Friday, December 28, 2007

How to spike your web traffic

As a general rule, my blog gets about 15-20 visitors a day, many of these searching for random terms like "nightlife moscow", "kiev tourist", "nightlife odessa", "ski kamchatka", etc., not to mention a bunch of people from all around the world who are hopefully my loyal friends & family checking in on me (you know who you are).

Some of the search terms that end up at my site are truly random, and some downright disturbing. I'm not quite sure these poor lost souls were looking for who were delivered unto me via Google searching for "owl sex", "flying crocodile", "siberian salt mines fun" and "horny Putin" but I hope they found whatever they were looking for (perhaps professional help?).

In recent days, however, traffic to the site has increased 10x, with literally hundreds of people searching for "sexy snegurochka", or "sexy santa". Lingerie designers of the world- there is obviously a massive opportunity for you to plug this gap (so to speak).

For the rest of you- a quick internet search turned up a wide range of sexy santa, elf, and snegurochka outfits at Leg Avenue, else you can always wait and hope that Agent Provocateur brings out an Xmas line. In the meantime, I put another photo at the top of this post for you.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Slavic Santa and his Sexy Sidekick

The Christmas season is upon us, and there are several peculiar customs of this season in Russia, compared to the West. Some are ancient, and some more recent interpretations on the celebrations of pagan, roman and christian rituals around this time of year.

The first oddity I found upon my arrival is the focus on New Years, rather than Christmas. The traditional greeting is "с новым годом", (Happy New Year), rather than "Merry Christmas!" There are New Year's trees and New Year's presents. December 25th is a typical working day.

The reason for this, it appears, is that shortly after the revolution, the Soviets banned Christmas celebrations and moved the comparatively safer celebrations (no nativity) to the more reliablty athiest New Year's date of December 31. More recently, with the ascendancy of the Orthodox Church, Christmas has been making a comeback, with the Russian Orthodox Christmas celebrated on January 7th in 2008.

The central figure in all of this is Ded Moroz, or Grandfather Frost. He is a Santa-like figure (although don't mention this to Russians), and according to local press, Santa is derived from Ded Moroz. The two are similar in appearance, elderly with long beard, white hair, long robes, although the Russian figure tends to be slimmer, walks with a staff, and can be seen in either blue or red robes.

Like seemingly every elderly man able to give gifts in Russia, Ded Moroz is constantly accompanied by a svelte young girl, in this case known as Snegurochka. This gorgeous young maiden is historically derived from a snow sprite, and it's unclear exactly why she got paired with Ded Moroz, but it is Russia, after all, so there has to a be a beautiful girl around someplace. Those pictured here are wearing a "sexy snegurochka" outfit sold online for girls to wear to New Years parties.

According to the Moscow Times, the increasing wealth in Russia is increasing demand for Ded Morozes and Snegurochki to appear at New Years parties. Demanding Russians are apparently hard to please (really?). "Wish lists include Ded Morozes who arrive by parachute, recite rap, perform tricks and help Snegurochka take off her clothes.

"Agencies get requests for Ded Morozes who have dark skin, can play the accordion or can impersonate famous Russian politicians.

"The Snegurochka provided by the Ded Moroz Agency promises to put on a striptease. She travels with Ded Moroz and a company of jugglers with burning torches and fairy-tale characters.

"Not to be outdone, the Moscow Father Frost Service promises Ded Morozes who can parachute, scale high apartment buildings to surprise guests through the window, and perform acrobatic tricks in gigantic inflatable suits. The agency's pride is a rather un-Russian Ded Moroz who turns into Elvis Presley. Snegurochka turns into Marilyn Monroe. "
Apparently it's not all fun & games for these Ded's for hire. "A tough challenge for Ded Moroz are corporate parties with drunk clients who try to get the pair intoxicated and sexually harass Snegurochka, Solodov said." [Really? In Russia? Shocking Surprise #1]

"Nina, a Snegurochka and phone operator for New Year, said low-budget, all-female parties were her least favorite. The women at these parties tend to be "bitchy," she said." [Shocking Surprise #2]

In Today's Ironic News from Moscow...

German rock band the Scorpions played their popular hit "Winds of Change" to a packed crowd of FSB (KGB) officials and politicians (including Putin & Medvedev) on last week's 90th Anniversary of the founding of the KGB.

The only problem was that the song was written about the inspiring changes that were bringing about the demise of the Soviet Union (which the Russians didn't realise), and the band wasn't told about the occasion at which they were singing. Oh well...

The lead singer did think, however, that audiences at the group's concerts typically tend to be livelier than Thursday's crowd.

Apparently, other joyful festivities on the day included offering a two-for-one special on interrogations, random jumping out of alleyways at passers-by, and a discount on Polonium. Once the agents had had a few more shots (vodka, not firearms hopefully), they randomly went door-to-door kicking them down for old times sake.

In other political news, "Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, who attended Friday's congress where Putin accepted Medvedev's offer of prime ministership should Medvedev win the Presidency, told journalists that "99.9 percent of North Caucasus residents will support Dmitry Medvedev for the post of the president and Vladimir Putin for the post of Russia's prime minister." Chechnya reported a jaw-dropping turnout of 99.5 percent in the Duma elections on Dec. 2 -- the highest of any region. It said 99.36 percent of the voters chose United Russia (Putin's party). [Moscow Times]

Great to see democracy taking root in Chechnya.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Happy Holidays!

