Updates, Live

Monday, January 31, 2011

Mitropolitul Bartolomeu a incetat din viata

Mitropolitul Bartolomeu al Clujului, Albei, Crisanei si Maramuresului a trecut astazi la cele vesnice. Credinciosii il numeau mai ales Parintele Anania. Drumul vietii nu i-a fost simplu. Lasa in urma sa, alaturi de lucrarea duhovniceasca, si opera lui literara. Ca scriitor a fost cunoscut sub numele sau de mirean, Valeriu Anania. Dumnezeu sa il odihneasca!

(Icon and Orthodoxy)

Nicholas Kristof: An Image from Tahrir Square

Egypt pro-democracy protesters taking photos with soldiers on Tahrir.
(image credits: Nicholas D. Kristof)

Egyptians interviewed by Nicholas D. Kristof on Tahrir Square are sure the military won't crack down on them -- hopefully they're right.

Zoon Politikon)


Ross Douthat: The Devil We Know

Mubarak is the devil we know, says Ross Douthat, and he continues, it’s quite possible that if Mubarak had not ruled Egypt as a dictator for the last 30 years, the World Trade Center would still be standing; this is true even though Mubarak’s regime has been a steadfast U.S. ally, a partner in our counterterrorism efforts and a foe of Islamic radicalism; or, more aptly, it’s true because his regime has been all of these things.

(Well, if you ask me, Mr. Douthat has a point, only this in Romanian would rather be called derisively gandire cu intentie, intentional thinking: on the other hand the whole approach for so many years has been to operate in the Mid East equation with regimes like Mubarak's, just for our sake; it was convenient while totally unfair and immoral; and more than that it was stupid myopia; the equation will now change).

Read the whole article of Ross Douthat in today's NY Times:

Zoon Politikon)


Nicholas Kristof from Tahrir Square

Nicholas D. Kristof facebooking from Tahrir Square:

I've arrived in Egypt! Amazing scene. Thanks for all your suggestions; I'll be FBing, tweeting, writing, if I can get on line. Borrowing a sat phone now. Tahrir Square is just unbelievable--first time I've ever strolled across it without worrying about traffic. Just tanks and thousands of protesters. Everybody's very hopeful and very nervous.


The back streets in Cairo are very tense after curfew, no traffic. Residents have set up roadblocks every 100 yards, and are armed with clubs, bats, steel rods and machetes. One had a gun. They ask for ID to make sure you're not a policeman or looter. They were all very polite to me, but it's a very tense environment ripe for accidents.


I just did a bunch more interviews at Tahrir Square, and the mood is giddy. I especially love the campfires. But it reminds me, painfully, of the equally giddy mood at Tiananmen Square before the shooting started. Some of the regime's moves -- earlier curfew, buzzing protesters with fighter planes, nasty media -- don't seem conciliatory at all.


I just snagged a satellite phone, so I'm on line again in Egypt! I spent the day at Tahrir Square until well after curfew, and even bigger crowds today. This is snowballing, and if it continues Mubarak is history. His only chance is if he orders a bloody crackdown and the army obeys; neither is certain, but both unfortunately are possible.

Zoon Politikon)


Mansoura Ez-Eldin: Date with the Revolution

(illustration by Matt Rota)

Mansoura Ez-Eldin (Egyptian novelist, published Maryam's Maze and Beyond Paradise), is bringing in today's NY Times her testimony about the revolutionary events these days in Cairo:

On Friday, the day of rage, I was in the streets with the protesters. Friends and I participated in a peaceful demonstration that started at the Amr Ibn al-As Mosque in Old Cairo near the Church of St. George. We set off chanting, The people want the regime to fall! and we were greeted with a torrent of tear gas fired by the police. We began to shout, Peaceful, Peaceful,

A friend and I took shelter in a small alleyway, where we were warmly welcomed. The locals warned us not to try to escape to the metro station, and pointed us toward a different escape route; many of them even joined the protests. Eventually, a man drove us in his own car to safety.

Clearly, the scent of Tunisia’s jasmine revolution has quickly reached Egypt. Following the successful expulsion in Tunis of the dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, the call arose on Facebook for an Egyptian revolution, to begin on Jan. 25. Yet the public here mocked those young people who had taken to Twitter and Facebook to post calls for protest: Since when was the spark of revolution ignited on a pre-planned date? Had revolution become like a romantic rendezvous?

Such questions abounded on social networking sites; but even cynics — myself included — became hopeful as the calls continued to circulate. In the blink of an eye, the Twitter and Facebook generation had successfully rallied hundreds of thousands to its cause, across the nation. Most of them were young people who had not been politically active, and did not belong to the traditional circles of the political opposition. The Muslim Brotherhood is not behind this popular revolution, as the regime claims. Those who began it and organized it are seething in anger at police cruelty and the repression and torture meted out by the Hosni Mubarak regime.

