sabotabby: (anarcat)
Here, have a buttload of new pictures. As much as I want to fix my image hosting issues to be able to embed photos, I have to admit this is kind of easier while travelling.

We had a full last day. Went to the Pinchuk Art Centre, which has to be the strangest art gallery I've ever visited. As in you need to go through a metal detector to get in. There's a massive exhibition on right now featuring such luminaries as Marina Abramovich, Ai Weiwei, Damien Hirsch, and more. The Abramovich piece involved a blindfold, noise-cancelling headphones, and putting yourself at the mercy of other gallery-goers and guides. I noped right out of there after first a game of patty cake, then being patted on the head. I am not very badass or good with vulnerability, and I suspect I would not last long as a political prisoner, incidentally.

Actually, I thought the Ukrainian artists featured in the show were, on the whole, more impressive than the well-known international artists. There was quite a bit focusing on Chernobyl, economic restructuring during and after the Soviet era, and the trauma of war.

We passed the Mother Motherland monument on the way back from the airport, so we decided we had to get a closer look. Of course, the skies chose that precise time to open and pour forth and incredible thunderstorm, so we didn't get that close as we weren't out for that long. But I actually really like how my photos of it came out; you can see the massive scale, and it's all grey and mysterious.

It was impossible to leave Ukraine without a final round of sour cherry vareniki. We also had a flight of mysterious alcohols, ranging from "great enough that I bought some to take home" to "OH GOD OH GOD MY EYES THEY'RE ON FIRE." Or, as the Russians say, "gadost," which is my second new favourite word. I asked Anya for a translation and she said, "covfefe." But it means something gross and filthy. I am not sure what I drank but some involved horseradish?

I fly back home tomorrow. From what I glean from the news, it's about the right time to be GTFO of Eastern Europe.
sabotabby: (lolmarx)
We're heading out for lunch as soon as the dude can get the AC working, but in the meantime behold the "VIP suite," in which we will spend our last evening in Kiev. We are pretty sure Soviet dignitaries stayed here and they haven't touched the room since:

sabotabby: (gaudeamus)
So the performance sucked so hard we walked out. Like, possibly the worst thing either of us have ever seen, which is saying an awful lot. The tickets were suspiciously cheap, but tbh most things in the Ukraine are suspiciously cheap. But in this case I think it was because they knew it was terrible. We'd actually gone in to see if we could get a tour or just wander around the opera house, but the lady said that there was a show that night, so we decided to give it a shot.

She described the show as a sequel to The Nutcracker but also a crossover with War and Peace, and a musical. A "wonderful spectacle," in fact. I have to admit that we were basically morbidly curious, and it would get us inside those gorgeously ornate doors.

Anyway, we made it two songs in. The thing was in Ukrainian so we don't know what it was about but I don't think it would have made a lot of sense even if we did understand the language. It was kind of embarrassing to listen to.

But! It meant that we got to sneak out and take unobstructed photos of the glory that is the Odessa Opera House, and that was worth the ticket price alone. I hope you appreciate how hard it was to narrow these down. They don't half capture the actual, real spectacle that is this building, but I've given it my best.

pretty! )
sabotabby: (gaudeamus)
We went to the Odessa Opera House, one of the most famous and beautiful opera houses in the world.

behold! )
sabotabby: (coffee)
I feel like this needs to be a separate post from the OMG ODESSA IS SO PRETTY post. For one thing, these were taken on my shitty cell camera and not my iPad. But also they're pictures I've taken when I've seen something hella weird and immediately need to inform social media.

Let's just say there are some, uh, cultural differences between Ukraine and everywhere else I've ever been that take a bit of getting used to. FOR EXAMPLE:

What is this, some kinky sex thing? Maybe in that masochist bar that we didn't get into because your kink is okay but not my kink?

No! It is the café in the Lviv airport. Why do they have chairs like this? No one knows. But to answer a few questions:

1) Yes, we sat in them.
2) Yes, they are actually quite comfortable.
3) No, no one else seemed to think they were out of the ordinary in any way.

To answer a question no one asked:

1) Yes, the Americanos in that café are quite good, especially by airport standards, would totally recommend. Though, granted, it was like 5 am and I would have drank lighter fluid if it would have woken me up.

Our hotel in Lviv, while cute, had no elevator--a problem, since our room was on the 5th floor. (I may be an obsessive step-counter who never goes on an escalator when there's the option of a staircase, but at the end of the day when you've been walking/carrying bags? Less fun.) We were relieved to see that this hotel does have one. In fact, it has all of the regular floors you would expect to see in a building, such as 1, 2, 3, 4, and crab.

