Friday, April 30, 2010

Ballad Of A Soldier (1959)

This movie (called "Баллада о солдате" in Russian)was really good. Even though it was made in the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War it is just like all the great American World War 2 movies made at the time. The two main characters, Alyosha and Shura, are youthful (they are only 19) and honest. They portray what the war did to the young people and how, even during wartime, life and love go on.
The film was the first Soviet movie to be released by an independent company. The director and the two leads were even allowed to travel to the United States - which was very rare in 1950s USSR.
I have seen countless Soviet/Russian movies about World War 2 and yet this is my favorite one so far. It has action, drama, romance, comedy and an innocent quality that show the different emotions that living in an invaded/occupied country and fighting for your survival would bring out.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


This week wasn't as good as last week. Sandra didn't flip, but Candice did and so Amanda was sent home. I bet she really wishes she had fought Danielle harder for the idol clue - although even though Danielle had the clue Russell got the idol. Parvatti must have been feeling out of sorts since she didn't have any real control this time and came close to going home.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Our Own (2004)

I saw this movie last night. It is Russian-made and in Russian. The movie itself was pretty boring, but some aspects of it were really interesting. It is about 3 Russian Red Army soldiers (a commander, a Jew and a regular recruit) who escape from German captivity during the Second World War (called the 2nd Great Patriotic War in Russian.) They hide out in the small, farming town of the recruit.
The reason I say the movie has some interesting parts is because it is the first Russian/Soviet-made movie about the war that isn't all propaganda. All the ones I have seen before this one showed only the glories of the war and how everyone was willing to fight and die for Stalin, the Communist Party and the Russian motherland. There was always a scene of soldiers or civilians praising one or all of them and then there would be music and dancing.
This movie showed Russian collaborators (although they were only farmers and pretty stupid in the film) and even explained that many people viewed the Nazis as liberators from the Soviet, Communist dictatorship - which is something the Soviet secret police (the NKVD) investigated after the war. On a side note: up until the collapse of the USSR people had to fill out forms about what they did during the war and those that lived under German occupation were investigated even more.
The film also talks briefly about the kulaks. The kulaks were, according to the Soviet Communist Party, rich peasants. A person could be labeled a kulak by owning a cow, wearing glasses or being able to read. The kulaks were rounded up and deported to Siberia where the majority died along the way.
One more interesting thing from the movie was that they specifically mentioned the Germans murdering Jews, gypsies and "cripples." Usually the Holocaust is not mentioned and the victims are simply described as "Soviet citizens" on monuments and memorials throughout the former USSR. When I went to Babi Yar in Kiev there was one memorial that was made during Soviet times that describes the victims of the massacre as Soviets (there is another memorial on the actual site that mentions the Jews murdered there, but that was built years after the Soviet Union collapsed.)
Like I said the movie itself was pretty boring, but it did mention certain topics that I have never seen in a Russian/Soviet film about World War 2.

Chernobyl At 24

From Deutsche Welle:
"Scars linger as Ukraine marks 24 years since Chernobyl"

Yesterday was the 24th anniversary of Chernobyl and even though so many years have passed it seems the danger from radiation has not. A few years ago when my mom, sister and myself went to Kiev we saw many companies that offered day tours around the Chernobyl site. It seemed really interesting and one of those "exotic tours" that not many people get to do. After much debate we decided not to go. We figured the ability to have children was more important than visiting a Soviet wasteland. New reports have since said the danger from radiation is still there (even in the housing complexes) and so our decision seems to be the right one. Maybe I will go back when I'm retired.,,5505463,00.html

Sunday, April 25, 2010


This week was good. They went from Singapore to Shanghai, China. The two teams (the cops and the brothers) had taxi drivers that got lost. In the end they all made it to the challenges. The first one they had to make noodles from scratch. Then they had to dress a model and finally they had to uncover a puzzle in the wind. The Cowboys came in first place again while the cops came in last. There are only a few more weeks left of the show so no team was sent home. I still want the Cowboys to win.

