Photos: Hutsuls!

25 Nov

Some cool photographs I stumbled on of the Hutsuls of the Ukrainian Carpathian highlands (some live on the other side in Romania too), taken between 1918 and 1935. They are described in “New header image: Paradzhanov’s “Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors”. If you’re wondering why these Ukrainians look both so traditional and relatively happy and healthy, it’s because western Ukraine was part of Poland at the time, and though Polish rule wasn’t necessarily that benign for the Ukrainian, non-Catholic minority in that country, it was obviously, no-discussion better than the Leninist-Stalinist-Bolshevik reign of terror and deliberately induced famine that central and eastern Ukraine endured as part of the Soviet Union, and in which some 10 million — by conservative estimates — Ukrainians and Russians starved to death. Western Ukraine became part of the Soviet Union only in 1945, when Stalin annexed the eastern part of Poland, while Poland was given part of eastern Germany.


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New header image: Paradzhanov’s “Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors”

25 Nov

The new header image is a production still from the filming of Sergei Paradzhanov‘s Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors / Тіні забутих предків), 1965. This is one of my ten — or maybe even five — all-time favorite films. It’s a half Romeo and Juliet, half Wuthering Heights, full of eternal love, and cool stuff like frustrated desire, obsession and death.

The other pleasures this film offers is entirely ethnographic; Paradzhanov, a Soviet Armenian filmmaker from Tbilisi, Georgia, was completely enthralled with the material culture, music, languages, and human (especially male) beauty of the Caucasus and Anatolia. Elsewhere — probably when I’ve used pictures from his films as header images before — I’ve referred to him as an “our parts” pornographer. He really had a fetish for his cinematic object, and though we use “fetish”, usually, to describe something unhealthy, it might be better to just accept it as a point on the broader spectrum of object relations.

In Shadows… Paradzhanov moves from his home territory to the Ukrainian sub-ethnic group of the Hutsuls (Гуцулы/Гуцули), that live on the Ukrainian side of the Carpathian mountains in the far west of the country. (I’m sure his appreciation of male beauty was sated there as swell.) The Hutsuls have one of the most richest High Folk Civilizations of Europe: clothes, dance, music, handicrafts — they’re also the people that make those famous Ukrainian Easter eggs you might have heard tell of. In fact, Paradzhanov was kind of a prick when the film was being filmed: he would borrow heirloom items for the shoot from the local inhabitants and then never return them.

Shadows… may be my favorite Paradzhanov film. It’s his most cinematic film, meaning it has the most conventional visual and cinematic narrative — cinema comes from Greek kinema (κίνημα), which means movement. After Shadows…, which put him on the map cinematically, he turned to extreme long shots and extreme long takes of static tableaux; they’re beautiful, but sometimes they try even my patience.

For example, from Color of Pomegranates / Նռան գույնը / ბროწეულის ფერი / Цвет граната (1969):

…and The Legend of the Suram Fortress / ამბავი სურამის ციხისა (1985):

…and Aşık Kerib / აშიკ-ქერიბი (1988):

Color of Pomegranates in 1969 and The Legend of Suram Fortress in 1985What was he doing for twenty plus years? you ask. Well, he was arrested several times between 1973 and 1982, a period during which his previous films were prohibited, for “sexual crimes”, i.e. homosexuality, along with “rape and bribery” — probably trumped up charges. Only when censorship in the Soviet Union started to ease up during the Gorbachev years was Paradzhanov allowed to make films again.

The header photo is not a scene from Shadows… though. It’s a production still, a lovely photo of two Hutsul children watching the filming.

Here are the famous Easter eggs:

I’ll post a collection of cool Hutsul photos I came across in separate post.


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12 rules for life: The Serbian way, from twitter friend Pelagia in Belgrade

25 Nov

Pelagia@Ljiljana1972 12 rules for life: The Serbian way

1. Never clean your room. Your mom will do it. Unless you are a mom then you are to refuse any help if offered and complain how nobody in the house helps you.

2. When asked how you are doing answer as if your collocutor really wanted to know.

3. When asked how you are doing the correct answer is: terrible. Then move on to the details of your misery.

4. Be a slacker and be proud of it.

5. If you cannot be a slacker then indulge in work but never admit it. Even if you get all the highest grades or Nobel prize you are to deny that you ever in your life studied or worked hard.

6. Be late! Always and for everything.

7. Everyday spend at least two hours in the coffeeshop. You are not to work but smoke there.

8. Eat meat and lots of it. Treat vegies as decoration.

9. Be proud of rakija, but in the case of lockdown go and empty all the shelves of coca cola in the local store.

10. When a problem arises the most important thing is not to solve it but to show that you are not guilty. So, you are to argue who is to blame and why it is not you.

11. Be sloppy but creative: from grammar to domestic electrical installations. As long as it works somehow you are fine.

Finally, if the going gets tough you are to forget all previous 11 rules and go into death across Albania to win the impossible war.

Erdie in the Twilight Zone

25 Nov

I always hear the Twilight Zone theme in my head when Erdie or other Turkish politicians make statements like this:

Erdoğan calls Demirtaş a ‘terrorist,’ denies existence of a Kurdish problem in Turkey

Turkish Minute@TurkishMinuteTM Translate Tweet 3:56 PM · Nov 25, 2020·Twitter Web App


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Photos: missing New York

25 Nov

Skyline has changed so radically in only the few years I’ve been away. A lot of people hate those new super-narrow skyscrapers. I think they’re cool:

Photos: Athens can still be so beautiful

25 Nov

And still so indigestibly ugly.

Photo: Ghazanchetsots Cathedral in Shusha, Nagorno-Karabakh / Artsakh

25 Nov

Provenance unknown.

Photo: Naples, 2017

25 Nov

Provenance and location unkown. Thought it might be the Certosa di San Martino in Vomero, but that’s not a functioning monastery. Who knows? Naples is a strangely middle-eastern city in some ways; there are always secret interiors that there are no exterior clues to. On the other hand, the claustrophobia of the tightly packed and built city often leads to a great deal of domestic life taking place in the street.

Photo: St. Petersburg, 1962

25 Nov

Provenance unkown.

Slavoj Žižek: Why white liberals love identity politics

25 Nov

Worth it for the Jewish joke at top.


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