Friday, May 25, 2012

 My Boy Jack and Memorial Day Weekend

Monday, May 28th is Memorial Day here in the United States which celebrates the end of WW I, but now we honor all the fallen of all of our wars.  November 11th is Armistice Day,  which is celebrated (somehow the word celebrated is a misnomer) here as Veterans' Day and in England as Armistice Day.  Originally, November 11 was to commemorate the end of the Civil War in the United States. Other countries also have special days of commemoration. Thank you to Wikipedia for the information.


Poetry is a special love of mine and years ago when I read Rudyard Kiplings poem/lament for his son Jack who was lost in WW I, I was deeply moved. Masterpiece Theater had a dramatization of this sad part of Kipling's life, with Daniel Radcliff playing Jack.

So hard to put into words the sacrifices all our men and women make, but this poem describes the personal tragedy of any war.

                                               My Boy Jack
                                          by Rudyard Kipling

'Have you news of my boy Jack?'
     not this tide.
'When d'you think that he'll come back?'
     not with this wind blowing and this tide.

"Has anyone else had word of him?'
     Not this tide.

For what is sunk will hardly swim,
Not with this wind blowing and this tide.

'Oh dear, what comfort can I find?'
     None this tide,
     Nor any tide,
Except he did not shame his kind--
Not even with that wind blowing, and that tide.

Then hold your head up all the more,
     This tide,
     And every tide;

Because his was the son you bore,
And gave to the wind blowing and that tide!

Thank you to: You Tube and The Great Modern Poets, the best Poetry of Our Times, ed Michael Schmidt.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Impressions of Russia

 This is to introduce my “friend” who is actually my sister, just back from a short trip to Russia and is my guest blogger today.

Random Thoughts – Russia Visit 2012

*First stop, Moscow.  Traffic is extremely heavy, streets are crowded, people are in a hurry, no smiles.  People are dressed in the “latest” fashion – women (and men) are extremely slender.  Lots of beautiful shoes! .

 *Our guides in both Moscow and St. Petersburg were very passionate about their particular city; their city-pride showed.  Understandably they were reluctant to discuss country problems or politics.  But both guides were able to recite lots of facts, dates, names in  Russia’s history.  The Moscow guide told us that Russia never invaded any other country without provocation.  The St. Petersburg guide told us that her relatives at the time of the Revolution were “good people with some bad ideas.”

*The beauty and amazing number of churches, and in particular St. Basils and the Sergiyev Posad  Monastery took my breath away.  Entering the Monastery on a chilly morning, hearing the singing of church music that my mother sang, seeing many, many lit candles, hearing the priests chanting, and the smell of incense (plus the stern almost-disapproval look of the old ladies around the perimeter of the church) – immediately transported me back to my childhood.

*The interaction with the Russian people including those in the “service business” was extremely disappointing.  Waiters and waitresses in restaurants seem to barely tolerate us.  They didn’t speak English (which I can understand and don’t expect when I travel) – but they didn’t care to even try to communicate.  Is it arrogance, is it indifference – maybe a bit of both.

*Usually in another country, if one tries to use the native language, local folks are appreciative and somewhat impressed.  Not so in Russia.

*We took a boat ride on the Neva River to celebrate White Nights (where the skies are light almost all night long).  The boat was decrepit (although we paid $300USD for the 4 of us for the evening) and thoughts of our safety were constantly in my mind. The “crew” consisted of 3 young men – probably early 20’s.  They were totally disinterested in us, the “cruise” , the situation and even each other. And another disquieting thought, no life jackets.

*In Red Square, we saw a woman selling a plastic “shooter” toy which shoots bubbles into the air.  She was sitting in the square, her head tiredly-propped up on one hand, and the other hand a bit outstretched, limply demonstrating the toy.  The saddest, most disconnected face, although the toy is meant to bring happy times and fun for children.  She was definitely not a good spokesperson to promote sales but conveyed the mood of many people we saw.

*In St. Petersburg they told us that Moscovites are all about money.  The people of St. Petersburg seemed to smile more.

*We took the Sapsan train between Moscow and St. Petersburg.  Probably the nicest train I have ever ridden.  Beautiful, clean – punctual.  A great experience.

*We watched the USA vs. Finland World Championship hockey game (US sadly lost in the last few seconds I think).  I believe the TV channel was a Polish origination.  The announcer was definitely biased against the US.  He would almost cheer when we didn’t score or made an error.  But we were more shocked to see that they had an ad for bullets!  Yes, a magazine (is that what they call it?) to go into a small pistol – which they demonstrated by pulling it out of a man’s lapel. Perhaps that is why there are so many men in Moscow wearing suits and dressy jackets.

