Monday, November 16, 2009

Ira Glass x Terry Gross

In West Oakland, graffiti looks like this:

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Song of the Arctic Pilots

Слова и музыка Александра Городницкого
Песня полярных летчиков (послушать)

Кожаные куртки, брошенные в угол,
Снегом запорошенное низкое окно.
Бродит за ангарами северная вьюга,
В маленькой гостинице тихо и тепло.

Командир со штурманом мотив припомнят старый,
Голову рукою подопрет второй пилот.
Подтянувши струны старенькой гитары,
Следом бортмеханик им тихо подпоет.

Эту песню грустную позабыть пора нам,
Наглухо моторы и сердца зачехлены.
Снова тянет с берега снегом и туманом,
Снова ночь нелетная, даже для Луны.

Лысые романтики, воздушные бродяги!
Наша жизнь — мальчишеские вечные года.
Прочь тоску гоните вы, выпитые фляги,
Ты, метеослужба, нам счастья нагадай.
Прочь тоску гоните вы, посадочные флаги,
Ты, метеослужба, нам счастья нагадай.

Солнце незакатное и теплый ветер с Веста.
И штурвал послушный в стосковавшихся руках.
Ждите нас невстреченные школьницы-невесты
В маленьких асфальтовых южных городах.

Кожаные куртки, брошенные в угол,
Снегом запорошенное низкое окно.
Бродит за ангарами северная вьюга,
В маленькой гостинице тихо и тепло.


Words and music by Alexander Gorodnitsky
Song of the Arctic Pilots (listen)

Leather jackets, tossed into a corner.
A low window, powdered by snow.
Behind the hangars the Northern blizzard roams,
It is quiet and dry in a small hotel.

The captain and the navigator will recall an old song,
The first officer will listen head in hand.
The flight engineer will quietly join them,
Having tuned the strings of an old guitar.

It's time we forget this sad song,
Our engines and our hearts are thoroughly covered up.
Yet again, fog and snow are pulling inland,
Yet again, the night is non-flying, even for the Moon.

Round-headed romantics, airborn tramps!
Our childhood lasts throughout life.
You, empty flasks — send away the anguish,
You, weather service, fortune-tell some joy.
You, runway flags — send way the anguish,
You, weather service, fortune-tell some joy.

The Sun that never sets and the warm Western wind.
And the agreeable yoke in yearning hands.
Wait for us, the unmet girlfriends-fiancées,
In small Southern towns made of asphalt.

Leather jackets, tossed into a corner.
A low window, powdered by snow.
Behind the hangars the Northern blizzard roams,
It is quiet and dry in a small hotel.


Translation by Andrei Soroker

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Agu (with Zhenya Kogan)

Words: Andrei Soroker
Music: Andrei Soroker and Zhenya Kogan

Агу (послушать)

Когда мы поуменеем,
Мы будем понимать.
Мы будем осторожней,
Мы будем выбирать.
А пока мы молодые,
Пока мы можем все,
Судьба нам несомненно
Удачу принесет.

Мы верим в робинзонов
В героев и в любовь;
Не верим в расстоянья
И в пролитую кровь.
Мы видим неизвестность
И мы в нее идем;
Шагаем мимо слабых
Нехоженным путем.

Морозным ранним утром,
Когда еще темно
Заводим самолеты,
Взлетаем как в кино.
Мы маленькие дети,
Нам хочется играть;
Нам страшно не бывает
Нам трудно выбирать.

3 сентября 2001


На крыльце мы сидим.
Город спит — мы гудим.

11 июля 2009

Agu (listen)

As soon as we wisen up,
We will understand.
We will be more cautious,
We will learn to make choices.
But while we are young
While can do anything,
The fate will undoubtedly
Bring us luck.

We believe in castaways,
In heroes and in love.
We don't believe in distances,
We don't believe in bloodshed.
We see the unknown,
And travel straight to it,
Passing up the week ones,
Via an unwalked path.

In the cold early morning,
While the air is still dark,
We start our airplanes
And take off, like in the movies.
We are small children,
We want to play.
We fear nothing,
It's hard for us to choose.

3 September 2001


We're sitting on the porch.
The town is asleep — we are humming.

11 July 2009

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Surprising Proverbial Congruences in English and Russian — № 1

English: Catch old birds with chaff, you cannot.
Russian: Стреляного воробья на мякине не проведешь. (You can't trick a sparrow that survived a shooting with chaff.)

