Photo: Bosporus, winter 1954

16 Jan

Exact location and provenance unknown.

French imperialism, still rearing its ugly head, fomenting sectarianism and Islamophobia, promoting “elite minority supremacism”, and teaching French…

16 Jan

…to kids with beautiful Armenian faces:

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New home page image: Zinaida Serebryakova’s portrait of husband Boris

16 Jan

I recently discovered the painting of 20th-century Russian realist Zinaida Serebryakova (Зинаида Серебрякова). She was born into a part-French family of artists and lower gentry in eastern Ukraine, and lived a totally charmed life there and and in St. Petersburg, till the Revolution upended it all as it did for hundreds of millions others. Read about it.

I’ve totally fallen in love with her work, and that will probably convince many of what a hopeless sentimental philistine I am, plus a shameless idealizer of pre-Revolutionary Russia, plus a sexist. No problem. I’ll be posting one painting weekly on the Jadde home page till I’m through with my favorites.

First is her beautiful portrait of what must have been her very handsome husband Boris Serebryakov, who died of typhus in 1919, leaving her, at the worst of all political economic times, destitute and with four children.

Boris Serebryakov – Борис Серебряков – 1909

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Neveska: protected from everything except the erasure of its historic name by the Hellenic Ministry of Hellenism

16 Jan

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John Singer Sargent, Palazzo Grimani, Venice 1907

15 Jan

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Kiev and Kievans, decked out in gold and sun and honey — summer 2010

15 Jan

In August of 2010 I was in Kiev for the first time since the fall of communism. I was lucky enough to stumble upon a honey festival — honey being one of Ukraine‘s and Russia‘s and wooded eastern Europe’s valuable trade product for centuries — that that year was held on the grounds of Kiev’s Pecherskaya Lavra – Києво-Печерська лавра, one of the most stupendous collections of churches and monasteries in the world and most sacred to both Russian and Ukrainian Orthodoxy (not a pretty dialogue these days): a farmers’ market from the countryside surrounding the city, and they all brought their honey and other bee-related products to sell.

Between the sun, the huge summer sky, the blinding gold of the church towers, the blue and gold of the flag, the dizzying array of hues of honey and honeycomb and honeycakes and beeswax and candles and sunflowers and between the hair, eyes, cheeks, smiles and the particular beauty of a Ukrainian farmer’s tan worn with that panache that only a Ukrainian farmer can wear it…. The whole thing was this gigantic fugue in gold!

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But tell me: how did gold get to be the highest value? Because it is uncommon and useless and gleaming and gentle in its brilliance; it always gives itself. Only as an image of the highest virtue did gold get to be the highest value. The giver’s glance gleams like gold. A golden brilliance concludes peace between the moon and the sun. Uncommon is the highest virtue and useless, it is gleaming and gentle in its brilliance: a gift-giving virtue is the highest virtue.

— Friedrich Nietzsche

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Огромное спасибо!!! to my friend Elias Hantula for taking these pictures and putting up with me that hot August day. Especially thanks to all these great folks. I took their names down in meticulous order so that I could label the photographs and then promptly lost them. And then promptly took ten years to finally post them. Maybe…maybe…weirder has happened…maybe, someone will recognize someone and however many degrees of separation these folks might have between each other…they were almost all from Poltava.

Mihail’skiy Sobor’ (above) unrelated to the Pecherskiy complex; completely, magnificently, painstakingly rebuilt in every glorious detail after the end of communism; it had been entirely levelled to the ground by the Soviets during WWII, a thing they did because they thought — like with many other of their atrocities — that they could blame the Nazis, such as in the 20,000-death massacre of Polish officers and intellectuals at Katyn in 1940.

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My friend P’s sardonic Serbian humor: terrible government

15 Jan

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My friend P’s sardonic Serbian humor: Peace on Earth

15 Jan

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“Ok, Salman, where was the Prophet (PBUH) born?”