1) Yes, I know what's on the crab floor.
2) No, you'll have to wait and see until tomorrow if it's any good.
sabotabby: (magicians)
Sorry-not-sorry, but you will be getting a load of pictures of Odessa because it is fucking magical. My intention at the moment is to retire, sell my house, buy one of the dilapidated old buildings and restore it to its former glory, learn Russian (it's another city where most people speak Russian, not Ukrainian, much to our joy), and wander around the glorious streets at night in a fashionable dress, drinking an open bottle of champagne.

Life goals, amirite?

In all seriousness, though, not for nothing is Odessa called Paris on the Black Sea. It has all the architectural splendour and literary tradition you could hope for, it is cosmopolitan and fashionable, and it is lit. I have never been to Paris, granted, but from what I understand Odessa is much cheaper and not as crowded. In Kiev and Lviv, people are pretty much the same as anywhere else, except with a penchant for wearing poorly translated English t-shirts bearing inspirational but nonsensical slogans, expressions of general hatred towards anyone viewing the shirt, or just vague weirdness (my favourite so far was a picture of a cat made out of ramen noodles sitting in a bowl with the caption "Pet Food").

Here, though, everyone looks like a model. The women are all tall and thin and wear flowing striped dresses, and the children prance around in tutus at all hours of the night. The streets are alive with music and performers and what I'm pretty sure is a unicorn (i.e., incentive to look at the pictures under the cut).

plz appreciate how much I had to narrow these down )
sabotabby: (lolmarx)
We're in Odessa, about a 10 min walk from the !!!!!!!! Potemkin Steps.

Expect incoming photos for every day I'm here.

Srsly, I didn't even like Battleship Potemkin but I don't think a movie needs to be enjoyable to be arguably the most important movie ever made, with which we would not have our current cinematic vocabulary. I mean. I teach film. So naturally the first thing I had to do (well, after we had lunch and coffee because we were up at 4 am to catch the flight from Lviv) was brave the 30°C weather to bring you the following:

Don't mind me, I'll be over here geeking out hard/memorizing the angles in the scene so that I can do horrible imitations of them amongst all the tourists.

In Lviv

Jul. 18th, 2017 07:13 pm
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Default)
This is a gorgeous city, maybe even more than Kiev. It's also very much a City Of Coffee, and I highly approve. There's a café where, if you go into the basement, you can "mine" for coffee in the walls, but besides that, when we asked the hotel guy where to get good coffee, he looked at us weirdly and said, "it's ALL good coffee." A random selection would suggest he's right.

We did a walking tour, saw various churches, the Catholic Quarter, the Jewish Quarter, the Armenian Quarter, all of which seem very close together by contemporary standards. Lviv has changed hands over its history, and the references to Galicia made me do a Google and feel like an idiot because Lviv was in the heart of what had been Galicia, and that's where my grandfather was from.

Anyway, here is the new friend we made:

more pictures )
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Default)
We took the overnight train and got in at 6 am. Our hotel booking isn't until 2 pm, so we've just been wandering around and taking pictures of all the pretty architecture.

click to embiggen )
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Default)
Our last day in Kiev until the end of our trip. Here's a few quick glimpses of things we've seen, as we walked and walked. This is going to be a bunch of tiny pictures 'cause I'm writing from a café before we get on a night train for Lviv.

click for larger versions )


Jul. 16th, 2017 04:37 pm
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Default)
Viktor Yanyukovitch was president of the Ukraine from 2010-2014, until he was fairly dramatically deposed and fled to Russia as he is currently wanted for treason here. By all accounts, he was incredibly corrupt, and acquired the massive Mezhyhirya estate with public funds. As wealth and corruption is no guarantee of taste, when asked which architectural style he wanted to build his massive palaces in, he must have replied, "fuckin' all of them," because when protestors walked in and took over the place in 2014, they were appalled not just at the excesses (which included a car museum, a zoo, a golf course, several tennis courts, and orchards), but at his alarming taste in decor.

It now belongs to the people and is a destination for Ukrainians to have weddings, bike around, and generally point and laugh. Also there are gigantic thrones and Greco-Roman ruins for no apparent reason.

pictures! )
sabotabby: (gaudeamus)
I admittedly did little but eating and sleeping, as everyone is exhausted. We're staying right behind Maidan Nezalezhnosti, though, and even the laziest traveller could not fail to be moved by its beauty.

Post-2014 demonstrations, it is plastered with photos and memorials to the dead. No one goes out in Kiev this time of year except at night, when the fountains explode like fireworks and street musicians busk and young couples laugh and dance in the streets.

We grabbed dinner at an adorable café that, shock of all shocks, had food I could eat: mushroom kasha and vareniki stuffed with sour cherry, and sour cherry infused vodka.

Then exhaustion got the better of us and I probably slept more than I have in months. Awake bright and early now to do proper exploring.

