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Below are the 18 most recent journal entries recorded in blue_russian's LiveJournal:

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008
8:14 am
an impossibly long list of books
Up to 117 for certain out of 1001 (from 112, when I first posted this). Not counting a handful of "I'm pretty sure I read that. Didn't I?"

Here they are:Collapse )
Friday, February 22nd, 2008
7:12 am
cognitive dissonance
The truth is that when I go on vacation, besides getting away from work, I am also trying to get away from all the russians (if you read this, no offense intended, sasha). i'm not sure i could explain exactly what i mean any better than that -- just to be someplace for a while where everything is a noticeably... easier. and i'm not talking about all the nasty "patriotism" that's been growing for the last three or four years, that's something different, and i'm glad to be away from it, but just as i'm glad to avoid american "patriotism."

but see, here's the weird thing, what i really wanted to post about: here i am in stupid little skiing town in austria, full of tourists of all stripes, and i'm walking around asking myself, "where are my people?" (i.e. those self-same russians). is this freedom or alienation? i'm not sure.

even stranger: last night i go into an italian restaurant here. (a "real" one, i think, i.e. most of the waiters really seemed to be italian.) the menu is in italian and german - no problem since everybody knows the names of italian food and my restaurant german is adequate. when the waiter brings my food, he asks, "Хлеб?" I just kind of stare at him. "What?" I say. "Khleb?" he asks again, making some kind of bread-like gesture. "No." I say, and he's clearly proud that he's figured out where I'm from. He even brings me another menu - in Italian and Russian - for dessert. I try and think what "stereotypical" signal I could be giving off that leads him to think I am a Russian tourist, e.g. displaying roll of hundred-dollar bills? no. expensive but tastelessly dressed bottle blonde on my arm? no. furry hat? vodka shots? no and no. (and basically the only words I've said are "torteillini bolognese" and "valpolicella".)
Wednesday, January 2nd, 2008
12:48 pm
okay, okay, my 2007 best of list
A succinct list, vs. the wordy version on last.fm. Toward the end, I'm definitely kind of scraping the bottom of the barrel, but more or less this pretty much covers the full list of "new" songs that I at one point or another said, "Hey, right now I really want to listen to X."

Songs, in only roughly indicative orderCollapse )

This year saw a number of albums that I felt were good, but didn't find myself wanting to listen to that often. I made a good faith effort to follow up on some of alexmacpherson's R&B recommendations, and it shows up here rather than my singles list.

Albums, in three groupsCollapse )
Because the bad is sometimes as interesting as the goodCollapse )
Saturday, November 24th, 2007
9:40 am
Yawn, why am i doing quizzes when i should be on the way to the gym?

My score on The Brutally Honest Personality Test:

Loser - INTP

(6% Extraversion, 53% Intuition, 80% Thinking, 40% Judging)


Talked to another human being lately? I'm serious. You value knowledge above ALL else. You love new ideas, and become very excited over abstractions and theories. The fact that nobody else cares still hasn't become apparent to you...

Nerd's a great word to describe you, and I seriously couldn't care less about the different definitions of the word and why you're actually more of a geek than a nerd. Don't pretend you weren't thinking that. You want every single miniscule fact and theory to be presented correctly.

Critical? Sarcastic? Cynical? Pessimistic? Just a few words to describe you when you're at your very best...*cough* Sorry, I mean worst. Picking up the dudes or dudettes isn't something you find easy, but don't worry too much about it. You can blame it on your personality type now.

On top of all this, you're shy. Nice one, wench. No wonder you're on OKCupid! Now, quickly go and delete everything about "theoretical questions" from your profile page. As long as nobody tries to start a conversation with you, just MAYBE you'll now have a chance of picking up a date. But don't get your hopes up.

I am interested though. If a tree fell over in a forest, would it really make a sound?


If you want to learn more about your personality type in a slightly less negative way, &check out this.


The other personality types are as follows...
&Loner - Introverted Sensing Feeling Perceiving
&Pushover - Introverted Sensing Feeling Judging
&Criminal - Introverted Sensing Thinking Perceiving
&Borefest - Introverted Sensing Thinking Judging
&Almost Perfect - Introverted iNtuitive Feeling Perceiving
&Freak - Introverted iNtuitive Feeling Judging

&Crackpot - Introverted iNtuitive Thinking Judging

&Clown - Extraverted Sensing Feeling Perceiving
&Sap - Extraverted Sensing Feeling Judging
&Commander - Extraverted Sensing Thinking Perceiving
&Do Gooder - Extraverted Sensing Thinking Judging
&Scumbag - Extraverted iNtuitive Feeling Perceiving
&Busybody - Extraverted iNtuitive Feeling Judging
&Prick - Extraverted iNtuitive Thinking Perceiving
&Dictator - Extraverted iNtuitive Thinking Judging

