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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Fyodor Gladkov, Cement

In December 1999 I was in New York visiting my two half-sisters Jill and Pola and their mother Marjorie. We were to meet one evening for a dinner: an Indian restaurant some place in East Village. They all adored Indian cuisine, for me it was the first time. I met with Marjorie one hour earlier in front of a gas station on Houston Street and she suggested to enter a bookstore nearby. It was a huge shop, with all kind of old editions impossible to find in other place. Not only books in English, other languages were also present. In a pile of books in Russian I noticed a novel that I had read years ago in a Romanian translation. Here was the Soviet edition: Цемент by Fyodor Gladkov.

I had heard about this novel long before reading it. By that time I was already kind of familiarized with the universe of Soviet books published in the thirties / forties / fifties, when the control of the regime over the country was unquestioned. I was very curious to see something written when everything was still fluid, in the immediate aftermath of the Russian Civil War.

Cement (Цемент) was firstly published in 1925. During the years that followed, the author came back several times on the text: as the official culture of the Soviets was following the windings of the political line of the Party, Cement had to be kept in sync. And despite all these patches, the original spirit of the book is still there.

Far from being a standard for the Socialist Realist writing (as it was vaunted), Cement breathes the artistic vanguard of the 1920's. Gladkov plays here in Cement in the same team with the Constructivists, with Tatlin and Vertov, with Rusakov and Klucis. This book could be likened to Tatlin Tower, the grandiose project never accomplished, in no case to the Stalinist sky-scrappers erected in Moscow during the 1930's. Or, if it calls something in mind, it's not some ballet performance at the Bolshoy Theatre with Ulanova on the stage and Stalin in attendance, followed by champagne. No, it calls rather the last scene from Man with a Camera, imagining the destruction of Bolshoy, to make place for the new world.

Because it's about imagining the new world here in Cement: a small town somewhere in Russia in the early twenties, torn down by the war, and in the midst of all daily miseries and shortages people are trying to live the Communist values. Gladkov, like the other Constructivists, believed firmly in Communism and he created in Cement a universe resembling his convictions. Only it's the Communism as imagined by Constructivists, a place of Revolutionary spontaneity where censorship has not yet been invented, and Stalin is still together with Trotzky and all the other guys. The heroes of Gladkov question passionately the institution of family, seen as outdated and useless (it seems Communists of those times were still reading Engels and his Origin of the Family). These heroes of Gladkov are very direct when it comes to sex, they send their children to be raised outside the parental nest (to get rid of any family chain), because nothing matters but production, everything is subdued to make the cement factory work. Not many years will pass and from all this it will be the cement factory the only remaining concern, nothing else. The primacy of production as an absolute value. But here in the universe of the book all cards are still on the table, it is an intense feeling of freedom. Let's be clear on this, it's the freedom felt by those fighting to impose their own sense of freedom, their understating of freedom as understood necessity, however it's intense. And it makes the artistic value of Cement.

I mentioned above Tatlin Tower. It was an amazing project and it was definitory for the spirit animating the Soviet artists of that epoch, the years of the Russian Civil War. It remained just a project: the necessary quantity of steel would have exceeded all available resources in Russia of those years.

Gladkov's Cement came some years later: meanwhile the Soviets had learned that development of mass production was the condition of survival. In just a few years all dreams of Gladkov's heroes would be seen just as childish utopias, while the cement factory would remain the number one concern of society.

And mass production would lead also to the fall of the Soviets, decades later. Zygmunt Bauman gave an explanation for this paradox (Intimations of postmodernity, 1992):

In its practical implementation, communism was a system one-sidedly adapted to the task of mobilizing social and natural resources in the name of modernization: the nineteenth-century, steam and iron ideal of modern plenty. It could - at least in its own conviction - compete with capitalists, but solely with capitalists engaged in the same pursuits. What it could not do and did not brace itself to do was to match the performance of the capitalist, market-centered society once that society abandoned its steel mills and coal mines and moved into the postmodern age (once it passed over, in Jean Baudrillard's apt aphorism, from metallurgy to semiurgy; stuck at its metallurgical stage, Soviet communism, as if to cast out devils, spent its energy on fighting wide trousers, long hair, rock music and any other manifestations of semiurgical initiative).

