Fires In Russia

Surreal video out of Russia where wildfires are ravaging central and western parts of the country following the hottest July on record. A car-full of volunteers helping residents of the Nizhny Novgorod Oblast village of Tamboles find themselves very nearly trapped on the road leading out of town. What follows is, as one of the participants notes, a tense car ride through a Dante-inspired landscape. Don’t be surprised if you breathe a little sigh of relief along with these gentleman as they burst through into the sunlight at the end.

Via The Daily What : reddit

Igor Oleynikov

A patchwork biography of Igor Oleynikov: Growing up in Lubertsy, Russia — a small town outside of Moscow — his entrance into the art world was at the Russian animation studio Soyuzmultfilm in 1979. Since 1986 he has been illustrating children’s books and has done 25 to date.

Children’s book illustration is a lot like veterinary school — the common misconception being that medical school has a much higher barrier of entry, and yet the opposite is true. Children’s book illustration is a notoriously difficult nut to crack.

Oleynikov’s work is testament to the talent involved in the field. His paintings are lush and yet his tones are muted just enough to give everything a dream-like quality. In addition, they possess that air of danger and foreboding so often found in literature for young readers. Really, I could look at these all day. See more after the jump and even more here, here, and here.

The Friday Afternoon Movie: Russian Ark

I must admit, I’m afraid I might be doing a great disservice with this week’s FAM. Not in the sense that the film chosen is of inferior quality or offensive; indeed I have plenty of those which I will no doubt post in the future, without any feelings of guilt. No, my unease comes with the inferior method of delivery. It arises from the fact that I may be exposing people to a film that should only be viewed in the highest possible fidelity which the above offering on YouTube is decidedly not.

Today’s FAM is Alexander Sokurov’s Russian Ark from 2002, a film that I might describe as “decadent” and “luscious” were I a man given to pithy, vague descriptors, which I assure you I am not [Editor’s Note: He is.] Filmed in one fluid take we follow the disembodied voice of our narrator (in actuality the voice of Sokurov) and unseen gentleman who intimates that he, in fact, died in a horrible accident. Accompanying him is “the European” (based on the Marquis de Custine). Together they explore the Winter Palace, which is now the centerpiece of the Russian Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. As they wander from room to room, so to do they wander through Russian history, though those well-versed in said history will note that events depicted are not in chronological order.

What follows is a technically astonishing [Editor’s Note: See?] piece of film-making. Meandering through 33 rooms and featuring over two thousand actors and three orchestras, the result is a history lesson within a dream. As such, it’s all the more frustrating to not be able to see all the small details present on the actors’ costumes are the information overload presented by the splendor of the Winter Palace. I urge you to track down a copy if you enjoyed it here as the experience is really night and day.

The Hobbit In Russia

The curators of all things weird and Soviet bloc over at English Russia have a collection of wonderful illustrations from the 1976 edition of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, by Mikhail Belomlinsky. A prolific illustrator of children’s books, Belominsky’s interpretations are that perfect mix of foreboding and fun. I am especially smitten with his rendition of Gollum. I would love to get my hands on a copy for the illustrations alone, regardless of my inability to actually read it.

FAM: Tetris: From Russia With Love

A treat for this, the 16th of April, in the year of our Lord Two Thousand and Ten. Today the FAM presents the 2004 BBC documentary Tetris: From Russia With Love at the risk of offending the beautiful yet cruel Nadya by forcing her to relive the traumatic events that led to the loss of her family and her subsequent immigration to the States. Even now as I sit here writing this, I strain my ears, listening for the tell-tale tapping of her limping gate, the staccato rhythm of cane and wooden leg working in lurching concert upon the stone floors and metal walkways of The Catacombs.

My editor’s sordid past aside, the BBC did a terrific job of examining the story of quite possibly the most addictive videogame ever made. A model of simplicity there are probably few of my generation that don’t remember their experience with Tetris; and I’m willing to bet that more than a few can relate stories of falling asleep and dreaming of falling tetrominoes or of being unable to expunge the home console version’s music from their brains.

The life of Tetris — created deep within Soviet Russia and leaked through the iron curtain, leaving a trail of in-fighting, threats, and questionable copyright law in its wake — is one of the great, epic tales in videogames. It encapsulates a time in the industry when games were just beginning to implant themselves as a cultural force and, in a broader sense, was a portent of things to come, arriving at the same time that the Soviet Union was beginning to dissolve.

