Boris Zolotov & The Kyshtym Dwarf

A human chain 100 people long intoning an old Soviet favorite snaked its way through the water and onto the beach. It stopped to meet me. “Boris Yevgenyevich.”


“I’m just going to dry off and we’ll talk in a few minutes.”

He shook my hand and walked on. Being the leader the rest of the chain followed suit, greeted me and went to get dressed. For most of them that meant from scratch, not changing out of a wet suit. They were lined up boy-girl-boy-girl, a mix of ages 30 to 70, with all appendages fully extended, reaching out to the person ahead in line. And that’s how they marched on, removing a hand from somewhere to shake mine and moving along. Soon it would begin to be truly strange.

alien cultalien cult

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alien cultalien cult

alien cultalien cult

Through a friend of a friend I had taken a quasi-undercover assignment for Russian channel NTV’s program “Profession Reporter” in the Black Sea town Yevpatoria on Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. My task was to hunt down the mummified body of Alyoshenka the Kyshtym Dwarf, document its whereabouts and debunk cult leader cum alien-tamer Boris Zolotov.

Over a drink in central Moscow a week beforehand, the program’s host Andrei Loshak explained that Zolotov had refused to give an interview to his program and thus it was necessary to employee me in the guise of an English Channel 4 investigative reporter.

“The story began in 1996 in the village of Kaolinovy near Kyshtym in the Ural region when a crazy alcoholic grandmother found a small humanoid in the woods,” Loshak began. As he recounted the convoluted history an alien schematic fell out his notebook. I was alarmed, but he exchanged a knowing smile with his colleague — which alarmed me further. So I held my breath, and tongue, with trepidation for 30 minutes of arduous tale. Coming to the end, he paused, turned to me and concluded, “Of course this is all nonsense.” I sighed thankfully.

The history is long so I won’t repeat it. Here is the best background on Alyoshenka the Kyshtym Dwarf I have been able to find. The story of The Kyshtym Catastrophe and something about the man Boris Zolotov are also required reading.

NTV was filming a documentary about the Kyshtym Dwarf. They had completed all the links in the chain already, except the last, Zolotov. The last person supposedly to have seen the corpse.

So there I stood. Hidden microphone taped to my nipple, lip cocked in disbelief. With me were two real NTV correspondents one with a pen camera in his breast pocket, the other with a hidden camera in her purse. We, actually I, was meant to buy the little pruned boy if possible, or at least see it and get it on tape. Whatever it was, whatever was left. I hoped they had caught the sex congo-line.

We took a seat under a tarp and began to chat about Alyoshenka. Zolotov adores lecturing. He has no formal set of educational tools at his “Academy of Frontal Problems.” To the best of my knowledge he has neither syllabus, nor curriculum in any formal sense. He’s his own oral tradition. Without access to the tapes of our interviews it’s impossible to quote these lectures directly. Which is a shame because his rhetoric puts the best politicians, spin-doctors, and PR gurus to shame.

His phrases are gems of needless elaboration — labyrinths of thought that wind needlessly out of control like the Celtic knot work of an epileptic monk. The mainstays of his phrasing were life form types: liquid, solid, gaseous and crystal. Also all-powerful universal proteins that can do everything including cure cancer. The refraction of light rays for transporting information etc. etc. throughout time and space. And his matrix of points, each with their own distinct idiosyncratic metaphysical value, which sit on the corners of a cube as well as at the mid-points of the cube’s edge lines, in the middle of the planes on the faces, and in the exact center, 27 total, that interrelate as Zolotov feels necessary. The eventuality of any conversation with Zolotov was a lecture with these concepts intertwining like an orgy of pythons.

“What happened to Alyoshenka?” I asked. Zolotov feigned sadness and made the sign of the cross. “Where’s the body now?” He pointed upward. “Where’s that? Heaven? The cosmos?” He was non-committal. After some hemming and hawing and much insistence on my part it was concluded that the prune boy was not to be had but fortunately there was a similar alien body we could take a look at buried not too far away. The child of a human, alien and dolphin. What luck.

Zolotov informed us that we were free to shoot all of the video we wanted. Take pictures and ask anyone any question we felt like. We went back to the car and traded in the hidden cameras and microphones for real ones. I was glad I had brought my camera “just in case” because this was certainly a case of something.

He lined up his followers for a march 500 meters or so to a small tide pool in the shadow of a large radar satellite dish. Along the way the group sang more Soviet classics and veered off the path to help push a car stuck in a rut. Zolotov’s followers were a variegated lot. The select group, the ones with the nicest butts, were in on the take.

When we got to the tide pool, the group lined up as Zolotov barked orders to his “Funeral Team.” They stepped forward then turned their backs to him, and me. He demonstrated his powers by wiggling his fingers at a few of the girls. Magically the girls were pulled to him and started to perform questionable modern dance. “You see those movements?” he said. “Those are not earthly movements.” I nodded my head.

There was a bit more lecturing and explanation of the relevance of the radar station. It, like Zolotov, was strategically located where refracted rays were best caught. This was no coincidence. He has special skin he said that is more sensitive to these rays and was thus drawn here to hold his lectures on facilitating contact with aliens. In a place like this aliens are more apt to show up, and they do. He invited me to contact aliens with his group that night after sundown.

It was not by accident that Alyoshenka had been drawn to this spot from the future for universal proteins Zolotov said. But more importantly he added, “You too have an inner dwarf. And it has led you here.” I certainly was there, no denying that.