(Жизнь в Kнигах)

(Zygmunt Bauman)


Monday, November 28, 2011

David Croitor: Sunset

(David Croitor)


Sunday, November 27, 2011

David Croitor: December in Old Bucharest

(David Croitor)


Saturday, November 26, 2011

David Croitor: Household

(David Croitor)


David Croitor: Copper Autumn

(David Croitor)


David Croitor: Winter Story

(David Croitor)


David Croitor

David Croitor, a Romanian visual artist who lives in Vatra Dornei, a small city in the North of the country. His works have some kind of elegiac beauty.

(Contemporary Art)



Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Am citit azi pe forumul web CrestinOrtodox.ro (Baraganul, campia deportatilor) un articol care mi-a trezit amintiri dureroase. Mama primei mele sotii a fost deportata in Baragan. Locuia in satul Izvoru Barzii de pe langa Turnu Severin. Romania comunista era in dusmanie cu Iugoslavia comunista, Tito avusese curajul sa se certe cu Stalin. Si s-a luat decizia ca o fasie lata de 25 kilometri la granita cu Iugoslavia sa fie curatata de elemente dusmanoase. Chiaburi, profesori care erau banuiti de atitudine refractara fata de comunism, preoti, romani de origine sarba sau aromana, sau de origine svabeasca, toti au fost deportati in Baragan.

Prima mea sotie avea cativa ani doar. A scapat, pentru ca se afla in momentul acela la bunici. Le-a venit insa si lor randul sa fie stramutati, pentru vreo doi ani.

Soacra mea a ajuns in Baragan. O astepta pamant gol pe care trebuia sa isi sape un bordei. I-au pus sa lucreze la camp si mancarea se dadea dupa cat de mult reuseai sa lucrezi.

Ea era o femeie dintr-o bucata. Nu s-a speriat, era taranca, stia sa lucreze pamantul, si i-a incurajat pe ceilalti.

Prima mea sotie a murit cand avea numai patruzeci de ani. Si poate ca si traumele copilariei au contribuit la asta. Copilaria ei chinuita, in care mama ii fusese deportata in Baragan, in care bunicii si apoi doua matusi au avut grija de ea, copilaria in care mereu exista teama sa nu fie data afara din scoala fiindca avea origine nesanatoasa.

Sa cititi articolul:

(Amintiri din Garla Mare)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Story of a Real Man

Story of a Real Man (Повесть о настоящем человеке), released in 1949 is based on the novel written by Boris Polevoi. It is a true story. In 1942 Soviet ace Alexey Maresyev was shot down over a region occupied by German troupes. Though badly injured he succeeded to return to Soviet controlled territory. It was an 18 days journey during which his injured legs deteriorated so badly that amputation was necessary. After one year of exercises with his prosthetic devices he came back on the front as a fighter pilot.

I found the movie on a video in an Esperanto language blog.

The main roles are performed by important Soviet actors of the 1930's - 1940's generation (Pavel Kadochnikov played also in Eisenstein's Ivan the Terrible; maybe older movie watchers - older than me - would remember him in Robinson Crusoe; he played also in the superb Unfinished Piece for the Player Piano; and he was also Maxim Gorky in two movies; Nikolai Okhlopkov played in movies like Mikhail Romm's Lenin in October and Lenin in 1918; he impersonated in both films a protege of Lenin; Vasili Merkuryev played also in The Cranes are Flying; as for Lyudmila Tselikovskaya, she was an unofficial sex symbol in the 1940s Soviet Union, loved by general public, censored by Stalin's dictatorship).
Maybe you will recognize in an episodic role Sergei Bondarchuk. I couldn't. It has been his debut in the world of movies.

