Yellow Hammer Sickle

An open letter to Putin from a concerned Ukrainian

Dear Mr. Comrade Putin,

First of all, let me assure you that I—like most Ukrainians—fully support your current activities in my country.

All of us want to see Ukraine once again become a part of a strong and mighty Soviet Union. We desperately need Russia to rescue us from all those gays, progressive political ideas, and people who insist on openly speaking their minds under the pretext of this “free speech” nonsense. You have demonstrated an uncanny ability to effectively deal with all three, so your leadership is required here.

The media insist that Viktor Yanukovych was ousted for being too corrupt and dictatorial, but you and I both know the truth: He was simply not corrupt and dictatorial enough. No, we want you, Mr. Putin!

Having said that, I am deeply concerned about the efficacy of your current propaganda efforts and political maneuvering. If Russia is to finally annex Ukraine, you need to do much better than that. Please allow me to humbly point out some weaknesses in your overall strategy, so that you may address them.

Propaganda Quality

I am no fool. I acknowledge the need for a full-blown disinformation campaign aimed at Russian citizens, in order to gain their support. What else are you going to do—tell them the truth?! Ha, imagine? I admire how you have cleverly chosen to paint Ukraine as a country where Russian-speaking citizens are persecuted and marginalized. Where militant nationalists and fascists are shooting and killing ethnic Russians left and right. This is a wise and necessary strategy. As a son of a Russian mother and a Jewish father (and a proud speaker of Russian) I can only support you spreading such lie…ahem…stories, if only to take those “pure Ukrainians” down a peg.

I am, however, disappointed at the insufficient budget you have allocated for these propaganda measures. Some embarrassing footage of clearly staged events is beginning to surface. Like these ladies, who were participating in a pro-Russian rally as “concerned locals” in my home city of Kharkov, on March 1:

Kharkov protests

Here are the same two ladies, now “concerned locals” of Odessa, two days later:

Odessa Protesters

Or this “dead victim” of a “fascist attack” in Crimea suddenly coming back to life to adjust his position for maximum comfort:

Dead Body Crimea

Even zombies get tired every now and then.

A number of sites have begun to crop up, exposing these and other…inconsistencies. One of these sites is www.stopfake.org. People behind it claim to be journalists. They seem to mistakenly assume that journalism involves disseminating facts, while you, Mr. Putin, know better than anyone that true journalism is about creating a dependable and efficient channel for government propaganda. Why are you hesitating to shut down their site? Or why don’t you at least help create a counter-site, something like http://www.support-necessary-disinformation-in-pursuit-of-greater-good.ru?

Frankly—if I may—this is laughable. Surely Russia can afford more and better actors to pose as pro-Russian supporters. Hell, if you bought me a summer house in Sochi, I’d consider signing up. I’m sure I could play a much more convincing dead body; I’ve taken drama classes before.

Dissenting Voices

More disturbingly, however, an increasing number of people have begun to speak up against what’s happening. Worst of all, they do so while calmly appealing to rational thinking and calling for unity among all people of Ukraine, regardless of ethnicity . The nerve of them!

Take this monster—who happens to be the mayor of Lviv—spreading his vile, poisonous message of peace among all Ukrainians and a stable, truly democratic and tolerant country. Look at how well-spoken and well-reasoned he is. It sickens me!

Or how about this man, Dr. Komarovsky, a pediatrician based in Ukraine, yet popular among Russian parents? Look at him, urging everyone to exercise common sense and search for unbiased sources of information instead of consuming your beautiful, well-crafted propaganda!

Mr. Putin, comrade, I understand that your reach within Ukraine is somewhat limited, and that’s why you are yet unable to stop these people from speaking so freely. But how do you excuse similar dissenting voices coming from within Russia itself? Comedians, celebrities, and others are speaking out against your actions, calling for the people of our two historically friendly countries to stay united against war and propaganda?! What about countless posts on social media, debunking your claims and speaking out against your polices? How are you letting this madness happen?

Listen, I realize that things were different in the old days. Propaganda is much easier to spread when there’s a single TV channel that is fully controlled by the government. The Internet is making your job very difficult, I admit. But there are ways. Other countries have been able to prevent their citizens from accessing Internet sites, at will. Why can’t you? It’s almost as if you’re not very committed to this course of action.

General Confusion

Finally, on the subject of Russian troops moving into Crimea. Why aren’t they wearing identifying insignia, designating them as such? It would make the process so much smoother.

