Moscow Rocks!

Richard Hume

Rock’n’roll is alive and kickin’ in Russia ! Moscow, Russia is one of the fastest growing rock ‘n’ roll scenes in the world. Like China and India in the global economy, it’s one of the biggest growth ‘economies’ in world r’n’r !

The clientele are mainly younger people. Russia has much fewer older rockers going back to the 50s or the UK Revival period of the 70s: The Communist Party and the history of the Soviet Union didn’t encourage such capitalist culture, although r’n’r developed here as elsewhere. I left the UK to live and work in Russia in 2004. The contrast that immediately struck me most between the rock’n’roll in the 2 countries was the different generations who follow the great music. Here in Russia younger people are joining and staying with it.

The best bands here in Russia are not just cheap imitations of the Western sound—they have their own style and stand up in comparison with all but the elite bands in the West. The quality of the best groups here is excellent. See what I mean by checking out the following great Russian Bands on www.youtube.com (in the youtube search engine box add “Moscow” after each band’s name): CORAL REEFS – GREAT PRETENDERS – VLADIMIR PANKRATOV AND REAL HOT BBQ – BEAT DEVILS – ALLIGATORS – RAW CATS – LEX AND TEAM – HIGH TONES – GAGARIN BROTHERS

The photos accompanying this article were taken at a High Tones concert at the Esse Jazz Cafe in November. The High Tones are a great example of a Russian group which can compete with the best Western bands, in terms of quality. They play red hot rockabilly—smokin’ !

I know all the above bands personally. As a lifelong Teddy Boy, I’ve been active on the rock’n’roll scene in Moscow since I arrived here. At some of the groups’ concerts, such as the Coral Reefs (best jive and swing band in Russia and Eastern Europe), I run free jive dance master classes for beginners. Jive is the ultimate rock’n’roll dance, a partner dance with a great history.

“What’s a Teddy Boy ?” I hear some of you ask. The answer is, “it’s a long story” ! Descriptions vary from ‘the original youth culture rebels’ (which is true) to ‘the first juvenile delinquents’ (which is a bit unfair !). Let’s just say the Teddy Boy movement is one of the most iconic in rock’n’roll culture.

Some venues in Moscow, for example the Esse Jazz Cafe, the Glastonbury Pub, Club Live, Club Nautilus and the Ocean Club, hold r’n’r events on a regular basis. Other clubs and venues also organise such concerts every now and then.

Big name rock’n’roll bands from the West do come to Moscow to perform. The last 3 such concerts I was personally involved in, from the point of view of helping to sponsor and organise the events, involved top bands from the UK and Germany. They were:

– Black Raven from Germany, the country’s number one Teddy Boy band

– The Jive Aces, the most famous jive and swing band in the UK

– Furious, from Liverpool, the World’s top Teddy Boy group.

All 3 groups put on unforgettable shows in Moscow.

If you’d like to experience Russian rock’n’roll by going to see a live band perform, or maybe be very brave (!) and have a go at learning to dance the jive at a free class, you can contact me at [email protected] or via my web-site at www.coopjive.co.uk

So hail Russian rock’n’roll, an important member of the World’s r’n’r family!

Finally, a totally unrelated rock’n’roll joke, dedicated to a band that allegedly did rock’n’roll no favours –

Q: What were the worst words ever said in rock’n’roll ?

A: How about we let Ringo sing one.

Artificial Intelligence? What is the Meaning of Life?

John Harrison

According to Siri:
– I don’t know. But I think there’s an app for that.

What is the purpose of demonstrations?

– I can’t answer that right now, but give me some very long time to write a play in which nothing happens.

(from www.sirifunny.com)

Recent advances in computer and neurosciences seem to indicate that a major breakthrough could be made in the coming decade in the field of enabling machines to think. At least that is what the boffins tell us, but not everybody agrees. Some advocate that thought is based on experience: “No man’s knowledge here can go beyond his experience.” — John Locke. Others think that consciousness and thought exists within the realms of behaviourism, and can be learnt: “The real question is not whether machines think but whether men do.” — B. F. Skinner.