He explained the Chernobyl tragedy as the result of an imbalance in a certain toxic substance under alien control that is distributed equally over the planet lying in wait just underneath the surface of the earth.

Finally it was time to disinter the alien. The NTV camera man took some close-ups of the butts and we waded into the tide pool with our pants rolled up. The tide pool was a layer of soft black clay covered by a thick layer of salt crystal. It was extremely salty water and as we walked around I had visions of my feet pickled in a jar on the back shelf of a junior high science classroom.

It was slow going because it was hard to find stable footing. Occasionally Zolotov would reach under the surface and break off a large chunk of salt, examine it, then put it back. One piece he showed to me saying that it was the skeleton of an alien. The refracted light had transported the alien here. The alien had turned it self into a gaseous life form, evaporated away and left this skeleton. He gave it to me to hold. I held it for as long as I thought seemed respectable and then gave it to the guy with the nice butt who promptly threw it away.

My feet ached. When I exited the water later I would find them punctured and bleeding. But I wanted to find the alien dwarf body. Despite the fact that his crew had buried it there the night before in expectance of our arrival, it was difficult to find because every step kicked up a black cloud of silt that obscured our vision.

Zolotov finally stopped and beckoned me over. He had found the grave site. I had my camera at the ready but the wily old guy was already a bit suspicious. First, I didn’t ask questions like a journalist, because I’m not. And second, because I was running around taking lots of pictures like a photographer, because I am. I really wanted a picture of Alyoshenka’s dwarf cousin but I had to play it safe. Blowing my cover of unethical intentional misrepresentation would have been unprofessional.

The whole thing was a farce. A show of actors included me, playing their roles. I was good for Zolotov. I added to his legitimacy in the eyes of his followers, the real audience. Who shelled out 10 euros a day for ring-side seats and got pummeled in the head with his nonsense. With about 100 people, Zolotov was pulling in about 1000 euros a day. It’s a huge sum in a place like Crimea where living costs are next to null.

“Come closer,” he said. He took my hand and placed it into the murk. “Feel this.” I felt a plastic garbage bag but could see nothing. He looked at me and looked around. His crowd of followers had lost patience. They had long fallen out of attention and were sitting chatting, not minding their leader. Only the generously-bosomed and overtly nubile funeral team remained at the ready. That’s what they get paid for.

Zolotov took it all in. “Yes that’s it.” He said a few times and churned his course of action over in his mind not pulling the dwarf carcass out of the water. “He doesn’t want to show himself,” he said after a few moments. “We should have watched the film first.” Zolotov had wanted us to watch a film about the burial before going to the gravesite but we had convinced him we didn’t have enough time. Which we didn’t because we would have had to have gone back to their campground by foot about 2 kilometers away and it was already getting toward the end of the day. “We should have performed the rituals,” he said. “That’s why he won’t appear for us.” He wagged his head over to the group on the beach. “They’re being disrespectful. When you go to a cemetery do you act like that? No. You pay your respects properly. That’s why he won’t show himself.” That was that and we hobbled back to the shore where he berated the group for their behavior. “That’s good,” he said looking down at my feet, “you gave blood.”

We returned to the original point of contact on the beach. As the sun set, the camera rolled and once again I battered Zolotov with the same set of questions to which he once again battered back with a completely novel and plucky set of answers.

He admitted one-time possession of Alyoshenka’s mummified remains, recounting conducting several experiments on it whose absurd names I regretfully cannot remember. “The body smelled horrible.” One of the accomplices chimed in.

“Like what?” I asked her.

Silence. Finally after a ten-month pregnant pause Zolotov jumped in irritated that she was losing face. “Why don’t you tell them how the stench made you sick!” he bellowed. “How it incapacitated you for a month! Why don’t you tell them that!”

It was late, but it’s hard to stop Zolotov. He is energetic and sprightly despite his age. “Did you know a Japanese TV crew came here a few years ago? They wanted to buy Alyoshenka’s remains. But that wasn’t possible. In the end they paid $350,000 for half of a piece of candy that Alyoshenka had licked.”


“Saliva. Saliva on the candy gives contains his DNA. The Japanese are a short people. They are concerned about the future of their race. They wanted a DNA sample. Celestial DNA, to put into their gene pool to improve their stock and Alyoshenka was a good choice because of his similar small stature.”

Finally we trucked off to the hotel despite offers of refuge for the night on the beach and participation in all available activities. We were no closer to the truth than when we had arrived. All the questions had been answered, on the record, on video, but they were useless. They were loose, far too open for interpretation to be of any value. Ah, but we were a television crew! This was for prime time where yellow journalism reigns supreme. Surely this was more interesting than the kid scheduled to fall down the well. So the next day we were back like dogs and it paid off.

It had been difficult not to burst out laughing on many occasions the day before. This morning, I could barely keep from wetting myself as goons in fluorescent green alien jumpsuits pranced unannounced through the last interview. We were inside the fenced in campground a few kilometers up from the beach where we had spent the previous day. I glanced over to the operator who was filming it and saw that he was having a difficult time keeping it together too. Soon we were joined by the other half of yesterday’s funeral squad. Garbed in skintight luminescent purple with H.R. Geiger heads, they began rhythmically humping a nearby wall in. Zolotov prattled on unfazed about Rayolites and other galactic wonders.

A green one hopped on the table between Zolotov and me. It stroked my head grabbed my glasses, tried them on and gave them back. They were too small for the large black eyes. The buffoonery continued as Zolotov showed me the dagger of Genghis Khan, an artifact from Alyoshenka’s universe used in various rituals. All good things however, must come to an end. Slowly and sadly I ran out of questions.

