Friday, July 22, 2005

Finally Leaving Lviv

My train leaves at 9.20. It is 7.47 right now. This is it. Once I leave it is all about the village for a while (i.e. no internet but fresh self grown organic food)

The Russian Nanny

TV in Ukraine is interesting. Whenever Ukrainians are portrayed on TV they look and act like typical American suburbanites. It is really strange to go around here and see one one kind of culture only to see no evidence of it on TV. I don’t understand why they do this. You would think that they would write stories that take present Ukrainian culture into account but they don’t.

A good example of this is the Russian Nanny. There is a new, Russian language based show based exactly off of the nanny that is very popular here. They even have an actress who resembles her American counterpart. It is really strange stuff because if you were to watch it you would think Russia was an America with a different language. Sometimes I think that most Americans base their behavior from movies and Television, and I wonder if the same could happen here.

Another disturbing trend of Ukrainian TV and marketing in general is the exploitation of the “Orange” Revolution (Orangesploitation). There are commercials that refer to it in not so subtle terms and you can even see references to it on Vodka bottles and taxi cabs. When the Exile writes about the Orange Revolution they always put a “®” symbol. While I do not agree with all of their cynicism, I think their interpretation of things needs to be taken into account because there is some truth to it. I like the Exile because it is only of the only resources I have ever found that does not give you the American party line on every aspect of Russia (a great example). Ultimately though, even if you agree that Yuschenko and Tymoshenko are criminals, I think the Orange revolution was by far a positive event for Ukraine.

Oh, and another weird thing: all Russian TV shows and movies have to have Ukrainian subtitles. I'm sure there are a lot of people here that despise that. A glance at the history of Ukraine shows that the borders of this country have changed frequently in very artificial ways (the history of the region I am staying in is Is particularly tumultuous. Maybe this is an attempt once and for all to unite the peoples of this region under one language and one culture, which might not be bad as long as it is done in a way in which people will choose “Ukrainian” culture and not be forced into it, which would be disturbingly Soviet.

More Taxi's From Hell

On the way here we had another fun taxi driver. This one had no idea where he was taking us but he neglected to tell us until halfway through the trip. He kept pulling over to look at a map, and he had to stop to ask people for directions. When we finally arrived we did not have change, and we had to short him two hryivnas (.40 cents). He asked us to go around to look for change. I would have just given him extra, but I could not on principle.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Still in Lviv

If any care to look at a map, I am mostly in Kelminsty most of the time. It is a small town close to the border of Moldova. The village is a short drive away, it is called Ivanivsty, but I don’t know if that is on any map. It is in the Chernivsti Oblast (state)

If you look on this map, you can see Kelminsty just to the right of Chernivsti city, which is in red. Above that, Kamianets – Podilsky is where Svitlana’s father went to college. We went there to see these two huge medieval fortresses that were even more amazing because there aren’t many people at them (foreign tourism has yet to start in this region).

The city of Chernivsti is cool even though a lot of folks around here don’t like it because of its harsh, Russian speaking population, but it has been one of my favorite places so far. It doesn’t have the huge swarms of people that Lviv and Kiev have, but it still offers some amenities that I like. The Internet café in Kelminsty is a small building, which looks like it is being entirely run by 13 and 14 year olds who hang there (the owners kids maybe?). The speed is less that 14.4. I will not be returning.

I can’t believe that I am only halfway done. I am probably leaving Lviv tomorrow, which means a whole lot more village to go. which also implies a lot more crazy cab drivers. One of them randomly pulled over into a diner in the middle of nowhere and asked us to get out (I did not take him up on the offer of tea). Another drove away with Svitlana in the car to put oil in without telling me. He was a nice guy, but it was frightening stuff.

The drastic change in diet has been difficult, so hopefully I will start getting used to the food around here. They definitely didn’t watch those videos in health class about not leaving meat out for an entire day at room temperature and other such useful information. Sometimes I am afraid that my pampered American immune system will not be able to handle it, but so far it has been ok other than the crippling indigestion I experience on a daily basis. I bought pizza in the village the other day, but they used Ketchup instead of tomato sauce.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

First Report From Ukraine -- Draft

I do not even know where to begin with my trip so far. At times it has been incredibly stressful but at others it has been nice. Svitlana and I did not expect there to be this much family obligation (the central cause of the stressful parts), but we have managed to escape the grasp of their hospitality at times. Our trip can be understood through the difference between the Ukrainian country and the city. Svitlana’s parents live in a typical Ukrainian village, which means they grow all of their own food and make it from scratch. It also means there is no running water or plumbing. I don’t care so much about these amenities, but when we are in the range of the family all freedom of action is lost. I hate the feeling that I have to bother somebody just to make myself a cup of coffee or eat breakfast. Svitlana is the same way.

