Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Red Elvis / Ein Cowboy im Sozialismus

singer and actor Dean Reed
composes the mosaic of life in between tragedy and success,
political engagement and naivety. In the Western World hardly
anybody noticed him, although Dean Reed
once had been a famous star in South America and the Eastern Bloc.
Here I display some comments by Michael C. Moynihan concerning a recent publication entitled Comrade Rockstar: The Life and Mystery of Dean Reed, the All-American Boy Who Brought Rock ‘n' Roll to the Soviet Union, by Reggie Nadelson, New York: Walker & Company
The strange tale of the Soviets' favorite rock 'n' roll star
Soft memories of East Germany's lost "glories" are depressingly common in today's Germany, a country still cleaning up from the 2003 hurricane of ostalgie-a nostalgia for the travel restrictions, covertly transgendered Olympians, and free health care of the cruelly misnamed German Democratic Republic. The frenzy of socialist fetishization began with Wolfgang Becker's popular film Good Bye Lenin!, which in the slippery style of big-budget ostalgie manages both to condemn Erich Honecker's barbarous fiefdom and to subtly celebrate its insulation from Western consumerism. It reached its vulgar crescendo when the former East German figure skater-and former Stasi asset-Katarina Witt, clad in the powder blue uniform of the Young Pioneers, hosted The GDR Show, an airbrushed walk through the East's recent past.
It's possible this recent German trend toward "historical re-evaluation" helped prompt the American publication, 15 years after it first appeared in Britain, of Comrade Rockstar, Reggie Nadelson's travelogue cum biography of Dean Reed. Nadelson, a New York-based writer of detective fiction, has written the story of a failed American musician who became the "Red Elvis" of the East Bloc. In the late 1950s Reed-a moderately attractive, semi-talented guitar player and would-be actor from Colorado-set off for Hollywood with the distinctly un-Bolshevik goal of superstardom on the bubblegum pop circuit. There he met Paton Price, a Daily Worker-reading acting coach and party ideologue. Price schooled Reed in the socialist realism of Brechtian theater, left-wing politics, and, as Reed's sad filmic record suggests, little else.
After a short and largely unsuccessful stint with Capitol Records, Reed abandoned California for South America, where, inexplicably, his singles were outselling those of Elvis Presley. Possessed by his newfound ideology, he underwent a transformation among the bitterly impoverished natives: He shed his "false consciousness" and subsumed the artist's prerogatives beneath those of the Party. After a few years, Reed was expelled from Argentina for agitating against the government and moved to Italy, where he landed a string of minor film roles, including the lead in Karate Fists and Beans, billed as the world's first western/kung fu crossover film.
Nadelson's account offers few details of what motivated Dean's political journey. Like many radicals of his generation, he claimed to have been inspired by that common inventory of 1960s grievances: Third World poverty, the Vietnam War, CIA machinations in Latin America. So when, in 1966, Reed was approached by a friendly Russian apparatchik offering a truly socialist variant of fame, he boarded a plane for the Soviet Union as an Officially Approved Rock Star-the genuine American article, playing ersatz rock 'n' roll.
After making the rounds touring behind the Iron Curtain, Reed chose to settle in East Germany, where he became a compliant ward of the state, recording for the GDR's lone record label (Amiga) and propagandizing for the regime. As a reward for his boundless sycophancy, Reed was elevated to superstar status, afforded lavish recording and tour budgets and plum film roles (which he immediately turned to wood), and awarded the Komsomol Lenin Prize. Despite these achievements and an intense disdain for American capitalism, Reed privately craved a second shot at bourgeois success.
In 1985 Mike Wallace extended an invitation for Reed to appear on 60 Minutes. Asked to justify the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Reed happily obliged, arguing that it was merely a defensive action against American imperialism. Ditto for the Berlin Wall. By program's end Reed had successfully propelled himself from obscurity to minor fame as the Lord Haw-Haw of the Cold War.
Wounded by the flood of hate mail that followed, he retreated to his East Berlin estate to start work on Bloody Heart, a film about the American Indian Movement with Alexander Nevsky-like pretensions. But with the advent of glasnost and the increasing availability in the East of authentic American rock records, Reed's fans defected en masse. His state subsidies became increasingly difficult to obtain.
Nadelson recalls seeing a videotape, shot during Reed's final, disconsolate days, of Reed on Soviet TV popping-and-locking to the Ghostbusters theme song, bellowing, in pidgin Russian, that "he wasn't too old" for such public indignities. It was, she writes, "one of the saddest things I ever saw." His career unsalvageable, the prospect of international success all but finished, and his third marriage dissolving, Reed swallowed a sleeping pill-the only thing Red Elvis and the real Elvis seemed to have in common-and threw himself in a lake. The East German authorities declared the death "an accident."
Reed's fame was a state construct that, through repetition, achieved a measure of independence. Reed traded in Americanness. For teens starved of an authentic native youth culture who were looking enviously west, that was, initially anyway, a mark of authenticity. After charting his rapid descent into obscurity, Nadelson writes that "not even the security of socialism could protect him from the defection of his fans." Curiously, she does not consider the fact that it was the "security" of socialism that created his fan base. Her book is packed with anecdotes of Beatlemania-like hysteria in Moscow and astronomical record sales in Bulgaria, but I get the impression that Reed was popular the same way grass soup is popular in North Korea: When choice is eliminated, people make do with what's available. Reed existed in a market without competition, where all records released were subject to state approval. (So desperate were the authorities to coopt counterrevolutionary trends that East Germany's Ministry of Culture established a Sektion Rockmusik to offer "youth music" neutered of subversive content.)
Inexplicably, Nadelson avoids citing lyrics or engaging in any significant discussion of Reed's discography, though she repeatedly hints that his musical oeuvre-a mix of sock-hop cover tunes and slow-strumming celebrations of dialectical materialism-is underwhelming. His catalog of self-penned lyrics is cringe-inducing, full of songs leaden with Hallmark poetry and dorm-room philosophizing. Take this couplet from the song "Wounded Knee '73," a schlocky folk number memorializing the siege that year of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation: "The White House smoked a pipe/Love and peace were ripe." Or this bathetic tribute to the South Vietnamese communists: "Freedom...la la la/For they want their freedom today/The brave ones of Viet Cong/Know from where the bombs they come."
But the material isn't always so kumbaya. Performing for GDR television, Reed explained, in Colorado-accented German, that his next number would celebrate the "ideal of freedom." His paper-thin voice thundered, his veins contracted, and he issued an order to his fans: "Love your fellow man, but hate your enemies." It's Phil Ochs crossed with the Shining Path.
Unlike many radicals who maintained dubious political allegiances-the singer Paul Robeson and the composer Hanns Eisler come to mind-Reed left almost no artistic legacy. So on what are we to judge him if not his lifelong commitment to the Soviet project?
Despite Reed's spirited defense of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Nadelson offers a raft of wildly implausible explanations for his unwavering commitment and subsumption to the state: "Maybe he remained a tourist in Berlin and Moscow, seeing only what officials intended him to see, unaware of the corruption." Or maybe he "was working for democracy from within." Maybe. But what if Reed, as certainly seems to be the case, was simply a guitar-strumming agent of totalitarianism? And what of those who really were working for democracy from within?
Comrade Rockstar offers few clues, for Nadelson's story is told in near total contextual isolation; it's a story of a collaborator that never explains what became of those who resisted. In her book Stasiland, the Australian journalist Anna Funder offers a compelling counterexample: the story of Klaus Renft, former front man of the mildly "subversive" East German rock band Die Klaus Renft Combo.
After a two-record stint with Amiga, the Renft Combo was abruptly disbanded by the state's music licensing board, upon the instruction of the Stasi, for its perfidious lyrics and lewd performances. And when two of its members were presented with offers of conciliation-a promise of anointed status in exchange for total subservience to the state-they heroically refused and were sentenced to prison. In typical totalitarian fashion, Renft's records were expunged from the state record label's catalog; the band was curtly informed that it "no longer existed."
Reed was comfortably housed in a suburban Berlin villa; the Renft band was caged in the notoriously brutal Stasi-operated prison Hohenschönhausen. Reed, the Russian music critic Art Troitsky rightly notes, was a traitor to the very ideals of rock 'n' roll.
Reed apparently never noticed the rather obvious disconnect between the Soviet notion of communism as the creator and liberator of art and the GDR's aggressive attempts to portray him as an authentic purveyor of a capitalist art form. When rock music was establishing its anti-authority credentials in America, Reed was attempting to adapt it to authoritarianism. With characteristic understatement, the socialist folk singer Pete Seeger observed that Reed "allowed the Soviets to boost him to ‘stardom' and found out too late what a trap that can be."
While cruising through a Soviet Union in its death throes, Nadelson confesses that she too is gripped by a sort of ostalgie. "How dull travel in the Soviet Union would be one day without the terrors of Aeroflot and without the drunks, the horrible hotels, and the listening devices," she writes. The rock underground-once the counterrevolutionary vanguard, the contra-Dean Reed-was suddenly devoid of meaning. "As a political act, as the music that let you declare your otherness, when the state withdrew its opposition, rock and roll lost its heart," Nadelson writes, suggesting that oppression alone is the motor of great art and, in one sentence, nullifying her sympathy for Reed.
In a new afterword, Nadelson lets the reader in on a little secret: Tom Hanks has purchased the film rights to Comrade Rockstar. Dean Reed, the proletarian "rock star," may finally get the American star treatment he so craved, courtesy of the Hollywood system he so despised.
Michael C. Moynihan (michaelm@timbro.se) is a fellow at Timbro, a free market think tank in Sweden.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