And, from the outset, the government decided to deal with the people with the utmost violence and brutality in the hope that the Tunisian experience would not be repeated. For days now, tear gas has been the oxygen Egyptians have inhaled. So much was in the air that there are reports of small children and the elderly having suffocated on the fumes in their homes. The security forces in Cairo started by shooting rubber bullets at the protesters, before progressing onto live ammunition, ending dozens of lives.

In Suez, where the demonstrations have been tremendously violent, live ammunition was used against civilians from the first day. A friend of mine who lives there sent me a message saying that, Thursday morning, the city looked as if it had emerged from a particularly brutal war: its streets were burned and destroyed, dead bodies were strewn everywhere; we would never know how many victims had fallen to the police bullets in Suez, my friend solemnly concluded.

After having escaped from Old Cairo on Friday, my friends and I headed for Tahrir Square, the focal point of the modern city and site of the largest protests. We joined another demonstration making its way through downtown, consisting mostly of young people. From a distance, we could hear the rumble of the protest in Tahrir Square, punctuated by the sounds of bullets and screams. Minute by painstaking minute, we protesters were gaining ground, and our numbers were growing. People shared Coca-Cola bottles, moistening their faces with soda to avoid the effects of tear gas. Some people wore masks, while others had sprinkled vinegar into their kaffiyehs.

Shopkeepers handed out bottles of mineral water to the protesters, and civilians distributed food periodically. Women and children leaned from windows and balconies, chanting with the dissidents. I will never forget the sight of an aristocratic woman driving through the narrow side streets in her luxurious car, urging the protesters to keep up their spirits, telling them that they would soon be joined by tens of thousands of other citizens arriving from different parts of the city.

After several failed attempts to break through the security checkpoints and get to Tahrir Square, we sat in a cafe to rest. Three officers from the regime’s Central Security Forces, all in civilian clothing, sat down next to us. They appeared to be completely relaxed, as though they were impervious to the sounds of bullets and shouting, or to the numbers of wounded and dead Egyptians being reported on Al Jazeera, which was being broadcast on the coffee shop’s television. They and their colleagues were all over the city, spying on their countrymen.

Hour by hour on Friday evening, the chaos increased. Police stations and offices of the ruling National Democratic Party were on fire across the country. I wept when news came that 3,000 volunteers had formed a human chain around the national museum to protect it from looting and vandalism. Those who do such things are certainly highly educated, cultivated people, neither vandals nor looters, as they are accused of being by those who have vandalized and looted Egypt for generations.

The curfew meant that I couldn’t return home, so I spent the night at a friend’s house near the Parliament building and Interior Ministry, one of the most turbulent parts of the city. That night, the sound of bullets was unceasing. We watched from the window as police shot with impunity at the protesters and at a nearby gas station, hoping, perhaps, for an explosion. Despite all of this and despite the curfew, the demonstrations did not stop, fueled by popular fury at President Mubarak’s slowness to address the people and, a few hours later, indignation at the deplorable speech he finally gave.

On Saturday morning, I left my friend’s house and headed home. I walked across broken glass strewn in the streets, and I could smell the aftermath of the fires that had raged the night before. The army, called in by the regime to put down the protests, was everywhere. I tried first to cross over to Tahrir Square, in order to see for myself whether the museum was safe. A passer-by told me that the army was forbidding people from entering the square, and that shots were being fired. I asked him, anxiously, Is the army shooting at the demonstrators? He answered, confidently: Of course not. The Egyptian army has never fired a shot against an Egyptian citizen, and will not do so now. We both openly expressed our wish for that to be true, for the army to side with the people.

Now that army troops were monitoring the demonstrations, the police force had completely disappeared from the streets, as if to taunt people with the choice between their presence and chaos. Armed gangs have mushroomed across the city, seeking to loot shops and terrorize civilians in their homes. (Saturday night, a gang tried to rob the building where I have been staying, but was unable to break in.) Local volunteers have formed committees to stand up to the criminals, amidst an overwhelming feeling that the ruling regime is deliberately stoking chaos.

Late Saturday, as I headed toward Corniche Street on the Nile River, I walked through a side street in the affluent Garden City neighborhood, where I found a woman crying. I asked her what was wrong, and she told me that her son, a worker at a luxury hotel, had been shot in the throat by a police bullet, despite not being a part of the demonstrations. He was now lying paralyzed in a hospital bed, and she was on her way to the hotel to request medical leave for him. I embraced her, trying to console her, and she said through her tears, We cannot be silent about what has happened. Silence is a crime. The blood of those who fell cannot be wasted.