Svitlana’s mother is a human factory. She wakes up at 6 AM and starts gathering food to make. She is working all day long. Svitlana does not approve of this lifestyle. When we do come to the city things are entirely different. We have the freedom to do whatever we want. There is absolutely no English spoken in the region of Ukraine where we are. Things have not changed much in a long time.

At this moment though we are in Lviv, probably the most modern city I have been in since coming to Ukraine. There is defiantly something of Ukraine lost in this modernization. Lviv is also the cultural center of Ukraine. Only Ukrainian is spoken here, whereas in Chernivsti it is only Russian. There are a lot of cultural things to keep in mind here.

I cannot really type a meaningful, well thought out and presented message under the time constraints of the internet café, so I will edit this post as time goes on.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005


The Scholars
William Butler Yeats

Bald heads, forgetful of their sins,
Old, learned, respectable bald heads
Edit and annotate the lines
That young men, tossing on their beds,
Rhymed out in love's despair
To flatter beauty's ignorant ear.

All shuffle there, all cough in ink;
All wear the carpet with their shoes;
All think what other people think;
All know the man their neighbour knows.
Lord, what would they say
Did their Catullus walk their way?

Pedicabo ego uos et irrumabo
Aureli pathice et cinaede Furi...

Andrew: A Challenge

I. Hendecsyllables
This is Cattullus’ name for the line of eleven syllables that he uses in no less than forty of the epigrams I-LX. The first line of his libellus represents its most usual form, opening with a spondee, i.e. two long syllables; the last syllable of the line in this and the other metres he uses can be indifferently long or short.

Cui do|no lepidum|nouum|libellum?


“Return my napkin then or expect
Three hundred hendecasyllables”

The Plan

Philadelphia, PA (PHL) to Kiev Borispol, Ukraine (KBP)

Total Travel Time: 13hrs 55min

Wed, Jul 06 08:25 PM to
08:30 AM
Arrive next day
Philadelphia, PA (PHL) to
London Gatwick, UK (LGW)
7hrs 5min - nonstop
US AirwaysAirlines US Airways Flight 98
Airbus 330 Jet- Economy

Stop - Change planes in London Gatwick, UK (LGW)
Connection Time: 3 hrs 30 min

Thu, Jul 07 12:00 PM to
05:20 PM
London Gatwick, UK (LGW) to
Kiev Borispol, Ukraine (KBP)
3hrs 20min - nonstop
Ukraine Intl ArlnsAirlines Ukraine Intl Arlns Flight 502
Boeing 737 Jet- Economy

Kiev Borispol, Ukraine (KBP) to Philadelphia, PA (PHL)

Total Travel Time: 13hrs 35min

Wed, Aug 03 09:00 AM to
10:30 AM
Kiev Borispol, Ukraine (KBP) to
London Gatwick, UK (LGW)
3hrs 30min - nonstop
Ukraine Intl ArlnsAirlines Ukraine Intl Arlns Flight 501
Boeing 737 Jet- Economy

Stop - Change planes in London Gatwick, UK (LGW)
Connection Time: 2 hrs 0 min

Wed, Aug 03 12:30 PM to
03:35 PM
London Gatwick, UK (LGW) to
Philadelphia, PA (PHL)
8hrs 5min - nonstop
US AirwaysAirlines US Airways Flight 99
Airbus 330 Jet- Economy

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Putting Our Importance in Perspective - The Great Eddystone Humanism Debate Revisted

The debate over the extent to which Kyle is a humanist should be settled once and for all. I propose an Eddystone Borough Council decision on the matter once all sides are able to present their respective cases. This is a call to arms. The outcome could determine the tone of Eddystone politics for years to come. The first task is to define what humanism is.

Since we don’t have any of the necessary initial statements from the parties involved, I would like to post an excerpt from Nietzsche that I feel correctly places the importance of our consciousness in perspective:

"In some remote corner of the universe, poured out and glittering in innumerable solar systems, there once was a star on which clever animals invented knowledge. That was the highest and most mendacious minute of "world history"—yet only a minute. After nature had drawn a few breaths the star grew cold, and the clever animals had to die.

