Sunday, November 19, 2006

Ukraine: A Hutsul Wedding, Part III

Here is the third and final installment to the Hutsul wedding video. Parts I and II were posted earlier.

Part I had footage of the rituals that take place in the morning just before the actual wedding ceremony at the church.

Part II had footage of the wedding ceremony and the rituals that precede the start of the wedding reception. It also has footage of the feasting (eating and drinking) and singing during the reception meal.

Part III is of the dance after the meal.

Notes to Part III:

The reception dance began with music and dancing that is the typical fair for weddings in contemporary Ukraine (a singer with a synthesizer who is also a DJ). After an hour or two of polkas and waltzes, etc., began an hour of traditional Hutsul music and dance.

The band of Hutsul musicians took over from the dj, and started up with an arkan. Arkan is a men's dance that is said to have its origins as a Hutsul shepherd's dance. Hutsuls traditionally practiced transhumance, with many of the younger and older, still-able men moving livestock from lowland villages up to mountain pastures for the summertime. The men would spend much of the summer in the mountains with the livestock, coming only occasionally down to the villages. Arkan is one dance iwithin a world-wide genre of such dances engaged in by shepherds as they bide their time watching their flocks.

After the arkan followed some traditional Hutsul couples dancing.

Much of the footage here wasn't filmed by me (I was dancing!) but by my second cousin, who was using a videocamera for the first time. She managed, actually, to take some rather artsy shots!

Watch the people dancing in the big circle in pairs at the back of the hall. This is where you will see some really authentic, contemporary Hutsul dancing in addition to the arkan danced by the men at the start of the clip.

Note on Ukrainian Folk Dancing as Performed Today by Most Ensembles:

What one sees here of the arkan, for example, is how it is really danced. I don't understand why most Ukrainian folk dance ensembles add so many elements to their performance of arkan that are totally foriegn to the real thing. To my mind, a staged or choreographed performance of a folk dance should have the goal of transporting the audience to a real village. One should feel like one is watching real people dancing in a village at some event. (Or if the dance in question originated as, say, a palace dance, then one should feel like one is sitting in a courtroom watching the performance, etc.) The Hungarian and Bulgarian State Ensembles are the best examples of groups that perform in this authentic, village-based style. Most Ukrainian ensembles that I know of are stuck in the character- ballet style that was invented in Soviet times. The arkan, for example, as performed by many a Ukrainian folk ensemble is only loosely based on a real arkan. Much of Ukrainian folk dance performance needs an infusion of a back-to-the-village mentality/approach.

To read a bit more about the Hutsuls and modern-day Hutsulshchyna, or the region of the Carpathians in which Hutsuls still live, read the comments to A Hutsul Wedding, Part I.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Notes of Caution on the US Elections; Comparing Elections USA 2006 to Ukraine 2004

compiled below are some short, excellent cautionary notes addressing the significance of the US elections, all from counterpunch.

the main points these articles convey are as follows (and these points are also relevant for a discussion concerning the failure of the OR to ignite a process of real, progressive change in ukraine):

1) voters in the US have called for sweeping changes, or rather, sweeping reversals of what repulicans have done in the last 6 years; furthermore, a significant proportion of the electorate have passed judgment on years of deregulation, free-trade, the dismantling of the welfare state, and on the rightward drift of the democratic party and american society in general.

2) however, establishment or clintonite democrats (the majority of democrats in congress) are making every effort to reduce the significance of the elections to a referendum on republican conduct of the iraq war and perhaps on conservative stances on the rights of same-sex couples, and otherwise are eager to get back to business as usual.