(Жизнь в Kнигах)

(Russian and Soviet Cinema)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Up to the Sky in Osaka

Yoko filmed this at Umeda Sky building (梅田スカイビル, Umeda Sukai Biru) in Osaka. The building was designed by Hiroshi Hara. He designed Kyoto Station too.

(video by HANAFUBUKI)
music by Naoki Tohdo

It's gorgeous, and, more than that, I think, for Yoko it's a daring new way of exploring the world. I am thinking now at all her gorgeous videos in the world of parks and shrines, or in the world of Japanese traditional commercial neighborhoods, here is different. And I'm thinking at Hou Hsiao-Hsien and his Millennium Mambo, with its debut scene that takes place in a tunnel that is somehow like the one explored by Yoko here.

(The Thousand faces of HANAFUBUKI)


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Panentheism and Eastern Christianity

Firstly let's make the distinction between Pantheism and Panentheism. Pantheism equates Cosmos (Nature, Universe) and God (maybe we should say rather Godhead).

Panentheism keeps the immanence of Cosmos, while adding to it a transcendental dimension. Simpler put, for a Panentheist, Godhead is not only Cosmos, it is also what's beyond.

It sounds a bit arid, I agree. Let's put it this way: if we consider Cosmos (Universe, Nature) as the whole that can be physically observed, then for Pantheism the Godhead is in the whole (not beyond), while for Panentheism the whole is in the Godhead (who extends beyond).

Important to understand is that both Pantheism and Panentheism equate (at least partially) Cosmos and Godhead. A line from Yeats comes in mind: How can we know the dancer from the dance?

It's much to say about this, here are just some quick notes.

Some argue that Eastern Christianity (Orthodoxy) is at least partially Panentheistic. I do not agree. Eastern Church professes the belief in one God who encompasses Essence (Οὐσία, Ousia), Persons (ὑπόστᾰσις, Hypostasis - Father, Son, Holy Spirit), and Uncreated Energies (ἐνεργέω, Energeia). The presence of God in the Universe is manifest through these Uncreated Energies. Here the keyword is Uncreated: Eastern Christianity keeps a net distinction between Creation and Divine Energies (Uncreated, as they are a manifestation of God, who is the Creator, not the Creation).

There would be also something to add here about what Eastern theology has to say about a human being who advances towards Theosis, but let's leave it now. Maybe later (not sure).

As I said above, these are just quick notes, nothing more. For those who want to study seriously the matter I recommend a very solid treatise: The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, by Vladimir Lossky.

(A Life in Books)


Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time
A girl with moonlight in her eyes
Put her hand in mine
And said she loved me so
But that was once upon a time
Very long ago

Original Broadway Cast Recording of the Musical All-American

A beautiful, sad, love song, Once Upon a Time. It was written for All American, a Broadway musical from 1962, created by Mel Brooks. Charles Strouse scored the song, Lee Adams composed the lyrics.

Once upon a hill
We sat beneath a willow tree
Counting all the stars and waiting for the dawn
But that was once upon a time
Now the tree is gone

It was performed by so many, Charles Boyer and Frank Sinatra , Bobby Darin and John Gary, Andy Williams and Scott Bakula, and many, many others.

How the breeze ruffled through her hair
How we always laughed as though tomorrow wasn't there
We were young and didn't have a care
Where did it go

And I heard the song once again, performed by Jay McShann, in a movie telling a story as sad as this love song is. Hanging Up, from 2000, in which Walter Matthaw is an impossible father who's dying and the sanctity of death suddenly makes everything else irrelevant. It was the last role of Walter Matthaw. Soon after the film was released his cancer came back and he passed away.