15 Jan

While my friend S. was finishing her history dissertation at Harvard back in the day, she was hired by a Saudi family in Boston to be their developmentally challenged son’s private teacher in Arabic and Islam. So they’d meet at the family apartment in what was then the Boston Ritz (now Taj Mahal or Mandarin Oriental or something) and over the course of a few months his reading in Arabic improved greatly and he pretty much got the architecture of prayer down — for the most part. He continued to have one problem that even S. couldn’t solve. When that moment in Muslim prayer comes when men put their hands to their ears, Salman would hold them out and flap them back and forth like elephant ears. It was rough on S., because she’s Iraqi-American, politically way to what was then the left of the scale and asking her to be your kid’s faith-nanny is like leaving him with Cruella Deville for catechism.

The worst, however, he saved for an oral test, with parents and other relatives present. He made it through everything perfectly, when S. asked him the $64,000 question.

“Ok, Salman, I know you know this one. Salman, what’s the name of the city where the Prophet (PBUH) was born?”

And he closed his eyes, took a breath, threw his arms up in the air and shouted:

“N-E-W! Y-O-R-K! C-I-T-Y-Y-Y-Y!!!”

Poor kids. And poor connections they have to make between the bricolage we throw at them incessantly.

Who knows where or how often he heard “New York City” pronounced like that? So, he must’ve figured, well, this guy (PBUH) you’re all always talking to me about twenty times a day, somebody that important must have been from a city that sounded like THAT!

The assembled family all bent over themselves in laughter, which made it even harder for Salman to ever say “Mecca” ’cause it never got him the laughs that “N.Y.C!” got him, but eventually he understood issues like this aren’t παίξε γέλασε

Except for us and S.’s παρέα. Literally, for years afterwards, none of us could say New York City in any other way but Salman’s.

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Point of this post. I was going to post this cool map of he city that I’ve had sitting on my desktop forever. So I did. And thought of Salman. :) The map is cool because despite its small scale, it’s incredibly detailled! There is not a single mews, alley, driveway, missing. If anyone can find its original size please let me know.

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Cute Kitty Twitters: your cats are stupid.

15 Jan

I had been looking for this precious NYer cartoon for years and could never find it:

Cats are stupid.  Dogs are infinitely smarter.  The problem is that we anthropomorphize their behavior.  So, we imagine our dogs to be warm, happy, affectionate, sloppy, loyal, protective, fun and everything else we’d like our best friend to be.  Our cats, meanwhile, need lots of alone time; she likes her boundaries well-maintained, so she’s always searching for that peace that will allow her exquisite intellect to operate smoothly….except when she needs to scratch a hard to get-to area, or when she’s hungry, which is when she’ll rub your calf with the rear side of her body…  Dogs move around the house and are accommodating; cats take forever to judge a spot adequate to sit in, as she very well should do, since she’s going to be sitting in that exact spot for ages.


When you come home from your fourth deployment in Afghanistan or Iraq in that many years, your dog will come howling and bounding at you, knocking down your toddlers and probably your wife, to hug and lick and play with you and show, in every way possible, that he misses you.  The house’s cat will elegantly pause while it’s coming down the stirs, turn to look at what all the fuss is about through the rails, and then continue to where she was going — probably where there’s some food left out.  When the dog sees you pull up the driveway, he’ll leap off the couch and run out to the car door and start scratching it.  The cat will just stare, with a stare as fixed out the window at the driveway with the car in it as it was before the appearance of your car.

All these ways we think of dogs as loving and relatable and cats as distant, elegant and self-composed have nothing to do with the very human meanings and prejudices we attach to those adjectives.  It’s all plain biology.  Cats are dumb.  Dogs are smarter.


A dog’s brain is much larger and produces a much broader set of emotions/ideas and the mechanical ability to express them outwardly than a cat’s.  But we never think of that.  We ascribe human qualities to what are the cat’s essential stupidity: elegant, serene, poised, a girl of few words.  But she’s not any of those things.  All those things come from her small brain’s lessened capacity for interaction with the environment and with other creatures. 

Sorry.  Your cat’s not sitting in the same place you last saw her hours before because she’s hit an especially high and open nirvana state while cleaning her chakras there and the chi is right or something.  She’s just sitting there because her brain is too small to come up with any alternatives right now.

Addendum: Remember this connection between inability to relate and brain-size; it’s a useful way to judge people too.

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