russian military techniques

Bolshoi Gorod has some illustrations
of the various hazing techniques used in the Russian army. here i display some fragments for his wwww.scrapsofMoscow.blogspot.com

Министр обороны, говоря так про искалеченного солдата, оговорился. Очевидно, он имел в виду «ничего особенного». В российской армии солдат полностью лишен прав, поэтому его трудно заставить подчиняться приказам: нечем наказывать. Сократить зарплату? Уволить? Посадить? Там, где бессилен устав, поможет «дедушка». БГ расспросил о службе москвичей, почитал про нее в сети, поговорил с солдатскими матерями и составил список самых распространенных способов добиться дисциплины.
Текст: Борис ЛевичКлючевые слова: политика, происшествия, фичерОпубликовано в № 3 (152) «Крокодильчик»
Военнослужащий висит между двумя кроватями, держась за одну кончиками пальцев рук, а за другую ногами. Иногда для остроты ощущений напротив живота устанавливают штык-нож. Чаще всего применяется во внутренних войсках.«Стульчик»

Между пальцами ног спящего солдата вставляются бумажки или спички и поджигаются. От ожога человек дергает ногами, будто крутит педали, что и дало название пытке. Применяется повсеместно.
«Электрический стульчик»
Солдата сажают на табурет, а в руки дают другой табурет, на который ставят чашку с водой. Табурет, на котором сидит солдат, выбивают — при этом сидевший должен удержать табурет с чашкой. Если табурет с чашкой падает, начинается обычное избиение. Распространено во внутренних войсках

Thursday, March 22, 2007

When Elvis Meets Nixon

IN December 1970 Elvis and pesident Nixon had a correspondencee, they were in "dialogue' so to speak. Elvis wrote Nixon a letter saying how much
he admired the presient, and he wanted to help to save the country. He offered his services as a federal Agent in the field of drug abuse and communist"Brainwashing techniques".
He also gave the president a personal present, a colt 45 from World War.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Revolution Freak

Kostis Velonis

The party organization is shown above. In 1967 the party had more than 12million members . all of them belong to cells. Each echelon has its own committee or bureau comprising its leadership and its secretariat .At each level the secretary (who rules the secretariat) controls the group that selected him and can control elections to the next echelon. But he is confirmed and controlled by secretaries above him, up to general Secretary

Sunday, March 18, 2007

sculpture for the defence of anarchism . A secret dialogue between Stirner and felines

Because The psychological and aesthetic aspects of anarchism have
been noted and studied in a fragmentary fashion
over the course of the modern era i decided
to explore the relations between feline population and stirner's texts
we could say that cats behavior pay homage to Stirner's ideas

I am owner of my might, and I am so when I know myself as unique. In the unique one the owner himself returns into his creative nothing, of which he is born. Every higher essence above me, be it God, be it man, weakens the feeling of my uniqueness, and pales only before the sun of this consciousness. If I concern myself for myself,* the unique one, then my concern rests on its transitory, mortal creator, who consumes himself, and I may say:
All things are nothing to me.**
* [Stell' Ich auf Mich meine Sache. Literally, "if I set my affair on myself."]
**["Ich hab' Mein' Sach' auf Nichts gestellt." Literally, "I have set my affair on nothing."

