There’s a version of this story that makes the following completely obvious, but, all the same, I’m putting Lithchat on hiatus.
When I started the bloggy version of the site, it was still rather difficult to get news about Lithuania in English, and I felt connected to a large network of people who were eager for what I was offering: both occasional, longer thought pieces on certain topics (with a non-trivial amount of research) along with quicker shots across the brow–a collection of recent headlines.
But my interests have unintentionally narrowed somewhat, time has gotten more valuable, and there seem to be only three topics I can get at all excited about writing about here anymore: unconscious anti-Semitism in Lithuania (no news there; it’s still everywhere), dual citizenship (will Grybauskaitė sign the law currently on her desk?), and InCulto (who just released their third album in Ireland!). That kind of attenuation of subject matter is pretty shameful, and there’s no reason for me to keep up the sham of presenting Lithchat as a more in-depth site.
So here are some ways out:
For English-language news about Lithuania, I rely mostly on the portal Alfa English. The content isn’t great, and much of it comes from the Lithuanian Tribune, which has its own idiosyncratic approach to English. Er, Lithuania Tribune (see what I mean?). I also was really excited about Baltic Reports, which moved to a pay model and is now being bought out, so their future is uncertain, but probably promising.
For dual citizenship questions, I suspect that by the time things change drastically, the news outlets will be much more prosperous and obvious, and it’ll be easy to find information. Those of you whose ancestors left Lithuania before 1940 are probably out of luck more or less permanently. There’s reason to hope, but not much political support to undergird your hope. But who knows? If you want to set up a google news alert for “dviguba pilietybė” and then rely on google translate to translate the articles you get, then that should suffice.
For unconscious anti-Semitism and various nationalism-related questions, frankly, it’s all just depressed me too much to keep writing about. I’m lucky to have the option of being able to say such a thing and not have to live with the persistent pressure of the various ways the public face of Lithuania manages to continuously get covered in shit that stinks of not reckoning with your past. I usually fell on to these issues via the regular media, too, so I have no links to add here.
For InCulto, well, they’ve got a website.
This means that the Lithchat Delicious links will also be shuttered (not even providing a URL).
As for me, if you’re eager to follow my ideas, then there’s still my main page of writing, Donkey Hottie. It’s also light traffic, and it rarely has to do with Lithuania, but if you like my style, or something, well…
The archive here will stay indefinitely. But new content is not to be expected. Oh, and I’m closing comments. Thanks for participating, everyone!
My plate’s pretty full, so I’ll only give the highlights here. By a vote of 88–8 with 25 abstensions, the Seimas passed the new dual citizenship law today. They hope that a verdict on its constitutionality will be given by the Constitutional Court before the law goes into effect.
The law, languishing in negotiation for two years, makes the following new allowances for dual citizenship:
- to those who left Lithuania after 11 March 1990 and have citizenship in either an EU or NATO nation
- to those who automatically earned another state’s citizenship through marriage or birth
- to those for whom Lithuanian citizenship would help promote in the future the name of Lithuania in the fields of science, economics, culture, art, or sport.
The final point differs from the current rules, which allow dual citizenship to be given for worthy deeds already accomplished. Now, however, Lithuania can give Katherine Copely Lithuanian citizenship so that she could possibly win Lithuania a medal in a future Olympics.
In the meantime, President Dalia Grybauskaitė soberly restated her wish to have this question solved via referendum and not legislation. She refused to commit to signing the legislation into law before “thoroughly analyzing” the bill.
After a fashion, for Lithchat readers, there’s not much new here. The real news will come when the Court decides what to do.
I’ll pass along the link of the actual text of the law once I hunt it down.
