30 December 2011

Socialism as a Buzz Word: Why?

The other day, I came across something a friend of mine posted on Facebook.  I know him from my study abroad and I've accepted that a majority of the people I associated with at college are politically conservative.  My school is crazy conservative and that's not something I consider particularly negative, though it does not reflect my own political views.  I bring this up because the post included the dreaded phrase, "Obama's socialism".  I honestly cannot stand when the label of "socialism" is misappropriated, particularly in political debate.  You may oppose higher taxes (I do not), but do not justify it by saying raised taxes is socialism.  I spent an hour composing a response to this posting because I find it so distasteful. Misappropriating the label distorts our understanding of recent, as well as current, history--much like using the label "Hitler" for any oppositional figure.  The more we use it, the less it means, and it diminishes the powerful lessons.  I won't go on about my response (though it was a masterpiece.  I am very proud of it), but will share the post.  I hope it doesn't set you off like it does for me.  I normally don't engage in such internet debates, but since I knew him, I couldn't stop myself.  Please note that this analogy assumes progressive taxation is the same as collecting all of your money and redistributing it evenly.

19 December 2011

A Beloved Czech Passes Away

Though Kim Jong Il's death is also significant, it was auspiciously timed with a famous Communist dissident's death, which brings much more sorrow.  Václav Havel was a famous and principled dissident in Czechoslovakia who eventually came to be president.  His reluctance to be president reminds me of George Washington, but Havel had much more healing to begin.  His presidency was a testament to his good nature--he never lost himself in politics, but always searched for the light of truth.  The Economist did a lovely eulogy for this great man and his death is a sad fact of history.  Havel will be remembered kindly.  The eulogy touches on what his version of The Beggar's Opera illustrated: living a lie is living a lie.  He lived the truth and we loved him for it.

04 December 2011

Serbia + Kosovo = civil?

You've probably already heard the news.  Serbia and Kosovo struck a deal on the border after a few weeks of Les Misérables-esque car barricades AND after Germany frowned upon Serbia's EU ascendancy publicly.  Am I the only one who's excited?  Who's saying, "WHOA" and refuses to listen to any conversation in the near vicinity because I'm so psyched for some Balkan cooperation?  Maybe.  This does not damper my enthusiasm.

Krtek otec zemřel

Zdeněk Miler died this week.  He was the animator of the famous "Krtek" animation that the whole world fell in love with.  I fell in love with it in one viewing.  So accessible, cute, and universally loved.  I am very sad he is gone and that his classic, classy style is no longer to be created.  Rest in peace, Zdeněk.

28 November 2011

News Flash: The Baltics Are Awesome

I came across this article today in the EU Observer.  The success is pretty amazing and the Baltics in general are in great shape.  Poland has also been doing well and Romania is, according to the Economist, still a worthy investment.  Unstable countries naturally get all the attention in the media and since Orbán has been doing a fanastic job as an embarrasment to his country, it's hard not to focus on the ridiculous demands and overblown confidence.  It makes for good television.  The world seems to forget that there are countries who have emerged victorious from this whole mess.  This brings me back to the original reason I found CEE so fascinating: the shift from Communism to capitalism and how they did it.  Gushing feelings of love towards CEE today.

17 November 2011

Euro crisis: what of it?

My hiatus on this blog coincided pretty closely with the time when the euro started falling apart.  That was not planned.  But now that work has slowed down, it's given me some time to do otherwise productive activities--this blog.  I've missed it so.  I wanted to address the euro crisis, but only on a broad basis.  I do not understand a penny's worth about macro/microeconomics and though I get the general idea, I do not think myself so clever that I actually believe I know what I'm talking about.  So let's join together as I talk out of my butt (no, I joke, I won't be talking so much about economics).

28 September 2011

Bookin' It: Review

Today's book is The Foundation Pit by Andrei Platonov.  The same friend who recommended The Siege recommended this book.  Andrey Platonov is an influential Russia writer of the early 20th century.  He was a Freedom Fighter for the Communists in Russia and a well known writer, but then the rose colored glasses must have come off because he became one of communism's harshest critics.  His work was banned and Stalin had a particular dislike for Platonov.  This book is one of his most famous works and for good reason: it's a satire on Soviet collectivism.

15 September 2011


It's been ages since I posted on here (over a month!) and that's how life goes.  I've acquired a full-time job, moved into Chicago, and had a lot of social engagements.  I don't know where my time goes.  Well, at work I do, but after work it's like time speeds up. 
Anyway, what I'm trying to get across is that I am not abandoning this endeavor, but my posting frequency is about to drastically drop (or improve from the last month, depending on how you look at it).  I'm hoping to get one, maybe two posts in per week and if I hit higher than that, hot damn.

I've still got books I need to review, topics to write about, and opinions to expound.  I've also committed time suicide and signed up for an intensive German course that takes up 6 hours a week.  I must admit that since I'm taking it to prepare for the DaF test, it is putting stock towards my love of CEE.  Plus, my German needs a kick in the pants.  Possibility: German posts as homework.

 I used to work about 30 hours a week and I definitely used the other 10 (maybe 15?) for this blog. This is why I wish I had guest bloggers.  HELP ME.

29 July 2011

Lithuanian Animation

It's not Animation Week, but the popularity of those posts have prompted a new addition since I didn't have anything more interesting up my sleeve.  I was able to scrounge up some interesting animators from the small country, and even found some from one of my blog followers, Ruah Edelstein

28 July 2011

Bombing of Poems

I came across this on Calypso Edition's website months ago (the lovely cooperative press I have collaborated with for several months) and decided it was time to feature it.  I have spent the past few weeks writing more about politics while neglecting the cultural and artistic aspect of CEE.  This project, however, is a lovely conception of political connotations and artistic vision.  It is a healing and beautiful way to reconceptualize past events into a modern event of exuberance.  A Chilean art collective, Casagrande, has been running the project "Bombing of Poems" (Bombardeo de poemas) since 2001, when they bombed Santiago with poems.

27 July 2011

Balkan News

My RSS feed reader is slowly becoming larger than the newspapers I read.  I recently made it worse by adding Balkan Insights, which will supplement the six I was reading before.  I can't even keep up with some of them, so I simply browse headlines to keep myself sane.  This website is great and a fantastic addition to my feeds because I need some more Balkan news.  I give a full review after the jump.