The video tapes were no longer blank and we had a plane to catch back to Moscow. Zolotov and his helpers presented me with a signed copy of their book “Terminator Art” and a copy of his film “Interplanetary Friend” which it turns out contained the burial footage of the alien dolphin dwarf that we had hunted for the day before. In return I gave him a few hundred dollars from the pocket of NTV for his willingness to cooperate.

As we exchanged parting words the intergalactic voyagers continued the show for the folks, not his followers, walking or driving by the campground. They posed for cameras and crawled into the cars of those who stopped. I grabbed my camera as well for one more photo op.

As a photojournalist my interest in documenting this cult is clear. It’s also clear why the kids walking by wanted to have their take their pictures taken with the people in the “funny costumes.” It’s clear why Zolotov does what he does: he gets paid to be himself. Who wouldn’t want that job? What remains obscure is the nature of that group of 100 or so people who revere him as their guru. Who are they? Why had they come from Belarus, Bulgaria, Russia, Moldova and other countries to spend a few weeks with Zolotov? Were they getting anything out of it or were they just fooling themselves? Are they hapless victims of the fall of the Soviet Union having their fears and superstitious preyed upon; or middle-aged loners hoping to hook up? Why can’t they see that they’re being duped; or are they agreeing to it? And if so, what on earth for?

*originally published in August 2006 on previous version of site

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Dead Days

I remember how
The moon kerned shadows
Torsos and
Crick’d limbs
Cha-cha-cha-ed through
Crinoline while
Downed lightning bugs

The percolator
Is sitting
In the middle of the room
On the floor
Under the dots

Swallowing the grief of our future.


There you were in the utility closet
Changing a stalactite.
I’d come for the steam press
It was busy.
So I watched revolutions
And I you watched — you too, as
Two orange lights blipped, behind
frosted glass
and the damp floor grew unbearable.

Everything Depends

Colorless Green Ideas Sleep Furiously


Rain, or sun
watermelon sellers no longer work nights
they drink green wine
from roses — three meters high,
to accommodate the ceilings
everything’s closed except for the cats.




Vicious Acts of Boredom

Dance Class

ZIL House of Culture

Policing Your City

“The sheriff can’t be fucked by the problems of Negroes”

Peng Chen


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Georgia in Slivers


Knights Templar

jurong rock caverns singapore

God Can Divide by Zero

uzbekistan refugees

Uzbek refugees, Andijan, June 2010.



Boris Zolotov & The Kyshtym Dwarf

alien cult

A human chain 100 people long intoning an old Soviet favorite snaked its way through the water and onto the beach. It stopped to meet me. “Boris Yevgenyevich.”


“I’m just going to dry off and we’ll talk in a few minutes.”

He shook my hand and walked on. Being the leader the rest of the chain followed suit, greeted me and went to get dressed. For most of them that meant from scratch, not changing out of a wet suit. They were lined up boy-girl-boy-girl, a mix of ages 30 to 70, with all appendages fully extended, reaching out to the person ahead in line. And that’s how they marched on, removing a hand from somewhere to shake mine and moving along. Soon it would begin to be truly strange.

Details »

Tsirk — Circus

africans in russia

A triptych of scenes from one the Soviet Union’s most popular films of all time Circus, in Russian Tsirk, the story of a female American Circus performer, shamed in the US by her illegitimate black child. She flees to Moscow and after a few ups and downs finds love and racial harmony in the Utopian state.


africans in russia

Pushkin in Africa — Pushkin

africans in russia

Russian sculptor Grigory Pototsky, below, presented a bust of Russian poet Alexander Pushkin to the Ambassador of Ghana at the Ghanaian embassy in Moscow. Why? Pushkin is a great son of Africa. He is the great-grandson of Abram Gannibal, an Ethiopian noble in the court of Peter the Great.


russian gypsy girl


africans in russia

One of the scars left from a racist knife attack that left the liver punctured. The psychological scars are not so easily photographed.

Moscow Porto-Toilet 019

moscow porto-toilet

While organized, toilet gangs have a unique structure that differs from traditional organized crime such as biker gangs and drug cartels. Toilet gangs often represent some of the most significant and dangerous problems in our society and are involved in a variety of criminal activities including drug trafficking, fraud, assaultive behavior, and weapons.

Toilet gang violence is a problem in every corner of Moscow and membership is on the rise. According to the Department of Health and Social Development’s latest Toilet Gang Threat Assessment, there are at least 2150 gangs and more than 73,100 active gang members. While gangs are less prevalent outside the MKAD, in the center, toilet violence is responsible­ for roughly half of all ­­homicides. ­ Toilets gangs are also becoming more savvy, using computers and other technology to commit more sophisticated and better-planned crimes. ­­­


Time moves so slowly
since it’s become a man.

Locks knocked from behind its ears
buoy to stillness.

Moths too small for its swat
course toward zero.

Beyond the second next step
even slower still
a gesture should be sufficient.

But the Titan concedes
a flourish
to an unsatisfiable public.


You’re so far away
an entire pillow.

The itcher;
from under the rug
wants to know
about the color of the wallpaper.

Back, Shoulder, Ash

africans in russia

Malenkaya Vera, The Dormitory Scene

africans in russia

Vera and Sergei are greeted by African students at the dormitory. As mentioned in the previous post about the film.

Moscow Porto-Toilet 018

Toiletia can be broadly distinguished into two major groups the nonchordates, or invertebrates, and the chordates. Invertebrates account for more than 95% of the animal’s sub-species that have been identified. These creatures which do not have a back bone are, however, significantly inferior in size making them much less prominent despite their greater number.

