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For some people, having a child seems to be the only purpose in life, regardless of whether you can financially care for this creation, or provide a stable environment in which they can develop as a human being. I began to have an interesting discussion with a reader. He grew upset that I made a comment about a young Native American woman who kept having one baby after the other, when she did not have the financial capacity to care for them.

"Why do you feel sad about it? These kids are healthy (because their mom was young when she gave birth). They have enough food. They can play with each other. Why do you think elderly deserve welfare benefits, but children do not?"

First, the kids are not healthy because the mom was young when she gave birth. They are healthy because fellow citizens. and the government, foot the bill for their survival. We have no choice as to whether we are brought into this world, and I agree no child deserves to suffer because of negligent or poor parents. But my focus was not on the children! It was on the parents, who refuse to use any type of birth control and keep breeding like rabbits - with no stable income, future, or job.

Read more... )

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There are some words which have purely subjective meanings in my view, and "spirituality" is one of them. For me, this word has nothing to do with God or religion. As an agnostic, I'm not attached to any church or religious rituals, yet I still consider myself a spiritual person. This seems to be a key word in Russian media and culture, as discussions about "spirituality" are constantly thrown around on LJ and in comments, usually to insult the non-spiritual and decadent West. I saw it just this week when the pro-Kremlin blogger "politichanka" grew outraged at Varlamov's recent posts about bad Sevastopol, particularly his focus on all the trash in the city. The reason for all this shit on the ground? She claims that "Ukraine in 23 years failed to instill spiritual values in the youth. Therefore, young people behave like pigs and there is garbage everywhere." Of course, this is an absurd statement but I grew curious and decided to ask her what her definition of "spirituality" is. Her answer? "Actually I don't know."

I never use words I don't know or understand, especially when I'm insulting people. For me, spirituality is an aura, the energy and emotion that you evoke when encountering complete strangers, your charitable contributions to the overall good of humanity, a connection to something bigger than yourself, and an overall sense of openness and positivity toward the world and its inhabitants....and how about you? How does Russian culture define "spirituality," and why is the term so commonly used there? Help me understand. :)
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I closely study people at all times. Watching their faces, eyes and expressions. It's always a mental game, a type of creative intellectual stimulation to try to imagine their life story. How did they get to this place, has their life been privileged or difficult? Were they loved passionately or silently? The list of questions spinning in my mind is endless. I once wrote an entire post about this, showing random portraits of Americans from Tennessee and asking readers to weave their life tales in comments.

When I met this old woman walking in a Russian town, I didn't know whether to feel pity or admiration. It's difficult to imagine life in old age, no matter which country you call home. We never know what tragic or fortunate events await. Not in old age, nor day by day. I know only that in old age I'll be loved and taken care of. If not by a husband or lover, then by my immense family, which spans generations of all ages. Financially, I envision everything to be okay as well. I've saved in my own investments since I was 20 years old, so as to not rely only on a government pension in retirement.

How do you feel when you look at this woman? Do you envision a good life for yourself as a pensioner in Russia?

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America is a country of convenience, but for whom? In Virginia, we're having torrential rains the past few days, but this doesn't stop me from doing ordinary chores. A woman still has to eat, even in the pouring rain. After a very long day in the office, I drove to a crowded new grocery store. I had no umbrella, so my tired eyes began searching for a parking space near the entrance so I wouldn't get even more wet. Then I saw this sign!! Right beside the handicapped spaces in each parking aisle are two reserved spots for "Customers with Children." Why? Tell me please why I should have to park further away, carry my heavy bags a longer distance, and get soaking wet just because I'm childless? Being a parent is suddenly a handicap, worthy of a special parking spot?Read more... )
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In the past few months, an invasion has occurred in the heart of Times Square. No, it's not terrorists or depressed stock brokers worried about the recent collapse of the financial markets. It's boobs! I sometimes wonder what it must be like to be a beautiful woman, with no marketable skills other than selling your body. Some busty and shapely immigrants have found a way to milk the millions of tourists who flock to Times Square to visit the constant carnival like circus. I have no idea why so many foreigners and Americans wish to visit this place. I've been there a few times, and there's absolutely no desire to return to this sea of humanity and colorful freak show.

