26 June 2013

Cuba's Communism

Today I was searching the internet for a series of photographs of homes in Cuba and in my search for these pictures I remember vividly (but yet cannot remember the name of the photographer), I discovered Jan Sochor

13 June 2013

Putin Speaks English and German (and French)

I'm waaaay behind on all the things, but here's a belated Wednesday post highlighting Putin's linguistic capabilities.

Putin speaks Russian, French (obviously), German, and English.  Is there some other one I don't know about?  Not surprised about the French because I swear every Russian book I've read uses French phrases (even after translation) and Russia's power was during the height of French's fashionability.  It's not uncommon for anyone in Europe or Russia to know French in some capacity.


It only makes sense that he speaks German since Putin was stationed as a KGB officer in Dresden for 5 years.  I cannot help but think of Lara in Good Bye, Lenin! because the accent is the exact same. 

Then there's English.  This is the video that came out with him speaking English.  He obviously has used English before (doubt that Obama speaks any of the other three languages), but everyone is making note of this video.  I certainly did because I've never seen video of him using English, let alone for such a span of time.  Does anyone else notice that he makes weird facial contortions with certain English sounds?  It looks like it pains him to utter them out loud.  I worked with an Italian woman in Budapest who would always repeat the hideous "er" sound whenever she uttered it, just to make fun of how ugly it sounded.  We often would just start saying "er! er! ERRRRR!" to be funny because, let's face it, it really is a hideous sound.

No videos of French, and why would I even care!  France isn't part of this blog!

10 June 2013

Monday Film Review: 5 Elephants

The Goethe Institut in Chicago is always showing movies or having cultural events to promote German culture. Despite taking classes there and being generally impressed, I never made it to their events until now.  They were showing Die Frau mit den 5 Elephanten (The Woman with 5 Elephants) and I forced my husband to attend with me.

05 June 2013

Pilsen - Many Kilometers Away

A while back, I did a post about eastern European immigration into Chicago and their presence in various neighborhoods.  I became inspired to start searching in my own backyard for the comforts and culture of Europe, which lie thousands of kilometers and dollars away from me.  This is going to be very fun for me because it gives me a chance to dust off my camera, see neighborhoods I don't often venture, and get to know my city and Europe better.  My partner in crime is none other than the Ms. Christine Armbruster, who is slowly becoming synonymous with this blog.  She's an amazing adventure companion and her photography far, far outshines my own.  Christine and Taylor are taking over European Chicago, one step at a time.  Get ready for TONS of pictures.

03 June 2013

Monday Film Review: Dekalog

You'll have to excuse if this post waxes rhapsodic or if I get overly emotional.  I have never loved a movie/series so intensely at first viewing.  At this point, I have viewed all of them at least three times and I have deliberately sought out more of his work.  The epic Dekalog film series by Krzysztof Kieślowski is a work of brilliance.  It was my first introduction to the legendary director and by all means was the best one.

31 May 2013

5/31 Review: Checking Facts, Basketball, and ICTY, WHY?


All I'm going to say about that ^^ is holy balls of hellfire, I am slowly starting to hate ICTY.  Make up your mind about what is ancillary and what is not.

28 May 2013

Monday Book Review: Us

Today's review is a day late because here in the US, we were on holiday.  Memorial Day weekend means you are only allowed to do several things: barbeque, do yard work, and eat.  I did all three (FTW).  Now on to your regularly scheduled post (1 day delayed).

24 May 2013

5/24 Review - Dramatics and Righting Historical Wrongs

Friday means reflecting on our past week.  Tune in to get a gist of the big news, my opinions on the news, videos, art, and music.  My discoveries are yours to enjoy!

22 May 2013

Animation Gluttony

I love seeing animations and so do you!  They're not all with English subtitles, so bust out that translating software/website.  Today has a wide selection from countries, styles, and even time periods (though not one is past 1990).  Gear up for some beautiful animation, which goes so unappreciated these days.

