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Monday, April 29, 2013

TEDx Tbilisi

I really wanted to attend the TEDx talk this year, just like the last year, when I thought about it and thought about it and while I was thinking, people filled out the application forms and spots. This year, the moment I heard about the TEDx, I was determined not to repeat my mistake; so I procrastinated again and was late to register again…I pestered organizers to put me on a wait list, which they did and I received a confirmation letter  summoning me to buy a ticket on Saturday; due to this special TEDx curse I’m carrying, I read Sunday instead of a Saturday and thus was unable to capture the snitch tickets…I obnoxiously E-mailed and Facebooked organizers again, plus my friend, who was speaker last year (see him talk), also wrote them and then I got 3 confirmations from different people that they will let me in, I guess just to shut me up.
Hence, I showed up at the right place at the right time (it’s a miracle I did not end up mixing the dates).  The event was well-organized, it started on time, cell phones did not ring, no speakers got bombarded with rotten tomatoes, we were not plagued by endless text powerpoints, MMK did not make an anti-talking-about-issues-that-are-sinful appearance…
Despite the fact that some foreign speakers clearly presented better and some Georgian ones actually sucked, the people that stuck in my memory are all  local.
Firstly, I would like to mention Tatia Vashalidze’s speech about sexism in Georgia. I honestly did not expect such a powerful speech, probably because the subject is so dear to my heart and I hold everyone touching it to a high standard. I also had several girls in mind I would like to hear talk on this subject. And though Tatia sounded a bit artificial in the beginning, she caught up towards the middle and delivered a witty and passionate speech about husbands refusing to let their wives out to Shardeni street, about the glass ceiling, about general attitudes in this country. She emphasized how we are always seen as someone’s daughter, sister, wife, mother, but never as individuals with own worth, own life, and own ideas. Tatia moved the audience by her truth.
Secondly, David Gogichaishvili gave one of the best talks of the day; he spoke of cultural differences. Predictably, he used humor, but it was not overbearing. His ppt was clever and void of unnecessary pics and words, and his points were clear. He mentioned how cultural differences may lead to wars, catastrophes, misunderstandings. He relied on personal and global examples. He asked us to E-mail our enemies thanking them for the differences they carry. He was good, as expected. After all, it would be horrible if a talk show host and a producer and a lecturer could not deliver a decent 18-minute speech.
Lastly, I was unexpectedly impressed with Bishop Rusudan Gociridze. An interesting figure on her own, a bishop of a Baptist church here in Georgia, she is bravely battling ethnical, religious, cultural and gender stereotypes. Her life is a testament of a peaceful, loveful battle. She used simple, funny examples from her life to convey the complex theological and gender issues intertwined in her daily work, small and big challenges that seem funny to us because they are really not supposed to be problems at all, but are, in our society. And that’s what hits you, maybe even harder than Tatia’s feminist speech: the inability to carry out everyday, routine simple tasks, while facing 100 practical and theoretical walls. Her speech got a bit pathetic towards the end, but we liked her so much by that time, that we believed her. I turned to a person by my side and said: “I almost cried”. He said: “I  actually did” and wiped his glasses clean. And that’s what this whole thing should be about. I guess being there was worth all the fighting.
P.S. my very own, coveted TEDx agenda