I agree. Silence is a crime. Even if the regime continues to bombard us with bullets and tear gas, continues to block Internet access and cut off our mobile phones, we will find ways to get our voices across to the world, to demand freedom and justice.

(Zoon Politikon)

Heather Hurlburt about the Revolution in Egypt

Lilly Rivlin signaled in an eMail today a very interesting column in The New Republic. The author is Heather Hurlburt, the Executive Director of the National Security Network. She discusses five things: revolutions often erupt with little warning; watch the Egyptian military (they will ultimately, though perhaps not today, make the decisive difference); America can’t stop this revolt; who will be in charge after Mubarak; the Islamic Menace is overblown. You can read the whole article at:


And two images sent also by Lilly Rivlin. Rioters, soldiers and police will eventually fraternize and that will be the end. But, asks Lilly, how many kisses will it take to turn the Egyptian police and soldiers around?

(Lilly Rivlin)


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Tom Friedman: Serious in Singapore

Thomas L. FriedmanSingapore probably has the freest market in the world; it doesn’t believe in import tariffs, minimum wages or unemployment insurance. But it believes regulators need to make sure markets work properly — because they can’t on their own — and it subsidizes homeownership and education to give everyone a foundation to become self-reliant. The two isms that perhaps best describe Singapore’s approach are: pragmatism — an emphasis on what works in practice rather than abstract theory; and eclecticism — a willingness to adapt to the local context best practices from around the world. Singapore has a multiethnic population — Chinese, Indian and Malay — with a big working class. It has no natural resources and even has to import sand for building. But today its per capita income is just below U.S. levels, built with high-end manufacturing, services and exports. The country’s economy grew last year at 14.7 percent, led by biomedical exports. Tom Friedman has this op-ed in today's NY Times:

(Zoon Politikon)

Labels: ,

Nicholas Kristof is Heading for Egypt

Nicholas D. Kristof is heading for Egypt and he thinks he can get in. Depending on Internet/phone access he hopes to FB, tweet, blog and columnize soon. There are about 600 comments on Facebook. Karen Holland Hanania suggested him just hearing from the people on the streets. Kathleen V. O'Bryan says, please put faces on the protesters, tell their stories, be cautious and have safe passage, we await your news, thank you for going. Linda Lacy has a wonderful comment, go by the funky, run-down Cairo version of the Blue Mosque and talk with the caretaker; he has nine children and makes very little money when he gets paid at all, Mr Hawass does not have money to preserve every antiquity equally, but the caretaker loves to talk about the mosque and I would be curious what he would say about current events. He doesn't speak much English BTW. Tell him the lady who came in 2006 and 2008 with the guide Samir and who gave his son a piece of candy sent you. Little Mary Margaret Cannon prays, God be with you!!!

Zoon Politikon)


Saturday, January 29, 2011

Conlon Nancarrow: Study # 12 for Player Piano

Perturbing...albeit in a good way (modramafoyomama)

Spanish - a study in chantlike lines with arpeggios that suggest Flamenco guitars (Kyle Gann: Annotated List of Works)

Nancarrow's most emotional study, influenced by the Spanish flamenco; melancholy flamenco melodies are accompanied by stylized guitar arpeggi and the rhythmic clapping of the flamenco dancer (Jürgen Hocker)

Study # 12 for player piano (video by GreggaryPeccary)

(Conlon Nancarrow)


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Hanging Around with Cervantes

It was a discussion about the futility of reading the old books again. Waste of time, life is short, you should read only new books, some of us were saying. An old book is like old wine, it's fine to keep on reading, were saying the others. To paraphrase old Miron Costin, there isn't any other futility more pleasant than intimacy with your old books.

Florette (whom I dedicate this post) had a great phrase, you should read Don Quixote three times at least: as a kid, nel mezzo del cammin, and finally when you are old enough, to feel the taste.

I remember my first encounter with Cervantes. I was nine or ten years old and my father gave me a small book in Romanian translation: the story of the ingenioso hidalgo retold by Paul Reboux. The French original had been printed in 1934 at Flammarion. I found recently a presentation of the book on the web (À ses jeunes amis Paul Reboux raconte le Don Quichotte de Cervantès, illustrations de Félix Lorioux).

To be frank, I didn't enjoy too much the adventures of Don Quichotte by that time. I was not comfortable at all with all those guys making fun of a poor man mentally disturbed and his stupidly grotesque failures were raising in me a mix of compassion and contempt.

I met Cervantes the second time when I was seventeen or eighteen. It was this time a book by Mihai Ralea (Scrieri din Trecut, in Literatura): a collection of essays about various authors, about art in general, as well as descriptions of voyages around the world. Ralea loved enormously to travel.