Yesterday brought an unexpected article from alfa.lt. The Foreign Minister of the Republic of Lithuania, Audronius Ažubalis, was saying that “any comments he may have made about Jewish issues and the citizenship law have been misrepresented.” The rest of the article only quotes the rest of the press release, which cryptically makes refefrence to Ažubalis’s support of “restitution” for the Jewish population of Lithuania and closes by explaining that
news reports published on 14 October with the Minister’s claims that allegedly a certain national group was interested to change the Law on Citizenship is based on hearsay, and the public opinion poll conducted by the news portal that interprets the hearsay is misleading and incorrect.
Clear. As. Mud. I was surprised that I had only seen the denial, and not the original article, so today I tried to find the original. I was able to find an article on the mobile site of Lietuvos rytas from Thursday with the headline: “Užsienio reikalų strategas įžvelgė žydų susimokymą.” Guessing that this is the original and assuming the article is being scrubbed, I’ve made a pdf of it available on mediafire. Here is the original, non-mobile version of the article, which is still completely available.
While discussing the possible changes to the dual citizenship law, which include extending dual citizenship to citizens who left since 1918, not just since 1940, Ažubalis apparently went to the podium (I mean this figuratively) and said something along the lines of “everyone knows who’s pushing for this change in dates.” Asked to clarify his aspersions,
A.Ažubalis ir išaiškino, kad labiausiai šį įstatymą į priekį stumia iš Lietuvos kilę žydai.
Be to, politikas leido suprasti, kad tuo būdu jie greičiausiai tikisi lengviau atgauti čia turėtą nuosavybę.
Ažubalis explained that the main proponents of this law are Jews of Lithuanian descent.
Addtionally, the politician explained, by these means these proponents hope to regain most easily their property in Lithuania.
I have for years argued on this site that the dual citizenship law should have the clock turned back to 1918. Lithuania was a toxic environment for many of its citizens since the 1926 Smetona coup, and, as Eidintas explains in his history of the events in Lithuania leading up to the Holocaust, Lithuania was, like Germany, already toxic to its Jewish population before any tanks had crossed any national borders. If my grandparents, leaving in 1943, were refugees from an oppressive government, so too were those who fled from Smetona.
So after a fashion, I agree with Ažubalis. I support pulling the clock back since, among other things, it would lead to some level of restitution to the Jewish population that was facing hostility already in the mid-1930s. But I disagree with his terminology, which suggests that this is a move of interest only to the dispossessed Jewish population of Lithuania (and its descendants). This should be in the interest of the Lithuanian state itself. By keeping the clock as it has, at 1940, Lithuania is making dual citizenship available, de facto, according to ethnic tests, as the refugees who made up the post-1940 wave of emigration were largely (practically exclusively?) ethnically Lithuanian, while there were many legitimate refugees of different ethnicities (and political backgrounds) who fled before the Soviet tanks occupied Lithuania. So the de facto law, then, goes against the Lithuanian Constitution, which prevents against laws that discriminate by national origin or religion.
Yet Ažubalis, for the problematic way he seems to have made his point, according to Lietuvos rytas, does not come out the worst here. Even more irritating is the misleading lede written by Vytautas Bruveris, who writes:
Dvigubą Lietuvos ir kitų užsienio šalių pilietybę numatantis įstatymas labiausiai reikalingas ne lietuviams, o žydams. Tokį atradimą padarė užsienio reikalų ministras Audronius Ažubalis.
Later, Bruveris explains that Ažubalis had in mind only the specific change regarding turning the clock back. But in the lede, Bruveris makes it sound as though Ažubalis considers the entire operation of dual citizenship to be an issue of far greater importance to “Jews” (in general) than to “Lithuanians” (in general). And that’s offensive. Dual citizenship is important to every (potential) citizen of Lithuania, but as long as the press can’t manage to pitch their country outside of its ethnic shackles, then clanking embarrassments like this will continue.