20 May 2013

Monday Film Review: Farewell

 One of my favorite films (I don't care about the haters out there) is rather conventional, relatively well-known for a foreign film, and deals with the time shortly before and after the fall of the Wall.  The main actor is pretty hunky and it's in German.  Good Bye, Lenin! is a general crowd pleaser, I know, and it will hardly be a surprise that I love it and it will keep a soft spot in my heart.  Like Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others), it's palatable for an American audience; my husband is a relatively good barometer for American responses and he liked it.

17 May 2013

5/17 Reflections and Sharing Time

 This is the round up of the past 7 days. Short news blurbs/my opinions on them, and some cool stuff I tweeted about for those who don't follow me/scroll through the little box to the right.

15 May 2013

Hungarian Ethnography & Folklore

I discovered this site a number of weeks ago, but never got around to featuring it.  I don't fully recollect how I got to it, but it has visual beauty and information that one needs to learn about rural Hungary.  I lived in Budapest and only ventured outside the city to go to Belgrade, Vienna, and Lake Balaton.  This meant I didn't get to experience the non-urban aspect of Hungarian culture, which was a real shame.  When I end up Hungary again, I'll be sure to visit smaller places and soak in more of the traditional culture.

13 May 2013

Monday Film Review: Tapping In, Helping Out

This film is a little old, but still a powerful punch of morality in the Soviet realm.  If you haven't seen Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others), you need to view it as soon as possible.  It was the Best Foreign Film Oscar in 2007 and though I can't speak for the other contenders, this movie was worth every bit of its weight in Oscar gold.  Even my parents loved it, and they are not inclined to love communist things.  I can't remember if I picked it or not.

08 May 2013

Pawel Kuczynski

I found Pawel's work on Imgur, but he also has a Toon Pool page.  I'd suggest visting his official website.  I have included some of his satirical work, but his unofficial page on Facebook and a Tumblr (with some gifs!) have a plethora.  His work is not only visually arresting, but the satirical nature gives it heft.   This post is more pictures, less talk, so here's a quick bio I found on Pawel:

06 May 2013

Monday Book Review: The Frog's Ass

I have discovered time travel, so rest assured this was published on Monday, but only when I went back into the past today.  It's a weird time loop thing that can never fully be explained by science or fiction.  This book had sat in my mental queue for quite some time since I had seen Kelly Hignett mention that it was a swell read.  By the grace of Stalin, it was in the library for me to snatch up and experience; I had run out of books in my own house to read.  This is my story.

01 May 2013

May Day!

I won't write a post on the history of May Day because there is plenty of information that is searchable with those two words.  It's a historic day and has contained various significance over the centuries, including the communist cry for the worker and Hitler's Tempelhof rally/his death.  I wanted to insert a little bit of lightheartedness and personal for the day instead of all those historical facts.  Pretty sure that's going to be covered with great frequency.  Who's ready to learn about a May Day tradition?

(I do want to apologize for the delay/absence in content--I do this in my spare time and I haven't had much of that lately.)

24 April 2013

Get a Taste of Eastern Europe

I came across this magnificent Pinterest user: A Curious Taste.  It is a complete smorgasbord of pictures from all around the world, including the beloved CEE, and even has a board specifically for cuisine blogs.  I found a number on there that I would like to share for those interested in making authentic cuisine from these areas, and added to the list to fill in the gaps.  I had to cut so many blogs that had no English translations/translation function.  :((

This is by no means an exhaustive list.  Plenty of cooking and recipe websites have sections for regional cuisines that aren't difficult to find, but I sought for original blogs in English.  There are plenty of regional cuisine cookbooks as well, so do not feel limited to the internet (is that a limitation? I wonder...)

23 April 2013

Chechnya: A Little Background Series, Part 2

Due to the events in Boston, Chechnya is the hot topic.  There is a lot of solid, fair information out there, but there's also really prejudiced, xenophobic information as well.  This post should hopefully condense the history of the neighboring north Caucus neighbors as well as Chechnya and give context since the name and history of this region will be tossed about for the next couple of weeks, at least.  Let me clearly state this now: it is unclear whether the conflict in Chechnya has any relevance to the Boston bombing and I am not endorsing a direct link between the two.  This is merely to give more information about a misunderstood, seldom-taught corner of the world and it's best to have more straight information out when it's being talked about.  Let us proceed.