The Russian version incorporates another saying — стреляный воробей (a sparrow that survived a shooting) — which means old hand in English.

Man from Kemerovo — Translation

Man from Kemerovo
Words by Boris Grebenshchikov
Music by Aquarium
Translation by Andrei Soroker

I had some problems;
I took things a little too far;
The lowest bottom of the most-remote hell
Appeared not terribly far.
I called my mother,
And my mother was right —
She said: "Immediately, you must call
The man from Kemerovo".

He uses words sparingly, like De Niro;
One must be mentally ill to argue with him.
Catch him with chaff, you cannot,
He knows how to move underground.
The sky will collapse on the ground,
The grass will cease to grow —
He will come and silently fix everything,
The man from Kemerovo.

Adam became a refugee,
Abel got caught in a mobile web,
Noah didn't finish what he was building
Got drunk and fell face-first into mud;
The history of humanity
Would not have been as skewed,
Had they had the wisdom to connect
With the man from Kemerovo.

They called me from Kiev,
They called from Kathmandu;
They called from the start of the plenary session —
I told them I will not attend.
It is imperative to drink two liters of water before bed,
So my head remains whole the next day —
Because tonight I'm planning on drinking
With the man from Kemerovo.

Hear cover by yours truly

Friday, June 26, 2009

Justice Served

Yesterday on my ride from work I see a guy feverishly riding a bike in high gear and a dude with blond dreadlocks running after him screaming "Stop than man! Stop that man!"

I think for about five seconds whether I should follow the bike or pretend it's not happening. I figure I'd catch up with him and ask him why there is a man running behind him suggesting that he be stopped. The biker sees me and turns onto a four-lane one-way street against moving traffic. I follow him, but stay in the empty bus lane, watching him cross in front of several cars. Then I hear a boom sound and see him flying over a blue Toyota Tercel with a busted windshield.

Dreadlocked man catches up with the scene and picks up the bike with a cut cable lock wrapped around the handlebar and a deformed front wheel. The bike thief -- a troll man with bloodless skin and bruises for eyes -- is alive and is trying to walk away, but he is forced to stay still by a very tall pedestrian who happens to be a doctor. "Hold on, let me check you eyes," he says. The driver of the Tercel hands me a pen and an envelope from a bank statement asking to write a note explaining what happened. I try, but my hands are shaking. I leave him a voicemail instead.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Wow, I've just used $400 of self-bailout money to pay down my mortgage!

For the last 28 days or so I've been playing some homemade music on my website — the website invites the visitors to help buy a little part of my house.

About $620 in contributions from friends and family served as a major source of fuel for my journey to date — thank you very, very much for your support and endorsements.

I have to pay some of that money to taxes (to support socialism), so for now $400 went to the bank. It was by far the hardest-earned $400 in my life.

I would also like to thank everyone who mentioned my website in your blogs, tweets, and facebooks.

I would also like to thank everyone who provided feedback regarding the UI, copy, recordings, and functionality of the website.

I'm switching to a weekly recording schedule for now — I have to concentrate on my work that is actually paying our bills.

If you feel like supporting this project nonfinancially, there are a few options:
— Link to from your website or blog.

— Visit my YouTube channel, and give great ratings to songs you like. Also leave comments.

Digg it

— Let me know of others who are doing something other than waiting to see what happens about their upside down homes — a group of insane lunatics is always more appealing to journalists than just one insane lunatic.

Turtle Tower Vietnamese Restaurant in SF

Cheap and spicy (дешево и сердито). Recommend.

The experience is amplified by all the amazing faces of the neighborhood.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

VARONA — Egoist is out

VARONA — Egoist is out

Posted using ShareThis

I owe twice the market value of my home to the banks. How did this happen? What do I do?

When we bought our house in late 2006 we thought we were getting a pretty good deal. Mainly, because we liked the house and the neighborhood. The house — a Victorian-type structure — had front and back yards, the proverbial character, a new foundation, and 11-foot ceilings. A BART station was two blocks away, San Francisco less than 10 minutes away, the neighborhood was up-and-coming, and was steeped in history. We were very nervous during the appraisal process, fearing it wouldn't qualify as a single-family residence because of the unfinished first floor (it used to be a duplex).

