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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Charlie and the Great Glass Jaw

Sometimes, La Russophobe likes to venture out into the blogosphere and check out what is happening there. Here is the story of one such trip.

A while ago, I posted a comment about an article on Russian cakes on Russiablog. I said the cake pictured in the article was topped with powdered sugar and I found that ironic, since many times I'd tried to buy powdered sugar in Russia and couldn't do it, and when I could get it was rather brittle and unpleasant to eat in the raw form. Most Russian cakes of this kind, I wrote, were topped with liquified sugar rather than raw powdered sugar. I wrote a comment to the editors of Russiablog and told them about my observations. One of them responded by saying he stopped reading my post as soon as he saw my comment about powdered sugar since he knew this to be inaccurate, saying it was easy to buy powdered sugar in Russian which was plentiful. So I wrote back and asked them where they'd been able to do it.

Suddenly, Yuri Mamchur and Charles Ganske, editors of Russsiablog, got quiet. No answers. Neither one would name a single Russian city outside Moscow where they'd been able to buy powdered sugar (La Russophobe has lived in many such cities and visited dozens more). I followed up like the pit bull La Russophobe is known to be.

Finally, Ganske told me that he'd just been blindly relying on what Mamchur had told him, since he (Ganske) had never been to Russia (La Russophobe has spent years living in Russia). Unfortunately, Ganske didn't say that in his statement, he just said I was wrong. I asked him why Yuri hadn't responded and he said didn't know and he didn't feel like questioning him about a "mundane" matter like powdered sugar because he was "away." Not "away" enough to stop posting on Russiablog, mind you, but "away" enough to ignore this issue. Ironically, a photograph in the Russiablog article shows a whole table of these cakes, and none are topped with powdered sugar.

Now, La Russophobe is as liberated as the next feminist, but La Russophobe wasn't born yesterday. She knows that Russian men like Yuri don't go around baking much, so it's highly suspicious that they'd have the slightest real idea about powdered sugar. La Russophobe is a foodie, though, and through bitter personal experience she's found it quite difficult to get powdered sugar in Russia (as well as many other things - try to find broccoli or peanut butter in Smolensk, I dare you!), and when she finds it its always powdered beet sugar, quite different from (and inferior to) the cane variety. So she's got a double interest in finding out whether Yuri is just shooting his mouth off.

Which, by the way, Yuri does quite often. For example, Yuri wrote on Russiablog (no kidding!) that "95% of the people" standing in line to file past the tomb of Lenin in Moscow are Americans. He said that I'd written "millions" of comments on Russiablog. Being a composer, Yuri is the emotional type, and being Russian, isn't overly concerned with small things like facts when a good feeling is there to be had.

Oh, and I might add: Russiablog published not one but two of the posts from this blog (Sharapova and Yanukovich) and La Russophobe was responsible for at least half the comment traffic generated on their site. Here is what Yuri wrote in a post that appeared just after La Russophobe's two articles appeared on their site: "We are delighted to see the increased traffic and comments on Russia Blog." So this little exchange might be considered cutting of your nose to spite your face, since now La Russophobe has lost interest in Russiablog. Eerily like Russia itself, isn't it? In fact, it's almost poetic.

Meanwhile, another dialogue was proceeding between me an the editors. Strident Russian nationalist Mike Averko posted something on Russiablog claiming that the average Russian lifespan had increased at a greater rate under President Putin than the American lifespan had increased in the same period. Once again, La Russophobe's interest was peaked. Is this really true, she thought? After all, La Russophobe is as familiar with the demographic data on Russia as anybody, and she knows full well that Russia's population is rapidly declining, in part due to a very short adult lifespan, especially for men, and that by 2050 demographers predict that Russia's population will be 1/3 less than it is today.

So I asked Mike to document his claim (yes, that's right, when he posted it he relied purely on his own word, no evidence of any kind). No dice. Nada. Mike got as quiet as Mikhail Khodorkovsky in solitary in Siberia.

Now, don't get me wrong, I feel for Mike. There he was with his own private little preserve at Russiablog, pretending to be some kind of expert before Russiablog's tiny little audience, holding forth with all kinds of ridiculous Russophile propaganda. Then I come along and spoil it all for him. It's annoying, I feel his pain.

But after all, facts are facts. Is what Mike said true, or isn't it? La Russophobe is as interested as the next person in broadening her horizons and learning from somebody who knows more. So I asked the editors to document the claim, or insist that Mike do so. Their answer: Nothing. Nada. Silence. Again, La Russophobe would not give up. Finally, Ganske told me that it's "not his job" to fact check the assertions that get put on Russiablog, not even when they are challenged. Not that he agrees with what Mike wrote, mind you, he said. It's just that facts are not at the top of his list of things to do. In other words, Russiablog isn't exactly the New York Times. So naturally, it isn't exactly La Russophobe's cup of tea.

For her part, La Russophobe always responds immediately to reports of errors. For example, a Russiablog reader pointed out that she'd got it wrong when she said Sharapova had played Venus Williams at Wimbledon. In fact it was Serena Williams; a correction immediately went up on the Russiblog article, and La Russophobe apologized for the error and thanked the commenter who'd pointed it out. But Mike? Just got quiet.