Chechnya is right on the border of Georgia.  This borderland of the former Soviet Union/USSR has been embroiled in conflict for the past while.  Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Chechnya all occupy the Caucus between the Caspian and Black Seas.  The proximity of all these regions, their wars, and continued disputes is important when considering the state of Chechnya.  Since there is a lot going on, I've broken it down by the conflicted region.  There is a lot going on here, so I've broken it down into 3 post, culminating in Chechnya. This post is discussing South Ossetia.  Abkhazia's post is here.


22 April 2013

Monday FILM Review: Serbian Hero

Today's Monday review is going to be a film, not a book!  It's time to get a little multimedia in my reviews.  For those following me on Twitter, you saw that I went to see "Slaughter Nick for President" on Friday at CIMM Fest.  I seldom get to watch movies about eastern Europe because my husband does not have the same taste, and my selections tend to be downers (which he wishes to avoid).  I have to be careful about my selections because he would not tolerate a film like "Sátántangó", which is 7 hours long.  I don't even know if I can get him to commit to "Dekalog" (which I cherish in my heart) despite that it's essentially like a TV series.  The point is, we both had to win.  I got Serbia in there and he got some feel-good.

20 April 2013

Chechnya: A Little Background Series

Due to the events in Boston, Chechnya is the hot topic.  There is a lot of solid, fair information out there, but there's also really prejudiced, xenophobic information as well.  This post should hopefully condense the history of the neighboring north Caucus neighbors as well as Chechnya and give context since the name and history of this region will be tossed about for the next couple of weeks, at least.  Let me clearly state this now: it is unclear whether the conflict in Chechnya has any relevance to the Boston bombing and I am not endorsing a direct link between the two.  This is merely to give more information about a misunderstood, seldom-taught corner of the world and it's best to have more straight information out when it's being talked about.  Let us proceed.

19 April 2013

Moving Forward: 4/19 Review

This past week hasn't been the flashiest in terms of news, but there has been some movement on the political scene.

Central Europe

Hungary got quite a bit of negative attention this week, and for more than solely-political reasons.  To add to the constitutional changes that Fidesz has put into action, they've decided to annoy Brussels with an ad hoc tax to pay EU fines.  Delightful.  It had one thing going in its favor: the ruling on the violent interrogation was upheld.

Romania made two big decisions this week: 1) they are abandoning their original EU target year and postponing until 2020 and 2) they are proposing a property restitution bill to settle disputes from collectivization during the Soviet era.  A Romanian daily paper is concerned that this will fuel the Romanian real estate bubble.

Germany has a new party emerging: Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), which has an outline of its political stances here (in German - sorry!).  Surprise, surprise, they are not pro-EU/United States of Europe and challenging the CDU/CSU coalition that's been in power since Merkel stepped up the podium.

17 April 2013

Katyń (Forest) Massacre

Today's focus is on a historical event that has great significance to Poles.  Poland and Russia have a long and tangled history of clashes and Katyń was among many bloody events.  The Katyń forest is just outside Smolensk, a fact that will prove interesting later in the story. The massacre occurred in April and May of 1940 and is the result of an infamous non-aggression pact.

15 April 2013

Monday Book Review: Hasonmás

"Már túljártam életem felén, amikor egy szeles, tavaszi napon eszembe jutott Esti Kornél."  Lászlo Krasznahorkai says that it is the most beautiful sentence in Hungarian and written by Dezső Kosztolányi in Kornél Esti.  In English it reads, "I had passed the midpoint of my life, when one windy day in spring, I remembered Kornél Esti."  Thus begins the tale of two doppelgangers, or as they would say in Hungarian hasonmás, reconciling after decades apart.

12 April 2013

Baring It All: 4/12 Recap

Welcome to the recap of the week.  There's so much to read and know that I've taken the liberty of condensing it for you.  If you want to see these things as they happen, follow me on Twitter!  You just have to click that button over to the right.  It's not far...  You can also see who I follow; I discovered that Twitter is the best place to find anything on CEE and there are fantastic, smart people to interact with.

