Sunday April 27th 2008, 10:31 pm
Filed under: News
Today a 42-year-old Austrian woman called Elisabeth F. was rescued from a cellar where her father imprisoned her for 24 years. The woman, who had been sexually abused since she was eleven, was drugged and handcuffed in the cellar when she was eighteen. She gave birth to seven children while in the cellar; the father adopted three of the children that his supposedly runaway daughter “left on his doorstep,” while three of the children remained with the daughter in the cellar. These children are today 19, 18 and 5. Until now, they had never seen sunlight their entire lives.
Which makes this screenshot from the Times Online rather sinister:
Notice the quote in the corner: “Why would someone choose to be outside in the oppressive sunshine?”
The quote comes from a weekly column by Ariel Leve – this particular article commenting on an outdoor New York therapist. The whole quote goes like this: “Why would someone choose to be outside in the oppressive sunshine when they can be safely inside in the womb-like safety of a darkened room?” In relation to the Elisabeth F. story, it’s kind of yucky all around.
Friday April 18th 2008, 11:45 pm
Filed under: Film
If you watch The Riches, you know what I’m talking about. It’s a darn soap opera, with stakes raised higher, beyond any you-slept-with-my-husband-so-I-will-sleep-with-your-father drama. We’re talking go-to-jail-forever kinda stakes.
I should have never started watching television again.
Seriously, I hate this show. I nearly pee my pants with each episode I am so frightened for the characters. If I were this family’s m/patriarch, I would have sold off the furniture and cars a long time ago, and used the money to buy a real house and send the kids off to a normal school. But no. That does not make a story.
I took notes during the last episode. Basically, there are now six problems:
The private detective on Pete Minsey’s trail.
The Irish ex-con with a degree. What’s his deal already? For what are the show’s writers saving him up?
The Cael-running-away business. That cute chick is bad news.
The Russian mafia creep. Eek. Hugh is so benign in comparison.
The parole officer. Here’s one problem you can’t solve by killing off.
Dale. Yeah, he’s nice now… And what happened to his one-armed girlfriend?
The only way out is that Di Di starts working to support herself and her brother as her parents live out their prison sentences. Or the whole family immigrates to Paraguay.
It was cute at first, Paco’s high-pitched whee-whee-whee siren call whenever they heard a plastic bag rustling in the distance. Little bugger knew that timothy hay, carrots, cucumbers and assorted guinea pig favourites are borne forth when this noise happens. Then, when shy Chuy joined in, I was relieved he wasn’t a creepy, sullen thing any more.
Then the whee-whee-whee siren started when we opened the fridge. Ha! I thought. The guinea pigs are smart. They can put two and two together, lil’ dahlinks.
One day, the whee-whee-whee began as soon as we came into the room. Ok, starting to get annoying. But smart little buggers.
The next step was getting out of bed – on a different floor of the house! One foot out of bed and we get whee-whee-whee.
Now they just wail their sirens whenever they see me. Yes! I get it! You guys want food! Well, fuck you. Er, on second thought, here have some timothy hay. Just. Please. Be. Quiet. What? That’s not enough? More carrot sticks? And a side of cilantro? Yes, sirs! Right away, sirs!
Tuesday April 15th 2008, 11:26 pm
Filed under: Blogging
I’ve started to notice a trend. When I don’t blog, this site gets lots of visitors. Yet, as soon as I put up a post, all visits drop. It’s like people come here, see a post, and think, Oh, shit, she’s blogged. Then they get the heck out of Dodge.
I recently discovered the Urban Style blog, full of photos of what cool young things from BucureÈ™ti are wearing. Not as much colour as I would wear, despite a few winter coats and tights on the brighter side of the palette, yet, I grew up knowing that Romanians have fashion sense (even the men – I don’t care what you say, MaikoPunk). Canadians in your ugly fleece, goretex and soccer mom Lululemon ensembles, look over this blog, then burn your wardrobe.
Fashionable as they are, however, young Romanians just wear western clothes. Someone could drop off a dozen Romanian teenagers in any North American neighbourhood and, aside from the better combinations and colour choices, you’d think they were just regular Anglo-Saxon kids.
Yet amid all the fashion that could be anywhere, there’s this super original dude:
Let’s see: he’s got his traistÄƒ (Romanian woollen bag), his black cÄƒciulÄƒ on his head, a vest, and his traditional straight shirt (with what looks like a belt).
