Movies: The Vanished Empire

Take a trip with into nostalgia me to the vanished empire that is the Soviet Union of the 1970s. this movie is all about it. You can watch it on Netflix.

Or, if you’re lucky, it’s already been playing, like a memory you have of a time you never experienced, in your head for the last 24 years.

Watch Sergei, an 18-year-old student at Moscow State University, as he grows up in Moscow, and realize that this is the way your parents grew up. Marvel at the fact that someone took a piece of stencil paper and traced your father’s youth as he bought Western records on the black market, played the bass in a rock band, and chainsmoked in dimly-lit auditoriums, and then took that traced piece of paper and created a movie out of it.

Take a look at his clothes and at the clothes of his love interest, Lyuda (Ludmilla), and notice the hair up in a bun. The 70s scarf.  The Soviet propaganda billboard behind them.  Marvel at how familiar it all feels.

See Sergei stand in line for beer with one of his friends.  Understand the Soviet ocheredi (queues) and the shortages. Not only understand them, but feel them, because you were in them.

Watch Sergei go to classes with his best friend Styepa (Stepan) at Moscow State University.  Understand the sweaters.  Not only understand the sweaters, but feel them.  You know these sweaters.  Your dad and your grandpa wore these sweaters.  There are many men at the Russian grocery store who still wear these sweaters, 20 years later, these distinctly Soviet sweaters.

Look at the black and white photographs in Lyuda’s parents’ apartment. Understand the hair styles and the facial expressions.  Feel the hairstyle.  The wallpaper, oh God, the wallpaper.

In fact, you had the same pictures taken when you were little, with the same Soviet toys.  The reason you are wearing a hat is because Russian girls are not allowed to go outside with their hair uncovered. They might catch a cold.

Look at your husband, age three. That shirt. That black and white camera film.

Look at the movie that Sergei and Lyuda go to see on a date. Ivan Vasilievich Menyaet Professiu (Ivan Vasilievich Changes Careers).  You watched this movie yesterday. And four months ago. And last year.  You watch all the Soviet movies.  Nothing in Russia changes, because these movies, these beautiful funny movies that were created 30 years ago, are still being shown and parodied in comedy sketches today.

Look at Lyuda’s parents’ apartment.  The stenka (wall unit.) Oh God, stenka.  Everyone had a wall unit.  Everyone has a wall unit here.  The stenka is the dream of all immigrants. You can put all of your books in it.  Having a lot of books is important because it means your family is educated. The books all have thick leather bindings and there are American titles translated into Russian, as well as Bulgakov and Tolstoy.

Watch in disbelief as the movie systematically matches everything you understand about where you came from and how you perceive it.  Cry because it is such a beautiful movie, about the vanished empire, but not just about that. About love, about how life works out differently than we expect it to.

Listen to the song, ” ‘My Address is the Soviet Union,” which was a popular patriotic song at the time containing the chorus, “My adress is neither a house nor a street, but the Soviet Union.” Your address is the Soviet Union. It’s not a physical address.

Gaze at Alexandr Lyapin, who plays Sergei.  But surreptitiously, because your husband is watching the movie with you.  Pretend your husband is Alexandr Lyapin. Your husband is Alexandr Lyapin.

Alexandr Lyapin.


Friday Links

This is pretty much my life right now:

Friday Links:

  1. A day in the life of a woman in comedy.
  2. Speaking of women and humor.
  3. Study says 89% of networking is nonconsensual
  4. I know I am.
  5. I really love this “About” page
  6. Pink for everyone!
  7. Third culture kids: we are weird.
  8. A list of 10 things. What’s yours?
  9. Pictures from Egypt.
  10. Cosmo: making you feel like crap since 1970!
  11. Thank youuuuuuu.
  12. So, I’m actually thinking about joining Toastmasters.
  13. It’s winter, but that doesn’t mean I can’t have bright color eyecandy.

Getting Married and Living Apart is Like Drinking Non-Alcoholic Wine

For over a year now, I’ve been reading trend pieces about how more and more married couples are choosing to live apart for a variety of reasons.  Some are because of the economy. But some are because of careers that could easily be compromised.

For the people that live apart by choice as opposed to circumstance,  I have to ask: are these people out of their f*$%^*# minds?

