Saturday, 26 March 2011

How to make Russian TV news

A great summary here of how Russian TV news works. This applies to any channel, since they're all state-controlled (officially or unofficially).

Item one features the president visiting somewhere – a hospital, a school, a farm. Item two is a serious piece of national news: forest fires, economic problems. Item three is a piece of foreign news, chosen to show that Russia’s problems are nothing compared with other countries’: if the Russian piece has been about forest fires, the next item will be about forest fires in Australia or the US; if the Russian news has been about economic problems, the next item will focus on economic problems in the West. The final item is always a happy piece: a tiger cub born in a zoo, Russian victory at the Eurovision Song Contest.

This comes from an article in the LRB about the tribulations of the man who launched the Russian Apprentice. Well worth a read.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

What not to wear: Russian football edition

I've started following Russian football recently, not least thanks to some excellent Twitter feeds. It's a fascinating football culture boasting political stunts, over-the-hill Brazilian legends and goals like this. It also, as I found out while rather bored yesterday, has some appalling club merchandise.

Now, I don't mean to sneer, not least because I live in the country that produced Rangers bridal garters and a Fulham babygro emblazoned with the words "I'm a little cottager." In fact, most of the merchandise is rather tasteful, like these Lokomotiv Moscow ties for that 100 percent polyester railwayman in your life. In the case of many clubs, it's actually quite hard to find an online shop, since many Russian clubs have a famous disregard for their fans, who contribute very little of a team's income.

Anyway, caveats aside, let's get down to the business of mocking horrible products. First up is Dinamo Moscow, who offer a pretty awful ornamental plate, presumably aimed at any grannies in the stands, that depicts the great stadium they're busy demolishing. Dinamo follow this up with a take on a Pringle jumper that isn't that bad in itself, just a bit odd. Not to be outdone, Rubin have a naff Champions League cushion that I can only hope no one at Uefa authorised, or my faith in Michel Platini will slide even further.

While not strictly merchandise, Sibir Novosibirsk's new third shirt (above, apparently being launched in a village hall) is presumably available for the public to look like idiots in, and establishes a trend between crap products and the colour orange. This is bravely taken up by second-level side Zhemchuzhina Sochi. I actually have a bit of a soft spot for Zhemchuzhina, mostly because of their similarities with Blackpool as a seaside team playing in orange. But this doesn't excuse the stream of garish crud on display, chiefly this tangerine-and-steel-grey polo shirt, this extortionately expensive tracksuit and the worst offender so far, a cushion apparently targeting fans who also like Hello Kitty.

To find the winner of this race to the bottom, however, you have to look elsewhere in the post-Soviet space. Taking first prize are Shakhtar Donetsk, the nouveau-riche giant-killers from eastern Ukraine. The club boasts a range of crap wide enough to discuss all day. There's a child's dress that hurts your eyes, but the very worst piece of tat is this attempt at art, an easel holding a sketch of the Donbass arena apparently produced by a prisoner equipped only with a biro and some tea for colouring in. That and a Chinese whisper of what the stadium actually looks like.

Honourable mention: Red Star Belgrade's basketball team for wearing a shirt with "Cockta" written on it.