Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Yes, well, none of my clients have subsidiaries in Russia

Today I put on a suit and went to a business luncheon entitled "Doing Business in Russia" that was hosted by the local chamber of commerce. Presumably I was sent because no one else from the office was available to go and was in no way a direct and striking correlation with my being born in the Motherland. At the event, the presentations on the economic climate, cultural differences, and practical experiences were sandwiched by awkward periods of attempted mingling and networking while hovering over the literal catered sandwiches from the Corner Bakery. With my skills in vaht yu kahl zis "networking", I may or may not be invited allowed again inside that building without a police escort. I think that I basically told one fellow networker, after he shoved his business card into one of my fists, that no, I was absolutely not interested in his travel services because we already have a travel service provider that I am absolutely thrilled with. Another Nervous Nelly told me that his ex-girlfriend's name was also Katya after I told him that I know nothing about doing business in Russia. Nervous laughter. Teeth gnashing. Off to a good start!

The presentations were actually pretty interesting. I was slightly distracted by the Pierce Brosnan look-alike at the table to my right, the vigorous nodder to the diagonal, and the loud itch-scratcher to my left. I learned that Russians are not necessarily punctual people, which shook my beliefs to the core and make me question Papa T's teachings. I learned that business in Russia is all about building relationships, and business is not just business, it's personal. I learned that having a business there can be a roller coaster ride since economic conditions can change so drastically and so quickly.

This event reminded me of an awkward Russian encounter I was going to willingly subject myself to. Back in Dublin, in my boredom and/or lonely periods, I planned and thought about all of the things I would do and accomplish once back in DC -- a list of museum exhibits (mostly all viewed), books clubs (plans in motion to have reinstated), and Russian conversation club (WHAT?!). I found this club that meets once a week at Brickskeller to practice speaking Russian. I imagine a small group of dorky Americans, who maybe took a language class or two in college or who are Russian literature or history enthusiasts, drinking beer and attempting to conjugate a verb and doing so incorrectly, maybe with one or two native Russian dorks peppered in around the table. I thought, well heck, I am not so good at kickball, but when it comes to speaking Russian, I am like a professional! I will totally be the star of Russian conversation club. I mean, I can speak Russian, English, AND English with a Russian accent, dare I try Russian with an English accent.

Basically I have not yet had the time or the cojones to make it out to Wednesday night Russian speaking club, but believe you me that you will hear about it when I do, because can you imagine the hilarity of that business luncheon, only the entire thing is in Russian, everyone is drinking beer, and I am not confined to "acting professional"?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Pinkeye outbreak averted

I wouldn't want to preemptively make the call, but I think I left tonight's We Are Scientists concert at the Hard Rock Cafe without contracting a severe case of pinkeye or ear infection or bubonic plague. You may or may not remember my concert diseases from last year. I wrote this post after coming home from the concert but before waking up in the morning and finding out that I had turned into a full-fledged zombie. At that concert, Keith had walked out into the crowd, singing one of their songs. As I was swooning, I reached out and touched him, and then again when he was coming back to the stage. Then I blacked out from sheer joy and woke up the next morning ready to film Part II of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video. Tonight, Keith walked out into the crowd again. The venue was tiny, and I was standing at the top of three steps leading up to the bar area, so not right on the main floor area. He made it to the steps, right in front of me, stood there for a few seconds -- I could have reached out to him -- and then had to abort mission and retreat as his mic cord got stretched out a little too far and he started losing sound. Come back! I want to make out with you! Give me more pinkeye! It was too late.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Cherry Blossoms 2009 POD

Day one of the Cherry Blossom Festival was very gray and dreary. The cherry blossoms have not fully bloomed, and the annual Smithsonian Kite Festival did not inspire. Debbie Downer also says to check out the rest of her cherry blossoms photos on flickr while she goes and takes a nap.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I Used To Live In Ireland Throwback POD

Red Diaper Baby

Red Diaper Baby: Three Comic Monologues
by Josh Kornbluth

A bit like reading David Sedaris essays, only straighter and more communist. Kornbluth talks about growing up being the son of communist parents, being a math nerd at Princeton, and being a somewhat incompetent secretary at a large law firm. These topics make for interesting writing and stories. I mean, if I were writing a monologue about my life, I would probably talk about how I was working on a tax project one day and was working on an Excel file for about four hours, and then lost that file. Kornbluth wins. I imagine that these monologues would be enjoyable to see performed as well, since certain bits seemed like they would have more oomph if read out loud with different tones of voice and significant pauses. Definitely an entertaining read when you are sitting at the office on a Saturday afternoon waiting for your company's computer network to start working again so that you can recreate that file that you lost!

