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Messages - Johnny

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Forum Announcements / Travel in Moscow and S.Petersburg
« on: July 17, 2008, 05:54:33 AM »
Hi guys,
First, I would like to apologize for having disappeared from the forum for such a long time. I did have major problems with my old computer, and with the new one which I bought a few months ago, I simply couldn't figure out how to log into our website. Well, the past is past and here I am.
Last Sunday I came back from a two-week trip to Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Forum Administrator, please feel free to move my posting to a more appropriate location, since with this topic I would like to start a discussion over traveling to Russia and matters of safety. The other threads are limited to the Pushkin area alone. BTW, this will perhaps make many of us very happy that the name Tsarskoe Selo (Imperial Village) is making a come back in S. Petersburg. More and more people call Pushkin by its former name. I even read in a brochure that the two names are practically interchangeable in daily speech.
Unlike in 2001 when I went to Russia for the first time, this time (my second trip there) I felt quite safe. I also realized that people who are generally kidnapped or murdered are the extremely wealthy who themselves often lead shady lives. In short, most average people like us will face the same amount and type of mostly petty crime that we come across in other big European cities.
I found Moscow changed beyond recognition. A lot of new constructions, including monuments, in the city. I also noticed that many food stands and booths that one could see everywhere in 2001 including the area around the Bolshoi had all disappeared, which was a positive thing for me. The new houses of the rich and huge apartment complexes around the city center and in the suburbs were also astonishing.
In Saint Petersburg I was rather dismayed that the city center had practically not changed since 2001. Buildings still in bad shape, filthy and smelly staircases and broken doors and peeling facades. I had thought this would all be taken care of for the 2003 celebrations of the city. But that was not the case. However, there were isolated buildings here and there, mostly taken over businesses, banks, hotels or corporations which had been beautifully renovated. However some had taken the renovation process to an extreme to the point that the buildings looked just new, stripped of all the stucco and the historical stylistic things on the facades or inside. There were a number of horrendous, brand new buildings as well, including an office building right next to Rasputin's house on Gorokhovaya, and the new Mariinsky concert hall, which is right behind the old theater and is going to look like something like the LA Disney Hall. I don't know why they cannot keep these new buildings out of the city center, just like it is done in Rome. There is so much space, and so many relatively new or completely brand new neighborhoods around the historical city center which can accommodate these new projects. I personally found the new shopping mall on Sennaya Ploshad frightening. It was absolutely disgusting. By the way, unattractive foodstands and booths still dot the city and the underpasses.
On a positive note, the infrastructure outside the city has improved immensely. The roads are all in tiptop shape. Beautiful shopping centers alongside the roads and in the suburbs, like everywhere else in the world. And lots and lots of huge apartment projects, but really nice, nothing like the stupid Khrushchev blocks.
Overall, I had a much more positive view of Russia (at least the two cities that I visited). Moscow is expensive, and if you are staying in a grand luxury hotel, be prepared to get ripped off in the grand manner, too. Like the concierge trying to sell you a ballet ticket for 12 times more than the price of the actual ticket, or charging you $12 for an 80 cent bottle of water in your room, or the hotel taxi trying to charge you $90 for a 2 mile trip to the train station, all of which I managed to avoid. In SP I was staying in a more modest hotel, and the city overall is a lot less expensive than Moscow. However, unlike Moscow, there still have different theater and museum ticket prices for locals and foreigners. But even here the difference is a mere 50% which is nothing in comparison to 2001 when the difference was 8 to 10 folds. Needless to say, they did not lower the prices for the foreigners. it's the poor locals who have to pay a lot more now.


The Imperial Family / Re: Pronounciation
« on: February 10, 2008, 05:01:16 PM »
I think the end should be more like log (with a long o and the g like in garden)

That's right! The end should sound like the ending of all similar English words like Prologue, dialogue, etc., which are all borrowed from French to begin with. The only difference would be the stress that, in the case of Paleologue, like all French words falls on the last syllable.

Pretty much anyone can sing well with the proper training. Actual tone deafness is a physical problem in the ear, and is very rare. Most people just can't sing because they've been told they can't, and they have a mental block.
Eh, I'm withholding all judgment of this show until I've seen something from it. I would love it if it was good!

Is this a reply to my post above? Or maybe not! I know that anyone can sing. It seems that Ozzy's problem is that he is so used to writing songs for himself that he lacks the experience to write music which suites other voices and vocal ranges. Besides, writing 2-minute songs is a totally different game than composing 2.5 hour shows. I am sure he'll end up writing a pretty decent musical, especially if as he said can get help from Elton John who's a very capable musician. I just find it very naive of him that he didn't know what a difficult and complicated thing he was getting himself into. In fact, most people don't realize how difficult it is to compose a large-scale piece. Anyhow, I can't wait to see Ozzy's show.


