Archive | March, 2007
March 14, 2007

London photos: When not in class, we…

Here’s a few more recently upped photos of LSE friends – some from my dorm (Bankside represent) and others from my Russian & Post-Soviet Studies (RPSS) program. The theme for this week is drinking, or whatever.

This is a pic of Omar from the Bankside boat party held at the beginning of term. Possibly the greatest neighbor you could ask for, he had excellent taste in music and was a constant source of entertainment during dinnertime when we were forced to endure the culinary disaster that is British dorm food. “What is this? This…this…fishcake?!” Watch out for this dude, though – he’s like a Moroccan version of Andy Fastow. There’s no telling what he learned in those finance classes…

At a bar in Notting Hill, drinking some of that delicious Belgian fruit flavored beer – Me, Mathias, Taline, Erin, Hudson

Moira, myself, and Jessica at the Great British Beer Festival. I totally shoulda been working on my dissertation instead of spending 12 hours here.

Crystal and I enjoying Snakebites at a pub in Holborn after watching the “Tom Cruise jumping on Oprah’s couch” video a million times at the LSE library (Dissertation, whatever)

BBQ on Olga’s rooftop. Olga says she isn’t mentioned enough on this blog except for the snowboarding post, so check it dude, I’m giving you props here. Olga had the effin’ sweetest flat ever right on the Thames. That’s the Tate Modern right there in the back…my dorm was right behind the Tate Modern.

Take some Americans, Russians, Germans, French, British, Canadians and an Iranian. Add vodka. Mix thoroughly. Drink. Repeat. This being a party hosted by Olga, the vodka, of course, was the wonderful Russki Standart:

Hudson, Alec, Olga, Mathias

Erin, I have no idea who this guy is, Crystal, Taline, Hudson

Erin, Taline, Crystal, and I at Taline’s rooftop party in Notting Hill during one of those beautiful summer nights in London. Taline, like Olga, also had an amazing flat that was near some of the greatest pubs in the city.

One of a million toasts at Taline’s infamous birthday party (Taline also thinks she is not on this website enough, hopefully this post will rectify that a bit). I swear to God, everytime a group of us RPSS alums meet up, this party will eventually come up.

“That blood was still on the wall five months later!”

“I was just standing there and someone handed me a plate…that was on fire.”

It never gets old…for us, at least.

And with that, I have to go figure out how to do my taxes.

March 4, 2007

London photos: Madame Tussauds

Madame Tussauds Brad Pitt Angelia Jolie

Despite having left London in September 2005, I still have yet to upload all the photos from the year I spent there. Here’s a few from the popular London tourist attraction, Madame Tussauds wax museum, otherwise known as the most famous “tourist trap” in the city. Crystal and I went there one late summer afternoon after spending the day stuck inside the library working on our dissertations.

Madame Tussauds Brad Pitt Angelia Jolie
The staff has a lot of fun arranging the wax figures according to the most recent tabloid headlines. When we visited, Brad Pitt was separated from Jennifer Aniston and moved next to Angelina Jolie. Scandalous, indeed.

Brad Pitt’s wax figure is “pinchable.” Other wax figures, such as Vladimir Putin are not.

Madame Tussauds Ronald Reagan
OMGWTF Ronald Reagan is back from the dead

Madame Tussauds Putin
Crystal passing along a few military secrets to Putin

Madame Tussauds John Wayne
A metrosexual, pink shirt-wearing John Wayne

Madame Tussauds George Clooney
George Clooney, such a romantic guy

Madame Tussauds Napoleon
“Uh, I dunno, Napoleon. You really think invading Russia is such a good idea?”