Once upon a time
The world was sweeter than we knew
Everything was ours
How happy we were then
But somehow once upon a time
Never comes again

Once upon a time
Never comes again


Friday, November 18, 2011

William Butler Yeats: Among School Children

I walk through the long schoolroom questioning;
A kind old nun in a white hood replies;
The children learn to cipher and to sing,
To study reading - books and histories,
To cut and sew, be neat in everything
In the best modern way - the children's eyes
In momentary wonder stare upon
A sixty-year-old smiling public man.
I dream of a Ledaean body, bent
Above a sinking fire, a tale that she
Told of a harsh reproof, or trivial event
That changed some childish day to tragedy -
Told, and it seemed that our two natures blent
Into a sphere from youthful sympathy,
Or else, to alter Plato's parable,
Into the yolk and white of the one shell.
And thinking of that fit of grief or rage
I look upon one child or t'other there
And wonder if she stood so at that age -
For even daughters of the swan can share
Something of every paddler's heritage -
And had that colour upon cheek or hair,
And thereupon my heart is driven wild:
She stands before me as a living child.
Her present image floats into the mind -
Did Quattrocento finger fashion it
Hollow of cheek as though it drank the wind
And took a mess of shadows for its meat?
And I though never of Ledaean kind
Had pretty plumage once - enough of that,
Better to smile on all that smile, and show
There is a comfortable kind of old scarecrow.
What youthful mother, a shape upon her lap
Honey of generation had betrayed,
And that must sleep, shriek, struggle to escape
As recollection or the drug decide,
Would think her Son, did she but see that shape
With sixty or more winters on its head,
A compensation for the pang of his birth,
Or the uncertainty of his setting forth?
Plato thought nature but a spume that plays
Upon a ghostly paradigm of things;
Solider Aristotle played the taws
Upon the bottom of a king of kings;
World-famous golden-thighed Pythagoras
Fingered upon a fiddle-stick or strings
What a star sang and careless Muses heard:
Old clothes upon old sticks to scare a bird.
Both nuns and mothers worship images,
But those the candles light are not as those
That animate a mother's reveries,
But keep a marble or a bronze repose.
And yet they too break hearts - O presences
That passion, piety or affection knows,
And that all heavenly glory symbolise -
O self-born mockers of man's enterprise;
Labour is blossoming or dancing where
The body is not bruised to pleasure soul.
Nor beauty born out of its own despair,
Nor blear-eyed wisdom out of midnight oil.
O chestnut-tree, great-rooted blossomer,
Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?

The author of this video tried to make his voice sound like Yeats' voice would have sounded: an Irishman in his early sixties, whose visit in a school leads to a meditation on his whole life. And everything begins to flow: his lifelong love remained unrequited, the passing of time, the approaching end, the sense of it all. All this wrapped in a dense language, unifying everything in search of a common denominator, looking through long crafted allusions toward universal paradigms, and finally finding the relation with his life as relation between creator and creation, impossible to split (How can we know the dancer from the dance?).

There are on the web many places where this poem is analyzed. Here are just a few of them, you'll find many more:

(William Butler Yeats)


Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Euthyphro Dilemma


SOCRATES: Then what do we say about piety? Isn’t it what is loved by all the gods, according to your definition?


SOCRATES: Just because it is pious, or for some other reason?

EUTHYPHRO: No, because it is pious.

SOCRATES: So it is loved because it is pious, not pious because it is loved?

EUTHYPHRO: It seems so.

SOCRATES: But it is because a thing is loved by the gods that it is an object of love or god-beloved.

EUTHYPHRO: Of course.

SOCRATES: Then what is god-beloved is not the same as what is pious, Euthyphro, nor is what is pious the same as what is god-beloved, as you assert; they are two different things

Let's express the Euthyphro Dillema from the perspective of monotheistic religions: is what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it morally good because it is commanded by God? Either way you take you arrive at a dead point. Great philosophers and theologians discussed the dilemma and came with various answers

(You could agree or not with what I'm saying here) Actually it is a false dilemma and Socrates is right: God's will and moral order are different things. Moral order operates on human scale and is created (and maintained) by humans for human use. God has another scale.

Says Katherin A. Rogers (analyzing how St. Anselm considered this dilemma), Anselm, like Augustine before him and Aquinas later, rejects both horns of the Euthyphro dilemma. God neither conforms to nor invents the moral order. Rather His very nature is the standard for value.

