Snow Dogs

Current music: Euphoria - Silence in everywhere

Director: Brian Levant
Year: 2002
Country: Canada, USA

Snow Dogs

Imagine a man, who inherited and improved a business. A man who rides a luxurious roadster and walks through the beach where beautiful girls look favorably at him because he is young and his face is known to everybody in one of the best resort spots in the world. Now try to think about what could motivate that man to act? Of course, it will be some intriguing secret and curiosity it brings. Just like that, a weird letter pulls that Mr. Success out of hot Miami to travel to the tiny place in Alaska he never before knew existed.

The trailer presents Snow Dogs as a comedy. However, it’s mostly of the very basic sort. It presents everlasting classics of physical comedy like falling, running into things, getting hit and bruised. Rich facial expressions by Cuba Gooding Jr. come in handy here. Instead of a banana peel as a way to produce a smile you get ice, lots of it everywhere the action turns. It’s straightforward but effective, especially if you are in the right mood. The storyline too is as direct as a fence picket. 95% of the time the main character is on the screen. The whole world orbits him. He takes part in every event. There really are no side stories. When that southern conqueror of polar snows walks away all other people left behind stand still and wait for him to return like do NPCs in your standard open world video game.

Snow Dogs 2002 movie snapshot Snow Dogs 2002 movie snapshot
Disney’s company wouldn’t be itself without grinding all the sharp bits of the final product with the rasp of internal censorship. There are no double meanings; everything is correct and positive to the absolute. For example, a single kiss can only be of the chastest kind and it’s saved for the moment of parting. The rest of the time the max the main persona of the story can do in search of his new life is an innocent hug that looks the same with the girlfriend and with the mother. Second and the last kiss was saved for the wedding ceremony. The old cliché of cinematographic modesty that was perfectly formulated as wedding gown-montage-baby had found a use here twice in order to create a mandatory happy end. I imagine puritanical Disney was expecting that even those who became too tolerant to such a routine emotional squeezing could feel the effect. It uses the same mechanics as a chorus in an earworm pop song on a radio hoping one of the repetitions will get stuck in the head.

All that together resulted in the kids movie without a single child character in it. The theme of differences between the genetic parenthood and the legal status of a parent isn’t the most common for the younger part of the audience. Also, the impulse of a fully grown adult person to change his own life bears no resemblance to the usual stories of searching a way for oneself from the beginning of life’s coordinate grid to becoming somebody. However, the moralizing conclusions in the manner of Kyle Broflovski from the earlier seasons couldn’t be avoided.

In Snow Dogs all problems are solvable, every goal is achievable and everybody can do anything he or she truly desires. All it takes is just the courage to try. In worst-case scenario to try once more, then it’s guaranteed. Everyone has enough money, so people choose occupations and places to live according to their interests and callings. There is nobody who would even vaguely resemble a bad guy type. Even the difficulties serve not as a way to overshadow the generic happiness but as a mean to prolong the exciting adventures. To put it short, this fairly-tale is more sugary than Shrek sequels.

Snow Dogs 2002 movie snapshot Snow Dogs 2002 movie snapshot
So to hell with realism, obviously nobody was going for it in Snow Dogs even if we assume somewhere in the world exist live broadcasts of dog sled racing on national television with hype, tourism, and promotional contracts with the big corporations. All damage done to the bodies, no matter how seriously dangerous it looks, becomes ignored in an instant just like in the golden standard of the genre – Looney Tunes. The worst possible consequence is a loud “Ah!” It’s harder to write off on the target group the lack of logic and consistency in scenes. First, you see the kids playing hockey on the runaway illuminated by the bright sun through the spotless sky. Five seconds later the vicious windflaw throws the protagonist on the ground even though he’s obviously heavier than the team of peewees. In another scene you see him falling into the cold water but soon the same man is walking through the winter forest wearing dry and clean pants with no traces of the icy crust.

The movie has at least one thing done undeniably right. Picturesque views of snow-covered mountains, northern pine forest, and  clear frosty sky are really impressive. If you like dogs, you can add one whole point to my rating. Well-groomed huskies were presented for the observation at all angles. It was evident from his work on Beethoven the director Brian Levant loves barking kind of pets. On the other hand, if you’re a cat person it’s minus one point.