The influx of near-naked women, collecting tips to pose for photos with tourists, has reached epic proportions this summer, and the Mayor and some local residents are angry. They wear only a thong, a thin layer of paint and a big smile. The going price for such a photo ranges from $10 - $20 and some parents are growing alarmed that these women are approaching their teenage boys on vacation. "It's child pornography!", screamed one mom I saw on the news. The police have little power in this situation because public nudity is legal in New York as long as it's part of a "performance." What do you think?Read more... )
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Did you know the USA has no official language? Last week, I sat in an Arlington, Virginia Immigration Court with two of my teenage clients from El Salvador. The room was stuffed with illegals waiting for their first hearing before the Court. This is standard practice, where the Judge sits on the bench, calls one party after the other, and reads the Department of Homeland Security's charges against the illegal. Over 80% of the people in the tiny room had no attorney, and simply showed up because they were instructed to, without the ability to speak or understand any English. However, this is the USA, the country with no native tongue, so there is no cause for concern. :)

Interpreters are provided for everyone in the Courts. Immediately, the Judge explained to the entire crowd why they were there, the purpose of the proceeding, and then echoed the magic words that "no one will be deported today...on this day, only the charges against you will be read, and you must designate a country for removal in the event you are not granted legal status in the U.S. at your full hearing." Absolutely every word the Judge spoke was immediately translated into Spanish by a live Court interpreter. At every Court appearance, and even at full hearings, an Interpreter is provided for non-English speakers free of charge. Sometimes the Interpreter is arranged in advance, sometimes you hear urgent calls over the Court intercoms for a Chinese interpreter, an Arabic interpreter, even Vietnamese. The list of languages is endless...
Read more... )
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Some bloggers consider themselves to be "celebrities," their whole content and personality change as they climb in the ratings. I've noticed it especially with male bloggers - some sense of superiority, stroking each other's cocks by promoting each other in posts. A few months ago, I began to watch my own rating and social capital, for a brief moment in time thinking it actually meant something, or that it was a sign of achievement to be more highly ranked. In reality, it takes absolutely no talent or creativity. The main formula for success nowadays is to write scandalous headlines, even when the corresponding text bears absolutely no relation to the title. Second, you need to crank out a lot of posts, writing one or two stories daily. With such mass production, it's very hard to maintain quality writing and text. Sadly, I've seen many good bloggers fall into this trap, with their content growing worse and worse, while their ratings climb higher.What happened? )
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When the food sanctions were announced last year, many Russian bloggers ran to create scandalous headlines and photos showing empty shelves and the threat of inflated food prices. Now, it's my turn to show a small level of panic arising in the markets of the USA. I'm not good at creating yellow headlines for stories, it's simply not in my nature to have a hysterical or panicked mind, even for the sake of ratings. However, I've noticed these signs posted in a lot of local stores, warning that organic milk is running out. The demand in the American marketplace has far exceed the supply, for many reasons. As a result, markets can now charge a premium for this product, but there's a constant debate as to whether the benefits of this type of product outweigh the increased cost. "Organic"...sounds good and healthy, but what does it really mean?Read more... )
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We all love compliments! But I've noticed something unique about the Russian blogosphere, where compliments aren't always what they seem. If you look at the TOP on a daily basis, you'll see a lot of posts full of trash, bloggers criticizing other women's appearance, lifestyle choices, bodies...the list is endless. Yes, sometimes they mention that the woman is "beautiful," but then they go on to highlight numerous flaws about the person. Even when people try to be pleasant, they often slip into "critique" mode, by throwing in an undercover insult in the process. Some examples I've noticed recently:

"You're pretty nice, for a Jew."
"You're smart, despite the fact that you're American."
"You have a beautiful face, but need to lose weight."

