September 05, 2019

Cosmic Robots, Cosmonaut Rituals, and Classrooms Resplendent


Cosmic Robots, Cosmonaut Rituals, and Classrooms Resplendent
Setting a new standard for alumni contributions. Учителя тоже люди

Quote of the Week

“On the road by the sea, I’ll buy watermelons.
On the beach, we’ll eat corn.
Then, we’ll look at the red sun.
And again, I will sincerely say:
If there is a heaven on earth, it is Krasnodarsky Krai.”

— A viral rap about the beauties of Krasnodarsky Krai

1. Most rich alumni give back to their schools and some may even get a building named after them. But one Yekaterinburg alum went above and beyond all that, redesigning his entire school in the style of a palace. The school now features ceiling mosaics, marble bathrooms, Roman pillars, and gold trimmings that Louis XIV would envy. Explaining his design choices, the alum said he chose this lavish style, “So that the kids don’t have to go to Versailles or the Louvre. It will immediately give them a better mood.” Who said altruism and fancy tastes were mutually exclusive?

2. Having conquered soccer fields and military academies, Russian robots are now conquering the skies. Robot Fedor, an anthropomorphic AI robot, arrived aboard the ISS on August 27 and will head home on September 7 after learning the secrets of dangerous space-borne operations. Although he was dogged with snark from the start, Fedor is learning fast. In just the last few days, he tested the ISS exoskeleton, requested a name change, and gave an interview to human cosmonauts (no video, but reportedly he responded “adequately”). So, never underestimate someone/something that might become your overlord.

Fedor works with a screwdriver. / FEDOR37516789
 

3. In other space-related news, due to a spacesuit redesign, Russian cosmonauts won’t be able to pee from their spacesuits anymore. This may sound trivial (people in space wear diapers on spacewalks), but it’s actually a big deal. Cosmonauts have a surprising number of weird traditions, one of which is urinating on the back wheel of the bus taking them to the launch pad. The new spacesuit designer has heard of this tradition, but he doesn’t really care and argues that the convenience of his new spacesuit is worth it. One small step for convenience, but a leap backwards for cosmonaut camaraderie.

In Odder News

  • Wholesome Thursdays: A brave Muscovite ran across three lanes of traffic in order to rescue a cat.
Cat rescue from highway
Cat hero of the highways. / Moslenta
  • To celebrate the start of the school year, kids in Chelyabinsk were treated to… songs about vodka. (It later emerged that that was more for the parents than the kids.)
  • Many Russian orphans leave orphanages with little support and know-how for surviving the outside world. This NGO seeks to change that.

Want more where this comes from? Give your inbox the gift of TWERF, our Thursday newsletter on the quirkiest, obscurest, and Russianest of Russian happenings of the week.

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Some of Our Books

Jews in Service to the Tsar

Jews in Service to the Tsar

Benjamin Disraeli advised, “Read no history: nothing but biography, for that is life without theory.” With Jews in Service to the Tsar, Lev Berdnikov offers us 28 biographies spanning five centuries of Russian Jewish history, and each portrait opens a new window onto the history of Eastern Europe’s Jews, illuminating dark corners and challenging widely-held conceptions about the role of Jews in Russian history.
Davai! The Russians and Their Vodka

Davai! The Russians and Their Vodka

In this comprehensive, quixotic and addictive book, Edwin Trommelen explores all facets of the Russian obsession with vodka. Peering chiefly through the lenses of history and literature, Trommelen offers up an appropriately complex, rich and bittersweet portrait, based on great respect for Russian culture.
Maria's War: A Soldier's Autobiography

Maria's War: A Soldier's Autobiography

This astonishingly gripping autobiography by the founder of the Russian Women’s Death Battallion in World War I is an eye-opening documentary of life before, during and after the Bolshevik Revolution.
Tolstoy Bilingual

Tolstoy Bilingual

This compact, yet surprisingly broad look at the life and work of Tolstoy spans from one of his earliest stories to one of his last, looking at works that made him famous and others that made him notorious. 
Dostoyevsky Bilingual

Dostoyevsky Bilingual

Bilingual series of short, lesser known, but highly significant works that show the traditional view of Dostoyevsky as a dour, intense, philosophical writer to be unnecessarily one-sided. 
Okudzhava Bilingual

Okudzhava Bilingual

Poems, songs and autobiographical sketches by Bulat Okudzhava, the king of the Russian bards. 
White Magic

White Magic

The thirteen tales in this volume – all written by Russian émigrés, writers who fled their native country in the early twentieth century – contain a fair dose of magic and mysticism, of terror and the supernatural. There are Petersburg revenants, grief-stricken avengers, Lithuanian vampires, flying skeletons, murders and duels, and even a ghostly Edgar Allen Poe.
At the Circus (bilingual)

At the Circus (bilingual)

This wonderful novella by Alexander Kuprin tells the story of the wrestler Arbuzov and his battle against a renowned American wrestler. Rich in detail and characterization, At the Circus brims with excitement and life. You can smell the sawdust in the big top, see the vivid and colorful characters, sense the tension build as Arbuzov readies to face off against the American.
Marooned in Moscow

Marooned in Moscow

This gripping autobiography plays out against the backdrop of Russia's bloody Civil War, and was one of the first Western eyewitness accounts of life in post-revolutionary Russia. Marooned in Moscow provides a fascinating account of one woman's entry into war-torn Russia in early 1920, first-person impressions of many in the top Soviet leadership, and accounts of the author's increasingly dangerous work as a journalist and spy, to say nothing of her work on behalf of prisoners, her two arrests, and her eventual ten-month-long imprisonment, including in the infamous Lubyanka prison. It is a veritable encyclopedia of life in Russia in the early 1920s.

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