P.S. Sorry for the size and quality of the images; DW's image hosting + being on my iPad makes for an unfortunate combination.

sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (AK Hello Kitty/springheel_jack)
Mike Harris, yes, that Mike Harris, the most vile piss streak in the history of Ontario politics, is apparently leading a mission to observe the Ukrainian presidential election.

First reaction: What could possibly go wrong?

Second reaction: Hasn't Ukraine suffered enough?

Third reaction: ...but can we leave him there?
sabotabby: (books!)
As promised, some words about the most horrific book I have ever read.

It's called Voices from Chernobyl: the oral history of a nuclear disaster, written by Svetlana Alexievich and translated by Keith Gessen. Alexievich interviewed hundreds of people affected by the Chernobyl meltdown, including liquidators sent in to clean up the disaster, firefighters, scientists, soldiers, family members of victims, and, most chillingly, young children. I'm not sure whether it's their stories, her editing and transcription, or Gessen's phenomenal translation, but there's a haunting lyricism to the monologues that places the reader at Ground Zero of the humanitarian catastrophe of these stories.

I'm afraid of the rain. That's what Chernobyl is. I'm afraid of snow, of the forest. This isn't an abstraction, a mind game, but an actual human feeling. Chernobyl is my home. It's in the most precious thing: my son, who was born in the spring of 1986. Now he's sick. Animals, even cockroaches, they know how much and when they should give birth. But people don't know how to do that. God didn't give us the power of foresight. A while ago in the papers it said that in Belarus alone, in 1993 there were 200,000 abortions. Because of Chernobyl. We all live with that fear now. Nature has sort of rolled up, waiting. Zarathustra would have said: "Oh, my sorrow! Where has the time gone?"

I think I was startled by just how compelling and awful I found this, given that I've read plenty of books on the Holocaust and Hiroshima and Iraq and Afghanistan and Palestine and the Congo and Bhopal. Maybe it's because the Chernobyl meltdown happened when I was seven, and is one of those events that stuck in my mind and gave me nightmares, or because, while there are no shortage of disasters and wars and horrible things that can happen, Chernobyl was unpredictable and, as we saw in Japan, can easily happen again. Could have happened here. But it's also the luminous quality of the writing that makes the suffering and death depicted in these pages feel incredibly concrete and present.

On a more cheerful note, I went to Word on the Street today and picked up an incredible haul:

The Female of the Species, Sarah McCully. Sarah and I were friends in high school, but from the description of the book, I'd still be completely eager to read it even if I didn't know her. She's also an incredible musician and I bought her CD as well.

The Panic Button, Koom Kankesan. I know Koom as well, through teacherly things. Anyway, Alan Moore recommended it, which is good enough for me. I can't believe that someone I know (albeit not someone I know well, but still) is in communication with Moore. I seriously envision him living this Salingeresque life of hermitude that he emerges from only to write the occasional comic and make disparaging remarks about cinematic adaptations of his work.

Book of Disorders, Luciano Iacobelli.

Teaching Rebellion: stories from the grassroots mobilization in Oaxaca, Diana Denham and the C.A.S.A. Collective. I'd never heard of this book but I think it's obvious why I'd have picked it up.

Zot, Scott McCloud. I feel it is probably essential to read this.

Barnum: In Secret Service to the USA, Howard Chaykin. Never heard of it, but I liked the cover and it's by Howard Chaykin.

The Authority: Human on the Inside, John Ridley. I didn't read very far past Ellis' run on The Authority, and that clearly needed to be remedied.

I also picked up some cool t-shirts, one from Canadian Journalists for Free Expression and another from Spacing Magazine, and three issues of Shameless for my class.

I am very pleased about this, as I ran out of books that I own, haven't read, and am excited to read. I've got some holds at the library but I'm going through a new book every few days. One of my holds is Das Kapital, which should keep me out of trouble for awhile, but in the meantime I need some good commuting reading.

In other news, I have a migraine. Still. The pills aren't helping.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (iww manifesto)
More on this later when I don't have to go to bed in six minutes, but please check out [ profile] red_news and add it to your friends list. Workers occupying a factory in Kherson, Ukraine (Trotsky's birthplace!) are urgently in need of your support. As far as I know, this story has yet to hit the English-language media, and [ profile] zemleroi is frantically translating this stuff as it happens.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Default)
More on this later when I don't have to go to bed in six minutes, but please check out [ profile] red_news and add it to your friends list. Workers occupying a factory in Kherson, Ukraine (Trotsky's birthplace!) are urgently in need of your support. As far as I know, this story has yet to hit the English-language media, and [ profile] zemleroi is frantically translating this stuff as it happens.


sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Default)

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