12 November 2012

Monday Book Review

I was aware that The Master and Margarita was a seminal piece of work for Mikhail Bulgakov, but not much else.  Several people, unbeknownst to the each other, recommended I read it.  Fate sealed it as I perused a book store in Hyde Park and found it waiting there for me.  I was barely looking for it and it manifested itself to me, which sounds quite spooky, I know.  I read the Diana Burgin and Katherine Tiernan O'Connor translation for Picador.  It became apparent to me that the further I delved into this story, the more useful reading it in Russian would be.  Bulgakov does employ word play and the meaning of Russian names makes identifying the book as a satire much easier.  Sadly, I discovered all the annotations––written by Ellendrea Proffer––for the novel about halfway through and didn't get the full effect until past the climax.  If you read a translated version, I highly suggested checking for annotations/footnotes/end notes to accompany it.  I would not have appreciated the depth of work without it.

31 October 2012

Riga Fashion Week

This week is Fashion Week in Riga, and I'm tweeting all about it! (See left-hand side of blog)  I've already written about a few here, but now that Twitter has expanded my world, I can do a more full report on the whole week of fashion and what I loved.  So far I loooove Triinu Pungits as much as ever, but Janis Šnē totally gripped me with (what I will consider) icicle inspired designs, possibly origami inspired since they look like paper.  Plus, putting icicle-origami daggers where your eyebrows are is totally what I'm into.  Because, FASHION.  People who have no imagination hate on haute design because it's inaccessible, but people who understand flights of fancy and the power of image through clothing get it.  I love me some practical wear, but I love some crazy shit that I would never dare wear outside the house because I am a timid person.  It's fun to see clothing be a wearable piece of art instead of the boring reasons we all wear clothes.

So follow my handle for some more fashion updates before I do a round-up of my favorite Riga fashion moments. (I am really hoping mareunrols shows up because their stuff is BOMB, too)  If you need the lowdown on a few designers in CEE to fully appreciate my tweets, read up here.

25 October 2012

To The Next Level

I finally got a Twitter handle.  I figured it was time to join the social networking side of things to expand my reach, my research, and sometimes it's easier to retweet a good article than to do a post for it.

Follow me @whysored!  I'll put it up in the sidebar so you can follow me and see what I do.  I'd love some feedback on who to follow.  I almost added Donald Tusk, but then I remembered I have no comprehension of Polish and that's a problem.  I added Viktor Orbán because I like to pretend I know enough Hungarian for it to make sense, but as for German politicians, I legitimately can read and understand.  Does following Orbán make me look bad?  I'm just intensely curious what politicians tweet about; best I can tell, Orbán's tweet was about bread and the Chain Bridge.  I knew those words, so I felt pretty proud of myself.

Follow me on Twitter.  If this goes well, I might expand to Facebook. ZOMG.

23 October 2012

Belarusian Insight

The Independent published a rare interview with Lukashenko.  It's an intriguing read about a man that controls the last Soviet dictatorship.  A great Tuesday read.

22 October 2012

Monday Book Review

Featuring: The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera.  This book is quite famous and the cover art is easily recognizable.  I was recommended this book by a friend a few years back, but I read it simply because I really loved The Joke, by the same author.  For the first time ever, I actually have mixed feelings on this book!  I wanted to love all of Kundera's work, particularly his most famous, but I ran into some trouble.  Simply put, I couldn't separate his work to stand alone.  I read this book with a constant mental reference to The Joke.  There are really similar themes running in both, but the comparison left one in better standing than the other.  I would have to recommend The Joke if someone wanted to read a Kundera novel.

11 October 2012

Update! Czech Elections

All I have to say about current developments: I know that feeling.  My country's election feels just as polarized.  Not quite as interesting in a two party system, but polarizing nonetheless.

