As Franz Josef once said, in all his Viennese fussiness, about the Hungarians: “It was terribly inopportune of these gentlemen to come and plant themselves here in the middle of Europe.”

17 Jan

Genuinely interesting thread.  But careful; one will have to watch how one participates or you’ll get nailed for all kindsa shit from all over the place.

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Balkans and demographic decline

17 Jan


From Guardian: “Croatia has enchanting words for genitalia?”

16 Jan

“Why doesn’t the UK?”

Because English-speaking peoples have a rich and ancient literary tradition that they draw on, honor and will hopefully continue to do so into a future far, far, away.  With Croats, you feel like: well, if you’re from Gospić you have to do something.***


I am friends with a Croatian couple who translate erotic fiction. This is eye-opening – not least my realisation that the UK doesn’t have nearly enough female-friendly euphemisms


šljiva plum Croatian

Some time at the end of the last century, I made a mistake. Friends of mine, a Croatian couple, asked me to find them a book called the The Art of Selling, and take it to them in Zagreb when I was next there. This was pre-internet and Amazon and all that caper, so it took some finding. Upon slapping it triumphantly on my friends’ kitchen table, I was told this wasn’t the book they were after; far from it. They had asked me for The Art of Sailing. Imagine their disappointment.

However, in a lifetime of unforced errors, this one was more or less alone in that it actually turned out for the best. My friends read The Art of Selling, liked it, saw a market for it, translated it into Croatian, sold lots of copies, and their publishing business was born. I saw them last week; these days they are engaged in the translation of erotic fiction into Croatian. This, as you can imagine, has its challenges. The word “manhood” is one. “What’s that all about?” my friend Zrinka asked me.

“No idea,” I shrugged. There is a Croatian word for manhood but in this context it sounds absurd. Also, she tells me there is no translation for having sex that is neither lewd nor technical-sounding, like the word “copulation”, which she is often forced to use. It’s nicely neutral, she says. I took this as a compliment to our language, but it probably says something less complimentary about our attitude to sex.

The words for orgasm are similar to ours, although they do have a charming archaic one in occasional use: sladostrašće, which is literally “sweet passion”. Nice. “It’s kind of like la petite mort,” said Zrinka. “You use that in English, don’t you?”

Do we? I’ve heard tell of it, but can’t say I’ve ever uttered it.

“Any trouble with other words for cock?” I asked, eager to be of assistance.

“No, we’re good for those. We have plenty.”

But this led us on to nice words for our reproductive organs. Willy, she reminded me, is pimpek (pronounced pimp-ek). Sweet. But ever since I begat daughters I have bemoaned the lack of a sweet word for girls’ bits. Willy is a lovely word: sweet, affectionate, harmless and a bit funny. It’s so bad, and telling, that we don’t have such a thing for girls? What’s our nice little word for vagina? There isn’t one really, is there? The one I hated most when my girls were little was “front bottom”, which is plainly awful. Who thought that one up? “Fanny” was eventually plumped for, in my girls’ case. It kind of did the job, although their grandparents winced. Asked for a better suggestion, they just shrugged helplessly and changed the subject.

My mum said to me that when she was a little girl in the 1940s in Zagreb, she called it her šljiva, which means “plum”. Hmm, more confusion if you ask me. Now they have a better word in Croatian. It is related to the boys’ pimpek: “pipica” (pronounced pip-i-tsa). Trust me, it’s an enchanting, affectionate diminutive.

We ought to have something similar. Honestly, I think it is rather sad and even unhealthy that we don’t have something similar. Or can we all just settle on fanny and be done with it?

This was kind of gross.  But if “pimpek” and “pimpica”: (“dickie” and “little dickie” and “sweet little dickie”) are the sum of your culture’s literary accomplishments — what are you going to do?  I now have no idea how I’m getting to get the image of a middle-aged Croatian couple writing porn out of my head.

[***Snaaaaaag, ok, bro, you caught me on the Auntie Mame paraphrase.]



16 Jan

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He must chuckle at night as he drifts off thinking of his next day’s meeting with Drump and Kurt Paşa.

Nole! – history will vindicate Serbia…

13 Jan

6e6fb4ab6606462da2371e8c62b0b185.jpgGetty Images

…in many more and deeper ways than this.  In the meantime, don’t think he isn’t that long-suffering country’s reigning King of Public Relations.

ATP Weekend Winner: Djokovic soaks up sounds of “Nole!” and “Serbia!”

Tripe: FOOD!!!

12 Jan

Lovely serious orchestral arrangement of Albanian: paçe; Bosnian: pače; Bulgarian: пача; Greek: πατσάς (patsas), Persian: کله‌پاچه  (kalle-pache); Turkish: kelle paça).



Another cool video: paça with hot pepper oil.

Jordan Peterson: Watch this guy:

11 Jan
…for those who never had the experience of the Mao-Kim-Hoxha nightmare, or had their family and people put through the communist meat-grinder, and are still going around wearing Ché, Martí, Lenin and Stalin t-shirts ’cause they’re cool: do the reading, absorb some stuff, and grow up a little.
And addressing the isolation and ignorance of the Western Hemisphere, particularly Latin America, from the rest of the humanity from certain experiences, is something that some one needs needs to watch for and guard against.  This time of year…  I know…  A downer.  Something more than just pastel, lechón and Jay Balvin.



