Russian Stephen Hawking

In light of the great physics-theorist’s death on March 14, I turned to Russian news to understand how other countries might have captured the memory of this brilliant man. The article I read is copied below, from Russia Today Online. The article begins with a brief biographical description, mentioning his Cambridge education, inspirational legacy for other physicists, and impressive work in the field of theoretical physics, but focuses on his television appearances, cartoon voice-overs, and live skits, sharing many facts I did not know about Hawking’s public presence, nor would have expected of a space genius.

Stephen Hawking appeared in the 26th episode of the 6th season of “Star Trek: Next Generation,” alongside the likenesses of Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton. He was an idol for the young start-up scientists of the TV series, “The Big Bang Theory,” even making three personal appearances on separate seasons of the show. Hawking provided the voice for his own cartoon character’s appearance in “The Simpsons” and “Futurama.” Hawking even appeared in a live Monty Python sketch in 2014, making fun at his own disability. The article points out his uniqueness in willingly providing fodder for jokes at his own disability, as he views himself with a great deal of irony. While he was not able to act as the villain in a James Bond movie, as he had wished, he starred as a villain in a Jaguar commercial in 2016. As articles in America and Russia prove, Stephen Hawking will be missed in the realms of theoretical physics and television.


Russian Table

Russian Table has been revamped. Don’t worry, there is still the classic чай (tea) from the самовар (samovar) and VERY Russian пироги (pies, a.k.a. pizza from the Domino’s down the street). There is still a diverse mix of students from differing Russian levels, enhancing everybody’s experience outside of class. Now, Russian Table includes not only a discussion of the language we all love, but a huge cultural aspect centered around all Slavic nationalities that keeps attendees coming back for more. Thanks to Rachick, last Wednesday, we learned many fun facts about Russian politics, the fall of the Soviet Union, and Serbian and Georgian identities! Here are a few to share:

-At the fall of the Soviet Union, Georgia made the national language Georgian for a time, banning all others, including Russian. While many citizens could communicate in Georgian, this was restrictive for many, as Russian may have been their first language, or simply because it took away their rights to speak in languages they loved. This restriction did not last.

-There are many tribes that live in Serbia, in the Far East of the Russian country. While, now, many most likely speak at least a little bit of Russian, they all have their own unique languages without any Slavic origins. It is theorized that these peoples migrated from North America, originally mixing with the Native American tribes, across the ice bridge connecting Russia to Alaska before settling in Siberia.

-Putin used to be the right-hand man of Yeltsin, former Russian President, from 1996-1999. Yeltsin, however, was an alcoholic and resigned in 1999, at which point Putin took over. Now, Putin and Medvedev have been alternating between President and Prime Minister for almost 20 years.

I would highly recommend anyone to come visit us at Русский столь, Wednesdays at 5 pm in Kaufman 221B, and share some пироги!


Ward No. 6

In the middle of the semester, I attended a Russian film showing of Anton Chekhov’s short story adaptation, “Ward No. 6,” which I have also read. The 2009 film directed by Shakhnazarov won as Best Russian Drama Movie for the Russian National Movie Awards. The film begins with a series of neurotic interviews with mental hospital patients introducing their life stories and answering very open-ended questions. Some of the patients are clearly very ill and scatter-brained, while others are, at least to themselves, convincingly sane. The movie is formatted to look through the amateur camera lens of a reporter investigating the mental facility and its patients. Differing from the short story, the reporter enters the scene after the hospital’s first doctor has already been hospitalized at the facility and the young, suspicious-seeming new doctor has taken his position of authority. Then, the film flashes back to how the original doctor became a patient of his own hospital. In the story, the doctor treats the five patients of the facility for a time before becoming very intrigued in the thoughts of a particular patient, Gromov, who is sure that he is not in any way mentally ill and his position is due to unfair and unfortunate circumstances. He continually wishes to be let free. The doctor’s closely formed friendship with the patient proves to other local caretakers that the doctor has gone insane and lock him up as well. I think it is really interesting to see a Russian film adaptation of a Russian short story from a well-known author because I am so used to English novel adaptations or even English adaptations of works originally in other languages. In this case, the Russian perspective is never taken out of either the work or its screen adaptation and the Russian heart and mind are felt in the film.