Srebrenica Update

Srebrenica victims are appealing a decision that absolved the Blue Helmets of responsibility for the massacre.  I'm curious how this will go after having read the Srebrenica report, which I wrote a short review about.  It brings up troubling questions: how culpable is the UN for standing by?  What is their responsibility for creating a task force that had no official ability to fight back? 

08 October 2012

Monday Book Review!

IT'S BACK.  I have yet to review a book that made me go, "Eh."  Srebrenica wasn't exactly gripping writing, but it had a pretty awful true life story to make up for that.  So here I go again...I loved this book.  I read The Bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andrić at the suggestion of yet another friend, but this one was not European.  This won the Nobel prize in 1961 (well, technically speaking, all of his work did).  Guys, I helplessly wept at the end of this book.  I was standing there, waiting for the bus to get to work, and tears kept streaming down my face as I thought about the book.  I couldn't quell the welling emotions and plip plop went my hot tears.

05 October 2012

Food for EU Thought

There has been a lot of austerity and general socio-political woes in Europe for the past year.  Economics and finances have been breaking the EU apart at the ideological seams.  As soon as someone messes up and the chips are down, it's no longer "Europe" but Greece, Germany, Spain, France, etc.  Understandable and human, but also not what the EU project is about.  So it's no wonder that Erasmus is getting the short shrift.  Times are tough and it's hard to keep lofty ideals floating with cash when that's hard to come by. 

03 October 2012

Election Season!

It's election season, and how!  As America gears up for its presidential election, let's reflect on elections for our beloved former USSR satellites.

Let's do a quick round-up of recent elections:

26 September 2012

Euroskepticism - The Debate Continues

I had a great time reading Sikorski's scathing speech on Britain's prevailing euroskepticism.  As the EU moves towards solidarity and strong controls across all member states, the Brits have shuttered themselves out of EU decisions since the infamous veto on reforming EU treaties back in December (though Cameron wielded a veto threat for about two to three months).  That one decision sidelined Britain in a way I'm not sure anyone truly anticipated and Sikorski is essentially saying, "If you think you're better off without us, I hope you thought about how it will affect your international relations, trade, and current government.  Leaving means you have less clout, weaker trade ties, and the same government but without the EU to blame."

24 September 2012

FEMEN Moves to France

FEMEN has now set up camp in Paris, France after their well-publicized stunt in support of Pussy Riot.  The feminist featured in the piece linked above said that they were invited by French feminists, but Inna was also in physical danger after cutting down the Orthodox cross with a chainsaw.  I've featured and discussed FEMEN's protest methods in a post long, long ago, but I think that now Pussy Riot has received international support, American women are increasingly aware of their disenfranchisement, and attention is also being directed at westernizing countries in the Middle East where women are starting to fight back, feminism has come back in a way that hasn't been popular for at least 2 decades.

18 September 2012

So We Extradited An Axe Murderer Con't.

I find it such a shame that the actions of one person can have such a negative effect on entire nations.  The news lately has examples of a single person's impact on politics and civil society.  An anti-Islamic video has sparked riots around the world--no one in America sanctioned that action besides the person who committed it.  Safarov, a man who acted on his own, was welcomed by his people for acting out the hatred that boils between Azerbaijan and Armenia with a murder all his own.  Unlike the offensive video, this man's nation showed its support, unquestionably and assuredly.  He is a hero for a murder.

This article on EU Observer just goes to show what one person's actions can do.  Any hard work that was put towards peace and understanding in the region can be easily lost.  But it wasn't Safarov alone - it was the officials of Azerbaijan that made it an Azeri story, their story.  It's not just that Safarov murdered, but that he was celebrated for that murder by his own people.  Instead of turning their heads in disgust, they threw up their hands in a cheer.  I am sure there are dissenters who do not approve.  There must be.  But they are silent and invisible.

However, the scope of an individual's actions for the worse can be an inspiration for the better.  One person can have an enormous effect, for better or for worse.  It is far easier for poor actions to turn everything sour, but one by one, we can build up again.  This is awfully philosophical, but society is made of individuals.  Nations are made of individuals.  Politics are driven by them.  In order to harness the good of people, we must harness the good of one, and then another one.  And another one.  These are turbulent, uncertain times we live in, and we need to be able to count on good people.