Friday, April 23, 2010

95 Years: Armenian Genocide

From the Yahoo News:
"10,000 Armenians march to remember mass killings"

Tomorrow is the 95th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. Despite what Turkey says the mass murder of the Armenians during and shortly after World War 1 are a Genocide. I know that many countries officially recognize this fact (although the US Government seems either too stupid or too weak to do the same - despite Obama being on record during his campaign that he would call the killings a genocide.)
Just like the world remembers the Holocaust we need to also remember the Armenians. Even Adolf Hitler said that no one would remember what he did to the Jews just like no one remembers what happened to the Armenians (and he is an expert on what is a genocide.)

AZ's Bill

From Yahoo News:
"Ariz. governor signs immigration enforcement bill"

It is about time someone in the government stood up and took action. As the Governor of Arizona said the US has waited for the Federal Government to get its act together and since they couldn't the States have to get things done. Obama and all those who don't support this bill clearly do not understand (or don't care) that the word "illegal" means a person committed a crime. They entered the United States without the correct documentation or never left when they were supposed to. This is a crime. Those that say that illegals are good "citizens" who pay their taxes are living in a bubble of their own. First off they are not citizens and second they had to get their Social Security numbers illegally thus committing another crime. I am all for opening our borders to more, legal, responsible immigrants but anyone who enters the country illegally should be deported right away.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


This week was really good. Not only did the two tribes merge, but there were blindsides all around. First it was JT who was fooled by Russell (even though he was sure that since they were Southerners everything was fine)and then he was voted out. The second blindside was on Russell. He assumed he was running everything until he saw Parvatti give Sandra and then Jerri an idol and saved both of them - Russell didn't know that Parvatti had an idol of her own when he gave his to her. The look on both JT and Russell was priceless and was the best tribal this season. I can't wait to see what will happen next week. I think Russell will try to get Parvatti sent home.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Latvia's Non-Citizens

From the BBC:
"Life in limbo for Latvia's non-citizens"

I have written about this in the past, but lately have changed how I see all this. It has been 18 years since the Soviet Union collapsed and I think that is enough time for the Latvian language to thrive (which is one of the reasons that Latvia and the other Baltic States created non-citizens in 1991.) If an ethnic Russian was born in Latvia, Lithuania or Estonia before December 1991 and they chose to become citizens of one of those countries (and no other) then they should be allowed to become full citizens. Of course every former Soviet citizen had the right to become a citizen of the Russian Federation (up until 2002) so there is no real reason why these people should be considered stateless, but if they don't want to become full Russian citizens then they should be allowed to become a citizen of one of the Baltic countries. It would also make sense that if they don't want to become full Russians than they should learn the national language of whatever country they want to become full members (ie Estonian, Latvian or Lithuanian.)
The Baltics are all now part of the EU and NATO and so many ethnic non-citizen Russians want all the opportunities that that allows (ie free movement with the EU and a high standard of living.) As long as these non citizens prove they are trying to learn the national language and have no other nationality than I think they should be made full citizens of whatever Baltic country they reside in.

Another Russian Abandoned

From Yahoo News:
"Russian boy, 12, abandoned in Dominican Republic"

I had to add this article after reading it. I am sick and tired of hearing about how every American who adopts a Russian only wants to mistreat them. While there have been some awful cases of mistreatment it is not only Americans who are doing this - but also Russians themselves. After the American woman sent her adopted Russian son back to Russia the Russian media went crazy and the Russian Government stopped all adoptions to America.
Well it seems Russians who adopt other Russians are just as guilty. A Russian couple adopted a boy from Russia and took him to the Dominican Republic with them where they abandoned him. Now the boy is stuck there and the Russian Government doesn't seem to want to do a think to help him (their excuse is that he no longer understands Russian and has grown to live in the hot weather.) Talk about a bunch of stupid excuses. The whole adoption system in Russia needs to be changed from the orphanages and organizations using the innocent boys and girls to get money to the adoptive parents. It needs to change from top to bottom and from Russia to the rest of the world.
No one seems to care about this boy in the D.R. (I think it is because he was adopted by Russians.) Had the boy been adopted and abandoned by Americans or anyone else then I'm sure the Russian Government and media would be all over this.