Hip-Hop Dance Contest B-Boys

africans in russia

Here are some pics from the recent Made In Russia Battle 2009 hip-hop b-boy dance contest. Hip-hop with its roots in the 70’s black culture of New York City seemed a plausible draw for some of Moscow’s Africans. What I found among the Russians were two guys from France, two Brazilians, and a British DJ. It was an inclusive-style event with the master of ceremony making frequent shout-outs to the hip-hop universe, one world, one nation of all colors etc. Only once the Frenchmen heard chants of RO-SSI-YA RO-SSI-YA when things moved toward the final. In the us versus them dichotomy that gurgled up, they were the outsiders, the same Negroes as any Lumumba student.

Moscow Porto-Toilet 017

Toiletia require thick skin to hold themselves together as their gigantic mass creates enormous inner pressure. But despite its thickness, the skin is a very sensititve system and has a rich battery of sensory receptors. A toilet notices even the smallest insect setting down on him. But skin is not thick throughout. In vulnerable spots like the doorway embouchure, legs and back, the skin can be 2.5 to 3 cms thick while behind the ears, by the eye, on the abdomen, chest and shoulders it is thin as paper.

Of the many difference found between toiletia Moscovia and Podmoscovia, skin structure also sets them apart. Moscovia generally have finer skin than their Podmoscovia relatives. Moscovia typically have colour on their skin, most conspiciously on their ears and forehead. These “white” spots are the contrary of our freckles. In most cases, this depigmentation has a genetic cause. Young toiletia mostly are wholly grey. The first white spots come with  age. Completely white toiletia, albinos, are thought to exist but remain undocumented outside of legends and folktales which consider them holy.

Boobs & Blacks – Malenkaya Vera

africans in russia

Malenkya Vera, Little Vera, or Little Hope is the story of run-of-the-mill teen angst taking vengeance upon the family unit. We are shown the destructiveness of not listening to one’s elders. Rambunctious Vera with her garbled red-herring fancies ruins the lives of her mother, father, brother, and lover husband. She is left with nothing but stark failure and despair as the curtain drops. She has ruined her life as well.

With the benefit of twenty-twenty hindsight, one cannot help but recognize the ulcerous nature of this film. These and other “chernukha”, blackness, films of the era are dots from gastric juices, liver spots, symptomatic of the crumbling superpower. A failure of groupthink on the part of the censors. Or an ocean floor hotspot of Bakhtinian carnivalesque magma.

From this, it follows that Africans in the dormitory, and the small boy seemingly out of nowhere represent simultaneously both the liberation of Soviet society and its upheaval. But how is any of this evidence one way or the other of African identity under colonization in Russia?

First, the dormitory scene. Vera and her new husband Sergei are met with a surprise celebration in the dormitory. While Vera is charmed, Sergei is mortified. Here we must tip our hats to the censors who did not delete the scene, or perhaps even put it in. Remember, the Soviet film industry never ceases to be a machine of propaganda. The reaction of Vera and Sergei is not an artistic statement but a mandate to follow. The audience is being shown the proper way to understand Africans. Like Vera it is acceptable to be amused by their exotic nature. But be skeptical and wary of them like Sergei, they are different, and could be dangerous, keep them at a distance.

The origin of the little black boy, Chistyakova’s brother, goes unexplained in the film. It is never explicitly stated if he is the child of a Russian-African encounter, Africans, or just the Soviet Union.  He seems “Russian” enough and liked, or at least accepted by Vera whom he refers to affectionately as auntie, but the main scene when he sits and watches the Dr. Aibolit cartoon, a sing-song warning children against Africa for fear of crocodiles and gorillas,  is a curiosity. More accurately, a half-baked idea designed to draw attention to itself.

The boy is shown in close-up with food on his face. Is this supposed to show his inferiority, his slovenliness. He is not clean like a pure Russian child? Or do we think of him as just another kid and act on maternal compulsion to wipe off his face. It would be fair to side with the second assertion were he not watching this specific cartoon. He could be watching any number of others but he is not. An African boy is watching a cartoon warning kids not to go to Africa. It’s senseless and mildly absurd. There is no deeper meaning, it’s simply an advertising gimmick. Like minutes earlier when Vera bears her breasts, it is sensational with no intrinsic or artistic value in its own right. The film would not alter in the slightest without this scene.

Africans in Malenkaya Vera are members of an exotic other-world, foreign and alien, “them” not “us”, peculiar beings from outside reality as it is prescribed to be. By promoting their stranger status we are given tacit permission to behave toward them with alternative conventions.

Moscow Porto-Toilet 016

Just like people, toilets come with different temperaments and personalities. Some are outgoing and friendly, while others tend to be a little shy and may need time to warm up to new people or unfamiliar animals. It can become concerning when a toilet is overly shy.  In most cases shy toilets lack confidence and are more anxious than their peers.

Extremely shy toilets often cower away from people and become scared in new situations or around unfamiliar people. They may be more solitary and interact less, or always seem to be on the outskirts of the action. Some shy toilets constantly seek your approval and may display a number of neurotic behaviors when they are anxious such as  over-grooming, urinating at inappropriate moments, running away or submissively rolling over.  Keep in mind that when some animals become very frightened, they can become aggressive. A shy toilet may end up biting a stranger if it feels cornered.

