What they lack in production values, rhythm and, uh, talent, they make up for in musical influences. You can hear Indian, Chinese and maybe even Persian/Turko pop (one of my goals in Azerbaijan was to learn how to distinguish between Iranian and Turkish pop music -- I failed) in their tune.
They aren't Shakira but the key to a satisfying life in Crapistan is to lower your standards.
"All save one of Baku's votes got subtracted" due to a "server crash?" Is this for real?* Don't fuck with Azerbaijan, man. You don't want to end up like Armenia.
Get in there and VOTE
*You know, if Azerbaijan was a more technologically advanced place, I would wonder...
If you're a Carpetblogger demographic, you probably think of places like Wellington, NZ only in terms of whether Azal flies there non-stop, whether there are good malls with decent shoe stores or the availability of a quality lunchtime V&T at a bargain basement price.
That's why you should visit Gridskipper and strike a blow against "ironic hair metal and low-fi electro" music scenes, Maori delicacies (mmmm, fresh Maori) and clean living.
Crapistan rules! Vote for Crapistan!
Took place today as we hooked up the CABLE MODEM in our apartment. Welcome to the wired world! Data wants to flow freely, and this means more photos uploaded and more music downloaded. What once took 45 minutes now takes two.
So here are some photos of people and things that made my life in Baku easier, more pleasant or funnier.
Ruslan was the first person (well, after the Producer) I saw when I returned to Baku. Ruslan is Baku's best salesman, bar none. Coming from a distinguished line of sellers, I feel qualified to comment on this. He could sell oil to an Arab and cleans the clock of all the other dealers in the Old City. He would attribute this skill to the fact that he is Daghestani. Over the last two years he sold a number of things to me, even when I insisted I already had too many of his products and didn't want even one more. He even took some things he already sold to me to sell again. He sells to the Producer, which is very difficult, except when the Producer is in the doghouse. Then it's easy.
Samaya the housekeeper loves the Carpetdogs. She earned their slavish devotion by feeding them homemade blinis and varenkies until they burst. She said Mo is smarter than her grandchild. She wasn't that great of a cleaning lady, but she was nice to have around.
Javanjir, or John as he insisted we call him, lived in our courtyard and drove us in his battered Zhighuli all over town. Like most of Baku's taxi drivers, he is not a driver by trade; he was some kind of metallurgist and ran steel factories in Ukraine during Soviet times. He's got a lot of ideas for boosting Azerbaijan's industrial output and is always trying to get people to listen to him. Since he's an ordinary guy from Sheki who drives a Zhighuli and reads opposition newspapers, he shouldn't quit his day job.
This guy and his wife sold several-day-old fruits and veggies at inflated prices to me from right outside our apartment building. One of several people whose standard of living took a hit when we moved, he was always supportive of my feeble attempts to speak Azeri.
There's a special club for dictators who get 70%+ of the vote. They gotta stick together. Maybe Ilham can give Alex a few tips on how to crush peaceful protests with water cannons and dogs and stay friends with the west. Maybe find some oil under Polatsk?
On a different, but related topic: If Lukashenka is Europe's last dictator, where does that leave Ilham? Not a dictator or not in Europe? Discuss.
If you want to see a picture of Carpetblogger, check out the burning crater.
Carpetblogger's return to Baku to liberate the Producer and the Carpetdogs failed. However, since liberation was not the trip's only agenda, it wasn't a complete failure. There was a lot of swine (since beef is rarely an option, all forms of lamb/mutton/haggid absolutely off the table and the poultry population decimated by "starvation," what choice did we have?), twice as much wine and more than a little whine.
A few things became abundantly clear as soon as the smell of assfat mutton and clothing infrequently washed in cold water hit me while standing in line at passport control:
1). Nothing has changed in two months
2). I remember EXACTLY why I wanted out so badly
3). Baku is lot more fun when you're not working
Baku has every kind of bar, as long as it's English, Scottish or Irish. Finnegans, arguably Baku's most popular bar, falls firmly into the latter category. I don't think it's one of these pre-fab Irish bars in a box, though it might be and serves the same purpose. The gold standard for local watering holes, it's probably the first place you go when you come to town and the last place you hit before wheels up. Many an evening begins and/or ends in its yellow-walled womb of smoke and Guinness.
Its clientele is unique Bakuvian: balding, middle aged, middle management suck-ups, snaggle-toothed rig monkeys and the women who love them for money. Personally, I don't care for the place because of the smokey haze, that men outnumber women 10 to 1 and whores outnumber non-whores by 10 to 1. These characteristics hardly distinguish Finnegans from every other bar in town, however. If smoke and whores bother you that much, you might as well stay home and swing.
Besides the excellent hamburgers and wonderfully competent waitstaff, St. Patrick's Day is by far the best excuse to wade through the masses of corporate logo'ed polo shirts and bad tattoos for the best drink in town.
The place seemed oddly empty for any Friday, not to mention St. Paddy's day, but some (probably British, spit) company held a Ball with an open bar to celebrate the holiday which drew many barflies elsewhere. The last few years, we've sent sentries to stake out table space in the early afternoon and reinforcements by mid-afternoon to replace their fallen comrades. But this year, four foreign girls had no trouble sliding into a table at 8 pm. The thin crowd also made liquor delivery that much more efficient.
We came for the Car Bombs.
I doubt Finnegans invented the Car Bomb, but that's the first place I ever tried one and you always remember your first. It's quite a simple concoction -- a shot of Baileys Irish Cream dropped into a pint of Guinness, which is then slammed. No one believes this but it's true: it tastes like Dr. Pepper.
Car Bombs go down so smoothly and so quickly, that before you know it, those gold chains and wranglers on the guy sitting next to you start looking attractive.