In a recent radio programme on the subject of artificial intelligence broadcast by Voice of Russia, Professor Barkovsky, Doctor of Physics and Mathematics, head of the Neuroinformatics Center of Optical Neural Technologies Research Institute for System Analysis in the Russian Academy of Sciences maintained that, although we do not know how the brain works, theoretically it is possible to create artificial intelligence in a machine. Dr. Bishop, Professor of Cognitive Computing at Goldsmiths, University of London, said that he is very doubtful whether we will ever create a machine that can genuinely understand, let alone a computer-controlled robot that would ever be conscious.

Professor Bishop referred to four papers: “I am looking at the work of the American philosopher, Hubert Dreyfus, who published a book in 1972 called ‘What Computers Can’t Do.’ He identified two main problems; one is the ‘frame’ problem, that is how to identify what is important about a problem without doing an exhaustive search, and the other is implementing common sense and reasoning. His critique was based on the work of Martin Heidegger. In 1980, the philosopher, John Searle, published an article called ‘The Chinese Room Argument,’ whereby a person in a room in which there are boxes of Chinese characters is unable to understand anything because he has no way of referring to the real experience that the characters should represent. In 1990 the Oxford mathematician, Robert Penrose, put new life into an argument by the 1960s philosopher, John Lucas, that there are certain aspects of mathematical understanding that we ourselves do not understand.” Professor Bishop himself published a paper in 2002 called ‘Dancing With Pixies,’ where he tried to show that if a computer instantiates consciousness as it executes a computer programme, then consciousness is to be found everywhere, and therefore the argument is a straw man. Professor Barkovsky accused professor Bishop of being a mathematician and therefore not being able to perceive the bigger picture.

Professor Barkovsky has a team about to undertake a programme in ‘brain reversal,’ (something like reverse engineering) under the ‘2045’ project to build a holographic avatar of a human being that can continue to live after the person who it is modelled after has died. He argues that the whole issue of whether machines have consciousness or not is beside the point, but that teaching computers to understand humans is the key. Unfortunately, as professor Barkovsky himself admits, “no computers exist right now which are able to understand humans, but we hope, within ten years to solve this problem.” Professor Bishop pointed out that in 1950 the British mathematician, Alan Turin, published a paper called ‘Computing Machinery and Intelligence.’ In that paper he outlined the ‘Turin Test’ for machine intelligence, whereby a machine is deemed intelligent if the general educated opinion is able to talk of machine thinking without fear of contradiction. Turin predicted that by the year 2000 that would have happened. We are still waiting. Professor Barkovsky claimed that serious steps have already been taken, such as the IBM ‘Watson’ artificial intelligence programme, but even here it is clear that, although Watson has been able to beat Brad Rutter, the all-time winner on the American quiz show Jeopardy, nobody would say that Watson is capable of thought, something that Hubert Dreyfus would have found difficult to believe in the 1970s.

As computing power increases, computer programmes such as Watson and Siri are able to create answers to questions by searching through their data bases, and create the impression that they are doing something intelligent, but still nobody can say that an iPhone can think. This kind of computer power has useful implications for robotics, something that governments the world over are very aware of. Defense and robotics are enjoying a love affair. Projects like the US ‘The Big Dog’ project, which has to be seen (on YouTube), to be believed, are to continue. The Honda Asimo Android project is big in Japan and robotics is in vogue. But what is missing, as Professor Bishop points out, is the artificial technology controlling function, “which everybody thought would be really easy in the 1950s and 1960s.” From this point of view, the ‘2045’ project is reminiscent of bad science fiction stories, and is predicated first and foremost on the creation of a computer programme that will bring forth consciousness. “It might seem, when you are in a forest that to climb up a tree is a good idea if you want to get to the moon. But that involved a totally different technology. It seems to me we need a new approach, such as that coming from new cognitive science, in particular the ‘embodied enactive’ approach that is coming forward from modern European philosophy.” In the meantime, we can wait for the next app.