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

me with a flowing beard

Hammer and Tickle: the communist joke book

Hammer and Tickle: the communist joke book

Communism is the only political system to have created its own international brand of comedy. The standard interpretation is that communist jokes were a form of resistance. But they were also a safety valve for the regimes and jokes were told by the rulers as well as the ruled—even Stalin told some good ones
Ben Lewis
Ben Lewis's film, "Hammer and Tickle: the communist joke book" shows at the Tribeca film festival in New York, 30th April-3rd May, and on BBC4 "Storyville" in September
A man dies and goes to hell. There he discovers that he has a choice: he can go to capitalist hell or to communist hell. Naturally, he wants to compare the two, so he goes over to capitalist hell. There outside the door is the devil, who looks a bit like Ronald Reagan. "What's it like in there?" asks the visitor. "Well," the devil replies, "in capitalist hell, they flay you alive, then they boil you in oil and then they cut you up into small pieces with sharp knives."

"That's terrible!" he gasps. "I'm going to check out communist hell!" He goes over to communist hell, where he discovers a huge queue of people waiting to get in. He waits in line. Eventually he gets to the front and there at the door to communist hell is a little old man who looks a bit like Karl Marx. "I'm still in the free world, Karl," he says, "and before I come in, I want to know what it's like in there."

"In communist hell," says Marx impatiently, "they flay you alive, then they boil you in oil, and then they cut you up into small pieces with sharp knives."

"But… but that's the same as capitalist hell!" protests the visitor, "Why such a long queue?"

"Well," sighs Marx, "Sometimes we're out of oil, sometimes we don't have knives, sometimes no hot water…"

It was in Romania, while making a film about Ceausescu, that I first stumbled across the historical legacy of the communist joke. There I learned that a clerk from the Bucharest transport system, Calin Bogdan Stefanescu, had spent the last ten years of Ceausescu's regime collecting political jokes. He noted down which joke he heard and when, and analysed his total of over 900 jokes statistically. He measured the time gap between a political event and a joke about that event, and then drew up a graph measuring the varying velocity of Romanian communist jokes. He was also able to assert—somewhat tenuously—that there was a link between jokes and the fall of Ceausescu, since jokes about the leader doubled in the last three years of the regime. The story of Stefanescu, the statistician of jokes, was, ironically, much funnier than the jokes themselves. It seemed to capture the prosaic reality of the little man struggling against the communist universe.

I was charmed. Soon my volume of Stefanescu's Ten Years of Romanian Black Humour was joined by 30 or so other collections of communist jokes—such as Reinhard Wagner's Jokes of East Germany Volume 1-2 (1994/96), and Hammer and Tickle (1980) by Petr Beckmann. The earliest volume I found, Humour Behind the Iron Curtain, was published in 1962 by the Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal, under the pseudonym Mischka Kukin. I wondered if Wiesenthal found communist jokes a diversion from the business of tracking down Nazis, or if they represented to him another struggle against injustice. I also came across a wonderfully overwritten PhD thesis by the Stanford anthropologist Seth Benedict Graham: A Cultural Analysis of the Russo-Soviet Anekdot (anekdot is the Russian word for a political joke). Graham's earnest academic language suggests the standard theory of the joke as a tool of subversion: "An important reason for the anekdot's pre-eminence was its capacity to outflank, mimic, debunk, deconstruct, and otherwise critically engage with other genres and texts of all stripes and at all presumed points on the spectrum from resistance to complicity."

Graham gestures towards the Orwellian notion of the joke as "a tiny revolution." Jokes were an essential part of the communist experience because the monopoly of state power meant that any act of non-conformity, down to a simple turn of phrase, could be construed as a form of dissent. By the same token, a joke about any facet of life became a joke about communism. There have been political and anti-authority jokes in every era, but nowhere else did political jokes cohere into an anonymous body of folk literature as they did under communism. With the creation of the Soviet bloc after the war, communism exposed itself to Czech and Jewish traditions of humour—mutating viruses to which the system never developed the right antibodies. Some jokes that were traceable back to the Austro-Hungarian empire found their apotheosis under communism—like this one about the Hungarian communist leader Matyas Rakosi: Two friends are walking down the street. One asks the other "What do you think of Rakosi?" "I can't tell you here," he replies. "Follow me." They disappear down a side street. "Now tell me what you think of Rakosi," says the friend. "No, not here," says the other, leading him into the hallway of an apartment block. "OK here then." "No, not here. It's not safe." They walk down the stairs into the deserted basement of the building. "OK, now you can tell me what you think of our president." "Well," says the other, looking around nervously,"actually I quite like him."

There's another factor that reinforces the mode of covert protest in communist jokes—the way former citizens of the communist countries felt about them. I suggested to each interviewee that most of these jokes weren't actually very funny, or at least had dated badly. How could they laugh at so many mediocre and repetitive jokes? They were outraged by the question. "Every week there was another great new joke. The strange thing is that you always asked: where do they come from? You never knew. The author was a collective—the people," said Ernst Röhl, one of East Germany's leading satirists. "I remember, as a student, when we had to gather the harvest and we told jokes incessantly," I was told by Stefan Wolle, the author of Back in the GDR. "Then we sat in the pub until midnight telling jokes. Everyone had his special collection." "Some of these jokes are minor masterpieces," said Doina Doru, a Romanian proofreader who spent ten years checking that Ceausescu's name was spelt correctly in the daily newspaper. "What is colder in a Romanian winter than cold water?" she continued by way of illustration, "Hot water!"