One might invent such a fable and still not have illustrated sufficiently how wretched, how shadowy and flighty, how aimless and arbitrary, the human intellect appears in nature. There have been eternities when it did not exist; and when it is done for again, nothing will have happened. For this intellect has no further mission that would lead beyond human life. It is human, rather, and only its owner and producer gives it such importance, as if the world pivoted around it. But if we could communicate with the mosquito, then we would learn that he floats through the air with the same self-importance, feeling within itself the flying center of the world. There is nothing in nature so despicable or insignificant that it cannot immediately be blown up like a bag by a slight breath of this power of knowledge; and just as every porter wants an admirer, the proudest human being, the philosopher, thinks that he sees on the eyes of the universe telescopically focused from all sides on his actions and thoughts.

It is strange that this should be the effect of the intellect, for after all it was given only as an aid to the most unfortunate, most delicate, most evanescent beings in order to hold them for a minute in existence, from which otherwise, without this gift, they would have every reason to flee as quickly as Lessing's son. [In a famous letter to Johann Joachim Eschenburg (December 31, 1778), Lessing relates the death of his infant son, who "understood the world so well that he left it at the first opportunity."] That haughtiness which goes with knowledge and feeling, which shrouds the eyes and senses of man in a blinding fog, therefore deceives him about the value of existence by carrying in itself the most flattering evaluation of knowledge itself. Its most universal effect is deception; but even its most particular effects have something of the same character."

Friedrich Nietzsche "On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense”

See also "The Nietzsche Channel"

Saturday, July 02, 2005

The End of the World

Dear Guy in the subway handing out pamphlets about the end of the world,

When things get this bad, I will take your pamphlets more seriously:

“The papacy was powerless and almost comically corrupt. One pope’s mistress, Marozia, made her bastard son and grandson popes in their turn, and is said to have arranged the murder of another pontiff. John XII, her grandson, was deposed by Emperor Otto I in 963 on the grounds that he had ordained a deacon in a stable at an improper season, turned the papal palace into a brother, castrated a cardinal, drunk the devil’s health, and invoked the aid of Jupiter and Venus while playing at dice. Pontificates were quickly fatal; three in succession lasted, respectively, four months, one month, seventeen days. Within a century six popes were assassinated and two were starved to death in prison. The French bishops declared at a council in 991: ‘We seem to be witnessing the coming of Antichrist, for this is the falling away of which the apostle speaks.’”

“The Middle Ages” by Morris Bishop. P.36

8/13/05 -- Found this in the Economist.

Eminent Domain

I doubt you could find a socialist who agrees with the recent court decision Kelo v. New London, in which the conservative majority decided that the government can take your land and sell it to commercial and real estate developers. Last time I checked conservatives saw private property as something almost holy, but I guess not anymore. If your land is taken by the state so that the local citizens have better access to a Dollar Store and a Blockbuster, that is not bad. Its only bad if a socialist government does it. If a government that praises free market economies does it, its not bad for some reason.

It is true that you receive just compensation, but some things cannot be compensated. Imagine if a house has been in your family for generations, or if you put a lot of your own energy into building it up over time.

This just proves that the free market junkies will drop all of their convictions for $$$$$$$$$.

Court Ruling Leaves Poor at Greatest Risk

The Actual Ruling (PDF)

Congress assails domain ruling

Even Congress's "lone self-described socialist, Rep. Bernard Sanders of Vermont" doesn't like Kelo

Relevant Cartoons

Friday, July 01, 2005

The Only John Ashberry Poem I Understand

John Ashberry

What name do I have for you?
Certainly there is no name for you
In the sense that the stars have names
That somehow fit them. Just walking around,

An object of curiosity to some,
But you are too preoccupied
By the secret smudge in the back of your soul
To say much, and wander around,

Smiling to yourself and others
It gets to be kind of lonely
But at the same time off-putting
Counterproductive, as you realize once again

That the longest way is the most efficient way,
That one that looped among islands, and
You always seemed to be traveling in a circle.
And now that end is near

The segments of the trip swing open like an orange .
There is light in there, and mystery and food.
Come see it. Come not for me but it.
But if I am still there, grant that we may see each other.

A Common Misperception

One of the most damaging misperceptions I have ever held to be true is that people have more respect for those that go from a low position in life to higher one than they do for those who are born into an advantageous position in life and remain there. This isn’t to say that there aren’t a lot of people who will respect you for overcoming obstacles in life, because there are many that will. It is to say that it is not advantageous to any person to advertise or let it be known that they did not come from an advantageous position in life because people are pre-disposed to respect those who were born into their positions.