 

Konstantin Alekseevich Korovin, 1861-1939

Peter Hainsworth

I went to see the Korovin exhibition in the New Tretyakovsky Gallery in Moscow in early August, having been told that this was a must-see and it was about to close. Although I got there at 11am, early for Moscow weekday gallery visiting, there was a long queue and the vast exhibition space was already packed out, which I suppose says something about both the quality of this artist’s work and the continual empathy for representation painting in Russia. I couldn’t stand all the people in the exhibition space that morning, because I feel that looking at paintings is something intimate. So I came back the next day at the exhibition’s opening time, at 10am. At 10am the next day the hall was already crowded. The thought crossed me that people hadn’t come to see this artist because he is well known, or because he occupies a certain place in the history of Art, they come because they actually like his paintings.

According to the blurb on the Korovin’s life at the entrance to the exhibition, Konstantin Aekseevich was one of the most successful Russian painters at the end of the 19th and century and beginning of the 20th century. A contemporary of the cannons of pre-revolutionary Russian painting: V. Serov, I. Levitan, M. Nesterova, M. Vrubel, he is heralded to be Russia’s very own impressionist, although I found his work to be a bit of everything, including impressionism, early modernism neo-romanticism, and fauvism, but playing intellectual labelling games is sometimes boring. The paintings have that certain tactile quality about them which Russian painters never abandoned. They remind me of Whistler, of Bonnard, of… You want to look at the same painting again and again. He expressed himself in just about every visual medium there was in his day. There are paintings, drawings, theatrical decorations, ‘monumental art.’ He excelled in all of these formats. His work has that delicious acceptable wildness present in impressionist art and at the same time they ooze Russianness. After emigrating to Paris at an advanced age, he concentrated on whole series of Parisian paintings, including night scenes, which are painted in a loose, emotional way, and which I found particularly. Then he started publishing memoirs and biographies and in this he is unashamedly multi-talented.

MeL thanks the Tretyakov New Gallery for the reproductions used in this article.

Moscow Nights

An exhibition opened in October called ‘Moscow Nights’ by a Brit artist; John Harrison (www.johnharrisonart.net), at the Petrovka Art Studio and Gallery, 26, Petrovka Street, Bldg 5, apt 102. This is a series of paintings which attempt to describe the feeling of being in Moscow at night. Exhibition can be viewed until December the 15th. Please call The Petrovka Gallery: +7 963 612 6096

What to look for in a Financial Advisor

Andrew Bartlett

In my years of experience within the Financial Services industry, both in Russia and South East Asia I have come across more cases of clients being miss-sold a financial product, by a supposedly ‘professional’ advisor, than I care to think about. Of course, in any industry you get both good and bad service and advice, but it seems that my chosen profession attracts more than its fair share!

The situation is worse in areas which have little or no regulation of this industry, and unfortunately Russia falls into this category, so how can an individual protect themselves from unscrupulous salesmen and the ‘advice’ they give?

In this series of articles, I will try to give some advice on what to look for before you accept any advice from a Financial Advisor, and this article will focus on the first stages: choosing and then meeting your financial advisor for the first time.

My first piece of advice is ‘Ask around!’ Have any of your friends, colleagues or associates had any experience with the company or individual you are thinking of dealing with? Does the advisor have any clients who will provide a reputable and credible reference? If so, use them and ask what service they have received (but remember an advisor will never give the name of somebody who has had a bad experience or is unlikely to give anything other than a positive reference!).

Secondly, do you own research. Look at the company website and Google the name of the company or the advisor. There are any number of Expatriate Forums which often posts questions or comments about this very subject. Care must be taken to ensure you are not just reading comments from a disgruntled employee or somebody simply holding a grudge, but you should quickly see if there is anything of concern.