26 July 2011

Kosovo cont'd.

I came across this Eastern Approaches article today.  I found this development arresting considering my recent spotlight on Kosovo and this European Voice announcement last week.  It makes me wonder if perhaps canceling the talks was such a good idea.  The rationale behind canceling seems solid enough, but perhaps they could have made headway on the stamps and avoided a possible border showdown.  I can only speculate from my seat thousands of miles away, but the two events seems suspiciously correlated.  There's a lot of moving pieces in politics, but why has Kosovo taken such an interest in taking over those border controls mere days after the talks were canceled?  Was it to convince Serbia that it may not be the one in power, but rather economically dependent on Kosovo taking their exports?

20 July 2011

A Bit of Fun

I came across this link to Jacek Yerka's work.  He is a Polish artist.  I love the fantastic elements, very magical realism (which I am deeply in love with).  You can find more of his work here.

This was just to give you all a break from the stiffness of political discussions.  Pretty images always soothe the troubled soul.

19 July 2011

News Bites

Today I'm looking over 2 news articles and offering my 2 cents.  There's not a whole lot else to explain, so let's get to it!

18 July 2011

Balkan Book Review

Today's feature is How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone by Saša Stanišić.  I actually found it through a fashion blogger I occasionally read and the name was a dead give-away: I had to read it.  This was my foray into Balkan literature.  Saša, while Bosnian, has lived in Germany since he was 14 and the novel was originally written in German.  This article on the Goethe Institute's site discusses Saša's feelings about being an example of "exemplary integration".  This background information makes reading he novel an interesting debate on art and its reflection on the author, but I will discuss that later on.

17 July 2011

Friends In Need

My friend Christine, who has been featured twice, is looking for funding for her project, featured here.  The money is being raised through Kickstarter and they're shooting for $7,000 in total.  For those unfamiliar with Kickstarter, donations are promised, but are only given if the project meets its goal.  If the $7,000 mark is not reached, no money is given out.  Donations are rewarded with special thank-you gifts, but depend on the amount given.  Check out their page for more details on the project and what you will receive for a donation.  The video is very cute.  (Otherwise, check out her blog, Half Day Around, which is listed on the "Featured Blogs & RSS" page.)

For my regular readers, this is a great opportunity to support projects about and in the CEE region.  Their project covers a lot of topics the world has largely forgotten and that I am trying to reawaken.  If you put money where your hobby is, it will begin to flourish.  Money talks.  This money won't be wasted because I can attest that she has integrity, both artistically and otherwise.  So donate what you are willing and able for her project.  We care!

14 July 2011

Other Problems to Worry About

I've been following the eurozone crisis from a distance because I cannot summon enough economic knowledge to fully understand this financial crisis.  The CCGA panel was helpful, but I still feel like I don't understand the complicated world of imaginary money.  Does anybody really understand it?  I always get the sense it's morphed into a complicated beast no one knows how to tame.  So now I need something else to talk about, which is difficult since most of the news outlets are freaking out about that.

11 July 2011

Reviewing Books Again!

It's that time.  The time when I pontificate on the latest book that I have loved, hoping someone, somewhere reads it and finds my review inspirational enough to look it up on the web.  Hopefully that leads to reading it and loving it, but the least I can do is entice someone to look it up.  Today's lucky son of a gun is Best European Fiction 2011 edited by Aleksandar Hemon.

I bought this book while browsing Borders, where I seldom shop, because the words "best", "Europe", and "fiction" get me all hot and bothered.  I bought it new, which means I was really hot and bothered (and on vacation).  I couldn't even wait to browse Amazon's used books!  That's pretty much the source of all my books.  Suffice it to say, my initial expectations were unusually high.  I wanted this to be the best book I had read all year.  I wanted it to blow my mind.  I wanted to cry or sit in amazement or feel like existentialism was being ripped at the seams.  I wanted epic.

06 July 2011


Kosovo, while not technically a country yet, does deserve some attention during Country Spotlight Week since I hardly highlight the region, mostly because I find the many Balkan wars befuddling.  As Christine Armbruster beautifully captured in her project, war is not a simple right vs. wrong historical event (her project took her to Sarajevo).  In the wake of Mladić's capture, there will be more international discussion of the Yugosphere and how it's progressing.   The problems of Kosovo are not over even though the age of shrapnel and land mines are (or should be).  I am in the midst of a lengthy queue of books written by Balkan writers, so I may have more insight on the region afterward.  Enough about me, more about Kosovo!

30 June 2011


I know that June has been the blogging desert here, but I am out of town for the next week!  I will spend the end part of next week finishing up my Country Spotlight week...those posts are a doozy to write.

For reading material, either browse through my archives or look at the blogs I listed on the "Featured Blogs & RSS" page.  Eastern Approaches and Emerging Europe are excellent blogs from well respected sources.

If cultural analyses interest you, visit Sociological Images.  I am highly addicted.  I must warn that it is focused on American culture, so it is fairly unrelated to the subject matter of this blog (a regrettable detail the prevents me from featuring it!). 

For people interested in female/feminist perspectives, there is Her Blueprint, which I also follow religiously.  With their recent post on female emcees, you can probably see why.  Regardless, I'm a feminist.

Those are my suggestions in addition to an old one: read a book.  Preferably about Eastern Europe or by an author from the region.  I'm currently holding How The Soldier Repairs the Gramophone by Saša Stanišić, The Foundation Pit by Andrey Platonov, and The Joke by Milan Kundera.  I have book reviews on this blog for those who need some guidance (click on the word "books" or "review" in the Topics word cloud).  There are 15 featured books, so one is bound to capture your interest.  Have at it, readers.

28 June 2011

The Future of Europe

Yesterday I had the privilege of attending The Chicago Council on Global Affair's program entitled, "The Future of Europe".  This was in cooperation with the Transatlantic Academy, with Executive Director Stephen F. Szabo moderating the panel.  Steffen Kern and Hanns W. Maull were the featured panelists, the former an economist and the latter a foreign policy and international relations specialist.  I was notified of the event by a family member and after attending the 75 minute panel discussion, I was sufficiently impressed with the content.  I look forward to next year's programs from the CCGA, especially if they include European topics.  I would definitely like to become a member once I earn a slightly higher pay grade.