Surely if Russian troops openly crossed into Ukraine they’d be welcomed as heroes and liberators! It’s not like moving your army into a neighbouring country is against international laws, or something. Why not just have the Russian army raise the Russian flag and march victoriously into Ukraine, letting our citizens—tired of fascists and ultra-nationalists—march with Russia to rebuild the USSR of old?!

Instead you are sending mixed signals and creating all sorts of confusion. What if somebody mistakes the noble Russian troops for some sort of foreign insurgents, illegally invading Ukraine? That could lead to all sorts of hilarious misunderstandings, no?

Comrade Putin, I have every confidence that you will heed my above concerns. Crack down on the voices of reason. Put out more effective propaganda (after all, you put out what you Putin—ha, ha, I kid). Make your stance clear, and let Ukraine rally behind you as the true leader of a glorious and undefeated Soviet Union.

On a more selfish note, I hope that—once Ukraine is absorbed into your empire—you will spare a moment to do me a personal favor.

You see, I currently reside in the country of Denmark. There are thousands of us ethnic Russians and Russian speakers here in the country. Every single day we are forced to speak Danish (or at least English) to the rest of the people. More than that, the Danish government stubbornly refuses to recognize Russian as one of the official languages, thereby continuing to marginalize and oppress us.

Please, comrade Putin, if you have any troops to spare, make them invade Denmark and protect your Russian people. We need you now more than ever!

Long live the Red Army. Glory to the Soviet Union.

Respectfully yours,
Daniel

***
HERE’S “PART II” & HERE’S “PART III

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Bus Plane Icon

Very the bestest bus in the countries!

Yet again I return from a trip to the motherland.

Yes, it was good, thanks. Yes, I did drink vodka.  No, I didn’t force feed borsch to hapless tourists while screaming “this is what real freedom tastes like, you capitalist pigs!”.

Although yes, I did actually eat some borsch.

During this trip I have, for the first time ever, taken a bus from Kiev to Kharkov (my home city). The trip takes around 7 hours and is serviced by a company called Autolux.

Before I start ridiculing the company, allow me to make one thing clear: this was absolutely, hands down, the best bus experience of my life. Their buses are clean, comfortable, in great condition and all routes are serviced by a “stewardess” who serves tea, coffee and a selection of snacks. They run on schedule and are extremely affordable. You pay 165 hryvnas for the 500 km Kiev-Kharkov trip, while some taxis in Kiev will charge you around 300 hryvnas just to drive you from the airport to the city centre.

Driver

As today’s only-for-you special, you also get a dose of “fuck you” for free!

Unfortunately, they also have an English website. No, wait, I’m sorry. I misspoke. What I meant to say is they have a Russian website that’s been poorly translated into English by a drunk guy armed with Google Translate and a lack of basic understanding of what words are. The whole website is a goldmine of material for Engrish.com. There is a bit of everything on it:  misused words, poor grammar,  incoherent ramblings of a raving lunatic, you name it!

Below I share with you some of the best examples of attempted English from the Autolux website. They are accompanied by fake feedback from equally English-challenged and non-existent Russian customers. Enjoy.

1. These buses is different from the others, the number of passenger seats — 29, it haves a big distance between the seats, and much more than conventional buses, and seats can be decomposed almost 180 degrees.

I attempt to make the rid of my “associate” in clean manner, but after ten hour travels by your bus he still no sign of decompose. Why false promise?

– Andrey “Knuckles” Vorkovsky, businessman and top mafia all-star.

 2. In case of failure of the load, the sender makes the return of the goods (forwarding).

I also invent time machine to forward the return, yet my load never fail!

– Sergey Puchenko, rocket scientist, duck hoarder, insane.

3. In this case, the payment may take an individual with a confidence and a private letter to the passport.

After five separate private letter to passport, still no reply. Passport have no heart. Where find the confidence?

– Mila Rantseva, cat lady, lonely.

4. Applications for abstraction of goods made ​​in advance, but not later than one day prior to shipment, and the movers services are not available.

Thank, is very clear. I place one application for advancing day of shipment to the movers outside the service abstraction, please!

– Vasily Korobeikin, linguistic genius.

5. Wherever there were customers, employees «Autolux» is always welcome them in any of our offices.

I was in the town and will have go to your office. Nobody is there. Now how will I placed order?

– Maria Karaseva, pensionist.

6. Now, more than 180 trucks of the company operates about 40 daily cargo flights between the cities of Ukraine, not counting the extra.

Very sad no delivery in my village of Extra. Very happy for flying truck. Scare neighbours, pick up the chicks, I like

– Petr Rtishenko, teenager, party guy, sexy symbols.