11 September 2012

Albania's "Virgjinesha"

As an anthropologist, I have a real love for cultural systems.  I have often brought up this type of social system/arrangement in conversations because it acknowledges the difficulty of having a rigidly patriarchal society without actually having to cede.  This type of system is not uncommon, though the method of compensating for the rigidity of the structure is often unique.  The gender roles, aligned with sex, are rigidly structured, but fall apart when there is one gender/sex missing to fulfill its role.  This tends to mean that women fill in the place of men.  They are socially acknowledged to be the opposite of their sex, with all the gender roles that come with it.

06 September 2012

Discover Cultural Treasures

I've held onto these links for far, far too long.  My RSS feeds are the best.  I skim the headlines, click on what I want to learn more about, and get several points of view on an issue.  These links come from my feeds and touch on the cultural aspects of Europe.  It's been all politics and economics lately because I simply need a lot more time to research cultural points of interest.  The links are listed after the jump.

04 September 2012

So We Extradited An Axe Murderer

So this happened.  I wish I could speak to international criminal justice laws, but that remains a large mystery to me.  It is suspicious, however, that there was a deal on the table with Azerbaijan and Hungary has been trying to wrangle itself "free" from the EU's political ambit.  Oh, and that it has to go through the EU to get IMF money to make their economy more stable.

31 August 2012

The Balkan Express

I've been absent for a number of reasons, but I have also been making some serious investment in the Balkans.  Books have been on the agenda and they have not disappointed me.  I began my journey by checking out two books from the wonders of the public library: The Balkan Express by Slavenka Drakulic and Srebrenica: A Record of a War Crime by Jan Willem Honig.  They both have to do with the devastating Balkan Wars of the 1990s and both let me peer into the dark, dark world that existed during that time.

I'll start off with the wholly factual and report style Srebrenica.  I checked out this book mainly because the Mladić and Hadžić trials at the ICTY were making news and when my husband asked about the Balkan Wars, I embarrassingly knew nothing I could share with him.  I thought to start out with the Srebrenica massacre.  The book is a UN report on the massacre, which detailed exactly what happened and went into analysis in the following chapters.  It wasn't a fun read by any means, but it certainly horrified me.  Some of the essays in Drakulić's book really brought out this point (which made the pairing quite fortuitous): no one really seemed concerned with what happened in Yugoslavia.  The lip service was done, but the chain of command and the overwhelming sense of non-urgency pervades the entire event.

29 August 2012

Ukrainian Performance Art

I was alerted to this article on a fascinating Ukrainian exhibit that's causing quite a bit of controversy.  The only real question I have is, "Does the performance continue past the initial stage of choosing?"  I feel like that's lifelong performance art.  I'm curious what other people think of the piece.

08 August 2012

06 August 2012

Lukashenko Never Slept with a Cuddly Bear

Lukashenko has his panties up in a bunch about the Swedish stunt in July.  I can understand why--he's trying to retain authoritarian rule with an opposition that everyone BUT Lukashenko is actively supporting.  He's jailed them, practically made them disappear, and has otherwise ignored any call for lessening his Stalinesque grip on the nation.  He even outlawed hand signals.  This man is serious about using his frenemy Russia and staying right where he is, thank you.

03 August 2012

Minimal Olympics Coverage

I haven't been able to watch the Olympics--no TV and no time--but I try to keep abreast in the major events of the Olympics.  I would do more in-depth coverage of ECE nations if I didn't have a day job and public transit didn't eat up additional hours of my day.  I would love to simply watch athletics for hours on end, but being an adult has completely eroded whatever time and enthusiasm I have left at the end of the day.