Madame Tussauds Bush Blair
“UN, you have a problem with that? You know what you should do? You should sanction me. Sanction me with your army. Oh!! Wait a minute! You don’t have an army! I guess that means you need to STFU!” (obligatory Chappelle’s Show reference)

Madame Tussauds Saddam Hussein
I met him after Rumsfeld did

Madame Tussauds is more than just wax figures, however. We went into the Chamber of Horrors which was like a haunted house – really scary and made us scream a lot and we ran through it as quickly as possible. The guy dressed up as Hannibal Lecter kept following us, which was totally bizarre. After that we went on the “Spirit of London” ride where you sit in this little black cab and are taken on a ride through 400 years of London’s history. This includes the plague, which is represented by animatronic rats nibbling on dead bodies, and an Austin Powers-ish conclusion starring a psychedelic, rotating Queen Elizabeth.

The last stop on our visit to Madame Tussauds was the planetarium. Yes, a planetarium. It was educational, but after it was over we were like “What does that have to do with celebrity wax figures?”
I know that after reading this, you are all ready to buy a ticket to London so you can see the wax museum for yourself. Well, come Fall 2007, you’ll just have to ride the red/orange/blue lines to Metro Center in order to visit Washington’s very own Madame Tussauds!

The $16 million project, now in design, is slated to include replicas of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence; interactive experiences involving the history of Washington; and a replica of the Oval Office, where visitors can have their picture taken. President Abraham Lincoln is the designated “greeter,” so his likeness is likely to be the first visitors see upon entering.

Replicas of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence? Who needs to see the real things anyways?

March 1, 2007

Get to St. Pete before fugly Gazprom City does

Gazprom city

Gazprom city
Height restrictions WTF?

This has been in the Russian papers for the past year, but a few weeks ago, the Washington Post ran an interesting article about the development of “Gazprom City”, a large office complex situated on the banks of the Neva River in St. Petersburg:

Twisting as it rises 77 stories, the planned office development known as Gazprom City is testament to the muscle of Russia’s richest company. A flickering gas flame captured in soaring glass, the design is also an ode to the country’s energy-driven boom.

But the 1,300-foot skyscraper to be built on the Neva River across from the pastel-blue-and-white Smolny Cathedral will loom over a baroque cityscape famous for the Hermitage art museum and the Peter and Paul Cathedral, among dozens of other historic landmarks.

In an effort to boost the prestige of St. Petersburg (aka score some effin’ sweet tax breaks and curry favor with St. Pete native Vlad Putin), Gazprom will be moving the headquarters of its Gazprom Neft (formerly Sibneft) subsidiary from Moscow to St. Petersburg. The citizens of that fair city, including a growing number of representatives from the local arts and culture scene, aren’t exactly happy about it, though:

“Even if it were made of solid gold,” said Vladimir V. Popov, the president of the Union of Architects of St. Petersburg, “it would nevertheless kill the city.”

Like Washington, DC, St. Petersburg is a very “horizontal” city – buildings are rarely higher than a few stories:

That the city’s zoning laws forbid anything in that area higher than 48 meters, or 157 feet, appears to be no obstacle, recalling a Russian aphorism. “It is forbidden,” it goes, “but if you really want it, then it is possible.” Gazprom officials said they would have the law changed.

Want Gazprom wants, Gazprom gets, comrade. You think a measly little zoning law is going to get in the way of Russia’s largest company? With some 16% of the world’s natural gas reserves, Gazprom and its oil subsidiary, Gazprom Neft, (119 billion barrels of reserves) are the bread and butter of the Russian economy. I guarantee you, ain’t nothin’ getting in the way of this 77 story behemoth.

I don’t think the actual design of the building is that bad, and some of the other proposals were intriguing as well, but this building just does not fit with the splendid baroque palaces and neoclassical churches that are spread throughout the city’s center. Build this in LA or Houston, but pleeeeease leave St. Pete alone. It is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited, and I’d hate to see this building ruin the skyline.

If you’d like to see Petersburg pre-Gazprom City fugliness, I suggest you start searching for airline tickets and filling out your Russian visa application now. Oh yeah, and go at the end of June to see the city in all of its White Nights glory.


A century – and that city young,
Gem of the Northern world, amazing,
From gloomy wood and swamp upsprung,
Had risen, in pride and splendor blazing.

God, Pushkin would be rolling in his grave if he knew about this.