27 June 2011

Monday Book Review

Calypso Editions has put out a new book this month and I'm reviewing it!  The book is entitled Of Gentle Wolves: An Anthology of Romanian Poetry translated and edited by Martin Woodside.  I've been excitedly waiting for it since I saw it on Calypso's publishing queue and the wait was finally over.  Who said that birthdays come only one a year?  Mine come every time I get a book I'm excited about, meaning I often have a birthday.

I must begin by stating my general unfamiliarity with Romanian poetry.  I'm pretty sure this book was compiled for the new as well as the familiar.  The list of Romanian poets is rather long, but captures a great breadth of style and substance.  In the preface, Mr. Woodside writes,
The poems here present a snapshot of Romanian poetry, one that gestures to a single truth: Romanian poets have been re-inventing poetry for as long as they've been writing it.  And that spirit unifies the poets here, a group of writers from various generations working in various modes who all combine a strong grounding in tradition with the desire to innovate and the will to preserve.

21 June 2011


This week is COUNTRY SPOTLIGHT Week.

I've wanted to post on Lithuania for weeks since I realized, to my great horror, that this Baltic country hasn't been featured at all.  I guess I kept thinking I had posted about Lithuania when it was in fact Latvia.  I want to establish that I do know they are not the same country, but their names became conflated in my mind for reasons unknown to me.  To correct this horrible error and befuddling oversight, I am dedicating a post to Lithuania the country.

20 June 2011

Monday Book Review

I'm back in the saddle with a new book to expound upon.  I just finished reading Ismail Kadare's The Siege.  It was recommended to me by a friend who is far more educated, well-read, and cultured than I may ever hope to be.  And by recommended, I mean very urgently recommended.  He told me to drop whatever I was doing and read this book.  However, I was in the middle of another book and had to wait for it to be mailed to me because I bought it used online.  My thought at the time was, "It better be good because I spent $5 and will have to lug it around when I move."  And it was!

30 May 2011

Monday Book Review

I read Crumbling Walls and Tarnished Ideals: An Ethnography of East Germany Before and After Unification by Hans Baer during my research in 2009.  I was under the false impression that the book was about East Germany in general, though given the title, it was a reasonable expectation.  It was after reading the first few chapters that I realized why academics give very dry and specific titles to their books and articles: you want to know exactly what you're reading about without heavy browsing.  I wanted a more general treatise on East Germany and ended up with a book largely about the SED (the political party of East Germany during Comunism) and education system in East Germany.*

26 May 2011

Big News for Serbia

I read Eastern Approaches this morning to come across this article.  When I read the rest of my European RSS feeds, about half of the press releases were about the arrest of Ratko Mladić, the haunting general of Bosnian Serb forces.  He ordered the killing of 8,000 Bosniaks in Srebrenica and was the commanding officer in the Siege of Sarajevo––in other words, he is the big fish.  As the article points out, this opens up the discussion for Serbia's EU ascension, but it also allows for the nation to lustrate its past.  The lessons of The Haunted Land seem just as poignant now as they were in the early 90s.  The big question now is the same one that Rosenberg writes about, "How do we purge the past to move forward?"

With the possibility of EU ascension on the line, Serbia will be more closely watched as they lustrate one of their biggest and meanest ghosts of a bloody, post-Communist war.  I hope that Serbia is able to do so and move forward to a much brighter future.

24 May 2011

FEMEN and Feminism

Ever since I heard about this group, I was intrigued.  No, it was not because they were protesting topless.  My fascination stemmed from the visibility of a Ukrainian feminist group.  It's not like Eastern European feminist groups make many headlines, so FEMEN's prominence is not to be taken for granted.  It must be noted that bare breasts do make great news, though that's not why FEMEN bares them publicly.  This article on the Eastern Perspectives is well written and covers all the bases necessary for discussion, but I have used quotes from the Der Spiegel article linked at the end.

23 May 2011

Russian Lessons

Christine Armbruster, who has appeared on my blog before with her Sarajevo project, is once again making me jealous.  She is currently living in Russia taking pictures and maybe learning Russian while doing a trans-Russian trek with her friend Tree Gore.  Their project is being documented on the blog, Крыша.  She doesn't know she's being featured today, so it will be a pleasant surprise.  This is my thanks for her sharing her Sarajevo project and being a visible follower on my blog (and a kick-ass fellow ECE enthusiast).

19 May 2011

American Culture, Imported

Instead of actual writing, I will just share The Simpsons in various Eastern European languages. It was fun listening to the various languages with such a familiar show.  Hope you enjoy!

18 May 2011

Russia Lays Down the Law

I have been busy trying to get myself a better job, so this blog has unfortunately suffered.  So it goes.  However, I could hardly contain myself when I found this article on my EU News feed.

16 May 2011

Monday Book Review

Another week, another book review.  Today's book is The Haunted Land: Facing Europe's Ghosts After Communism by Tina Rosenberg.  Published in 1995, the book won the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 1996 and the National Book Award in 1995.  If those two awards don't recommend this book already, I hope my raving review will soften your jaded soul.  For those jaded souls who are wondering, "What's the fuss all about?" this book is an in-depth and complicated foray into Eastern Europe's reconstruction period.  No, this is not how governments shifted, who won elections, or the dismantling of socialist industry.  This is about the cultural revolution and the can of worms known as "lustrace" in the wake of Berlin's tumbling concrete walls.

12 May 2011

Iryna Krasnianska

Today is a more contemporary gymnast, hailing from the great Ukrainian nation.  I picked Iryna/Irina (however you choose to transliterate the Cyrillic) because of her completely bad ass balance beam mount.  She is well known for it and I have to say, it's something.  After watching her mount, you can understand why this photo via Couch Gymnast (which proclaimed her to have a 12 pack) is not a surprise.  With that being said, she has beautiful lines.  Speaking of balance beam, she won a gold medal at the 2006 World Championships.  She deserved it because it's real, real purdy.