I wasn't aware that Slovakia had a company that made competition canoes.  Were you?  Luckily, my RSS feeds (see my page for the ones I follow!) brought this to my attention.  I see that Eastern Europe is doing pretty well in the medal count, all things considered.  The full list of medal counts are here on ESPN, but here is the individual list linked for your quick reference (these only include counties that have medals):
Czech Republic
Slovakia (notice the number of canoeing medals!)

The medal count per capita in these countries must be higher than the USA, which has a ridiculous number of medals.  It seriously resembles the 1% getting the larger part of the spoil.  It is worthy to note that Hungary has more medals than Brazil (where my mother-in-law is from) or India, which is embarrassing for those BRIC countries.  You'd think that a "backwater" Eastern European nation with a despotically inclined PM would not get more medals than two of the fastest growing economies with large populations.  Funny, ain't it?

27 July 2012

Martin Schultz on the EU

I'm just going to let these articles speak for themselves.  It's a great follow-up to the EU post from earlier and definitely will stay a hot topic as things heat up and break down in Europe.  Martin Schultz, president of the European Parliament, would naturally be for strengthening that branch of legislature, but I am inclined to think he has really solid opinions given that national interests trump in the two other branches.  I embrace the idea of a European-wide election with no national elections because it's a concession that clearly puts nation first, continent second.  They can have all the EuroVision contests and ERASMUS programs they want, but when it comes down to it, no one is pushing for the real European integration that was originally envisioned.

22 July 2012

A Pole on Czechs

I really liked this article and Mariusz's perspective on Czech culture as a Pole. I'd be interested in hearing more cross-cultural analysis in Europe––the friendly kind, not the stereotyped, nasty kind. Before this article, I was unaware of any misunderstanding between Czechs and Poles. All I knew was that Poland and Hungary are bros. Happy reading!

20 July 2012

About the European Union

I came across items of interest lately concerning the EU.  I have much to learn myself on the functioning of the EU, but I thought these would be helpful for other curious folk.  After the jump, there is a video on how the EU works, an explanation of what the ECHR does, an article about EU squabbles and sovereignty, and a humorous look at European nations.

16 July 2012

Lithuania & Belarus Student Fashion

I regularly follow a number of blogs, including those on fashion.  I gravitate toward the fringe fashion blogs as opposed to "recycle your closet!!11" kinds.  I have particularly enjoyed Style Bubble, which almost anyone in the fashion blogosphere knows about.  She's a big deal.  I love that Susie Bubble features student work and that she also features an incredible amount of international work; she doesn't settle for the big name fashion shows, but digs into the local fashion scenes to see what's ticking on the grassroots level.

I found this post on a student showing called ITS, which was also judged by the one and only Marina Abramović. I should probably do a post on her in the near future because she is one of the more compelling modern artists and is from the Yugosphere.  Anyway, two fashion designers of interest were featured!  See the photos below for a sneak peak and then read her post.  I would hate to rip off her work, so let me simply direct you to the good stuff.

11 July 2012


I haven't posted anything on the EuroCup because I'm an ignorant American who doesn't ever watch football (I know enough to call it football!).  I should get more into it since football plays a vital role in politics (re: Central and South America).  History plays a huge role as well, as the whole world realized today.  Just in case they forgot that some wounds go pretty deep.

09 July 2012

Guernica and Romania

I want to refer you lovely readers to a website I have somewhat recently started following.  I came across this article a few days ago and wanted to share it.  Guernica is a thought provoking online magazine that integrates art and politics (with some intermarriage of economics).  They're really not all that separate, but they tackle all with the same tenacity and unite them in a fresh and interesting way.  I would try to work for them if I wasn't planted in Chicago--I'd love to learn how to run an independent magazine.

02 July 2012

Russian Hair Tutorials

I normally try to avoid posts on Russian things, but I just got suckered into hair tutorials on YouTube and I don't know how I do it, but I ended up in the Russian corner of YouTube hair tutorials.  This is such a typical occurrence: I will be browsing through various suggested videos and then I end up east of Germany on the internet.  It must be the law of attraction.

