SteadyBlogging on Twitter (SteadyTweets?)

Monday, May 23, 2005

reading list: Ukraine & Istanbul

Here's the reading material we brought with us for this trip:

Borderland: A Journey Through the History of Ukraine, by Anna Reid. I came across a reference to this book in an article last Nov/Dec, during the Orange Revolution (. I started it about a month ago, nearly finished with it. A great introduction to the history of (the) Ukraine--very readable and accessible. Reid was a journalist based in Ukraine, and her chapters on various episodes of Ukrainian history are framed by her own contemporary travels around the region. The only complaint I had is that I would have liked to have read more about certain topics. (For that, I suppose there is this or this.)

The White Guard by Mikhail Bulgakov and The Collected Tales of Nikolai Gogol. Both these volumes were birthday presents from Ina and Bogdan. I subsequently bought a copy of Gogol's Dead Souls, and considered bringing that with us as well, but I left that at home, for after we return. Anj started reading The White Guard about a month ago, and just finished it this morning--she enjoyed it. I'll probably start it at some point during the trip. Bulgakov is not an author I knew of, but he's one of the giants of 20th century Russian literature (Bulgakov--although he wrote in and about Kyiv--was Russian by ethnicity, and wrote in Russian). We'll probably learn much more about him next week, when we will hopefully visit the Bulgakov Museum, in the house where he lived and wrote The White Guard.

I started reading the Gogol tales earlier this week. I'll probably just read the Ukrainian tales on this trip, and leave the St. Peterburg tales for later. I've gotten through the first two so far--"St. John's Eve" and "The Night Before Christmas." Not at all what I was expecting. What I was expecting was some sort of serious and detailed naturalistic depiction of 19th century Ukrainian life--the stereotype of Russian literature, owing to Tolstoy, I suppose. But the first two tales were riotously fantastical, and the's a challenge to keep up with, as a blurb on the back of the volume put it, "the onward rush of Gogol's prose, at once disheveled and uncannily precise." I wouldn't particularly recommend those first two stories, but it may be that he was just finding his voice in those early stories. I just started the third in the collection, "The Terrible Vengeance," and it's seems to be much more readable. It reminds me of the only other Gogol I've read, Taras Bulba, in that it's the story of a Zaporozhyian Cossack. In fact, I may have to reread Taras Bulba while we're here--Ina has the copy I have her a couple years ago, just before she came for that first summer she spent here.

Istanbul: The Imperial City, by John Freely. Found this one on Amazon, and looks to be a good find--a combination of a detailed history of the city (and thus of the Byzantine and Ottoman empires), together with a travel guide to the city's monuments and historical sites. Anj started reading it on the plane--she's finding it informative, if somewhat dry.

I didn't bring any Turkish fiction with us. I did read a novella by Yeshar Kemal's over the past couple weeks, The Birds Have Also Gone, which wasn't particularly rewarding. I'd been half-intending to get a copy of Memed, My Hawk, or something by Pamuk, but that didn't happen.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Just arrived in Kyiv

Anj and I arrived in Kyiv a few hours ago. It's almost 2am here now. Our flight from Munich arrived at KBP (Kyiv-Borispil) at 11pm--about 45 minutes late, because we sat on the tarmac at MUC for a while and took off late. Lufthansa overall was good though. Direct from SFO to MUC--long (11 hours) but not bad, a short layover at MUC, then the short hop east to here.

Ina and Bogdan met us at the airport. No problems going through passport control and customs. A quick cab ride through wide and empty roads into the city and to Ina's apartment, which is quite comfortable. The building's not much too look at from the outside, and the stairway area is rather shabby--Bogdan thought the building is pre-Soviet--but the interior of the apartment looks to have been recently redone. I'm most impressed with the bathroom--a small washing machine, and an ingenious pulley-driven towel rack system over the tub.

Also the cable modem--as fast as ours in SF. Same modem in fact.

Tomorrow--we'll go around Kyiv a bit. Ina has to go the university she's affiliated with; in fact, there's a seminar series happening these few weeks, and we may attend a talk on the Orange Revolution tomorrow. Then tomorrow night we board the overnight train to Odessa.

I'll try to do a post tomorrow with the planned reading list for the trip.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

one more on Yalta / Drezner's blog

After seeing the post I put about Yalta last week, Anj pointed out
another NYT article from yesterday's paper that sums up the debate; go

In looking for that article on the Times website, I came across another one from
Sunday's paper which is tangentially related. It's written by the
historian who penned the Slate essay on Yalta that I mentioned in that
previous post. But this one is about his experiences filling in as a
guest blogger for Daniel Drezner.

Drezner's blog seems to be one of the more prominent
academic/political blogs out there. I first came across it during
Ukraine's Orange Revolution. (I was going to include a link to some
of his writing in the post(s) I did at the time on Ukraine. See his entries from
November of last year.) Since then, Drezner wrote this essay for
our alumni magazine about being an academic and a blogger (he's a poli
sci prof at the UofC).

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Bush on Yalta

Wanted to post a couple links before I file away the e-mails by which they came to me. On Tuesday, Anj sent me this article, which appeared ironically in the Strib, that criticizes Bush's speech in Latvia last weekend. Then later the same day an e-mail from Slate featured this column, which also criticizes Bush for stabbing FDR and Churchill in the back.

I was wondering about Gwynne Dyer, the author of the first article. A Google search turned up that Jack Lessenberry had written an interesting column about him (here) in February. I started reading Lessenberry's column when I used to pick up a hard copy of the Metro Times each week in Ann Arbor. I've continued to read him online. But I think I must have missed that particular column about Dyer (which strongly recommeneds Dyer's book, Future Tense : The Coming World Order?)

From Latvia, Bush of course went to Moscow, and then made a stop in Tbilisi before heading to Western Europe. This story about Bush doing a Georgian jig caught my eye. But the visit to Tbilisi also reminded me that I'd been meaning to post the link to this interesting documentary I caught on KQED a few months ago (part of the fantastic Independent Lens series).

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Architecture links

A few architecture links I've been saving to put up:
  • The NYTimes ran this prominent and positive review of the new Walker Art Center in Mpls. Remarkably I haven't been back to MN since Suvranu and Kriston's wedding, meaning June 2002. We'll have to try to get back sometime this year finally; if we do, we'll have to check out the new Walker.

  • Just today, the Times had this review of the new Holocaust memorial in Berlin. Another spot to visit someday.

  • Saved this link for the Times review of the new Caltrans District HQ bldg in downtown LA. Passed that on to Arun, who hit me back with this link to a Slate review of the same bldg.

    That link led me to a few others on Slate by that same writer, Christopher Hawthorne, including this photoessay on Koolhaas. I didn't save any of the reviews of his celebrated design for the new Seattle Public Library from a year ago, but after digging around on their site for a bit, found this extensive archive of articles.

  • Speaking of public libraries, I've been getting over to the SFPL more often in the past month. A couple times to the Main library, whose architecture I rather like, and a couple times to our Mission branch. (One of those trips to Main, picked up a nice book in the small bookstore operated by the Friends of the SFPL: "A Free Library in This City", which embeds the history of the SFPL within histories of libraries in general, and of the city of SF. And the book was only $5, as it is here.

  • Addendum, May 11: Just came across one more, a column by the prominent architecture critic Witold Rybczynski on "Chicago's Magic Kingdom", i.e., the Millenium Park in Grant Park.