Two web sites where the Euthyphro dilemma is discussed (and of course there are many other places where you can find it):

(A Life in Books)


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Bit About the Free Will

A 17th century Calvinist print depicting Pelagius. The text under the image is condemning him unequivocally ( Accurst Pelagius with that false pretence, and so on): a condemnation that follows the tradition inaugurated by Augustine. Recent studies have defended Pelagius as a misunderstood orthodox.

Here are some very quick notes. An introduction to the works of Augustine is on the website of Georgetown University (which is run by Jesuits, by the way) at:

From Augustine comes the classification of human - sin relations:

  • before the Adamic Fall, the ability to either sin or not sin (posse peccare / posse non peccare): Pre-Fall Humanity
  • after the Fall, unable to not sin (non posse non peccare): Fallen Humanity
  • after the Redemption on the Cross, able not to sin (posse non peccare): Redempted Humanity
  • At the End of Times, unable to sin (non posse peccare): Glorified Humanity
(You can find this classification for instance at Human Nature in Its Fourfold State, http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/four-fold.html).

It is a classification raising of course questions about the place that remains for our free will. And also the observation that our civilization, shaped by centuries of biblical authority, lives with the complex of Original Sin, tempting to see each human as potentially guilty by association. Let's also note here that Eastern and Western theologians differ in some subtle nuances on the theory of Original Sin. In the East it is viewed rather as the Ancestral Sin (with implications on the consequences for the human condition: Original Sin is kind of Mother of All Sins so to speak, and so all humans share the responsibility; Ancestral Sin makes us victims rather than shareholders). If I find the text I have read on this not long ago I'll let you know.

Pelagius had very distinct views on these issues. I found a synthetic presentation (followed by the point by point responses of Augustine) at:

Here are the seven points of Pelagius:

  • First, Adam was created neither holy nor evil. His will was in a state of moral equilibrium or moral indifference.
  • Second, Adam would have died physically whether he sinned or not. Physical death is not a penalty for sin but is the inevitable corollary of being a creature.
  • Third, Adam's fall affected neither himself nor his posterity, except insofar as he set for them a bad example. Infants, therefore, are born innocent and without a sin nature. They are in the same condition as Adam was before his fall.
  • Fourth, freedom of will consists in the power of contrary choice, i.e., man is both able to sin (posse peccare) and able not to sin (posse non peccare). He is equally capable of either.
  • Fifth, ability limits obligation. The commands and prohibitions in Scripture necessarily imply the ability to fulfill them. Inability destroys responsibility.
  • Sixth, grace is external, resistible, and consists primarily of moral instruction and the law of God.
  • Seventh, perfection in holiness or freedom from sin is possible in this life.



Sunday, November 13, 2011

The French Quarter

Jazz was born in this place, where American, French, Spanish and Creole cultures live together and confuse each other. In the early 20th century Buddy Bolden and Jelly Roll Morton were honing in bars and strip joints here a style of rag-time music, later known as jazz. Louis Armstrong and King Oliver would follow. William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway and Lillian Hellman lived here, too. Preservation Hall opened its doors here in 1961, giving struggling musicians a chance to perform when New Orleans jazz was in decline. Nowadays this neighborhood attracts people like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.

(America viewed by Americans)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Limited or Universal Salvation?

Steve Heyduck is a United Methodist pastor who currently serves as the Chaplain of the Methodist Children’s Home in Waco, TX, plus some other similar tasks there. He considers himself a postmodern, possibly emergent Christian.

I found his blog by chance. The blog has an impressive title (Everyday Theology, from a nonconstantian, postmodern perspective). Well, the title can sometimes be deceiving, but Steve has some interesting points that I liked.

There is a blogpost where he talks about what should be the job of the church: transforming the world is not our job; it is God’s; God doesn’t even need our help, but God has invited us along on the journey toward a transformed world. That resonates, I think, with the ideas exposed by another pastor that I am honored to know, Reverend David Ensign, the Minister of the Clarendon Presbyterian Church in Arlington, VA.