I found so many tutorials from Russia, some of them nuttier than others.  I was fascinated by the prevalence of hair twisting.  Most of the western world (at least through the lens of Pinterest..) is obsessed with good ol' fashioned braids, while the Russians seem to like twisting their hair.  My glib survey of Russian hair tutorials have given me quite a variety.

08 June 2012

Democracy - where is it going?

I saw this clip and all I could do was let my jaw drop.  WHAT.  Greece may now have to live with the choices it made under duress and they don't look pretty.  Neo-nazis: not the good guy and never have been.

There have been some predictions that the surmounting pressure of the crisis will push Europe to more integration instead of breaking apart.  This sounded a bit odd to me because I read this recently, which indicates some internal schism and some frankly un-German behavior, which is called out in this article.  Germans are notable for their consistent rule following and this smacks of Italian "I am the exception" flavor.  Beefing up Schengen borders, after having seen that disgraceful behavior, seems to make sense.  The Greeks are losing their proverbial "sh*t" - it drove things so far into the ground that it can potentially turn into a lawless free for all.  In a lot of ways, the Greek situation mirrors that of many African nations because it has racked up debt, feels the surmounting pressure from western Europeans, and has relied heavily on governance as a source of employment.  Their administration was bloated with employees and was notoriously bad with money.  Greeks have also been called out on unpaid taxes (oops).   Youth are unemployed and know that they're getting taken for all they will eventually be worth.

So the question remains, is there going to be more European integration?  Or is it all pretend?  I don't know.  I've been out of the loop, so I'm remaining on high alert.  However, I don't see any serious moves towards more integration--perhaps that will be a panic move at the twelfth hour.

31 May 2012

A Few Good Things

I am up and running after a month of wedding related insanity.  To top it all off, I am being pushed to a new job.  It's a tiring time, but I have a few fun bits to share.

German Acceptance?
I am a follower of the Chicago Goethe Institut since I spent lots of money continuing my German there, and they posted this article.  I have mentioned my total love of all ethnic things (a reason why anthropology jived so well with me) and it delights me to no end to see Europeans embracing diversity without being threatened.  Europeans are facing a lot of existential crises right now, at least on a political level, and the idea of embracing a cross-cultural understanding is a big one.  Europe's general stance has been one-sided adoption and fretted about "integration", which was a PC code word for "assimilation".  This ethnic-loving American is thrilled to pieces, even with such a small gesture.

Hungarian Tradition - Redesigned Beautifully
I originally came across this on Design*Sponge, but it also had an appearance on Design East, which I referenced during my Design Week.  This is from the design shop Dombon a tanya and it is a fresh take on Komatál (Platter or Friendship).  I read up a little bit on komatál here and it's such a cute tradition!  I'd love to pass it along even though I have no Hungarian lineage.  This would be such a cute housewarming or dinner party gift.  When you give it, you can tell people the culture behind it and sound really sophisticated as well.  Win!

from designeast.eu
Hungary, Again?!
Never a dull moment with Orbán at the helm.  Looks like the EU has "bullied" Magyarország enough for its own purposes.  Is he really surprised at the EU's tough stance in the midst of the Greek crisis?  C'mon.  We all knew it was going to play tough guy, especially when it comes to democratic issues.  I continue to be interested in what it will to take to push Hungarians to the point of revolution.  It almost seems like they learned from their failed revolutions, but learned the wrong lesson.  It's still worth fighting for what's good and right, even if it fails.  History will prove you a hero.

Tune in for more updates in the near future!  Maybe even an op ed.  Ooooh...

28 April 2012

Satellites by Jonas Bendiksen

I haven't much energy or time with the wedding so close, so I thought I would share this video of Jonas Bendiksen's photo essay.  He explored the fringes of the Soviet Union for  a number of yearsand has some interesting insights into the forgotten places of the world.  Christine from the Half Day Around project showed this to me a few days ago and I was captivated.  I hope you love it as much as I did!

