July 19. Yuri Karbasch presided over a full house today.

Yuri Karbasch presided over a full house today. I don’t know how our club does it in the middle of summer, but we consistently have a full agenda and a full audience. Today we had to visitors from toaster or, including their president, Olga, two guests invited by Kostya, and one guest attracted by a newspaper advertisement… altogether about 20 people.

Oleg Demchik repeated the first speech of his life, a glowing account of Lenin’s life as recited by a six-year-old child. His point was that people had taught him history, but had given him no instruction in oral presentation. His delivery captured the stiff posture and absolute lack of gestures that would characterize a child’s first speech. He then went one to emphasize how important gesture is in total communication. He is an expert; negotiation is his profession.

Valentina Karabaeva next spoke about her experience growing up as the supposedly “ugly sister.” Her moment of realization came when she approached a plastic surgeon about a removing a childhood scar. His council was that every beautiful woman has a flaw. Lauren Hutton had a gap between your teeth and Elizabeth Taylor had a scar on her for head. His advice was for Val to change the way she looked at herself rather than anything external. If you think of yourself as beautiful, you are beautiful.

Graham Seibert asked table topics speakers to accept awards that they had not earned, and to fake an appropriate acceptance speech. It was a difficult challenge. Olga, the president of Toastcrackers, gave a very inventive speech as she accepted an award for inventing him to a government that doesn’t stick. Kostya not only accepted the award, we tried vigorously to sell his invention, a machine that will block wrong numbers. Denis, a visitor who found us through the newspaper, accepted an award for breeding itchless mosquitoes.

Tania and concluded the meeting by noting that we have debated whether or not to meet over the summer, wondering whether we would have enough people to make it worthwhile. Yes! As many as ever, and great speeches.

Published in: on July 20, 2008 at 9:04 am  Leave a Comment  

July 12. “Play it by ear” was the word of the day

“Play it by ear” was the word of the day, and it is fairly applicable to Toastmasters meetings in the summertime. Lots of people are gone, and Maria Kapustyan, our Vice President of education seems to have to work extra hard to put together a program.

None of this difficulty was on display at the actual meeting. Today’s meeting was well attended and flowed beautifully. Graham Seibert served as Toastmasters. Julia Kostereva delivered an icebreaking speech that had us rolling in the aisles. She told an amazing, huge, and embarrassing lie as a girl, and was caught up in that lie in the way justice demands. It changed her life! An artfully told story, and an auspicious entry into our club.

Lucy Povaliy is always a delight to listen to. She talked about Paul McCartney, but as Tania Knyazeva accurately noted in her evaluation, what Lucy really talked about was the evolution of herself and Ukrainian society during the 50 years that Paul has been making music. The speech was well crafted, and as always poignant, touching our hearts.

One would have never guessed that Olga Pogorelova was assigned the task of Table Topics Master only five minutes before the meeting. She has done this before! Her theme of color worked beautifully, and as one might hope in this club, employed an artistic theme.

Yuri Karabach spoke of the colors of the approaching weekend, and the hellish dark Saturday that would follow if the correct deities were not acknowledged on Friday. Liz drew the connections among flowers, colors, and emotions. Olga asked Anna Zagornaya, a painter, to talk about colors in that medium. We learned a surprising fact: Green is a terribly difficult color for artists to manage. Hari and Tania completed the bill.

We wrapped up more or less on time, and after the meeting four members headed to an orphanage in Fastov. You can see pictures of our meeting at

And pictures of the orphanage visit at

These pictures are on two different sites because we seem to be caught in a technology transition. Yahoo is the old standard for posting photos on the web, but Google’s Picasa seems like a better bet. Please let Graham know your experience with these two sites. You may need to join Yahoo to see the meeting pictures; there should be an invitation waiting in your mailbox.

Published in: on July 12, 2008 at 5:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

July 5: An aususpicious start for our new year

We gathered this morning in the somber rooms of the contemporary arts Center of Kiev Mogilya University. The gate to the street was locked, at 10 o’clock they were precisely 3 of us at the door. But as we took our places in those echoing chambers, people continued to drift in, until eventually we had all of our scheduled speakers and evaluators.

Incoming President Tatyana Knyazeva served as Toastmaster. She started by showing the three paintings, one of which she wants to donate to the art auction tomorrow at Pyragova. There were two Southeast Asian scenes and one apparently Japanese. The consensus she received at the end of the meeting was that the larger of the two Southeast Asian paintings, labeled Mekong, would be most appropriate.

Oleg Demchik addressed a serious problem, the addictive nature of computers, and our increasing tendency to interact via electronic media rather than face-to-face. He cited an acquaintance of his who documented his efforts to run his dating life via the Internet in a mathematical formula. Though he may meet 1000 women over the Internet, there is dramatic attenuation in the translation from acquaintance to dates, and from dates to relationships. The bottom line is he has no relationships. Oleg sees this as a problem at all our relationships. He has started a couple of clubs in Kiev for people to discuss means of handling client-salesperson, boss-employee, and male-female relationships.

Valentina Karabayeva gave a speech on the limitations of money. There are many things that it will buy, but the most important things in life are beyond its power. She had an impressive list. It will buy medicine but not health. It will buy entertainment but not amusement. It will buy sex but not love. The amount of money people have seems to be largely unrelated to their happiness. A person may be 10 times richer at 60 than at 20, but is anybody 10 times happier?

Our newest member, Julia, led a very unusual table topic session. She brought photos of three famous paintings. The speaker’s challenge was to describe those paintings and words as accurately as possible to create a mental image for the listeners, and then to show the paintings to the listeners could evaluate how accurate the description had been. It wasn’t a contest, only an intriguing challenge. Graham got what Julia described as one of the world’s earliest impressionist paintings, what looked like a 16th century Spanish or Italian grandee whose features and fine garments were all composed of flowers and fruits. It was painted as a human representation of the four seasons. Maria Kapustyan drew Pablo Picasso’s famous painting Guarnica, and she was properly repulsed by the depiction of carnage in the bombing during the Spanish Civil War. Lastly, Yuri Karabach drew a dream painting by Salvatore Dali, with a voluptuous nude, wild tigers and an improbable elephant on stilts. It was a great opportunity, and all the speakers rose to the occasion quite well. It was also quite in keeping with our roots as an ArtTalkers club.

All and all, it was an aususpicious start for our new year. Good attendance, good speakers, and lively conversation both before and after the meeting. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

Published in: on July 5, 2008 at 12:50 pm  Leave a Comment