Let's get to it.

10 April 2013

Country Spotlight: Montenegro

It's been a long, long time since I have spotlighted a country and it's time to revive it.  Today will be focused on Montenegro!  I have completely neglected the country, but here I am to shed some light on the country, which has been popping up in the news due to some presidential problems.  Though besotted with corruption, the EU approved accession talks.  Let's dive in to Crno Gora!



The name Montenegro actually comes from the Venetian word for Crna Gora (sometimes transliterated as Tsrna Gora): Monte Negro.  It means "black mountain".

08 April 2013

Monday Book Review: Surviving Communism, Possibly Laughing

Though I had discussed this book in an earlier post and reference it often enough, I have never done an official review on the book: How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed by Slavenka Drakulić.  I bought this during my internship in Hungary (oh no, was that really 3 years ago?!) in a cool English bookstore on Hercegprima utca, right by Szent István [St Stephen].  I also bought Anna Édes while seriously bemoaning my lack of Hungarian fluency.  The title of the book was all I needed to buy it and I immediately started reading it in Szabagság tér during lunch with some zsemle and kolbász to munch on.  Those were good times for lunch, I'm telling you because she transported me into another world, though in many ways I was living with a little toe in that world.

05 April 2013

Risen Again - 4/5 Recap & Rants

It was Easter this past Sunday and it was a good time to indulge in the east European traditions, some of which seemed a little more cruel than unusual.  Particularly when it involves whipping women.  There were lovely eggs to make up for it, though.  Though Europe had it tough because snow, not flowers, came to greet them on the symbolic holiday of rebirth.  It's like winter reborn.

The cat's out of the bag. Orbán is the most sought after television personality in Hungary.  No, I'm kidding, he's stealing all the airtime available.  I want graphs on the Politburo air times for comparison, just for kicks.

April Fool's!  I thought this was a pretty USA-centric holiday, but it turns out that Odessa is the OG of pranks.  The best part was that Humorina started during the Soviet rule. That's one way to let off steam about the endless droning of ideology!

01 April 2013

The Art of the Impossible

I have unrestrained admiration for Václav Havel.  When I married my husband, I began a campaign to name one of our future sons Havel in his honor (he's tentatively committed - yes!).  That is not a joke.  Why do I admire him so much?  Is it because he was a famous Czech dissident? a playwright? a playwright who then became the first democratically elected president of Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic)? Or was it because his words have inspired me and given me a new way of thinking? Ding ding ding ding.  

29 March 2013

What in the World?: Reflections on 3/29

Another delightful recap of what impressed and intrigued me over the past week.


My CEE corner of the internet BLEW UP when Berezovsky died.  I read multiple articles on him because  I had no idea who he was.  He's an important figure since he created the monster that is Putin.  Too many articles to link here.

I am following what I need to about Cyprus, but all I have to say is: whoa.

27 March 2013

Europe Came to Chicago

I don't mention Chicago on this blog as much as I should.  I grew up just to the north of it and came back after college.  While I hadn't anticipated staying, it seems Chicago had other plans and got me a job and married within my second year of being back.  This place has a very soft/large place in my heart and it's not just nostalgia.  Though the winters are harsh and unpleasant, the summers are season-long celebrations.  The Parks and Recreation Department blows most of its budget during those 4 blissful months by hosting all manner of free events, whether outdoors at Grant Park, the Pritzker Pavillion in Millenium Park  (with the famous "Cloud Gate"/the Bean nearby), or just any park that exists in the city.  Then neighborhoods and any organization that wants to have a party does it during that time.  There's never a thing NOT to do.  It is, hands down, the most enjoyable part of the year despite oppressive humidity and heat.  There's cool stuff to do indoors, like our fabulous museums, and year-round, but the real taste is in summer.  You see all the ethnic mixing and vibrant culture bursting out of the concrete.

