The Sun Rode Into the Sky

Saule Brauca Debesīs (see title for translation) is a neat little Latvian animation film coming out soon (November 15). It’s part of the ‘100 Films for 100 Years’ cycle going on this year, what with the centenary and all. I think it quite lovelily demonstrates the oddity that is Latvian animation and art – it’s got its own style that is distinctively, traditionally Latvian, and the story is taken from folklore: folk songs and folk story motifs are a heavy influence. I think it’s adorable. Here’s the trailer:

I don’t think you need too much of the language to get an idea of the plot.

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Tummy Thursday: Rfissa

Recently I talked to one of my colleagues about how my kid had better been born in a society where you eat with your fingers. This made her drool about Moroccan food, which you do eat with your fingers (though there are of course strict rules of hygiene and politeness), and she mentioned something she really needs to make again. Of course i asked for the recipe and because you’ve all been very good kids, I share.

Flat bread:

600g soft durum wheat semolina

300g flour

1 tsp salt

at least 400ml of warm water.

Mix until there’s a rubbery dough, let rest for 10 minutes. Form small calls with lightly oiled hands, let them rest for 20 minutes. Roll/pull until they#re almost translucent, fry in a lightly oiled pan, let cool and tear apart.

I only used half the recipe and that was more than enough for 3 adults and 2 kids. Making the bread was a hello lot of work and I think I’d prefer to make it for a dinner where its role is more prominent. I also didn’t tear it into pieces.

Flat bread frying in pan

©Giliell, all rights reserved

flat bread

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Chicken:

Wash a chicken and cut into pieces, fry for a few minutes in a large pot with some oil. Add two large onions in not too small strips. Fill the pot 3/4 with water and season. The recipe says “to taste” and suggested ginger, ras el hanout, fenugreek, cumin, stock, coriander.

After 30 minutes add lentils and keep cooking. About 10 minutes before the lentils are done, add two more roughly cut onions and some parsley.

I didn’t use a whole chicken but chicken legs because 1 chicken is exactly too little for 5. For seasoning I used beef stock, fenugreek, cumin, black caraway seed, orange pepper, garlic and chili. I used small red lentils because they nicely fall apart and make a velvety sauce. I also only added my parsley after the cooking. And I cried a lot because onions.

Rfissa

©Giliell, all rights reserved

The picture doesn’t do it justice. It’s very delicious and savoury. And since the sauce was basically onions and lentils, #1 ate two big servings. With her fingers.

Macedonia 5 – Stillness

One impression that I was left with after my trip was a sense of… unfinished? The opposite of stillness. It’s hard to explain. The city of Skopje was such a mix of modern, ancient, renovated and decrepit, and through it all it was clear that Things were Happening, but… there was also a sense of organized chaos? I have a lot of question marks in my thoughts about the city, and the best I’ve been able to tell people is It was interesting. I think the one conclusion I will come away with is that there is no need for conclusions.

In any case, Skopje is full of statues – hollow statues – so many figures standing or sitting around or holding epic poses, it’s quite grand. And many of them are large! Immense! Makes you feel a bit small, to be honest. And the sort of grandiosity that puts me a bit on edge. Here’s a very, very, very tiny sample:

Alexander the Great, of course.
©rq, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

The view from under the arches of a medieval bridge… not even the oldest object around.
©rq, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Upskirt photography at its finest.
©rq, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

The other side of the bottom of the previous statue – sitting around for ages!
©rq, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

A paeon to motherhood, I assumed – I might add that nobody was looking particularly thrilled.
©rq, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

I am frighteningly ignorant when it comes to good music from the region, though, so here’s Loreena McKennitt instead. I intend to work on my musical diversity.

Jack’s Walk

Last year we didn’t really have too much of an autumn show of colour. Instead, most trees just went from green to brown to leafless. This year, though, autumn is glorious and all the trees are wearing their best, bright party dresses. Jack and I invite you to join us as we stroll around our neighbourhood and look at all the pretty October colour.

Just starting to colour up

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A Soviet Heritage

So this happened. And yes, snowflake that I am, I find it offensive. Deeply so.

“We are disappointed that the largest retailer in the world and in the U.S., Walmart, does not acknowledge or respect the millions of victims of various nationalities, who suffered under the Soviet regime – those deported, including the elderly, infants and children, political prisoners, dissidents, members of resistance movements and all those who lost their lives, health or family in the Gulag or other repressions of the Soviet totalitarianism,” a letter to Walmart, signed by the chairman of the Estonian Pro Patria party, Helir-Valdor Seeder, Estonia’s minister of justice, Urmas Reinsalu, and the Estonian member of the European Parliament, Tunne Kelam, said.