11 May 2011

Henrietta Ónodi

Today's gymnast is Henrietta Ónodi of Hungary.  She is probably the most famous female gymnast of that small Ugric nation because she was the first gymnast to win a gold medal at a major competition since 1956.  She even has two moves named after her on the balance beam.  Fun fact about Henni (as she is sometimes called): she made her first appearance at the American Cup when she was 12 years old, but a mere 4 feet tall.  This made her the smallest competitor in AmCup's history.  This video of her beam routine at Kraft Invitational was from the same year and you can see that she's as tall as the beam itself.  So cute.  You can see more videos of her routines as a twelve year old if you browse related videos from that link.

10 May 2011

Věra Čáslavská

I promised to do Female Gymnasts to complete the highlight of gymnastics.  It's here.  The reason I chose Věra is because as I watched a video about the development of the uneven bars, I was enamored with her hair and leotard.  Lucky for me, she turned out to be Czech.  But honestly, look at that coiffure!  It's phenomenal!  Granted, gymnastics wasn't as acrobatic in 1968, but it's lovely.  I did notice that USSR gymnast Larisa Petrik had the same 'do, but I saw Věra first.  The leotard looks like a navy uniform with the cute little lapel detail (see videos linked below).  I want to eat her up.

09 May 2011

Monday Book Review

I can't believe it's been three weeks since I posted.  The hiatus is over so I'm back and running the blog again.  As usual, I am beginning the week with a book review.

The book being reviewed today is Tolstoy's short story, How Much Land Does A Man Need.  This was another Calypso book that was generously offered to me.  This was the first published book by Calypso and it received rave reviews.  When I was originally contacted, I browsed the reviews linked from their website.  I became curious about this mysterious short story by Tolstoy.  I was a late blooming lover of Russian literature.  It was not until I had read four novels between Tolstoy and Dostoevsky that I appreciated the meticulous layering of the main characters and the novel's inwardly piercing trajectory.  As I had mentioned in another book review post, the concept of "dusha" very clearly explained the plot development of every novel I had read.  The outward events and background were set very carefully and almost excruciatingly in the first and largest portion of the book, but then rapidly zoomed into the interior of the character, where the story exploded with velocity.

18 April 2011

Scheduled Return

I've been on vacation and will continue to be until the 26th. Until then!

11 April 2011

Special Book Review

courtesy of Calypso Editions
I am very proud to post this week's book review.  Two weeks ago, I was contacted by Calypso Editions to review their latest publication.  After browsing their website, I enthusiastically said, "YES!" but in a more professional way.  As soon as I read the first paragraph in their "About" section, I couldn't refuse:

Calypso Editions is an artist-run, cooperative press dedicated to publishing quality literary books of poetry and fiction with a global perspective. We believe that literature is essential to building an international community of readers and writers and that books can serve as a physical artifact of beauty and wonder in a world of digital saturation.

08 April 2011

Jevgēņijs Saproņenko & Igors Vihrovs

I have done Latvia a great disservice and it's time to make that country's name a little bit bigger in the word cloud.  Sadly, I cannot find much on Latvian gymnasts!  Why must it be so?  Even the scant information is worth something, so I am going to redirect you to two contemporary gymnasts of Latvia.

07 April 2011

Albert Azarian

Albert Azarian is a Armenian gymnast from the days of Soviet yore.  I sought an Armenian gymnast, but all I came up with was Azarian.  His heyday was in the 1950s and 60s, which was quite a different scene from the gymnastics today.  This video is about the uneven bars, but you get the gist that gymnastics has evolved a lot in 50 years.  This video below starts off with the Azarian cross, which I have personally never seen performed in a rings routine.  He was known as the "king of the rings" and he gave it some real style and panache.  Plus, I think the mustache didn't hurt one bit. 

06 April 2011

Marius Urzică

Romania has a legendary male gymnast named Marius Urzică.  He is an undisputed master of the pommel horse (part of the reason I like him so much).  If you don't believe me, then believe this: he has a move on the pommel horse named after him.  He even has an eponymous move on parallel bars, which this routine showcases.  Does that get confusing for gymnasts?  Marius was also in the 1996, 2000, and 2004 Olympics.  All the golds and silvers he won were on pommel horse, which should come as no surprise. 

05 April 2011

Alexei Nemov

I've been pretty good about leaving Russia out of this blog.  I feel that information on Russia is far easier to find than countries like Macedonia, so I've tried to focus more on the smaller and less well known countries.  But today I feel like honoring Russia by having one of their own be the start of my Male Gymnasts week.

04 April 2011

Monday Book Review!

Monday Book Review is back!  Today's reviewed book differs from the rest: it's fiction.  Édes Anna by Kosztolányi Dezső is a famous Hungarian novel and one I read during my last few weeks in Budapest this summer.  I had a great desire to read in Hungarian, but since I could barely handle grocery shopping with ease, I had to compromise with a piece of Hungarian literature.  For those unfamiliar with Hungarian, I need to explain that names are written with the family name first and first name second.  The title of the book in English translations is Anna Édes by Desző Kosztolányi.  The one I read was published by New Directions and translated by George Szirtes

31 March 2011

Belorusian Animation

Today we go back to Belarus––they have more to offer than Lukashenko.  Belorusian animation was similarly difficult to find.  What helped me the most was Niffiwan's uploads on YouTube and his corresponding LiveJournal blog.  Most of Niffiwan's posts and uploads are Russian, but a point he makes in this post is that Belorusians don't consider themselves separate from Russians.  This may be the case, but I'm going to be a stickler anyway because there is way more Russian animation available.

30 March 2011

Macedonian Animation

Today's post is super short, partially because I don't have time and partially because I cannot find much on the interwebs.  Sadly, my search for Macedonian animation has led me to a scant supply of information.  My only disclaimer is that I don't speak Macedonian or know the Cyrillic alphabet, so my search may have been entirely hindered.  This is why I need to learn Cyrillic letters and a Slavic language ASAP; it's holding up my interests.

29 March 2011

Slovenian Animation

And Animation Week continues!  Today's featured country is Slovenia.  It was not the easiest country for me to track down animators, but I needed a challenge to polish off the rust. This overview of Slovenian animation helped me find some good animators to post on.  The internet may be the best thing to have happened to my research.  Read after the jump for more on Slovenian animators!

