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Sunday, December 23, 2012

My Fair Team

Team is a weird thing. Instead of doing what you want to do (like get more sleep), you force yourself to go to the team meeting and sleep through one instead. You spend your time with a bunch of people and give up your individuality for team’s greater good. Eventually, your team starts sneaking into your everyday life, it states its presence on your birthdays, it tags along for New Year’s parties in Batumi, it eats your food, sleeps on your couch and drunkenly sobs at your sad love stories. It’s weird.
My team plays the quiz game thingy called “What When Where?” Before I joined it, the game seemed like smart ass people playing on TV. But then I became my hubby’s team’s groupie. Meaning I followed my hubby around to every tournament and team meeting, cooked for his teammates and spent lots of time just hanging with them. They lost one player along the way and hubby forcefully led me into the team (I thought I was not good enough).
My team consists of different weirdos  First, there is the team captain, a person who invests a lot of his emotions in the game and actually expects us to show up on time.  Whenever we write an incorrect answer, he yells and screams like a little girl, sometime circles our table in bewilderment, demoralizes the whole team and finally rests on his chair like a defeated warrior. Touchingly, he writes summary comments after every game and I don’t know whether he is honest or just tries to keep our self-esteem up, but he notes exactly what we need to hear. He knows who said what and why. He feels our heartbeat. He is aware. And, he is a great listener. If he’s calm. 
The second guy is this fucked up journalist who, through this game, through our conversations on the train while going to tournaments, and our talks on the couch while drinking after games, became one of our closest friends in the whole world. He is brave, restless and full of adrenaline, he chases wars all over the globe; like mushrooms after the rain, he pops up in Afganistan, Libia, Egypt… and then he calls from those hellish places and asks hubby stuff like : “I am in a hookah store in Egypt, what flavor tobacco do you want me to buy for you?”. He is a man of infinite positive energy and when you are with him, he charges you with it like a battery.
The third guy is actually a girl.  She’s been with us for a year and a half.  She is one of the most knowledgeable kids I know.  She came and brought a fresh wave of intellect into our team.  She is my ally on the team – I can discuss Benedict Cumberbach with her! She is nerdy and girly and funny and cooks banana bread. Like what I always wanted to be, only better.
We have a new guy this season.  I can’t really tell you much about him, because his is very introverted, quiet and seemingly innocent man, who does not open up despite my best efforts to poke him out of his shell. But there is some infinite coolness lying beneath his defensive interior, like the other day he posted the most adorable picture of his daughter that made me and hubby look at each other and go awwwwww. He is also a journalist and god save us from all these skewed and corrupt media crew overrunning our team! He has a pretty interesting blog. And, as we all know, blogwriters are cool.
In the end, I just have to mention two guys that left the team, but are still part of our team FB page (hence, they will always be our teammates in our hearts of hearts). One is a hilarious, life-loving, fun-loving IT guy and the other is genius pursuing his careers in Stanford, and I swear when he becomes rich and famous, I will tell everyone that once upon a time, we spent a whole night talking about girls.
And the last but not least is my very own hubby who is the smartest person I know, but writing about him takes more than 500 words and he is so much more than a team member. So I will not write about him.
That’s it. These kids are regular kids, but they know stuff that others don’t know because they are not afraid to actually explore life. They do it through traveling, reading, just plain video-game playing, but damn it, they explore life every second of their living and I love them for it. Thanks guys for being my team! And congrats on a great game tonight!
One last thing: our team has two girls! And thus, our team is one of the coolest teams out there!
The pic: our team (minus one and minus me who holds the cam) celebrating the right answer