It’s like some symbols of authoritarian regimes are verboten, while others… are hip and trendy? By virtue of being labelled differently? (And yes, the term ‘communist’ as applied to the Soviet Union bears little resemblance to its application to the underlying philosophy, but this is not that discussion.)

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Equus

One thing people may or may not know about me: I luuuuuurrrrve horses. Sorry not sorry, I do. And while some of us have had very varied experiences with them, I would like to share something that tends more towards the wondrous grace and amazing beauty of this magnificent animal.

Mari Lwyd by Rhyn Williams, at DeviantArt

Okay, okay, that’s not the subject of this post, but seeing as Halloween season is approaching fast, here’s more info via HyperAllergic on the Mari Lwyd phenomenon. (Very pagan, and I love to see these spooky traditions still maintained today.)

Anyway.

So, in short, I am both happy and sad: I recently discovered a new documentary series on HORSES! on the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, ha) website.

Here’s the trailer:

And oh my gosh, it’s horses, and wild scenery, and people, and dramatic music and slo-mos, and wow! I thought it was a four-part, but it’s a three-part mini-series (part one, part two, part three). Why so sad? Because the videos are only available in Canada (as anyone not in Canada might have already discovered by clicking those links). The CBC does have a youtube channel, but it’s been no more helpful, because from what I can tell, this hasn’t been posted yet (or maybe it’s because I haven’t subscribed).

The article that led me to this find is here, unfortunately for some reason I cannot find the actual article on my computer so you have to settle for the mobile version.

Our ancestors settled every corner of the planet on foot. But when we harnessed horsepower — roughly 6,000 years ago — the human story changed forever. For clever-but-slow Homo sapiens, the strength and speed of horses was a perfect complement. Horses transported us, pulled our loads, plowed out fields, herded our livestock, and carried us into battle (or sped us away from danger). In ways no other animal could, horses were our constant and irreplaceable companion.

In the age of machines, we still talk about “horsepower.” But horses have lost their central place in human life; we now keep them as pets and companions.

But while their importance in the human world is fading, there are some horse cultures that survive today. In Equus: Story of the Horse, we meet some of them.

The documentary visits Kazakh nomads, the Yakuts of Northern Siberia, the Blackfoot of the Western Plains, and the Bedouin. Some of those horses (the northern ones) are seriously cute.

In honour of all horses who inspire us (in one way or another), here’s a fusion of Mongolian throat singing and traditional Latvian folk music. It is quite something. Don’t forget to enjoy the gorgeous scenery, too!

Epics

There are many epic stories out there – it seems people throughout the ages have been entertained by stories of improbable heroism, impossible deeds, romance, tragedy, magic, friendship, betrayal and the binary battle between good and evil. Latvians are no different, except our own epic poem, Lāčplēsis (Bearslayer) dates not from centuries or millennia ago, but from the end of the 19th century. The author, Andrejs Pumpurs, took liberties with folk stories and expanded a typical hero’s tale into a mythical legend of the pagan fight against christianization. Lāčplēsis’ origins are a matter of slight debate, as in some versions, he was born of a bear with the ears of a bear, and his ears were where his strength resided – in other versions, he was merely adopted by a bear and raised in the woods until a local king found him and took him in, or he wore a hat of bears’ ears, where he hid his strength. In any case, he meets his tragic end tumbling over a cliff into the river Daugava while fighting the crusading Black Knight, and, as always, it is said he will come again at a time of greatest need (so far, no sign – I guess that’s a good thing?).

What’s very interesting is that Lāčplēsis is very much a national symbol – the highest military honour one can receive is the Bearslayer medal (Lāčplēša ordenis), and he is trotted out for all kinds of events and by the most nationalistic political parties – who are, the vast majority, very right-leaning christian. How they reconcile a supremely pagan hero with their beliefs, I don’t know – especially one who lived a rather non-traditional life-style during one portion of the epic (the author borrowed ideas, and I find interesting the possible connection between bears and the etymology of Arthur). But there it is.