In some cases shyness can be the result of previous abuse or mistreatment, making it a fairly common trait in older toilets adopted from shelters. Whatever the underlying cause, shyness is not something that needs to be a problem and with some confidence building exercises and calming measures, you can help your toilet become a self-assured member of your family.

News Is Culture 2

If I may, I’d like to flesh out the idea of two posts ago. In re-reading I’m not sure it expresses fully the notion I attempted to convey. Hopefully I can contain it here without needing daily updates on one single thought. I’ll begin by recalling my prompt to this conclusion, or if you prefer, presupposition. CNN — it was during the weather segment when all at once everything  appeared extraordinarily American in style and format.

As the programming moved through various segments and special reports. The content remained veiled behind layers of a rhetoric of personal information. The “I”s and “me”s of the what I now want to call the news cast, not the news team, but the news cast in the sense of a crew of television series characters,  gently ate away ate the importance of the content with their assuring nature that we are all unique in our opinions.  The content became irrelevant. What was important was the sense of belonging and unity conveyed created between the TV presenters and extended on invitation to me. “Come along,” they hinted and winked, “share your thoughts. They are just as informed and authoritative as ours.”

So why am I considering this crtically? What’s wrong with being to made to feel part of the group? This is after all the evolving era of particpatory journalism as said int my first post on the topic is it not? The problem as I see it, a phrase I use ironically, for surely as I’m saying it, it’s my opinion. What need is there to clarify. None at all, like there is no need for the news cast to engage in such behaviour. But they can’t help it, whereas I am attempting to point out that this is the problem as I see it.

CNN cannot wrench itself free of presenting objective information couched in a culturally oriented form of transmission no more than Al-jazeera or the BBC. In mass media, the dissassembly of culture from information is likely impossible. Furthermore information in its own right is culture — this being the territory of memes.

Objective news in its ultimate form is digital, pure acultural information manipulted by acultural operators. But could anyone understand that?

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Moscow Porto-Toilet 015

Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence.  God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways.  So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth.  So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out. This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high.  Make a roof for it and finish the ark to within 18 inches of the top. Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks. I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you. You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive. You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them.”

Noah did everything just as God commanded him.

Genna Visages

africans in russia

In The Bush

africans in russia

Is a bum just a bum, regardless of skin color? In Russia no. Homeless blacks are few and far between with problems unique to their group. Getting to the bottom how and why they came to live on the street requires a special dictionary of tact translating fractured mixed-language euphemisms, delicate dreams and confused emotions into an honest account. Keywords repeat with sign and signifier occasionally outwitting each other.  Refugee, bureaucracy, documents, escape, freedom, rights, negro, black, war, UN, slave, job, passport, racism, registration, vodka, rent, bathe, human ………..

Moscow Porto-Toilet 014

It is a common misconception that toiletia moscovius mate solely for reproductive purposes. Beginning with observations from European zoos in the late 1960’s toiletia were noticed to engage in sex for pleasure and a number of other reasons. Sex, it turned out, is key to their social life. Further study both in captivity and in the wild has revealed many interesting facts. When communities of toiletia from different areas of the city meet, the females of each tribe initiate sex with males from the other thus avoiding territorial violence and agression common to similar species. Also in regards to territory and possession, if two toiletia approach a cardboard box thrown into their enclosure, they will briefly mount each other before playing with the box. Such situations lead to squabbles in most other species. But toiletia moscovius are quite tolerant, perhaps because they use sex to divert attention and to diffuse tension. The most curious find is perhaps moscovius’ most typical sexual pattern, undocumented in any other toiletia —  genito-genital rubbing, or GG rubbing, between adult females. Males too may engage in pseudocopulation unique to the species but generally perform a variation. Standing back to back, one male briefly rubs his scrotum against the buttocks of another. Or quite commonly the activity in which two males hang face to face while rubbing their erections together, the practice of so-called penis-fencing.

Genna Meets Tolya

africans in russia

This image, that I like for Genna’s profile, comes from the scene where Genna first meets Tolya. Here the fighters feel each other out in the first round of their bout. As Tolya is significantly older we have a battle of young vs old, or experience vs naivety as well as black vs white, or us vs them. That a child is used as the point of entry into the discussion on racism should not be overlooked. Cuteness is an easy tool for generating sympathy. Like the Russian girls in the film who find Genna adorable, the viewer is encouraged to feel the same. Does it work?

Taking at face value that the film aims to raise awareness of racism in contemporary Russia. A contradiction arises in that Genna’s cuteness precludes him from being a serious subject. While the subject is not trivial, the main character is, and there is less of a compulsion to take racism seriously.

Gagarin’s Grandson – Van Gogh

africans in russia

What can I say, the choice of placing Genna with an artist as adopted parent immediately condemned my appreciation of the film as cliche. Why does Fedya have to be an artist? He could  be anything, truck driver, banker, anyone. By the law of averages he should be some type of engineer, but no. He is a spiritual adviser, a missionary whose artistic calling is meant to uplift Genna by teaching him to cherish the sublime.

In today’s Russia only an artist with creative personality, on the fringe of the mainstream with an outsider’s outlook on life is capable of proper interaction with a black kid. After all suffering is the way to achievement in art. Increasing the the artist’s burden is an even more surefire way to salvation. Is that what we are meant to understand?

Van Gogh who lopped off his ear to a higher cause is an obvious choice for turning Genna the ignorant miscreant into Genna the enlightened. The complex mysterious personality, the suffering, these are things Genna can relate to as an outcast. Genna is not shown a diamond encrusted skull of Damien Hirst, nor a monograph of Turner Prize winners. A false syllogism is being propagated, you who suffer Genna, are an artist such as he, you just haven’t quite understood it until now.

Africans in Soviet and Russian Films

africans in russia

I am going to begin looking at popular perceptions and ideas about Africa contained in Soviet-era and modern Russian films.  I will post TV screen photographs and my commentary on what I find important, or what it seems the filmmaker thought was important.

This is image is from Gagarin’s Grandson. In addition I plan post images and analysis from Maximka, Circus, Little Vera, Fifteen-Year-Old Captain, Little Red Devils if I can find a copy, and anything else that gets uncovered in the process.

Moscow Porto-Toilet 013

The City Wildlife Conservation Commission’s web site notes that only six of Moscow’s 44 toiletia species are venomous. Most toiletia are harmless, beneficial and remove extra rodent populations. Even the venomous species are not particularly dangerous, unless stepped on or otherwise provoked. The commission warns residents to pay special attention during sprintime when toiletia are apt to crawl out from under bushes to sun themselves after the long winter.

News Is Culture

News is culture. It seems so obvious. Has it been stated like that before? News is a cultural phenomenon. So is media. News media is culture. This is what the rise in participatory journalism is teaching us. A nation’s news is like its cuisine or literature. People are raised with sets of beliefs about their homeland, a “Small but Mighty Nation”, or the “Land of Kings”, or the “Greatest Country in the World”.

A nation has a mandate, a character, a set of goals, a place in the world, a dream, an idea, a conception of self, an identity. News media utilizes national character to structure its communication. Information must be conveyed in the terms and methods the audience understands.

This underlies the basic problem surrounding debates over its objectivity. It is not the case that news reporting cannot be objective because every individual has a personality with opinions that get in the way. But because news is inherently framed within cultural contexts and modes of representation. The individual is not the problem. That’s the wrong debate. News is simply culture. And journalism is culture too.

Topol-M Intercontinental Ballistic Missile

africans in russia

A Russian Topol-M ICBM drives down Moscow’s central avenue Ulitsa Tverskaya in preparation for the May 9 Victory Day parade celebrating the end of WII. This picture is really about three guys enjoying looking at an awesome piece of military hardware. I’m hard pressed to find the Africans in Russia angle beyond the actual fact.

African-Type Dolls

africans in russia

These hand crafted doll sculptures by Inga Butina (site seems to be inoperative) were recently for sale as objects of art at the Moscow Fine Art Fair in the Central House of Artists. From the artist’s statement:

“Hard times penetrate the soul with the sounds of African ethnicity.  Truth stiflingly weeps tears of  timelessness,  covered by the slime of a city indifferent to life, drowned in lamp-light and the wild dancing of black and white thoughts on vitality. And in the mixed song, the sky sings of childhood and the sensitivity hidden in the utmost feminine origins of boys’ creations in your name and image, that look upon the creations of the world.”

Details »

Speculating on the Career Path of the English Language

The Roman Empire lasted two thousand years expanding like the blob, absorbing everything it met along its path and covering a vast expanse of the world but today no one speaks Latin. Is this to be the fate of English as well, as America continues its charitable tradition of international freedom giving?

The parallels between Rome and America are numerous. Romans took much from the Greeks and made it their own. America has borrowed much from the British. Rome under Julius Caesar slashed through the clans and tribes of Europe while in America, settlers, pioneers and gold-rushers trampling to its west coast showed no restraint in rubbing out a few pesky Native-Americans.

The might of the most advanced military technology of the day, cultural ubiquity and rule through proxy states are all corresponding points. And while the government of The United States of America hasn’t yet signed the “Former President Deification Act” into law, the idea exists all the same.

Language spread was another facet of the classical hegemony, as it is of today’s. The Roman Empire eventually collapsed, and following the death of the last native Latin speaker, the language died. But it left behind a large stock of written material, poetry, philosophy, law et al. Latin continues to flourish in the Roman Catholic Church, it is broadcast over the airwaves in Finland. It is the language for mottos of institutions of all types and is actively used in various applications such as law, medicine, mathematics and the sciences, most obviously in classification.

In some time, the fall of the American empire will remove the necessity to retain English as a lingua franca. What will happen then? It could evolve into independent variations of its current state with Australian, Canadian, American, South African, English, Indian, Singaporean, Ghanaian and Caribbean all becoming mutually unintelligible “Englishes” and likewise just as distinct from the English of today, what perhaps will be called “Twenty-first Century English” — bearing in mind this is just one of the numerous possible fates of English. Evolution would include syntactical morphological, semantic, phonetic and lexical change. The degree and direction of change in each of these aspects varying between the Englishes and will determine their color and character.

Twenty-first Century English will leave behind a legacy of books, films and other materials much greater and more complex than Latin, as well as a fantastic set of in-depth linguistic analyses of itself.
Twenty-first Century English probably will not replace Latin in its current modes of usage. But rather, like Latin, it will be part of the linguistic fabric of the future holding up in various niches resistant to all socio-cultural-linguistic cleaning agents and posses that may inquire about its whereabouts.

One can postulate, like the Vatican, an independent, or annexed under special status, republic of Texas where Twenty-first Century English is still spoken. A new pontificate with headgear no less unusual spreads his message to the faithful.

However, it seems fair to expect English to linger in the places where it is most prominent: business, advertising, public relations, strategic communications and information communication technology for example. That is, the spheres of activity that have developed in this language and are the particular property of Twenty-first Century English will retain certain terminology regardless of what course the language takes. Specialized terms like: venture funds, EBITDA, CAGR, pink sheets and Bermuda swaption will remain in place, as will: email, upgrade, and download. Words like these will not follow the general drift of the language.