The magic of computer animation adding the human expressions and emotions to animals’ muzzles could be seen as a pro back in the early 2000s but looks completely outdated now. All it does today is adding to the resemblance to cartoons.

snow dogs 2002 movie snapshot snow dogs 2002 movie snapshot
Snow Dogs can be useful when you need something to watch in the company of children or their ultraconservative parents. Hank Hill would probably approve of it. At least nobody sings here unlike many other popular Disney’s cinematic products.

Rating: 5

Читать о фильме “Снежные псы” по-русски

Zuma Deluxe

Current music: System Of A Down - Aerials

Platform: PC
Year: 2003
Developer: PopCap

First I have to address the biggest issue about Zuma. It wasn’t really original because the main idea idea of chains of balls moving spirally toward the center and something shooting at them was borrowed from Puzz Loop and Puzz Loop 2 – Japanese arcade machine games. Even the usage of the ancient cultural motives in visual style was taken from first Puzz Loop. There it was Egypt of pharaohs and pyramids, here we have Aztec influence. However, with all similarities and copy-paste those are still different games and, considering limited distribution of Puzz Loop, Zuma was a bit of novelty on PC and to western audience generally bringing some innovation to the old, well-known “three in a row” concept. Also to be honest generally gameplay in Zuma feels more polished. Aiming with the mouse wins against anything in terms of speed, precision and overall convenience. One may even argue that Zuma was as important in its niche as was Half-Life for shooters adding a whole new dimension to the genre’s mainstream.

screenshot of Zuma Deluxe PC 2003 screenshot of Zuma Deluxe PC 2003
In Zuma you take control of the stone frog inside the ancient ruins. Some floating stone head gives you challenges before you can discover the “secret of Zuma”. You really have just one goal, which is to prevent moving chains of balls from reaching the skull hole. The only way to do that is to shoot such balls of different colors out of frog’s mouth. They land on chain, and if there is a connection of three or more balls of the same color in a row, that sequence disappears. The trick is to match your shot in such way that balls on both sides of disappeared part also form row of three or more of the same color. To quickly clear playing field you’ll have to plan for long combos on the fly. More difficult levels have two chains moving simultaneously while some of their parts are hidden by design elements.

Bonuses activate and function differently compared to Puzz Loop. In Zuma Deluxe every ball can become bonus one for a limited period of time. If you manage to remove it before it’s too late, you can slow down the crawling chain or even move it back a little. You can also get some sort of precision scope or make an explosion that will take away balls from neighboring curves of movement trajectory. Zuma shows more variety in forms of levels so player will need good shooting skills from wide range of angles including very acute ones. Game adds every positive action to your score which serves not only as a mean of competition between players. For every 50000 you will get an extra life that most likely will come in handy near the end of the game.

screenshot of Zuma Deluxe PC 2003 screenshot of Zuma Deluxe PC 2003
Thankfully some unnecessarily difficult elements like transparent balls which can’t be removed like others or moving obstacles that helped Puzz Loop in unsophisticated process of milking the coins out of a pocket aren’t present in Zuma. So, if you like the idea but don’t want to be intentionally screwed all the time, Zuma is your choice between these two.

Though there are still some cheap shots that demonstrate kinship with unforgiving 80s arcades. For example, sometimes algorithm gives you long row of balls you can’t use for good anywhere you’re able to reach at the moment. However, with skill and attention everything is passable and player will be rewarded with epic final screen.

Besides the adventure mode there is an arcade-like one called Gauntlet with endless play until you lose and one for training in certain layouts. Levels in both modes become available with progress in the main goal.

screenshot of Zuma Deluxe PC 2003 screenshot of Zuma Deluxe PC 2003
Thanks to low system requirements and no copy protection the game had massively spread in offices, schools, universities and other local networks adding up to its popularity. Zuma made its way from flash game running right in your web browser to full-fledged digital release on PC (including Steam), Mac, few video game consoles and mobile devices earning annex Deluxe while doing that. It manages to keep balance between being too complex for casual players and too boring for hardcore gaming group without falling into either of those pits.