Monday, April 19, 2010

15 Years: OKC Bombing

Today is the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. It doesn't feel that long ago. I remember watching the coverage on TV in Germany. At least they caught the people involved and have punished them (one is in jail and the other got the death penalty.)There is a nice looking memorial at the site - I have only seen pictures of it - but it has a spot to remember everyone (except the killers of course.) There's a section for those that died, those that were wounded and those that helped rescue.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Ash Visas

The volcanic ash has grounded flights and stranded an estimated 5 million people around the world. While not much can be done to open the air space when the ash is over head, but the way airports, airlines and governments handle things on the ground shows just how intelligent, well-prepared and concerned they truly are.
I have read and seen many stories from around the world that all have one thing in common - visas. People who were flying to a country where they had the required documents and then were diverted to another country where they didn't have the documents and are thus stranded in no-man's land at the airports because the Immigration officials refuse to allow them into the country. This is happening around the world (in the US, the UK, India, the Schengen, etc.)
The US Department of State says that people who have visas and can't leave the United States before their visas expire can get an extension as can those on the Visa Waiver Program. It does not address those people that were not planning to fly to the US, but landed there when their plane was diverted and they are from a country that requires a visa. That is just one example, but there are many more from around the world.
I think that when a disaster (either man-made or natural)grounds air travel governments need to be flexible and start thinking about the ordinary people that are being stranded (sometimes in a foreign country.) I don't see why they can't have an official stay with a large group of people and let those people stay at a near-by hotel or why they can't just relax their visa requirements for a short period (Russia and Belarus did over the volcanic ash.) I understand governments want to keep their own citizens safe, but sometimes things happen that you can't control and you just need to adjust how you act and work. I know that if I was stranded in another country I would want to be treated like a person.

Realistic Movies

I watched a movie recently that was pretty well made. My only issue is the director's comments at the end where he states that he spent months researching every aspect to make sure the film was as realistic as physically possible. The movie is set in 1962 and yet right away I noticed they played a song at a dance that didn't come out until 1965. There were many other issues (political and cultural) that I noticed as well.
These may sound like small things, but I think they are pretty important. A song or cultural reference made in a time-period movie that wasn't made til after the fact just shows a lack of understanding on the part of the director. In some movies it doesn't really matter, but in others (especially those that are based on true events) they are very important. How can a character fall in love while a song plays in the background and eventually becomes "their song" when in reality that song wasn't made til 3 years later?
I guess I would just like directors and others to take a second and check the dates to make the movie even more realistic.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


This week was just dumb. JT was very stupid in giving up the idol to Russell. He (JT) thinks he is so smart and in control of the game when in reality he isn't. This has got to be the worse move in the history of the show. I hope it comes back to haunt JT. Now Russell and Parvati have an idol.
I thought that Sandra was going home tonight, but knew it was between her and Courtney and in the end Courtney went. Coach looked really ridiculous on the jury.
It seems that next week the two tribes merge and hopefully Russell will go home soon.

Another Stupid Hoax

From Russia Today:
"Belarus “invaded by NATO from Ukraine”"

This goes along the same lines as the Georgian hoax that said the Russians had invaded Georgia. This time it was a Russian media source that said NATO troops had invaded Belarus from the Ukraine. This caused some panic in Belarus, the Ukraine and Russia.
Of course this doesn't make any sense since NATO troops wouldn't need to invade Belarus through the Ukraine (a non NATO country) but could do so from Poland, Lithuania and Latvia (all NATO countries.) Secondly, I don't think NATO would ever invade Belarus especially since Belarus is in a unified state with Russia and invading Belarus would mean invading Russia - and history has shown us that anyone who tries to invade Russia never wins.
Regardless, this was a hoax meant to scare people and it did just that. No media source from any place in the world should ever abuse it's influence to scare people. They are there simply to inform people about the facts and not stir-up panic. I believe (just like I did in the Georgian case) that this Russian media source should be punished to the full extent of Russian law.