There was in the book of Ralea an ample analysis of Arghezi's poetry, superbly concluding that great values are not built on pedestals of sand; Arghezi is Romanians' greatest poet since Eminescu (valori prea mari nu se pot cladi pe postamente de nisip: Arghezi este cel mai mare poet al romanilor de la Eminescu incoace).

It was there also a study about art and ugliness (Arta si Uratul). My encounters with the Hyperrealism would come after tens of years; but that study of Mihai Ralea marked the beginnings in my understanding that art should be expressive rather than beautiful.

Well, and it was also Cervantes in the book! Ralea was telling the story of his voyage in Spain, in La Mancha.

He entered there a small taberna and noticed a tall skinny gentleman standing in front of the bar. His eyes were carrying something like a noble insanity, you could expect from him to take out the sword, or to start reciting some poem from the Sieclo d'Oro, anything. But it was not only madness in his eyes; there was also something like a wise resignation, a guy who had seen too much along his life to not be aware of the madness of the world.

The gentleman finished his glass of wine and left, leaving the door open. His shape disappeared in the hot air outside, as he had been a ghost. Actually all people inside the taberna were looking the same. La Mancha was a country of tall skinny gentlemen, distinguished and insane. The hot air was playing bad tricks there.

Now, it's a long time since I read the story told by Ralea and I'm not sure of all details anymore. What I know is that from that moment I understood that the adventures of Don Quixote meant much, much more that I had understood when reading the book of Paul Reboux.

And when The Man of La Mancha came to Bucharest, in the seventies, featuring Peter O'Toole and Sophia Loren, I already knew that Cervantes and Don Quixote were the same person.

The tall skinny hidalogo of La Mancha remained my friend throughout the years, preventing me always when I was tempted to act madly, while encouraging me when I was afraid to be mad. Among all the great masters in the world literature, he always stood by me closely, in good times smiling ironically, in bad times raising my spirits.

And so the years passed over me, too. It was now 2003 and I saw The Man of La Mancha for the second time: it was played in New York, in a theater near Times Square, with Brian Stokes Mitchell and Mary Elisabeth Mastrantonio. The hidalgo was there too, in the attendance not far from me, watching the musical, and smiling an impossible smile.

And then I discovered again the spirit of La Mancha, noble and mad, in the movies of Almodóvar. And the wind mills. Am I too old now to start again, this time with Cervantes de Leon from the video games?

(Una Vida Entre Libros)


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Greatest Ten According to Tommasini

You know for sure the boutade about Beethoven (the greatest) and Mozart (the unique). This speaks actually about the futility of any classification. Nietzsche was able to compare the two titans and to say some profound words about them, but he was himself a titan.

On the other hand, trying to determine who were the greatest ones is definitely subjective while not useless. Because you need to bring some good reasons to support your choices. And sometimes these reasons are really good, even if your classification remains subjective.

The musical critic Anthony Tommasini brings such a classification in today's NY Times: his top ten composers of all times, from Bach to Bartók. You can read his opinion at


Adi Cusin: Sic Transit

De cate ori deschid fereastra

Aceeasi conjunctura nefavorabila
a astrelor.

Drept care o inchid binisor.

Nici un OZN, nici un mag,

nici o stea calatoare,

Prin lume rataceste acelasi popor,

Pregatesc un ceai

si ma imbarc
pe nava Calypso

Pentru ca voi fi

Marele Scufundator.

(Adi Cusin)


Adi Cusin: Iesirea

Am sadit un pom

Am raspandit în lume prunci

Mi-am coborat parintii-n


Am respectat noua din cele

Zece Porunci.

Am o casa, un gard

si-o lumina tarzie.

Nu mai e nimic

de facut.

Nu ma pune-n situatia

de-a scrie.

(Adi Cusin)


Adi Cusin

Adi Cusin, numit adesea si Noul Labis.

(A Life in Books)


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Conlon Nancarrow: Study # 11 for Player Piano

A jaunty, isorhythmic blues study on a repeating sequence of 120 chords (Kyle Gann: Annotated List of Works)

Isorhythmic study in the technique of motets of the XIVth century; in the first page of the musical manuscript there are 30 shifts of meter (Jürgen Hocker)

I SO love this piece... No 11 is the best. The culmination is like sex... building, Building, BUILDing, BUILDING then WHAM!!!!! damn (LeMortso)

Study # 11 for player piano (video by GreggaryPeccary)

(Conlon Nancarrow)


Monday, January 24, 2011

Jafar Panahi: The Circle (2000)

Dayereh (The Circle), made in 2000 by Jafar Panahi takes the hellish universe from his other movies to the extreme. A bunch of women is followed by the camera during one given day. They were out of prison in the morning, they are trying to do anything in their power to not come back there, they are again in jail at evening. It is not explained how did they come out of prison in the morning; it doesn't matter. The movie doesn't show what they are doing all day long; it doesn't matter. The camera just leaves one to follow the other, and so on: glimpses of life.

