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

Steppe / Степь

Steppe / Степь

This is the work that made Chekhov, launching his career as a writer and playwright of national and international renown. Retranslated and updated, this new bilingual edition is a super way to improve your Russian.
Fish: A History of One Migration

Fish: A History of One Migration

This mesmerizing novel from one of Russia’s most important modern authors traces the life journey of a selfless Russian everywoman. In the wake of the Soviet breakup, inexorable forces drag Vera across the breadth of the Russian empire. Facing a relentless onslaught of human and social trials, she swims against the current of life, countering adversity and pain with compassion and hope, in many ways personifying Mother Russia’s torment and resilience amid the Soviet disintegration.
Driving Down Russia's Spine

Driving Down Russia's Spine

The story of the epic Spine of Russia trip, intertwining fascinating subject profiles with digressions into historical and cultural themes relevant to understanding modern Russia. 
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.
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.
The Pet Hawk of the House of Abbas

The Pet Hawk of the House of Abbas

This exciting new trilogy by a Russian author – who has been compared to Orhan Pamuk and Umberto Eco – vividly recreates a lost world, yet its passions and characters are entirely relevant to the present day. Full of mystery, memorable characters, and non-stop adventure, The Pet Hawk of the House of Abbas is a must read for lovers of historical fiction and international thrillers.  
Murder and the Muse

Murder and the Muse

KGB Chief Andropov has tapped Matyushkin to solve a brazen jewel heist from Picasso’s wife at the posh Metropole Hotel. But when the case bleeds over into murder, machinations, and international intrigue, not everyone is eager to see where the clues might lead.
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.
Fearful Majesty

Fearful Majesty

This acclaimed biography of one of Russia’s most important and tyrannical rulers is not only a rich, readable biography, it is also surprisingly timely, revealing how many of the issues Russia faces today have their roots in Ivan’s reign.
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.
Faith & Humor: Notes from Muscovy

Faith & Humor: Notes from Muscovy

A book that dares to explore the humanity of priests and pilgrims, saints and sinners, Faith & Humor has been both a runaway bestseller in Russia and the focus of heated controversy – as often happens when a thoughtful writer takes on sacred cows. The stories, aphorisms, anecdotes, dialogues and adventures in this volume comprise an encyclopedia of modern Russian Orthodoxy, and thereby of Russian life.

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