Volcano Closes Airports

A volcano in Iceland has closed all airports in the United Kingdom and many in Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, France and other countries in northern Europe. This is such an odd incident, but is resulting in many problems for millions around the world. Of course there isn't much else the airports can do since they can't stop the volcano or its ash.
Hopefully, the ash will disperse and the airports will open soon. Even a little delay can cause problems worldwide and this is a major delay.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


This week was pretty good. They went to Singapore where the brothers did the fast forward and came in first place. The lesbians were U-turned and in the end they were sent home. I am really glad they are out of the race. They were just very bitter and always fighting and never coming in first place.
I still would like the cowboys to win and think they have a really good chance.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Polish Leaders Crash

From Yahoo News:
"Polish leader, 95 others dead in Russia jet crash"

This is a very strange situation. Over 90 people (including the crew) were killed while flying from Warsaw, Poland to Smolensk, Russia for the 70th Anniversary of the Katyn Massacre by the Soviets.

The victims include:
- The Polish President and First Lady
- Members of the Sejm and Senat
- Members of the Polish Military
- The President of the Institute of National Remembrance
- The President of the Polish Olympic Committee
- The President of the National Bank of Poland
- The Head of the National Security Bureau
- Different Religious Representatives

It seems a little too ironic that the first time that Russia invites Poland to remember the Katyn Massacre in which the USSR not only carried out the murders, but also silenced anyone who tried to speak about them for the next 60 years (both in Poland and the Soviet Union)there is a plane crash that wipes out the highest levels of the Polish Government.
Also about a week ago Putin gave a speech in which he stated that he believed Stalin killed the Polish officers because he was upset about the Soviet-Polish War of 1920. He simply made excuses rather than an apology (the latter being the only thing he should have done.)
Of course there are many theories about the plane being too old, the curse of Katyn, Russian involvement, etc. Right now I have my own thoughts, but nothing concrete yet.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Mom Abandons Son

From Yahoo News:
"Russia furious over adopted boy sent back from US"

This is just plain wrong. No matter what stress or trouble the boy was giving his adopted mom this is not how you solve the problem. You do not simply put a kid on a plane and have a stranger pick the kid up at the airport and deliver him to an address to leave him there. There are legal procedures on how to adopt a child from Russia and I'm sure there is a legal procedure on how to un-adopt the child (I know that's not really a word.)
Because of this case and another one where an American woman in Virginia left her Russian child in a car in 90 degree heat and the child died the Russian Government has stopped all adoptions to the United States.
Russia is not innocent in all this. No one questions the over-crowded, dirty conditions of the orphanages in Russia or how many agencies within Russia hide the children's mental, physical (or both) from the adopted parents. There is an epidemic in Russia of people giving up there children because they can't afford them or do not want them. All of these things should be checked before any adoptions start again.
The US Government should also step in and prevent the death, abuse or abandonment of any adopted children (from Russia and elsewhere.)

Thursday, April 8, 2010


This was a good week. While they didn't vote Russel out like I would love to see they did blind slide the "dragon slayer" (Coach.) It was a pretty dumb move, but was fun to watch. I had thought it was going to be Courtney sent home because she kept opening her mouth at the wrong time (especially at Tribal) and that got people mad at her.
It seems the Heroes are in the best position even though they are one person down. I am not sure when the merge will happen, but it is funny to watch both tribes (especially the Villains) worry about when it will occur and what will happen afterwards.
As of right now I just do not want Russel to win. Anyone else is fine with me.