So far as I know, no one was executed for telling a joke. But people routinely went to prison. The archives of the Hungarian secret police are full of the dossiers of people arrested for telling them. Day in, day out, officers of the state were taking the time and trouble to track down joke-tellers, or going out of their way to add the evidence of joke-telling to other charges, and then handing out short sentences.

Perhaps the most emblematic story of the joke-as-resistance is a report of the prosecution of a joke-teller in Czechoslovakia in 1967, which I found in the archives of Radio Free Europe, the anti-communist cold war broadcaster. An arriving refugee brought the news that a worker in a liquor factory had been arrested for telling the following joke: Why is the price of lard not going up in Hungary? So that the workers can have lard on bread for their Sunday lunch.

The joke had been overheard by the party secretary of the factory, who immediately reported the worker. The joke-teller was arrested on charges of "Incitement and defamation against the People's Democracy." After six hearings, the employee was fired. The sentence was relatively lenient because the co-workers all stood by the employee, saying that the party secretary did not hear the introductory words of the joke-teller: I heard a very stupid joke yesterday…

The joke wasn't very funny—the implication is that since there is no meat in the shops, Sunday roasts have been replaced by lard sandwiches. But the real story produces its own punchline. Communism was a humour-producing machine. Its economic theories and system of repression created inherently funny situations. There were jokes under fascism and the Nazis too, but those systems did not create an absurd, laugh-a-minute reality like communism.

Communist jokes were a way to criticise and outmanoeuvre the system, but they were also something more than this. They comprised a secret language between citizens—membership of a club to which the government was not invited (or so they thought).

The first jokes about the Russian revolution surfaced immediately after October 1917. In one, an old woman visits Moscow zoo and sees a camel for the first time. "Look what the Bolsheviks have done to that horse!" she exclaims. As the system became harsher, a distinctive communist sense of humour emerged—pithy, dark and surreal—but so did the legal machinery for repressing it. Historian Roy Medvedev looked through the files of Stalin's political prisoners and concluded that 200,000 people were imprisoned for telling jokes, such as this: Three prisoners in the gulag get to talking about why they are there. "I am here because I always got to work five minutes late, and they charged me with sabotage," says the first. "I am here because I kept getting to work five minutes early, and they charged me with spying," says the second. "I am here because I got to work on time every day," says the third, "and they charged me with owning a western watch."

Yet there is an obvious problem with the idea that communist jokes represented an act of revolt: it wasn't just opponents of the regime who told them. Stalin himself cracked them, including this one about a visit from a Georgian delegation: They come, they talk to Stalin, and then they go, heading off down the Kremlin's corridors. Stalin starts looking for his pipe. He can't find it. He calls in Beria, the dreaded head of his secret police. "Go after the delegation, and find out which one took my pipe," he says. Beria scuttles off down the corridor. Five minutes later Stalin finds his pipe under a pile of papers. He calls Beria—"Look, I've found my pipe." "It's too late," Beria says, "half the delegation admitted they took your pipe, and the other half died during questioning."

Stalin's laughter underlines the cynicism of the Soviet enterprise. But after his death the joke trials petered out. One of Khrushchev's first acts was to release all those imprisoned for minor political crimes, which included telling jokes. In his famous secret speech to the 20th party congress, Khrushchev cracked one too. He said that Stalin would have liked to have deported all the Ukrainians, but didn't know where to put them. The stenographers recording the speech noted the reaction of the party—"laughter."

In this new era, political leaders took the view that the jokes were a harmless way for people to let off steam. They believed that jokes would help people to cope with the hardships of the difficult stage of socialism, before the communist utopia arrived. They also imagined that the jokes could be used as an early warning system; problems indicated by humour could be tackled before they caused a revolution. Ilie Merce, a senior member of the Romanian Securitate, said that he used to file reports on the jokes—who was telling what—in order to convey the popular mood to the ministry of the interior.

Everyone told jokes, even the apparatchiks. Guenter Schabowski, the East German newspaper editor and later politburo member, told me: "At Neues Deutschland we told each other jokes in the canteen. We weren't blind to the failings of the system, but we convinced ourselves that this was only because it was the early days and the class enemy was perpetrating sabotage. One day, we thought, all problems will be solved and there won't be any more jokes because there won't be anything to joke about."

There were still occasional outbreaks of arrests for jokes in the 1960s and 1970s—usually linked to moments when the state felt vulnerable—when the Berlin wall was built or when there was another price hike. At these times, newspapers would publish "Outraged of Vladivostok" letters railing against the flood of jokes, like this one from Izvestia in 1964.

Dear Sir, Ten days ago I went to our savings bank. In front of the clerk's window there were five people waiting for their turn. And while standing there I heard too much. There were two of them in front of me, well fed, healthy, and really well dressed… and in a public place and with an insolent casualness they were trying to outdo each other, swapping their "best" political jokes… How can I restrain myself in front of these "jokers," who tell me mockingly a "new anecdote"? Nothing is sacred to them. They spit on everything!… We have to fight them; it is necessary to discredit, shame and dishonour them in front of honest people.
With deep respect, Nikolay Kuritsin, external student, Kadykchan village.

In the 1960s, the Soviet bloc was deluged by a flood of new jokes. There were around 20 subcategories. The most popular theme was the economy: One housewife to another: "I hear there'll be snow tomorrow"—"Well, I'm not queuing for that." There were jokes about Soviet propaganda: The capitalists are standing at the edge of the abyss. Soon communism will overtake capitalism. There were gags about Marxist-Leninist theory: Why is the individual placed in the centre of socialism? So it's easy to kick him from all sides. There were jokes about communist art: What is the difference between painters of the naturalist, impressionist and the socialist realist schools? The naturalists paint as they see, the impressionists as they feel, the socialist realists as they are told. There were jokes about communist-style democracy: When was the first Russian election? The time that God put Eve in front of Adam and said, "Go ahead, choose your wife." And, of course, there were Jewish communist jokes: "Hey Hymee, how's your brother Joseph?" "He's living in Prague and building socialism." "And didn't you have a sister, Judith—how's she doing?" "She's well too—living in Budapest and creating a communist future." "And your older brother Bernie?" "Oh he moved to Israel." "And is he building socialism there too?" "What, are you crazy? Do you think he'd do that in his own country?"