Link: The Brutally Honest Personality Test
(OkCupid Free Online Dating)

(And no, I'm not on OKCupid.)
Monday, November 12th, 2007
11:40 am
Monday, November 5th, 2007
10:38 am
haiku meme
Haiku2 for blue_russian
can't change people
go for someone who you can
listen to all that
Created by Grahame
Sunday, October 7th, 2007
6:40 am
90s albums meme
Fudged in places, e.g. I find it difficult to imagine I've never heard Dummy all the way through, but I can't actually remember it. Also, as usual, there are very few of these albums that I really feel passionate about per se (as opposed to individual songs) nowadays. And (no fun!) I can't honestly say anything immediately jumped out at me as missing, although I do prefer Laser Guided Melodies out of the Spiritualized albums.

Read more...Collapse )
Tuesday, August 7th, 2007
9:52 pm
Off to Scotland...
via la la Londinium tomorrow. Poorly organized so I am missing Poptimism, although since "poorly organized" = "have organized nothing besides plane ticket and taxi to airport" that should probably be the least of my worries. I should probably be looking into that rather that trying to load up my iPod with Scottish pop, eh?

Hopefully I will get an e-mail tomorrow with my B&B arrangements for the Great Glen sorted, at least. One of the advantages of developed country travel - sod it, everything can be sorted if you're willing/able to pay.
Sunday, July 22nd, 2007
12:59 am
Well, that's that, then.

Just finished Harry Potter, and when I say finished, this time I mean it. No spoilers, and, frankly, I'm not sure I want to spoil the satisfaction by thinking about it too much at the moment. Anyway, cheers to you, JK Rowling - I don't begrudge you one penny of what you've earned. In fact, few people deserve it more.
Saturday, May 26th, 2007
6:02 pm
League of Pop "Live"
Well, not exactly. For any of you with broadband connections who haven't taken the time to download all the League of Pop tracks (or didn't want to spend the time labelling the files), you can listen to a surprising number of the submissions on last.fm, via this little widget thing that I am pasting in right here:

This is supposed to work with livejournal. So, keep your fingers crossed...
Friday, April 13th, 2007
5:05 pm
off to the pub
one of the things i love about london (among other places, moscow not among them unforutnately) is going down to the pub after work. we are counting the minutes...
Wednesday, April 11th, 2007
2:05 pm
Off to London. Today is the greatest day...
so far this month, anyway. Between last night and this morning, I totally cleaned up my apartment (desperately necessary), which actually brought me a great deal of pleasure. Ironically I only did this because I am heading out of town for a few days, and a friend will be crashing there while I'm away.

But it's the "away" that I am really happy about. I so need to travel regularly to keep my spirits up, even if, like this trip, I don't really have anything particularly planned (and I am going to a rather familiar and definitely expensive place).

Okay, back to work...
Wednesday, March 28th, 2007
9:20 pm
Further to today's discussion
I want to dash down a few thoughts now as I'm thinking of them, despite being quite tired and potentially not making much sense. Maybe I will repost to poptismists tomorrow, if they seem worth it.

Pop vs. Indie
Pop for me quite simply is music that is music that is designed to be easily accessible. That ease may be complete (production/arrangement, performance, song structure, melody, to come up with categories off the top of my head) or it may be only partial (my classic example here is "Enter Sandman" by Metallica, which I would argue is totally pop, despite being inapproachable to many people based on the production and performance).

Not all pop is popular, and this is where things get confusing. What are our options?
Failed (bad?) pop - This is the stuff that really is aimed for mass market consumption, "product" that doesn't sell. Let's say Lisa Scott-Lee is an example (although I haven't actually heard any of her stuff, so maybe that's not fair. But you get the idea.

This is probably also a good time to answer a question that looks at this the other way around: Is everything that's popular by definition "pop"? My gut tells me "no," especially in the present when the charts - our standard measure of popularity until now - can be relatively influenced by relatively few sales. Setting that aside, though, I still have my doubts. An example, again not the best one, but a vivid one from my personal memory, is "When Doves Cry" by Prince. I HATED this song when it came out. It was undeniably catchy (and popular), but at the same time, the arrangement and performance were completely bizarre. I remember clearly thinking, and complaining to friends, "This isn't a song." Back to our categories, though...

Unambitious pop - A working definition - a lot of this is called commonly "indie" (which is itself an term with such broad meanings as to be almost useless, despite the fact that most people who follow music closely probably instictively feel it in their bones). What does it include? Well, one group would be music that follows all the pop conventions above BUT which flouts popular conventions, frequently... well, let's say "current styles." There are lots of examples here - this might be, say, a jangly guitar band in the era of Britney Spears and *Nsync. My submission to the League of Pop this week was unambitious - there really isn't anything un-pop about it, it just happens to be a) jangly, somewhat twee guitar pop and b) sung in Swedish.