28 March 2011

Czech Animation

My post on B.EAST magazine inspired me to do an entire week of CEE animation.  I loved the Polish animation of Jan Lenica enough to warrant some internet searching for other countries.  I've noticed that my design and fashion posts top the statistics chart and this week's theme will supplement the visual creativity interest my readers seem to have.  For no particular reason, I chose the Czech Republic.  Turns out that the Czech Republic has quite a lively and sophisticated animation community.

25 March 2011

Dive Dive Dive Magazine

Dive Dive Dive Magazine is Estonia based and affiliated with B.EAST Magazine, which I discovered this week.  The affiliation says everything because I already wish I was cool enough (and Estonian enough) to be a part of this magazine.  Dive Dive Dive is a subculture magazine not quite like B.EAST.  Dive Dive Dive feels like a less sexy version and I don't mean that in a derogatory way.  B.EAST is like sex and fashion with its sleek and polished look, but Dive is like the DIY movement that carries subculture.  The design of the website feels like a hip scrapbook and the icons remind me of images from Lanica's animation (featured on the B.EAST post), so I get why there is a connection. 

22 March 2011

B.EAST Magazine

I have spent the last day looking through my newfound love: B.EAST Magazine.  I did a search for CEE magazines and this was the first one to come up. The one that really caught my eye was a post about Polish animation

I will refer to what's written there because it's not only better than what I would come up with, but I'm also against plagiarism.  (The link sends you to an article that beautifully articulates the issues surrounding plagiarism.)  I also want this blog to create a CEE-obsessed network.  There probably is one that I'm not privy to, but I'm making one nonetheless!  I want to connect to these people.  Maybe you do too.  I certainly want to hitch my wagon to B.EAST Magazine.  After browsing their issues on the Fbook page, I was likely drooling.  I might have also struggled with my desire to subscribe versus save money.  Still working on that one.

21 March 2011

Monday Book Review

I will return to Historical Moments week, but I thought I'd get back on the bandwagon with a book review.  This past week I read two CEE related books: Russia's Lost Literature of the Absurd (collections of Daniil Kharms and Alexander Vvedensky) and Václav Havel's The Beggar's Opera.  I hadn't read any Russian absurd literature or The Beggar's Opera prior to last week, so it was quite a treat.

07 March 2011

Regular Scheduling

My Google stats have given me a lot of interesting data, like I have readers in South Korea?  Wow.  I was also graced by a comment from Daria Kostenko, a Hungarian designer I featured (!!!!).  This is all very exciting news and I'm excited!  Unfortunately, my schedule has taken a turn for the busy and I'm trying to figure out my new time for doing these posts.  One post easily takes me two hours to research and write, so you can imagine why it suddenly fell off the wagon when my schedule changed.  I also have books I need to read before the library lays claim on them again.  I also have to finish watching The Decalogue.  There are other hobbies I need to keep up, so I'm torn between all my loves.  But I promise to finish Historic Moments week in the near future and keep writing up new themed features.

I may need to revise my posting schedule to every other day instead of every day or something, so changes are a comin'.  I'm thrilled to have new audiences and I hope to not disappoint any of you with the upcoming changes.  Viva CEE!

01 March 2011

Battle of Mohács

I love Hungary.  This blog makes it all too obvious.  Today's event is back in the ye olde days of the Ottoman Empire in 1526.

24 February 2011

Finishing Music Week: German Rap

Guys, I never did my East German rap post, which is a MUST.  How can I not do it?  I must.

So, you'll have to rewind to Polish Rap to get a sense of where I'm going with this.  You really do.  (Not a ploy to increase page views)

So why do I find rap to be so compelling in the East vs West dialectic?  While rap has its roots in the racial segregation in America, it has worldwide ramifications.  I will certainly not argue that the aesthetic (baggy t-shirts, chains, certain labels, baseball hats, even gestures) changes throughout the rap scene because it's obviously present.  Besides the surface look, rap is an attitude and a message.  While rap has branched out beyond its political message of subversion, it's still a very strong theme today.  I would say especially abroad, but I don't know the international world of rap well enough to make such a bold assertion.  Certainly, the theme carries weight in the ECE region.  East Germany especially clings to this theme in popular rap and it all carries back to the early years of reunification.

23 February 2011

Book Review: Polish Poetry


Lately I've been having a real hankering for poetry.  I highlighted Dimkovska's book of poetry, but it's time for more accessible poetry.

The book I read was a collection called, "Spoiling Cannibals' Fun: Polish Poetry of the Last Two Decades of Communist Rule", edited and translated by Stanisław Barańczak and Clare Cavanagh.  It was a great read.  Poland has quite a tradition of poetry and their generally obstinate nature towards Communism helped anti-state poetry flourish during the red era.  The foreword predicted that readers would have a new favorite poet by the end of the book.  All I have to say is that I may have 5 new favorites. 

22 February 2011


Sorry, but my schedule has been skiwompus (that is my favorite made-up word, though I often modify it to be skidilywompus) and I haven't gotten to the posts this week!  ACK!  There's been a breach. 

In order to keep my sanity, I'm going to postpone Historical Moments until next week. 
This week I'll do some book reviews because I completely stopped doing those.  So look for book reviews all this week and we'll get back on schedule with Historical Moments!

18 February 2011

Latvija: More Baltic Fashion

Latvia is the last country on the fashion radar this week.  There will be reprisals on fashion week, do not fear, but today marks the last day of CEE fashion, for this week at least.

17 February 2011

Estonian Fashion

We are finally getting to the Baltics. They've been entirely neglected and I can't ignore them, no matter how tiny they may be.  I came across this list and shamelessly went through and searched designers on it.  I often make notes on how I research for my posts, and I'm writing a post to address this very topic.  It's a whole matter in and of itself and for those interested in the region (who may not know the scads of languages necessary for such tasks), it's good to see how I come up with the information.  It's not as easy as it looks even with Google the great machine, I swear.

16 February 2011

BiH Fashion

Today is Bosnia i Hercegovina, which also has a fashion week in Sarajevo.  I suppose I wasn't aware of all the international fashion shows since my exposure is mainly Milan, Paris, and NYC.  It's a great challenge to find these designers because it shows me a new side of fashion that's not so prominent.

Check Back Tomorrow!

Sorry, but due to a suddenly filled schedule, I won't have time to make a post today. Tomorrow will be a double post, so check back for more on CEE fashion designers. BiH and Estonia are on the docket!