Russian Club

Russian Club has been incredibly active this semester! There have been a few film showings in Russian, nearly weekly Russian Tables to meet with fellow Russian language-learners, a Russian cookout, and a Russian Halloween Party!  Russian Club T-shirt sales are going on now to help with club funding so that we may promote the club around campus and fund our next activities. Next semester the club will have a bake sale, as well as continued Russian Table events, open to all level of those interested in learning Russian, and film showings in Russian, with subtitles for those less advanced in Russian but wishing to experience the culture of Russian movies. My favorite aspect of Russian Club is having a setting in which so many levels of Russian speakers are present so that we may collectively help each other improve and learn more about Russian culture in the process!

Link to OU Russian Club Facebook page:


Global Communication

I have always been a language fanatic. I learned to read at a very young age and always loved to speed through at least two books at a time growing up. Spanish in high school was what I called my “easy” class because the concepts of the new language came easily to me and I would breeze through the homework. When I switched schools my sophomore year of high school, I suddenly had the option to take more “exotic” languages than the typical Spanish, including Japanese, Chinese, German, French, and Russian, of which I chose the latter. Instantly, I fell in love with the new and confusing alphabet, words with ten syllables, and the rare appearance of vowels. Now in college, Russian is one of my majors. However, my career path is pharmacy and, unless I work around a community with a significant number of Russian immigrants, the language will doubtfully be a major part of my life after graduation. Until recently, I have always told people that I could not quite yet let go of Russian after high school.

About a month ago, I wrote my final paper for an Honors Colloquium class about Literature in Medicine. (I know, the subjects of this post seem to be all across the board.) I was able to incorporate my knowledge of Russian into this class as well by comparing the English translation of a work assigned in the Honors class, “Lady with a Little Dog,” to its original Russian by Anton Chekhov. In my paper, I argue for the importance of healthcare professionals having experience translating from another language, a skill that emphasizes attention to detail in communication concerning vocabulary, syntax, and semantics. Writing this paper helped me to personally realize what I was arguing for: my language major serves a purpose, despite my very different intentional career path. I further believe that working with translations is important, not only for healthcare professionals, but for anyone that pays attention to their interpersonal communication skills. By working with other languages, not only are doors opened in communicating in that second language, but the actual skill of how to effectively communicate is developed, a skill increasingly important in a globalized world.


Summer in Stuttgart

Next on my international travel radar is Stuttgart, Germany for an OU sponsored summer program. I have always dearly wanted to visit Germany, as my grandparents and dad lived there on three separate occasions, and I’d love to experience some of the culture my dad grew up in. In general, I absolutely love learning languages, especially those spoken in minority in the U.S. (for example, my Russian). For those reasons, I was stoked to find a program in the summer that was an intensive language program in Germany, allowing complete beginners. Although I hope to do some self-study before the trip so I can potentially form a foundation to build of off and test into a higher German class, I am excited that it is a language program I can enter into regardless of my level. To prepare for my application for this program, I decided to do some Stuttgart research.

Stuttgart in Summer offers the morning language classes and an afternoon class of several choices of topics in English in the afternoon, with included excursions. The class that caught my eye was business, because it is completely unrelated to either of my majors and because Germany is stereotypically known for its automobile industry and efficiency. Stuttgart itself is dubbed the “cradle of the automobile.” It is known by this name because the Benz company was founded in the city and now is home to the Porsche company, as well. I am highly interested in the international business course because excursions to German companies seems like a fun way to learn about the way Germans live and work and have a high level of contact with the German language and culture. I am excited to learn more about the German culture, interesting aspects about Stuttgart itself, the local language, and to, hopefully, participate in the trip!


