Monday, November 22, 2010


When I woke up on Thursday morning and prepared for my day, a new thought entered my head that would lead me on a mission in Moscow. The thought stayed with me throughout the day, tormented me with such a clarity that it caused me to salivate. I thought of a meatball sub from Subway.

When I had lived off-contract and taught privates in my second year in South Korea, I had made it a tradition every Friday to stop in at Subway and order a meatball sub. I like them a certain way: tomatoes, green peppers and olives, all warmed up in the microwave so the layer of cheese at the top melts over the saucy meatballs. As I brushed my teeth that Thursday morning in Moscow, I realized that I was doing much the same thing here in Russia as I had done in Korea, and there were indeed Subway restaurants dotted around the city.

Part of the reason for the fanatiscism with which I set out to sink my teeth into a meatball sub was because I hadn't had one in over a year. Another reason was because I had eaten nothing for 3 days.

Katya and I are at the end of our money for the month, and we've both been waiting to get paid. In the meantime, we have run out of food. As a Russian, Katya is quite happy eating a bowl of salty buckwheat gruel every day, and her company feeds her lunch every day. I personally won't eat buckwheat. I hate the stuff. In 1812, as Napolean's Grand Armee marched towards Moscow, living off what food they could force from the peasants, many French soldiers died of starvation because the only food that could be found was buckwheat, and the French refused to eat it and starved to death instead. I can now sympathize with them.

But just the day before I had been compensated by some students and on that day, I was going to get a meatball sub, and I knew just the place. To the left of the place where Old Arbat joins New Arbat there is a Subway Sandwiches. As Arbat lies on the blue line, and I was travelling on the blue line that day, it seemed like fate.

I set out full of joy. It felt like Christmas, I was so excited to eat that delicious sandwich with it's dried-up balls of processed pork-like meat product, which have sat in a slowly fermenting pool of tomato sauce all day. Mmmmm, delicious!

It had began to rain and snow when I emerged from the metro. Although it was only 5:30, it was already dark, and fat drops of rain intermixed with swirling snowflakes fell down across the street lights. Arbat was its normal bustle of business men, people handing out Mir Tattoo flyers, beautiful women in skirts and heels, and buskers playing guitars and even one on a trumpet.

I made my way to Subway. It wasn't very busy. There were two big young guys in black leather jackets sitting and eating, and an older lady was arguing with the girl at the counter about the process of making her a sub. The normal Subway decor was there, complete with a map of the New York subway system, the yellow walls and fake plants, and the L-shaped counter where one orders the sub and pays for it at the end. But as I perused the menu, I realized with a sinking feeling that in Russia, they DIDN'T HAVE THE MEATBALL SUB!!!

With an inspection of the different toppings to make sure I wasn't reading the menu wrong, it was confirmed. There were no meatballs bobbing about pathetically in disgusting (yet delicious) tomato sauce, usually with a silver ladel sticking out of one side.

"Can I help you?" The woman, a large creature with a heavy mongoloid face and jet-black hair, was staring at me. With her white t-shirt covered by a black Subway apron, she looked a lot like a penguin "Umm.." I replied wittily. Glancing over the menu, I saw the Subway staple. B.M.T. "Moizhna bolshoi Bay-Em-Tay. Bilayi hlyeb (Give me a large B.M.T. White bread)".

The penguin grunted her response and grabbed a long white baton from the oven-thingy and began making my sub. Apparently in Russia one doesn't choose which toppings you get, however, because she just started piling on lettuce and other useless vegetables. *

*I hate lettuce. It serves no function. It has no flavour, nor does it even contain any nutritional content. It is mearly a leafy decoration and I would probably get more satisfaction out of putting hay on my sub.