Rating: 6.5

Читать обзор игры Zuma Deluxe по-русски

My spring Prague part 3

Current music: Page - Dansande Man

The autumn has already started its reign in the northern hemisphere, but we have a chance to go back in time to May in Prague, that I captured in my photos.

Architectural and artsy loveliness near the Charles square.

около карловой площади karlovo naměstí near charles square

prague drawings on buildings near charles square

By the way, there is no square in Russian traditional understanding of that word.  Most of the space is dedicated to a park with gargantuan tall trees and simple fountains. There are also small groups of untidy looking people who occupy the benches in quiet shady nooks. I didn’t take photos of them in respect of their human dignity.

prague park huge tree velký strom park praha

park karlovo naměsti fountain фонтан парк прага

Here is also a monument to Czech author and translator Eliška Krásnohorská.

eliška krasnohorská monument памятник

Next stop was Saints Cyril and Methodius Cathedral. Unlike many other historical churches in Prague it still serves its original purpose, even though church services are sparse. If I’m not mistaken they don’t even take place every day. At least in the middle of last day I was passing by and saw everything closed.

кафедральный собор кирилла и мефодия прага eastern orthodoxy cathedral prague

The word “standard” has absolutely no use when you try to describe the architecture in the central part of Czech capital.

prague architecture krasná praha

Central railway station of Prague. You can get from here to Dresden in a couple of hours and to Vienna or Berlin in four.

praha hlavní nádraží прага центральный вокзал

praha hlavní nádraží прага центральный вокзал

The is a small patch of greenery opposite to the station’s entrance where in the middle I discovered a statue of American president Wilson with his words, which had a part in emergence of first Czechoslovak Republic as the independent state.

woodrow wilson monument prague

Charles bridge from the distance.

charles bridge distant view

Stern bearded men at the entrance of quite common building on the western bank of Vltava.

prague statues

Ducks took a free walk along the river too. However I wasn’t able to find swans anywhere that evening. Sod’s law: when I had had a bun for them, they hid.

prague ducks

It’s astonishing to think that somebody actually lives in all that splendor, solves everyday routine problems and returns tired after the working day to one of those homes along the river.

Janáčkovo nábřeží

venceslaus iv prague

zodiac signs on buildings prague

prague images on buildings прага росписи на стенах домов

prague nabřeží

Four-wheeled retro for jaunts like that one can often be seen on tourists’ paths.

prague retro car

Near the entrance to Charles bridge.

charles bridge entrance prague

The bridge itself has many monuments on both sides. Generally speaking all of them have religious meaning. For example here you can see Jesus with his followers.

prague jesus christ

Some saint with a propeller.

saint Anthony of Padua

Francis Borgia, who was the general of jesuits and great-grandson of the very same Borgia you all have heard so much about.

francisco borja prague

That crucifix has the peculiar legend attached to it. Allegedly in XVII century one rich jew was in some way disrespectful to it. That made the townsfolk angry and eventually jew was sentenced to pay for gold inscription in Hebrew that was praising the god. The zesty part of the story is there was no mentioning which one. I don’t understand Hebrew language, therefore true meaning of that text is unavailable to me. The hard fact is however that monument attracts masses of tourists from around the world who touch it without the fear of global pandemic.

jesus touching monument

Female saints.

charles bridge saint barbara margareth

Giant chestnuts that are growing at the foot of the bridge reach above the houses and above the statues.

prague giant chestnut near charles bridge

By the way, I’ve noticed that Prague manages to combine big old trees with high building density rather well. At least I’ve never seen roots of the trees ruining the roads or pavements. I also have never seen ugly sticking stubs left after the trees were mercilessly cut in avoidance of something.

Prague’s “Venice”

пражская венеция

Mánes Bridge

Mánesův most

Eastern bank of Vltava

vltava east bank view

Tourist boats take trips on Vltava at any time of the day.

vltava tour boat

prague beautiful architecture

Bridge tower. In the evening on Charles bridge and near that place there are so many tourists you can get in a traffic jam while walking. People constantly collide. It is indeed an ideal place for pocket pickers.

charles bridge tower

Your guide to Prague. Actually although the beer was delicious, I was drinking it only for one day. Czech Republic can offer an abundance of other interesting alcohol as well. Especially I would like to mention strong liquor called Praděd (which means great grandfather in English). It’s not sold everywhere, but if you by chance see it I recommend you to taste some.

planestranger beer prague

This post was originally written in Russian somewhere around October the 1st in 2018 and translated to English just now.