The other announcement is that next week will be HISTORICAL MOMENT WEEK. I think the theme is pretty self explanatory.  It will be epic moments from any point in any CEE nation's history and it should be a fun exploration!

15 February 2011

Albanian Designers

Albania and it's fashion designers are all the rage today (in this post).  I had particular difficulties in finding websites (as in, I found none), but I have lots of pictures to make up for it.  Yay.

14 February 2011

Hungarian Fashion

Today starts FASHION WEEK! YAY! It just so happen to coincide with the fall fashion season. I wish I could say I planned it this way, but I have to point to divine inspiration (or maybe an intuitive sense of fashion timing? nah...)  So this week fashion designers from all over CEE are going to be feature by country.  I plan on posting at least 5 designers per country because designers in CEE tend to use the internet to market their clothing.  This may be because the internet's ascent coincided with the renewed fashion scene, which no longer had to stay underground. (Pictures after the jump!)

12 February 2011

A Cute Extra from Croatia!

Croatian Mail & Sail postcards (pogledaj.to)
I found this through the website pogledaj.to and loved the design. They are postcards and are then constructed into little paper boats.  Isn't that the cutest idea?  I love it.  The designers are Katarina Eljuga and Iva Rodić.  If you want more information on the postcards and where to buy them go to the website.

Mail & Sail postcards (pogledaj.to)

11 February 2011

Kontrastika- Slovenia

This Balkan state has largely been neglected in the month since this blog started. It is finally being recognized.  Finding product design in Slovenia was no easy feat.  I navigated a dozen design reference sites until I found a company that fit in the theme this week.  CEE is all about perserverance.  (Don't forget that FASHION WEEK starts Monday!)

Kontrastika logo (kontrastika.com)
The design firm of interest is Kontrastika.  It is based Ljubljana with Mojca Janželj Tomažič (graphic/spatial designer and photographer) and Matjaž Tomažič  (graphic designer, illustrator, and information architect).  The breadth of their skills allows them to do more than simply design things like furniture.  They also offer visual arts and design.  Their logo is a mystery (which is acknowledged on the website), but the company jokes that no one gets what is means, so they will reveal it at a big party.  I like their style.  

10 February 2011

Young Balkan Designers

Today's post is the Young Balkan Designers contest.
Young Balkan Designers winners (mikser.rs)

The Mikser organization created the contest.  Mikser is an organization intending to bring attention to the talent and creativity in the Balkans.  Other projects include Ghost, an expo for young designers in the region, Young Serbian Designers (a focus on Serbian designers since Mikser is a Serbian organization), and the Mikser Festival, which is another huge expo.   I wish I could go to these expos because the samples I see are too clever and beautiful to miss out on.  On the other hand, I will be needlessly torturing myself with things I cannot buy.

09 February 2011

Petr Jakubik

Today's designer is Petr Jakubik from Slovakia. I came across his work at the designeast.eu website.  The chair to the right is a "DIY Panton" chair that he designed.  Verner Panton is an influential 20th century Danish designer whose S shaped chair is similarly famous.  The video explaining how to make the DIY Panton chair is in a language I do not know, but the visual seems cheeky enough (see below).  I'm not exactly sure what it's trying to accomplish.  The commercial was done by Tomcateden, a "young European creative art studio".  They also did another commercial, but for a cabinet with chalkboard paint on it.  It's part of Jakubik's DIY furniture series.  When I looked more into the matter, I came across the name "Comunistar", which naturally attracted my attention.  After following the trail of links, I found a page on Facebook that explained far more than the domain web site.  It's a Slovakian brand of design and for reasons I am unsure of, is impossible to track down on the internet.  The main page only connects to their Facebook group and websites only summarize their mission.  I don't know about you, but I have a feeling I'm not welcome in their design club.

08 February 2011

DDR Design

I can't go a week without having a post on something German.  It's fate, deal with it.
QL, a fan (spiegel.de)

Today's post is on East German design, which I have found fascinating.  The design aesthetic of the GDR (which I usually write as DDR, the German abbreviation) was rather modern.  Of course, the Communist consumer products were pretty dismal at first, but as soon as Stalin bit the dust, the New Course went underway.   This meant that the standard of living improved because the economy was no longer dominated by heavy industry and now served its working populace.  A big part of the new consumer products was the introduction of plastic.  It was viewed as top quality instead of an imitation because of its novelty to DDR citizens.  The overall effect was an incredible jump in lifestyle.  Many East Germans adopted a very middle class lifestyle with Trabants (if they could get one), plastic egg cups shaped like chickens, and very mod looking furniture.

07 February 2011

Svilen Gamolov and Petar Zaharinov

My weekend was a bit crazy, so the post meant for Saturday will be posted in the past.  It will conclude the fantastic Music Week, which I loved because Niemen was a fantastic find.

Today begins Design Week!  Next week's theme will be FASHION.  I'm keeping it fresh and creative over here because they attract more interest than the political posts (not that they will disappear forever).

Today's post is on the only Bulgarian designers I could find anything on: Svilen Gamolov and Petar Zaharinov.  I hadn't highlighted Bulgaria yet and today was the day.  Design is a bit of a tricky topic because that includes a lot of mediums: architecture, interiors, products, graphics, industrial, etc.  I decided to focus more on products and furniture because I want to do a separate week of architecture and the rest feel too unwieldy as topics.  The design of everyday objects will be a great foray into the artistic yet pragmatic side of CEE. 

Poison Bar Stool, Gamolov (cgart.bg)
Gamolov (cgart.bg)
The first designer is Svilen Gamolov.  He is located in Varna, Bulgaria and designs primarily furniture.  His CGA profile is here, but you can also see a great breadth of his work via Googe image search.  The CGA profile keeps listing his work as "concept design", which means the products have not yet been produced.  I think this is a great shame because the designs are funky, modern, and playful, and they're designed by someone from Eastern Europe––I can think of a few demographics who would buy it. 