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Condom Dilemma

Last week my whole office was discussing a video of politicians talking about what categories of condoms can youth use and which ones should they outlaw. See, our country has no other problems besides deciding whether the nature of a condom is offensive. That matters so much!
They want to outlaw “items that are of sexual nature” (or something like that) and are trying to come up with a comprehensive list. Thus, today the honorary members of parliament discussed the following life-and-death matter (verbatim transcript):
-          I’d like to say, regarding condom, I understand that it is a serious topic, it all depends on a condom, some might have not a precautionary, but a pleasure-giving function…
-          Yes, I also wanted to say that…
-          Some condoms are complicated, with certain technical aids. We do not mean to ban fictional literature, or magazines and newspapers of a general profile, for example, we can’t ban Zaza Burchuladze using this law (average modern writer, has lots of sex in his books – pasumonok).
-          Yes, there are some condoms that have a function of giving sexual pleasure. Those will not be for sale.
So this is what it comes down to: are condoms used for sexual pleasure or just for safety reasons? What about condoms that have small “special effects”, like ripples on the surface but in general look like other condoms? What if one gets sexual pleasure from an average, no-nonsense condom (it is smooth and less messy)? Should we outlaw it too? Finally, why the hell should our honorary members of the freakin parliament discuss our youth’s  sexual pleasure at all? Why is it their business?
I have other questions as well. What if one buys items of sexual pleasure online? Will one get fined? What if someone decides to take a case to court to determine whether an item is of a necessity or sexual pleasure? How will they determine this important matter? Will they ask the witness: did you use this particular condom for sexual pleasure or only for protection? Did you feel pleasure? Was it due to the condom or due to your partner?
Why? Why is this even a matter of discussion?! Damn it, what if I am under 18 and I want to own a condom that glows in the dark? Or if I need a vibrator? Or an S and M outfit?
Secondly, tell me dear politicians, can’t you see other problems that youth under 18 have? Because if you don’t, I can remind you: gambling and gambling-connected suicides and crime, cigarettes available to minors, violent video games and absurd education system, looser and unknowledgeable teachers, absence of support groups and rehabilitation centers! Those are the problems, not the pleasure origins of a condom! It’s just a condom for fuck’s sake! A condom! Get over it! Take care of the problems caused by no regular sexual education! Give out condoms for free! Encourage youths to use them! Go to a sex shop, buy yourself a super-rippled, banana-flavored, glow-in-the-dark condom, go be sexually happy at your house and maybe you will leave others’ sexual preferences the hell alone!!!!!
p.s.the pic: arbitrary object of sexual pleasure I found in a grocery store in Netherlands. Outlaw the big carrots!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Books that Personally Matter

Recently, I stayed up several nights trying to tackle Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. It snuck into my dreams, my thoughts and my Facebook statuses (stati?).  And now that I am done with this book, I keep thinking of others that kept me awake.
Early childhood – Grimm brothers’ fairy tales. I knew them by heart. I read them and re-read them a million times. Also Astrid Lindgren’s Karlson, my first book in Russian. Since then, Russian is my favorite reading language.
Teenage period – definitely Dumas. Read Queen Margot in two days. Could not eat, sleep or play with peers. Stayed in a hammock in my summer house and read until my eyes were sore and dry. That summer I read about 10 Dumas books found in my house, and then proceeded to consume The Count of Monte Cristo once a month.  Everytime I finished a new book, I’d go back go back to re-read The Count. I could literally quote the dialogues between Dantes and Faria in the prison.  I’ve never had such a book fever, as I had in that summer, when I was 13-14. I read more books that vacation than I’ve read in six consequent years.
College years – lots of jewels, I was more picky about the reading material, hence my Nobel list, but what made a lasting impression is probably Dostoevski’s Idiot and Nabokov’s Lolita. Lolita was the book we had to read in my modern literature class; once I got a hold of it, I read it all day long, I remember sitting in a biology class and reading, sitting on a bus and reading, walking in a street and reading and finishing it in one day.
Recent years – among many that I loved, I have to name Dune by Frank Herbert. Not because it is the greatest book I’ve read, but because it is about a desert planet and I was reading it as we were driving through New Mexico desert and every time characters would get thirsty, I’d look up, see the view from my car window and swallow a bottle of water, shrinking with thirst. I peed a lot during that trip...
 Two months ago I had a similar experience: I was reading Life of Pi while sitting in a boat, and well, Pi spends most of the book on the boat! I felt such empathy for him!
And Finally, Murakami’s Kafka on the Beach redefined a novel for me, redefined culture, globalization, identity, love, Freud, mythology and good writing. I was nanny at that time and I took the poor kid for a walk, put him in a stroller and pushed him around for 5 hours, while I had that book sitting on the top of the stroller, swallowing every word. The kid didn’t mind, he liked outdoors.
So, if I had to name books that shaped my world, I’d probably name those, though few of them fall into my favorite style of writing (I like monumental, long novels, like Thomas Mann’s work. Ayn Rand was just my sort of book). But all of them mattered more than anything else at that moment and all of them had to be read or the world would end.  Those are my books that personally matter. What are yours?