Compliments...Russian style. :)) Of course, people all over the world are engaged in this behavior. So, today I'll teach you the English word for this - "backhanded compliment." Maybe you already know this slang phrase, but sometimes foreigners don't learn them until they're actually living in the culture in which the phrase originates. For instance, I've taught my Russian friend the following slang words - "beaver," "joint," "Mary Jane," "midget,"...others that I can't think of right now. Read more... )
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To understand alcohol laws, taxes and sales in America is almost impossible. Laws and regulations vary by State, and in Virginia we're taxed at the third highest rate in the country. Liquor can only be bought in State controlled liquor stores, not in grocery or convenience stores. In Pennsylvania, you can't even buy beer at your local market, and there's a limit on the number of packs you can purchase during a single visit. The strictest laws of the nation exist in this area. In the South, there are still several "dry" counties, where all alcohol is prohibited. All of this in the decadent, spirtualless West! :) During a Friday night visit to the liquor store, I came across these two bottles, sitting beside each other on the shelf. I wonder which is tastier? There are a lot of Russian vodkas for sale in U.S. liquor stores, but we tend to like flavored vodkas more than the plain stuff. In general, attitudes and laws toward alcohol vary greatly between our nations.
Read more... )


Dec. 10th, 2014 10:56 am
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My favorite song of all time is "Imagine" by John Lennon. Such simple lyrics, yet so profound and meaningful, more so today than ever. "Imagine all the people, sharing all the world..." Here it is - A Ukrainian [ profile] alexcheban, a Russian [ profile] macos and me, an American, all enjoying a pleasant evening of conversation, stories and steaks. The image to me is very powerful. Pity that so many are blinded by nationality, hatred and idiocy, with the inability to separate ordinary people from the politics of their nation. What if...the majority of humans behaved as the people in this photo? Imagine...yes, what a beautiful world it would be!
Read more... )
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Criminal psychology is a fascinating area of study, at least to me. This week, news spread that 79 year old Charles Manson filed for a marriage certificate to marry "Star," a 25 year old woman from Illinois. She was only 16 when she first discovered Manson on the Internet and immediately became attracted to his environmental philosophy, at least that's the story she tells the press. They speak almost every day on the phone, and she's permitted to visit him on weekends. However, conjugal visits are prohibited, so technically sex is not permissible unless they find creative ways to engage in the act without security guards noticing. Entirely possible! People are always finding clever ways to engage in sex in public places or under tight scrutiny.

I started thinking recently about what rights the most evil and heinous prisoners like Manson should have. Should he be allowed to marry? Have sexual visits with his soon to be wife? Some American prisoners have access to TVs, Internet and books on occasion. The most notorious of killers receive thousands of emails from women interested in pursuing romantic relationships with them. What makes a woman attracted to such a person? I can't understand it, maybe there are some psychologists amongst my readers who can explain? As you can see, Manson's soon to be wife is not some ugly duckling. She's quite attractive and well spoken, yet drawn to a prisoner who committed some of the most horrific murders in American history. Future husband with a swastika tattooed on his forehead? Apparently it's attractive to at least one person. You can hear her explain the relationship in this interview.

I know nothing about the Russian prison system, or how inmates are treated there. What rights do you think prisoners should have? Internet, TV, books, privacy for sexual relations if they're married or have a girlfriend? I'm torn on this subject, not sure how I feel...
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obama gum


I've never been to mainland China, but was completely amused at all the press attention our respective leaders received yesterday. First, the Chinese are offended that Obama was chewing his Nicorette gum, which the American public is used to seeing. The President was an avid smoker before entering the White House, and I have no doubt he will resume the habit once he's out of the White House. In the interim, he tries to curb his cravings with this gum. I assume his desire for a cigarette is at its highest during stressful events, like yesterday, when he is on the world stage. But, I'm most amused, and confused, that the Chinese censored Putin putting the shawl on the wife of the Chinese President. Why??
Read more... )

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"I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape - the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter approaching. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn't show." - Andrew Wyeth

Autumn. Washington, DC. I don't know what's more beautiful than the colors or crisp air of autumn? Maybe the sparkling white snow, which has already fallen in some parts of Russia. The vibrant foliage is now out in full swing in Washington, DC and Virginia. The temperatures are growing colder, everything feels fresh and fragrant. As always, in the midst of beauty, evil is lurking in the distance. In America, we are very much thinking of our friendly neighbors to the North after yesterday's attacks. I know I have several readers who now call Canada home. There's nothing to say about these deranged extremists, or "lone wolfs" as we call them in the States. Such people are now lurking in all Western societies, carrying passports from the very countries they wish to destroy. Waiting to unleash attacks, which are almost impossible to prevent. I see no way to handle it, or ensure public safety. I know the Canadian spirit and sense of community is very strong, and not easily broken. I just wanted to send a short note to express condolences to the country of added to the list of others around the globe where terror has recently reigned down.
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Last night, I submitted the following post for publication in the community [ profile] pora_valit. Most of you probably know the community is focused on the topic of immigration from Russia. Immigrants share their stories and perceptions about how life in the Motherland differs from the country to which they immigrated. I see alot of posts from this community in TOP ЖЖ, almost always focused on America and Americans. I submitted my insights because one of my readers thought it would be an interesting topic for pora_valit subscribers. This morning, I awoke to a message that my post was rejected because they "are not a political board." And how is the following post political?? I expressly state that I'm speaking only about human relations NOT geopolitical ones. Today there's a post in the community about federalization in the State of New Hampshire - a clearly political topic!