Once you feel comfortable that the company and individual is worth speaking to, ask to see their qualifications. Most reputable advisors will offer this for you during a first meeting anyway, but if not it is quite natural for you to ask to see them. Don’t assume that because an individual works for a large or well-known company that they hold any professional qualifications to be a Financial Advisor!

Where my company is based (Malaysia), the regulator stringently monitors and checks advisors qualifications, and their Continuous Professional Development (CPD), before they will issue or renewalicense to practice. A list of all qualified advisors is then published online for anybody to check.

Unfortunately, there is nothing like this in Russia and literally anybody can profess to be a Financial Advisor regardless of whether or not they hold any professional qualifications or have any prior experience (or even training)! During a first meeting with your advisor, you should be comfortable that he or she is actually conducting a full ‘fact find’ on your individual situation and needs. Be wary of any advisor who starts trying to sell any products at this stage! Apart from the hard facts (age, family situation etc.), your advisor should understand your tolerance for risk, currency considerations (now and in the future), your liquidity needs, investment goals.

Once the advisor has conducted his fact find, he should then prepare a full written summary of your discussions, along with his initial recommendation. My next article will focus on the fact find and the following stages of the advice process.

If you have any questions for me or would like some specific advice, please feel free to email me at [email protected].

Maria’s Children, Art Rehabilitation Center

Maria Yeliseyeva, Director Maria’s Children

We are a public organization, founded in Moscow in 1997. We work with orphans and children with special needs, trying to close the chasm between children raised in families and those in state institutions. We want to help these children develop their creative abilities, choose a profession, gain everyday life skills, cultivate kindness, and instill in them a desire to help others. We aspire to work on the problems these children face with mainstream public life, bringing to light the obstacles and social hurdles that they face.

In our studio, children participate in art activities such as painting, ceramics, sewing and other crafts. We play at clowns and theatre games. The children also have lessons in foreign languages, music, cooking, and the chance to see a social teacher and psychologist. Every winter and summer we run an adaptive art camp outside of Moscow, where children gain life skills and understand what it means to be part of a family. We work with children in Beslan; taking our master-class, workshops and performances to them, and bringing Beslan children to our camp programs. Art works created by our children have been included in many exhibitions in Russia and abroad; bringing public recognition to young artists and attracting attention to our work.

If what we do stirs something inside of you, and you would like to help us somehow, please don’t ignore that feeling!! We depend so much on financial donations and support from people.
Please visit our web-site: www.mariaschildren.ru or call +7 495 692-4870

Olga Golovkina

What is your role in Moscow’s social scene?

I am quite involved in all kinds of international social and business events in Moscow because I really like the international spirit and meeting people from all over the world. I lived for many years in France where I met many people from everywhere and it was there that I think I became an international person!

In 2011 I decided to organize occasional international after-work networking parties on the French theme in Moscow. At first my events were planned exclusively for the French community. They eventually became quite popular and appreciated by all the expat community and Russians!

My parties on the French theme are first of all for Moscow’s French-speaking community but not only: these are very good occasions for all cool international people and Russians in Moscow to have a nice evening, have fun and meet great people for business networking or for friendship! French-style parties usually take place in different bars and restaurants where I know the owners and where we are able to propose an open bar menu with food and drinks and a party atmosphere all inclusive!

If you have just arrived to Moscow you have a lot of things to discover here and it will be a very new experience in terms of Russian culture, the way of doing business, the mentality etc… I really hope that you are able to keep an open mind and get to spend time not only with your colleagues and compatriots but branch out and try to really discover the Russian way of living!

And of course come to my parties to socialize and have fun! Feel free to invite your friends/colleagues to join these events by sending me a mail on: [email protected] . I will put you on my mailing list. If you speak French, I invite you to join our Facebook group: Les Francophones a Moscou. We are already 1300 members strong!

Elena Berdichevski

What is your role in Moscow’s social scene?