Qatari Diplomat Should Be Sent Back Home

From Yahoo News:
"Officials: Jet restroom smoker caused bomb scare"

This is just wrong and yet I know nothing will happen to this guy because he is a diplomat. Not only did the guy from Qatar smoke on the plane, but when asked about it he joked that he was just lighting his shoe (in reference to the guy who tried to light a shoe bomb a few years ago.) The one good thing is that air marshalls were on-board and took over. This guy should be made persona non grata and kicked out of the US. He has got to be the dumbest person. He is a Muslim Arab flying from Washington DC and lights a cigarette (although it could have been something else) and then makes terrorist jokes. He fits every possible terrorist profile in the past 10 years and as a diplomat should know better. I believe he knew exactly what he was doing and did all this knowing the US couldn't/wouldn't do anything about it. You would think the Qatari government would want to keep good relations with the US and instead of protecting their diplomat they would waive his diplomatic immunity. To the Qatari Embassy in DC and this diplomat all this seems to be some sick joke. I am not laughing. It might be funny in the Middle East, but not in the rest of the world.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Ordinary Russians Against Corruption

From Moscow Times:
"Angry Drivers Take Stand Against Flashing Blue Lights"

It is about time that ordinary Russians stand up for themselves and against government corruption (and this is a form of corruption.)While this is very common in Moscow and Saint Petersburg I have even seen it a few times in Yaroslavl. There is a main square (Soviet Square) that is surrounded by government buildings and is closed to all cars except those with special permits. Of course this issue is much worse in the larger cities. The Russian government needs to stand up and take action. The government officials who are abusing their powers and putting other people in danger need to be shown that what they are doing is wrong. I know that this kind of thing has always happened. In Soviet times not many ordinary Soviets had cars, but government officials did. I heard a joke once where a teenage son living in the Soviet Union asks his father: "Can I borrow the keys to the car?" To which is dad replies: "Yes, but be careful we are scheduled to get one in only 4 years." Now everyone seems to have one.

Poland: Against Nazis And Communists

From Russia Today:
"New Polish law equates Communist and Nazi symbols"

I think this is long overdue and am surprised that only Poland has such a law. You would think Germany would have one since the Nazis were once very popular in the whole country and the Communists in half the country. I know that some of the Baltic countries ban Soviet and Communist symbols, but not Nazi things. There should be a basic ban of both Nazi and Communist symbols and parties throughout the world (of course not in places like China, North Korea or Cuba which are officially Communist.)

Enigma (2001)

This movie was pretty good. It started off slow, but then picked up towards the end. It is a good war drama that has a little bit of romance too (instead of a romantic war movie with a little bit of drama.)It has interesting real issues/incidents from World War such as: Bletchley Park, cracking the German enigma machine, the Katyn massacre by the Soviets, etc. Dougray Scott and Kate Winslet work well on the screen.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Spirit Carry-Ons

From Spirit Airlines Website:
"Spirit Airlines Announces PENNY PLUS Fares Available on Over One Million Seats Annually and Reduces Checked Bag Fees"

I think this is a step in the wrong direction for airlines. These new prices and different categories are very confusing and I travel pretty often (I can't imagine someone who travels once a year or less.) If I ever flew on Spirit then these fees (except the checked baggage) probably wouldn't affect me since I like to put my carry-on under my seat. Regardless, this is a very bad idea and I hope no other airline follows suit.

Katyn: 70

From the BBC:
"Remembering Katyn, 70 years later"

It is about time Russia starts to admit the horrible things that happened in its past. Some people may say that these acts were carried out in the Soviet Union and that the Russians should not solely be forced to take the blame. When the USSR collapsed the RSFSR (Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic) declared that the successor state to the Soviet Union would be the Russian Federation thus any and all crimes committed during Soviet times falls solely on Russia.
With that said I think that Russia is doing a good thing in inviting Poland to the site of the massacre (which is in Russia) for the 70th anniversary. For 50 years the USSR denied any part in the killing of 20,000 Polish soldiers on Russian territory in 1940. The Soviets said that the Nazis (who uncovered the mass graves in 1943) were the killers. While the Nazis certainly are murderers they did not kill these people at Katyn - the Soviets did. For decades any mention of Soviet involvement in the Katyn massacre was punishable by the Communists in both Poland and the USSR. Now the relatives of those killed can finally have closure.
Hopefully by fully admitting the past crime and extending an open hand the relationship between Poland and Russia can move forward. Katyn, 70 years laterpe/8606126.stm

Monday, April 5, 2010


This week the teams went from the Seychelles to Malaysia. They had to either move and light huge incense candles or balance heavy poles on their forehead. Only the Cowboys did the pole challenge which gave them an advantage when they had to do their extra challenge (for being the last team last week.) In the end they came in first place and Phil said they were the only team to ever go from dead last to first place.
In the end, Steve and Allie were sent home. They weren't always the smartest team (I remember when they painted the inside of a stranger's house instead of the actual challenge.)I have the feeling the the Cowboys will win the Race overall.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


Христос воскресе! Joyeuses Pâques! Frohe Ostern! ¡Felices Pascuas! Happy Easter!