25 March 2013

Quechua and Soviet - Not that Different

I am back from my week-long vacation in Peru.  I loved my (way too short) stay there and highly recommend it to all.  There is a great sense of history and tradition in Cusco, where I spent the majority of my stay, and the Sacred Valley overall keeps tradition alive without being overly sentimental.  It's certainly a departure from the usual destinations I've had and my first time in South America. I saw Ollantaytambo, Urubamba, Cusco, Machu Picchu, and Aguas Calientes, meaning I was primarily in the Sacred Valley and exploring the Quechua ruins and culture (learned something new: Inca refers to the king, but Quechua is the name of the culture and people).  Though I focused on learning about that history and culture, I could not help but think of CEE.

22 March 2013

Art, Music, Articles

Since I have not been following the news this week (which I am sure to regret since that's when EVERYTHING happens!), I can't do a summary.  I'm very sorry.  However, I do have a bunch of fun links and that's always a good time.  You're welcome.

20 March 2013

Socialist Realism

Do not search for social realism - that's a completely different genre.  Socialist realism is a school of art that emphasizes the positive aspects of communism while blatantly ignoring the harsh reality.  If it wasn't propaganda, it would probably be called realism, but that's why it's called socialist realism.  Applebaum touches on the role of socialist realism (when will I stop referencing that book? idk) in the 1940s and 50s and how Stalin's preference for straightforward representations (i.e. not abstract) that glorified the struggle of peasants and the forward motion of socialism.  Similar to the "entartete Kunst" movement of Nazi past, socialist realism refused to recognize negativity of any kind.  Sad feelings do not a comrade make.  This applied across music, paintings/art of any kind, and writing.  The Soviet propaganda posters of WWII helped start the school of art and it progressed until it ossified during Stalin's reign of terror. (This is a great resource to search for posters and get a sense of the artistry.)

This website was the best example of socialist realism that I found (minus doing a general Google image search).  Take a gander and explore the wonder that is unrealistic socialist realism.  Smiling peasants, machinery, and agriculture.

13 March 2013

Marina Abramović

It's about time I wrote about her.  I am endlessly fascinated by performance art mainly because of the uncharted territory and the polysemous nature of actions.  There is a lot of fourth wall breaking, self-awareness, and a sense of connectedness that comes from this type of art.  It can be difficult for the uninitiated (included yours truly), but when approached with an open mind, it can be enlightening and beyond compelling.  I had attended my first performance 18 months ago and the variety of approaches, media, and interactions blew my mind.  It was an MFA showcase at SAIC--I had a friend performing a beautiful piece--and I saw truly interactive pieces, pure performance, and an unsettling combination of the two.*  Marina is a pivotal figure in the art form and as Hennessy said, she's the Dr. Dre of performance art. [Watch that whole video - it's fantastic]

11 March 2013

Monday Book Review - Stasi

I find the DDR/GDR one of the more fascinating Soviet satellites because of its divided nature.  It's what is sometimes called "a natural experiment", though that falsely implies it was by accident that it happened, and gives real insight into what happens when a nation is split in two and given two different regimes.  Reunification has been a difficult and wrenching process precisely because each former country's history has confronted each other's assumptions and world views.  Granted, the western hegemony is winning hands down, but there are uncomfortable truths about capitalism.  The most pernicious and vicious aspect of DDR/GDR history is the infamous Stasi.

08 March 2013

Friday Round Up - 3/8

I have been all atwitter on twitter this week!  Lots of stuff going on in Europe these days, particularly the southeasterly neighbors in the Balkans.  Europeans be trippin', as they say.  There were so many happenings that this post is all news and very little play.  Scroll through my twitter for some of the fun diversions I found!

06 March 2013

Armenian Songs

I had mentioned on twitter that I'm currently obsessed with Isabel Bayrakdarian. She is from Armenian heritage, though born in Lebanon and having lived in Canada since her teenage years.  In 2005, she traveled to Armenia and did a series of performances for traditional Armenian songs, included "Dle Yaman" accompanied by a duduk quartet.  This was all recorded in the film, "A Long Journey Home" in 2005.  I have not seen the entire film, but the excerpts I have seen (embedded below) are stunning.  Incidentally, I discovered her because of her work on the Lord of the Rings score, but the Armenian hymns she sings are so much more haunting and beautiful.  I love sonorous music, so the Armenian hymns are probably my favorite, though Dvorak gives them a run for their money.  Enjoy!