I am a born and raised Muscovite. Plus I am a journalist and an event producer. My role in life is to do good to people in Moscow or anywhere else I go.

I like to entertain. So, I guess, entertaining people and sharing with them what I know about Moscow’s cultural and party scene is my role.

From the business point of view, I help venues get recognized and become more lucrative.

What is your target audience?

When I started my events three and a half years ago, they were mainly for expat guys and Russian girls. This became boring and banal pretty fast. So now we are a good mix of Russian and foreign yuppies of all shapes and forms, a healthy metropolitan mix of young active successful guys and girls who are craving new experiences in life.

In your opinion what are the greatest challenges facing expats in Moscow?

This is a tricky question. I would like to be diplomatic about it but if you look at the big picture; there are 3 categories of expats with their own problems: single men, single women and families. Single expat men: will never be able to make as much money as some of their Russian pals; buy a Bentley and a big house on Lake Como. They despise this. Single expat women: will never look like some of their Russian girlfriends—they suffer from a lack of romance and sex. Expat families: just can’t understand the algorithm of Moscow’s everyday life starting with crazy traffic, insane prices, rude people, zero service, dirt and smoke, ending with visa problems, skinny secretaries walking around in skimpy clothes in their husbands’ offices, sealing deals at the Banya, and “you never know what happens next” type of thing. But that’s the beauty of Moscow—you hate it and you love it, you never know what will happen next!

Don Craig

What is your role in Moscow’s social scene?

I like to find interesting places that have the potential to make expats and Russians feel at home. I help develop them by generating a good atmosphere by providing good service along with good value. In my eyes, my role is to look from the outside in and bring a consumer’s perspective to a project in order to provide a better understanding of what people are looking for, and honestly that is not an easy task. You have to dedicate yourself to taking that extra step, listen to what people are saying and act on it.

What is your target audience?

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Honestly, anyone that is looking for a good time. My audience is looking for everything from sports, good music, and those much needed places where you can have a great meal in a relaxing atmosphere. Primarily that is why I like having multiple venues to promote; it’s a great pleasure to be able to work with so many places because everyone has different tastes and preferences regarding their favourite type of venue.

In your opinion what are the greatest challenges facing expats in Moscow?

Still the language, but this is not as bad as it used to be. For tourists I highly recommend a visit. There is so much history and culture revolving around one of the world’s largest cities, it truly has a style of its own. For the expat working class there are the issues of work permits and visas, but other than that I think Moscow has and is evolving into an even greater city than it has ever been.

Chris Helmbrecht

What is your target audience?

My target audiences are different. We have events (XING) with middle class managers (50/50 Russian/Foreigners). We also run high class events for a smaller selected audience in the city’s top venues, likeSo-Ho Rooms, Krysha Mira or GQ Bar. Besides all that, we do ‘open for everyone’ parties, which are just pure fun

What is your role in Moscow’s social scene?

I’m German and been living in Moscow for 9 years. Since the beginning I have been organizing business network events and also parties for the last 6 years. Today we are running various monthly events, like the bi-weekly XING meeting, the monthly ASMALLWORLD Soiree and our own weekly parties with We Party! We have a following of about 5000 people, plus the reach through social networks

In your opinion what are the greatest challenges facing expats in Moscow?

When you come to Moscow for the first time you are filled with stereotypes and horror stories about Russia and Russians. Most of itis not true. Moscow looks European, is geographically in Europe and the people look European. Having said that, the business culture is pretty different. Let me put it like this. Living here and running a business is OK at first, despite of the bureaucracy. Then you run full force against an invisible wall and you’re lying on the ground with some broken bones. There are only two choices. Give up or get up and dust off. Slowly you’ll recover and you keep running again, until you hit the next unexpected invisible wall. You learn to expect these walls and how to deal with the problems, but they tend to never go away. Anytime your business is running well and you feel it’s going well, you most certainly hit the next wall.