We didn't have a downpayment, so in addition to a 30-year 400K mortgage we signed a 30-year 100K second mortgage. We thought: we'll fix up the first floor, reappraise the house, and get a normal jumbo loan in a couple of years.

So, kudos for the optimism and all, but that plan — how should I put it — didn't work out. One reason it didn't work out is because the housing market committed suicide and it became apparent that we wouldn't be able to refinance anything. I was grateful for being smart enough to steer clear of the short-term, variable-rate stuff (I had the luxury, my credit score was 810-ish). The second reason it didn't work out is because I grossly overestimated my ability to fix up the downstairs. Working crazy unpaid overtime for AKQA didn't help either.

The third reason it didn't work out is because the house decided to create projects for us on its own: in the two and a half years of living there we had replaced three out of four faucets, the washer, the dryer, the refrigerator, the garbage disposal, and the stove. They all broke. Then, the stately Victorian roof started leaking. Then, electrical outlets stopped working on one side of the house. Then, we found a major water leak in the laundry room.

I fixed the laundry room leak myself, because I sort of understand plumbing: water goes through pipes. But electricity is black magic. It'll probably cost around ten thousand dollars to fix the real problems. For now: orange extension cords.

It appears the path to our salvation is a bag with ninety thousand dollars (principal on second mortgage), which we would turn over to Chase Manhattan Bank. Then we'll have only one mortgage and the house will only be about 150 thousand dollars upside-down, not 250 thousand. But then we'll be much closer to being able to refinance. We'd have an extra thousand dollars a month.

We could abandon the house and stop throwing money away, at the cost of my credit history. People are doing that all over the place. For a while, it appeared that half the houses on both sides of our street were at some stage of a foreclosure.

Wait, maybe we can get a bailout? We can just wait for some bailout to arrive in the mail. But they probably won't be sending us any bailout since we have a steady income and we've never missed a mortgage payment. Not to mention the fact that bailouts are wrong.

Before turning to radical solutions, however, I did the obvious: began busking online at

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

“Grasshopper” by Bulat Okudzhava — translation

Grasshopper by Bulat Okudzhava
Written for Yuliy Kim
Translation by Andrei Soroker

How can I please you, my grasshopper,
When your anthem fills the void?
One note will cure all sorrows,
The song will resurrect the dead.

Some string you pluck — it is so wonderous,
A chorus joins your serenade at once
Sublime, mysterious, and awful
Of your green brethren and sistren.

Some miracle must be on its way,
Gliding down onto the land from above,
That with such ease, with a choir in the background
You so loudly confess?

You must be a member of the verse-laying cohort,
Of our immortal regiment...
Scream and cry. Chances are, your children
Will look down upon your life's work.

Many thanks to the true poet,
To his pen, to his insanity
And to his voice, which reaches its heaven,
As it rises into a wheeze.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Man № 0


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Yuri Vizbor, "A Veteran's Tale", translation

Yuri Vizbor, "A Veteran's Tale"
Approximate translation by Andrei Soroker

We saw that deal at once
Two companies rising from the earth
They rolled up their sleeves
And began marching toward Vitaly Palych and me.

And the sun is simmering, let it burn to hell
And we've got no other fate.
And I whisper: "Hold on, Vitaly Palych,
Hold on, let them come closer, my dear friend."

The world is rarely at peace --
A piece of grass trembling in the gun-sight.
A small patch of sparse forest behind us --
Then a field, then the rest of the country lies.

The sun is simmering, let it burn to hell
And we've got no other fate
And I whisper "Hold on, Vitaly Palych,
Hold on, let them come closer, my dear friend."

Our trench is our last home,
It seems there won't be any others.
And the damned black uniforms
Are moving closer, like on slow-motion film.

The sun is simmering, let it burn to hell
And we've got no other fate.
And I scream: "Come on, Vitaly Palych!
Give it all you've got, my dear friend!"

My years are passing by like train cars,
But I'm certain to come there once a year --
Where the plough carefully avoids
A wistful plywood star.

Where the sun is simmering, let it burn to hell
Where we've had no other fate.
And I whisper "Forgive me, Vitaly Palych.
Forgive me for surviving, my dear friend."

My housing bailout plan

Friday, January 30, 2009

Public Urination FTW

This man pulled up in the car in front, got out, and went to the bathroom on the light pole right in front of my house.

Richard Stallman at SFSU