I’ve had the following story saved for a couple of days. I know the people and events are real. Yet it seems like I am watching a real life version of a sequel to Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, or the Russian version of The Scarlet Letter, the Russian Orthodox Witch Trials, or a United States of America with fundamentalist Christian Law instead of secular laws that must adhere to Constitutional principles. Pussy Riot v. Putin: A Front Row Seat at a Russian Dark Comedy
On the morning of February 21, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina, and Ekaterina Samutsevich walked up the steps leading to the altar of Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior, shed their winter clothing, pulled colorful winter hats down over their faces, and jumped around punching and kicking for about thirty seconds. By evening, the three young women had turned it into a music video called “Punk Prayer: Holy Mother, Chase Putin Away!” which mocked the patriarch and Putin. (“The head of the KGB is their patron saint,” they sang, by turns shrieking and imitating a church choir.)
The video went viral: it was two weeks before the presidential election and Putin, facing a wave of unprecedented protests, was feeling shaky. Three days later, a warrant was issued for the girls’ arrest. According to their indictment, their trial promised to be a decisive moment in the history of Christianity; officially, they were being tried for hooliganism, but the mumbling prosecutor clarified that they stood accused of “insulting the entire Christian world.”
[ ]…“Did you hear what they were saying?” asked Pavlova.
“Yes,” said Istomin. “They were shouting insults at our god Jesus Christ. It was blasphemy. People in the cathedral were crying, some people were sick. There was no precedent for this.” Their clothes, he said, “did not conform to Christian tradition.” Their dancing was “dancing on the graves of our ancestors.” Sadly, this was to be expected. “Our country went twenty years without an ideology,” he said flatly. “A whole generation grew up without Orthodox values.”
“What did you do when you saw this disorder?” asked Pavlova.
“I tried to stop them,” Istomin said. One of the girls, Alyokhina, was held up by a church security guard who removed her mask. “Someone took her mask off. She looked at me, and I looked at her,” Istomin went on. “I recognize her today. I have a photographic memory.”
After Istomin, the accidental witness, has been asked to weigh in on the extent to which Pussy Riot had criminally offended all of Orthodox Christendom, Pavlova—or “Lawyer Pavlova,” as she preferred to refer to herself in the courtroom—tried a different line.
“Would you say that this was art?”
“What is art anyway?” smirked Istomin. “I don’t think this is art, but if some people consider it art, then it should be displayed exclusively in closed spaces and not be made available for wider public consumption.”
“You’re here as a victim,” Lawyer Pavlova went on. “Are you claiming any monetary compensation here today?”
A few thousand years may seem like a long time for many people, but it has only been about that long – out of a few million years of human history that people started writing. One of the first things people did when they learned a system of writing – writing that could be read by others in the community – was express themselves. Let me back up a few thousand more years and say this spontaneous desire to express one’s thoughts in a material way was through art. Writing allowed for a degree of detail and subtlety that visual arts lacked. When writing meet art, the arch was complete, the potential for personal expression was only limited by the imagination. Performance art is very much in that tradition. I’m not sure who the first censor was, but they were probably the same primal feelings, the need to stop someone from expressing themselves. Someone’s artistic release is someone’s else threat to their psychic well being. As it often happens that psychic well being is intimately connected with the authoritarian interest of the church and state. Interest that arise out of fear and insecurity. The censor has wrapped themselves very tightly in this shroud of beliefs. if someone starts dancing, singing, yelling – that might, as the frightened censor sees it, start a cascade of doubts. The artists might tear away the soft carefully constructed layers of unjustified beliefs. New realities must be faced and dealt with. That’s how revolutions, concepts of liberty and personal autonomy start. No one wants any of that dangerous stuff, now do we. Apparently not Mr. Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church. Nor their American cousin, a political movement called conservatism.
Are Dummies Books Really for Dummies? I have a couple of these and they’ll not for dummies.
Fun, instructive and easy to read, the series kicked off with DOS for Dummies and has grown into a series that, according to their website, has “250 million books in print and more than 1,800 titles.”
A funny thing happened on the way to the pho room. Several months ago, a friend and I made plans to meet at “that new Vietnamese joint down Magazine Street, the one across from the burrito place.” We ended up at different restaurants, both recently opened, doors down from each other. Choosing between the two, we settled into our soup bowls and considered what was happening along this stretch of Uptown New Orleans.
…But global flavors have been meme-ing throughout the American South for well over a century. In New Orleans, the first truly cosmopolitan Southern city, Lafcadio Hearn wrote in 1885 that “One of the great gastronomic attractions of the city, lies in the fact that you can dine in any fashion, or in any country you wish, Spain, France, Italy, the United States, or even China, without going half a dozen squares from your room.” The American South joined the global table long ago.
The South is definitely not about cornbread, grits and fried green tomatoes any more. Some traditional battles still wage. Sliced barbecue ( more towards western side of the south) versus shredded barbeque ( more a Virginia and Carolina tradition. Shredded seems to be barely hanging on even though I still think it makes the best sandwiches. And the other day the regular cornbread versus sweet cornbread issue came up. I tend not to like my cornbread sweet. Most people do prefer sweet. The sugar or corn syrup is addictive for some. If the first cornbread you ever taste is sweet that tends to shape one’s expectations forever. The deep corn taste with some real slightly salted butter seems bland in comparison. Fast food has had a huge negative impact on southern cooking. Their venal social views aside, what Chik-Fil-A serves is an abomination of a chicken sandwich. And the late Colonel Sanders was right about KFC’s changes to his original gravy, “that gravy is horrible. They buy water for 15 to 20 cents per thousand gallons and then they mix it with flour and starch and end up with pure wallpaper paste.”
full service gas station 1950s. very strange, but there used to be people who put gas in your car for you. they would also check your oil and battery, maybe pull on the radiator belt to see if that was OK.
Paul Ryan (R-WI) might be the nest Vice President of the USA. He is already a nightmare of an politician, more power will not help. No grown-up should be infatuated with anything Ayn Rand wrote, How Paul Ryan captured the G.O.P.
I read everything I could get my hands on.” Like many conservatives, he claims to have been profoundly affected by Ayn Rand. After reading “Atlas Shrugged,” he told me, “I said, ‘Wow, I’ve got to check out this economics thing.’ What I liked about her novels was their devastating indictment of the fatal conceit of socialism, of too much government.” He dived into Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, and Milton Friedman.
In a 2005 speech to a group of Rand devotees called the Atlas Society, Ryan said that Rand was required reading for his office staff and interns. “The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand,” he told the group. “The fight we are in here, make no mistake about it, is a fight of individualism versus collectivism.” To me he was careful to point out that he rejects Rand’s atheism.
Ryan is to individualism what fast food is to creative cooking. More on Ryan, 12 Things You Should Know About Vice Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan and why does any serious minded American listen to, Ryan – Ryan Budget Plan Produces Far Less Real Deficit Cutting than Reported. And why pandering to the Tea Stains may backfire, Just One Reason to Pick Ryan: Blame the Loss on Conservatives.