"Wait a moment. No lettuce, please." I instructed. The penguin gave me a hard look and then barked aggressively at me in Russian I didn't understand. She started piling lettuce on (ah, Russian customer service). Then she went for the onions. "Nyet!" I cried out, and the large Mongol woman literally snarled at me. After she had placed the lettuce and onions on, and refused to put green peppers on it as I instructed, she turned and put the sub into the toaster. "Nooooo!" I cried out. If I wanted toast, I would have gone to Quiznos! Except there are no Quiznos in Russia, thank god (I also hate Quiznos, with their cheap 1 ounce of meat and vegetables and stale bread that always burns).

I sat down dejectedly with my half-burnt BMT and the toasted pieces of lettuce and onion sticking out of the sides. Thankfully it was still wrapped and I was hungry enough to actually eat it. Just then a soft female voice said, in English "Excuse me, but maybe I can help you?" I looked up to see a red-haired angel. She was tall and slim and curvy beneath her white wool sweater, with beautiful long, thick red hair flowing down her back. Her face was the typical soft, small Slavic work of art and she had such lovely brown eyes that my stomach tightened when I saw them. Or perhaps that was the third day of hunger setting in?

"Umm, well, its too late now!" I replied. She giggled. "I guess." She had that cute and sexy Russian accent that all women who speak English here have. Sometimes I think they practise it from James Bond films.

Remembering my manners, I stood. "What's your name?" I asked. She smiled warmly. "Masha." Then, noticing my wedding ring, she said "You're married?" I suddenly felt very guilty, for I am indeed married but instinct had, when presented with such a beauty, automatically gone into flirting mode. What to do? Lie? Tell the truth? Pursue? Back off? Eat my sub? I took the noble path. "Yes, I'm married!" I exclaimed with pride. This seemed to please Masha, who patted my forearm and said "Good for you. Married men are such good men." And she smiled and stared straight at me. I gulped.

Just then one of the guys in the leather jackets who had been eating when I walked in shouted and leapt to his feet. He barelled straight at us. "Oi! Ti bla-bla-bla-bla-ka!" He was quite pissed off. Maybe Masha was his girlfriend? She apparently didn't know him because she shouted angrily to him in Russian. He ignored her and, standing a few inches from me he continued to shout. I understood a few of the words, including the word "foreigner" and "American".

So this was it. Russia has always been torn between two camps, the Westerners, who want Russia to embrace the rest of the world and be more progressive, and the Slavophiles, who believe Russia has their own thing going and should be the cultural and political home of the Slavic peoples. There is a long history of paranoia towards all foreigners in Russia, and under Putin and his United Russia party, the passionate power of the Slavophile camp has been harnessed. This young man in front of me, then, was obviously the neo-nazi version of a Slavophile. How to explain that I am a friend of Russia, that I love the Slavs and their culture and hope to see Russia take its rightful place in the world?

I didn't have time because the Slav-nazi jabbed his finger into my chest as he screamed a torrent of abuse at me. I was still wearing my heavy black winter coat so it didn't hurt, but my pride was injured and, forgetting that this guy could probably kill me I placed my sub down on the table and prepared to hit him square in the nose.

Just then a large grey uniform pushed its way between us. We were both forced apart and I saw two men in uniforms with fur caps and gold double-headed eagle badges. The militsia! I looked around. Masha was nowhere to be seen. The penguin, who had obviously run out and flagged down the police during the altercation, was rambling away excitedly to the cop and pointing at me. The nazi was standing there while his eating companion quietly slipped out the door, probably the same way Masha had gone.

The cops looked bored and patiently listened to the penguin, who was very excited but seemed to be full of spite towards me. The cop who had pushed us apart pulled out a notepad and began to take notes. The nazi, realizing nobody was paying attention to him, did a little side-step to the door and then ran off. It was only me, the penguin and two Russian militsia.

I have, in 14 months, managed to stay out of trouble and have not once been harassed by the police in Russia. Stories aboud about unprovoked document checks of foreigners (everyone must carry their passport, visa and registration in Russia at all times), followed by the remark that something is out of order with the paperwork, followed by a heavy bribe to make "everything" in order again. Katya and I don't have a lot of money and I had just spent 200 roubles on a nasty sub, which I was determined to eat.