I'm obviously not a Russian immigrant, but the topic of my post is about people and cultural differences in communication styles between Russians and Americans. I think I'm a pretty good judge of this, given that I communicate with only Russians almost every day on my blog. The content of my post isn't directed toward my normal readers, but the general ЖЖ community. Perhaps pora_valit doesn't want to publish an English language story there? That's fine, it's their choice, and I'll respect their decision. However, I copied my original post below and ask that you pass it along to others because I believe the content is important and worthy of reading and introspection.

Original Post:

I'm not Russian. I was born in America, and have lived here my entire life. I've traveled to over thirty countries, including three trips to Russia in the past two years. My English language blog on ЖЖ, consisting mostly of travel stories, is read only by Russians. We frequently discuss my travels from around the world, social issues and the prime cultural differences between America and Russia. Almost no one in my country uses ЖЖ, or has even heard of it. It's now completely dominated by Russian speakers. I write here because I'm curious about Russia and former Soviet bloc countries, and the inhabitants of these regions. The primary goal of my blog is to promote tolerance towards different viewpoints, ideas, cultures and lifestyles.

We have a lot of interesting discussions and the majority of my dedicated Russian readers are smart, with proper manners. However, my subscriber numbers have remained static for the past few months (around 1,500). So, I recently decided to promote two of my English language posts on the Cyrillic homepage. The main purpose was to draw more Russian readers to my blog, but the promotions in the Cyrillic community were also a social see how Russians would react upon seeing something highly unusual - English text in the top promo box of ЖЖ.

Grab the popcorn, and let's see how the animals in the Russian blogosphere behaved...!Read more... )
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Last night, I was wide awake in the middle of the night watching a news special about "SugarDaddies." This is a common phrase in English to describe men who buy expensive gifts for beautiful women, usually much younger, in exchange for "companionship." The women are called "SugarBabies." I think the Russian word for this type of man is "papic," but I'm not sure. In most cases, it's nice jewelry or clothes. Some men are more generous, buying apartments and fancy cars for the women, or paying for their college education. There's a whole website dedicated to this dating theme - Some of the women claim they merely go to dinner or hang out with the men, with no sex involved. We also have an American site for hot women who want to travel the world, and are looking for men to pay for their journeys. A sort of "fuck for vacation" scheme. Look here at the MissTravel dating site Hmm...tempting! :)

In all honesty, I don't understand how these women are any different than prostitutes. Sure, they're not standing on street corners but they're selling their body and sex appeal in exchange for financial rewards. It seems like a very vain and selfish existence to me. People are free to live as they wish, and I believe all forms of prostitution should be 100% legal and regulated. With the advent of the Internet and widespread usage of dating sites like these now, I think the definition of "prostitution" has expanded to include more than old school street walkers.

I know my opinion is in the minority, but I could never be in this sort of relationship, where a man pays for absolutely everything, and my only value is to be attached to his arm, looking pretty. Probably because my parents raised my sister and me to be very self-sufficient. Constant amazement that some men are so seduced by beauty that they're willing to pay thousands of dollars each week for it. What do you think? Are these women engaged in a more socially acceptable form of prostitution? Do you support legalization of the oldest profession in the world? 
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At one point in history, working for the airlines was a glamorous profession. Beautiful, young and sophisticated flight attendants served passengers who were flying in high style, and for many it was even a big social event. A level of class and service was expected, and airlines delivered. Now, it has become one of the most thankless, mind numbing jobs on the planet. I know because I used to work for United Airlines before I became a lawyer. Dealing with annoyed, angry, drunk and frustrated passengers on a consistent basis is mentally draining and requires the highest level of patience, which I sometimes lack in my older years.