The point of this last gag seems to be not just to have a laugh at communism, but to shift the blame for it away from the central committees to the Jews. In other words, jokes could aid the system as well as undermine it. This, it seems, is what Graham's thesis on the meaning of the anekdot was grasping for when it described a "spectrum from resistance to complicity." A joke could be told about Stalin, or by Stalin; it could mock both the makers of the system and its victims. A joke could be an act of rebellion or a safety valve, an expression of revulsion against the system or of familiarity, even warmth towards it.

This is not to deny that the communist joke was often at its best in its dissident form. When Russian tanks rolled into Prague in 1968, the population fought back with wit. Every night graffiti appeared in Wenceslas Square with lines like "Soviet State Circus back in town! New attractions!" and "Soviet School for Special Needs Children—End-of-Term Outing." People cracked jokes: Why is Czechoslovakia the most neutral country in the world? Because it doesn't even interfere in its own internal affairs. And: Are the Russians our brothers or our friends? Our brothers—we can choose our friends. "We showed our intellectual superiority," one former dissident told me proudly.

Jokes under communism were shaped by the cultures that produced them, as they are anywhere else. For the Czechs, a sense of humour encapsulated a type of national resilience. East German jokes, meanwhile, tended to be touchingly self-deprecating. And yet there was a pan-communist umbrella of comedy that stood above national distinctions, just as the international socialist project itself did. What ultimately defined the genre was less the purpose it served than its style. The communist joke was by nature deadpan and absurdist—because it was born of an absurd system which created a yawning gap between everyday experience and propaganda. Yet sometimes, through jokes, both communists and their opponents could carry on a debate about the failings of communism.

The logic of this discourse led to the strangest coded conflict, as the pages of the East German satirical magazine Eulenspiegel reveal. Eulenspiegel was founded in 1954 as the state's official organ of humour. There were no censorship laws, as the East Germans were so proud of telling the west. Instead the editors had to guess what kind of jokes were permissible. Every week the magazine carried three or four pages of anti-imperialist humour, in which capitalists in top hats counted their money, GIs enslaved Africans and doves sat atop hammers and sickles. Eulenspiegel could also print anodyne comic critiques of daily life in East Germany, as long as they didn't incriminate the politburo. Ernst Röhl was able to write things like this: Man doesn't live from bread and ham alone. He needs something green. And green things have been in short supply for a long time. Cabbage has been more the subject of discussion than digestion. And the Adam's apple is the closest one gets to fruit at the dinner table. But this year Mother Nature has been particularly green. Cucumbers are no longer the shoemaker's bribe. Onions no longer raise laughs in cabaret sketches…

People like Röhl saw themselves, rather self-indulgently, as fifth columnists, eating away at the regime from the inside. But there were limits to permissible satire. Once the cover featured "young pioneers" with long hair—a decadent western fashion. The politburo was livid, but the magazine had already been sent out, so the police reclaimed all the copies they could from newsagents and post offices. Eulenspiegel once tried to make common cause with Pardon, its West German left-wing counterpart. After all, Pardon also attacked Adenauer and American imperialism. But the editors of Eulenspiegel were stung when Pardon rebuffed their advances, on the grounds that the communist satirists should criticise their own leader, Walter Ulbricht, the same way the capitalist ones went for theirs. The editors of Euelenspiegel printed a rebuttal entitled "How do we write about Walter Ulbricht?" in 1963: "We know from various reliable sources that President Ulbricht has a terrific sense of humour… [but] the transparency and virtue of our state makes it not only difficult but simply impossible to write a satire about its representatives. Where there is nothing to uncover, the satirist will find no material. So how do we satirists write about Walter Ulbricht?… We send our greetings and best wishes to the first secretary of the central committee. We wish comrade Ulbricht health, stamina and a long life."

This article could have been satirical, but wasn't. Rather, it occupies the strange socialist space where the serious and the humorous are identical. Eulenspiegel was the only place where serious criticism of the state could be published. Readers wrote in with complaints about their leaking prefab apartments and so on, and there was a column called Erledigt (Dealt With) which celebrated the grievances that the Eulenspiegel had managed to redress, and often came with printed apologies from factory managers and landlords. Nothing illustrates better the inverted reality of communism: real problems could only be presented in a context of laughter, presumably so that one could always claim one was only joking. In this realm, where humour turns out to be a complex social dance, the idea of the joke as simply subversive breaks down.

But on this side of the iron curtain, communist jokes were only interpreted as evidence of anti-communism; their wider significance was lost. In 1950-51, a group of Harvard anthropologists undertook one of the most influential research projects of the postwar era. The US government wanted to find out how Soviet citizens might react if the US invaded Russia. So the academics interviewed thousands of displaced Russian citizens living in camps in Germany. When asked to describe what Soviet society was like, the refugees told jokes: "Did you hear the one about the sheep who tried to leave the USSR? They were stopped at the border by a guard…." "Why do you wish to leave Russia?" the guard asked. "It's the secret police," replied the sheep. "Stalin has ordered them to arrest all the elephants." "But you aren't elephants." "Try telling that to the secret police."

In the 1950s, the New York Times Magazine would devote the odd page to jokes from the Harvard project. From the 1960s onwards, volumes of communist jokes were published in paperback form in Europe and North America. Willy Brandt was a renowned communist joke-teller, but there was one western politician who took the jokes more seriously than anyone else: Ronald Reagan. He ordered the state department to collect the jokes and send them to him in weekly memos. As a result, Paul Goble, head of the Balkan desk in the 1980s, assembled a collection of 15,000 communist jokes. Reagan often used Goble's gags in his speeches and negotiations. When Gorbachev came to Washington, Reagan told him a communist joke, later boasting at a press conference that he had laughed. The joke, which made fun of the communist theory that a transitional era of socialism was preceding the communist utopia, went like this: Two men are walking down a street in Moscow. One asks the other, "Is this full communism? Have we really passed through socialism and reached full communism?" The other answers "Hell, no. It's gonna get a lot worse first."

Communism ground on into the 1970s. Brezhnev and his geriatric cronies gave rise to some new jokes (Brezhnev reads a speech at the Winter Olympics "O-O-O-O-O." "No," his aide whispers to him, "that's the Olympic logo.") And the technology gap gave rise to others: The latest achievements of the East German electronics company Robotron were celebrated—they built the world's largest microchip. Meanwhile the state was seemingly less worried by the jokes. In Poland, the most liberal regime of them all, they even permitted communist jokes on television.

Jokes did not bring down communism. That was achieved by the nonsense of its economic policies, and by the decisions of the leaders of the superpowers, east and west—in the case of Reagan, by pricing the Soviets out of the arms race; in the case of Gorbachev by glasnost and perestroika. This much is well known—what isn't is the significance both leaders attached to communist jokes. Gorbachev knew the jokes, and like his predecessors, he told them. You can't imagine Stalin or Khrushchev telling a joke about his own unpopularity, but Gorbachev did. In 1996 he appeared on the Clive Anderson show in Britain and told this one, whose lineage can be traced back through the 20th century: A man is queuing for food in Moscow. Finally he's had enough. He turns round to his friend and says "That's it. I'm going to kill that Gorbachev," and marches off. Two hours later he comes back. "Well," says the friend, "did you do it?" "No," replies the other, "there was an even longer queue over there."

Gorbachev and his aides talked openly about the jokes. In 1989 he told a crowd of workers, "political jokes were our salvation," a reference to the way the jokes let out frustrations and debunked propaganda. As the first reforms faltered, one of his ministers warned him that if the new laws didn't work "the people would return to the bottle and the political joke." One could even argue that Gorbachev's policies liberalising the economy, press and politics were addressing the implicit complaints of decades of jokes.

Exactly how communist jokes functioned politically, socially or psychologically is a question as complex as the meaning of works of art. What is self-evident, however, is that since the fall of the wall the jokes have dried up. Life just isn't as funny any more. The vast enterprise of communism gave a universal quality to the meaning of the jokes that hasn't been replicated since its collapse. They subverted and they supported; they undermined and they prolonged. As Gorbachev's respect for the jokes and Reagan's obsession with them show, they were intrinsic to the whole communist experience. Jokes were to communism what myths were to ancient Greece: anonymous, oral stories which both represented and shaped people's views and actions.

Jokes may not have carried the weight of the great forces which ended communism, but they were more than mere figures of speech. Jokes kept alive in the minds of the citizens of the Soviet bloc the idea of an alternative reality, and they made light of four decades of occupation of eastern and central Europe. They may even explain why the end of communism was so sudden and so bloodless. No point anyone getting hurt over a little joke, right?

Ben Lewis

Copyright Prospect Magazine 122, (May 2006 )

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy is my own Prince

Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy is the kind of person that you imagine behind solid wooden houses to play guitar alone only with animals around him to wonder what is the nature of human consciousness.
Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy who was Will Oldham (his original name) in the past he’s released LPs under several different names as Palace name Palace Brothers, Palace Songs, Palace Music and so on.
Stephen Mitchelmore mentions “ that the listener is presented with a paradox that never quite lets you forget where you are and what you’re doing, even if it at the same time seduces in every musical sense. As our culture ignores what is left over from such failed transcendence, we are prompted to feel individual consciousness is a problem to be solved. I don’t think it needs to be. In fact, it is likely that this failure to fly away is precisely what gives us the richness of life”

“I See a Darkness” song is not simply a good song. Here I offer his lyrics . Johnny cash sing on “I see a darkness”with him .

Well, you're my friend
And can you see
Many times we've been out drinking
Many times we've shared our thoughts
But did you ever, ever notice, the kind of thoughts I got
Well you know I have a love, for everyone I know
And you know I have a drive, to live I won't let go
But can you see this opposition, comes rising up sometimes
That is dread full imposition, comes blacking in my mind

And then I see a darkness
And then I see a darkness
Did you know how much I love you
There's a hope that somehow you
Can save me from this darkness

Well I hope that someday buddy
We'll have peace in our lives
Together or apart
Alone or with our wives
And we can stop our whoring
And pull the smiles inside
And light it up forever
And never go to sleep
My best unbeaten brother
This isn't all I see

Oh no, I see your darkness
Oh no, I see your darkness
Did you know how much I love you
There's a hope that somehow you
You'll save me from this darkness

Stephanos Tsivopoulos

Tassos Langis

Nikos Alexiou

Nomadiki Architektoniki

Andreas Angelidakis

Lyda lycouriotis and Thanos Pagonis

Jimi Eythimiou

Eleni Kamma

Vasilia Stylianidou

Eleni Kamma seems to be seduced by the call of the wild natural landscape whose dangerousness comes into conflict with the build protective environment of the city that elicits a feeling of suffocation of information. In the works of Kamma , this conflict reaches a climax with the “exodus” of the inhabitant to an unmapped zone and with the protective reminder of some habitation that surrounds him at his every movement

By walking, Jimmi Efthimiou marks the passage of time on the material world, and his thongs are the evidence . With a part of his personal mythology , Euthymiou separates himself form what Rimbaud called “ the well-known aesthetic good taste that was bypassed in the interior furnishings and the outside of houses ,as well as in the design of cities “
In the Apolis exhibition were included three architectural projects

Leda Lycourioti and Thanos Pagonis are referring to the community. They write

* From the film ‘Citizen Kane’ of Orson Welles.
** Gated community of 1700 inhabitants in Texas (http://www.rtis.com/reg/rosebud/.)

Rosebud is handling the combination of two different elements:
- the first refers to the esoteric desire of the individual to retain a basic core of the ‘self’ that remains unspoiled by the passage of time and the overwhelming changes of the external environment.
- the second refers to the eternal quest of architects, planners and philosophers for the creation of an ideal urban community, as expressed in the various utopian visions throughout history, whose common element is the friezing of time and the surpassing of the narrow limitations of a given social reality.
Those two elements are placed in the context of the contemporary phenomenon of ‘collective exodus’ expressed by certain social groups that choose to live outside of the conventional ‘public’ city by creating autonomous private gated communities that reproduce an idealized extemporal environment offering insulation from any potential threats and intrusions, common in urban life. This growing tension is qualitatively and structurally different from the known process of suburbanization, which is related with the dynamics of urban development. Rather it is connected with the impact of globalization processes in the fragmentation of the unified territory into several small autonomous fragments and functions with limited access, an effect that has been described as ‘splintering urbanism’.
Rosebud explores the demolition process of unified homogenous space, which has been the essence of the modernist spatial project, transferring thus the problematic of apolis, from the level of individual action to that of the emergence of a new ‘ekistic’ paradigm –in the sense that Doxiadis gave to the term- that is, a new pattern of human settlement and use of space.

Andreas Angelidakis says about his cloudhouse

The Cloud House is a building inspired by a website. On whywashesad.com Rafael Rozendaal has made a simple script where by moving your cursor around you eliminate the oncoming clouds: I was interested in this idea of controlling the weather, controlling your mood and making a home in Nature. The structure of the house is derived from the emblematic dom-ino typology, which in the post-war years in greece has become a symbol of clandestine construction and ad-hoc inhabitation.
The Greek country side is filled with these unfinished concrete frames that people started building but never had the money to finish, so they inhabit them raw, like you would set up home in a cave, under a tree.
These structures are inhabited in the same way that the internet is inhabited today: you take your ready made homepage from blogger.com and you start building on it and changing it everyday to fit your mood. When you don’t like your server anymore, you move on to the next hosting company never keeping a permanent home. The Cloud House starts off as an open concrete shell precariously balanced on stick-columns, and gradually equipped with semi-temporary mezzanines themselves balanced on tubes and staircases, a natural development and step by step habitation for the house that gradually evolves from concrete structure to home

A hymn to the Apolis ..to the places in which the citiless live.. Nomadic Architecture network writes:
The citiless are increasing in the contemporary metropolis, as more and more people are becoming landless. The people without documents, refugees, emigrants, the unemployed, the homeless, all marginal groups, ae living as exiles in the post-modern metropolis, in its gaps. These cut off environments are as disparate, unsettled and fluid as the city itself, and are created by the city and its transformations. Empty spaces in the state of rights, and more generally in the idea of belonging. In these places, which function as refuge in the city, the architectural discourse is nullified, and another discourse is produced : that of ephemeral, fluid, corporeal inhabitation. The characteristics of communal life develop during this inhabitation, and these places create another network that spreads through the heart of the city to its distant outskirts -. or more information about the whole text of nomadic architecture network www.nomadikiarchitektoniki.net (Peggy Zali, Eleni Tzirtzilaki and Anna Tsouloufi-Lagiou worked together for the realization of the installation at the “Apolis” Exhibition)
In Stylianidou’s video installation, someone is spending the night on a mountain carrying his only memento of civilization, a table and a night lamp. The artist completes “..shortly before going to sleep, mimics the motion of language,words without actually enunciating them, speech unfamiliarly homeless

Δημητρης Φουτρης/Dimitris Foutris

Panagiotis Loukas/Παναγιώτης Λουκάς

Νικος Αλεξιου/ Nikos Alexiou/ Στεφανος Τσιβοπουλος/ Stephanos Tsivopoulos

Τασος Λαγγης/ Tasos Langis /Νικος Αλεξιού/ Nikos Alexiou

The reminder of the threat that the city exuded in Tasos Langis’ video is set into stark contrast with the strange female figure during a military parade in the historical center of Athens. The image of the parade in counterpoint with the performance–intervention of the performer Marisha Triandafillidou aims to provoke an undetermined but strong emotion that will trace our connections with historical memory.
In the video Land by Stefanos Tsivopoulos, three endless people moving on the earth persistently ask questions about the identity and condition of this particular site . Tsivopoulos ‘ work focuses on the critical re-negotiation of the meaning of boundaries and the difficulties that arise form shifting cultural identity
An idealized contact between a woman and a man and a goat is portrayed in the work of Loukas. Both seem to be caught up in the strange serenity of the countryside. Going deeper into the subjectivity of visual information, a discreet sarcasm hangs over his work. might this portrayal of the convergence of a person with an animal express something of the taste of cohabitation without institutions ?

In the work of Foutris the image of a state that closes its gates hermetically gives rise to questions as to who, when all is said and done, is truly without a city : the one who stands outside he gate , or perhaps the state itself whose independence and isolationism form the outsized imaginary environment seeks to highlight a different community ?

Akrithakis/ Ακριθακης

Alexandros Georgiou / Αλεξανδρος Γεωργίου

Ιf one had to summarize in a few words what is here said, one could say that we should define ourselves beyond architecture and the lonely intoxication of the subject within metropolis. we might summarise these relations in the following works

In the case of Alexandros Georgiou, a solitary traveler’s peregrinations form country to country, city to city , and district to district in the middle East makes the artist the hero in a cosmopolitan Diaspora and reveals a condition that seeks form this trip and one which some travelers perhaps enjoyed before the advent of travel guides . in this exhibition , which is the natural extension of his recent group of works entitled ‘without my own vehicle” he reveals to us a laconic manner of his personal experiences

Nikos Alexiou has the tendency to escape the unchanging volumetric arrogance of a sculpture and is abandoned to circumstances , it is a “heap” Just as the heap can be the result of condensing , it can also be expansion in such a way that the materialness of the work remains unroofed, without a hearth

Akrithakis relieves us of the burden of unrealized wanderings with a psychedelic network of ideas and shapes that outline the course of a journey in which the photograph of a person very close to him is included among all sort of shapes. As can be seen in his notes , the carefree style of his labyrinthine writing also concerns his lonely destination

apolis contributors

For the history to mention the contributors, alexis akrithakis, nikos alexiou,andreas angelidakis, jimmi efthimiou, dimitris foutris, alaxandros georgiou,elenni kamma, tassos langis,panayiotids loukas, leda lycourioti&thanos pagonis,network nomadic architecture, simos the existentialist, vassiliea stylianidou, stefanos tsivopoulos


Because our society already punishes people with exile and homelessness I need to focus on a particular set of issues relating to the cityless man (apolis) which was the subject of the exhibition that took place in Hellenic American union at the end of 2006. I am going to use the arguments of my introduction to the catalogue of Hellenic American union in Athens..By understanding that in the artistic avant-garde movements of the 20th century those influences that were opposed to the traditions of metropolitan modernism were few, any idea of seeking an environment in which the language of architecture is invalid seems ineffective. Throughout the period of -isms, the tactics of the trailblazers advocated the idea of the hypsipolis (one who is high or honoured in one’s city), not so much in the sense of acceptance, of principles, and active participation in preserving them, but mainly in the sense of defending new ideas and attitudes which, although in some cases can be different to the status quo, are proposed within the context of upgrading the state. The Aristotelian definition of man reveals the necessity of identifying every human activity with the principles of an organised community. During the previous century, radical proposals remained consciously dedicated to the koina, or common concerns, in order to renew and modernise society more rapidly. Even the issue of “revolution” became directly related to the social groupings that were created in urban centres, and it was because of these that conflicts arose.
In the 19th century, the classic dual label of Beast or God for those unable to live in a society was supplemented, and partially negated, by a third convention: that of the solitary walker who seeks the truth and the meaning of life in communion with the natural environment.
The modern age, having chosen an exploitative relationship with unsullied nature, created resistance to the “exiled poet” who, as a former inhabitant of the city, was henceforth called upon to recompose his primeval nostalgia by comparing it to the sinful image of his metropolitan starting point. With this attribute, the participating artists and architects have begun from the experience of the “city-problem”, without so much posing the question of why, but stressing the ways in which the hypsipolis -he who was once lauded in his city- is transformed into apolis, citiless, who wanders beyond its boundaries and lapses from virtue.
Certainly, the person who is citiless or stateless these days is not only he who by nature rejects society; even more so he is one who, due to circumstances, is forced to abandon his own community. This choice can be explained exclusively in terms that have to do with immigration and expatriation . After a century of commitment to the tenets of modernism, what kind of strange “escapist” neo-modernism would reject the city? And if in the past the city provided energy and inspiration for the avant-garde, who, today, would want to praise it?
Athens, as an architectural dystopia that has suffered unbridled development, offers much material for questioning. It is perceived as an anti-model city, where all architectural testimony is unpleasant and oppressive. The belying of the expectations of the international style of architecture, and especially the Greek model of multi-storied buildings, prompts us to question the need for the city, as well as the ways in which it preserves its supremacy . However what we would like to address, and what this exhibition emphasises, is the “place” of that person who disowns the city, or at least ceases to seek it. But how necessary is it for us to speak exclusively in the terms of geography? Within the flow of events in a city, the citizen’s experience of being citiless is a phenomenon that remains unnoticed. It is perhaps more a psychic process that expresses the general tendency towards the poetics of transfer. It is an internal journey that remains uncovered and replaces the “object” of architecture with the “airy materialism” of the ephemeral which leaves no history, no trace, no evidence . If, despite all this, there were some reason to justify wandering under any conditions, perhaps it would be the quest for a destiny that was open to visibility by seeking infinite freedom. Far from the city and its troubles, which means distance from people. How much solitude fits in this confrontation? And how could it be portrayed?

“From these things therefore it is clear that the city-state is a natural growth, and that man is by nature a political animal, and a man that is by nature and not merely by fortune citiless is either low in the scale of humanity or above it…” (Aristotle Politics, I, i.7-9, Harvard University Press, 2005, p. 9)
While a man who is incapable of entering into partnership, or who is so self-sufficing that he has no need to do so, is no part of a state, so that he must be either a lower animal or a god. (Aristotle Politics, I, i.7-9, Harvard University Press, 2005, p. 13)
In the same text, Aristotle uses three adjectives used by Homer to describe Nestor, the man who was in favour of civil war (Iliad, I., 63). Is the “clanless, lawless, hearthless”, that is, the person who is without family, laws and a home, truly a supporter of domestic turbulence today?

It would be interesting to look at a story of passing into the city, and out of it, literally, at the gates. The comment of the Roman orator Pomponius (D 1, 8, 11) is useful to distinguish the legal framework of the Roman empire with regard to violating city walls:
“Si quis violaverit muros, capite punitur : sicuti si quis transcedet scalis admotis, vel alia qualibet ratione : nam cives romanos alia, quam per portas, egredi non licet : cum illud hostile et abominandum sit : nam et romuli frater remus occisus traditur ob id, quod murum transcendere voluerit.”
[Whoever desecrates the city walls is punished by death: for example, anyone who climbs over the walls, using ladders or by any other means; indeed, Roman citizens must leave the city only through its gates. To do otherwise is to commit a hostile and abominable action, for Remus, brother of Romulus, was killed, history tells us, only for wanting to climb over the city walls.]

However, a survey of the collective fantasies of the youth culture of the 50s would help us comprehend the spirit of escape in trips to the country, where the shell of a house was replaced by the shell of the car, offering millions of teenagers a pleasant way to escape from the restrictive environment of the city.

Monday, March 12, 2007

the possibility of god

Mordecai Moreh ,1968

Marc Chagall, 1914

Eugène Sue Monument , Marius Tissot

Lamentationes Hieremiae
Tractatus in epistolam Iohannis , 1140

Statue of the wanderer Jew
Le harivel-Durocher (square Delanay, Flers)
Here is a list with the figure of the wandering jew
as a part of the christian folklore It concerns a Jew who,
according to legend, taunted Jesus on the way to the Crucifixion and was then cursed to walk the earth until the Second Coming.
the subject can be perceived Before any further analysis of the "wandered jew" as a vehicle for anti-Semitism.
it will be useful to look briefly at some pictures. during history Wandering Jew" could be used as a metaphorical personification of the Jewish diaspora .in our days it promises other significations ..

sculptures for the defence of anarchism