As the penguin rattled on, following, it seemed, the anti-foreigner attitude of the nazi, the cops scribbled notes and looked at the ground. They were obviously not very interested. I realized that in the past minute or two since their arrival, they had hardly glanced at me. Not waiting for the inevitable "Dokumenti, palzhasta", I did a little sidestep towards the door. Nobody noticed me. I took another step and stopped. My heart was pounding. Nobody even looked at me. The door was only one more step away. Like a crab scurrying sideways along the beach, I did a quick shuffle to the door, slowly opened it and stepped out into the rain and snow along Arbat. I was free!

I walked briskly for about ten seconds, aiming for the metro past the underground walkway when I suddenly remembered my BMT. I had left it on the table!

Perhaps it was hunger, or the feeling that I had so far gone through too much to simply leave it behind. Perhaps it was guilt at spending the little money we had left. Whatever the reason, without much thought I turned back towards the door to Subway.

It was only a few feet away from me and I could see that the penguin was still talking, pointing at the bread ovens now, and the cops were seemingly sleeping. I quietly opened the door and slipped inside, then did a little side-shuffle back to the table. My sub was still there. One of the cops, perhaps noticing movement, looked over at me with an inquisitive look, but I just stood there and smiled stupidly. "See?" I tried to tell him with my face. "I'm just a stupid foreigner!" He looked away. I quickly shot my hand out and grabbed my sub, still wrapped in wax paper which made a small crackling sound. Nobody noticed. Then I repeated my earlier escape.

Once outside I beelined as fast as I could for the underground walkway that crosses noisy New Arbat. My heart was pounding fast. Surely they would give chase? I glanced behind me as I walked double-time but saw only the usual crowd of people. When I reached the metro station I took a last look, but apparently I wasn't worth going after. Surely they had noticed me missing by now, but I really had done nothing wrong, the nazi had disappeared and the penguin was complaining about bread. For the cops it must have been a relief to see me gone. Case closed. Let's go sit in our car and smoke.

As I rode the metro to my evening class I laughed heartily to myself (in my head, so as not to seem insane). I had evaded trouble! I had nearly fought a nazi! I had escaped from the clutches of corruption not once but twice! Haha!

When the train came to my stop I stepped off, still laughing. "Haha! You'll never catch me, coppers, see?" I made my way to the long, steep escalators and as I rode up I continued to think of my daring escape. "I can't believe I went back for the sub!" I thought to myself. "And now I am going to enjoy it even more!" I looked down at my sub, except it wasn't there. "No!" I actually shouted out.

I had left the damn thing on the train.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


As an avid hockey fan (the Canadian stereotype is true) I have enjoyed going to a couple of KHL games in Russia and watching quite a few on television. The KHL is home to a lot of hockey talent, many of whom end up in the NHL in North America.

Hockey superstars from Russia such as Alexei Ovechkin, Marion Hossa, Alexander Eremenko, Z'Dno Chara and Alexandre Yashin all came from the KHL. Indeed, Russia has always been a hockey super-power, and the Soviet Union won gold in every competition until 1972 when, four years before the Americans did it (and took all the credit..."Miracle On Ice" my ass...more like "We Finally Managed To Do It After Canada Did It Twice And Sweden Once...On Ice"), a team of plucky young men from Canada defeated the Soviets in game seven of a nail-biting international series.

The KHL has 23 teams divided into two conferences, east and west. In May of every year the two teams left standing after a grueling playoff season compete in the Gagarin Cup (named after the famous first man in space). One thing I've noticed from watching KHL games is that there seems to be a no-checking rule in place, much like in Olympic and women's hockey. As a result there is a greater emphasis on puck-handling and passing, although the strategic element of running roughshod over one's opponent is lacking. The stadiums are also much smaller than the gigantic colosseums of the NHL, and as a result I find the NHL, with it's good balance of skillful European skating and bone-crushing North-American hits, much more entertaining.

The teams of the KHL are as follows:


Nizhny Novgorod Torpedo: A decent team and home to the Soviet goaltending legend Viktor Konovalenko.