This is me playing anthropologist, and it’s light, anecdotal, and the rest, but I still found it rather interesting. I was at dinner with a friend while I was in Vilnius, and somehow, for some reason, cardinal directions came up. The friend refused to dare to guess where north was, relative to our positions on the patio of the restaurant. My friend, who has lived in Vilnius for probably at least five years, protested that she wasn’t a scout, and so didn’t have to know cardinal directions. I couldn’t believe this; it just struck me as so bizarre. Mind, I could only hit north within about 40 degrees, but I at least had a general sense of what direction it was in. Maybe it was a fluke, then, I thought, and I pushed it aside.
Then another friend was asking me directions to the apartment I was staying at, in a neighborhood called “Šiaurės miestelis” (“Northtown,” I guess). I told her to go “north” on Kalvarijų g. from the intersection with Žalgirio g.—as visible on the map here. She asked me if “north” meant “toward Oldtown” or “away from Oldtown.” I was dumbfounded. How could someone not know that Oldtown was south of the intersection? It’s south of even a major landmark like, say, the river! This person, too, is a many year resident of Vilnius and even knew the neighborhood she was driving to. She just didn’t know it by any sort of reference to cardinal directions.
I mentioned this all to a friend from the US who had been living for many years in Lithuania, and he couldn’t believe it, either. So he started asking Vilnius natives when we were outside where, precisely, was north. No one was correct within 90 degrees despite a random success rate of 25%!
Finally, I called for a taxi and told the driver I was at the cathedral’s bus stop. The taxi driver didn’t ask if I was “northbound” or “southbound,” but, rather, if I was going “toward the river” or “away from the river.”1 This is a smaller thing, of course, but anyone familiar with the location of the cathedral in Vilnius (also on this reproduced map) can clearly see that if I’m standing near it and going toward the river, I’m also northbound.
Obviously, when I usually give directions, I don’t give them based on cardinal directions. I’ve had to give several directions to friends visiting me in Paris that would be completely useless with cardinal directions (they are tourists, and they are often underground). But wherever I live, I tend to have a constant sense of where north is. I may have to consider it for a few moments, but I wouldn’t just throw up my hands and say “iono.” And in Chicago, we’d frequently give directions of the “I’m on the northeast corner” variety. Knowing your bearings in Chicago is, of course, very easy, but I’d argue knowing which way north is at the intersection of Žalgirio and Kalvarijų is the same way.
So what accounts for this? Is it, as I surmised, a widespread cultural difference? I’ve been told that in Toronto, one says things like, “go toward the CN Tower” (or “go away from the CN Tower”), and I certainly am not particularly confident about my bearings there, but I have also never lived in Toronto. Are there other kinds of directional terminology used in other places or cultures? If I dropped you in the middle of Senamiestis in Vilnius, how long would it take you to be confident you know which way is north?
This is a bit germane because of the discussion of Guugu Yimithirr in Guy Deutscher’s super popular article from the New York Times Magazine last month. Apparently the speakers of this language are the exact opposite of my Lithuanian consultants: they can only give directions or describe things in space using cardinal directions.
- The cousins of these “-bound” directions, “inbound” and “outbound,” confuse the hell out of me in Boston on the T. If I’m at South Station, and I want to go to Park Street, am I considered “inbound” or “outbound”? Is there a point where each line switches, and all Boston inhabitants know this? Maybe intuitively? Ah, the MBTA to the rescue: “In the subway system, Inbound is toward four stations: Park Street, State, Downtown Crossing and Government Center. (Within those four stations, Inbound and Outbound are not used.)” That makes sense, but I just always keep the terminus in mind and go based on that. [↩]
The conservative Eastern European dogma of “dual genocide,” which argues that (take your pick) the hammer and sickle is equal to the swastika or that red is equal to brown, was denounced in a sympathetic Jonathan Freedland article in The Guardian a few days ago.1 Freedland tries to understand the Lithuanian motivation of trying to equate both scourges, but…
no matter how great an effort of empathy I make, I cannot go along with the “double genocide”, especially not now that I’ve seen how it plays out in practice rather than in theory. For one thing, the equation of Nazi and communist crimes rarely entails an honest account of the former. The plaque at the Ninth Fort, for instance, identifies the killers only as “Nazis and their assistants”.
