The Squeaky Robot

A Meddling Robot in a Human's World

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Peterhof and the Magic of Miniscule

Posted on September 30, 2012

The notion of magic is easily dismissed with a simple explanation or equation or scientific phenomenon or trick on the eyes, leading me to doubt its existence in an empirical world. But going to Peterhof reminded me that magic still exists in our minds; it’s more a feeling for me than a card trick, more of an impression than a slight of hand and eye. Indeed, the world is full of wonder, but only if you stop analyzing and begin mobilizing your deepest reservoirs of gratitude, the ones that honor a red leaf on the ground or a song bird singing in the rain. The one that takes the simplest thing and muses: “How is this all even possible?” I was lucky enough to experience…

Moving East: A Film Photo Story

Posted on September 23, 2012

A background song, if you’d like?

Krakow: A pretty girl who hates being photographed is photographed.

In the center of Warsaw lies a tiny room. The space in the room is mostly occupied by a large Photoplasticon and a few stools. The viewer sits and the Photoplasticon rotates to show three-dimensional pictures of Warsaw from the years 1915 to 1918. This particular photograph shows market vendors working on Szeroki Dunaj in the year 1916.

Take a break in Warsaw’s botanical gardens.

A visit to the Photoplasticon is a delightfully fitting frame for my next point: Warsaw is changing rapidly and blatantly. There are two types of Warsaw of my own label – “static” Warsaw, or the parts of the city that will never change due to historical significance and the honoring of architectural and aesthetic traditions, and “dynamic” Warsaw, the areas that have adopted the modernism of London and the sleek minimalism of Scandinavia. Pre-war brick structures are now being fitted with glass walls and ceilings. Newer restaurants look like the one pictured; this pizzeria also happens to be named after one of the oldest cemeteries in Europe, Powazki Cemetary, its neighbor across the street. People don’t discard old things in Warsaw; they simply allow them to grow and change with the times. For better or for worse, this mix amounts to quite a cool city.

Behold: the unbelievable beauty of a Russian autumn in Novgorod.

A friend and I were walking along Novgorod’s residential streets. A woman picked us off the street and ushered us into her garden. Tatiana was her name. She gifted us with kilos and kilos of produce: apples, plums, cucumbers, and homemade pickles. We were positively giddy.

She is so uniquely beautiful.

Hand-carved and painted domovoys. They are meant to protect your house. I couldn’t walk away without one.

If I were a guy, I’d move to Russia (but with that logic, Brazil would work too):

A Petersburg kind of night. I don’t want to be anywhere else.

10 Things About Russia

Posted on September 14, 2012

If someone repeatedly calls your cellphone asking for Maria Borisovna in a loud and confused manner, simply saying “wrong number” will not make them go away. Instead, they will call you repeatedly, ask you for your name and how they can reach Maria Borisovna. Simply saying “I don’t know any Maria Borisovna. Stop calling me” will not make them go away. Hanging up will make them go away, but only temporarily. If you’re a woman and you show any part of your legs without wearing stockings, people will think you’re a prostitute. Well. That explains a lot. Russians believe that if you’re a woman and you sit on any cold surface, it will inevitably make you barren. That also explains a lot. If you…

Scattered Thoughts On My New Petersburg Home

Posted on September 10, 2012

Some background music, if you will? My new Petersburg home is a vintage oasis frozen in time. It’s a place where Glenn Miller plays on a worn-out record player. Stacks of books consisting of world classics and anthologies reach perilously unstable heights. Films from the forties like Sun Valley Serenade are dubbed in Russian and played on repeat. Finally. People who get me. These people also happen to be in their seventies. Two different types of old souls collide. Larisa Ivanovna first greeted me with a squirmy wiener dog on her shoulders. Her husband, Mikhail, excitedly pushed me into their small yet labyrinthine Petersburg flat. I clumsily removed my boots at the door – Russian law – and put on the warm, arch-supported slippers…