Yaroslav Lokomotive: Founded in 1949, Lokomotiv has since spawned a football club by the same name. In 2002 and 2003 they won the Gagarin Cup.

Moscow Spartak: Founded in 1946, Spartak (Spartans) is also the name of a rough-and-tumble Moscow football club whose fans are famous hooligans. The hockey team attracts the same following by sake of the name alone.

Spartak has not won a Gagarin Cup since 1991.

Chekhov Vityaz: The Vityaz (Knights) were founded in 2004 and have not yet won any championships. Nevertheless, their fans are quite passionate and they are one of the only KHL teams to consistently sell-out seats.

Cherepovyets Severstal: Founded in 1956 and owned by a large steel company, they won the cup in 2000.

Minsk Dynamo: The first and only team from Belarus to join the KHL in 2008, Minsk Dynamo is also the current team of up-and-coming NHL draft pick Jordan Henry, a Canadian playing in Minsk.

St. Petersburg SKA: SKA (Sports Klub of the Army), despite it's Soviet-era name, is no longer a military club but owned by Gazprom. They won the championships in 1970, 1971 and 1977, but have since fizzled. They are, however, home to Minnesota Wild right-winger Maxim Sushinksi.

Moscow CSKA: Like the St. Petersburg team, CSKA was a Soviet-era army club but has since gone mercenary (ie: private). CSKA has won more Russian championships and European League cups than any other team in history; 33, all told. Since 1989, however, their star has waned. Between 1975 and 1989 CSKA played 36 games against NHL teams and won 17 of them.

Mytischi Atlant: Formed in 1998, the Atlant won the cup in 2007. They are now the current team of disgraced NHL goaltender, former Ottawa Senator Ray Emery. In keeping with his reputation he earned while in the Stanley Cup finals between Ottawa and Anaheim in 2007, Emery has since, in Mytischi, attacked his coach and been suspended for cocaine use. The Atlant are also the home team of next year's probably first-round NHL draft pick Sergei Mozyakin.

Riga Dynamo: Founded in 2008, they are the first team from Latvia to join the KHL. They are the home team of hockey legend Marcel Hossa. Both Riga Dynamo and Minsk Dynamo were formed at the same time, and by a strange coincidence both teams chose the same name.

Moscow Dynamo: Formed this past year in 2010 and taking the same name as the famous Moscow football club, they have yet to achieve anything other than to add a third Dynamo to the KHL's western conference.


Khabarovsk Amur: Founded in 1966, the Amur are named after the nearby River Amur. They are the most isolated of the KHL teams; the nearest team is 3000 km away! Nevertheless, they manage to continuously win games and took home the championships in 1986 and 2006. They also had NHL veteran Nolan Pratt playing for them for a while.

Khanti-Manskisk Yugra: Since their foundation in 2006, Yugra has continued the tradition of providing top-notch Siberian teams to the world of hockey. They are likely contenders for the 2010-2011 Gagarin Cup.

Novokuznetsk Metallurg: Another fast and powerful team from Siberia, Metallurg won the championships in 1964 and 1966.

Chelyabinsk Traktor: Founded in 1947, Traktor is one of the only teams in the KHL to have beaten Moscow CSKA in the championships. Traktor has also played in the International Hockey League and won it twice. They are currently coached by former NHL veteran Andrei Nazarov, who was born and raised in Chelyabinsk.

Astana Baris: They played their first KHL game in 2008, and I can find little other information about them.

Kazan Ak-Bars: The current super-team of the KHL, the Ak-Bars have won the past three Gagarin Cups and have yet to lose a game in the European Hockey League. Founded in 1958, the Ak-Bars (Tatar for "Snow Leopards") carries on the tradition of it's Mongol namesake by being one of the roughest and fastest teams in the KHL. NHL superstars Alexei Kovalev and Alexei Morozov have played for the Ak-Bars, and the NHL asked Canadian Ak-Bar defenceman Ray Giroux to sign on, but he refused and has stayed loyal to this tough team from Kazan.