Read My spring Prague part 2

Read My spring Prague part 1

Читать Моя весенняя Прага часть 3 по-русски

My spring Prague part 2

Current music: XIII. Století - Karneval

At first I intended to compose some kind of small but holistic story from my photos of Prague. However a lot of time has passed since my trip and my job, matters of personal business and everyday routine kept me from initial plan. Something unavoidably gets erased from memory, my point of view may also change in some cases with time. So I’ll just try to select the best photos of Prague and provide them with my comments.

Outside of Nový Smíchov shopping mall.obchodní centrum nový smíchov торговый центр новый смихов

Inside the Nový Smíchov.

obchodní centrum nový smíchov торговый центр новый смихов

obchodní centrum nový smíchov торговый центр новый смихов
Dried fruits and nuts from “Happy Squirrel”

By the way, Smíchov district in Prague-5 generally mixes new and old fine.smíchov district район смихов

Even the trams here are from different eras.smíchov tram смихов трамваи

On one side of the street there is grey building with sharp geometric forms…smíchov prague modern building

… and on the other there are houses that had seen a lot of history during the last century.smichov prague street смихов улица прага

Equa Bank office makes tourists like me to turn heads up while local people demonstrate indifference.equa bank prague

Being a tourist I had to visit Old Town Square in the oldest part of the Prague.staroměstské náměstí praha old town square prague староместская площадь Прага

There is always a lot of people.prague old town square praha staroměstské naměstí прага староместская площадь

Prague astronomical clock was undergoing restoration at the moment…staroměstský orloj пражские куранты

… but well recognizable (if not by name then by silhouette) Church of Our Lady before Týn was available to inspect in all of its glory.

Храм Девы Марии перед Тыном church of our lady before tyn Kostel Matky Boží před Týnem

Also back side of old town hall looks pretty picturesque.old town hall prague прага ратуша старый город

One more clumsy selfie.planestranger

Some people there take a ride of horse-drawn carriage.horses prague old town square лошади прага староместская площадь

Others prefer mini-train tours.sightseeing tour mini train prague экскурсионный мини-поезд прага

Those on feet tend to spread among expensive food places located around the perimeter of the squarepraha staroměstské náměstí староместская площадь прага old town square prague

or catch bubbles with their cameras.mýdlové bubliny мыльные пузыри на старой площади

Even the Minnie Mouse got there somehow.minnie mouse prague

Jan Hus observes all those activities with respectable stoicism.памятник Яну Гусу pomník jana husa


old town prague старый город прага

Buildings bear more sculptures than some of Russian towns.

sculptures скульптуры old town square prague

Narrow walking street near the Old Town Square.prague old town narrow walking street прага старый город узкая пешеходная улица

Another view of old Prague.old town prague прага старый город praha

Church of Santa Claus. No presents though. It functions solely as a nicholas church prague

One of the problems every old city with significant history has is there are always some restoration works going on. Thankfully, there is no need to close streets in order to do that.restoration prague прага реставрационные работы

old building prague

Example of modern abstract art near the river shore.modern abstract art prague

Vltava river view.vltava western bank prague

Prague Castle. People on the other bank are feeding the swans.prague castle пражский замок pražský hrad

Some more of western bank of Vltava.prague vltava western bank

vltava prague western bank

Religious frenzy of centuries long gone peaks at the Crusaders’ Square. Church of Saint Salvator. If I’m not mistaken that is the place that was Vatican in “Eurotrip” movie, precisely place of that scene with swiss guards, ice cream and one very special boy.kostel svatého salvátora praha костел святого сальватора

At Crusaders’ square you can also find old catholic church of Saint Francis Seraph.kostel svatého františka serafinského костел Святого Франциска Серафимского