This is in line with Žižek’s often repeated (by me) warning that, in arguing for equivalence between Nazism and Soviet communism, we end up with a narrative in which Nazism is merely a response to Soviet communism (embodied in the claim that Lithuanians were exacting revenge on Jewish communists in their performing their roles in the Holocaust).2 This narrative, generated by well meaning “anti-totalitarian” liberal attitudes, is dangerous and false. As Žižek writes,
The ‘pure’ liberal attitude towards Leftist and Rightist ‘totalitarianism’ – that they are both bad, based on the intolerance of political and other differences, the rejection of democratic and humanist values etc – is a priori false. It is necessary to take sides and proclaim Fascism fundamentally ‘worse’ than Communism. The alternative, the notion that it is even possible to compare rationally the two totalitarianisms, tends to produce the conclusion – explicit or implicit – that Fascism was the lesser evil, an understandable reaction to the Communist threat.
Anyway, this is a well beaten drum by me. Freedland’s article did provide something I do not think I had ever seen in print before, though: a critique of the “Genocido aukų muziejus” for being a museum dedicated to something that was not, actually, a genocide, while effectively ignoring the very real genocide that happened in Vilnius in the years leading up to the historical epoch covered by the museum:
Second, even if the theoretical intention is to remember a “double genocide”, it rarely stays double for very long. Take the Museum of Genocide Victims, off Vilnius’s central Gedimino Boulevard. You would think such a place would feature the genocide of which Vilnius was close to the centre, namely the slaughter of the Jews. But you’d be wrong. The Holocaust is not mentioned. The focus is entirely on the suffering inflicted by the KGB. Outside, there are two prominent stone memorials for Moscow’s victims. If you wish to remember Lithuania’s 200,000 slain Jews, you have to wander far from the main drag, up a side street, to the tiny Green House – which is anyway closed for renovation and whose director, under pressure from state officials, is fighting for her job.
I’ve made this complaint myself, but never as forcefully, or with such an audience, as Freedland has, so I commend him for it, even if he takes advantage of geographical chance to enhance his claim about the relative importance of the two museums. In fact, in his entire article, I could only find one real complaint, which was in his description of the “Naujasis muziejus” at the IX Fort in Kaunas. My recollection of the museum was that it was a museum dedicated generally to “occupation,” and that it included exhibits from the Russian imperial era as well as the Soviet occupation. But even the museum’s own description states that its focus is on the history beginning with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact; so maybe I have misremembered.
Still, Freedland’s article has caused a bit of a stir in Lithuania and elsewhere (including on The Guardian‘s own comment section; tread if you dare). But I was struck by Andriaus Užkalnio response on his blog, which begins with the above suggested, well meaning liberal disinclination towards getting involved in an argument that could devolve into a comparison of body counts–something he accuses Freedland of doing, even though Freedland explicitly, repeatedly, explains that body count comparison is not the source of his complaint against “dual genocide.”
Then Užkalnis adds a critique of The Guardian that, in its overwritten sneer, teeters on the edge of ideological incoherence:
Pasakiškai nuostolingas ir prie bankroto artėjantis The Guardian (kaip ir dar mažiau įtakingas The Independent) yra įvairaus plauko skirtingai nuprotėjusių kairiųjų, Stalino apologetų, apsirūkiusių trockistų (išpopintų milijonierių šeimose), latentinių maoistų ir zoologinių antisemitų, antiamerikiečių ir antikapitalistų lindynė.