3) the only way the democrats will even partially struggle for a wide range of grassroots demands is if they continue to feel real, grassroots pressure to do so.

now compare to ukraine:

there were important elections in 2004 in which people were promised a lot and expected a tremendous degree of change. the liberals that came to power, however, were not equal to the task and struggled to reduce the full significance of the elections to a few issues, mostly to the exclusion of truly popular demands. politics in ukraine for the most part returned to business as usual. and in ukraine--as i fear will be the case in the US--the grassroots was not up to the task of remaining organized, committed, and militant in effort to pressure the liberals to do more. significanlty, after the OR, the grassroots and most of its ngo-champions fell apart (in no small part because, at the time of the OR, there was not yet a real, sustainable and wide-spread level of grassroots organization and solidarity, and because the ngo sector did indeed depend greatly on US funds).

note: i don't mean to suggest that nothing has changed in ukraine under yushchenko and that nothing will change in the US under the democrats. however, where the Orange Revolution promised a full struggle of dekuchmization, what ukraine now has is kuchma-lite; and i think that the best one can hope for in the US at this point is a bush-lite that as bad as the beer by a similar (busch) name.

both ukrainian and american society today lack real alternatives to their respective ruling cliques and problematic forms of capitalism, and absent within both is anything resembling the level of grassroots organization and power that exist today in a number of latin american countries.

read on:

democrats, born to compromise. here
The Democrats will not deliver an end to the Iraq war without substantial pressure from below. And that requires large-scale, grass-roots struggle. This should be a wakeup call to everyone who wants an end to the Iraq war, a raise in the minimum wage, a step forward for immigrants' rights-and an end to politics-as-usual in Washington. The door for social change is opening, but we must take action to achieve it.
you call this a sweep? here

democrats can be neocons, too. here

a socialist in the senate? here

election postmortem. here

count your blessings. here

blood on the tracks. here

the democrats and civil liberties. here

the repudiation of one-party rule. here

the return of tom lantos. here

rahm's loosers. here

the roots of corruption. here

other good stuff from the counterpunch site, a daily must-read:

in nicaragua, a chavez wave? here



I'd also like to suggest the following, excellent book:

The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America

the authors, two british journalists who have resided in the US for many years, do an excellent job of explaining how and why the center of american politics has always been much to the right of the european consensus, and how it swung even further to the right in a process that lasted a number of decades. they make excellent clarifications, such as explaining that howard dean--considered today as one of the more "progressive" members of his party by establishment democrats--would have been considered an "eisenhower republican" in a different era in US history, and a conservative in many parts of europe today.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

What Dems Must Do to Matter

This is from here; copied below is most of the article that matters. . .

Will the Demcrats Become Part of the Problem?

After the years of illegal war and the overnight destruction of civil liberties that were 800 years in their creation, the United States stands at a watershed. If the legislation that has been put on the books permitting spying on Americans without a court warrant, legalizing torture and self-incrimination, and repealing habeas corpus and the right to an attorney remains on the books, the United States will be a police state regardless of which party is in power.

If the Democrats are to make a real difference, their first task is to repeal the Orwellian-named "Patriot Acts," the torture legislation, the detention without court evidence legislation, and the right-to-spy and invade privacy without court warrant legislation. The White House tyrant needs to be quickly told that one more "signing statement" and he will be impeached, convicted, and turned over to the War Crimes Tribunal at the Hague.

The notion that Americans can be protected from "terror" by giving up the Bill of Rights is absurd. Democrats are complicit in this absurd notion. Many were intimidated into voting for police state legislation, because they lacked the intestinal fortitude to call police state legislation by its own name. The legislation that has been passed during the Bush regime is far more dangerous to Americans than Muslim terrorists.

Indeed, the prime cause of Muslim terrorism is the US interference in the internal affairs of Muslim countries and America's one-sided stance in favor of Israel in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. When Jimmy Carter was president, his even-handed approach made the US respected throughout the Muslim world (and was one element that made him so dreadfully hated by fundamentalist freaks in the US). 9/11, if it was actually an act of Muslim terrorism, was the direct consequence of US one-sided meddling in Middle Eastern affairs.

When, and only when, the Democrats have erased the Bush administration's police state legislation from the books, thus restoring the Constitution, they should clear the air on two other issues of major importance. The Democrats must convene a commission of independent experts to investigate 9/11. The 9/11 Commission Report has too many problems and shortcomings to be believable.

Recent polls show that 36 percent of the American people do not believe the report. Such a deficient report is unacceptable. 9/11 became the excuse for the neoconservative Bush regime to launch illegal wars of aggression in the Middle East. The 9/11 Commission Report is nothing but a public relations justification for the "war on terror," which in truth is a war on American liberty. As long as politicians with a police state mentality can cling to the cover of the 9/11 Commission Report, the Bill of Rights will remain endangered.