20 April 2012

Romanian Fashion

I'm bringing the clothes back!  I do not have a collection of designers like my previous posts because I am focusing on one designer.  Months ago, right as I was getting engaged, I received an email from Loredana Novotni, a recent MA in Fashion graduate.  After the little bit of flattery, she asked to be featured and all I had to do was scroll down to see the pictures before I hit "Reply".

I would introduce Loredana more, but her feature on Fashion Brewery is excellent and the feature on Re-Design for Life talks about her foray into fashion.  She's been featured on numerous websites, so I'm not going to reinvent the wheel by asking my own questions.  You can see more of her work and find more features of her on her blog.  Let's get started on the collection she emailed me about: SacRED.

19 April 2012

Thoughts on Orbán és Magyarország

I have been absent on the blog during the whole Orbán vs EU + IMF debacle, so I thought I'd do a little catch-up.  My time in Hungary back in 2010 (how was that almost 2 years ago?  How?) was enough to seal my interest with this Ugric nation.  My stay there was during the election of the Fidesz party and a realtor I spoke to during my apartment search said he was interested in how this election was going to affect Hungary.  He knew Fidesz would win in a near landslide victory and was excited, but tinged with caution.  What a premonition!

16 April 2012

Krtek Coming to an App Near You!

I am coming to my senses a little bit just about 25 days before the wedding.  Then the madness will be over and I will dedicate more time to my CEE pursuits and answering emails from my few (but very adoring!) fans.  I loved the emails.  Truly.

You may remember my post about the passing of Zdeněk Miler, the creator Krtek, a wonderful children's cartoon from the Czech Republic.  Today in my Emerging Europe RSS feed from the WSJ blog, I saw this article about Miler's granddaughter and her plans to take Krtek global.  I'm pretty excited for people beyond the Eurasian continent to come in contact with good children's animation.  Maybe I'll get my future tikes some little Krtek plushies.  I am honestly going to be the most off-beat mom on the block; my children will know CEE from their early years.  

01 March 2012


All I have time to say is that the Gorbachev event is SOLD OUT and I didn't get a ticket!  My dreams of seeing Gorbi in the flesh have been dashed, crushed, pulverized, and mangled beyond recognition.

All I wanted was Gorbi.  All I got was broken dreams.


Judson University isn't a real university anyway. {bitterness and a hint of truth}

24 February 2012


I should have posted this earlier even though I'm pretty sure I have no real consistent, "loyal" audience per se. 

I have been engaged since January 16th with a wedding looming on May 12th.  It's a pretty short engagement by most standards and every day I wish I had the funds to hire a wedding planner.  Since I don't, I have to do things myself.  So this blog has been kicked to back backburner.  I will have some very cool material come May, but until then, I am out of commission.  I hope you come back in May!

18 January 2012

Gorbi! Gorbi!

I have a really special post coming up in the near future (I'm talking about you, Loredana!), but right now I need to campaign my case for Judson University's World Leaders Forum

I really, really, REALLY want to go.  As in, I would cry for joy if I got to go.  Gorbachev is speaking and we all know what a big deal he is.  Hearing this man speak would be the greatest honor since it is obvious I have this inexplicable need to breathe CEE.  I don't know if this post will help anything, but it's worth a shot.

Please let me attend with my fiancee!  I promise to do a really nice write-up of the forum.  I did some nice ones on CCGA.  We're both really nerdy about politcal/economic subjects and I hoard all things CEE.  If you're unconvinced, browse my archives.  It would be better if you saw my bookshelves and the hundreds of dollars I spend on CEE related books (I spent $60 the last time I stepped into a book store in Hyde Park, which has TONS because they're all University of Chicago cast-offs).  There should be more posts, but life gets crazier when you work full time instead of doing piecemeal occupations. 

Anyway, I want to go!  I think I should go!  Let me go!