Užkalnis is at his most infuriating/amusing when his sophistry allows him to channel his inner Rush, and the rest of his post, basically accusing The Guardian of being run by anti-Semitic communists, rehashes rather familiar complaints heard and yawned about throughout cobwebbed right-wing hideouts in the UK and North America. That is, The Guardian is anti-Semitic because it is very critical of Israel. Hence Freedland’s complaint about “dual genocide” ends up being not about the Nazis at all, but, rather, some kind of critique of the Lithuanian nerve in building institutions that commemorate Soviet horrors. The Guardian could not possibly come out as being in favor of highlighting awareness about the Holocaust as the ne plus ultra example of human evil, so, instead, Freedland must have another incentive: rehabilitating the USSR.3
In other words, Užkalnis enacts Freedland’s very complaint in his response. Claiming to be above a discussion of the relative equivalences of the two atrocities, by calling attention to The Guardian‘s anti-Semitism, he still implicitly argues that the Lithuanian suffering was worse than the Jewish suffering. Freedland’s implicit pro-Soviet bias (true because he’s writing in The Guardian) means that his argument that “The oppression of the Soviet years was terrible, but it was not genocide: to be arrested is not to be shot into a pit” is pro-Soviet propaganda. There must be an equivalence after all between the two atrocities, since the propagandist argues against it.4 But then it gets dark, since if the article is not, as Užkalnis argues, actually about the genocide of the Holocaust, then it is about an imagined pro-Soviet cover-up of the crimes of the Soviet regime. As such, the Soviet atrocity becomes more insidious than, wait for it, the Holocaust itself, because it, unlike the Holocaust, remains obscured, hidden in shadows.
The result is, as Freedland worries, exactly a relationship of inequivalence, with the sides flipped: Brown is equal to Red, but since no one knows that Red is equal to Brown, we have to advertise Red (while letting Brown stand on its own), to the degree where we end up not talking about or obscuring our own relationships with Brown. Suddenly, in Lithuania, the Holocaust is an afterthought, and the Soviet occupation becomes the primary/sole crime against humanity on that blood-soaked soil, a claim that is, basically, just really fucking offensive.
- Freedland points out that the swastika has been salvaged as an ancient Baltic symbol, reversing the equality. [↩]
- The other version of this narrative, forcefully and brilliantly debunked over the course of two volumes by Klaus Theweleit in his magisterial Male Fantasies, is that fascism was a one-time fluke, an unrepeatable freak of nature, which pathologizes communism as the threat that, ingrained in human nature, is the one that could possibly return to haunt us all and destroy civilization. [↩]
- For the record, this is a perfectly fine incentive to have, considering that there doesn’t exist an uncorrupted history or disinterested reckoning of the USSR in the world. [↩]
- This is being charitable, as the strong reading would be that if Freedland is being a propagandist when he says that “The oppression of the Soviet years was terrible”–but still not comparable to genocide, then not only are they comparable, but the Soviet atrocity might even be worse. But I think Užkalnis ends up implying this even with my charitable reading. [↩]
Tomukas asked on Twitter on Monday:
3M vėl be Marijono per krepšininkų sutikimą, per didelio honoraro užsiprašė?
I didn’t really think about the question that much until I saw this morning’s post by Užkalnis on Marijono Mikutavičiaus “redemption.” Apparently Mikutavičiaus decision not to perform his (sports) anthem “Trys milijonai” at the celebration in Vilnius commemorating the bronze medal won by the Lithuanians caused enough of a stir in Lithuania that he had to publish in Lietuvos rytas a terse list of reasons why he didn’t show. I’ll quickly rehash the list here (in convenient English format):
- It wasn’t a money thing (despite Tomuko tweet).
- It’s not an issue of not being patriotic.
- A person should not be held hostage by his previous work. Šaras isn’t asked to recreate his 3 against the US in 2004.
- The creator has no control over the influence of his work; hence the response of the fans should not be assumed to be in line with that of the creator.
- Singing the song would be a self-aggrandizing move, seeing as it was not responsible for what the men managed on their own on the court.
- “Trys milijonai” has long since ceased being the property of its creators. It is the property of the nation. (This will end up the key claim below.)
- Sometimes you want to celebrate something not by being on stage.