By the way, the title of that blogpost was Missionderstanding. I totally agree. Instead of lecturing people about the superiority of Euro-centric Christianity the preachers should invite us in a journey toward the universal values that even God likes (I hope I am not going further than the blogpost of Steve suggests :) Just kidding).

How I arrived to the blog of Steve Heyduck, the pastor from Waco, it's another story. I was trying to find an answer to a question that I think about for a long time. The Predestination as it is presented by Calvin always seemed to me far too restrictive (to put it mildly: I thought of it as truly barbarian), and I was very intrigued how could emerged from it today's Reformed Church, so progressive and inclusive.

Well, first of all, I didn't know the whole truth about the doctrine of Calvin: he thought that all of us are sinners and so none of us would deserve Salvation. And he considered that God elected from the beginnings some of us to be saved. A decision that we cannot question the reason , because it is not to us, humans to know what God does.

Well, you could say then, let's sin, some of us will be saved anyway, the rest not, so what to do other than sin? I would say here that moral and religion are separate things. If we do bad things here on Earth, it is the society that punishes us. The moral is created by humans and operates on a human scale, through laws and coercion and stuff. God operates on another scale: everything we do here on Earth, good or bad, is just sin, because it is far from God.

So this was the point of Calvin. And I didn't know that the Reformed theologians got rid of Calvin's opinion on Predestination and evolved toward other ideas.

Some went on to the radically opposite side: God will save us all, because he loves us all. And all our deeds, good or bad, are nothing to Him, as they are just on human scale. God has another compass. Two schools of thought went towards this idea, (and finally in America they merged in the Unitarian Universalist Church: Unitarians keep that humans are too good to be not saved by God, Universalists believe that Good loves us too much to not save all of us; if you allow me a joke here, Unitarians keep that people are too good to not accept God regardless, Universalists keep that God is too good to not accept us regardless).

It is a very generous idea, that has however a bias: what remains of the free will? Some of us just don't want to be saved. Is Christianity a religion for slaves?

And Steve Heyduck has another impressive blogpost about this question (Universal Calvinism). Firstly he thinks that Christians have done a huge disservice to our task of welcoming and growing Kingdom here and now by putting hope off until life after death (he adds that in The Great Divorce Lewis suggested that life after death will be a magnification of this life). Then he observes that if God accepted everyone, then what happens to humanity’s vaunted free will?

It is much to say and I will come back to this. And not only once. It is much to say about the Five Points of Calvinism, about all its history up to Postmodern Christianity, about the Posse Peccare / Non Posse Non Peccare and all that stuff.

Maybe Catholicism has a better answer (Reformed guys would be surprised): God is too delicate to impede upon our free will. We are free to follow Him or to sin. It's to us, not to Him. He does not interfere.

Or maybe the bias in all these various schools of thought is too much reasoning. Eastern Orthodoxy will just say that all this is mystery. Silouan the Athonite expresses it admirably: keep you mind in hell, but do not despair.

(Church in America)


Friday, November 11, 2011

1520 Sedgwick Ave.

Now hip-hop is an essential part of the global culture (or global counter-culture, matter of perspective). It started in the Bronx, more precisely at 1520 Sedgwick Ave. The community room on the first floor was hosting evening parties and a guy named Clive Campbell was the DJ. Well, people knew him as DJ Kool Herc. He was using two turntables (with the same record) and a mixer to extend the beat of his tunes. A friend of Kool (this friend was known as Coke la Rock) was the MC. So it was DJing, and it was MCing. It was 1973 and hip-hop was born.

(New York, New York)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Birthplace of Fast Food

In 1940, Dick and Mac McDonald opened their McDonald's Bar-B-Que restaurant in San Bernardino, CA, and in 1949 they replaced the potato chips on their menu with French fries.

We have a McDonald's franchise in walking distance, and my grandson is all for it. Frankly I am no more a fan of the Mc, but I used to be. On the first day of 2002 I went to a McDonald's to have a cup of coffee, and I did it on purpose: to drink there my first coffee from that year. You can smile reading this confession, but let me explain: I was preparing to move to the US (I did it in September that year), and this gesture, to start the year at McDonald's, was some kind of a symbol of my commitment. Of course, once in America, I discovered that it meant much more than fast food culture.