04 February 2011

Czesław Niemen

Czesław Nieman (muzyka.gery.pl)
Poland is getting some extra attention this week, thanks to my friend Paweł.  I guess when I posted an OSTR song ("Po drodze do nieba") on my Fbook wall, it inspired him to introduce me to some older Polish musicians. He introduced me Czesław Niemen, whose proper Christian name is Czesław Juliusz Wydrzycki.  This musician couldn't be cooler if he tried.  He broke onto the scene in Communist 1960s Poland and upset good comrades by introducing rock and soul music to the repertoire.  He grew his hair long, wore super funky clothes, and embodied the general psychedelia Americans were very fond of at the time. 

03 February 2011

Ukrainian Avant Garde

I'm sorry there wasn't a post yesterday.  I was at a friend's during the famous "Blizzard 2011", which plays up the significance of the weather a little too much.  It was cool and a bit intense, but nothing to tell the grandkids about in front of a fire.  To make up for the loss of a music post, I'm extending Music Week to Saturday.

Next week's theme is Design Week!  It's going to be about CEE design.  I need to get better about announcing these at the beginning of the week.

Mariana Sadovska (borderlandmusic.de)
Today's post is about Ukrainian avant garde music.  Naturally, I know nothing about it but the wonders of search engines has pulled up some cool results.  The first ones to come up were Mariana Sadovska and Roman Turvosky

01 February 2011

Polish Rap

I have a feeling Music Week will predominantly be Rap Week because I find it endlessly fascinating.  I couldn't tell you why, but I like finding it.  Today I will be posting a few Polish rappers I liked when I was browsing around.  All but one have English subs, though you can enjoy rap without knowing what it is they're talking about.  Part of the reason I've always liked rap in CEE is because it is absolutely unlike the top 40 hits in America, which are concerned with nouveau riche things like diamonds, scads of women, and showing everyone who's boss (the trend seems to be reversing a little bit with artists like BOB, however).  I have yet to come across a rapper that vapid in CEE, not to say they don't exist.  All the rap I've come across is slightly more thoughtful and concerned with political, economic, or existential issues. The Polish rappers I found today run along this vein.  The first I found was Fisz (pronounced feesh), who is rather prominent according to Wikipedia.

31 January 2011

Hungarian Pop

I have been shamed by Hungarians for listening to their pop. I was told the lyrics were stupid (which applies to all pop music, really) and completely lacking the depth and imagery of their folk songs. They said it was "too American" and ridiculous. Did this stop me from watching VIVA? Absolutely not. Mostly because watching TV in Hungarian hurts your head after a while.

Barbee (ezalegjobb.jay.hu)
SP (neon.hu)
The funny thing is, I unabashedly like their pop. A lot of the music on VIVA was imported, but they have a pretty lively music scene considering the size of their country and the number of Hungarian speakers in the world. The first song I heard was "Kapj el!" by Barbee and despite the vapidness of the song, it was catchy. The next was "Ne add fel" by SP and I mostly loved it for being ridiculous, but then my love turned pretty serious. I began to listen to Hungarian pop more because it's simplicity made it possible for me to hear the words and figure out the meaning through my tenuous grasp of Hungarian. It's the equivalent of basic language instruction without a teacher or a textbook (but I was taking lessons).  So I kept watching it but I stopped telling people about it.

28 January 2011

Romanian painter Valeriu Boborelu

I don't know about you guys, but I'm no art buff.  I like what I like and I have valid reasons, but sometimes I just feel like "???" when I see certain things.  I have to ruminate for days afterward.  Then it usually takes one sentence one article on the artist/work and then it starts the brain chugging.  I'm not as much a visual person as I am a word person.  The magical combination is when I just get it.  I don't saunter through galleries enough to get art very quickly; I recognize it's a matter of exposure and not intelligence.  Like music.  It took me a while to fall in love with opera.  This is getting beside the point.

I want to feature a Romanian painter I just happened to find during an internet search: Valeriu Boborelu. 

27 January 2011

Prague and Its Art

Before I delve into today's post, I have two announcements.
1) Next week's theme is MUSIC.  In case you're wondering, I'm going to discuss contemporary CEE music.  Get psyched.

2) The EU news as of late has been exciting!  Kosovo and the organ trade, Lukashenko, Hungary's controversial media law (which the EU cannot force Hungary to change––big surprise?), and possibly fining France and Sweden for not protecting its wildlife...it's been an interesting week.  I do have to sadly let you all know that European Voice is not entirely free!  Ack!  I signed up for a 4 week trial, but it's too expensive for me to do  more than read the headlines.  Phooey.

On to Prague's art.  Today is a departure from museum space to the public space.   Naturally, this is another place I visited, but I'm including it in art week because it was actually Prague's public art that made me curious about the post-communist transition.  Prague is a rather progressive city that is full of history and tradition.  I'm mainly focused on post-communist era public art (another given), but I have a few examples of art that is not.  All the photos below, except for the one labeled otherwise, are mine and if you use them, you better cite my blog.

26 January 2011

Thought on the Role of Art

(George Ştefănescu "Singurătate", courtesy of Wikipedia)

The book I am currently reading is an anthology of short stories from CEE called "Description of a Struggle: The Contemporary Book of Contemporary Eastern European Writing" edited by Michael March. There is a lovely short story by the Romanian writer Ana Blandiana that fit in very well with Art Week:

"The Open Window"
by Ana Blandiana

Back in those days, whenever artists were arrested, they were allowed to take their paints and brushes with them into the jail. Thus, on entering the dark cell at the top of the tower, the first thought that struck the hero of this story was to have a window painted on one of the walls. He got down to work and painted an open window through which a dazzling blue sky could be seen. Thus his cell became much brighter.

25 January 2011

Over the Counter exhibition: Budapest

Today's post will be about an exhibition I saw in Budapest. The name in Hungarian is "A Pult Mögött: A posztszocialista gazdaság jelenségei a kortárs művészetben", which is translated as "Over the Counter: The Phenomenon of Post-Socialist Economy in Contemporary Art". It was shown at the Műcsarnok Kunsthalle, which is on Heroes Square right across from the Szépműveszeti Múzuem, from June-September in 2010.

The exhibit is featured on the Műcsarnok website. You can read the full description of the exhibit on the website, which I highly suggest. I will be focusing on a few pieces in the exhibit that I found compelling. The Műcsarnok is an exhibition space, even though the outside suggests it's a museum, and it's incredibly spacious, with vaulted ceilings and large doorways. It's a blank canvas that provides a perfect spot for the collection because the pieces in the exhibit are larger than life and there were quite a few videos, which I had not expected. I waited all summer to find someone to come with me, but I ended up going alone and for a limited amount of time. I was there for two hours, but I could have easily wandered around for four. My little guidebook was covered in notes scribbled as I walked through and took note of artists I particularly liked.