- There will be other chances for him to sing it. (I’m not sure I understood this point precisely.)
- Why is this an issue, anyway?1
I’m on Mikutavičiaus side here, for the most part. I mean, it was nice to see Neil Diamond open this disaster of a season with a rendition of “Sweet Caroline” at Fenway, but I would never have demanded such a thing or speculated as to why he hadn’t done it before (or since). If there were musicians or anything like that at any of the championship rallies I have attended, they certainly did not make it more special. In fact, I was annoyed that the woeful Dropkick Murphys managed to play any sort of role in the Red Sox parade.
He seems not to mean it literally (yet), but Mikutavičius is right when he says that the song belongs to the people who are emotionally moved by it, and, as a result, it is they who should sing it. To return to the Neil Diamond comparison, there’s something even a bit off about his performance at Fenway, since the crowd seems somehow out of it–unprepared, silenced in the mix, I don’t know. The argument could be made that the Fenway rendition of “Sweet Caroline” owes more to this version from the sublime Beautiful Girls than to the recorded version piped into the park:
Here we have “Sweet Caroline” completely divorced from Diamond (he’s not even mentioned–unless silently whispered when Uma Thurman’s character does not instantly recognize the song). And though this performance is missing the classic Fenway “So good! So good! So good!” response, it does still show what Mikutavičius could have in mind for his song. Let it be sung in bars–with or without him.2 The song becomes much more valuable when it comes from the assembled collective instead of from the stage.
I mean, pretty much everyone who would be in a position to sing “Trys milijonai” already knows the words, so having its performance come from the top down robs it of its alleged unifying force.3 After the bronze medal game, several friends remarked that third in the world is not too shabby for a nation of “only 3 million,” underscoring how the victory belonged to the nation as a whole, just as the song should.
Ultimately, Mikutavičiaus claim that “„Trys milijonai“ jau seniai tapo ne mūsų, kurie juos kūrėme, tačiau visos tautos daina” is rather provocative. The song rather famously became the property of Intervid for a period of five years in 2004, and the rights have since reverted back to the original authors.4 Intervid will not disclose how much money it made off “Trys milijonai” during the five years it held the rights, and Mikutavičius is probably best described as cagey regarding his own earnings off the song. But if he’s both serious about the song’s becoming “visos tautos daina” and disinclined to look self-aggrandizing, then there’s a very easy way he could put his money where his mouth is.
- For another non-issue, see Algio Ramanausko call for a manhunt for the tagger Solomon. Any sympathy I had with the crusade—and, granted, there was already pretty much no sympathy—completely disappeared when Ramanauskas asserted that the ultimate cause of the protest was the tagging of his friend’s mikruškė. [↩]
- This is kind of funny, since when Mikutavičius came to the PLJS Kongresas in Germany back in 2003, I think he participated in group singalongs of “Trys Milijonai” at least once per night, including once accompanying himself on piano. I tried to get him to do the same with “Bliamba, juk aš tave myliu,” a song I much prefer, but he dismissed it as a “debilų daina,” and that was that; it was time to sing “Trys milijonai” again. [↩]
- I do have issues with how the number “3 million” is parsed in the song in order to make it more of an ethnic rather than national anthem, and I’m really fighting the temptation to go into that here. But I can’t help myself from wondering what the Ławrynowicz twins think of “Trys milijonai.” [↩]
- When the rights were sold, I remember being told that Mikutavičius was cashing in on the song early, so he could enjoy its success while still young (instead of collecting pennies per month over his lifetime). I imagine that side of the story is the intrigue alluded to in the first article. [↩]
I’ve been asked about a few updates to the dual citizenship project that was called about a year ago by outgoing president Valdas Adamkus. The idea was to figure out a way to grant dual citizenship to emigrants, whose foreign born babies would be dual citizens, without going afoul of the Constitutional Court’s decision back in 2006. This was the decision that struck down the previous dual citizenship law as being, among other things, not restrictive enough regarding who could get citizenship.