When I first arrived at College this idea was like a cracked pipe waiting to rupture and cause devastation. For me it did not break all at once, instead it slowly leaked over time and led me from one embarrassing humiliation to another. It is not difficult to find the sources of this misperception. On one hand the lower classes tell each other these things ("you have something they can never buy" type statements) to convince themselves that they do in fact have something that people in economically superior positions not only do not have, but cannot attain. On the other, the middle and upper middle classes learned long ago to internalize all racist and class based sentiment to the point where the only evidence one can find of it is in their decision making – who they choose to be friends with and so on. A third way that this misperception is disseminated is through popular culture, for instance movies wherein two suitors are vying for a girls attention, and one of them, the bad one, seems to have had everything – good looks and money – handed to him (Meet the Parents is one that comes to mind).

The reality of the matter is that the poor kid has absolutely nothing to offer the rich kid. Rich kids are better at the things poor kids are supposedly better suited for such as handling adversity. One could argue that because one person has seen much more adversity than another, he is better at handling adversity, but the opposite is true. The rich (forgive my crude terms) or the pampered are better at handling adversity because they have a strong foundation. It is helpful to think about it in terms of flinching. A person who is hit frequently as a child is fully aware of what the pain of physical violence feels like. When they encounter what they think is physical violence, they will recoil. This is not always the case but I believe it is usual. For the kid who has never experienced great adversity, he does not all of these fear inducing concepts to hold him down. It translates into confidence, and as everyone knows, confidence is a self fulfilling prophecy. A friend of mine who visited Gettysburg made the revealing observation that the students at Gettysburg looked more robust than their working class counterparts. They are more robust, and the difference is not limited to physical appearance. They are like plants that have been raised in the most ideal conditions, perfectly suited, now that they are grown, for adversity of all types.

“And that is how our children – I mean, not yours but ours, sir, the children of the despised but noble poor learn the truth on earth when they are just nine years old. The rich ones – what do they know. In their whole lives they never sound such depths, and my Ilyushanka at that very moment went through the whole truth. This truth sir, entered into him and crushed him forever.”
“Brothers Karamazov” P.206

I cannot say that Ilyusha’s learning so much about life is worthless. There is an entire facet of this that I am ignoring, but what I am saying is that Ilyusha in most ways has no advantage over “the rich” ones. This truth, the truth of the harshness of life that the poor learn so young, almost always crushes them in one way or another. It is not something one can leave behind once they learn it. It is always there to harass. People who are unencumbered by this burden of truth have an advantage in almost every respect except one – producing meaningful art.

I understand that I have presented an unreal division between rich and poor, and that it is entirely possible for a poor kid to be more pampered than one who is rich. Officer, I did it to get my ideas across. I also understand that there is a lot of value in the “truths” poor kids learn, but as I have stated, my point is not to encourage people from “humble” backgrounds to turn their backs on their past, but to encourage them to not advertise their personal history, because there is no advantage to it. It is only advantageous in our closest relationships with friends and in the production of art. Aside from that, we are left only with vanity.

“Let me, if not by birth, have lands by wit
All with me’s meet that I can fashion fit.”
Edmund from “King Lear” (the villain)


“Now the rest had sat down, and were orderly in their places,
but one man, Thersites of the endless speech, still scolded,
who knew within his head many words, but disorderly;
vain, and without decency, to quarrel with the princes
with any word he thought might be amusing to the Argives.
... brilliant Odysseus swiftly
came beside him scowling and laid a harsh word upon him:
"Fluent orator though you be, Thersites, your words are
ill-considered. Stop, nor stand up alone against princes.
Of all of those who came beneath Ilion with Atreides
I assert there is no worse than you are. Therefore
you shall not lift up your mouth to argue with princes,
cast reproaches into their teeth, nor sustain the homegoing

So he spoke and dashed the sceptre against his back and
shoulders, and he doubled over, and a round tear dropped from him,
and a bloody welt stood up between his shoulders and under
the golden sceptres stroke, and he sat down again,
in pain, and looking helplessly about wiped off the tear drops
Sorry though the men were they laughed over him happily”

Iliad, Book II 211-270


This is what I have been saying for some time, that Jonathan Newman, who I suspect is a free trade junky, is one of the greatest socialists the commonwealth of Pennsylvania has ever known (an observation I am tempted to tell him in writing). His performance proves that state run enterprise can work, but like anything else, it takes hard work and innovation. Now instead of the money going to some shareholders bank account it is being used for the common good. Just imagine if we could do the same with other vices that are never going to go away.