Ufa Salavat Yulaev: From the city of Ufa, in southern Siberia, Salavat Yulaev has won 66 of the 77 games they have played, and are likely contenders for this year's championships.

Nizhnekamsk Neftekhimik: From the Russian republic of Tatarstan, the Neftekhimik (Petrochemists) have yet to achieve anything spectacular.

Yekaterinburg Avtomobilist: The "Automobilists", despite their incredibly silly name, are a top-notch hockey team with a lot of high-scoring players who we may eventually see in the NHL.

Omsk Avangard: Established in 1950, the Avangard (Avante-Guarde) won the championships in 2004 and then the European Cup in the same year. In 2009 they signed NHL superstars Jamori Jagr and Stanislav Chistov. In the spring of 2010 they were involved in an on-ice, bench-clearing brawl that went viral on YouTube, partly because it was a fight amongst fellow team-members jealous over the ice time Jagr was getting.

Novosibirsk Sibir: The Sibir (Siberians) were formed in 1947 after Russian sports writer Ivan Ivanovich brought the first Canadian hockey stick to Novosibirsk and showed the people what ice hockey was. Fittingly, the Sibir were the first Soviet hockey team to import foreign talent...all of them from Canada.

Magnitogorsk Metallurg: There's something fishy about the large number of teams in the KHL that have the same name, but the Metallurg from Magnitogorsk are the more famous team after they played the New York Rangers in the Victoria Cup and beat them 3-0.

That is the KHL, the second largest hockey league in the world after the NHL, and home to nearly 40% of the NHL's talent, including a long list of hockey superstars whose names are household items (in some houses).

Friday, November 12, 2010

Conservative Logic

It was with great frustration that I learned this week that the Canadian government plans to introduce reforms to the immigration system. This comes on the wake of two very big media events concerning immigration.

The first was when a container ship landed in Vancouver with over 2000 Sri Lankans hidden aboard, all claiming refugee status (in Canada a refugee claim grants the claimant the right to reside in the country while their case is reviewed, which can take between 3 and 5 years). As the RCMP filtered through the refugees, over 20 suspected Tamil Tiger terrorists were discovered.

The second big event, perhaps spurred on by an already hyped-up media, was the case of a young Canadian man who married a Phillipino girl and brought her back to Canada on a Permanent Residency visa (the only visa available for foreign spouses). Under the "family sponsorship class" of visa, the sponsor is financially responsible for the claimant for three years. Well, immediately upon arriving in Canada, the young man's wife promptly left him to join up with her Phillipino husband who lived in Toronto! The couple then immediately began defrauding the welfare and employment insurance systems, as well as taking out bad loans in the name of her Canadian husband. The banks and the government then sued the poor Canadian guy for over $2 million, as he was financially responsible for her!

These cases illustrate the worst that humans can do, but by no means represent the vast majority of immigrants to the nation. Like the US, Canada was founded on immigration and as the baby-boomers all stampede to retirement at the same time, it will be immigrants who stabilize the economy.

The proposed immigration reforms will include 3 year waiting periods for visa applicants of the family sponsorship class, heavily increased fees (already they hover over $1200 per application), and increased penalties on sponsors if the applicant defaults. In addition to this, the government announced plans to cut back the Ministry of Immigrations' budget!

This all bodes ill for me and my wife, as we are about to launch a family sponsorship class visa application!

The main issue here has nothing to do with immigration, and everything to do with politics. Right now in Canada's parliament the Conservative Party leads a minority government. This means that although they constitute the most seats of any one party and thus form a government, the three opposition parties (the Liberal Party, the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois) outnumber them. Under Canadian law if a government motion is struck down in Parliament, it is akin to a vote of no-confidence and a new election must be called.

With the Conservatives outnumbered and the opposition parties constantly threatening to vote down their bills, the Conservatives have been scrambling to curry favour with their conservative voting class. The recent immigration scandals in Vancouver and Toronto and the over-hyped media coverage that ensued have whipped the public up into an somewhat anti-immigrant fever, and the Tories (as the Conservatives are called) are hoping to cash in on that. Thus the sudden reform proposals. While polls show that the Conservatives may win a majority in any election, the opposition wouldn't dare topple them.