El Al, the national carrier of Israel, is legendary for its top notch security. However, security screening has absolutely no impact on abhorrent human behavior, which becomes more difficult to control at 35,000 feet above the sky. Last week, chaos ensued on an El Al flight from New York to Tel Aviv, when a group of ultra-Orthodox Jews boarded the flight to celebrate Rosh Hashanah in the Holy Land. Hundreds of the men demanded that other passengers switch seats, claiming they can't sit next to women on the long flight due to religious beliefs. Some of the men even offered to pay female passengers to move seats, but most refused. In some cases, because they didn't want to sit apart from their spouse, in others simply to make a statement that they didn't condone the extreme behavior of the men. Once the flight took off, most of the ultra-Orthodox men remained in the aisles, refusing to take their seat next to a woman. One fellow passenger called the flight an "11 hour nightmare!" Flight attendants couldn't serve drinks, meals, etc. because the aisles were blocked by the ultra-Orthodox Jews. Here's a photo from Twitter:Read more... )
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Hello! I just returned home from a beach holiday with my family. Three days lounging at the pool and on the cold, windy shores of Virginia Beach, located in Norfolk, Virginia. The city is home to a large naval base, and your ears are treated to the thunderous roar of military jets flying overhead most of the day. Generally it was very poor weather. Chilly, with a lot of rain. Yet we still managed to spend a nice few days together. Here's an au naturale shot from the beach. No make-up, wind-blown, frizzy hair, and the first sign of wrinkles. I think I've aged more this year than any others, though I'm not sure why. I always want readers to see the real me, so here I am. :)

At our hotel, I discovered a group of young toddlers on their way to a beauty pageant. In general, I hate these types of contests, especially for young girls. I read an article recently where France attempted to ban toddler beauty contests on the ground they "hyper-sexualize" minors. This is the same country that banned burqas, but I don't know the outcome of the legislation. The girls had the standard pageant look - tons of make-up, big hair, and sparkly outfits like this:Read more... )
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Maybe some of you know the popular store "CVS" in America? It's a retail store, selling a wide-variety of items like Auchan (but much smaller). These stores are located all over the U.S., including my hometown of Manassas. Over the weekend, I stopped to get a card for a bridal shower and saw this - same sex wedding cards!! "MR. & MR." and "MRS. & MRS." Two grooms, two brides! :)) I was in shock because gay marriage isn't legalized in my home State of Virginia, and I've never seen these cards at any stores in my U.S. travels. Our neighbors in Washington, DC and Maryland have both legalized gay marriage. However, Virginia is more conservative and I don't anticipate same sex marriage being legalized here anytime soon. Recent attempts to amend the definition of "marriage" in the Constitution of Virginia have failed in the hands of voters. Most Virginians still prefer that "marriage" be defined as a union only between a man and woman. No exceptions.

These cards immediately reminded me about the Russian law passed last year, prohibiting propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors. It's my understanding the term "propaganda" isn't defined in the text of the law. So, do these cards violate the Russian law? Are the messages on these wedding cards considered "propaganda?" After all, what's "propaganda" to one person, is merely a joyous celebration of love to someone else.

I did a quick Internet search to see how this law has been interpreted in Russia since inception, but couldn't find much information in English. I see only that some prosecutors in Ulianovsk investigated whether a children's book which promoted tolerance and multiculturalism should be banned from a local library because it contains information about same-sex marriages. See article here. Then, there is an absurd article discussing a politician's wish to change the depiction on Russia's 100 RUB banknote because, in his words, "you can see Apollo is naked, you can see his genitalia" and this is pornographic. I don't know how this equates to gay propaganda, but I'm sure there are many clever lawyers in Russia who can make an argument in favor of the ban. Read the article here.Read more... )
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News of the Malaysia Airlines crash in Ukraine hit the U.S. news about an hour ago. For examples of trolls infecting comments, I suggest you take a look at this link to CNN's breaking coverage of the accident. Almost 5,000 comments in less than one hour, all kinds of conspiracy theories forming, people showing no respect to the victims. I've never seen a story generate so many comments in such a short period of time. Humanity at its worst. 


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