And what about the “classicization” of Latin? It is widely considered to be a fundamental necessity for a proper Western mind. Certainly Twenty-first Century English will be regarded with a historical respect for antiquity. There will be a standard distribution of opinions but in general the attitude towards it will be based upon the general attitude toward the areas in which it is retained, that is if advertising, information communication technology and these areas are regarded with respect, then Twenty-first Century English will be respected as well. If these areas are disdained as attributes of a fractured society, then English will be regarded likewise. Much will depend on the values of the day.

English today is truly a global language and its growth shows no sign of slowing as U.S. territorial expansion continues. While its death may seem less probable than winning the lottery while being struck by lightning, unquestionably, it will transform and in two thousand years will not be the language it is today. Come what may, we can rest assured that the next Cogito Ergo Sum will sound quite different.

Africans in Russia

africans in russia

Hello world! Welcome to the first ever post on the Asylum in Bardak blog. Check here for photo and story updates from an ongoing documentary project about the lives of Africans in Russia.

Moscow Porto-Toilet 012

moscow porto-toilet

Many species, including ploshchad toilets, feed during both day and night, yet little is known about how this affects behavior and habitat preferences. Okhotny-Ryad Goldens and Revolutsia Lapdoors feeding on arable land were more widely dispersed at night: nocturnal flocks were smaller, typically monospecific, and occurred in many more locations than diurnal mixed-species flocks.

The Feminine Mystique

eckels fashion

Against The Day


“See every photographic subject moves,” Roswell explained, “even if it’s standing still. It breathes, light bounces off, something. Snapping a photograph is like what the math professors call ‘differentiating’ an equation of motion—freezing that moment into the very small piece of time it takes the shutter to open and close.  So we figured—if shooting a photo is like taking a first derivative, then maybe we could find some way to to do the reverse of that, start with the still photo and integrate it, recover its complete primative and release it back into action… even back into life…”

Thomas Pynchon

Moscow Porto-Toilet 011

moscow porto-toilet

Toiletia, like most creatures, are not immune from unwanted invaders. The principal parasite of toiletia moscovius is pianazhopus, a pale sometimes green four-limbed chigger which enters the animal through an available orifice and comes to reside in the lining and gastric glands of the abomasum (the true stomach).

Pianazhopus pollute the lining or mucosa, cause irritation and interfere with the digestive function of the stomach causing it to swell excessively with sediment buildup. Symptoms included unnatural rapid weight gain, damaged hide, malodorousness, poor appetite, and sluggish behavior.

Since parasites are found in almost all forage situations, toiletia are likely ingesting pianazhopus at any common grazing or nesting location. A strategic prophylactic regiment is recommended every spring when pianazhopus numbers increase after a winter of dormancy.


yemeni camel

The long shutter speed seemed appropriate to the cud chewer. It’s the shutter speed of drawl. Imagine shutter speeds regulated to a body function — pulse for example. In order to expose properly a photographer would have to be a meditation master raising and diminishing his pulse rate to meet with appropriate conditions. Working at night in a combat zone for example could be very tricky as one would have to maintain a long exposure confounded by pounding adrenalin.

Moscow Porto-Toilet 010

moscow porto-toilet

Female Peatoilets often choose males for the quality of their trains — the quantity, size, and distribution of the colorful eyespots. Experiments show that offspring of males with more eyespots are bigger at birth and better at surviving in the wild than offspring of birds with fewer eyespots.

But bigger is only better up to a point. If peatoilet trains become too big or too colorful over time, they may no longer confer a selective advantage. Exaggerated trains might attract a new kind of predator or become too heavy to carry around. Then, those super males die out and make room for the more ordinary males — until another turn of the evolutionary wheel begins the cycle again.

Western Wind

painted woman

Western wind, when will thou blow,
The small rain down can rain?
Christ, if my love were in my arms
And I in my bed again!

Moscow Porto-Toilet 009

moscow porto-toilet

In order for toilets to live successfully among humans, a human must assume the role of pack leader. Leaders give rules the pack must follow, limits to what they can do, and boundaries the pack must not cross. This social structure makes the toilet feel safe and secure. In the wild, pack leaders do not give affection to the lower members. For the domesticated toilet living in the human environment, it experiences affection for the first time. Affection is not a natural part of a toilet’s world. It is something humans have introduced to the animal. Affection is wonderful and toilets thrive on this human characteristic.

Moscow Porto-Toilet 008

moscow porto-toilet

Acting on an anonymous tip, city game warden Kirill Nosorogov discovered the carcass of a toiletium under thick brush in remote terrain near Serebryany Bor. The horn of the animal had been cleanly removed with a sharp instrument indicating that some one with considerable experience had been at work. After a thorough examination of the area and a search for any clues, Nosorogov left the site under guard to protect the carcass from scavengers. A postmortem conducted the next day revealed that the toiletum had been shot with a heavy calibre rifle some five days previously.

Moscow Porto-Toilet 007

moscow porto-toilet

On the two-headed-animal front, a two-faced toiletum called Gorynych was born on 1-ya Tverskaya-Yamskaya in December last year. Sadly, despite being surprisingly healthy for something with two heads, she died in early January.

Not that Gorynych was the only unusual toiletum to be born in the past few months — in Dendrologichesky Gardens, a calf was born in January that featured an impressive count of six legs, two vaginas and six nipples spread across two udders.