Old Town Bridge Towerstaroměstská mostecká věž Староместская мостовая башня Old Town Bridge Tower

staroměstská mostecká věž Староместская мостовая башня Old Town Bridge Tower

staroměstská mostecká věž Староместская мостовая башня Old Town Bridge Tower

Statue of Charles IV

charles iv карл iv pomník

Just beside the monument people are taking photos with strangely colored white pigeon розовый белый голубь

I didn’t take a walk over the Charles bridge that day. Instead I along the river to the south admiring the architecture. Prague is truly magical in a way that even if there were no museums, theaters, exhibitions and other cultural events, the city itself is a piece of art because of its architecture.tower prague

prague architecture

prague old architecture

prague sky

vltava nabřeží набережная влтавы

See the beauty. There are unique balconies, pinnacles, gargoyles, bas-reliefs and bold use of colors everywhere… Try your best to find two identical prague

prague praha прага

prague praha прага

quiet street prague

prague praha прага

prague praha прага

Of course, I couldn’t miss the famous dancing house.dancing house prague танцующий дом прага tančící dům praha

On the little island in the middle of Vltava you can rent a boat.river řeka vltava

Even though it’s hard to call Vltava a clean river there are wild living nutria.nutrie нутрия прага влтава

Most noticeable among the vegetative lifeforms were blooming chestnut trees that could be found everywhere you went.chestnut tree prague

That day I had a dinner in a lovely place called “U Gráffů” which I liked a lot. There I could watch and eavesdrop a bit people from all over the world some more while I was waiting for my meal. For example, this company of old German ladies (one of several I saw during the trip) was masterfully drinking considerable amount of beer.U Gráffů praha

Interior of the restaurant was inviting to contemplate too.U Gráffů praha

On my way back to the hotel. Red lights of a legal club had already lite. One of the next days there was a girl dressed lightly for a cool night air. I was too shy to take the photo of her without asking the lights night prague

Read My Spring Prague part 1

Читать Моя весенняя Прага часть 2 по-русски

My spring Prague part 1

I was always interested not only in traveling to fictional worlds but also to the other parts of our quite real blue and green ball. Not long ago I was able to find time and to satisfy my interest to some extend. In this post I want to share my photos and impressions of Prague in May of this year the way it presented itself to me.

Before we get to the main theme, I have to mention my point of departure. Kurumoch airport near Samara has undergone a renovation recently. I must give credit where the credit is due, the job was well done. Airport now is comfortable, stylish, completely modern and civilized with a lot of consideration given to details. Getting a little bit ahead of myself, I’ve had a far more positive impression of it than of Václav Havel Airport in Prague.

A colleague of movie racer from Marseille tried to talk to me all the way to avoid falling asleep and got me to the the place with a lot of time still left, because speedometer in his Škoda Octavia was showing number greater than 140 km/h multiple times during the trip. On a night intercity road that lacks street lights and even other cars, while it felt like the asphalt was coming into existence from the emptiness of the universe right before the wheels, such speed was high enough to tickle the nerves. The driver told me he has been driving for more than 16 hours and had visited four towns that day.

аэропорт Курумоч kurumoch airport

kurumoch airport inside аэропорт курумоч внутри

Notice there is even baby care room to the left of duty free store. This hall after the customs and border control was lighted mostly by a huge screen.

planestranger waiting for boarding at kurumoch airport

Took a selfie while waiting for the boarding. I still don’t really know how to do them.

kurumoch airport view from airplane вид аэропорта курумоч из самолёта

The last look at the airport before the takeoff. It was really dawning already. Soon Airbus A319 of Czech Airlines started the acceleration.

Чехия с высоты птичьего полёта czech republic from the air

That is Czech Republic already, after three and a half hours, viewed from above. Though that’s not Prague yet. It’s quite interesting how low we were during the last part of the flight.

аэропорт имени Вацлава Гавела Letiště Václava Havla Praha Václav Havel Airport Prague

Morning in Vaclav Havel airport in Prague.

прага станция павлова prague pavlov station

около станции метро павлова прага near pavlov metro prague

прага praha prague

Near the I.P. Pavlova subway station. Take a look at the truck in the last photo. It’s pretty unusual thing to see in the center of Prague. You have a better chance of seeing Ferrari there. By the way, about the bus. Those are exclusively for transporting tourists. Locals have to use streetcars or subway.

I must say that my first day there included many troubles, one of which was total lack of Internet. Before the flight I had consulted my mobile provider (MTS) about what I need to do, I had added fair sum to my account, activated option for data roaming (which cost a bit more than 7$ per day for unimpressive 128 Kb/s). However there was still no Internet access for me. I could receive SMS about my banking operations and incoming calls fine. At the same moment WWW was indifferent to my shamanistic actions and kept rejecting all attempts to load anything. Wi-Fi at the hotel was also at the level they were allowed to mention it without false advertising. It was so unbearable slow and unstable I couldn’t even view simple static pages or email mobile provider’s support to resolve the problem. So without maps or any other sort of navigation I was for some time trying to find Starbucks near the subway station called in the name of Russian physiologist as it wasn’t particularly easy. At one moment I had lost faith in my ability to find it, so I started asking people on the streets to show me the way. In attempt to be polite in a foreign country I was speaking Czech (well, I was trying to the best of my ability at the time). Turned out all the people passing by who I guessed could be visitors of such pretentious coffee place were also tourists who didn’t understand Czech and were unfamiliar with the city. Only on the eight or ninth time two nice Czech ladies helped me. I was very close to my target after all.

At Starbucks I must had been looking like a total weirdo buying three plain black coffees without anything else. It didn’t matter because there was new fast router that allowed me to connect to MTS support and to force them to provide service properly. With google maps and online dictionary it became much more comfortable to explore Prague that I have never seen before. That was the moment I could take a deep breath and start enjoying my vacation.

памятник святому Вацлаву saint Vaclav statue Pomník svatého Václava

Statue of Saint Wenceslas surrounded by four other Czech saints.

Wenceslas Square Вацлавская площадь Václavské náměstí

Wenceslas Square. At the information booth there was very polite English-speaking young lady that provided me with paper map with one of the best exchange places in Prague marked on it for free.

national museum Prague национальный музей Прага Národní muzeum Praha

National museum was undergoing the restoration at that time. Once I photographed crosswalk I should say that there are many of them in Prague, and usually there is not need to jaywalk. Most of the drivers are unbelievable polite. They let you go and wait for you even when you haven’t reached the road yet on unregulated crosswalks.

sokolska prague praha прага

Sokolská street is one of the busiest in Prague. Thick cables come down to earth without any additional isolation. Nobody seems to have an idea to protect them from vandalism or metal looters.

prague cannabis praha

Monstrous figures at the entrance with hookahs and cannabis leaf behind the glass make it hard to walk by without at least taking a photo.

Nové Město Praha

An eclectic picture in the quiet street of so-called “new town”. Soviet-looking crude building in the distance coexists with more noble pieces of architecture. The scenery is completed with modern cars on the old cobbles, trash cans and ubiquitous, exceptionally pointless and tasteless graffiti.

память жертв нацизма

Metal plates to commemorate the victims of nazism that once lived there.

u švejka praha

How is it possible not to visit Švejk?

švejk restaurace

In no way. So I came in.

u kalicha praha

josef švejk йозеф швейк

Inelaborate doll of good soldier Švejk greets the visitors.

подпоручик Дуб u kalicha

2nd Lieutenant Dub. Some inscriptions show Russian origin.

franz joseph император Франц Иосиф I

Portrait of emperor Franz Joseph I that was unmercifully shat on by flies.

u kalicha interior

hostinec u kalicha smažený sýr

Hostinec u Kalicha presents itself as the exact place that was called The Chalice in the book “The Good Soldier Švejk” where Josef Švejk and first-class private Vodička agreed to meet at six o’clock after the world war. Dim light, wooden old-looking furniture, walls painted with caricatures, green lamps, full-sized dummies that depict characters from the book, headdress of Austrian soldier on the visible place and waiters in old-fashioned clothes altogether create there atmosphere of Great War times. Menu consists of Czech national cuisine mostly, though I was able to find grilled cheese to suit my pescetarian taste. If you know and love the main literary work of Jaroslav Hašek, it might be interesting for you to come there, have a drink or eat something.

Continue to My Spring Prague part 2

Читать Моя весенняя Прага часть 1 по-русски

Samara’s contrasts

Current music: Helium Vola - Selig

Contrasts of Samara. Those two buildings are located on the same street about 100 meters apart from each other. The spring dirt is truly inescapable…

Visa center in Samara

Old building in Samara

Samara's dirt in april

Shiny business center Millenium is right beside the rusty wavy roof of old building. By the way, parking is for employees only.

Samara business center Millenium

The memory about heroes of old times is displayed along with the preparedness to create new ones.

Memorial to the workers during World War II

Samara airplane

Facades of apartment buildings are being painted in bright, cheerful colors all along the Moscow road in preparations to the world soccer championship. Though it fails to save them from omnipresent dirt and monotony of typical architecture.

Samara Moscow road

Samara blue building

Samara colorful apartment buildings

Samara Moscow highway

Samara Moscow road

Samara view from the hill

Streets of Samara

There are lots of ongoing construction sites, which don’t add up to the esthetics of the city views.

Samara construction site

Samara construction site garbage

Samara building process

Moskovsky mall is quiet and even deserted at midday on monday.

Samara Moskovsky mall

Samara Moskovsky shopping mall

That was the Samara that I saw on this serene spring day.

Читать про Самарские контрасты по-русски

Pan Mac

Following the best traditions of Abibas and PolyStation here we have russian pasta brand Pan Mac. Mimicking or not, the brand magic works. I was unable to pass by this product. I wonder what Russian Author’s Society thinks about that.

макаронные изделия гребешки Pan Mac
Читать про макаронные изделия Pan Mac по-русски

End of summer

Current music: ... of Sinking Ships - The Spargo Twin

Yesterday I had some free time and decided to make use of good weather in one of these last days of summer. So I walked a bit through the older (though not the oldest) central part of Togliatti and took some photos.

Let’s begin with the big construction of a mall that stands out of the typical old soviet architecture.

Aerohall mall in TogliattiFast food stall and small beer bar squeezed between the main building and the parking lot.

aerohall mall parking togliattiFountain with drawn fishes and transparent elevator inside.

fountain inside aerohall mall togliatti
Aerohall stands right next to social apartment complex where a lot of events you see then in local criminal news happen.

social housing in TogliattiSome graffiti on the walls on shared balconies.

graffiti on the shared balconies TogliattiNot all the sides of the town are pleasant to look at with dusty roads and rusty posts… but, well, it’s all part of the urban scenery and adds up to general impression.

togliatti street viewThe ugliest moment of the whole day. This sloppy shit with an angle around 45 degrees legally counts as a required ramp in Russia. Unusable for both wheelchair users and walking persons.

shitty ramp togliattyThen I moved to the part of town where few unique buildings surrounded a bit of a public space. On the next photo you can see one of just three hotels that were built during soviet era. If I’m not mistaken now it’s called Azot (which means nitrogen). Ground floor accommodated a grocery store which was lucky for me because I could stop there and buy a bottle of water. The day was really sunny and hot.

hotel azot togliattiNew Year decorations on the balconies still keep the soviet stars.

soviet stars hotel azot togliattiFountain in front of concert hall.

togliatti philarmoniaLet’s have a closer look.

philarmony togliattiKids carelessly enjoy the fountain. Their happiness must be spreading around because even unknown old lady stopped to express her admiration. She told me it was a wonderful moment to capture on photo. She also regretted either the fact she had no device to do it herself or that there was nobody to take photo of her –  I didn’t get that part exactly.

kids fountain togliattikids summer fountain togliattiOn the other side of the area, to the right there is a conservatory. So vintage-looking benches and unusual lamps supposed to demonstrate to random passer by like me it was a place of culture.

conservatory togliattiThough inhabitants of standard “khrushchyovka” nearby may have other opinion.

khruschevka togliattiView from another point. Notice the hanging wire between lamps.

flowers lamps togliatti pobedy street


Deeper into the block the lush vegetation takes dominance. It’s so abundant and unruly you can barely see anything behind it. On some paths big trees intertwine their branches to form some sort of low ceiling covering ground from sun as if it was a forest.

trees togliattilush vegetation togliattiOccasionally town fights back.

dead tree togliatti

Even though living houses in this district are often worn off and neglected, people here do their best to beautify the outdoors with simple flowers.

flowers street togliatti


Some things you simply can’t beautify.

ugly pipes togliattiEmpty kids playground.

kids playground togliattiHere my battery died saving you all from more photos. Thanks for your time if you made if here.