It is not told why they were imprisoned for the first time: it doesn't matter. A woman can be arrested there seemingly for anything: traveling without being escorted by a male relative, or traveling without documents, or smoking in public, or not having the chador properly arranged, or responding improperly when harassed by men, or traveling escorted by the wrong man, or simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Any place can be the wrong place, anytime. A woman just gave birth to a daughter, and the in-laws were expecting a boy: the wrong place at the wrong time. The husband could throw her out on the street with the baby, her brothers could not let the woman come back in the home of her parents.

There is no main character in the movie: just a bunch of women followed randomly by a handheld camera. Women on the run. A perfectly circular universe without possibility of escape. A perfectly crazy universe without fissure. A genially built dystopia. Think at Kafka, think at Orwell.

Is this the real situation of women in that country? Well, it's like asking whether an oppressive regime is really that oppressive. Of course, it is not like that for all women; it is not like that for many women, but that's not the point. Bottom line, it's about women at the mercy of a society whose laws, institutions and traditions are male centered. Most women know the rules of the game, but for any of them there is potentially a wrong place at the wrong time.

Is it such a situation only in one country? Only in one totalitarian ideology, whether religious or secular? I would let the response to you.

I found this movie on youTube in ten consecutive videos (published by brightersummerday). As embedding was disabled, I have indicated here the address for each video.

(Jafar Panahi)

Labels: ,

Can Obama Get it Right on the Economy?

Reps and Dems differ fundamentally on how to tackle the U.S. economy's short-term problems. So, if Obama wants to compromise he should propose a strategy for the long term. Well, surprise! Reps and Dems differ also on the long-term: GOP is focused on spurring the private sector while the Democrats consider more government spending. It seems that both are right! How could that be?

You should read this op-ed of Fareed Zakaria in Washington Post...

(for any comments you should eMail Mr. Zakaria at comments@fareedzakaria.com)

Zoon Politikon)


A Walk Along Kitayama Street

I'm watching this new video of Yoko and it's calling in mind charming streets that I walked. It was firstly the myriad of small streets around Harvard Square in Cambridge, then it was Newbury Street in Boston; M Street in Georgetown is great in the Halloween Night and King Street in Alexandria is where I spent two New Year Eves, hanging around the small cafes and waiting for the fireworks to begin at the Washington Masonic Temple. Maybe Mercer Street in SoHo has some charm of its own, or maybe Hopper made it look charming in his paintings, I don't know. But no, all SoHo streets look cool, what I'm talking about? I took so many times Spring Street all along, it has all the charm in the world. Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn is a place to wander as I did one morning. And definitely Arch Street in Philly on Flag Day.

Well, these are somehow fresher memories laying on old ones: streets in Paris, and in Prague, and in Vilnius...

But let's watch the video of Yoko and imagine we are on Kitayama Street in Kyoto.

(The Thousand faces of HANAFUBUKI)


NY Times: Believing in Peace Even After the Unthinkable

Izzeldin Abuelaish looks with his son Abdallah at a photo of Bessan, a daughter killed in 2009.
(Steve Payne for The New York Times)

Lilly Rivlin sent me this article by Joseph Berger. It was published in NY Times on January 22.

Working as the lone Palestinian gynecologist at an Israeli hospital had its fraught moments for Izzeldin Abuelaish. The husband of a Jewish patient angrily accused him of jeopardizing his wife’s pregnancy because he was an Arab. Palestinian neighbors scorned him for delivering babies who would grow into the soldiers who bomb us and shoot us. Each time Dr. Abuelaish comforted himself with the conviction that he could overcome fear by building personal bridges between two distrustful cultures. But that belief was sorely tested two years ago during the three-week Gaza war, when Israeli tank shells slammed into his apartment, killing three of his daughters and costing another her sight in one eye.

Now Dr. Abuelaish has written a memoir that reaffirms his belief that the decades-long conflict will only be transformed when individual Palestinians and Israelis recognize their shared, precarious humanity. As he often does, he turns to medical metaphors. We are like conjoined twins with one heart and one brain, Dr. Abuelaish said in a telephone interview from Canada, where he is now an associate professor in women's health at the University of Toronto. Any harm to one will affect the other. The memoir, published by Walker & Company and with a blurb by Elie Wiesel, is called I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey on the Road to Peace and Human Dignity. A reviewer for The Globe & Mail in Toronto said the book was one of the most affecting I have read on the subject of Israel and Palestine.

