Thursday, March 06, 2003
posted 9:21 AM

Fab Soviet & Eastern Bloc rides. Don't miss the experimental models of the Gaz and the Tatra:

Legend of the Yugo:

"What is the function of the rear glass defroster on the Yugo?"

"To warm the hands of the person that pushes the car, when the weather is bad!"

Canada had much more of a mirror-world thing going on, when I first came here, the finest frissons of cognitive dissonance being provided, for your American boy, by trade with the USSR and China. Adventurous camera-shops, for instance, sold Russian cameras. They looked exactly like older German cameras, but weighed four times as much. Certain consumers, perhaps of a determinedly leftist bent, availed themselves of East Bloc auto dealerships, driving Lada's and Yugo's. Not very many, but you did see them. They were said to be relatively inexpensive, and certainly looked it.


Someone asked about Victor Tsoi, of Kino. I was at some point introduced to Rashid Nugmanov, a young Kazakh director who had made IGLA (The Needle) with Victor Tsoi, a dramatic feature shot (I believe) in Rashid's hometown of Alma Ata, and in the Aral Sea (or what used to be the Aral Sea -- source of the dead zone Cayce walks through in PATTERN RECOGNITION). Rashid gave me a tape of IGLA and another, for my Walkman, of Kino, Tsoi's band. I became an immediate fan of the music, and was impressed by Tsoi's film presence. He was Russian-Korean, extremely handsome, and evidently as serious about martial arts as we was about his music. Intensely charismatic. An American producer expressed interest in a Soviet-American co-production, to star Tsoi, and Rashid and I began working on a storyline of his. But when the time came to get down to it, and actually go to Russia to write the script, I was busy with a novel. Unable to go, but unwilling to drop this wonderfully odd project, I recruited my friend Jack Womack. Jack went off to Russia in my stead. (See his wonderful LET'S PUT THE FUTURE BEHIND US for some idea of what he found there.) Victor's tragic death in an automobile accident (nothing rockstar about it; he was a non-drinker who never did drugs) killed the project as well, but by then Kino had become a permanent part of my musical landscape. I sometimes wonder where Victor mightn't have gone, if he'd lived. He was extraordinarily talented. The world of the squat, in PATTERN RECOGNITION, that endless party, the element of some kind of spirituality, I owe to Rashid's memories, Kino's music, and Jack's experiences.

Rashid's story, for the film we never made, involved ritualistic gang-warfare in some sort of sideways-future Leningrad. I thought of it when I saw the opening battle in GANGS OF NEW YORK. Very similar! I remember Rashid describing large-scale combat in a snowy, midnight park, one gang armed with sharpened spades, the other with Cossack sabres. We were also trying to work in a six-wheeled tank, equipped with a water-cannon, which he'd picked up for a song in Alma Ata.

[Tip of the bloghat to Eileen, for showing me how to make the links clickable.]


USAF N-3B, 1953. Coyote-ruff trim, dead these many decades now. Close to NOS. eBay.

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