This restriction clause, reading the phrase from the Constitution “atskirus atvejus” as meaning “rare,” has dogged the dual citizenship project since 2006. So today I can mention that last month, a new approach was adopted by liberal MP Gediminas Navaitis. Drawing inspiration, he says, from the Israeli and Polish attitudes, he thinks Lithuania should simply ignore / be agnostic about a citizen’s non-Lithuanian citizenship. Any connection to another nation is considered the Lithuanian dual citizen’s private business and of no interest to the state.
Or, as he says (also here):
Įtvirtinama aiški ir gana paprasta pozicija – Lietuvos pilietį, kuris kartu yra ir kitos valstybės pilietis, Lietuvos valstybė laiko tik Lietuvos piliečiu. (…) Siekiama numatyti, kad Lietuva ignoruoja bet kokius Lietuvos piliečio santykius su kitomis valstybėmis, nes tokie santykiai traktuojami kaip privatus Lietuvos piliečio reikalas.
The only officially recognized dual citizens would be those who are granted citizenship by the President, maintaining the “rare” test.
This is an interesting move, and it’s one I’ve never heard of or considered before, so I’m not ready to opine on it.
Furthermore, there is movement to expand the pool of dual citizenship to include, wait for it, Russian and Belarusian citizens. I’m surprised that this is getting support, since the atavistic response I’ve gotten from Professional Lithuanians In Diaspora is that blanket dual citizenship is to be avoided precisely because Russia may use protecting its citizens as a pretext to invade Lithuania. Although there is a bit of a crucial twist, if one reads the article carefully:
Svarstant įstatymą Seimo posėdyje pritarta dar vienam siūlymui – leisti du pasus turėti lietuvių kilmės asmenims, tradiciškai gyvenantiems valstybėje, su kuria Lietuvą skiria valstybės siena, tad į dvigubą pilietybę galės pretenduoti ir Baltarusijoje bei Rusijoje gyvenantys lietuviai.
This would then go against the “no discrimination based on ethnic origin” clause of the Constitution that the Court used to strike down the ethnic claim to dual citizenship in 2006.
So as it stands, and if I’m reading everything correctly, the project is waiting a final vote for legislation that will look something like this:
Lithuanians will be entitled to dual citizenship under all the old criteria, plus those who left Lithuania after 1991 and obtained citizenship in an EU or NATO nation.
Discussions continue regarding Switzerland, non-EU Schengen nations, and Australia.
What’s there to say? InCulto went to Eurovision, performed a top three song for their group (in sheer terms of energy and quality), but lost out to the usual, boring Eurovision pop. The actual performance felt a bit weird to me, but my ability to approach the song with fresh eyes (or ears) has been more or less permanently ruined.
One of Eurovision’s supposed charms is its bizarre and everchanging voting system; every year, successful songs have to be considered within the context of that year’s strange voting paradigm. This year, “experts” voted for 50% of the points, and countries were blocked from voting on off nights (so French telephones, like mine–or other Baltic phones–were unable to vote for InCulto until the final, should they have advanced). Would InCulto have fared better if all of Europe were voting for them? If these dubious experts didn’t have a say? Who knows. For now, until next year.
The old version of Lithchat (the mailing list) used to sponsor NCAA tournaments. That role has been overtaken by the various March Madness software packages available all over the web. The FIFA 2010 Men’s World Cup Finals, however, seem untouched by such software, so Lithchat is offering its own World Cup Challenge:
Sign up today using a quick, brand new login, not Facebook or anything else!
Then login and start trash talking (under “My Competition”) with your friends while also sagely predicting the results of the first round (and the second round, once it is finalized!). The scoring system and rules and regulations are all on the Challenge page (under “The Rules”).
The site might be a little creaky, since it uses a lot of programming techniques that are about a decade old (I haven’t learned much since I wrote those old March Madness scripts in perl in the 1990s!). But it should be plenty amusing for you and your friends, so spread the word!