But fast food history wouldn't be made until salesman Ray Kroc visited the place in 1954. A year later, Kroc opened his first McDonald's franchise, in 400 N. Lee Street, Des Plaines, IL, in a red-and-white-tiled building with bright yellow arches. Ten years later, there were more than 700 McDonald's restaurants in the United States.

(America viewed by Americans)

American Graffiti

American Graffiti, directed by a pre-Star Wars George Lucas and produced by a post-Godfather Francis Ford Coppola, was a coming-of-age story released in 1973 but set in 1962. It launched a boom in oldies music and revitalized the career of radio disc jockey Wolfman Jack. The film’s cast included Ron Howard, Richard Dreyfuss, Paul Le Mat and Harrison Ford, who refused to cut his hair to the period’s style because his part was so small and instead wore a hat. Much of the movie was shot in Petaluma, CA, and each year the town celebrates the film with a festival featuring rock 'n roll music and classic cars cruising the city's main drag.

It was a time when today's baby-boomers were teenagers, and they loved to meet in huge groups some place downtown, to start from there cruising the strip all night long. I graduated from high school in 1963, these guys from American Graffiti were about the same age. If you look now at those years, everything seems antique, and what you feel is amusement and nostalgia. But in those remote years everything seemed cool and the mood was enthusiastic. We loved to dance, and on Saturday nights the dance was in the premises of our high school, in the gym or cafeteria. We were trying to impress the girls, usually we were screwing up. The local DJ was a god, the classmates from our band were the best in town. The rock was king, and life was just beginning. I remember I spent with my classmates a whole night at a restaurant, smoking and dancing, and when we left it was that unique moment of predawn, when darkness has just disappeared and light hasn't come yet. Only a couple of seconds, no more. This movie is exactly about that moment, when innocence of teenage makes room to adulthood. It's only once, never again. And you remember it for all your life. We were so young, and our future was looking so great! Why has everything passed so quickly?

American Graffiti - 1/12
(video by marcolopolis555)

American Graffiti - 2/12
(video by marcolopolis555)

American Graffiti - 3/12
(video by marcolopolis555)

American Graffiti - 4/12
(video by marcolopolis555)

American Graffiti - 5/12
(video by marcolopolis555)

American Graffiti - 6/12
(video by marcolopolis555)

American Graffiti - 7/12
(video by marcolopolis555)

American Graffiti - 8/12
(video by marcolopolis555)

American Graffiti - 9/12
(video by marcolopolis555)

American Graffiti - 10/12
(video by marcolopolis555)

American Graffiti - 11/12
(video by marcolopolis555)

American Graffiti - 12/12
(video by marcolopolis555)


Tuesday, November 08, 2011

The Birthplace of KFC

Harland Sanders, born in 1890 outside Henryville, IN, opened his first restaurant in Corbin, KY, in 1930. The restaurant, situated in the front room of a gas station, was called Sanders Court & Café. One of its most popular dishes was fried chicken. In 1936, Kentucky's governor made Sanders an honorary Kentucky colonel in recognition of his contributions to the state's cuisine.

My first encounter with a KFC restaurant was in downtown Bucharest: a large place, elegantly furnished, with images from New York hanging on the walls. I immediately became passionate for their fried chickens and the Coleslaw salad. It was much later that I started to think about healthy food, as the doctors began to persuade me about cholesterol and stuff. Still I enjoy fried chickens.

In 1969, the Sanders motel and gas station were demolished. However, in 1990, the Café was restored to its original appearance and now sells KFC fare and acts as a museum. It has recreated the old kitchen, a motel room, Sanders' office, and displays of advertising and other historical items.

My second encounter with a KFC restaurant was in Staten Island. The place was in the same time KFC and Taco Bell (I would say more Taco Bell).

