Monthly Archives: October 2013

Review of Stray Dog Cabaret

I have just finished reading Stray Dog Cabaret, an anthology of Modernist Russian poetry translated by Paul Schmidt. The anthology takes it’s name from the Stray Dog Cabaret (or Cafe), a short lived St. Petersburg restaraunt (open from 1911 to 1915) where many poets met to share their works. What is interesting about this collection is how it is arranged, poems are not organized by poet or linearly by appearance. You would have to go ahead and read it to see what I mean. The three major movements in Russian poetry are represented, the Symbolists, Futurists, and one uniquely Russian: the Acmeists. Some of the poets included are Anna Akhmatova, Sergei Esensin, Osip Mandelstam, Vladimir Mayakoysky, future Nobel Laureate Boris Pasternak, and my personal favorite Alexander Blok. I know most people probably haven’t heard of any of these writers, neither had I before reading this (except Pasternak), and many people don’t read poetry at all, but you should give this one a chance. It captures the essense of post Tolstoi pre Lenin Russia.


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Review of Purgatorio

I have just finished reading Purgatorio, the second part of The Divine Comedy. While Inferno was excellent, I found Purgatorio to be even better. Purgatorio is a much more tangible setting than Inferno was. Inferno was mostly just very creative fire and brimstone, but Purgatorio is about Dante’s ascent up a mountain; which is a spiritual journey as well as a physical one. Purgatorio is an island mountain at the bottom of the globe, which in the Comedy’s cosmology is the only land in the Southern hemisphere. It is where the dead souls go to atone for their sins, with a terrace for each sin and every one is easier to climb than the last becuase the burden of Sin gets lighter and lighter. If you have already read Inferno and ejoyed it, read Purgatorio. I wouldn’t reccomend reading Purgatorio with having read Inferno first, but I imagine that its possible. As I said in my review of the former work, the Divine Comedy provides a lapidary summary of Late Medieval thought. Unfortunately I will not be able to move on the Paradiso, the last part. We don’t have time to do so and the course is now on The Faerie Queen, but I intend to read Paradiso once I can. Purgatory is excellent, I can’t stress enough how much of a shame it is that people only read Inferno.

purgatory procession beatrice

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Six in the Morning

I’m usually still sleeping. I’ve never been a morning person, I usually roll out of bed around 10:00 am. My ideal bedtime is 1:30ish. And 1:30ish is meant to be interpreted VERY liberally. Usually that time is spent playing video games or catching up with whatever is on my DVR. Since I have an MWF class at 9:00 am, my ideal sleeping schedule is not an option. Sleep has been a real luxury. Even on Tuesdays and Thursdays when my first class is 11:00 I still need to get up and get shit done. All of the freshman were required to go to this talk about the scientific aspects of sleep and how important it is to succeed. Yeah I get it, but even if I’m in bed half and hour before midnight it still tends to take me an hour and a half to finally fall asleep =(. Oh well, it’s said that the first semester is always the most stressful.


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I really need to stop procrastinating. My life will be so much better when I do. Not sure when to start.


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Bad Prompts Give Me a Loss of Words

As you probably noticed, there have been many days when I don’t post anything lately. While the big reason is that I just don’t have the time I did in the Summer, the other main reason is a lot of times the prompts just aren’t something I have anything to write about. That, or don’t have time to put something together worth posting. For Prompts I feel that we are given an opportunity to speak up, and sometimes the words come naturally; which usually happens for me. But sometimes, I find myself at a loss of words.


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Review of Adanggaman

I have just finished watching Adanggaman, an indie film from Cote d’Ivoire. Adanggaman provides an unforgiving look at the slave trade as it existed in late seventeenth century West Africa. While countless Hollywood films have looked at slavery, very few have dared to touch the Transatlantic Slave Trade; a noted exception being Amistad, which depicted it in a completely anachronistic manner. There are many things about Adanggaman that make it very different from mainstream films. For one thing it was clearly shot on a limited budget, so it focuses far more on dialogue and characterization than it does on creating a visual spectacle. Still, the props, sets, and costumes are good enough, and the movie takes full advantage of the scenery of its film location (an American film with this budget could not afford to film in Africa). What I liked best about Adanggaman was is that the slave trade is portrayed in a matter of fact way without passing a moral judgment or making it painfully obvious what emotions we are supposed to feel. Showing this tragic era from a solely African perspective also makes it unique, even though White people are frequently mentioned none actually appear. Overall I would say that while it could be better, Adanggaman is definitely worth viewing.