What is indie, then? Well there's a straightforward "factual" definition, which is simply the kind of music produced by someone with limited finances and/or skills. Growing out of that you have, say, an indie "sound," that sort of lo-fi shambolism that has been popular in various places at different times. There's a certain "willful indie" - who are the people who quite actively avoid sounding like anything popular, either in terms of production values or the other criteria I mention above. (When that willfulness also brings ambitious to musical Art, that's when you start getting close to prog. See here, Mew.)

Okay... enough thoughts for now. This will never be super-rigorous, both because I'm not a cultural studies graduate student and because I don't think it's possible, but it still needs a bit more work. To be continued...

If you're reading, comments welcome.
Monday, March 26th, 2007
9:45 am
Relationship advice from Mel C
I've always been faithful. But I don't believe in working at a relationship. If it needs working at, then it's probably broken. Don't kid yourself: you can't change people. Go for someone who you can really talk to. (This among other strung together thoughts in the Guardian.)

Reading this was one of those moments where someone verbalizes something that, on one hand, is completely obvious, and on the other, completely undermines your worldview.

I have always believed - quite realistically, I thought - that relationships were something you have to work at. (Ironically enough, I also still believe in love at first sight.) Maybe it's the shock of seeing "If it needs working at, then it's probably broken" stuck logically in the middle of a set of statements that I agree with.

Maybe Mel is totally rubbish at relationships. Or maybe she's just resigned herself - as I have not been able to - to the idea that life is a tapestry, and most of the relationships are just short threads that don't run its length.
Saturday, March 17th, 2007
1:19 pm
Reading is fundamental, Alexei Ivanovich!
Игрок. Федор ДостоевскийYesterday I finished my second book in two weeks, namely Dostoevsky's The Gambler.

Yes, I read it in Russian! I am proud of myself, too, although the truth is that over the last five or so years, almost any substantial reading I've done is as much the result of being driven to освоить (master) the language as it is the pure pleasure of reading.

I usually tell people that Dostoevsky is my favorite Russian writer, and I guess that is basically true: I read Notes from the Underground, Crime and Punishment, and The Brothers Karamazov all out of more of less pure personal interest, which is certainly many more pages that any other "classic" Russian author. I've read a bit of Tolstoy, and Chekhov of course, and Nabokov, but really a just sampling.

The Gambler. Fyodor DostoevskyIt's been a while, though, since I picked up any of the classics, basically since my unsuccessful effort at Demons three or so years ago. Somehow the idea of engaging the 18th or 19th century simply hasn't been appealing. But after finishing my previous book - I'll write about it later in the week, maybe - I immediately wanted another cheap paperback (84 rubles or $3.25! and that was overpaying), and this was the only thing even halfway recommending itself at the time.

And what do you know? A perfect read. My guess at the time was that it was another one of those novellas that written in a serialized form - lots of short chapters of more or less the same length. A bit of philosophizing, yes, but also definitely plot-driven.
Thursday, March 15th, 2007
9:47 am
Convenient, isn't it?
Key 9/11 suspect confesses guilt

I'm sorry - does anybody really believe a confession that appears after someone has been held for five years, incommunicado or virtually so, with no hope of a trial, and interrogated under conditions that - even by a generous assessment - test the limits of what is and is not "torture"?


(A more thorough story here in the NYT - accesible at the moment, although a free subscription is required)
Wednesday, January 10th, 2007
11:51 pm
Fall in love with something new
Someone asked over in the The Other Place, in an excruciatingly long-titled thread, about those presumably rare moments in hours and hours of listening to music when a chill runs down your spine and you remember why it is you listen to all that music. Lately I've been a bit worried about that: as handy as iPods are, having virtually every piece of music I've ever liked more or less instantly accessible seems desensitizing. Not only is it all there, but shuffle almost guarantees that it's impossible to forget a group or an album, because something is always randomly being dragged out of obscurity. Or you're scrolling through everything you own, looking for whatever specific song-whim you have, and being reminded in painful detail of it all.

But there's always something new coming along, and despite all odds, history is still spitting out diamonds. Just a few minutes ago I was listening to chezghost's last.fm radio and heard "Louise," an old Human League track. An electro version of that moment when Neil Young sends Crazy Horse off the stage and plays "The Needle and the Damage Done" on solo acoustic, it's just a relatively simple synth line and Phil's vocal, another little story that somehow builds up a head of emotion, and then lets it off in a one-line chorus. Amazing, and even moreso that I don't think I'd ever heard it before.

Other groovy stuff over the last few days: "Behave" by Charlotte Hatherley, and "Mon Homme Presse" by Valerie Leiullot (which I wrote about over on last.fm). Neither of which seem particularly poptimist to me.
Wednesday, January 3rd, 2007
12:13 pm
End of Year List: Albums
[cross-posted from last.fm; i need to figure out how to automate that somehow]

I started to write "I didn't do very well on full albums this year," but then I checked iTunes, and it turned out much better than I expected. That may reflect quality, but in any case...

By any measure, the two albums of the year for me have to be Secret Machines - Ten Silver Drops and Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings the Flood. I'm fairly empirical about these things - Ten Silver Drops is the first album in a long time where I really got to know virtually every song, where I didn't think, "Oh, I want to hear [single x]" and then heard jumped away from the album as soon as another whim took me. On those terms, maybe Fox Confessor wasn't quite as strong, but it's still quite deep.

Leading the rest of the pack, I'd highlight two other strong albums: Cannibal Sea by The Essex Green, which suffers somewhat for being just another indie-pop album amongst thousands, but it's packed full of hooky songs and just suggestive enough of 60s power-pop (think "And Your Bird Can Sing") to give you a warm glow. On the other side of the coin, I'd also highly recommend Scritti Politti's White Bread Black Beer, which sounds like nothing else. I've never been a fan of the band, or even understood why anyone would care about them, until this year, when something freakytigger wrote prompted me to listen to "The Boom Boom Bap." Something about it stuck, and moreover made me wonder what that sound would be like carried over a full album. To a degree it's mood music to me - I don't find myself wanting to hear a particular song, just feeling like putting the album on.

Finally, a bit of a consensus album, such as there is on the internet: Silent Shout. I really like one song ("Silent Shout") and one title ("We Share Our Mother's Health"), but the fact of the matter is that I keep coming back to this album. The Knife is one of the few bands recently that I regret not seeing live.

All together, I guess some 20 albums "rated" for me this year. Here's the rest of the list:
  • Lily Allen - Alright, Still - Solid, although I wouldn't miss half the album if it disappeared from my hard drive (in which case it would compare unfavorably to Paris, which had four great songs.
  • Beth Orton - Comfort of Strangers - Disappointing. I think it needed a strong(er) single, and I think Beth's movement away electronica touches and/or a full band takes away a lot of her distinctiveness.
  • Snow Patrol - Eyes Open - Somehow this album got a lot of play, which bewilders me, given that it's just a retread of Final Straw (and therefore less interesting). I guess it's got hooks, though.
  • Justin Timberlake - FutureSex/LoveSounds - It's been a long time since I've heard a good new Marvin Gaye album. I was surprised that I liked this, although after that first week I've found myself hitting "skip" when a song comes up. Maybe it's not a singles album.
  • Jarvis Cocker - Jarvis - Yeah, yeah, I love Jarvis, but there are really on three good songs here ("Don't Let Him Waste Your Time," "A to I," and "Running the World") and some real clunkers ("Black Magic").
  • Bob Dylan - Modern Times - I am totally NOT a Dylan fan; I guess I was in the mood for some blues? Maybe low expectations are starting to work in his favor.
  • Paul Simon - Surprise - Eno's electronics occasionally stick out like a sore thumb, and the presence of a song from an animated movie galls, but somehow the album is pleasantly listenable, which I haven't been able to say about Simon for about 16 years.
  • Scissor Sisters - Ta-Dah - One monster single, one okay one. Why isn't the rest of the album that good?
  • Belle and Sebastian - The Life Pursuit - Would you believe that I had never listened to Tigermilk or If You're Feeling Sinister before this came out? They're both quite good, although I wonder if this is better. I remember thinking that to myself at the beginning of the year, and then never really returning to the album.
  • Cat Power - The Greatest - The trend this year was for albums that were solid but uncharismatic, and here's another one. I put this on all the time, but I raving about it is beyond me. (Release the damn Blondie cover already!)
  • The Pipettes - We Are the Pipettes - See Jarvis above.
  • Marisa Monte - Universo ao Meu Redor, and
  • Marisa Monte - Infinito Particular - Like the Beth album, these were a big disappointment. In fact I would've bought the expensive South American imports were it not for the DRM. Maybe the two albums at once were too much to absorb, but again, I felt no singles and I needed to.

Also-rans and late entries:
  • Mňága a Žďorp - Dutý, ale free
  • Ellen Allien & Apparat - Orchestra of Bubbles
  • Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Show Your Bones
  • Peter Bjorn and John - Writer's Block
  • Танцы Минус - ЭЮЯ
(I liked them, more or less, just not much to say about them.)
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