But only when I moved to Virginia I realized that the fried chickens of Colonel Sanders were belonging to the universe of the South.

In 1952 Col. Sanders began franchising his restaurants; Pete Harman of Salt Lake City, UT, became the first Kentucky Fried Chicken franchisee.

By the end of the 1950's more than 200 Kentucky Fried Chicken outlets were operating in the United States and Canada.


And just a few words about J Steven Conn, the owner of the photo on top of this blogpost: he is a writer and a semi-retired clergyman, passionate for travel and history, who loves blogging about his endeavors and his findings. He visited 57 countries, and all 50 American states.

(America viewed by Americans)

Monday, November 07, 2011

Townhouse in Tribeca

This six floor, 30,000-square-foot TriBeCa townhouse has a private gym and basketball court in the basement and a high-end showroom on the ground floor. Not bad!

(New York, New York)

Sunday, November 06, 2011

The Way a Haiku Began In a Parisian Bookstore

(click here for the Romanian version)

It all began in a small Parisian bookstore, in the Marais. An English language bookstore with some out of print titles you can probably find only there and nowhere else.

Well, maybe I'm exaggerating a little. There are a few other spots like this one, and to say here only about such places that I visited in the US, in DC, the Capitol Hill Books near the Eastern Market, and in Baltimore, the Clayton Fine Books on Charles Street, in Cambridge near Harvard Square, or in Greenwich Village some place near Houston Street. Or in Brooklyn, on Bedford Avenue. Or the Georgetown Bookshop in Bethesda, but this one is no more.

Wait a little, the bookstore in Cambridge I'm talking about had only French language books, while the Parisian one in the Marais was featuring English language novels and poems. So it goes.

The Parisian bookstore had a curious name, The Red Wheelbarrow. It was my first encounter with it, and I was shy to ask the people there about the origin.

The space was very tiny, and the shelves were jammed with books, seemingly in a total disorder. And my imagination began to play. Was this Red Wheelbarrow the title of a haiku? A tiny poem, whose apparently nonsensical string of words was wiping you like a kōan, jammed with hidden senses impossible to decipher?

That small English language bookstore in Paris was actually my first encounter with William Carlos Williams, and I realized it when, after some years, I discovered his poems and so the meaning of the Red Wheelbarrow suddenly made sense for me. Was it a haiku? I would say, yes and no, the term designates a very precise poetic form, while also allowing now and then some fuzziness.

It was due to another encounter that the association between Red Wheelbarrow and haiku started to take a concrete shape. Not in Paris this time. This chance meeting was now on British soil, in the West Midlands (on the net, actually): a collective of young filmmakers, the Black Country Cinema. One of them, an older web acquaintance, Mattie (Mathew Carter) created a haiku video: a minimalistic gem, superbly filtering his deep understanding of the art of Kiarostami.

HAIKU VIDEO - Sunday Afternoon

(video by jovossuck123)

And in a comment to this artwork, another interesting video artist (whose pen name is videogoatbird), came with the poem of William Carlos Williams! The link between the Red Wheelbarrow and haiku was now made!

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

Williams came once with an explanation: this poem sprang from affection for an old Negro named Marshall; he had been a fisherman, caught porgies off Gloucester; he used to tell how he had to work in the hold in freezing weather, standing ankle deep in cracked ice packing down the fish. Williams liked that man, and his son Milton almost as much. In his back yard there was a red wheelbarrow surrounded by the white chickens.

And the affection for the old man somehow got into the writing.

dépend tellement au moment

une brouette rouge de roue

glacé avec de l'eau pluie

près des poulets blancs

so viel hängt ab

von einer roten Schubkarre

glänzend von Regenwasser

bei den weißen Hühnern

tantas cosas
dependen de

una carretilla

lustrosa por el agua
de la lluvia

entre gallinas

Let's try in Romanian (and don't shot the pianist):

Atat de multe depind
de o roaba rosie

de apa ploii

Alaturi cativa
pui albi

(William Carlos Williams)

(Vlog of Mattie)

(Black Country Cinema)

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