This year Catholic and Orthodox Easter was on the same day - something that doesn't happen all the time. The weather has been very hot and sunny (in the 70s-80s) the past few days and so we have had the windows open and the fans on. My dad is also home from Iraq so he got to celebrate Easter with us.
We just got done with our dinner and it was great. We had our traditional Polish Easter meal with ham, home-made pierogies, kielbasa, asparagus and Paskha (Polish Easter bread we got at a bakery when we went to NY last Thursday - I attached a picture of it at the top of this post.) Once we let dinner settle we will also have home-made molten lava cake.
All-in-all it was a really nice Easter.

Friday, April 2, 2010

New US Air Security

From the TSA website:
"Secretary Napolitano Announces New Measures to Strengthen Aviation Security"

After reading the same basic story from different sites and articles I think that this new security procedure will be a good compromise. It does profile people but uses real-time descriptions of people to narrow the search. It will be used on both Americans as well as foreigners. While the US can't force airports in other countries to do the same procedures they can ban airlines from entering American airspace (so most countries, if not all, will implement them.)
On paper this should work well, but not all things that are good on paper work effectively. It all depends on how "real" this real-time information is sent out and used. It also depends on how well the TSA and other government agencies are trained to read, understand and carry out the new procedures. I hope this does work and keep people safe.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


This week was really good (even though the person I wanted to stay was voted out.) The Hero Tribe actually got their act together and won both the Reward and the Immunity. That meant the Villain Tribe went to Tribal Council.
Boston Rob was sent home and Coach showed his true colors. He thinks he is a man of his word and yet he told Boston Rob he would vote for Russel and in the end he voted for Courtney. Russel is a little troll (to use Boston Rob's words) and doesn't deserve to still be in the game. He is just obsessed with himself and winning the game since he couldn't win or even buy the title of Survivor last time.
I don't really know who I want to win right now since those I wanted were sent him. I'll just have to wait and see.

Trip To NY

Today we went to Upstate New York to go to a few places that we liked when we lived there. This morning we dropped our dogs off at the kennel (they will spend one night there and we will get them tomorrow morning) and then we headed out. It was a 3 hour drive, but not that bad since the weather was sunny and warm.
We went to the Schuyler Bakery and got a bunch of fresh doughnuts, a strawberry/rhubarb pie (my favorite) and some Paskha bread. Luckily I reserved two large Paskha/Easter bread since the bakery was running out of them and there was a lot of people in the little store. After the bakery we had lunch at Ted's (their cheeseburgers and hot dogs are almost worth the trip itself.) We went to a few other places and then headed home.
I am very tired, but glad that we made the trip.

Religious Cult/Terrorists Disgrace Funerals

From Yahoo News:
"Dad of a fallen Marine perseveres against protests at military funerals"

This is just plain sick. To think that this so-called religious group would go to funerals and disrespect the dead is unthinkable. I don't understand why this group of idiots don't go after the people in power who start/expand the wars that they are protesting? They leave out Obama who sent thousands of new troops to Afghanistan (and yet he got the Peace Prize.)
I really hope the Supreme Court hears the case and finds in favor of the father of the dead soldier. One good thing that has already happened is that the leader of this "religious" cult was banned from entering the UK for "fostering hatred or extremism" - if only we could do that in the US but apparently he's from here. I would consider him and his group to be home-grown terrorists. Maybe him and his members will decide the best thing for this is to drink kool-aid instead of disrespecting soldiers who died for our country. One can only hope.