Dressed in the most Romanian of Romanian peasant wear, all that’s missing are the opinci.
Opinci are made of a single rectangle of cow, ox or pig hide gathered round the foot in various ways. Two main types are found in Romania but with numerous zonal variations…..Opinci were tied to the feet using one or more nojitÄƒ (narrow strips of leather or strings made of goats or horsetail hair which is usually died black although white is used in Moldavia)…..Many 18th and 19th century pictures show Romanian peasants wearing opinci, though by the 20th century this form of footwear had become less common. F B Florescu, in her book on Romanian opinci said that this form of footwear had completely disappeared by 1957 (Florecu 1957).
As the next photo attests, we can exhibit our Romanian-ness by wearing our opinci:
The PNÈšCD is a successor to the National Peasant Party which was founded in 1869. It was banned under the Communist regime in 1947, but remerged in 1989, at which time it refused to work with the National Salvation Front (FSN) due to the FSN’s high concentration of former communists. The PNÈšCD has undergone numerous splits and mergers. Following poor results in the 2004 election, the PNÈšCD merged with the Union for Romanian Revival (Uniunea pentru RenaÈ™terea RomÃ¢niei, URR) and formed the Christian Democrat People’s Party (Partidul Popular CreÈ™tin Democrat, PPCD) which promotes a centrist platform. The party’s leader is Marian Petre MiluÈ›.
But back to the Urban Style dude: he is one cool kid. More Romanian young people should emulate his example and stop being so ashamed of being Romanian. If someone sees this dude on some BucureÈ™ti street, give him a pat on the back from me.
Tuesday April 01st 2008, 12:03 am
Filed under: Books
Continuing on my pan-African reading binge, I recently finished listening to A Long Way Gone, as narrated by the author Ishmael Beah. You probably already know who this writer is – the Sierra Leone boy soldier who fought on the side of government forces against the Revolutionary United Front, or RUF, in that country’s civil war.
The memoir is roughly divided in half, with Mr. Beah’s wanderings as a child refugee in the first part of the book, and his rehabilitation into civilian society making up the second half. Though the book describes his induction into the army, along with a few flashbacks to his army exploits, the author passes off most of his experience as a child soldier in the book by mentioning he was a child soldier for two years, then moving on rather abruptly to his rehabilitation.
Many books written by or about refugees stop right at the part where our protagonist survives and makes it out alive. I always ask, then what? Being a refugee myself, I know that the story never ends with “And they all lived happily after.” Sometimes the hardest (but sometimes boring) part of being whisked off to safety involves having to rebuild one’s life afterwards. For example, what happened to the Jews after the Holocaust? Some did live happily ever after, but others went back to their homes only to be murdered in ongoing anti-semitic violence; most stayed in the camps for years before they immigrated to Israel. What about Darfur’s refugees? Those of us here in Vancouver will be surprised to know that many of them are among us, trying to figure out our banking system, how to get a job, and how to get their kids in school. Maybe in thirty years some local museum oral history assistant will realize that these refugees should be interviewed.
With Mr. Beah’s book, he tantalizingly offers us tidbits of his life after this book’s ending: “she was to be my new mother in New York,” “I went to high school in the United States,” etc. (All paraphrased: I don’t have the book in front of me.) How did he get from safety in Sierra Leone Embassy in Conakry, in neighbouring Guinea to New York? How did he get money for that phone call he made to New York? Did his New York contact pay for his airfare? Was it easy to get a visa for the US?
To me, that is just as interesting a part of the story as how he survived in the jungle on mystery fruits. Yet, because he ends at the point where he is about to leave Africa, the presumed North American reader can A) close the book with a smile because it has achieved its “happily ever after,” and B) not have to think about what immigration to the US (and Canada) entails.
A Long Way Gone ends with a story Mr. Beah remembers from his own village:
A hunter goes into the forest to hunt monkeys. He comes across a monkey sitting on a branch, eating away, and approaches the monkey, poised to shoot it with an arrow.The monkey then speaks up: “If you kill me, your mother will die. If you don’t kill me, your father will die.”
If you were the hunter, what would you do?
Unlike many other questions, Mr. Beah answers this last question to satisfaction. If you haven’t read A Long Way Gone, what do you suppose the best – and Mr. Beah’s – answer could be?
Update: I just noticed: the kid in the picture has a very floppy flipflop.