Russian Table

Nearly every week, Russian Club hosts a Russian Table, sometimes on campus and sometimes at a local food venue in Norman. Russian students of all levels gather to do nothing more than talk for a while in Russian and enjoy the company of fellow Russian enthusiasts. This type of get-together is critical for language students because it is very informal and removes the pressure typically created in a classroom setting where grades are a factor. It also allows for the introduction and utilization of other conversation topics, rather than the generally structured conversations of a lesson. At Russian Table, we are learning to use everyday language that we make use of in English without any second thought. This setting is further beneficial because there are beginner students and advanced students communicating together, a situation that is unlikely in school, where everyone in class usually has the same language experience. Both the beginner and advanced students are able to learn different things from one another. For example, the beginner students may often hear new vocabulary or be introduced to new grammar topics they have yet to learn, while the advanced students are able to refresh their memories with topics they haven’t encountered in years. I, personally, have only been able to attend the first Russian Table Event so far, due to current commitments in other classes, but greatly look forward to practicing my Russian at more Russian Tables soon.


Journey to Italy: Renaissance Transitions

The transition towards representing human emotions in artwork that occurred during the Renaissance, such as that seen in forms of Madonna and David, displays the crucial importance of the individual in this art period, not only that of individualized artistic styles but also that of the idea that individuals could personally relate to a piece of art.

The differences between Gothic and Renaissance representations of human emotion in depictions of the Madonna are juxtaposed in a single room of the Uffizi Gallery, apparent in the Maesta of Cimabue and Giotto. Cimabue’s Maesta highlights prominent aspects of a Gothic style, emphasizing gold detailing and surface patterns, while remaining dimensionally flat. The Madonna herself seems very rigid, unhappy, and unwelcoming for such a motherly figure. Her facial structure and expression is nearly replicated in the six identical angels surrounding her. This Gothic Maesta was religiously commissioned and, thus, not intended to communicate personally with the viewer, but to enshrine the image of the Madonna, elevating the spiritual world to a level unreachable by a commoner. Giotto’s Maesta of 1311 depicts a drastically different, more human side to the Madonna. This Renaissance figure possesses a much softer, more feminine facial expression, as well as swollen breasts, realistic traits for a character meant to convey maternalism. Madonna’s sweet, archaic smile reveals buck teeth, exposing her flawed, human nature underneath a high spiritual level.

In addition to seeming overall welcoming, Giotto’s Madonna is further brought down to a relatable level through the style of naturalism. The perspective of her chair is 3-dimensional and the cloth over her knees seems to fall naturally, while the older Maesta is flat, unlike the natural world. The many figures around the Madonna look at her with varying expressions, just as individuals in a true setting would not have identical faces. The use of naturalism sets the individual style of Giotto apart from that of Cimabue, while also presenting the Madonna in a more life-like, and thus, more relatable setting, allowing a commoner to find more than just symbolic meaning in the artwork.

Although Donatello is of the Renaissance period, the progressions throughout the era of individualized artistic style and human connection to art are distinguishable in the comparison between the Davids by Donatello and Michelangelo. Donatello’s David of 1440 is seen in the moments after the battle with Goliath, as represented by David‘s confident foot resting atop the giant’s severed head. David looks young, with a supple, nearly feminine, S-curve figure, suggesting that God played the largest role in orchestrating his victory. He is in the nude, but wearing fancy sandals and flamboyant helmet, portraying a sense of vanity and boastful triumph, rather than the expected relief at the conclusion of such a difficult battle. Conversely, Michelangelo’s David depicts the warrior before the battle commences and, consequently, a starkly different, more relatable image. Finished in 1504, this David, though classically-inspired, reveals his human side through visible emotions. His furrowed brow, clenched buttock, and turning away in his contrapposto position, suggest a self-consciousness and apprehension about his undetermined fate. The commoners of Florence, identifying themselves as underdogs, would have related to this David‘s messages of perseverance, wariness, and hard-earned victory. Michelangelo’s cognizance of human anatomy, accurately represented in detail and altered only to emphasize a specific quality or emotion, effectively revealed his figures’ souls within, making his art both unique and also relatable.

