29 July 2005

Danelia and Monty Python?!

Three months out of grad school - I must be dumbing down at accelerated rates: I've been unable to force myself to study for anything substantial, though, I *have* been busy with other things. A good lesson of what not to do on a vacation. To be fair, however, I have gone through a third of my German textbook and read a couple of modern classics for *gasp* fun.

I've also been watching quite a few Russian classic films (yes, I said FILMS) - old and new, including the recent and highly acclaimed The Tuner. Even though the largely black and white surrealist (Lynch-rips-off-Arbus twins, for example) articism is to be appreciated both visually and theatrically (the scene with the ever-so-Germanesque Lina climing down the spiral staircase in her shiny black heels and a vintage skirt alone was worth it!), the 2.5+ hours of footage was redundant.

As I was watching the amazingly pants-pissing-hilarious Kindza-dza for the first time (I'm no movie buff), I discovered the eerie resemblance between John Cleese in the Monty Python's Holy Grail and Yuri Yakovlev, which even included costumes.

GAH!!! Georgy Danelia conspiracy theories?!

25 July 2005

Resonance and the Ancient of Days

I had just finished Galina Scherbakova's The Story of Ustinia Sobakina, Who Did Not Exist, which only took me a few hours, just like in the good old days. I would have preferred not to have read another book by her, even despite her praiseworthy writing skills and her cultural status. Scherbakova's work is too sentimental, if not nostalgic, and therefore qualifies to be called a "chick novel" (of the upper literary echelons, mind you), capable of having quite the depressing effect on its reader.

(As a slight tangent - I would also file Ulitskaja's work into the same category, and ironically enough, I will probably be reading yet another one of hers soon enough. )

Scherbakova needs to be dug out from beneath the pile of linguistic, no, convention-based uselessness.

I shall avoid going into detail in regards to the ways this chick novel compilation resonated with me, because I maintain my refusal to make this any more personal than it needs to be. (I'm sure a few slip-ups will occur here and there for shock value alone!) I just wanted to comment on a short part that stood out. Of course, almost every piece of literature contains such sections, and their number is directly proportional to the quality of the work.

The section of interest described the fading thoughts of an elderly dementia-ridden woman who was left to die in the middle of nowhere by her own loving daughter and then picked up by some local farmers. One of such prolonged thoughts was based on her feelings of empathy, if not pity for God. This notion automatically invoked Byzantine idea of the humanizing of Christ for the layity in the visual culture. Here, however, the woman felt pity for God the Father (an image of the Ancient of Days from, say, a medieval Macedonian church, is very appropriate).

She pictured Him faced with the grand problem of creating Man in his own image, yet out of Nothing. The difficulty of the endeavor was magnified by the fact that God, the Ancient of Days, began sculpting Man out of wet clay, and so she felt pity for this Old Man, because it must have been extremely difficult creating all those little creases that people's hands have and their nails. This is why, she thought, God had decided to give people the ability to reproduce themselves (not as a result of the "original sin"!), rather than having to recreate the task Himself over and over again.

Silly demented old woman.

12 July 2005

"America, f*ck yeah!" and Soviet "imperialism" in Central Asia

Less than 48 hours in the historic parts of the north-eastern US on the weekend, 20+ of which were spent on the road: a shameful lack of time to reassure one's (okay, mine!) "culturedness". At least my kultness had been proven more than adequate!

In addition to the landscape (though not quite as gorgeous a drive (I should say "ride", not "drive", as I drive rarely, period) through Wisconsin), I was yet again impressed by American patriotism. Almost every car sported stickers, most commonly and expectedly the "support our troops" kind and of course, flags - a lot of flags. The only time I see such numbers of patriotic memorabilia here in Canada is on Canada day and on Canada day only. In fact, at any given time I notice more "gay pride" insignia.

This simple observation reassured my preference for the American model of immigration, for example, as opposed to that of Canada - we all remember our junior high social studies classes and being taught (if this sort of thing can even qualify for being educational) that Canada exceeds the US because it has a cultural "mosaic" and integration, as opposed to the American "melting pot" and assimilation. It should be noted that both of these North American countries regretably prefer pop instead of time-tested culture, what little of it these youngsters do have in comparison to mother Europe. At least in the case of the US, however, beer and mindless mass (often sporting and/or hyperrealistic) spectacles of choice are supplemented by a greater sense of unity and national allegiance than what we see in the Babylonian city of Toronto.

On the way back from "America, f*ck yeah!" I finally finished Chingiz Aitmatov's (a Kyrgyz author) errr.....Executioner's Block - I have no idea how else to translate the title of this late Soviet novel into English. My mother bought it for me along with his other best seller when she visited me here in May, because it seemed like I had read just about everything worth reading offered in the local Russian bookstore we visited. I was not familiar with this author, and frankly the novel was just above mediocre, although its ending would make a great Hollywood flick. I was particularly annoyed by the Bulgakovesque (I am aware of the fact that he is not the only author to have done this, but at least he was the best) inclusion of a thematic "time warp" back to the mental torment of Pontius Pilate after his decision in regards to Christ.

The reason I mention this, other than to rant about the fact that I used to read a book a week back in the good old days, is the fact that I have just come across an interview with Aitmatov in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Apparently he now resides in Brussels and plays quite the diplomat. I was intrigued by his praise of Russian/Soviet "imperialism" and the benefits that it brought to the former Soviet asiatic republics - a breath of fresh air in contrast to the bullsh*t we have been fed for the past two years by the simpleton Western media like the Washington Post and such (re: Georgia, Ukraine vs Russia). His frank late Soviet nostalgia likewise reminded me of my own plight. In the case of the younger generation, however, this nostalgia is doubled- mourning the loss and the inability to experience this loss to a fuller extent.