24 January 2011

Art Week Kick-Off

To kick off the exciting Art Week on this wee blog, my friend Christine Armbruster is doing a guest post!

Her featured work is "Mortar Shells and Cigarettes: A Memoir of Sarajevo 15 Years After War". Her collection was exhibited at the Southwest School of Arts in San Antonio, is currently exhibiting in its second location on BYU's campus for 5 months, and will exhibit in several locations in central Utah. This is only a year after her highly successful collection, "Working Identities", shot in the Dominican Republic, which was displayed in several public venues (and won the "Celebrate Human Dignity" prize from the Kennedy Center in 2010) and is now available as a book.

Christine Armbruster is graduating from Brigham Young University this year with a BFA in photography. She's a free spirit from San Antonio, Texas with a belly full of wanderlust and camera collection to match. She spent her past summer doing an ORCA Grant project in Sarajevo, Bosnia i Herzegovina. She also got the "Commie fever" during her short time there and (desperately?) wants to live in Eastern Europe. If you remain unconvinced, I think her hair in this photo says it all. Her next project will take her to Moscow (!!), which is very thrilling. She's a fantastic freelance photographer who has done commercial work, any photography related to getting hitched, travel, photojournalism, some travel video work for the Travel Channel, and fine art. What hasn't she done is the better question. She generously told me she's "very excited" about this blog and I hope she continues to contribute her artistic point of view in posts. To see her work, follow the jump.

21 January 2011

Weekend Post (Art Week is coming up)

This is the last post before ART WEEK!

I may or may not post something over the weekend, but I am a little impulsive. It's also Why So Red's one week anniversary today! Hooray! I am very very VERY excited about art week and I've been doing some research to find good stuff. If the discussion of politics and books hasn't sparked your interest yet, hopefully next week will.

Today's post will include a number of RSS feeds that I recommend. I will admit that they are EU-centric, but the EU is an important aspect of Europe regardless of the region and it's important to at least know something about it.

20 January 2011

Hungary's Censorship

image from unitedpersons.org*

It's time to highlight another place I am particularly fascinated by: Hungary.

Part of what I always loved about Hungary is that it has an air of mystery and fierce independence. Their failed revolutions, based far more on principle than the ability to win, have been an example of how Hungarians make their thoughts known and don't compromise. The equally interesting part is how submissive they are after being beaten. For all I can tell, there is simmering resentment and defiance, but nothing outright. Hungary is different from its Slavic neighbors and they have a pride in their uniqueness. Hungary is an intoxicating place and I loved it more after 4 months there, though I have my reservations about their bureaucracy (which I have with most countries, actually). Currently, it's also considered one of the most westernized nations, along with the Czech Republic and people from more eastern European nations always said this to me. The recent events have made me wonder how westernized Hungary really has become and if they have lost their dedication to higher principles.

Just wanted to share

From a commentor on an Irish news site who didn't cite the source.

19 January 2011

Belorussian Elections

(Note: I am not well versed in Belarus, so take this with a grain of salt!)

Today's topic is the rather...confusing nature of the Belarus elections. I actually had the same issue with the Iranian elections because the fact of the matter is, it's hearsay whether or not someone deserved to win. I assume only a handful of people actually know the results and the rest of it is based on popular mood. Remember when Bush won against Gore in the hanging chad debacle? Americans were pretty pissed about it and the popular mood would have suggested that Bush rigged the whole thing. I'm pretty certain the laws of land prevented any mischief, but you can see where my skepticism comes from. I'm not particularly into conspiracy theories (though I find them compelling and a good exercise of the imagination), so I'm not easily swayed into thinking that everything is rigged.

18 January 2011

PBS After the Wall Special

Last night I watched the PBS special "After the Wall: A World United" on television. I didn't realize until my research this morning that there was a previous hour long special called "The Wall: A World Divided". I do give them credit for mirroring titles, though I think they couldn't stray too far from the formula and still attract viewers. I was understandably excited for the special because it involved Communism and the transition thereafter.

17 January 2011

Monday Book Review and next week's theme

I want to announce the theme of next week's posts: ART!

I have some fantastic exhibitions and statues to discuss. I want to make each week thematic so the topics don't get stale or center on one mode of research or work. There are many people doing work in and on East Europe and they need to be recognized. I know that I didn't find much on the region (except Russia) until I deliberately started looking for it. I want to help refer people to others with similar interests. If anyone reading this has suggestions, please send them to me! You can even write up a guest post if you feel so inclined. I would rather mediate the blog than write every single post.

Today's post is regarding the book that changed everything for me: Altering States: Ethnographies of Transition in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union, edited by Daphne Berdahl, Matti Bunzl, and Martha Lampland. I wanted to highlight the first book to seal my fate back in 2007. This book is an introduction to the breadth of topics being researched in East Europe and what an introduction it is! It has a host of topics from gay sex tourism in Prague to the Russian concept of the soul and they are all accessible to the average reader. The essays are accessible, but they are not watered down. These ethnographies retain an academic quality while also not succumbing to the awful rhetoric of academic writing. This is not your typical library periodical. It has more life than that.

16 January 2011

Macedonian poetry

During my last library trip, I grabbed books like a madwoman and made my getaway via the checkout counter. I picked up "Do Not Awaken Them With Hammers" by Lidija Dimkovska, a Macedonian poet. I didn't know that when I grabbed it, but it was a pleasant surprise. To be honest, I found the poetry borderline absurd. It's very avant garde and half prose, which I don't mind, but I found myself scratching my head a lot. I don't claim to know enough about the tradition of poetry in Macedonia or her work in general to come to any relevant conclusions. I also know no Macedonian or any Slavic language, so I have even less to go on. Simply, I don't know how to make head or tails of 90% of the poems. (Though this blog article helped a little after the fact) It does make me want to learn the dang Cyrillic alphabet and a Slavic language (I'm thinking Polish..). Despite my lack of affinity for the collection as a whole, I really loved a few of her poems. I'm going to share three of my favorites: