A fixture of my childhood has passed away suddenly. The sister of my godfather, actually. I went to Latvian school with her children, and she was certainly an unstoppable force – abrasive yet good-natured, she didn’t stand much for politeness where undeserved, or properness where a bit of liveliness would do; she had opinions and wasn’t afraid to let them out. She laughed loudly, sang loudly in church, and wore flamboyant hats in loud colours.

We weren’t close, but I’m going to miss her.

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.

Jack’s Walk

Jack with Mr. voyager, ©voyager, all rights reserved

That handsome fellow with Jack is Mr. Voyager and the photo was taken on the boardwalk in Perce about a month ago on the occasion of our 25th Wedding Anniversary. We’re not the type of people who make a big fuss about things like that so we didn’t have a party or go out for a fancy meal and we didn’t exchange gifts. Instead, we went down to the beach and set off fireworks just like we do every year. We did talk about giving each other gifts, but in the end we decided that we’d rather save up for a trip. During that discussion Mr. V mentioned that I haven’t yet posted a picture of him on this blog. I got the definite feeling that he’d enjoy it if I did, but I wanted it to be a surprise so I waited a month. I hope he’s pleasantly pleased.

YouTube video “People who like martial arts and weapons are normal”

Well, some of them are. Some are assholes and some are downright dangerous. And some are capable of formulating comprehensive (though not perfect) argument for their point of view. I must say that I too don’t find watching people kicking spherical object around the field for 90 minutes even remotely entertaining.

However if we take “normal” in this context to mean “not different from any other group of people” then I would say the title is completely correct. Assholes and dangerous people are in any and all human congregations. The compounding problem here is that while a dangerous footballer will at the worst hurt one o their fellows on the playing field, a dangerous person with a gun can do much more damage.

I think I could have a reasonable discussion with Matt Easton, author of this video and I think he missed slightly a good opportunity to enhance his point by not wearing his “Fighters Against Racism” T-shirt in this one.

To me this is another issue that is not clear-cut black&white. We have a saying in Czech “Když dva dělají totéž, není to vždy totéž.” – When two (persons) do the same thing, it is not always the same thing.  It applies here.

The key difference is the attitude and intent. Weapon collectors will grumble about laws that restrict their hobby, but most of them will respect the law and for example limit their collecting to weapons of the type that is legal in their country and they will buy ammo and shoot only a the shooting range for example. They will not found and congregate in corporation-like organizations lobbying for complete abandonment of said laws . They will not amas  a load of super-modern weaponry and pallets of ammo to go with it. They will hunt the rare, the peculiar, the unique pieces.

It is possible to appreciate weapons for their aesthetics and technical intricacy and enjoy learning the skills to use them without ever hurting anyone, or ever wanting to hurt anyone. And it is possible to pursue such hobby even in a country with strict gun laws – only, like in any other hobbies, other people’s needs have to be taken into account and respected.

A Love Letter To Bolivia.

© Kevin Faingnaert.

© Kevin Faingnaert.

© Kevin Faingnaert.

© Kevin Faingnaert.

Belgian photographer Kevin Faingnaert spent a month capturing what he calls a love letter to Bolivia, penned to, “the land and to the generations of people and animals who have shaped it.”

Bolivia is a country of extremes: from the Andes to the Amazon, its landscape offers seemingly infinite horizons, each more spectacular than the next. Enchanted by both the topographic extremes and the cultural tradition of the country, Faingnaert photographed what he saw as he traveled from the famed Lake Titicaca, across the Salt Flats and to the wild-west of the country. In the interview below, we spoke to him about his month in Bolivia, the majesty of its landscape, and the traditions that still thrive there.

You can read and see so much more at iGNANT. Amazing photographs!

My Kind of Study.

It’s long been associated with anger and coarseness but profanity can have another, more positive connotation. Psychologists have learned that people who frequently curse are being more honest. Writing in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science a team of researchers from the Netherlands, the UK, the USA and Hong Kong report that people who use profanity are less likely to be associated with lying and deception.

Anyone who has been reading me for any length of time knows I tend to cuss. A lot. Can’t say I’ve ever considered it to be a possible mark of honesty though.

The international team of researchers set out to gauge people’s views about this sort of language in a series of questionnaires which included interactions with social media users.

In the first questionnaire 276 participants were asked to list their most commonly used and favourite swear words. They were also asked to rate their reasons for using these words and then took part in a lie test to determine whether they were being truthful or simply responding in the way they thought was socially acceptable. Those who wrote down a higher number of curse words were less likely to be lying.

This is interesting, but I have to wonder if the ability to lie was taken into account. Many children in abusive situations learn to lie extremely well. I was one of those, and while I can rarely be arsed to lie in adulthood, I am very good at it. Someone who is a good liar wouldn’t neglect a good intensifier. There’s an obvious tendency for those listening to take someone at their word, too. That would answer for people assuming someone who was cussing to be truthful, because we still have that ‘in polite company’ thing in our heads. We are, well most of us, taught that cussing isn’t polite from a very early age. Our languages are littered with euphemisms in place of cussing, which are considered to be acceptable, golly, darn, geez, etc. A lot of that has to do with so much cussing being religiously based.

