Red skies in morning, sailor take warning.
Red Square at night, Salvo delight!
I was WRONG. I herewith personally apologize to all 145 million Russians I impetuously offended with my ignorant comments about St.Basil’s Cathedral in my previous post. Like all works of art, St. Basil’s benefits greatly from an understanding of its inherent symbolism and a knowledge of the circumstances surrounding it’s creation. It also benefits from having someone who isn’t a categorically unqualified complete ass review it. So you don’t make the same mistake, here’s the low-down on St. B’s:
Architecturally, Russian churches are a symbolic blend of - sorry I can’t help myself - War and Peace. No, really. The characteristic onion-dome form is based on the shape of ancient Russian Cossack military helmets. Cossacks? Do pictures of Yul Brenner in a fur hat pop into your head, too? St. Basil’s along with many of the churches in Russia, was built to commemorate a military victory. Way back in the 16th century the Russian army, with Ivan the Terrible as Commander-in-Chief (and you thought things could not be worse in The States), defeated the Tartars in bloody battle. So logically the next step was to built a church. Duh – I mean Dah. The number of onion-domes on St. Basil’s was determined by the number of glorious battles fought and won. And because the Tartar’s were known for bright, vibrant colors, (so un-Russian!) the domes were naturally painted to reflect the defeated enemy’s taste.
Speaking of taste, I have grown to love the local Piemonte, Italy dish, carne crude (literal translation, raw meat). According to legend, this now world-famous delicious cold raw steak dish was ‘invented’ by those same conquered Tartars.
Back in the day, the Tartars were renowned rapers and pillagers, constantly invading someone or other astride their galloping steads. Descended from the Mongolian hordes of Genghis Khan, the Tartars came by their vicious nature, well, naturally. They were savage horsemen on the make. Compared to the horsemanship and macho-ness of the Tartars ALL American cowboys came from Brokeback Mountain. Galloping into battle on the backs of their fleet-footed ponies, the Tartars seldom took time for a formal sit-down meal.
Utilizing good time-management skills and to keep their ferocity at peak performance levels, the Tartars would place a piece of tough uncooked meat betwixt their saddle and pony. The constant pounding, heat, friction and horse sweat pulverized and marinated the meat, which was then eaten by the Tartars raw. Shew. Is it just me? All that talk of pounding and sweating - Brokeback Mountain has popped back into my head. Double shew. Through the centuries this somehow morphed into what we pay a small fortune for in fancy restaurants - Steak Tartare.
It all makes perfect sense now, doesn’t it – in a Russian sort of way? So I’ve changed my mind and now think St. Basil’s is a BEAUTIFUL work of art. But after doing the research for this I’ve sworn off carne crude for the foreseeable future.
It’s official. I have now actually reached the Ends of the Earth.
Growing up, Siberia was not a real place, it was a threat. I remember hearing this phrase frequently - “Suzanne, if you don’t (fill in this blank with any of a large number of things I shoulda but didn't do in my wasted youth) you’re gonna be sent to Siberia!” The reference of course was that there is NO PLACE on the planet worse than the remote, vast, frozen tundra that makes up three-quarters of present day Russia.
If you are referring to climate, I whole-heartedly concur. This past winter Nizhnevartovsk, the unpronounceable place in Siberia where we are shooting, spent over two weeks straight at less than minus 50C (minus 58F). WOW. It’s now mid-April and last week temps dropped to minus 25C. Here, hard-freeze winter starts in November and lasts into May.
It’s a dry cold. Extremely dry. My clothes are static-clinging and every single hair on my head including my eyebrows are standing straight up, giving me an Albert Einstein look if not intellect. Even my armpit hair is standing on-end. And after 2 years of 'going Italian style' I'll bet my pit hair is longer than Albert's ever was. I'm having trouble keeping my arms down at my sides. I won't mention other hairy zones, but just you imagine... I am so electrified I can, at will, shoot small lighting bolts across the room off the ends of my fingers like a super-hero. Call me Ready Kilowat, or ala 007 - OhmFinger, or maybe more appropriately, Flash-Head. But no joke, it hurts. The guys at the base tell me they have fried computers with a single touch from a super-static charged finger. OUCH.
The deadly Siberian cold is not the worst part. For me it’s the time it takes to put on all the bulky layers that culminate in me and the Michelin Man being twins. I’m used to grabbing my gear and rushing out the door. There is no rushing in Russia. I can put on thick enough gloves to prevent frostbite, but then my hands become dumb, clumsy stubs at the ends of my arms, unable to adjust camera modes or do anything that requires opposible thumbs.
And I’m moving to a place in Italy that actually has snow each and every year? Santo Cialo! Devo essera pozzo! (Good Heavens, I must be crazy!) Right now the only ice I want to see is in my martini glass - with good Russian vodka, of course!