So here I sit in Russia with my Russian wife, hoping to hell that we get her visa application in before any changes are made (everything is confusing enough, and there is already a 3-14 month waiting period). So many documents need to be collected, translated and notarized. Money paid to various government agencies. 82 pages of forms filled out and couriered to Toronto.

If the Tories get their way to curry political favour, I will be stranded in Russia for 3 years, instead of having two tax-paying and home-owning citizens living in Canada. That's conservative logic for you.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Mission To Moscow Joins The Mile-High Club

It is with great joy that I announce that Mission to Moscow has gone sky-high! That's right. This blog is now being introduced in in-flight magazines!

In October the Russian airline Aeroflot featured an article in their in-flight magazine about inter-cultural marriages, and Mission To Moscow was featured and quoted in this article. Fittingly, I was the last to know about it.

The new hits to this blog skyrocketed and I received over 100 emails. For the past few weeks I couldn't figure out where all this traffic was coming from, until I walked into Language Link for my first Russian language class.

It was a strange feeling, returning to the school I taught so many English classes but this time as a student. Many of my colleagues were still there, sitting in the staff room, and I exchanged banter with them but felt uncomfortable crossing the threshold from the hallway into the room. After all, I am no longer a teacher at this company. Some were surprised to see me return and others not so interested. For me, it was nice to see everyone again, particularly Gem who joined me for a few beers at Kruzhka last week.

It was the Russian administrators of the school, however, who not only seemed very happy to see me again (I always had fun conversations with them), but treated me as a minor celebrity. Then one of them pulled out the Aeroflot article with my picture and my blog in it. "What on earth?" I queried myself. Suddenly, all the traffic and emails began to make sense.

When I got home I opened the email account and began reading through all the messages. Many of them were none too flattering (not everyone shares my sense of humour), but three of them stood out. Those were requests for articles about Moscow from competitor in-flight magazines!

Naturally I responded positively and then opened Word to begin pounding out Pulitzer-Prize worthy articles, but instead I sat there staring at the blinking cursor. I actually don't have anything to write about! In the end I sent off a few manuscripts concerning points of interest in Moscow and general advice about travelling know, the same old stuff you can find in any travel guide. Two of the three airlines accepted them and I'm still waiting to hear from the third.

After nearly two years of sharing personal experiences, drunken ramblings, historical analysis and plain stupid entertainment, I'm finally making money with this blog (something I stumbled into and didn't set out to do). Who knew there was such a market with in-flight magazines? Mission To Moscow has joined the mile-high club! Now, if only its author could do the same...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Russian Subtitles

After 11 hours of flying and one stop-over and the painful memory of the in-flight movie, Toy Story 3 (painful because I actually enjoyed it), I landed at Domodyedova International in Moscow. I stepped out of the airport and it immediately began snowing, heralding in the earliest snowfall in Moscow in 27 years. My super-natural ability to cause all sorts of natural mishaps wherever I travel is in fine shape.

Two buses, three metro station changes, one elektrishka commuter train and two hours later, I was back in Katya's living room sipping on wine, eating crackers and delicious Russian cheese, and watching The Wedding Singer with my wife.

Since meeting Katya, more than a year ago now, I have discovered a whole new world of manipulating movie files to add subtitles to them. Most films in Russia are dubbed, a fact that annoys me to no end. Dubbing is stupid and lazy and nearly all of the emotion of the actors is lost. The quality of dubbing in Russia varies, but most of the time it is very, very poor. I once watched Role Models on DVD that was dubbed using only one man's voice for all the characters, including children and women. He read it in a very monotone, factual fashion and I only made it thirty minutes into the movie when I demanded it be turned off.

Other times the dubbing is so sloppy that you can hear the original voices underneath it, creating a confusing mess of speech that is more difficult to concentrate on than the actual images on the screen.