The anguishing deaths of his daughters — Bessan, 20; Mayar, 15; and Aya, 14 — immunized me against any more suffering, said Dr. Abuelaish, an earnest man of 55. He came to recognize that suffering is caused not by God but by individuals, and you as a human being with your potential and your ability can challenge the human beings who are making the suffering.

Rather than questioning the legitimacy of a Palestinian nation, Dr. Abuelaish argues, Jews — because they were burned by the fires of suffering in the Holocaust — must focus on improving the wretched living conditions of many Palestinians. And Palestinians must realize that firing rockets into Israel incites retribution. The antidote for revenge is not revenge, he said. If I want to get revenge, it will not return my daughters. The innocence of those girls must not be spoiled by revenge. I can keep their memory living with good deeds. He has set up a foundation called Daughters for Life to memorialize his children and to provide scholarships for young women in the Middle East.

In an interview Mr. Wiesel, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, said that he could not explain why people like Dr. Abuelaish can overcome their impulse for vengeance and others cannot, but he imagines that Dr. Abuelaish has recognized that hate hates both the victim and the hater. One must not forget, but not use memory against other innocent people, Mr. Wiesel said.

Dr. Abuelaish rejects those who dwell in the morass of historical arguments, who accuse Palestinians of inciting the conflict by rejecting the 1947 United Nations plan to partition British Palestine, or who blame Israelis for injustices as occupiers. You cannot correct history, he maintains. Being a medical doctor helped me a lot because you are focused on living people, he said. When patients are dead, it’s a waste of time.

Still, the book bristles with that tormented history. Dr. Abuelaish grew up the son of refugees in the Gazan city of Jabalia, but his family originated in the Negev region. He possesses that property deed, though the land is now owned by Ariel Sharon, the former prime minister of Israel. To be pushed out, Dr. Abuelaish writes, is to be marked with the scar of expulsion for the rest of your life.

He describes the squalor of the Gaza camps — fetid latrines, no running water or electricity — both under Egyptian and Israeli control. After the two intifadas, Israeli soldiers made crossing the border especially difficult, even for an infertility specialist at an Israeli hospital. Yet Israeli doctors saved the legs of his nephew Mohammed, who had been shot in the knee and ankle by Hamas gunmen in 2007.

The most excruciating crossing occurred in 2008 when his wife, Nadia, was lying in an Israeli hospital with leukemia, and he was in Europe. He had to fly to Amman rather than to Israel’s main airport; take a taxi to the Allenby Bridge, which connects Jordan to the West Bank; then endure hours of waiting at checkpoints. By the time he arrived, his wife was unconscious. She died a few days later.

Still, Dr. Abuelaish said he had worked hard not to equate a rude guard with all Israelis, just as he would not want Israelis to equate all Palestinians with suicide bombers. What helped was his friendships with Israelis: as a teenager working with a farming family and then with doctors, one of whom, Dr. Marek Glezerman, wrote the book’s introduction.

True, Dr. Abuelaish moved to Toronto in 2009. But that is because he no longer wanted the problems of crossing checkpoints to separate him from his five remaining children.

He has formed a relationship with the Israeli novelist David Grossman, who lost a son in the closing hours of the 2006 Lebanon War. When they meet, Dr. Abuelaish said, they discuss their children. And it is the future of children, he said, that should spur both sides toward peace. As he writes: If I could know that my daughters were the last sacrifice on the road to peace between Palestinians and Israelis, then I would accept their loss.

(Lilly Rivlin)


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sergei Parajanov

Parajanov was one of the greatest. His life was a tragedy. He paid for his huge talent with years of prison. They did not tolerate his deep understanding of myths and rituals as foundation of our human identity. We are what we are because a long chain of ancestors built a civilization, and they sent it to us through rituals perpetrating the myths: the myths justifying what we are. All major movies of Parajanov meditate on this. And he paid it with years of prison.

It is not easy to watch any of his movies: he is talking in a pure cinematic language; he is meditating through images.

Here is a video which contains some footage from his masterpiece (Sayat Nova); footage left out for the final release.

(Russian and Soviet Cinema)


The Heaven in Winter

If I try to imagine the Heaven in winter, this would be: angels like birds among snowflakes, over the waters.



Saturday, January 22, 2011

Conlon Nancarrow: Study # 10 for Player Piano

It sounds joyously like a music box

A problematic blues work, originally in an ABA form of which Nancarrow later decided to delete the opening A section (Kyle Gann: Annotated List of Works)

The last of his compositions influenced throughout by jazz; a blues melody is heard over a chord series in the (let's say) left hand; despite its rhythmic complexity this piece, quietly maintained throughout, is one of Nancarrow's most melodious works; originally, a A-B-A form; the first part was rejected in the revised version valid today (Jürgen Hocker)

Study # 10 for player piano (video by SomeMusicAndShit)

(Conlon Nancarrow)


Corneliu Porumboiu - Calatorie la Oras (2003)

Calatorie la Oras (A Trip to the City) was the first movie of Romanian director Cristian Porumboiu. Nineteen minutes length. It was 2003. The guy made then in 2006 A Fost Sau N-a Fost? (12:08 East of Bucharest) which was great by all accounts. Then in 2009 Police, Adjective followed. I haven't seen it yet, it has very good reviews.