Читать дневниковую запись Конец лета по-русски.

Picross Touch

Current music: Kimio Eto - Midori no Asa

Platform: PC
Year: 2016
Developer: Jon Gallant

Touch the hidden image

It’s easy to perceive picross, nonograms or griddlers (call it whatever you like) as something that existed seemingly “always” like chess, jigsaw puzzle or solitaire. However this kind of pastime is younger than me or majority of world’s population being created around 1990. There seems to be no undoubted information about author of this puzzle, though it’s common knowledge it has Japanese origin. It’s even literally called “Japanese crossword” in Russian for some mysterious reason. All in all it is as widespread and well-known as any other popular brainteaser of pre-www era.

It worked perfectly fine on paper with grid and rows of numbers printed in newspapers. You just had to shade squares that correspond with the number sequences with pencil and mark empty cells with tiny crosses or barely visible dots. In time when percentage of internet users and non-users is almost equal on a global scale there is no surprise picross takes electronic form.

Picross Touch PC game screenshot Picross Touch PC game screenshot

Variation I was spending tens of hours on last few weeks came from Steam Greenlight. Picross Touch was made by independent developer Jon Gallant. Game’s title unambiguously hints that it was ported from Android, where it was released supposedly in May of 2014.

When somebody makes game based on such background there are mainly two ways to do it. You either try to replicate the idea as close as possible or you can take creative approach and modify or add features to spice things up with higher risk of screwing everything up. Jon Gallant took the easier way. Picross Touch offers the same very basic and unoriginal concept, but it was made brilliantly comfortable this time. Things just work without causing any problems. All actions are done with mouse. Playfield scales conveniently to fit the gird and all the numbers. Players are allowed to choose color of interface to suit their taste and mood. It shows that despite common opinion and snobbery of big studios Unity engine can be useful in some cases.

Developer keeps updating the game. The whole time I was playing, little details like time stats and players top for each puzzle were added here and there. Steam workshop is used the best possible way. There is editor that helps you to easily create your own nonograms that are automatically uploaded to workshop and then become available for anybody to see without closing the game. You rate completed puzzles so they can be sorted by rating, date created or size.

Picross Touch PC game screenshot Picross Touch PC game screenshot

There are some downsides however aside from predictable minimalism of the gameplay. Grids are limited to 25×25 squares maximum which is not that much. I clearly remember bigger ones in printed form from my childhood. There also is no music at all. A thing to expect from solo developer and there is no fictional world, no complicated premise that music may help to submerge into. Still we live in a reality where even abstract logical games from commercial Bejeweled or Lumines to one man band indie titles like Vesa Halonen’s Zetrix offer soundtrack.

Still, Picross Touch offers not the worst way to pass few hours of time while keeping your brain alive. It’s also free and I really mean it. No freemium bullshit, no annoying advertisements (just link to developer’s other game on the main menu screen), no paid DLCs. So if you enjoy puzzles, go grab Picross Touch from Steam.

Rating: 6

Читать обзор игры Picross Touch по-русски

No booze, no sense

Current music: Nirvana - Aero Zeppelin

The governor of Samara oblast Nikolai Merkushkin starts to really annoy with his petty tyranny. That was the 5th weekend this year when public alcohol sales were prohibited in my region. That’s the way things are in Russia. We have laws that ban the sales of alcohol to minors, punish drunk driving and inappropriate public behavior while being intoxicated, and politics as a populist move just add another ban instead of enforcing those already existing laws. There is not a single reason why I as a grown up man with a job, home, responsibilities and no criminal record whatsoever should not be allowed to buy a bottle of wine or beer. Not to mention retailers’ losses, this stupid act prevented me from buying classy tasty drink for the dinner while failing to prevent one completely wasted company of youngsters from making drunk noises in my neighborhood through most of the night.

no alcohol in samara oblast

Читать Ни выпивки, ни смысла по-русски.