The King of Oil: The Secret Lives of Marc Rich by Daniel Ammann

Quite an interesting story about the rise and a near fall of Marc Rich, the financier commodity trader and founder of Glencore-Xtrata who lived and died in exile, fugutive from “justice” in the United States.

Mr. Ammann makes a very brazen comparison between Rich and Ayn Rand's very own Hank Rearden, a prominent industrialist in the perennial Atlas Shrugged who obstructed prohibitive and burdensome government regulation and then went in exile. Well, Rich might have been no less defiant in his actions, but definitely much more cautious in trying to make sure he's not breaking the law. And which law apllies internationally. Well, Rudy Giuliani thought differently, and made a career out of it.

The more details I read about this case, the less I like it. Rich has been clearly singled out, mistreated by the NY state prosecutors, who abused their powers in forcing him to plea guilty over a supposed tax evasion – which I'm 100 per cent certain had 155 various tax opinions by the most reputable accounting and law firms that Marc Rich + Co. ain't breaking the law. I see quite some relsemblaces between this case and the unfair treatment of our very own Mr. Khodorkovsky, who as well was singled out, mistreated, tried and jailed by the state on the back of tax evasion charges. Different reasons, but in quite similar fashion, it looks like. Saddens me.

In general, it's a good tale of putting together one of the largest and quite successful trading operations in modern history, a child who now tries to purge its founding father's name from history books. Oh well.

If he was indeed innocent, as he claims, I interject, why was he branded the greatest tax fraudster and an enemy of the state? Rich tilts his head to one side, and the red birthmark on his left cheek seems to glow brighter than usual. “I believe it was a combination of political problems and that a scapegoat was needed at the time,” Rich says. “I was an easy target, one individual, very successful, making a lot of money, and Jewish. I stood outside of the establishment.”

“I was singled out by individuals. Individuals with a clear personal interest in self-promotion,” Rich believes. “Mr. Giuliani escalated the case because he saw a chance to achieve more publicity for himself,” he maintains. “Personal interests and feelings on their side got into the way of a fair solution.”


Barolo by Matthew Gavin Frank

Man, I don't get it.

Seems like a great book, and on a most intriguing and lovely topic – yet somehow, Matthew Gavin Frank's gastronomic adventures in Barolo, stories of illegal grape picking for the venerable Luciano Sandrone, standing a shift as apprentice chef at Locanda I Cannubi, walking the same hills that I like so much – all of it made me sleepy every frigging time after just a few para's. Spent months plowing through those barely 200+ pages.

Yet, to make sure – if you're somehow into Barolo, Monforte d'Alba, Serralunga, Castiglione Falleto, la Morra, Verdunho, all this special Piemontese wine, air and culinary delights, read the book.

Балабанов Марии Кувшиновой

Прекрасная короткая посмертная биография лучшего российского режиссёра – что удивительно, лучшего и в 1990-х, и в нулевых.

Конечно, как любая книга, вышедшая после смерти своего главного героя, она склонна придавать определенным событиям новые значения, а некоторые весьма очевидные факты и просчеты наполнять иным, позитивным смыслом – но это не делает её ни на грамм хуже.

Для меня Балабанов – гениальный певец 90х, своим первым Братом и Про уродов и людей (надо признать, что Замок был довольно скучен) приоткрывшим мне глаза на российское авторское кино, которое я к тому времени считал откровенно сдувшимся и не пережившим распад СССР. И да, я, черт возьми, не смотрел Счастливые дни, что, видимо, мне предстоит в ближайшее время исправить.

После конца девяностых, я считаю, у Балабанова началась череда ужасающего трэша – всенародно любимый Брат 2 и Война, какие бы новые смыслы сейчас не придавай им (а книга написана и после Болотной, и после Донбаса, в 2015 году) – это кино осталось в памяти как имперское, с позолоченным гербом, full of bigotry – я не уверен, что сейчас, даже после дифирамбов Кувшиновой, я захочу пересмотреть их.

После всей этой имперскости, народной любви и злого пафоса, я, признаюсь, тогда списал Балабанова в утиль. Продался и сдулся, да. Поэтому гениальные (в определённом смысле) Жмурки и по моему вкусу посредственный Мне не больно я посмотрел уже в самом конце нулевых. К тому же, фактор наличия в них сильно не любимого мной Михалкова не позволял мне даже думать о том, что это кино нужно или хотя бы можно смотреть.

Вышедший в 2007 году Груз 200 списал и простил всё, всё расставил на свои места. Я до сих пор считаю, что это безусловно лучшее кино постсоветской России – и оно, нет, совсем не про 1985 год – оно максимально точно передаёт настроение в 2007-м.

Поэтому булгаковский Морфий я уже ждал с нетерпением – и он, признаюсь, оправдал мои ожидания на 100% – и после него, покрытый новой (уже моей собственной) позолотой гения, Балабанов мог снимать что угодно.

