9th Company – the film that haunts you

Still shaken after watching the 9th Company. If you have not seen it and are interested in history, particularly Soviet war in Afghanistan, I highly recommend it (available as instant play on Netflix, with English subtitles). It’s loosely based on an actual battle that took place at the height of 3,234 meters in Afghan mountains.

No army, never, never ever, had successfully conquered Afghanistan.
– Army instructor teaching soldiers about Afghan history and culture

I was a small kid growing up in Soviet Union when the conflict in Afghanistan took place, so I don’t really recall how it was portrayed in the media. But I do remember boys playing guitar and singing those “street songs” about young guys giving their lives because “they were told to charge forward and die”. All kids kept quiet when those songs were played, listening to the simple sad melodies and lyrics about this strange unknown place.

Now, after witnessing the collapse of my former motherland (or fatherland?) the mighty Soviet Union, and living in the US for almost 9 years, I’m trying to gather facts and paint a clearer picture of what happened. It’s complicated, of course, and crazy incredibly sad, that wars like this had to take place, and there’s still instability in Afghanistan and people are still dying.

Additional reading:
Two Steps to Heaven, which I’m reading now. Russian version, epub. English translation, incomplete, epub (original HTML text courtesy of ArtOfWar)
Khaled Hosseini books: the Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. I read both and loved them
– The Afghans by Rybakov (link to a PDF in Russian) – have not read yet

Vive le cin?ma, vive la diff?rence!

Yesterday was a great day. I managed to get all my house cleaning done, did some yoga, and saw quite a few of my friends, then made a delicious dinner at home with Max (pelmeni from scratch!). After we ate, we decided to watch a movie on our super cool projector screen. But which movie? We couldn’t really find anything on Netflix or Amazon prime, then Max had a great idea of looking for one on a Russian site. The movie he found is French and is called the Intouchables. .

We both loved it! I really like French cinema, as we had films playing on TV pretty often when I was growing up (such as Le Jouet with Pierre Richar). This movie, turned out, is very recent (2011) and was a huge hit in France (#2 top all-time grossing film).

I highly recommend it, very refreshing, full of humor and great acting from the two main characters. And wait – it’s based on a true story. And wait – it’s still playing in theaters in NYC, go see it now!

Goodbye, Fyodor

â??Love must be given before it can be receivedâ? – Korean proverb

This is from an illustrated book of Korean proverbs that a friend gave me. I still have the book, but he is no longer among us, as he lost his battle with cancer last year. I am sad that I didnâ??t find out earlier, sad that I didnâ??t keep in touch more, so sad that such a bright and smart person with an amazing sense of humor and such positive outlook on life had to leave before their time.

Joon was not my closest friend, and Iâ??ve seen him in person a couple times at most, and we knew each other through work and we talked remotely, by phone or more often email. Somehow I do remember him and our conversations really vividly, and one of the last emails I got from him was about our first meeting and lunch we had in K-town that he seemed to remember so well and loved the food so much.

When I had â??Mandookookâ? in NY, it was the first time in 21 yrs. It was yum. I went to have one in LA after but it wasnâ??t as good asâ?¦ My father in law is from Kaisung (just north of DMZ), so he loves it. He took me to a Mandokook place in Seoul right before I got married which was 21 yrs ago… Sean probably doesnâ??t know what is the secret to a successful marriage. It is not love. It is â??Yes, Tanya. You are right and I am wrongâ? Do tell him…
– from Joonâ??s email that still makes me smile

Joon was Korean, but he loved Russian culture so much, and knew so much about it, perhaps even more that I did. We adopted a nickname Fyodor for him, and thatâ??s what I wanted to say to him: Goodbye Fyodor, and I (along with so many people that knew you and admired your amazing character) will keep a bright memory of you.

When the weather is stormy…

… and you don’t have a thunder buddy (mine is out of town), calm yourself down by doing yoga in your room

As we know now, hurricane remains are floating around NYC area this weekend. Which means no surfing :( – sad face. But as surfers say, you take what life gives you and work it. The alternate plan for this morning was to wake up early, clean the apartment, then go do yoga in the city. All went according to plan, except it started pouring around 10am. Thankfully, earlier this week, I got a free app card from Starbucks and it happened to be some “create-your-own-yoga” thing, so I decided to give it a try.

The app is called “ “Pocket yoga builder” and is pretty simple, you click on various yoga pose icons, then they are linked into a practice. You can customize how long each pose should last, and set a background (ocean, desert and mountains). Which got me thinking – who in their right mind would do yoga in a desert? Maybe James Franco.

I linked together 97 poses which totalled 15 minutes of yoga and gave it a try. And it turned out pretty good – the voice of the lady sounded somewhat robotic, but hey, maybe she was stuck in the desert for too long! Overall, not bad for a rainy day for a free app!

PS: You should really watch the thunder buddy video too:

If you want to know the truth, ask a kid

And the truth you shall hear!

A cool idea by MoMA: audio tours narrated by kids (via Kottke)

Each piece of art is analyzed by experts aged 3-10, as they share their unique, unfiltered perspective on such things as composition, the art’s deeper meaning, and why some stuff’s so weird looking. This is Modern Art without the pretentiousness, the pomposity, or any other big “p” words.

On a somewhat related note, just got a text from my mom telling me that my nephew, who’s 2 days short of his 6th birthday, got himself a cast on his right leg. Oh boys.

*Photo of my nephew, sans cast, in a Lego heaven

Yearning for the sea

I was going to go surfing this Saturday, but due to hurricane activity and big waves itâ??s a no-go. One of the guys from my office who is a pro surfer is actually going to take advantage of huge waves, and Iâ??m kicking myself for not learning sooner so I, too, could be out there and not just waiting for it to calm down to â??beginner wavesâ?. Bummer.

But hereâ??s a good quote for you, about the sea and motivation.

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to yearn for the endless immensity of the sea”

РAntoine de Saint Exup̩ry

And Iâ??ll be looking for the waves to calm down so I can go out there again. Just like on this picture from last year’s trip to Martha’s Vineyard:

Writing with Byword

I heard about the Byword app from Jeff at his “Optimize your Mac workflow” class.

First, I was a bit skeptical, because I thought writing is just writing, in markdown or not.

Turns out, it does matter. Writing in markdown is faster, since there’s no worrying about formatting it later, and Byword makes it easier to just copy&paste directly into WordPress.

Also, and this could just be my perception, the minimalistic look (grey background of the app, centered on screen, nice font) makes it easier to just focus on writing.

So now I’m a fan and highly recommend it. Well worth the $4.99 price.