04 March 2013

Monday Book Review

I'm trying to finish a book for a review, but it's going slowly.  I already mentioned the reason for the delay on twitter (my utter nerdiness), but suffice it to say that the other book is dense and academic.  I have been distracted by a far more entertaining and fantastic book with a storyline.  It's not that it's boring, but it doesn't exactly speak to me the way non-fiction does--you know, heartstrings and all.  Today's book is a non-fiction that does reach me that way.  Probably because Poland's culture is rife with poetic sensibility and a heroism that just won't quit.  Michael T. Kaufman's Mad Dreams, Saving Graces is a great read on the opposition movement, as well as individual acts of rebellion, in Poland.  The secondary title is Poland: A Nation In Conspiracy, which almost makes it sound like a spy novel, which really isn't that far off since it recollects subversive acts by many brave Poles.

01 March 2013

In Case You Missed It...

Capturing the last week in a nutshell.  Easy to read and easy to stay up to date on the cool, the crazy, and the communist.

There has been some political developments and almost as exciting as last week's!  Slovenia, not to be outdone by Bulgaria, democratically hoisted and defenestrated their PM Janša.  No dignified resignations, but a simple oust through the operations of government.  They get extra gold stars for a functioning government (am I bitter because of the American sequester? MAYBE). Others are trying to do the same. 

25 February 2013

Monday Book Review

Calypso Editions, ever the gracious bestower of books, has given me yet another to sink my teeth into.  Froth: Poems by Jarosław Mikołajewski is a poem anthology of a contemporary Polish poet.  Overall, I really enjoyed the collection.  The introductory description of the book said that it had texture, and the poems really do.  The collection is a feast for the senses--it is sensual and earthy.  The words echo an almost instinctual feeling towards nature, our relationship to it (agriculture), and toiling in the earth.  In many ways, it encapsulates the romanticism of peasant life while cloaking it in metropolitan clothes.  They are the dreams of a city boy recalling his peasant life.  This palpable feeling reminds me of The Horse of Pride by Pierre-Jakez Helias.

22 February 2013

Roundup of the Week

Today's post is rounding up both the big news from Europe and some discoveries I've made. 



Bulgaria: This is the most recent and biggest news in Europe.  If you haven't followed up on it, simply scroll through my twitter feed to the right of this post to find numerous sources on it.  Borisov has made a somewhat unusually gallant gesture by stepping down, but it's also just that: a gesture.  His choice of words were, at the very least, an excellent homage to the fundamental ideals of democracy: "The people gave us power and today we are returning it."  Politics is part performance and that's part of its power, but the other part comes from action and there hasn't been much movement on that front.  It has been remarked that Borisov is the tip of the corruption iceberg, hence why people are still protesting.  Presseurop did publish an article showing the cyclical patterns in Bulgarian politics and pointed out that this isn't exactly new fare for the impoverished nation.  It shouldn't be surprising that Bulgaria has struggled so much to shake the weights of the past since it was the most loyal USSR satellite and had the most centralized and sovietized economy in the bloc.  Like everyone else, I'm waiting to see the results of these protests and if they will materialize into either a real political movement, simply a reactionary movement with no clear agenda, or a knee-jerk reaction to austerity that will mirror Greece. 

20 February 2013

The Window of the Past

I discovered the delightful website Ablak a múltra.  The name means "Window to the Past" and it places modern pictures as the backdrop for older photos and matches them up.  It's a visually striking way to see the changes in Hungary over the past century and how that change has affected the visual aesthetic of people, as well as the places themselves.  Signs and details aren't the same and some buildings show serious decay.  I highly recommend looking at all the locations for some truly interesting contrasts between now and then.

Take a look!