A second survey involved collecting data from 75,000 Facebook users to measure their use of swear words in their online social interactions. The research found that those who used more profanity were also more likely to use language patterns that have been shown in previous research to be related to honesty, such as using pronouns like “I” and “me”. The Facebook users were recruited from across the United States and their responses highlight the differing views to profanity that exist between different geographical areas. For example, those in the north-eastern states (such as Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey and New York) were more likely to swear whereas people were less likely to in the southern states (South Carolina, Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi).

As a native Californian, cussing was often heard, and often a part of any conversation. Especially if you were in the surfing crowd. Here in nDakota, cussing is not heard much at all, and it’s frowned upon for the most part. That’s changed a bit over the past 20 years, but not a great deal. The more rural you go, the more frowning it gets.

The full story is here.

A Profile in Avoidance.

The couple with Donald’s daughter Ivanka at the 2004 Met Gala.
By Evan Agostini/Getty Images.

Vanity Fair has an interesting profile of Melania Trump, who, it seems, simply wanted a life of quiet avoidance cushioned by a great deal of money. Interesting reading, but also truly sad, a look at brittle, splintery, unhappy lives.

As the gorgeous wife of a Manhattan billionaire, Melania has had every opportunity to become a fixture on the gala-going benefit circuit. But that would presume an interest in social status or a cause. As Bytner recalls, “She was passionate about . . . Well, I can’t think what she was passionate about.”


Trump decided not to run in 2012, saying he wasn’t ready to leave the private sector. Four years later, the time had come. Trump’s official story is that he consulted with his family about his decision to run, and they all agreed. A former campaign aide recalls a conversation in which Melania told this aide that she didn’t want Donald to run, because she was terrified he might win. According to another Trump insider, “She never wanted this, and never had any interest.” (Grisham maintains that “Mrs. Trump has always been supportive of all her husband’s endeavors.”) Tolerating his boorishness—that she could do. Repeating a couple of lame sound bites to Joy Behar—fine. But serious campaigning for one’s spouse required far more actual effort.

Melania seemed to do her best to ignore the new reality, on the grounds that she wanted to be home for Barron. Over the course of Trump’s 17-month campaign, she rarely joined her husband at rallies, and the speeches she gave could be counted on one hand. Compare that with Michelle Obama, who spoke all over the country on Barack’s behalf, though she too had young children. During the primaries, Donald made do by re-tweeting a picture of Melania next to an unflattering shot of Heidi Cruz, Ted’s wife, with the caption “The images are worth a thousand words.”

But then he clinched the nomination, and more Melania participation was required—which, alas, did not do her any favors. In February 2016, in an interview with MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski, Melania expounded on illegal immigration, using her personal story as an example of model behavior. “I followed the law . . . . And you should do that. You should not just say, O.K., let me stay here. And whatever happens happens.”

The full article is here.

Trump & Nugent: A Match Made in Hell.

So today is the 242nd anniversary of The Shot Heard Round The World is it! Well well well looky looky here boogie…

Posted by Ted Nugent on Wednesday, April 19, 2017

So today is the 242nd anniversary of The Shot Heard Round The World is it! Well well well looky looky here boogie chillin, I got your Shot Heard Round The World right here in big ol greazyass Washington DC where your 1 & only MotorCity Madman WhackMaster StrapAssasin1 dined with President Donald J Trump at the WhiteHouse to Make America Great Again! Got that? Glowing all American over the top WE THE PEOPLE gory details coming ASAP!! BRACE!

Unholy shit, I wish I didn’t have to type all that stupid out.

Nugent, who once said that “Donald Trump is as close to Ted Nugent as you’re going to get in politics,” shares with the president a long history of violent and bigoted language.

At one concert, Nugent told Barack Obama to “suck on my machine gun,” before making similar threats against Hillary Clinton, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein. He eventually earned himself a visit from the Secret Service after repeatedly threatening Obama, whom he called a “subhuman mongrel,” and saying that if Obama were to win re-election in 2012, Nugent “will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.” Nugent also called for both Obama and Clinton to be “hung” and posted a video on his Facebook page of Clinton being shot.

The National Rifle Association board member has similarly fantasized about shooting migrants crossing the border, wished that the South had won the Civil War, and posted several anti-Semitic memes warning that gun control is a Jewish plot and mocking Holocaust victims.

Naturally, he scored a meeting with President Trump.

Yeeeuuucck. Funny how ol’ Ted isn’t dead or in jail. Also meeting with the Tiny Tyrant yesterday were Kid Rock and Sarah Palin, termed as three entertainers he wished to thank for standing by him. Via RWW.

Raw Story also has this, with mockery included.

John Hurt Has Walked On.

John Hurt.

John Hurt.

Actor John Hurt, who gave us all so many great and iconic characters, has walked on at age 77. He has long been one of my most favourite actors, his name in a film would be all I needed to see it.

Born in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, UK, Hurt was the son of an actress and a vicar, and, after training at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), made his film debut in 1966’s A Man for All Seasons. With his pained British voice and poignant stare, the actor would make an indelible impact on cinema, earning his first Academy Award nomination as Max, a heroin addict trapped in a Turkish prison, in Midnight Express, before performing one of film’s most memorable death scenes in Ridley Scott’s Alien. His next two films, as the severely deformed and chastised John Merrick in The Elephant Man (Oscar-nominated for Best Actor) and Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate, cemented his status as one of the greats, and marks a stellar 4-film run.

Goodbye, Mr. Hurt, and thank you. I’d watch V for Vendetta again, but right now, it hits too close to home.

Via Daily Beast.