Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Banya board meeting balked, sauna substitute a success

By the simple act of not checking first, the tri brodyagi turned up at Newcastle's Victorian City Pool on Ladies' Night, or rather on the evening selected for women to use the Turkish Bath. Says it all, really. Disgruntledly making do with the seventies sauna arrangement next door, the Myetromen discussed final arrangements for the book, including that vital stanza Bill still hadn't written, and readings and other promotional work -- including a First Thursday Reading on October 1st in Newcastle University.

They then transferred to the hot plastic tube of the steam room, a kind of anti-igloo in smooth cream and steam, and considered the possibility of using recordings of the metro and a few nifty slides to announce transitions in the readings, reminded Bill he still had to meet with the cartoonist about the Stations of the Dog strip, and considered a Moscow launch.

Sprawling on the pleather recliners after a refreshing dip in the main pool, they reflected on recent Russian-based reading and news items, including the railway-related issue of renaming Leningrad Station after the tsar, another touch of resurrectionary conservatism; and the unfortunate attempt to close down access to historical resources on the net, another touch of reactionary control-freakery. (You can still access a parallel site by the same author, Vyacheslav Rumyantsev, here, though I can't find an English version.)

They then repaired to a nearby Turkish restaurant to gargle Efes and consume mezes, looking forward to a meeting with their publisher somewhere in York Station to Finalise Everything! Sample stanzas to appear soon...

Monday, 6 July 2009

Space Dogs

This BBC4 documentary features extraordinary footage of the Russian spaceflights involving dogs.

There are a number of interviews with the scientists who trained them, sent them into space, and mourned the ones that died -- almost half the complement of 48 told to sit whilst being hurtled through the sky.

Among several bizarre quotes, the scientist Aleksandr Seryapin said he was told, 'We're asking you to do something outside your area of expertise... we want you to sew clothes for dogs'; and the rocket scientist Korolyov (who, it was claimed, was deeply attached to his canine cosmonauts), exhorting his fellow workers, 'Remember, Comrades, that a time will come when our trade unions will offer ordinary people holidays in space.'

And the little detail that Stryelka ('Little Arrow', part of the team (with Byelka) that first orbited the Earth and returned safely, had a puppy, Pushinka, that Khrushchev gave to JFK, ostensibly for his children, but obviously so that, every time he watched them play, Kennedy knew that Russia had got there first.

It's repeated a few times this month.