Everywhere I went in Moscow had a really interesting mix of people. Russians definitely have their own way of doing things… and that Russian mind, I can’t quite get my head around it. One thing is for sure, they are very direct, which is great. They tend not to be mysterious in that way… this is one big difference I’ve noticed in my small sample size of Russian women. There is no mystery. If they are cold, they will say, “Go turn on the heat!” instead of “Are you cold?” Whenever I get the “Are you cold?” question, my answer is a very simple, “No,” and I am relieved to get such a simple question and answer. The man’s ape brain cannot go to the next step in thinking, “Oh, maybe she is cold and wants me to turn on the heater.”
For this Christmas, I will turn you on to my favorite podcast! It’s called Off Book and it’s an improvised musical comedy. Sounds weird eh? It is! Try this episode on for size and tell me what you think! The two people that run it, Jessica McKenna and Zach Reino are just amazing… In fact, I have a little crush on that Jessica!
Daily Photo – The Only Smiling Old Woman in Russia
I don’t know if the title is factually correct, but it was definitely the only one that I saw! I had a very similar experience during my four trips to Ukraine. It’s just not a smiley culture. It’s kind of the opposite of Japan where everyone is smiley to the point of being giggly. I figure a lot of the severeness comes from leftover Communist angst where you just don’t trust anyone around you, ever.
In continuing the series of my favorite photos from various places around the world, today we have Russia. What a crazy place, that Russia, eh? I was only there for four days, but I made the most of it photographically!
Here’s highlights from our final photo walk in Europe!
Daily Photo – Gloomy Day in Moscow
There was a giant rainstorm before the photowalk, but suddenly the sun peaked out to light up these golden towers. We got lucky on all the photowalks and have never had rain after about 60 of them or so. Crazy right? I thought our luck had run out here in Moscow, but I was wrong!
So sad to lose my friend Michael Hawley – he was such an inspiration… and, in fact, still is! This is a little video I made when he and Nina You came here to Queenstown to visit us around the holidays. I loved that dude… I don’t know anyone else remotely like him. You can see in this video how he’s just off the charts when it comes to inspirational stuff.
My son Ethan loves playing the piano and it was incredible to have this genius just do this natural jam. Isn’t that awesome… inspiring people of all ages. That’s kind of the key to life, eh? Just be loving and help other people. People make life too complex… yeah he really has made me a better person.
I first met him about a decade ago when he invited me to speak at his incredible EG Conference in Monterey, CA. He’s the classic Gladwellesque “connector” and I made so many lifelong friends from those conferences. It spawned so many stories and adventures… and all because of Hawley’s vision.
Just as one of the hundreds of examples, it’s because of Michael that I ended up spending a while in Australia with Neal Stephenson to help him research an upcoming novel. Note that I did absolutely nothing to help the actual research, as I was only there because Neal was afraid to drive on the left side of the road. I have all kinds of stories about that, but I’m waiting for the book to come out so I don’t ruin anything.
Anyway, besides that strange anecdote, Michael has been instrumental in vastly affecting the lives of tens of thousands of people… a truly lovable inspiration.
Daily Photo – Woman in St. Petersburg
We stopped at this hipster coffee shop just after our train rolled into the station. It was filled with all sorts of interesting people like this gal. I had on my 35mm F/1.4 lens, so I made as much use of it as possible. There’s not a lot of people that run around with cameras in Russia to take photos of people… so everyone was a little bit more suspicious than I would have liked.
Thanks Stu for sending me this… here’s a 48 gigapixel zoomable photo of The Night Watch!
Daily Photo – St. Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square
Ever since I saw photos of this place when I was a little boy, I wanted to visit Russia. It seemed like it was right out of some kind of fantasy novel with the unique onion domes and cartoonish colors. I ended up there at a good point in the day when the yellow sun was setting, making all the colors really pop in a warm manner against the backdrop of the cool blue sky.
Since many people are bored at home and looking to add to their skillset, I have just released my best tutorial for free and it already has just over $92,000 worth of downloads – awesome! People seem to love it and thank you for the great feedback. I’ll keep it free as long we’re stuck here in this weird isolation… Beyond that, we have the “Passport” monthly subscription (at https://stuckincustoms.com/passport/) that has over 300 videos waiting for you. Great how-to stuff, behind-the-scenes, inspirational stuff, tutorials and more! I do the same thing as Sam Harris in that if you are struggling financially, for whatever reason, just contact the team and we’ll give it to you for free for a year. I don’t want money to stand in the way of buying keys to unlock your creativity. We also have some other cool Passport videos coming up! I release a new one every Sunday on the blog and there’s some amazing stuff in the pipeline. Anyway, thanks again for enjoying the tutorials and I’m in productivity overdrive…since…I… don’t have anything else to do! Last, we have a free group here on Facebook where you can share your creations, ask questions, and make some cool new friends. As opposed to a lot of Facebook, it’s a guaranteed asshole-free zone! 🙂 Cheers and enjoy!
Daily Photo – Cool Boarder in St. Petersburg
In Russia, you can just be as cool as you wanna be. I haven’t taken this many people/street photos as I did there except for the times I go to Burning Man! I saw almost no photographers there, so most people were very confused while I was taking their photos. Well, not the young people, they were all cool with it. The older ones seemed a bit more suspicious, probably because they grew up under hardcore communism when everyone was spying on one another.
I’m a big fan of Singer’s books and he has a new online course about Surrender that I recommend. If you read “The Untethered Soul,” then you have a pretty good idea of what this course is about. I don’t think most people can take it… but, if you’re ready, you’re ready.
Daily Photo – Abandoned Rubber Factory in St. Petersburg
While in our crazy-long day here in this classic old city, we spent a chunk of it in this abandoned rubber factory. They would make shoes and all sorts of things with rubber back during the Communist days. I can’t imagine how miserable a job that would have been! People complain about their jobs nowadays, but being a common worker in Communist Russia would not have been a joyride.
Daily Photo – Checking Social Media in St. Petersburg
Everywhere… everywhere… people are addicted to their phones. I’m pretty sure this is a giant source of increased anxiety. It is fun and stimulating to be on your phone, but it is an “unnatural” way to navigate the planet. Just getting out in nature and walking around is really a great counter to this. Also, being around other humans is important too. I was thinking about those African villages where the grownups and kids had so much happiness and absolutely zero screens to stare at. I’m not saying it’s one or the other, but a bit of balance is nice!
In this episode, part 2 of a conversation while walking on the El Camino in Spain, I talk with Kevin Kelly about one of his many projects, the 10,000 Year Library. We also talk about what to do with all the existing libraries in the world… access to information… the future of libraries and knowledge curation… and more!
I only had one quick day in this awesome city. I tried to make the most of it by taking as many people photos as possible. Some of these Russians had the grumpiest faces I’ve ever seen. I think they were so confused while I was taking the photos… it doesn’t seem like a hobby over there at all. I hardly saw anyone else carrying around cameras for street photography. My theory is that the older generation that lived in Communism for so long are just generally distrusting of others… especially others with cameras. But that didn’t stop me.