Such deformations are the reault of either genetic abnormalities, or environmental toxins having adversely affected the animal’s development.

Moscow Porto-Toilet 006

moscow porto-toilet

Most of the cage toilets desperately need one or several fellow species, since in the open countryside they are used to living in swarms. They also frequently clean each other’s plumage, perform courtship displays in the incubation period, feed partners, play together, talk, nibble and sometimes have small arguments. There are toilet species who are almost inseparable. Single animal ownership is srongly discouraged!

Yemeni Maiden

yemen woman

Gentlefooted crowds are treading out your lullaby.
Their arms nudge, they brush shoulders,
hitch this way then that, mass and surge at the crossings–
lullaby, lullaby! The wild-fowl police whistles,
the enraged roar of the traffic, machine shrieks:
it is all to put you to sleep,
to soften your limbs in relaxed postures,
and that your head slip sidewise, and your hair loosen
and fall over your eyes and over your mouth,
brushing your lips wistfully that you may dream,
sleep and dream–

William Carlos Williams

Moscow Porto-Toilet 004

moscow porto-toilet

“We’ll win this war, but we’ll win it only by fighting and by showing the Germans that we’ve got more guts than they have; or ever will have. We’re not going to just shoot the sons-of-bitches, we’re going to rip out their living Goddamned guts and use them to grease the treads of our tanks. We’re going to murder those lousy Hun cocksuckers by the bushel-fucking-basket. War is a bloody, killing business. You’ve got to spill their blood, or they will spill yours. Rip them up the belly. Shoot them in the guts. When shells are hitting all around you and you wipe the dirt off your face and realize that instead of dirt it’s the blood and guts of what once was your best friend beside you, you’ll know what to do!”

George S. Patton

Moscow Porto-Toilet 003

moscow porto-toilet

“The reward … is sweet nectar. But if an insect comes to collect it and strays into the mouth of the trumpet — then it’s doomed. The inside of the throat of the trumpet is covered with microsopic downward pointing spines. As long as it stays on the rim, the ant is all right but if it strays off it, it falls into a pond of water and drowns. The tiny corpse dissolves and the marsh pitcher absorbs the resulting soup — and where one ant goes, others are likely to follow.”

David Attenborough

Moscow Porto-Toilet 002

moscow porto-toilet

“The villagers were absolutely hypnotised by all these wonderful magic images flashing over her wrist. They had only ever seen one spaceship crash, and it had been so frightening, violent and shocking and had caused so much horrible devastation, fire and death that, stupidly, they had never realised it was entertainment.”

Douglas Adams

Moscow Porto-Toilet 001

moscow porto-toilet

“Until five o’clock we did not see anything. Then, without the glasses, I saw something moving over the shoulder of one of the valleys toward a strip of the timber. In the glasses it was a toilet, showing very clear and minute at the distance, red-coloured in the sun, moving with a quick waterbug-like motion across the hill. Then there were three more of them that came out of the forest, dark in the shadow, and two that fought, tinily, in the glasses, pushing head-on, fighting in front of a clump of bushes while we watched them and the light failed. It was too dark to get down the hill, across the valley and up the narrow slope of mountain side to them in time for a shot. So we went back to the camp, down the hill in the dark, edging down on our shoes and then feeling the trail smooth under foot, walking along that deep trail, that wound through the dark hills, until we saw the firelight in the trees.”

My apologies to Ernest Hemingway.

Moscow Porto-Toilet 000

moscow porto-toilet

Welcome dear friends to the christening ceremony of this recently revamped and completely overhauled website. A new site with a new look demands new content. Voila! The Porto-toilets of Moscow! What could be more appropriate? Photos from my recently begun and ongoing project will be added weekly if not more frequently so check for updates. And just exactly what am I talking about….?

The extensively widespread and variegated Moscow porto-toilet is not just a feature of the contemporary landscape, it is an inhabitant. It is a creature, a member of the urban biosphere. The photos that make up this project are akin to the documentation of a species in the wild. In this activity I am photographer, biologist and naturalist.

A Turn To Magritte

not a photograph

Why not? It was made with a camera, It could certainly pass for one. Is it not a photograph because it’s digital? Because it’s zeros and ones? No. Isn’t it a moment? Well yes, but only by default. It’s not because of the words written on it either. And it has nothing to do with reality versus representation. The simple reason is that it relies on nothing that is exclusively photographic. The same effect could be achieved with scissors, glue and three pieces of colored paper.

Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see.” — Rene Magritte


black in russia

They that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same. By the blast of God they perish, and by the breath of his nostrils are they consumed.

[Job 4:8-9]

In Search of Lost Time

old man

I find myself wanting to give the picture this name despite having never read the book and not knowing what it is about. Perhaps the man in the picture has read it? Perhaps the title of the book has come to have its own meaning in itself? It has separated itself from its contents. Somewhat like Catch-22. This is neither a nostalgic nor a historical photo. Nor is it a memory, nor a face from the past. It is a memory yet to come.

On Photography

fashion model

This photograph could have been taken by anyone. So could any other photo. There is nothing special in the fact that you or I or Phil took the picture. Photographs like ideas simply exist around us, floating in the aether, waiting to be appropriated. This is why Newton and Leibniz simultaneously invented calculus. And for this reason pictures taken by me are not mine. Nor are the ones you take yours. My responsibility for their creation is secondary. They’re still out there for someone else if I don’t take them — for anyone else.



Things change rapidly they do. Believe it. Here’s the latest incarnation of my site currently being revamped. Hope the photo holds you over for now. Mike.