The period of the Renaissance shifted art from the world of symbolism to naturalism, in which figures and scenery were depicted realistically. Perspective was shown 3-dimensionally, vulnerable human emotions were emphasized, and the human body was shown more accurately. Depicting scenes from the spiritual world on a more basic level, on which the characters revealed flaws and souls, art throughout this period progressed the notion of the individual. Not only did artists have more freedom to develop individual artistic styles, but the commoner could relate to art on a personal level.


Journey to Italy: Michelangelo’s Moses

Art is a physical representation of the values, vices, and lifestyles of its corresponding time period. Consequently, the Church reform of the 1200s, in which religious leaders modeled holy lifestyles and pushed to make God more accessible to all, provided religious foundation for Renaissance act. Michelangelo’s Moses, though sculpted at the end of the same era, presents a starkly different image of life than originally intended for by the Church reform. Michelangelo’s Moses is important in contrasting the goal of making God more accessible that initiated the Renaissance period with the attitude of teribilita that concluded the artistic era.

At the end of the 12th century, the Church was very stagnant and orthodox, having remained in power since the fall of the Roman Empire. As people began moving to cities, the rurally-based religious foundation weakened, and a need for a modernized Church system arose. Practices and beliefs of Christianity became a public affair and religious leaders took advantage of this shift, wearing oaths of humility, chastity, and obedience to encourage a growing middle class to abandon a reckless lifestyle. This movement, headed by St. Francis of Assisi and formally recognized by the archbishop of Florence, required the simplification of religious ideals and portrayal in art that would make God accessible personally to Christians.
By the end of the Renaissance period, both the lifestyles of the commissioner and sculptor represented an ironic position in relief of the founding Renaissance ideals. Viewing Michelangelo’s Moses in situ at San Pietro in Vincoli, as well as further understanding the process and individuals associated with its production, exposes teribilita, or terribleness, at conflict with Renaissance ideals. In 1503, Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo to sculpt his tomb monument, ridiculously proposed to include forty marble figures and to be erected above the grave of St. Francis in his basilica. This unbridled egotism, demonstrated through wealthy demands, is unexpected and undesirable in any Christian leader, but especially the Pope. Fortunately, the wishes of Pope Julius II did not come to fruition, but only due to a teribilita of Michelangelo’s own. Throughout the creation process of the monument, Michelangelo revised the specific with his patron and the Pope’s relatives five different times, reducing the number of figures in each contract. The Moses seen above the Pope’s tomb today was finished in 1513. However, Michelangelo put off the project repeatedly until sued by the family for his stalling in 1526. He agreed to finally complete the monument in exchange for advance payment. Moses did not rest above the tomb until 1547, twenty-one years after being sued and thirty-four years after it was sculpted; again, Michelangelo received payment. In the end, his stalling and revisions earned him $50 million for a single figure.


Russian Club 2017

My international involvement on campus continues to be with the Russian Club, as I am working towards my major in Russian Language and Literature. I highly recommend this club to all, even those (and maybe ESPECIALLY those) that don’t have any Russian language or culture experience. Russian language and culture is very unique and Russian Club is a fantastic way to dip your toes in the water of something very different. There are frequent Russian Club get-togethers for dinner, sometimes on campus and sometimes off campus, to get to know one another. My favorite events (besides the fundraising Bake Sale) are the monthly movies, which allow me to experience authentic Russian media while practicing my listening comprehension (the movies are subtitled, of course, for those who don’t know the language). This past Sunday, the Russian Club held a picnic at the park for one last hoorah – I can’t wait to see what the next year will hold for Russian Club!