The other issue is the blatant corruption in the Bush regime's contract practices. So many contracts are tainted with their connections to Republican power brokers, including Vice President Richard Cheney, that the taxpayers are being fleeced on the level of the Grant administration. Indictments and long prison sentences are in order.

This leaves the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Both are lost. Both invasions were illegal. Those responsible must be held accountable.
The American prosecutors of the Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg emphasized, as Robert Jackson put it, that Germany's crime was not in losing the war but in starting it. Under the Nuremberg standard, to launch a war of aggression is a war crime. It is punishable with a death sentence.


The US and Britain no longer have any role to play in the Middle East. As the King of Jordan predicted, there is now a Shiite crescent that runs from Iran through Iraq into Lebanon. This Shiite crescent is the most powerful force in the Middle East.

The Iraqi Sunnis can come to terms with Shiite power or be destroyed. The American puppet states of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the oil emirates are faced with the instability that comes from being allied with the "hegemonic" West against their own people. It is up to their own wits whether they can make the transformation.

The US has neither the resources, the finances, nor the credibility to intervene.

The Israelis have isolated themselves with their genocidal policies against the Palestinians. Intelligent Israelis are already sending their children out of the country. Israeli peace groups have thrown up their hands in the face of the persistent intransigence of the Israeli government and the disregard of common sense. It remains to be seen if the Israelis can learn to care about anyone but their own kind. Israel can save itself if its political leaders will stop pushing Palestinians off of their own land by destroying their homes and orchards and murdering their children, thus turning more Palestinians into refugees. It would be easy for the economically talented Israelis to pull the Palestinians into prosperity, thereby ending the conflict. Are Israelis capable of the humane leadership required to create a place for themselves in the Middle East or are they forever wed to Mao's dictum that "power comes out of the barrel of a gun"?

Republican rule in the 21st century has devastated American civil liberties and American prestige and leadership capability. Can Democrats restore American liberties and leadership, or will a lust for power corrupt them, too, and cause Democrats to retain the police state powers Bush has created?

If the Bush regime's police state legislation is still law in 2008, the Democrats will have failed.

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.He can be reached at:


and now they can shut up about their silent majority.

however, i do not mean to suggest that the silent majority is liberal to left leaning instead.

the silent majority is a myth.

my breakdown of the american electorate/population would go something like this:

30% commited liberal to left
30% commited conservative to fascist
40% commited to fickleness and trend-aping

and now let's see if the dems can become praiseworthy. can the meak become wolves again?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

A Hutsul Wedding, Part II

Watch the video

Here is the second installment to the Hutsul wedding video. Part I was posted earlier, click here. There will also be a Part III.

Part I had footage of the rituals that take place in the morning just before the actual wedding ceremony at the church.

Part II has footage of the wedding ceremony and the rituals that precede the start of the wedding reception. It also has footage of the feasting (eating and drinking) and singing during the reception meal.

Part III will be of the dance after the meal. Turns out I had more footage than could be incorporated into two 10-minute clips!

Notes to Part II:

The footage of the church ceremony is not very good and I was tempted to leave it out, but it was necessary to include something from the ceremony.

The rest of the scenes should be self-explanatory. However, one thing I did not clarify in the video: Toward the end of this footage, during the reception when people are singing, there is a song during which people sing/shout the word, "Hirko!" In Ukraine--but also in much of Eastern Europe--people do not cling their glasses in order to prod the bride and groom to kiss. Instead, they sing a song whose verses are usually humorous and then shout, "Hirko!", which means "bitter," for the refrain. The idea is that when the couple kisses, the bitterness turns to sweetness. Also, it is not only the bride and groom who stand and kiss; others that are part of the wedding party or who are relatives of the bride and groom can be prodded to smooch, too.

To read a bit more about the Hutsuls and modern-day Hutsulshchyna, or the region of the Carpathians in which Hutsuls still live, read the comments to A Hutsul Wedding, Part I below.