*Everywhere we went, people cut the lines.  I can’t say that the cutters were only Russians, I think other nationalities did it as well.  I don’t understand the thinking behind doing that.  Is it that I am more important than you?  My time is more valuable than yours?  It’s such a rude act.

*We found it difficult to locate Russian restaurants serving Russian food.  We ate Italian food almost every evening we were there.  I asked a local girl about that and she told me that Russians can easily make Borscht soup at home.  When they go out they want to eat something they don’t cook.  I guess that makes sense.

*We only had a brief glimpse at Russia and its people.  But remembering my parents (particularly my mother) being so vivacious, energetic, positive and enthusiastic (about almost everything), it was hard to connect that memory to the people we were meeting.

My post script: My sister did see relatives in St. Petersburg and had a happy reunion with them.  Her time in Russia was short, less than 10 days, but this gives you a  small snapshot of the country where our parents were born.  To say that things have changed, is an understatement, but that is true everywhere.  What has not changed is the effect of 70 years of communist rule which to me is a weight, dragging down the spirit of the people.  Although they have more freedom since 1989, the policies and the attitudes of the people in power are a carryover from those years. 

Bolshoi spaseba (big thank you) to my sister for being my guest blogger today.

Have you taken trips that have surprised or disappointed you or delighted you?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Moscow Protesters Driven Out Again

From: The Hindu (an Indian Paper)  5/20/12

Police drove out the latest protest group in Moscow using loudspeakers to inform the group that their actions were not legal and there were complaints from local residents.  The early morning raid uprooted any tents, etc. that were erected overnight.  Those who refused to leave were "detained."  Small groups tried to gather in other areas. "City authorities are demonstrating growing impatience with the Occupy-type protests against Vladimir Putin's return as president earlier this month."

But. . .Moscow artists are planning what they call a "Nomadic Museum March" for Saturday.  Artists are planning to push and pull their art through the streets as an affirmation of freedom of speech.  This should be interesting.

And further. . ."authorities are planning to finalize plans to set up a permanent place in Moscow for political gatherings, a Russian version of London's Hyde Park with its speaker's corner."

So, a "special place to have political gatherings."  Hmm, so the participants can be watched and controlled. I wonder how that will work out?

More information on-line.

My friend is back from Russia and said there was no mention of the protests while she was there.  She is writing down her impressions and will share them here.

Meanwhile, I am trying to picture the protest using art.  And what will the art depict?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Poets and Novelists Lead Protest March in Russia

"Prominent Russian novelists and poets led a street protest by more than 10,000 people in Moscow without obtaining a permit, and the police did not intervene.  The demonstrations skirted the law by remaining silent and carrying no posters, even though the demonstrations had clearly been organized as an anti-President Putin rally." This was Sunday.   People are unhappy with Putin's return to power and the rigged elections.

This news clip from the Denver Post, 5/14/2012, intrigued me for two reasons.  Novelists and poets leading the protest, taking a risk, and to me, showing the importance of the written word in Russia.  How many of us would be part of a serious protest?  Last week's demonstration provoked violent reaction from the police and many were injured and arrested.  This week showed a different approach, no banners, just a quiet march.  Boris Akunin, a writer was quoted as saying, "The point of this walk is simple.  We have to teach the authorities  to deal with these people politely and to show respect, but not with a stick." I have read Mr. Akunin's mysteries, set in pre-revolutionary Russia and was surprised to see him quoted as part of this march.

I have a friend who is visiting Moscow this week.  I hope to have her as a guest blogger when she returns.

Poetry has always had a special place in countries such as Eastern Europe and South America.  Since poetry is ambiguous, allusions to political problems can be written without clear criticisms of current regimes.  Pablo Neruda, from Chile was one, although some of his poetry was very direct .

Photo attribution from: The Guardian, 13 May 2012.

Thoughts on poetry, novels, used for protest, song lyrics as well?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Scent of Shalimar

My mother wore the perfume Shalimar.  The bottle, with a crystal, triangular top  a red label and round flat shape stood on her dressing table.  When she wasn't home I would sneak into her bedroom, carefully lift the top and dab on a little perfume, some behind my ears, always using the top, as I had seen her do.  I replaced the top and would quietly leave the bedroom. It seemed as if I were doing something forbidden and dangerous.