Ozzy Osbourne Struggles With His 'Rasputin' Musical

Rocker Ozzy Osbourne is struggling to bring the tale of Rasputin to Broadway - insisting it's much easier to make hit albums. The Black Sabbath rocker is making a big-budget musical based on the 19th century Russian monk's life, but concedes it's harder than he expected - and has even turned to pop pal Elton John for advice.  He says, "It's kind of been nearly done. The thing about it is, I'm singing some of the parts, and it sounds ok, but then, when it does get picked up, it's not as easy as making records. It's a big thing, because you've got to get choreography to put what you've written into a stage thing and insert the songs for this thing."

Rasputin was indeed born in the late 19th century, but no serious person would ever call him a "19th century monk". First of all, he was not a monk. Secondly, his entire active life and the part of any historical significance in it occured in the 20th century. So that tells you already enough what kind of people run or review these shows.
Another thing that makes me quite sad is people like Ozzy Osbourne who think that once they have "composed" a little song or two that made it to the "charts" and had an embarrassingly idiotic TV show which ran for a while, that automatically makes them capable of composing full-length operas. It's so childish, it's not even funny! It reminds me of those 4-year-olds who insist on driving the car by themselves or paint the walls, and when they are not allowed they start crying and saying "but I know how to do it!" This guy has no idea! And he thinks he's like a Verdi. It's tragic that he should be considered a cultural icon of our time.

« on: October 28, 2007, 08:13:41 PM »
Sorry for the slight change of topic, but to elaborate on the earlier discussion about feeling safe in today's Russia, in 2001 I spent three weeks mostly in S.Petersburg and 4 days in Moscow to visit my Moscow relatives. In SP I was staying in a Russian friend's (who at the time lived in Boston) girlfriend's apartment, on the fifth floor of a tall residential Khrushchev style tower from the sixties, not in best shape, on Manchesterskaya ulitsa in a residential area in a suburb but not that far from the center of SP. The elevator, which was extremely small and always smelled like urine, had a mind of its own and would let you off at certain floors, but not at others. I almost never used it. The building's main entrance's robust iron door had a security code pad on it. The individual apartments had heavy duty double doors, one made of wood, the other one of iron. I felt pretty safe in it, although my hostess, Lena, told me to hide my money and traveler's checks under the ivory keyboard of her upright piano. It required dismantling the keyboard with screwdrivers etc., every time I needed access to my money and then reassembling the whole thing which took quite a long time.
I never understood the necessity for it. Before I left, upon my constant insistence Lena accepted $250 from me for her kindly letting me stay in her apartment. Two weeks after I left, she used that money to buy a second hand computer and monitor. One day after her purchase, her apartment was broken into and not only the computer but also her boombox and some money were stolen. She said that sturdy looking double door was rather easily smashed. She had to replace it right away. It must have made a tremendous noise, it's strange none of the neighbors interfered. It's very likely that someone from the second hand store where she made her purchase was sent to take the computer back. We suspect that because otherwise no one had seen her carrying the computer home, and even if they saw her enter the building, no one could really know where exactly she lived in this three tower apartment complex with more than a hundred or so apartments. But the shop had her address and everything. Then I knew why she was so concerned about her safety. Luckily she wasn't home at the time of the burglary.

The Imperial Family / Re: Pronounciation
« on: September 27, 2007, 05:06:58 PM »
I know the Russian pronunciation of Alexei, but I was wondering what the most acceptable Anglicized pronunciation would be.

Ah-lex-eh(hard 'a' sound), perhaps?

Or Ah-lex-ee-eh(hard 'a' sound)?
The most normal pronunciation is Alex+ay. Ah-lex-ey and Ah-lex-ee-ay sound too affected to me.

Forum Announcements / Re: Formal Press Release from Ekaterinburg
« on: September 16, 2007, 03:47:59 PM »
TOPIC people. TOPIC. Please.
Sorry! I appologize.

Forum Announcements / Re: Formal Press Release from Ekaterinburg
« on: September 14, 2007, 03:43:29 PM »

Life in the USSR  :-(
LOL! That's hilarious!

Forum Announcements / Re: Formal Press Release from Ekaterinburg
« on: September 13, 2007, 02:14:53 PM »
In my experience, and I am no expert on anything (just a Jack of all trades) their is no major incident (or minor for that matter) that hasn't engendered a conspiracy theory.

From Lincoln's assassination to the Romanov murder to Roswell to the Kennedy assassination and now 9/11.  I watched a show on 9/11 (as many did here in the US on Tuesday) and one expert had this to say about conspiracy theorists.  "They want to think that they know more about the subject than anyone else. It gives them a big ego boost to think that they have the power to divine some insight from all of the information that no one else has. It is not really about whether or not there was a conspiracy, but about the desire of the theorist to feel superior to everyone else."

I think it is also about the "ah ha!" aspect.  Conspiracy theorists want to be able to say "See, you thought you knew everything, but you were wrong."  Even those who are conspiracy theorists and also experts in their own fields of study are looking to be able to point out that "The Truth Is Out There".