Since Christmas in all its forms (Dec 25th in the West, and Russian Orthodox a couple of weeks later) is upon us, I wanted to wish everyone a safe and happy holiday period! Since Dec 25th has no significance here, I'll be working through to the end of the year (although I'll be celebrating my 1-year anniversary in Moscow on the 25th!), missing family Christmas (again)... : (

The last few weeks have been a mix of sporadically hectic work, and some great quality time not travelling and spending time in Moscow catching up with friends, as well as the latest on the nightlife scene. Finally, my language has had another "step-change", and I'm now tackling increasingly complex stuff ("complex" is relative when I speak this language like a 5-year old).

I'm looking forward to a true vacation in the next couple of weeks, I'll be in Tel Aviv for New Years, then travelling around Israel for a week with an Israeli mate from Moscow, then on to Chamonix for some skiing (the snow has been awesome so far!)- serious training for the upcoming heliski trip to Kamchatka in April!

All my thoughts and best wishes to all of you around the world, and especially thanks to those of you who seem to regularly return here- you're either enjoying my coverage of my world, bored, seriously concerned about my well-being, or hoping for some juicier gossip!

Ukranian Army Recruiting Advertisement

OK, so I promise this will be my last post for a while about Russian/Ukranian girls, however this particular video clip is too good to miss.

It comes to my attention courtesy of the Exile, a local irreverent English-language newspaper, which is worth a read if you have some time on your hands. I can't confirm it's authenticity, but having seen some of the television over here- it's probably likely.

Although it's in Russian, the message is pretty clear: "Join the Ukrainian Army, and beautiful girls will want you". As per usual, the poor Russian conscript soldiers (& their dodgy equipment) look nothing like that in the advertisement.

As the Exile said "It's not quite the puritanical "Be All That You Can Be" ad for the US Army, an ad whose success says a lot about what's really fucked up in American culture. "

Friday, December 14, 2007

Panties for Putin?

In the latest bizarre twist to the Putin-mania running rampant around Russia (both state-sponsored and apparently spontaneous), Kremlin-sponsored youth group Nashi staged a fashion show in Red Square this week to demonstrate their support for Putin.

As MDBIT put it "nothing says slavish devotion like stripping down to your panties in sub-zero weather".

The writing on her panties says "Vova! I'm with you!" (Vova is an affectionate form for Vladimir)

At least she's wearing gloves to keep her fingers warm.

Thanks to MDBIT & her sources for the pics & quotes.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Russian Girls: The Song & Video

OK, I couldn't resist, this video has to be seen that parodies and showcases some of Russia's best assets.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

An Observation or Two...

Since my driver is currently out of action (apparently sick on his deathbed, but since he's just started dating a stripper & her girlfriend, I suspect he may be skulking elsewhere), I have to take advantage of Moscow's efficient (if somewhat unorthodox) taxi system to get around.

After flagging down a random gypsy cab last night, my initial suspicions that my ride was a little rickety were confirmed when the back door refused to close. After several good whacks, the driver got out, lit a page of newspaper, and held it under the (admittedly greasy) latch. Once this had melted the ice buildup, the door closed fine.

Unfortunately, several corners later, the rest of the door fell off- and although the valiant hinge managed to stay its course for a few more metres, eventually the whole door hit the road and was left in the gutter.

Undeterred, our new quasi-convertible headed back to the city, where my Uzbek driver regaled me with graphic details of the benefits of his multiple wives and the condo he was building for both of them (and his six children) in PodMoskovia. The chill breeze and swirling snowflakes in the car added a certain poignancy to both the tale and his sincere inquiries as to why I was still unmarried and childless at the advanced age of 30.

Meanwhile, in other unimportant news, we have been blessed with the appointment of both our new President and new Prime Minister in the space of two days. Our esteemed President, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin made his long-awaited announcement (well- technically it came from his party of stooges, United Russia) of his "supported" successor, the Chairman of Gazprom (and coincidentally the First Deputy Prime Minister of Russia).

The markets breathed a sigh of relief, the siloviki worked themselves into a frenzy, and the reactions from those on the street ranged from "Who?" to "Who cares", but thankfully, the following day, our new President nominated none other than Mr Putin himself to be the Prime Minister in his new administration (please keep in mind that "elections" don't take place until March), so at least we can be assured that nothing's likely to change.

Now that this mystery is solved, back to the beautocracy...

Monday, December 10, 2007

NY Times: From Russia with Luxe

Entertaining article about Moscow life from the NY Times. Published yesterday, it's already out of date (Bar 30/7 closed last month and Bon has already been renovated), and out of touch (the "Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie" is a student hangout), but you get the idea...

NY Times: From Russia with Luxe

I love the line: "welcome to the new beautocracy"

Seven Countries in Seven Days

One of the more glamourous and gruelling parts of the job is the notorious IPO roadshow. This is where you drag a poor management team around the world, putting them in front of 6-10 investors a day (plus group lunches and sometimes dinners), and make them do a presentation and answer questions on their business in every meeting. In between meetings, there are precision-timed conference calls and investor follow-ups. This is all with the aim of helping investors understand the deal we're all trying to sell and invest in the Company. The bankers job is to make this process go as smoothly as possible (not easy), keep those pesky investors from asking questions they're not supposed to (even harder), and ensure the management has as comfortable a time as possible (impossible).

I just got back from a roadshow that encompassed seven countries in as many days. We had Moscow on Friday, Monday in London, Tuesday to Rotterdam, Wednesday to Zurich, Thursday in Stockholm, Friday in Frankfurt, then flew out to the US, before returning to Moscow by the following Thursday.

There are some upsides to this schedule, we get to fly around in private jets, eat at the best restaurants, and stay at the nicest hotels, but you don't get much sleep...