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Commercials are the New Propaganda

Here in Washington State there is a bill known as Initiative 522 that would require the state to label all genetically modified foods on the the package, something which is already a reality for all my readers from any EU member. Many others such as Russia also require GMO labeling. I strongly support 522, as I believe that consumers should have the right to know what shit is in what they buy. We already have labels for high fructose corn syrup, fats, carbs, calory count, and so forth. Like any other bill no matter how reasonable, there has been a sizable opposition.

According to those ads 522 is just beaurocratic red tape that would hinder everyday people with excessive regulations. I’m sorry, I am not going to be convinced that a bill is bad because some third generation “family farmer” (who probably works on corporate subsidized land) on TV tells me its bad. God, these are the same people that lobby for the right to kill endangered wolves! Sure, the Rancher’s Association and Grocerery Manufactur’s Association oppose 522; but that should be obvious why. What the slick ads don’t tell you is that Monsanto is the top donor to the No campaign, and other major players inlcude DuPont, Bayer, PepsiCo, The Coca Cola Family, and Nestle. Rather, they use some astroturf commoners to spread their agenda. You need to dig into the No website to find out the corporate backers. Just compare those who back No: to those who back Yes: . Painfull, isn’t it?




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Not sure where “home” is now

Now that I’ve been living on campus for the last few months I feel at home in my dorm now. Whenever I go visit my family it doesn’t feel like I’m back at home, it feels temporary which it really is. Midterm break was supposed to be relaxing, which it was but it was unsettling that all may stuff wasn’t in my room and I would go back in a few days like always. What is bad about feeling so at home only when on campus is that now schoolwork and life at home are one in the same. Back at junior college there was a clear separation, I would go to classes then I would come home. Not anymore. Now it is fused together.


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Review of Anna Karenina

After one long month, I have finally finished Anna Karenina. While it is the most cited candidate for Best Novel Ever, I find it very difficult for me to assess it. Parts of it were absolutely enthralling, such as the scene where Levin scythes grass with with the serfs; while other parts I couldn’t help but skim through. My problem was that I had two read two Parts a week and keep up with a 35 page a day minimum quota lest I fall behind. Combined with two or three other books for different classes, it made reading Anna Karenina a chore. Being a novel grand in scope and covering all the hot topics of 1870s Russia, I feel that I would have needed to read it at my own leisure to get the most out of it. Taking two lit classes has really shown me that reading literature for a course is a two edged sword. You are able to discuss the material thoroughly with your peers and a paid expert; but you need to juggle it with so much else and cannot give the books the attention the need and possibly deserve.

Because of these reasons I cannot give it a rating, though I can see why it is one of Oprah’s Favorite Books, lol. I was rather hestitant about having to read it because of its length and because of the long Slavic names that all sound the same. Actually, once you understand how Russian names work (and with the internet there’s no reason you can’t learn) it’s really not that bad and the usage of given, patronymic, and family names can actually help keep track of how everyone is related. Trust me. However, there are so many characters that it can be difficult to keep track of them all, which is usually the case with any work with loads of characters. Many readers of Tolstoy and Dostoevski keep notebooks cataloguing the full names of all the characters, fortunately the translation my class read had that provided in the index. This particular translation is highly praised. It was done by Richard Pevear and and Larissa Volokhonsky, who are a husband-and-wife team with the advantage of one being an Anglophone while the other’s first language was Russian. There work is highly praised, so if you decide to read Anna Karenina I recommend reading their version.

Hopefully someday I will be able to reread Anna Karenina when I have time to do so at my own pace. Now I really want to read War and Peace, and NOT just to say that I did.

All easy classes are alike; each challenging class is challenging in its own way.


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Change is Usually Welcome

Here in Washington it rains so much that people get used to it. As long as you don’t have to spend any significant amount of time outside, its fine. However when the rain stops for the Summer its always welcome, but excessive heat is what most Washingtonians don’t like. During the Summer it can get quite hot, and most people are very pale because the Sun is rare. One time I was in California and friends were making vampire jokes. Suffice to say when the sun declines it is highly welcomed. Another welcomed change for me is the upcoming midterm break. Four day weekend! I’ve been really busy this last few days (hence no posts this week) but now all my exams are done and I just have one class left before I can go home. It will be good to be able to relax and recharge before going back to in the middle of next week.


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