4 out of 5

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Reader

The Reader
by Bernhard Schlink

I definitely ruined the reading of this novel for myself by watching the film first. With every mention of Hanna, I imagined Kate Winslet as a Nazi, speaking with a German accent. Which would then remind me of Ralph Feinnes, playing a German, but speaking with an English accent. That bit of the movie did not make a whole lot of sense to me.

The story is bifurcated into two parts. In the first, Michael Berg, a fifteen year-old, has an affair with a thirty-something woman named Hanna Schmitz. He falls in love. She soon skips town. Then you blink, turn the page, and years later Michael is a law student attending a seminar on Germany's Nazi past. He attends a war trial, and wouldn't you know it, one of the accused camp guards is none other than Hanna. Syurpriz! Hanna has a secret that may possibly lessen her sentence if brought to light. Michael realizes that he's always known the secret, but he does not bring it to the court either.

There's many interesting things going on -- that Michael has quite a lot to think about. On the one hand he is quick to condemn, obviously the Nazis, but also the society that accepted them after the war. Buzzword(s): collective guilt. On the other hand, he realizes that he himself fell in love and had an affair with one of those Nazis. Sure, he did not know of her past at the time, but the woman that he had made love to and obsessed over was the same woman who had picked out the monthly quota of Jewish prisoners to be sent to their deaths and the same woman who had allowed her whole charge to burn to their deaths in a church fire. How does he reconcile his two sides? Does he have the responsibility to share Hanna's secret with the world or should he let her self-destruct? He also finds that his love for Hanna, his first love, affects all of his succeeding relationships. This novel is an easy read, but the moral and philosophical challenges involved are more than difficult.

4 out of 5

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The gospel of I Don't Know

Religion is one of those topics that you aren't supposed to question people about. They have faith, they believe. Pointing out the faultiness of their logic, if they are even using any logic, is improper and taboo, off-limits even. Bill Maher's "Religulous" does just that. The film isn't so much a documentary as it is a comedy. It has the feel of a Borat montage, only Bill Maher plays himself and asks truly poignant questions. I thought that it was a worthwhile film and plan to follow it up with a reading of The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, which is a more serious look at the issue. Doubt isn't a bad thing, people. According to the gospel of I Don't Know.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Revolutionary Road

Revolutionary Road
by Richard Yates

April and Frank Wheeler married young, soon after April got pregnant. Two kids and a house in the suburbs later, they are disappointed and frustrated with each other and with their lives. Seriously pretentious, they see themselves as being able to discern the masquerade of suburban society, they see themselves as singular intellectuals, and they see themselves as having the right to pass judgment on their neighbors and their surroundings. Just too haughty! Posers, I think.

Not to give too much of the plot away, the Wheelers decide to leave it all and move to France, but their relationship starts to seriously crumble. Things escalate quickly.

I can't quite put a finger on why I have downgraded my rating. The writing, style-wise, was comfortable to read. Perhaps because the story left me with an indescribable taste in my mouth, bland almost. Surprisingly I didn't find the story tragic or depressing -- the Wheelers created their own calamities. I mean, if everyone could just take a chill pill and repeat my mantra, "No More Drama", we could all turn out swell.

3 1/2 out of 5

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Doppelganger seen advertising for examiner.com

Am I crazy or does this person look like a skinny me?


Mr. Yogato

Recently I have been captivated by tangy frozen yogurt. I was first introduced at TangySweet, a froyo place with kind of a futuristic/modernist feel that also happens to be attached to Red Velvet Cupcakery, which makes delicious if somewhat greasy cupcakes. It's definitely a challenge for your self-control to walk into one and not the other. Yesterday I met Mr. Yogato. This place equals delicious frozen yogurt, tons of character, and Seinfeld trivia. Tons of people were standing or sitting around outside, and the line went out the door. Inside, I was familiarizing myself with the rules. Succumb to a yogato stamp on your forehead -- 10% off. Stump "Steve" on a Seinfeld trivia question -- 10% off. Sing along to Mr. Robato when it comes over the speaker system -- 10% off. And many others. After eating my cup of tangy original topped with strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries (absolutely refreshing and delicious), I resolved to come back for more yogurt and Seinfeld trivia night (every other Tuesday!). Also, bonus, I was informed that Trader Joe's carries this frozen yogurt and that it tastes just as good.