sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue

July 21, 2014

Po Nad Use

Filed under: Ukraine — Tags: , — edge of the sandbox @ 6:37 am

In case my last post gives an impression that I’m taking sides in the Russo-Ukrainian war, here is a video of Ukrainian children being made to goosestep through the streets of Ukrainian towns:

“Glory to Ukraine — Glory to heroes” (“Slava Ukraine — geroyam slava) is a Ukrainian Nazi salute from the 1940’s and “Ukraiina po nad use” is “Ukraine uber alles”.
One day when I have time I’ll write a proper post about it.

June 19, 2014

Dear Parents of Russian Federation, Are You Nuts?

Filed under: parenting, politics, Russia — Tags: , , — edge of the sandbox @ 11:39 am

Echo Moskvy, one of the few opposition media sources (this is not an all-out endorsement, there are some despicable opposition figures in Russia) retells a personal story, corroborated with pictures, that previously made the rounds in Russian social media.  The event took place in late May:

Sick and sunburned, my daughter Ksenia returned from a Saturday celebration staged for Putin on St. Petersburg’s Isaakievsky Square.  5000 people, most of them from children’s’ choirs were appropriated to sing songs for the leader!  It was titled “The Limitless Wonder of the World”.

It was 30 degrees Celsius [~90 F – ed.] in Peter [St. Petersburg -- ed.] that day.  All 40 under the sun!  The children were sent off at 8 am.

Prior to the entrance to the square, the children’s choir was thoroughly searched. Documents were required (my child is 12, so I provided her birth certificate), then bottled water and juices brought by children were confiscated.

And then as usual – everyone waited several hours for the tzar, who’s always behind the schedule.  A five-thousand-strong crowd was blazing under the sun until noon.  The only entertainment was watching the snipers that swarmed all the roofs around Isakievsky Square.  Six out of the 37 children in our choir fell ill, and, our daughter observed, people were fainting right and left — volunteers and doctors were barely able to take them away and treat them with water.

Putin appeared for about 3 minutes in the middle of the concert, took pictures against the background of several thousand children (the leader and children — always a good picture!), then gave a short speech and departed.  The concert went on until 2 pm.

Ksenia did not last until the end of performance. She regained consciousness in medical tent where they threw water on her.

With all the traffic jams, the children returned to Sestroretsk by 4:30.

The child was hungry — she was not allowed to take any food — sunburnt, and in wet clothes, so she refused to go to the Birthday party of our friends’ child.

She also missed school on Monday because she wasn’t feeling well.

She is still not 100% after this show-off (Russian показухa — ed.) for the leader, which should really be called “The limitless shame of Peter”…

Words fail me.

Words fail me too, but for a different reason.  It’s not merely that the children got sunburnt — kids get sunburns — or even that so many of them fainted. It’s that the parents allowed the state to use their kids for propaganda purposes, when they should have expected the state to use them up and spit them out.

How to raise a slave

When in 2008 a group of Beverly Hills parents encouraged their children to sing a silly ode to then presidential candidate Obama, at least half the country was vocally disgusted by the creepy production.  But note, that was parents raising their own kids.  And while some of these parents surely think, in abstraction, that children belong to the “community”, they do not realize that the logical outcome of this line of thought is wholesale child abuse.

The fatalistic submission of St. Petersburg parents is not at all surprising.  When I was growing up in the former Soviet Union, subjects, young and old, were herded to all sorts of mass events.  We went because we went. Adults had their own parallel holiday — gave to Caesar what was Caesar’s and had a semi-discreet swig of vodka.  Children came, and our little selves were twisted into submission early on.

Not much has changed since the collapse of the Soviet Union.  It did not occur to the parent, who obviously dislikes Putin, to excuse her child from the event, however easy that would had been to do.  Nobody called in sick. Everyone knows their place.

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:

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