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.