Mike also wrote a post which accused Johnson's Russia List, probably the single most well-respected blog source of Russia information in the world today (it is a linked blog on the New York Times Russia page), of "cronyism and political bias" simply because it refuses to publish HIS articles. He also wrote: "JRL regulars aren't my intellectual superiors." Indeed.

So La Russophobe had to rethink her participation in Russiablog and has removed her link to the blog from her list of links. She got a little taste of how Solzhenitisn felt when all of Russia ganged up on him and tossed him out of the country, calling him a traitor and a moron and a foreign spy when all he'd said was (in rather sharp language) that the USSR sucked and would soon destroy Russia. In other words, he spoke the truth. Turned out he was kinda (well, totally) right, but people who talk like that in Russia pay a stiff price for their truth.

And so it goes in the blogosphere.


Anonymous said...

"Nobel laureate and former Soviet dissident Aleksander Solzhenitsyn
accused the United States and NATO of seeking to encircle Russia, and
praised President Vladimir Putin for working to restore a strong state. (AP)"

But how will poor Solzhenitsyn feel when you call him "a traitor and a moron"? Pretty confused is my guess.

La Russophobe said...

You really ought to learn to read.

I've NEVER praised today's Solzhenitsin. He's senile, and tried to host a TV talk show which failed miserably.

What I've said is that many people react to me just as the USSR racted to the OLD Solzhenitsin, who published great literature (something he hasn't done for decades). And THAT Solzhenitisin, who attacked the USSR, was right, so the people who attacked him were wrong, just as in my case.

Where did you learn to read? Russia?

But by no means am I contending America is a paradise, and I'm glad to have all points of view about how America can improve.

However, encircling an evil dictatorship is a great idea, and I disagree with A.S. on that point, and so does the rest of Europe.

So, as posted in this space many times, we will now have Cold War II, the one Russia won't survive.

Pick a side, my dear. Do you choose Russia?

Anonymous said...

What a charmingly antediluvian premise. I'll remember to think of it as the Chinese ravage the global economy.

La Russophobe said...

That's just what morons like you said the USSR would do to the world.

And if the Chinese DO ravage anything, they'll start with Russia.

"charmingly antediluvian" -- wow you must be real smart, huh? i'll bet people come from miles around to read words like that written by you, don't they?

Reith said...

Well, you don't have to get too touchy about the "charmingly antediluvian" remark just because you had to look both words up in the dictionary. I was merely being tactful. I could have said that the Cold War II idea is just plain moronic, to quote from your armoury of sophisticated arguments, but that would just be rude, wouldn't it? And I'll bet you think only the Russians are capable of being rude.
Cattiness aside, this is the funniest website I've seen on the Internet for a long a time. And the Internet is a big place...

La Russophobe said...

This isn't a website, it's a blog.

Most of this blog consists of content from sources such as the New York Times, Washington Post and Russian News Wires.

These stories report on the rise of dictatorship and such things as people being contaminated with radioactivity and contracting disease.

If you find that funny, you are part of the subhuman scum that facilitates dictatorships and I hope you live in the neo-Soviet Union or plan to move their soon. I bet you'll find the neo-Gulag totally hilarious.

Reith said...

Strange thing is that I lived in Russia for a few years (Putin years) and I don't think a single one of them had a good word to say about Putin. None of them, to the best of my knowledge, have ended up in prison camps. I guess they were lucky. Or maybe the prisons are full.
But again, congratulations on the funny site. If anybody could make disease and radioactivity funny, then you're the one.

La Russophobe said...

Chamberlain said exactly what you have just said about Putin while referring to Hitler. You're a collaborator, and history will record you as such.

Ivan said...

"For her part, La Russophobe always responds immediately to reports of errors."

Here's one for you to correct, then. And it's a biggy. In fact, mcuh of the (rather over-written) post concerns this very topic.

You can buy powdered sugar in Russia.

We get it whenever we want it at our local diksi. And guess what? We don't live in Moscow.

I'll look forward to you correcting that factual error.

"Facts are facts", after all.


ps. I agree with Reith -- your website is (unintentionally) hilarious.

La Russophobe said...

IVAN/VANIA: Gee, you sure spend a lot of time on this site for somebody who finds it boring and redundant. But then, I guess you have a pretty boring, redundant little life (certainly no blog of your own to show off, for example) so this is real excitment for you, isn't it?

If you read my post (if, indeed, you are capable of reading) you'll note that is doesn't say you CAN'T buy it, it says it is HARD to buy.

If you have bought it outside of Moscow, why don't you say WHERE? As soon as you document your claim, I'll be happy to add your information to the blog.

However, just to be clear: I've tried to buy it in may Russian cities and failed on many occasions.

It's typical Russophilia that you find reports of dark-skinned foreigners in Russia to be "hilarious." I guess that is why the murders keep happening. In the world outside Russia, you might be suprised to learn, race murder is not considered a joking matter. But then, since you are not dark skinned, you wouldn't know, would you?

vanichka said...

Nope. Again missed the point.

It isn't race murder that's funny.

It's your crap blog that's funny.

Unintentionally so, of course.