I know that this is off topic and I apologize, but even though I know that the acknowledged interpretation of evident facts is sometimes hard to accept as the only interpretation, conspiracies can't possibly be there answer to every situation. And as much as I find it hard to trust anyone in any government position because I feel that they hold their own self interests before all others, that and their need to be re-elected, it doesn't seem possible that every situation began with a conspiracy to obfuscate.
Well, I certainly do not fit the description given by that so called expert! And you are right in saying that "it doesn't seem possible that every situation began with a conspiracy to obfuscate". I even go further and say that the big majority of all situations don't start and will never qualify as conspiracies. However, that doesn't mean that conspiracies do not exist. Dismissing them off hand as yadda-yadda is as unwise as being paranoid about everything that happens.
BTW, if murdering the Imperial Family ordered through a secret telegram direct from Moscow and then keeping the crime a secret from the entire nation for 80 years is not a conspiracy, then what is?

Forum Announcements / Re: Formal Press Release from Ekaterinburg
« on: September 13, 2007, 06:33:57 AM »
It is already brewing, there are those on the internet who have already condemned the tests as fake and fraudulent before they have even been done. Its sad, pathetic really, but then as the foremost DNA expert in Texas told me "There are those who believe the Earth is flat, and Man never went to the Moon." Elvis lives, the 9/11 attacks were perpetrated by the US to start the war in Iraq, yadda yadda yadda.


Sorry, I know it's off topic, but on that last one I haven't made up my mind yet. I am not saying it was the US government (or wasn't), but one thing I am sure about is that the truth of it is a lot more complex and disturbing than the simplistic rubbish we've been fed since 9/11.

Forum Announcements / Re: Formal Press Release from Ekaterinburg
« on: September 04, 2007, 05:58:40 PM »
Lets hope it is and not people just trying to close a chapter.  ;)
Both sides of my family were thrown out of Russian during the stalinist purges. My grandfather, a wealthy merchant and land owner died still in his 50s away from his family, penniless within only 3 years of being sent in exile somewhere in central Asia. My father who kept his dad company for those 3 years (my grandmother didn't want her husband to be alone) quite naturally developed quite a distrust toward Russia. Even already living in the US and several years after Perestroika he was very skeptic of the going-ons in that country. So as you can see I am not naive and do not believe everything that comes out of Russia. But I think in this case you are going a bit to far. If you read some of my earlier posts on this thread you'll see I even gave you the benefit of the doubt and tried to defend you. You did express your opinion and we did ours. I don't think any of your sarcastic comments, such as the one quoted above, are very nice. If you don't believe the forensic scientists, then why don't you just wait, and someday when the truth comes out you will have the last laugh. I pretty much think the truth has already come out, not that it will make a bit of difference for the ones who died. Whether the bones remianed in the forest or were burried in a fancy casket in SP is rather immaterial to them. It perhaps sounds a bit twisted what I just said, but intended to be a consolation for those who want to keep believeing that these are not the right bones.

Forum Announcements / Re: Formal Press Release from Ekaterinburg
« on: August 31, 2007, 08:06:02 AM »

I am curious to know whether English is Eric's native language or not?
If it's not, his English is quite good imo. Apart from the occasional spelling/verb conjugation error.
But does it matter? It wouldn't surprise me if more than half the AP members don't have English as their native language. It's only my 3rd language as well.
It could cause some misunderstandings more often though. People speaking or writing in another language could have more trouble with small nuances than 'natives' I guess.

Of course it doesn't matter that many of the forum members are not native English speakers. On the contrary, that's one of the strongest aspects of this forum. But that's exactly my point, and both native English speakers and non should keep that in mind. I grew up in a household where 3 languages were  spoken. I added 4 more to it, so I think I know about problems that could arise. My aunt to this day translates everything directly from Russian and often is misunderstood even by her family.
Eric's English is quite good, but as I was reading through the exchange above between him and some of the other members I noticed that indeed some nuances seemed to be escaping the both sides, for example use of past tense instead of subjunctive or a slightly misaligned sentence structure which could sound too direct to a native English speakers's ear, etc.

Forum Announcements / Re: Formal Press Release from Ekaterinburg
« on: August 30, 2007, 05:56:54 PM »

I am curious to know whether English is Eric's native language or not?


Annie you may have to turn your poor horse around and start with the other side. I predict that it will be a long tedious ride back to reality.



BTW, who needs to see any ears or shoes to realize that the two pictures posted above by Annie are of the one and same person.

Something like AA's case could NEVER succeed today, not only because of the DNA, but because of the mass media, paparazzi, investigative reporters, internet, gossip and 'smoking gun' websites. She'd be found out real quick like.
Actually, I think nothing has changed since. Look how the WMD story in conncection with Iraq was sold to people. I am sure in some decades there will be shocking evidence as to what really happened on 9/11. Many people believe the official version of stories, many don't, and this inspite of internet, reporters, paparazzi, and smoking gun websites. How many conspiracy theory websites there are on the internet about 9/11 I don't need to tell you. This was true even then. Many believed she was Anastasia, although there many facts against it, but many others did not believe her story. People choose what they want to believe now as they did then.

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