Coming back to this Calatorie la Oras: it's a little gem. It is witty, it has guts, it has rhythm, it is perfectly balanced: it is making the case like a demonstration at the blackboard; nothing is missing, nothing is superfluous, the perfect demonstration. And above all, you feel the empathy the director has for these petty people with petty lives, the immense pleasure he has in discovering their humanity in anything they're saying or doing.

Two very good actors in the main roles: Ion Sapdaru (who has talent inside his skin as for a small regiment) and Constantin Dita (I saw him also in Portretul Luptatorului la Tinerete, where he managed a very difficult role).

I found Calatorie la Oras on a blog consecrated to Romanian movies. It has English subtitles, only I can see how much it is lost in translation. But this was unavoidable. The same words have a very different emotional charge in the two languages. I noticed that when reading in English books by Pamuk or Pavić. I read them also in Romanian, to feel their flavor. I believe that the semantic correspondence operates perfectly only between languages spoken in neighboring countries (despite their different origins, like Romanian, Serbian, Turkish). Similar challenges throughout history lead to similar mental constructions, to similar suggestions behind words.

Well, it's impossible to render in English something like doar n-a sa astept pana la pulivara! (but I'm sure it would work fine in Serbian).


Friday, January 21, 2011

Joachim du Bellay: Le Beau Voyage

(View of Chesapeake and Ohio Canal)

Joachim du Bellay, Le Beau Voyage

Heureux qui, comme Ulysse, a fait un beau voyage,
Ou comme cestuy la (1) qui conquit la toison (2),
Et puis est retourné, plein d’usage (3) et raison,
Vivre entre ses parents le reste de son âge !

Quand reverrai-je, hélas, de mon petit village
Fumer la cheminée, et en quelle saison
Reverray je le clos de ma pauvre maison,
Qui m’est une province, et beaucoup davantage ?

Plus me plaist le sejour qu’ont basti mes ayeux,
Que des palais Romains le front audacieux,
Plus que le marbre dur me plaist l’ardoise (4) fine :

Plus mon Loyre (5) gaulois, que le Tybre latin,
Plus mon petit Liré (6), que le mont Palatin,
Et plus que l’air marin la doulceur angevine .

(1) cestuy la = celui-là
(2) la toison = la Toison d'Or
(3) plein d’usage = plein d'expérience
(4) ardoise = les ardoisières d'Anjou
(5) mon Loyre = Joachim du Bellay met ici le masculin parce qu'il est masculin en Latin
(6) Liré = village voisin d'Angers, lieu natal du poète

explications fournies par Louis Petit de Julleville (Morceaux Choisis des Auteurs Français - Moyen Age et Seizième Siècle)

Here is a rendering in English of the poem. I found it on a blog whose author was spending one night with his pipe and a book full of poetry:

Happy the man who, like Ulysses, went
Sailing afar; or him who won the fleece,
Then, wise and worldly grown, returned to Greece,
Amonst his own, to live and die content.

Alas! When shall I end my banishment,
To see my village rooftops smoke, to cease
My wandering, see my humble home, in peace,
More grand to me than realm magnificent?

More do I love the home my fathers made
Than Rome’s bold palaces, in pride arrayed:
More do I love fine slate than marble rare;

More than their Tiber do I love my Loire;
Their Palatine, more my Lire by far;
And more than sea’s salt breeze, Anjou’s soft air

Indian Summer

And here is a rendering in Romanian (file de naivitate):

Fericit cel care, ca si Ulise oarecand, a facut o frumoasa calatorie
Si ca si acesta caierul l-a dobandit
Si apoi plin de indemanare si intelepciune a revenit,
Traind mai apoi impreuna cu parintii sai pe vecie.

Cand voi revedea, vai, micul meu catun,
Soba fumeganda ... si in ce anotimp
voi revedea curtea saracei mele case
ce mi-e acum un tinut atat de indepartat?

Cu mult mai mult iubesc vatra pe care stramosii mei au cladit-o
Decat fatadele impunatoare ale palatelor romane.
Iubesc mai mult ardezia fina decat marmura dura.

Iubesc mai mult Loira galica decat latinul Tibru.
Mai mult imi place micul meu Liré, decat muntele Palatin.
Si cu atat mai mult iubesc angiovina dulceata decat aerul marin.