Word Press and photos: HELP

10 Jan

When I first started writing this blog you could, with almost any photo, click to larger or the largest size.  Now it’s become impossible and you stuck with the photo of a very beautiful thing then you can only see in micro.



From the Guardian: Here’s what could be lost if Trump bombs Iran’s cultural treasures

7 Jan
Inside the Sheik Loftallah mosque, in Isfahan, Iran. It is a Unesco world heritage site.
Inside the Sheik Loftallah mosque, in Isfahan, Iran. It is a Unesco world heritage site. Photograph: BornaMir/Getty Images/iStockphoto

If carried out, Donald Trump’s threat to targetcultural sites” in Iran would put him into an axis of architectural evil alongside the Taliban and Isis, both of which have wreaked similar forms of destruction this century. The Taliban dynamited Afghanistan’s sixth-century Buddhas of Bamiyan in 2001; Isis has destroyed mosques, shrines and other structures across Iraq and Syria since 2014, some in the ancient city of Palmyra. Not, you might have thought, company the US president would prefer to be associated with.

Does Trump know what would be lost? Probably not – but he’s hardly the only one. The fact that the country is rarely visited by western tourists is not due to a lack of attractions. With a civilisation dating back 5,000 years, and over 20 Unesco world heritage sites, Iran’s cultural heritage is rich and unique, especially its religious architecture, which displays a mastery of geometry, abstract design and pre-industrial engineering practically unparalleled in civilisation. This is is not just Iran’s cultural heritage, it is humanity’s.


Persepolis was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid empire and one of the world’s greatest archaeological sites.
Persepolis was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid empire and one of the world’s greatest archaeological sites. Photograph: Alireza Hosseinzadeh/Getty Images/iStockphoto

The jewel in Iran’s archaeological crown: a monumental complex dating back to the sixth century BC that was designed to impress – with a vast raised terrace, grand staircases and marble palaces and temples. The city has been sacked by numerous visitors, starting with Alexander the Great, but much still remains for Trump to obliterate, including some incredibly well-preserved statues and bas reliefs of bulls, lions, mythical creatures and citizens of the multicultural Achaemenid empire.

Shah Cheragh mosque, Shiraz

Shah Cheragh mosque, Shiraz, Iran.
Shah Cheragh mosque, Shiraz, Iran. Photograph: Feng Wei Photography/Getty Images

Vank Cathedral

Interior of dome of Vank (Armenian) Cathedral, Isfahan, Iran.
Interior of dome of Vank (Armenian) Cathedral, Isfahan, Iran. Photograph: James Strachan/Getty Images/Robert Harding World Imagery

Iran has a long Christian history, particularly associated with Armenia at its northwestern border. Three of the oldest churches in the region are Unesco world heritage sites. Vank Cathedral, near Isfahan, was built by Armenians fleeing the Ottoman wars in the 17th century. The interior is a riotous patchwork of frescoes and gilded carvings.

Bridges of Isfahan

Si-o-Se-Pol Bridge (33 Arches bridge) over the Zayanderud river in Isfahan.
Si-o-Se-Pol Bridge (33 Arches bridge) over the Zayanderud river in Isfahan. Photograph: Atta Kenare/AFP via Getty Images

Western visitors marvelled at the beauty and sophistication of the long, covered bridges of Iran’s former capital, mostly built during the 17th century. They are feats of engineering but also pure functionality. The stately, 130m-long Khaju Bridge, for example, served as a dam and sluice gate to control the Zayanderud river as well as a way to cross it, while its central aisle was a shaded public meeting space boasting a tea house.

Sheik Lotfallah mosque, Isfahan

Sheik Lotfallah mosque in Isfahan.
Sheik Lotfallah mosque in Isfahan. Photograph: Leonid Andronov/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Not the largest mosque in the city but one of the most stupendously ornate, since it was built for the royal court rather than the general public. Its interior contains some of the finest tilework to be found anywhere in the world, especially the dome with its unfathomably complex geometric patterns, said to resemble a peacock’s tail – testament to untold millions of hours of care and labour.

Imam Reza Shrine, Mashhad

Cultural heritage: reconstruction of the Citadel in Bam, Iran

This is the largest mosque in the world, one of the holiest sites in the holiest city in Iran, with over 25 million visitors a year. The destruction of this mosque complex would be unforgivable to many of the world’s Muslims. As well as the tomb of Imam Reza, the eighth Shia imam, and numerous other religious figures, the complex is home to mosques, courtyards, a madrasa, and a museum containing priceless historical artefacts.


The first capital of the Achaemenid empire, built by Cyrus the Great in a distinctive style, with spectacular columned palaces and other buildings laid out across large gardens divided by waterways. This influential Persian garden style was a prototype for Asian design, the inspiration for India’s Taj Mahal and Spain’s Alhambra. The buildings are mostly remnants, though one surviving structure is the supposed tomb of Cyrus himself.