After watching each permutation of the “East European Funk” video several times in order to write about the song in the lead up to the 2010 Eurovision Song Contest, I was rather infected by the song’s catchiness.1 So I considered making a small gesture of appreciation for the earworm: rip the audio and edit together a fan video of friends dancing in Paris. Clearly, from that idea to the video above was a medium-sized step, and encouragement along the way came from watching updates of InCulto’s impressive guerrilla European tour, a tour that did not, sadly, include a stop in France (see note below).2
If The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay taught us anything, it’s that collaboration is important and rewarding. I knew there’d be no way to record the song alone while having fun and making a movie alone is pretty much the most impossible thing in the world if you don’t want the camera stolen right off the tripod. So Linas joined up on the creative side from Chicago (Postal Service 2010 style), and we were able to recruit people in Paris, Mannheim, Figueira da Foz, etc. to help–on both sides of the camera. I’d like, then, to thank everyone who was involved, reserving a little extra love for Sébastien, Brent, Nida, and Karl, who each wielded the Eye of Judgment for a spell.
The submerged sentiment of the original song ends up getting a sharper edge in this video–largely since Parisians don’t want to get up and dance–but it’s also rather fitting that it turned out this way, with the putative Eastern European workers rendered invisible (or the source of spite) in quotidian neoliberal Western Europe.3 The clip suggests a solution (as it were) that would encourage pan-European interaction through (commodity) consumption, but it’s a sort of accidental one. Finally, my setting as a deadline for the project la Fête des travailleurs adds further pleasant irony.
So I hope you like the video and show it to your friends, and I hope you don’t judge our fun as harshly as my voice came out after two weeks of being sick.
More importantly, I hope you don’t forget to get up and vote for the “East European Funk,” and most importantly, I hope this clip helps you remember to pursue creative activities simply because doing so is pretty awesome!
Note: Unfortunately, France (hence, me as well as the putative audience of this video) will not be voting in the semi-final in which InCulto is performing–the second semi-final on May 27th–which probably explains a large part of why InCulto didn’t come to this corner of Europe during their guerrilla tour. Countries can only vote for other countries competing in the same semi-final. Hence, people in Georgia, Denmark, The Netherlands, etc., can vote for InCulto, because those countries will all perform on the same night. As a Big Four nation (that is, along with the UK, Germany, and Spain, it skips the semi-final), France has its night to vote determined by chance, and though they originally were selected to vote on the night of the 27th, broadcaster France 3 cited a scheduling conflict in asking to have France’s semi-final voting moved from the second night to the first. Yes, Eurovision is confusing; it’s part of the charm.
As a result, the above video is rather presumptuous in hoping that InCulto will advance to the final–but it’s the only way I can vote for them! My own fandom is held a bit in check when I consider that InCulto are, at this writing, longshots (11/8) to advance, so maybe I should’ve shot the video in Geneva. The Swiss, after all, can give 12 points to InCulto in the semifinal! Oh well. On the other hand, as a resident of the US, Linas is totally ineligible to vote.4
- Apparently, the official title as reported on Eurovision’s page has dropped the “ern” from the first word. [↩]
- “Sadly?” Maybe luckily! Had they stopped in Paris, I probably would have scrapped this whole project! [↩]
- This pursuing of invisibility also forced us to toss lots and lots of more engaging footage. [↩]
- I’m going to save criticism of the rest of the songs in the second semi-final for another time. The short version, though, is that at least half of them are totally unlistenable ballads–so, basically, Eurovision gold–and even among the songs with a bit more pep, they’re all somehow not terribly interesting. Still, the least awful are Holland‘s, Turkey‘s, and Romania‘s entries, I think. Slovenia‘s effort makes me cringe in its over-obvious kitsch explosion. France’s song for the final (remember, they skip the semis), on the other hand, I find pretty infectious and delightful. [↩]