Archive for December, 2016

Thursday was the first of the month, meaning that the archives I work in are closed for what is known as a “sanitary day,” or cleaning day. Without anywhere to be Thursday morning and afternoon, I thought I would just sleep in a laze around the dorm. Those plans were quickly changed on Wednesday afternoon when I was having tea with the Canadians. I was invited to join them for a 9:00AM showing of a recent Russian war film called “Panfilov’s 28,” which is about a somewhat controversial story about the Battle of Moscow in 1941. According to lore, these 28 men all died heroically, in the process destroying 18 German tanks from an advancing Panzer Division on its advance to Moscow. The story was spread widely through the Red Army newspaper “Krasnaya Zvezda” (Red Star), and the men became Heroes of the Soviet Union.

Subsequent investigations into Panfilov’s 28 Guardsmen immediately after the war resulted in the finding that six of the men were still alive. This information was hidden until the collapse of the Soviet Union, and most recently the State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF) published on their website the results of the postwar investigation. The details are a little murky, but the director of GARF might have been fired for this. Despite all of this controversy, it is still a beloved war story in the former Soviet Union.

Getting to the cinema at 9:00AM, I figured the hall would be pretty empty. This was not the case at all. Our small auditorium was somewhere between a third and half full. There were also a lot of people seeing other movies at that particular, 22 screen theatre near the zoo. The attraction may have been that tickets cost 100 rubles, or roughly $1.50. The two men in front of our group were enjoying their experience like they normally would in the evening, complete with bottles of beer. The film itself was a typical, patriotic war film with long battle scenes and heroic speeches.

After the movie, I headed back to the dorms. Crossing the street to the metro, I saw someone driving a Ferrari in the heavy snow. Generally if you have Ferrari money, you should also have enough money to get a winter car. I’m pretty sure Ferraris are not meant to be driven as daily drivers, especially in the punishing Russian winters. Sadly I didn’t have enough time to snap a photo of this crime in action. I then spent a few hours at home typing up some archival notes that I had to take by hand before venturing out to meet Erin to go see the Buzzcocks, who are on a 40th anniversary tour. For those of you unfamiliar with the group, they’re a British punk band and are contemporaries of the Clash and the Sex Pistols.

The concert venue was a smaller bar/club than the place where we saw Garbage a few weeks ago called Stereo Hall. Once again, we were really close to the stage. There were also a ton of cool people seeing the concert. As Erin and I were standing around and speaking in English, another American came up to ask us a question about something regarding the coat check. We found out that he’s teaching English in Moscow. While talking with him, another nearby guy started to talk to us. He’s a Spanish student doing an exchange semester at Moscow State University, and is a concert junky. It turns out he also saw Garbage. He was very friendly and gave us the info about a website where we can find free concerts in Moscow. Then, as the four of us were talking, another guy asked to listen in and join the conversation. He’s a Russian guy who was excited to interact with native speakers.

The opening act - Пасош (Pasosh).

The opening act – Пасош (Pasosh).

The night started with an opening set from a local Moscow punk/rock trio called Pasosh. They played only their own stuff, and had quite a few dedicated fans in the audience who were singing along. They had a particularly cool song that’s entitled “Russia.” The song frequently repeats the phrase “I live in Russia, and I’m not afraid,” which is a fairly accurate description of my current life.

As a bonus, the bass player was rocking a sweet pair of Adidas track pants.img_2887

Around 9:15, the Buzzcocks took the stage to wide applause. I’m not a super fan, but I know and really like a number of their songs, especially “Fast Cars,” which reminds me a lot of one of the songs from the SNES game F-Zero (and I wonder if there is an influence there or not). To my delight, “Fast Cars” was the second song they played. They gave an awesome and essentially non-stop show for about an hour, took a quick break for about five minutes, and then gave a three or four song encore. Every now and then they said a quick word or two in between songs, but unfortunately the acoustics in the hall are notoriously terrible and we couldn’t understand what they were saying. At times it actually sucked, because you couldn’t quite be sure what song they were playing until they were roughly halfway into it. Nonetheless, I had a great time rocking out.

The Buzzcocks

The Buzzcocks

When the Buzzcocks took the stage, we were towards the front and we unintentionally became part of the mosh pit. The crowd towards the front started to mosh and we got pushed back a bit and remained on the front line between the mosh pit and the rest of the crowd. Every once in a while, someone would slam or push into us, and we would push back. It was a nice compromise.

Steve Diggle getting up close and personal with the fans after the show.

Steve Diggle getting up close and personal with the fans after the show.

After the show, the band was super chill and came to the edge of the stage and shook hands with lots of the fans. They and the roadies also were really nice about throwing or handing stuff to the crowd like the set list, drum sticks, and picks. I managed to get a pick from one of the roadies, which was pretty awesome. Unfortunately it was an extra pick, so it wasn’t used at all. I just have to not mix it up with any of the other Fender Medium tortoise shell picks that I have lying around at home.img_2913

After the show finished, we had a struggle to get our coats back. There were only two people working at the coat check, and they were overwhelmed. We stood around for about half an hour before we could get our jackets, which was particularly frustrating because we could see them across the counter. I didn’t hear it firsthand, but Erin said that a frustrated guy who managed to snag a drum stick waved it and said, “wingardium leviosa” while pointing towards his coat. Perhaps it would have worked better had he said, “accio.”

That pretty much sums up my adventures for now. It’s starting to get colder here in Moscow. We had a couple of days of temperatures in the single digits in Fahrenheit with the windchill dropping the feeling to the negatives. I have subsequently switched over to my fur hat.

Decorations for New Year's are popping up all over the city.

Decorations for New Year’s are popping up all over the city.

I’ve also become the person in the military archive that people approach when they have questions, for reasons I do not understand. One day, a man came up and asked if I could read a name written in cursive. I couldn’t, and then he tried asking the reading room staff, who gladly helped him. They also couldn’t be sure about one signature, but it’s nice to know that they may be able to help me with a similar question in the future. Then, the other day as I was walking back to my desk, a man asked me what the date was when filling out his request form. Finally, yesterday, I was working with my headphones in and then I saw a man appear out of the corner of my eye. He then began talking to me, and I had to take out my headphones and ask him to repeat himself. He wanted to know the rules for using a computer in the reading room. There were at least two other people using their computers and without headphones, so why he had to ask me will remain a mystery.

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