"Indeed, it's not out of the question that Newman could do what Mikhail Gorbachev couldn't: Make a socialist enterprise sufficiently entrepreneurial and consumer-friendly to survive."
-Andrew Cassel (resident free trade junkie at the Philadelphia Inquirer)

The Museum

“Throughout the 1990s biennials and other art events were founded across the globe, while cities built new museums of contemporary art, or expanded old ones. The activities of these museums became steadily more commercial as they internalized corporate models of activity, establishing alliances with business, bringing their products closer to commercial culture, and modeling themselves less on libraries than shops and theme parks.”

“Art Incorporated” by Julian Stallabrass p14 2004.

The museum is the best job I have ever had, (though still not good enough to tolerate for an extended period of time). The people, at least on my level of the workforce, were goodhearted and intelligent, and I don’t use these adjectives in some clichéd sense because they sound nice. They really exemplified these particular qualities. It felt good to be in a place where my usual social paranoia was assuaged and I could just be myself, and the people were intelligent enough to have conversations that were fruitful in themselves, as opposed to noise to avoid awkwardness.

Now we are done with the good parts; on to the inevitable bad. It felt like the artists, the cultural equivalents of the people who actually made the artwork hanging up in the museum, were always at the bottom with the worst jobs in the museum. To be in a management position one had to be a white girl from a middle class background with no passion for art with training in a corporate field. That is why I like the excerpt above so much, and particularly the sentence “internalized corporate models of activity.” The management of the museum has a love affair with these perfect (though useless) white girls with huge engagement rings, and particularly with corporate models of activity (though the department I worked in had notable exceptions and was free of these people up to a certain level) .

For example, I was working in the coatroom during a special event. A special event occurs when the museum is essentially set up to be a cheesey night club ( the first Batman) after hours wherein a specific corporation would have the Dali exhibit all to itself. I would hang up their coats and listen to their Dali chatter. For the most part the people were nice though there were some exceptions (I would list them, but every group had nice people). On this particular night I was by myself, which wasn’t a big deal, but “special events,” one of the more corporate departments in the museum who had no problem trashing a room for you to clean up the next day, felt that only having one person in the coat room was giving a bad image to the corporation which in attendance. They instructed some of their younger ones to go into the coat room to give off the image of having two people, but this did not imply, as one might think, that they would actually have to hang any coats up. That would be demeaning. So there I was hanging up coats with a useless white girl next to me just standing there because they were too good to hang up coats.

The point to this example is that I think the museum should stop hiring these people and drop its love affair with corporate models of activity. A place like the museum should be filled with people who are passionate about art, not people who are just trying to get an easy semi-prestigious job so they can tell people they work at the museum, and definitely not people who feel they are too good to hang up a coat. There are plenty of intelligent, hard working art graduates out there willing to devote themselves to something like the museum, and one does not have to have a degree in communications to sit in on meetings all day. Keep corporate America and all of its dogmas out of the museum. Fine art is already too isolated from certain portions of society to be hiring perfect little rich girls to control its destiny.

It must be noted that I was completely cut off from the artistic part of the museum (i.e. conservationists and curators) though I assume they are people are dedicated to art, and had to endure a great deal and competition to get where they are. I think the museum is, on some level, concerned with ensuring everyone is able to see the art it collects, and it sees its close ties to corporate America as a necessary evil in that quest. Unfortunately, by having these “gala” events the museum is playing right into its stereotype as a place that is foremost a social tool for the rich with a secondary role as a museum during the day.

Another issue is that there is always an air of bankruptcy at the museum. Many answers to visitor questions went something along the lines of "well we need to do this because otherwise we would go under." The reason why I don’t buy this excuse is because I think the museum is financially well off, it just makes it seem as though it is not. I think it is unfortunate that the arts everywhere are starving, but these huge city wide art museums are rolling in cash yet they still demand more. It seems as though the museum has taken in the dogma of economic growth; a kind of manifest destiny for the museum that that sees more wealth as always preferable to making the museum a better place to see artwork. I can say with confidence that if any institution cannot survive with the money that museum is making, changes should be made.

What I believe is happening (and I could be wrong) is that when the museum gets more money it expands its operations or collection to the point where it needs more money. Not that this is a bad thing in itself, but the money could probably be better spent, for instance in art programs in public schools that really do reach out to the entire population. When a corporation gives money to the Philadelphia museum of art it isn’t really moving the money that far away from itself. It is shoring up its own interests.

I originally wrote this about two weeks after after I stopped working (mid May). Not long after, the answer to all of the money grubbing showed up on the front page of the newspaper. This is a colossal waste of resources for. How many masterpieces can one imbibe in a day?

PMA Expansion

And some snazzy graphics to go along…