Myself, I would much rather watch a foreign film with subtitles, and I can't understand why Russians opt for the crappy voice-overs. Movies are supposed to be entertaining and relaxing and, hopefully, informative. Concentrating on foreign languages and suffering through a painful news anchors voice reading a script doesn't meet those criteria, which is why I demand that when Katya and I watch films, we use subtitles.

It took me a while, but eventually I figured out how to find, download, adjust the frame rate and apply the subtitles to almost any film we are watching.

I use VLC media player because it will play movies in any format, but Katya prefers Windows Media Player because it is sparkly. Both of these players require different methods to watch subtitles.

First, I go to or and type in the name of the film + "russian subtitles" (eg: The Wedding Singer Russian Subtitles). A whole bunch of links to sites will appear. For Russian subtitles, which are harder to find, and are two of the better ones. For other languages,, and are great (but suck for Russian files).

Subtitle files are usually stored in .zip format and they are very, very small; a few kilobytes at the most. Simply download the file, making sure to put it in the same folder as your movie file.

That was the easy part. Getting the subtitles to play at the same speed as your movie can take some work. If you're lucky, which I am from time to time, it will already be perfectly synchronized, but 80% of the time it won't be. You need to test it first.

If you are using VLC Media Player, open the player and click on "file>open" and in the form load your movie file. Underneath that is a box that says "Use subtitles". Check that box and a new form will become available. Load your subtitle file and click on "Advanced". You need to load the language, as VLC will automatically play it using Latin letters. If it is Russian, you need to fool around with the different options (MacCyrillic, Ukrainian, and a bunch of numbers. I find ISP1250 to work best). Click "OK" and your film will automatically start.

If you are using Windows Media Player you need to fool around with the actual file first, although not too much. Simply ensure that the subtitle file has the exact same name as the movie file, but ends in ".srt". It is very important that the subtitle file and movie file are in the same folder. Open the movie file in WMP and the subtitles will play automatically.

At this point, regardless of which player you are using, you need to first check to make sure that the timing of the subtitles is in synch with the movie. If it is too slow or too fast, it will only get worse as the movie plays. The frame rates are accumalitive, so if a subtitle is playing 5 seconds too fast at the beginning, after two hours it will be playing 125 seconds too fast by the end, making for very confusing watching. You need to change this.

I did a simple search on google and found Subtitle Workshop 4.0. It's very easy to use, is a small file and, best of all, it's free!

Open Subtitle Workshop 4.0 and click on "file>load new" and find your wayward subtitle file. The program can only read Latin letters so if you have a subtitle file with a different alphabet, such as Cyrillic in my case, it will show only a bunch of non-sensical characters. That's okay. We don't care what's written there, we only care about when it will appear.

After you've loaded the subtitles, go to "Movie>load movie" and add your movie file. Now it's important to have either a piece of paper and a writing utensil or NoteNote open, because you'll need to record the start and end times of the where you want the subtitles to be.

In Workshop, watch your film and see where the first subtitle should appear. Some subtitles appear for every written word on the screen (actors names, etc) while others only start with the first spoken word. Almost all show the name of the film. You'll need to figure that out on your own.

When you've decided where the first subtitle should appear, write down the time (under the movie on the left). Now skip to the end of the film and figure out where the last subtitle should appear and write down that time.

Go to "Edit>Timings>Adjust>Adjust Subtitles" and enter your new first and last times. It will automatically adjust all the subtitles to these new parameters.

Because you're probably smarter than me, you'll figure out to save the newly-adjusted subtitles at this point, and not try to load it in the film without saving it and expecting it to magically work. Like I did. The first four times. I called the wrath of the gods down upon my computer before I realized I hadn't saved the file.

Once I did that, however, it worked like magic, and after a long flight and 8 time zones and reverse-reverse culture shock, my wife and I were comfortably giggling away to Adam Sandler in the Wedding Singer, with her enjoying the perfectly synched subtitles and me enjoying hearing the actors voices. My next project? Toy Story 3.