Anyway. The story was put into musical form (a ‘rock opera’) in the 1980s, to great acclaim. Every now and then, a new performance is prepared, and the next one is due in early November. As it happens, it will be a full choir-and-orchestra version (the best kind!) and my choir will be among those performing. It’s a melodramatic piece of music, the best kind to perform, full of deep texts about freedom and bravery and time running through fingers like sand and other major themes, and lots of opportunity to sing your heart out together with the string and brass sections (and the cymbals!). I expect it will be a wonderful experience.

Here’s a small sample, a medley of some of the main songs, from the vocal-symphonic music concert from 2013 (I hope the video starts at the 1.43:08 mark). I’m not going to translate all the words, just the four lines of the final section so you can have a small idea of the drama of the words:

It is not water that flows in the Daugava, it is time

It is not blood that flows in your veins, it is time

It is not a wave that washes over us, it is time

It is not the whirlpool that twists into rings, it is time

25. Vispārējo latviešu dziesmusvētku Vokāli simfoniskās mūzikas koncerts Rīgas arēnā

The short guy on the left has one of my favourite voices ever.

(The video contains the entire vocal-symphonic concert, which I recommend if you like classical music. If you listen to the very end, the very last song is conducted by, in my opinion, one of the most talented conductors out there. Before taking over at the National Opera, he was artistic director of my choir, and his style and interpretation have biased me against many another worthy conductor.)

Chinese Fabric Art

Opus has sent us a special treat… a few pictures taken while he was visiting China. The photos are full of energy and bright, bold colour and I can’t help but think that it must have been very special to see this art with people who understand its true value. Thanks so much for sharing, Opus.

 Pictures from Lijiang in southern China.  I visited with a couple of fabric artists who wanted to see the work done by local women. We were not disappointed!  The woman with the elaborately embroidered headwear is Naxi, best I can remember.  Lijiang is on an ancient trade route, the Tea-Horse road, which was used to trade tea from southern China for Tibetan horses.

©Opus, all rights reserved

©Opus, all rights reserved

©Opus, all rights reserved

Affinity is growing

It is with great delight that I announce that rq is joining the blogging team here at Affinity. Many of you are familiar with rq from the comments section of the blog where she has been contributing for many years. She is now ready to step up and do some blogging herself and we couldn’t be happier. She brings a lot to our team and we can expect posts on an interesting mix of subjects ranging from Baltic culture to the arts. Perhaps she’ll even share a peek into the random and interesting things that cross her path. For now there will be no fixed schedule for rq’s posts. Instead, they will come as happy little surprises that surface amidst our already mixed bag.

So now we are four. Four bloggers in four different countries, all with different interests and different points of view, but all wanting to share our worlds with you. We’re also a curious bunch and we want this blog to be a vibrant international community where other people share their worlds with us. That’s one of the best parts of Affinity. It has many voices and you just never know what will pop up. We also hope that one of those voices will be yours. We still invite you to share your favourite recipes, photos, arts and crafts with us. You don’t have to be a great photographer or a master artist to contribute. I’m certainly neither of those things.

I would also like to take a minute to acknowledge the founder of Affinity, Caine. This blog was her vision and she always welcomed contributions from her readers. Her voice was always encouraging and it is because of her support that I even dared to try blogging. Caine expressed a desire for rq to become part of this blog and I know that she would be thrilled by the news.

Affinity just became more interesting. I hope you’ll all help me welcome rq.

Slavic Saturday

OK, I’ll bite. Last week Rob Grigjanis mentioned Antonín Dvořák and he indeed is one of Czech composers whose work is dear to my heart. I particularly like his Slavonic Dances, Opus 46. I was looking for a video that I like and unfortunately the only one that I do cannot be embedded, so you would have to head over to Czech TV Website. I hope it works for out-of state too. Other recordings that I have found on YouTube I did not like – right at the first dance “Furiant” seemed either too fast or too bland.

That I make such judgement is slightly ironic and possibly unfair to the musicians. I do not dance at all and I hate it, particularly polka. Surely everyone knows polka, although not everyone knows that it is originally Czech dance. My experience with it is however rather unpleasant – I was always a bad dancer, but it was seen as somewhat required to take dance lessons in highschool, so I did, being awkward and clumsy all the time despite my best effort. And polka was for me the last straw in this string of tortures – at the end of the lesson my disgruntled dance partner has lifted her skirt and has shown me her feet that were kicked and stomped bloody. That put a final crimp in my (non-existent as it was) desire to dance that dance ever again, since I try not to hurt people on principle.

