in the world capable of turning the US into radioactive dust.  This might be grandstanding, but, on a more low-key note, Russia wants to litigate Alaska back:

I couldn’t find an English translation, but trust me, English-speaking readers, this is what this very serious TV segment is all about.  Actually, half of the Russian-speaking people around the world is not quite sure how the large-breasted kept her face straight through this segment.

One thing for sure, though, we need a new president.

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