7. With more in their own vehicle park 50 new buses, «Autolux» executes as 40 daily passengers flights to most cities in Ukraine.

Sound like you need good lawyer, so many passenger “execute” (eye-close-open, eye-close-open, nods nods)

– Yaroslav Lebed, “lawyer”

8. In the case of non-payment of the goods returned to the sender only after the official request to the sender.

Need help. Goods refuse to pay money after many official request. Please return goods and bring new ones who willing to provide for payment

– Stanislava Kolach, model, future wife.

9. We value shipment and handling fees is a legal entity, in column 7 the name of the company or emergency.

Bear Attack Inc. would be delight in conduct the business with you

– Olga Gljantseva, CEO of such famous company as Burglary Ltd., Cat Stuck In Tree Ltd. and Set Fire To Crotch And Cannot Make Stop LLC.

10. Both transportation (sending cargo and sending payments for cash on delivery) are associated with one (the original), the number declaration.

There can been only the one

– High-Upper-Lands Man

11. Reimbursement shall be made in the original shipping point mandrel.

I is send flower to lady friend, receive some kind of a metal stick contraption with different part. Extreme satisfied!

– Anatoly Shjuka, plumber, Super Mario impersonator.

Euro 2012…in my backyard?

It’s that time of the year again! More accurately, it’s that time of every four years again. Hmmm…awkward opening to a post.

Anyway, Euro 2012 is here! It’s an epic event broadcast worldwide and played across continents, from Europe to…well, yeah, it’s a Europe only thing. The name was kind of a giveaway, wasn’t it?

I’m generally not a football fan, but every Euro and World Cup always draws my attention. There’s something inherently cool about watching countries face each other on a field of battle, to see which one brings home the Golden Football…or, Rubber Referee? Silk T-Shirt? I’m not really sure what they win exactly…

“Congratulations guys! The Platinum…Pacifier thingee…is yours!”

This year’s especially interesting for me, since the host countries are Poland and Ukraine. Ukraine – the land that gave you great people like Klitschko brothers, Milla Jovovich and yours truly, Daniel Nest! Some of the games are being played in my home city of Kharkov, so it’s kind of cool to tune in and follow.

Ukraine is facing Sweden today, in a clash to determine which combination of blue and yellow kicks the most ass. I’m not getting my hopes up, but one can always wonder “what if”.

I just need to brace myself for my girlfriend’s exasperated running commentary of the games. You see, she plays Lacrosse and loves to point out all the crappy things about football that would never happen in the magical world of Lacrosse. A world where unicorns frolic across the field and butterflies flutter above players as they execute their moves with perfect precision and the grace of ballet dancers.

Real-life Lacrosse action, caught on camera

Just kidding, of course. Everyone knows unicorns don’t exist!

How about you? Are you following the Euro Cup? Football in general? Or are you a person who insists on referring to it as “soccer” and grimacing in pain at the very mention of the word? If yes, then football, football, football! Are there any other upcoming sports events you’re looking forward to?

Army Ready

Join me for yet another trip down memory lane. I know, it’s pretty impressive that I’m able to retain multiple memories from the past (like, at least 5). But my amazing brain is not why we’re here today. We’re here to talk about the time I went through an army medical exam in Ukraine. Let’s go.

At some point during my university studies (in Denmark) Ukraine started handing out so-called “identification numbers” to all its citizens. I believe it was the data-gathering stage of a worldwide inter-governmental program to install microchips in our brains. But I’m also the guy with traumatic memories of a psycho ex-flatmate, so take my words with a grain of salt.

The catch was that all men of conscription age had to go through an army medical exam, or else they couldn’t get their identification numbers. This included me, even though I was exempt from being enlisted due to being a student abroad.

Otherwise known as the “out of sight, out of army reach” clause

So, during one of my trips back home, my brother accompanied me to a medical examination. He explained to the staff how in my case this examination was really just a formality. The staff insisted that I had to get proper “army ready” or “disqualified” stamps from the different doctors. However, this took place during summer vacation and therefore a naturally slow period for examinations. So this is how my “medical examination” went.

A lady called me over and said the following:

“Well, you’re supposed to see a dentist first, but we have no power in the building. How about I just tick the ‘army ready’ box right here?”

She scribbled a few notes on my examination documents and continued:

“Next is the optometrist, but he’s on holiday for over a month, so I’ll just go right ahead and say you’re ‘army ready’ here as well.”