Кочегар оставил меня равнодушным – видимо, я просто не люблю Дидюлю – а вот от Я тоже хочу повеяло вечностью – как гранитным памятником с выгравированной надписью от потомков, так и затхлым дыханием смерти. Мог ли Балабанов так тонко чувствовать свой надвигающийся конец, непонятно. Безвременно умерший в том году же году, что и Балабанов, мой товарищ СБ говорил, что это воистину лучшее кино.

В целом, назад от Балабанова обратно к книге – это прекрасная форточка за рамки кинокадра формата 4*3 или 9*16, краткий взгляд внутрь мира ушедшего художника. И хоть я всю жизнь читал Искусство кино, а не Сеанс, эта биография от питерского Сеанса, найденная мной случайно в книжной лавке нового Гаража – превосходная короткая книга. Не для всех, конечно – но для меня, точно.

Hatching Twitter by Nick Bilton

Not a bad book about the early days of Twitter and fights, allegiances and struggles of its founders, which I plowed through at great speed, upon recommendation of my venerable friend and venture entrepreneur SW.

The book was no doubt written by a fan of Evan Williams and Biz Stone, as the third founder and CEO, Jack Dorsey, takes a huge beating here. He is the usurper of the Iron Throne and the destructor of everything what the other Twitter guys stood for. How much truth is in that? Hell if I knew.

What I do know, though, that these two are grand masters of their own demise. You don't need to be a venture capitalist genius to figure out that when you fire somebody, you fire him, and not let him run with a Chairman title, full access to press and your investors, and a shiny smile. Typical investment banking approach of “your email and blackberry have been disabled, your entry pass no longer works, please pack you bags, and the security will escort you out” sounds very reasonable when you fire a CEO against his will, no?

On a separate note, yours truly, I was interested in the book in a special way, as I was a rather early Twitter adopter, well, here in Russia, well before my Facebook days (where I was a very late one). I even wanted to check when I joined exactly, but scrolling down over 57 hundred tweets to find the time stamp proved an impossible task. Yeah, I've been a chatterbox in my old days, and I have seen the Twitter whale far too many times.

All in all, Twitter was a hot thing in everyone-had-blackberry days, with 140 symbols of text only, no pictures, a device to send sms to the world. And I loved it. iPhone and Facebook totally killed it all for me, frankly. And then it become the best newswire for some time. But even as a newswire, last time I read it was in 2011-2012, when Russia was burning with strange hopes and spitting out far too much energy in the streets. And after that, I'm just reading traditional newswire.


Голубые таблетки Фредерика Питерса

Неожиданно нашёл на полке купленный год или два назад и взапой, за час, с сигарой и чаем, прочитал этот короткий трогательный роман в картинках.

Наилучший подход – даже не знать, о чем он, совсем не смотреть на рецензии и краткое содержание на обороте, когда начинаешь читать – тогда его тонкость, нежность, сомнения, страхи, переживания, предрассудки будут максимально выпуклы, неприкрыты, будут резать как нож. Я читал именно так.

Превосходно, да.

А Земфира неправа, вот.


The Hills of Chianti by Piero Antinori

The Hills of Chinati is a simple short entertaining book, written by Piero Antinori himself, one of the original masterminds behind the Super Tuscan revolution, a true patriarch of Italian wine culture.

The book is a candid yet rather anecdotal collection of stories of how several of the well known Antinori bottles came into existence, but it is clearly a bit more than just that. It rotates about three key topics: Tuscany winemaking, love of wine and family heritage.

Mr. Antinori is a 25th generation Florentine winemaker, who learnt the trade from his father and who, lovingly, describes at what lengths he had to go to to instill and inspire the same love and devotion in his three daughters, who are now the face and the management of his company. It gives simple yet quite deep insight into how several centuries old family business goes about successful succession of the trade and the family name.

Wine wise, Antinori proudly explains how his uncle coined Sassicaia, while he was putting out Tignanello and subsequently Solaia. And more bottles like Cervaro etcetera. These are the achievements not so easy to match, huh.

And third, but not last, Tuscany. Hell, what can I add to the great man's words about Tuscany? 😉

Overall, a quick entertaining read, and, I would add, a must for wine enthusiasts. From the master to the crowds.


How Google Works by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg

An interesting book by two notable Googlers, Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg.

Starts up as a very simple and way too I'm very proud of myself, the Introduction chapter nearly made me throw the book away (believe it or not, it's been an actual book, not my dearest kindle – kindly given to me as a gift by VS).

Later on, however, the book turned into a good self-motivation-meets-HR gospel, written by the leaders of this huge Silicon Valley behemoth praised for its “we-love-and-cherish-our-people” agenda.

For me, that was not a book on technology and transformation – it was rather a cue for me to think about whether my goals, priorities, direction etc were right – and books that force me to think about such stuff, well, for this I'm always grateful.

Good, easy to read – however, miraculously it also made me appreciate technology – real books are nice to touch, their pages new and immaculate – but they are a total hassle to read – hell, I forgot that already – you need external light without your kindle!