Tomb of Daniel

The tomb of prophet Daniel, Susa, Iran.
The tomb of prophet Daniel, Susa, Iran. Photograph: Dea/Archivio J Lange/De Agostini via Getty Images

Even if he hasn’t actually read his supposed favourite book – The Bible – Trump is likely familiar with Daniel, AKA that dude with the lions. He might be surprised to discover Daniel – a prophet in Islam as well as Christianity – is presumed to be buried in the ancient Iranian city of Susa. Daniel’s Tomb, with its distinctive conical dome, was first chronicled in the 12th century and is still a popular pilgrimage site.

The Citadel of Bam

The largest adobe building in the world, dating back to the sixth century BC. It is more a hilltop town than a single structure, spread across 180,000 sq metres (44 acres), with a central fortress surrounded by streets, houses and bazaars, all surrounded by seven metre-high walls. Bam was largely destroyed in an earthquake in 2003 but reconstruction has been going on ever since.

Gonbad-e Kavus

Gonbad-e Kavus tower in Golestan, Iran.
Gonbad-e Kavus tower in Golestan, Iran. Photograph: Image Professionals GmbH/Alamy Stock Photo

Another example of ancient Iranian excellence in both engineering and style. This 50 metre-tall funerary tower dates back to the early 11th century, and a millennium later it is still apparently the tallest brick tower in the world. The design is beautifully austere, a 10-pointed star in plan, with a conical roof, completely plain save for two bands of calligraphy around the bottom and the top.

[From the Guardian] Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. More people, like you, are reading and supporting the Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many news organisations, we made the choice to keep our reporting open for all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay.

The Guardian will engage with the most critical issues of our time – from the escalating climate catastrophe to widespread inequality to the influence of big tech on our lives. At a time when factual information is a necessity, we believe that each of us, around the world, deserves access to accurate reporting with integrity at its heart.

Our editorial independence means we set our own agenda and voice our own opinions. Guardian journalism is free from commercial and political bias and not influenced by billionaire owners or shareholders. This means we can give a voice to those less heard, explore where others turn away, and rigorously challenge those in power.

You’ve read 289 articles in the last four months. We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism that’s open and independent. Every reader contribution, however big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as €1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you.


Why support matters

“Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors:” Merry Christmas to Old Calendarists

7 Jan

Shadows churchScene from Sergei Paradzhanov’ “Shadows…”

“Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors:” Merry Christmas to Old Calendarists

Ivanko (Ivan Mykolaychuk) and Marichka (Larisa Kadochnikova) in one of the most beautiful shots, Christmas in church, of the beautiful film Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors.  It’s maker, Sergei Paradzhanov, was forgotten for decades largely for having spent time in Soviet prisons for “social” crimes.

I’d written a post about him before (below).  Also read about Hutsuls, the Ukrainian sub-ethnic group of the Carpathians and their – what I like to call — High Folk Civilization.  Paradzhanov was clearly in love with the milieu.  In fact, he was a little bit of a shithead.  He’d borrow embroidered shirts and heirloom vests and beaded headresses for the productions and then never return them.

Thankfully they’ve been restored and are available on a Blu-Ray package and Amazon Prime. I know, I tried not to go there, but they have a fucking monopoly on everything).

Jadde’s homepage photo: Sergei Paradzhanov

12 Nov

I had thought that maybe I would permanently keep the photographs that I first posted on the blog’s homepage when I started it (Turkish refugees from Rumeli in turn of the century Istanbul and adorable kids in Samarina in 1983), as sort of a trademark, or what obnoxious “Ok, millenials” call a “meme” — which is just a mystified/jargonized term for what used to simply be called an “image”.  But when you don’t have any new ideas, you make up fake new words to cover for the fact.

Then I saw footage from a Paradzhanov film that I love, and remembered that he’s among my two or three favorite directors.  It’s strange that I hadn’t thought of him before, because he was essentially obsessed — possessed would not be an exaggeration — with the visual beauty of our parts, of the Jadde world.  He was almost an our parts pornographer, in the most beautiful sense of the word, fixated on the image of our cultures’ physical (and I mean that sexually) and male and material beauty, more interested in the fetishized gaze and tableaux than in editing or the syntax of cinema.  In our world today, where cinematic and video language has been so perverted and debased that the average viewing time between editing cuts is less than three seconds — we’re kept watching by the fact that we’re not allowed to actually look at anything — Paradzhanov granted us the delicious luxury of lingering over every beautiful detail his cinematic mind generated.

So, I decided that every month I’m going to change the homepage pic with one from his various films.  This one is from his 1969 The Color of Pomegranates, widely considered his masterpiece, though it’s not my favorite.  That would be his 1965 Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors, though Pomegranates is without a doubt a beauty.

Hope you enjoy them as much as I like to watch them and post the stills.  Unfortunately, the crappy greenish Soviet color film stock they were shot in and the abysmal curatorial conditions these films were kept under for so many decades means that some of the stills will be soft or just not of optimal quality.  But I hope you enjoy them anyway and look out for opportunities to see them, and hopefully on a real screen and not your Mac…



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