Last year I read that Shalimar was being re-issued and I had the idea of buying a bottle to evoke those memories of my mother.  With much anticipation, I walked into Nordstroms, and asked to have a whiff of Shalimar.  It was not the same. They spray scents on little white cards to sample.  I asked for another.  No, not the one I remembered and not even one I liked.  I was so sure I could buy a bottle and reenact that long-ago scene and bring back my mother in this small way.  But it was not to be.  I later learned that the formula had been changed.

Perfume is magic to me.  It's romantic, evocative and makes me feel feminine, glamorous and younger.  A friend who just came back from Paris said one of her favorite memories was all those wonderful scents in the air, especially in the shops, where French women congregate.  My oldest son gives me perfume for my birthday.  He chooses the scent and it is always one I like. I am so flattered that the gift is not something useful.

To all the mothers and grand mothers in my life, I wish you a Happy Mother's Day: my step-daughter; my two daughters-in-law; my friends many of whom are grand mothers now; and all those mothers who I don't know and who may read this.  What you do everyday for your children and other children is priceless.

Is there a scent that you associate with a time, a place a person?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Russian Girl Revisited

I think most of us want to know more about our heritage.  Where did our parents, grandparents come from?  This connection to the past is sometimes hidden, sometimes not discussed with the unspoken understanding that questions are not to be asked.  We either turn the pages, close the book to our history or?

For years my father's past was and still is a mystery.  I have a few clues, but not much more.  He was a young White Russian (White Russians supported the Tsar  during the 1917 Revolution and during the Russian Civil War 1918-1920).  My father did not want us to know his real name or anything about his father whose picture was cut from the few photographs we have.  I am not sure of my father's real name which he changed when he came to this country.

Many Europeans and others who came to this country fleeing famine, hard times, political changes, and fear for their lives, preferred to begin again and to hide their past.  My father became a citizen of the United States under his new name.  Both my parents died when I was in my 20's, and I was not interested in asking the sensitive questions before and then it was too late. Through a class I am taking in Russian History before 1917, my interest is renewed.

Any bloggers interested in Genealogy?  Is it important to you?  And, what was your most helpful source of information?

PS My Russian relatives visited last week and I was hopeful that I would gain some information about how I could learn  more about my dad. My cousin said, "N. no one in Russia, at least the younger population cares what happened before 1917."  Hmm, I thought.  And. . .I have a friend who will vacation in Moscow and St. Petersburg soon.  She was told that as you enter the restaurants, they look at your shoes.  So, for some it's designer dresses, shoes and bags.  Now that the economic situation is better for those with good jobs, that is how it is.  And drinking expensive Scotch, I heard.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Reflections on the 2012 A-Z Writing Challenge

*It was more of a challenge than I thought it would be.  Writing something every day that would be interesting to readers was difficult, because I do not blog regularly.

*The "theme" thing.  I did not do this, instead I  wrote a different piece every day, but if you wanted to know something about me, read my A-Z blogs.  I have an grandson who has autism, am first generation Russian, have written book in  a lions's voice, etc.

*The "ageism" thing.  I am aware and self-conscious about my age and time in life and hesitated to say that I had grandchildren, as it would turn off some who would follow my blog.

*I like the idea of being able to dip into other interests and themes and there were many: astronomy; YA Fiction; Swedish; French; short-wave radio; movies; poetry; and more.  I found that I am interested in other bloggers and finding out more about them.  I do have one favorite among all my favorite, The Clay Baboons.  How she manages to write and then illustrate her stories with those figures is her secret, and  I want to see what she creates every day.

*My goal is to become more adept at the manipulation of the technical aspects of blogging, illustrations, etc.,  I know there is more to learn, and being part of this writing challenge introduced me to a new world, the blogging world.  Thank you!

*Please don't emphasize the "popularity" aspect of the blogs.  I am thrilled with 76 followers and hope I can maintain contact with many of them.  I don't want to feel that my contribution is any less because I don't have hundreds of followers.  I appreciate everyone who commented on my blogs and who became followers.

*Favorite part:  meeting with all those bloggers--it was like a big party: "So, what do you do?"   Or to quote Cole Porter: 

    " Have you heard? It's in the stars,
     Next July we collide with Mars!
     Well, did you evah?
     What a swell party this is!

     What a swellagent, elegant  blogging party this was!"

*Blogging is a reflection of who we are and I am grateful to the editors  for the effort and time they gave so that we could be part of this "Moveable Feast."

Attribution:  Photo from:  "Vanity Fair" May 2012, Ad for Ritz Carleton