18 February 2013

Monday Book (and Lecture) Review

This week's review is a double.  I wanted to review the lecture I attended at the Chicago Council of Global Affairs back in early December, but I didn't think it made much sense to do so without including the book.  I saw Anne Applebaum speak about her new book, Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe 1944 - 1956 at CCGA.  I bought the book at the event since I had read glowing reviews and I totally jive with the subject matter.  I find the era leading up to the establishment of communism in Europe really fascinating (which was my favorite part of this book, actually) primarily because it was such a tumultuous time period.  The geo-political landscape had fundamentally altered after the most (up to that point) devastating war and there was a lot of assumptions, grievances, and fears thrown into the pot at once.

14 February 2013

Communism and Fire

Self-immolation is a way to get attention.  Just ask Ndreca, Palach, Plocek, and Zajíc.  There is a whole list that I can barely fathom, especially since the last one was in 15 days ago.  They've picked up popularity, though I wasn't aware of almost any of the immolations in the past 10 years, which have to do with Tibet or an Indian province that would like to separate.  But they had a strong tradition in the USSR.

11 February 2013

Monday Book Review!

It is no secret that I really love Slavenka Drakulić.  She ranks right alongside Vàclav Havel, Ryszard Kapuściński, and Dezső Kostolànyi as one of my favorite authors to read from the other side of the Iron Curtain.  Her journalistic writings have the same narrative power as Kapuściński with the idealism and compassion of Havel.  I was aware she had a number of fiction novels to her name as well, but it wasn't until recently that I gave it a try.  I ended up buying A Guided Tour Through the Museum of Communism at THE bookstore in NYC during my first ever visit to that metropolis.  The title, the author, and the subject matter all sang to me.  I thought it would be a continuation of what I loved so much about her writing.

05 February 2013

Topical Tuesday: NPD aka Neo-nazis

I had found this data visualization from Der Spiegel on one of my favorite blogs, Global Sociology.  There isn't much explanation on the article about the rise of NPD's popularity, particularly in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.  There is actually a pretty simple explanation of the phenomenon and it goes like this: NPD is the successor of the overly-familiar Nazi party of yore and has the same legacy of xenophobia and extremist nationalism.  Mecklenburg-Vorpommern is the most economically depressed region of Germany and I have often heard Germans remark on the rural character and insularity of that region; some have said that it was like it's own land that they can't understand.  When people are economically depressed, they turn to more extreme politics (like in 1920s Germany? 2010s Greece? Anyone?).  It's surprisingly a pretty straightforward connection and though it sounds overly simplistic, it's the truth. People are angry they don't have economic security and they turn to the "other" to scapegoat and place blame on economic forces that do not have a face.  It's not satisfying to blame an immaterial thing, like fate or the global market at large.

10 January 2013

Love Letter to Europe

Dearest Europe,

I write to you out of deep affection and a respect that can only be earned through acquaintance.  You are, and will, remain a fixture of my soul.  My time abiding with you has touched me in ways that cannot be erased or forgotten in the sands of time.  Though I have not yet met the darker corners, hiding secrets so old and deep they forge into myth, and the depths of your trials, I feel a great kinship with you.

I have spent time in your central areas, those that have driven history and been subject to its many forces.  The aggressors, the supposed innocents, and the brow beaten, yet ultimately idealistic have all welcomed me in their borders.  These countries are glimpses into the human condition writ large: they have fought, despaired, blasphemed, and given up.  The whip of German masters awoke resentment in the heart of the Austrians and the despair of losing was in their vise grip and strangled in their fervor.

02 January 2013

Statues of the Past

This is a topic that interests me and it was provoked by an article I retweeted from The View East (which I highly recommend you click and browse!) about Lenin statues in Tajikistan.  As a BA-level trained anthropologist, I have studied the use of symbols and the political and cultural connections of them, which as proved to be a useful analysis tool for eastern Europe.  My infinitely wiser friend, James, sent me an article by Matti Bunzl (my admiration started here) entitled, "On the Politics and Semantics of Austria's Memory: Vienna's Monument against War and Fascism" (Indiana University Press); I have a personal connection to this since I lived only 2 blocks away from that monument and saw it every day.  There's a great deal of research on the topic, including Santino's astounding work on Northern Ireland, and I cannot reference everything I've read on it nor could I do the field of inquiry any justice with my citations.