It is not that I do not have a sense of rhythm, but everyone tells me polka has two and a half step (hence the name půlka(half)-polka), however I simply hear three steps and that daft little half-skip just tangles both my brain and my feet. Not that other dances are much better with their inane jumping and turning and all that nonsense. I do not see the point of dancing, really.

But the music can be beautiful and can move me to tap my feet or nod my head a little. That much I admit.

Behind the Iron Curtain part 17 – Advertisements

These are my recollections of a life behind the iron curtain. I do not aim to give perfect and objective evaluation of anything, but to share my personal experiences and memories. It will explain why I just cannot get misty eyed over some ideas on the political left and why I loathe many ideas on the right.


For today I had to pick a theme that is really, really short.

And there really is not much to say about this, astounding as it might sound in today’s time. Nowadays commercial advertisements are everywhere – not only on TV and in magazines, but in newspapers, on billboards along the roads, on buildings and, of course, on the internet. And from what I gather, they were very common in the West in the past too, minus the internet.

However behind the Iron Curtain, commercial advertisements were very nearly unknown. The only place I remember ever seeing them was on TV between the programs – but never in the programs. Such a thing as an advertisement in the middle of a movie or a tv-series episode was unheard of.

Another typical feature of the advertisements that I remember was that they were product-oriented, not brand oriented. Since all brands were state-owned, and all production was centrally planned, there were no brands that would compete to sell the same product. Further the advertisements were so dull, that I only remember a single one – for milk. A glass of milk stood on a table, a man walks up to it, drinks it, and puts the empty glass back to a background of singing chorus “For your beauty and your health. What? Of course milk, milk, milk!”

Where I live we did pick up West German TV, so we knew that things look differently over there, but not knowing German, we did not know how different they are and what lies in store for us. This is one of the rare instances when I think that the “good ol’ times” actually were, you know, good.

Wackaloon

Liz Crokin, right wing “journalist” has recently lost the tips of two fingers in a surfing accident and is blaming Hilary Clinton as the cause.

While she realizes that it was probably “just a freak accident,” that didn’t stop her from also asserting that it may have been the result of a curse that had been placed on her by Hillary Clinton or artist Marina Abramović or some other “witch” that is targeting her due to her efforts to expose the secret satanic cannibalistic pedophile cult that supposedly runs the world.

Is it just me, or do other people think that the right wing of America have lost their minds. I can almost get past their belief in their God (almost, but not really), but what is up with the belief in witches and spells and curses. Do they really think we live in Harry Potter World full of magic, and if so why isn’t their all-powerful, all-seeing God doing something about it? It seems to me that it just highlights the impotence of their sky God. It all seems so totally illogical and totally ridiculous. The full story is at Right Wing Watch, if you can stomach it. Just a word of warning, if you click on the links inside the story be prepared for even more ridiculous right wing thinking.

 

The Handmade Dilemma

The heat is killing me. Temperatures outdoor during the day over 35 °C, overnight never lower than 18 °C. Temperatures indoor 28 °C throughout the day and there is nothing I can do about it – if I open the windows wide, the house will be swarmed by mosquitoes in minutes. I have nets, in some windows, and in normal weather those suffice for ventilation. Not in this weather though.

So works on the dagger progresses at a snail’s pace. Not that it matters much, because snail’s pace is also the speed at which linseed oil hardens. But it means it is unlikely I will have anything to post about it anytime soon. However, that does not stop me thinking about stuff and one of the things I am thinking about – will it be fair to say, that the dagger is handmade?

In the past, when I have made a knife, it was truly and undoubtedly handmade. The only electrical tool I had was a drill that I used to make holes for pins. Everything else I had to do manually, with hand-held and hand powered tools, whereas today I have a table top belt grinder, handheld belt grinder, an angle grinder, a lathe, a bandsaw, a circular saw and a jigsaw. And in due course I intend to build a power hammer and a polishing drum.

And I do not spare any of those electrical tools. If I can save time or my muscles by using electricity, I do it without hesitation. But there are some purists, who would argue that therefore things I do are not handmade.

I disagree with that.

The way I see it, these electrical tools are nothing but providers of raw power. They do not provide or increase any skill – all that still has to come from my hands, because ultimately they guide either the tool or the workpiece during work and therefore determine its quality. In fact, some of the tools – especially the belt grinder – require a slightly different set of skills to do the work properly, than doing the same work with bastard file and a set of polishing stones would.

So I think the dagger is handmade. And purists can go and purify themselves.