To be honest, I don't like some lines in this rendering. Let's try a little bit:

Fericit cel care, precum Ulise drumetind,
A dobandit caierul
Si intelept s-a-ntors
Cu-ai sai sa fie pe vecie.

Cand voi revedea, vai, micutul meu catun,
Si vatra fumeganda ... si in ce anotimp
Voi revedea ograda saracei mele case
Ce-acum e un tinut atat de-ndepartat.
Cu mult mai mult iubesc eu vatra ce ai mei buni durara
Decat fatoasele fatade ale palatelor romane.
Si-ardezia fina mi-i draga mult mai mult ca marmura cea dura.

Iubesc mai mult Loara mea galica decat latinul Tibru.
Mai mult imi place micutul meu Liré, ca Palatinul munte.
Si cu atat mai mult mi-i draga dulceata angiovina ca aerul marin.

(Joachim du Bellay)


A Blog with Lots of Romanian Movies

Mircea Florin Bălăceanu signaled on Facebook an amazing blog containing youTube videos of arguably all Romanian movies. Not all of them, of course :) anyway lots.

The blog is named Filme româneşti din toate timpurile. Enjoy!


Conlon Nancarrow: Study # 9 for Player Piano

A collage piece made by intercutting three repeating loops at different tempos (Kyle Gann: Annotated List of Works)

Various meters and tempi, primarily in the ratio of 3:4:5, with ostinati in the bass and descant (Jürgen Hocker)

My advice: it sounds really weird, but the end is great, so listen the whole and you'll be fine

Study # 9 for player piano (video by playerpianoJH)

(Conlon Nancarrow)


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Emir Kusturica

I have recently watched two of his greatest movies and hopefully I will put soon something here about. There are already on this blog two older posts (in Romanian) about other movies of Kusturica. They were posted by Dan, who has now his own blog (which is fine: each of us has his distinct interests and concerns, and it is much better to have separate spaces to communicate).



Conlon Nancarrow: Study # 8 for Player Piano

A cut-away view of an Aeolian Player Mechanism in 1914
(Courtesy of the Pianola Institute)

The first acceleration study (Kyle Gann: Annotated List of Works)

One of Nancarrow's most important early studies, where for the first time he employs techniques that later would assume central significance: the canon form and continuous velocity shifts; the composition is mostly in three parts; for the first time Nancarrow does not employ bar lines and conventional note script in the notation - he indicates the note lengths with strokes after the notes (Jürgen Hocker)

Study # 8 for player piano (video by playerpianoJH)

(Conlon Nancarrow)


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Zhang Yimou: The Road Home (1999)

If I were to make a comparison, this movie (The Road Home, made by Zhang Yimou in 1999) has the same simplicity and gravity that the stories written by Chinghiz Aitmatov have.

Like in Aitmatov's stories, it starts without haste and gives the impression of taking all along its time, while actually it has the hallow of a legend: something fabulous is happening there, and it is happening in all casualty. The miracle in The Road Home is a story of love against all odds: defying the traditions (love at first sight in a period of arranged marriages), as well as defying the loss of traditions (the insistence on carrying the coffin back home instead of using a car);defying the obvious difference of social category (he is a teacher, she is an illiterate charmed by his voice at school), defying the political harshness of the time (he is sent to a labor camp for being an intellectual, she is waiting for him to come back), defying the passing of years, defying even death.

The main character is played by Zhang Ziyi; it was her first role in a feature and she is amazing, playing the whole story of love only through the mimic of her face, through the joy in her eyes; and the movie camera is amazing, following her face continuously and discovering there the miracle: the incredible beauty of her face, reflected in the incredible beauty of the surrounding landscape.

Director Zhang Yimou made this movie as a tribute to Kiarostami: it is the road as a referential, in so many movies of Kiarostami, also in The Road Home. But, while at Kiarostami the road is the mean by which the main characters try to discover the surrounding reality and to be accepted in it, here in the movie of Zhang the main characters (the father, the mother, the son) discover on the road their own truth, their identity.

我的父親母親: 1/11
(video by chinamovie4u)

我的父親母親: 2/11
(video by chinamovie4u)

我的父親母親: 3/11
(video by chinamovie4u)

我的父親母親: 4/11
(video by chinamovie4u)

我的父親母親: 5/11
(video by chinamovie4u)

我的父親母親: 6/11
(video by chinamovie4u)

我的父親母親: 7/11
(video by chinamovie4u)

我的父親母親: 8/11
(video by chinamovie4u)

我的父親母親: 1/11
(video by chinamovie4u)

我的父親母親: 1/11
(video by chinamovie4u)

我的父親母親: 11/11
(video by chinamovie4u)

(Zhang Yimou)