Yeah, it’s not like you need to see anything when you’re a soldier. A functioning eyesight is really one of those “nice to have” things when you’re facing an enemy.

“I dare you to disagree!” – Daredevil

After that I was sent to a general therapist for a physical check up. As soon as I walked in he asked me to take my shirt off, put a stethoscope  to my chest, then asked me to breathe in and breathe out. Following a few seconds of contemplation he turned to me and asked:

“So, do you pee yourself at night?”

Was that a standard question during medical exams or did my breathing pattern fit the profile of a chronic bed-wetter? After my “no” he ticked the “army ready” box and sent me on my way. He asked no other questions and performed no further check-ups of any kind. I guess being able to breathe and having control of your bladder are the two primary signs of good health!

“He’s not breathing! On the plus side I see no urine either. There may still be hope for him.”

Last on the agenda was photofluorography. I went up to the lady registering people’s names and signed up for a fluorography session. The next available time-slot was in three weeks. I explained to her that I’d be returning to Denmark within two weeks and asked whether she could do anything to speed things up. She shook her head and told me I should have scheduled it in advance.

After ten minutes of futile attempts to convince her I gave up. Just as I turned around to leave she stopped me with:

“Wait a second! Gniazdo? I know your grandparents! Your grandfather fixed my teeth a couple of times!”

She asked how my grandparents were doing and what they were up to. We chatted for a while. When we were finally done she said:

“About that fluorography. Why unnecessarily expose your body to all those nasty X-rays? How about I just put a little ‘army ready’ tick right here?”…

…and that’s how I became fully qualified for army service after essentially no examination whatsoever. Anyone want me in their platoon?

“Happy holidays, have some pills”

I have just returned from my holiday escapade to Ukraine. A good time was had by all and lots of great food and alcohol were consumed, without any casualties (that I know of). Speaking of which – this was the third year in a row I took note of the same disturbing tendency. The period leading up to Christmas and New Year brings with it a spike in the amount of TV commercials for products that help you deal with side effects of too much food and alcohol.

Some of these commercials follow a relatively reasonable format of “Did you make the mistake of eating/drinking way too much? Here’s a pill to help you deal with it!”. However, a few ads take the leap into “WTF?!” realm and target a more insane category of people who apparently participate in some obscure competitive sport of “Eating Too Fucking Much While Still Staying Alive”. Here’s an example (sorry for the quality, the only one I could find on Youtube):

[youtube.com/watch?v=f_dAeAS-itI]
For those of you who don’t speak Ukrainian and are also sane, allow me to recap the intricate “plot” of this commercial. An older couple are visiting their daughter and son-in-law. They sit down to eat. The father is just about to stuff his face with a food item, when his wife turns to him and, in a panicked whisper, says: “Vasya, we’ve forgotten the most important thing!”. Hmmm…what is it? Did they miss their insurance payment or forget to bring presents? Have they left their other kids inside a running dishwasher at home?

No, it’s worse than that! Vasya was about to eat without first taking an anti-crapping pill (I’m pretty sure that’s the proper scientific term). How else is he supposed to out-eat that skinny smartass son-in-law of his?! Vasya slides some pills across the table with a smug “your move, skinny smartass” expression. But wait, the skinny smartass takes out some pills of his own…and they are the enhanced version! Well played, four-eyes! The father-in-law is so impressed with this move that he immediately pours praise on the son-in-law and admits his own defeat. Everyone laughs because taking pills is quite obviously hilarious. The…end (?!)

Something tells me this commercial won’t be taking home an Oscar

If the above does not accurately describe every New Year’s family dinner you’ve ever had, then you’re clearly not a basket-case marketing person who came up with this abomination of a commercial. This ad isn’t about someone who got a bit carried away at a dinner party and in the heat of the moment ate too much or consumed something they shouldn’t have. This ad is about people who are so shitty at making life decisions that they already know they’ll eat way more than they can naturally handle. Drugs are their only hope for a night that doesn’t end in an emergency Gastric lavage.

Thankfully, this commercial is thoroughly made fun of by TV shows and people in general. Less thankfully, there are many other commercials of this type, including one for magical water that eliminates the bad effects of alcohol and meals on your stomach and saves you from constipation and diarrhoea alike.

I don’t know about you, but I take pills as an absolutely last resort, and most definitely not in anticipation of an out-of-control dinner. To those who do find yourselves in a situation where taking pre-meal pills becomes a habit, here’s a thought: try the well-tested technique of “stopping to eat when feeling full” and “not being freaking crazy”. Or, you know, have some magical stomach-saving water…