In fact it’s easy to take Tetris as metaphor entirely too far. In it’s plainness and restraint it opens itself up to any number of meanings. It is perhaps best then to acknowledge it as a great game and leave it at that, lest one be tempted to sum up the end of the 20th century in terms of falling blocks.

Better Than Coffee: Dom Yunogo Technika

Ah, the legendary 14th episode of Nu Pogodi (“You Just Wait!”), a ’70s/’80s children’s cartoon outlining the tormented, love-hate, co-dependent relationship of Zayatz and Volk (bunny and wolf), the Wile E. Coyote & Road Runner of the USSR.  Their relationship spanned 16 “classic” episodes (from 1969 to 1986) and included plenty of substance abuse, violence, “bad touches,” and one very awkward romantic dinner.

The 14th episode – with its murderous rabbit simulacrum, metrosexual hair-cutting/pants-pressing robots, junky schteeempunk Volkswagon (YOU SEE WHAT I DID THERE?!), and zero-G flight simulators that play Space Race-inspired Soviet pop music. Episode 14 – my first exposure to electronic music of any sort. The techno kicks in at 2:57, when the main Space/Technology portion of the episode begins. In this episode, the wolf chases the rabbit around the “Dom Yunogo Technika,” which translates roughly to “House/Society of Young Tech-heads.” (That’s my best 5 AM translation, at least).  Before 2:57, there’s a short mini-episode in which Rabbit & Wolf share a dinner together – the aforementioned date, which ended in hilarious tragedy and made the show go down in Russian gay animation/film history, as both Rabbit & Wolf are male.

As with all episodes of Nu Pogodi, which can be found on YouTube, the wide-ranging music is one of the best parts. This episode is one of the best examples of that. The tracklist of Episode 14, which includes some appearances by Western artists, is this:

1. Alla Pugachova – Million Alyh Roz
2. Digital Emotion — Get Up, Action
3. Digital Emotion — Go Go Yellow Screen
4. Bonnie and Clyde – Leroy Holmes
5. Methusalem (Empire) – Black Hole (Bavarian Affair)
6. Digital Emotion — The Beauty & The Beast
7. Zemlyane – Trava u Doma
8. VIA Leisya Pesnya – Kachaetsya Vagon

BTC: Russkie Ragamuffin Rokk n Rollink


If there is indeed a heaven, treatment and Hasil Adkins and Lux Interior are hanging out together on some leopard-print porch swing up there, how much do you want to bet they play “rock, paper, shotgun” every morning to decide who gets the honor of guardian angel duty for this fella?

“I am very glad, because I’m finally back home.”

At the risk of offending the Soviets in the audience I present this gentleman to you with limited commentary; instead allowing his melodious singing voice and terrifying rictus to speak for themselves.

And, cialis my, they speak volumes.

LACMA’s Andrei Tarkovsky Retrospective Starts NOW

Juxtaposing a person with an environment that is boundless, collating him with a countless number of people passing by close to him and far away, relating a person to the whole world, that is the meaning of cinema.
–Andrei Tarkovsky

Stalker (1979)

This is a heads up for the Andrei-lovin’ Zobotron as much as anyone else in SoCal: starting today (Jan 23), the Los Angeles County Museum of Art begins a complete retrospective of Tarkovsky’s films, with supplementary material. They will be screening Solaris, Ivan’s Childhood, Stalker, The Mirror, Nostalghia, Andrei Rublev, The Sacrifice, and two documentaries about Tarkovsky and his apocalyptic, mesmerizing work. Not to be missed.

The Mirror (1974)

Nadya’s Birthday Beefcake

Happy birthday, comrade Nadya. Can you believe it’s already been a whole year?! So much has happened in that time. You endured intense hardship and celebrated huge victories, moving from LA to London to San Francisco. You collaborated with remarkable people and accomplished admirable feats. Hell, you even manged to stop biting your nails! Congratulations.

Every single day, your efforts and encouragement continue to hold Coilhouse together. You really are our tiny, sexy tube of superglue. We’re stuck on you like clock gears hot-gunned to a cosplayer’s cotton poly-blended bloomers.

Now, we realize it’s not much (certainly not a $53K Lady Yu porcelain action figure), but still, we wanted to  make a concerted effort to celebrate your birth properly this year, with vaguely unsettling Russian animation…

Plenty of cake…


…and of course, party hats.


Now blow out the candles! (Hint: they’re under the shar peis.)

Love on ya, Lev. Many happy returns.