Living apart while married is one of the hardest things I have ever had to go through (and that’s including Russian healthcare and drinking Hortex.)  I feel like not only I’ve lost the forward momentum of our marriage, but more like Mr. B is some (hot) dude I hang out with on weekends rather than someone that I am trying to build shalom bayit and Ikea furniture with.

Once we start living together again (and driving each other crazy) things will revert back to normal.  But for now, I feel like Han Solo -frozen, waiting for the thaw to start action towards our future again.

I will probably regret my unyielding, uncompromising stance in this post when I am older and wiser, but to me, being married means marrying your lives and learning to yield, no matter how messy they are or how accustomed you are to doing things your own way. Living together means sharing in the duties of marriage like cleaning, cooking, and watching Jersey Shore.  Living together means having conversations like this at least three times a day (ok, maybe that’s just if you’re us.)

Living together means building your own space as a couple not only physically, but emotionally as well, which is why I will never, ever, ever regret spending our first two years of marriage a bit further away from family, no matter what logistical difficulties it is presenting us with now.  When you live apart, a certain essence of what makes a marriage a marriage, is lost.

I guess, for people that marry well after their careers, households, and families are established, it makes some sense.  Or if you have a can’t-miss career opportunity. In that case, shouldn’t the spouse with less earning potential sacrifice their job ad relocate as well?  But don’t live apart just to live apart, like these people:

Which brings me to a far more compelling reason for our living separately: John and I have nothing in common except that we love each other and our sons. (We also share an antipathy for team sports and shellfish, a solid foundation for lifelong commitment if there ever was one.) But as far as our living habits go, we could not be farther apart. I think this situation is true for many married couples; they simply won’t admit it.

That’s not a marriage.  That’s just a painful form of long division.


Life is not fair. If it were, I would be having my eggs peeled for me at Downton Abbey right now.

The absolute best thing to do when one is cold, alone, and without the comforts of Nutella to aid one’s diet is to warm up a nice spot of tea and watching hot British people in the 1920s be assholes to each other.

Luckily for one (me), a series that has already aired in Britain has just made its way over to America: Downton Abbey .  I love watching shows about class relations, history, and pretty hats, so I’ve been hitting the PBS website pretty hard, trying to find out when a new episode is up.  I have also been dreaming about living at the estate.

Although there’s no way I’m a secret duchess or even a baroness, I can always dream about outsourcing some things in my life to make it easier, right?

A Footman for starting the car before I go to work since it’s COLD, COLD, COLD, and most importantly, foot massages after a long run.  A Porter for carrying my laptop to and from work. A Butler for telling me what kind of wine I can bring to parties without people knowing that it cost $10.99.  And, of course, a scullery maid to do the endless stacks of dishes.  From Wikipedia: “The scullery maid also assisted in cleaning vegetables.” Excellent.  I can have her peel my oranges.

Doesn’t it suck that, nowadays, you have to be your own footman, butler, porter, scullerymaid, housemaid, housekeeper, and valet?  No wonder we never have enough hours in the day: we are doing the jobs of at least seven people at once.

Oh well.  I guess it’s a tradeoff for not having to wear corsets, riding sidesaddle, and marrying your cousin, each of which is more uncomfortable than the next.


Friday Links

I was debating on whether or not I should post this.  But, ok.  Here it is, the latest find from SKRUG: a car with a front European license plate (of course) that has a Russian flag and says “Yolka,” which means either fir tree (like the kind you have for your New Year tree) or a nickname of some sort. I can imagine some tall, skinny guy in the Russian mafia being like, “Yeah. They call me Yolka cause I’ve done so many needles. ”

Nothing says LOOKATMELOOKATME like this license plate+car combo.

So I looked at it.

P.S. If this is your car, I would like a ride.


  1. Been HANKering for a Henry Paulson action figure?  You’re in luck!
  2. Interesting website I hadn’t seen before.
  3. Starbucks straws really are that big.
  4. I actually also have this as a goal, and cannot get rid of any of them.
  5. Gym etiquette flow chart.
  6. How you will eventually divorce.
  7. The Most Emailed Article in the New York Times
  8. Are you a neat freak like us?
  9. Don’t you wish you could see this in person?
  10. The things you learn when you start with accents and end with sugar sandwiches. (P.S. Ai did not wrait in wiz ze question.)
  11. Holy crap people in Alaska are crazy.