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Green Monster

Sometimes I don’t understand this country. Sometimes I wish all the bad decisions could materialize into one person; I would find that person, shake that person and scream at him (in my head, he’s got to be a man): “are you nuts? Are you absolutely nuts, don’t you have any brains left?!”
This is what happened: editor of “Liberal” was detained today, charged with drug acquiring-saving-transportation and facing 11 years of imprisonment. 11 years! Do you know what he did? HE RECEIVED AN ENVELOPE WITH POT IN IT FROM HIS FRIEND! That’s right! He did not do anything! Nothing! He did not smoke pot, he did not sell pot, damn it, he did not transport the pot, it was transported for him!!! 11 years!!!
Thus, if I really hate some person, all I have to do is send him a package of pot?! That’s it?! And he will vanish from Tbilisi for a decade?! Damn man, I need to update the list of my enemies…
Several months ago I heard of a respectable person imprisoned for growing green goodness in his apartment for his own use.  How much MJ could he grow in a clay pot on a balcony?! Why is that person dangerous for the society, who does he harm with his home-based agricultural endeavors?!
OMG, years ago I witnessed similar situation with an envelope. I am shaking now thinking of that time and people involved.
My friend was imprisoned with the same bullshit transportation charges, his office searched, his co-workers subjected to all kinds of humiliation and he—placed in a jail where he was beaten and abused. After horrible treatment, he got out and was blessed with monthly pee-checking visits and tons of money paid to the government to be allowed on business trips abroad.
Who do I need to curse?! Who came up with these ridiculous laws?! Is there any committee or any foreign entity that will recommend re-writing the current drug policy?! How long can we stand imprisonment of innocent people?! How long can pot-transportation-distribution be used for political and private vendetta?!
I would also like to remind you that on April 20th, Denver, my native city, the city where I lived for quite a while, the city that has always fought for marijuana legalization (along with the coolest place on Earth--Boulder, where I got my education) held a pot rally, yes that is right, 80000 (the number of zeroes is correct) people simultaneously gathered to exhale marijuana fumes exactly at the same time! And this has been going on for years! And miraculously,  the Colorado society did not seize to exist, its culture is intact, its citizens – not any more violent, or addicted, or dangerous than before the rally!
Just several days after the 420 rally, our justice system traps another victim of our stupid legislature!
I need to get out of here...

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Keep Smiling

I don’t like crying in public. However, this Tuesday I bawled in the movie theatre, over one of the best Georgian films I’ve probably seen in a decade. It’s called Keep Smiling ანუ გაიღიმეთ.
The film is good on a universal, not just Georgian scale. In that way it is similar to Iranian film Separation, which depicts a story of one family, living in a particular culture, in particular circumstances, but is so universally human that thought we may never face the settings of these people’s problems, we may feel similar problems in different mise-en-scenes. Similarly, anyone can emphasize with very “Georgian” problems of the film characters.
The film shows cynical, tacky, soulless world of modern western-style entertainment (not a new concept in film, really), but shows it through a prism of a Georgian reality. The film is not just about social and financial problems. It is not just about refugees. It not just about trophy wives.  It not just about aging. It not just about lack of love. It not just about forcefully pressing closed society to be open. It not just about politicians  who use people’s emotions for their own profit. It not just about private or institutional discrimination. It is about all of these issues and more, logically intertwined together, one contrasting with the other, all of them painful, all of them important.
There are no happy women in Keep Smiling. We see strong women, we see dramatic women, we see shy women, we see firm women, we see women with and without husbands and children, we see rich women, we see poor women but we never see happy women. We see Georgian women.
All is for sale in this film, bread and entertainment for all costs. Emotions, bodies, morals, principles, humanity, all is for sale and we watch this unique, different, strong women being forced into selling various aspects of their personality to get a coveted prize. You as a viewer understand that there is really no other alternative and it hits you with the full force that such patriarchal, collective cultures actually do create situations where an individual, no matter how strong she is, can’t change anything.
Aside from the not-yet-explored content of this film, it is technically better than most of recent Georgian films. Actors mostly act naturally. Editing is wonderful, dialogue is brilliant, camera work is good, though not outstanding; the film is modestly sprinkled with symbols here and there, The script is the star here and nothing takes away from the stories. Drama is built up gradually, in a very classic Shakespearean manner and avid filmgoers will sense towards the end that a tragedy is just bound to happen. It has humor and it does not hit you with a blunt, straightforward messages.
I didn’t cry towards the end, when crying would be obviously appropriate. I started crying after a scene depicting women that cook for the 2008 IDPs, as a part of planned entertainment. The event is being translated on live TV.  A reporters asks one of the heroines (who is an Abkhazian refugee herself), “oh, how wonderful that you are cooking for these people, how kind of you, tell our viewers, what do you feel right now?” and the women says “nothing”, while a drunk man in the background comically tells the camera “stop looking, this is not a zoo”. It just hurt me personally, it hurt me as a woman, as Georgian, as a citizen of a post-war country, it hurt me on so many levels of my own, individual identity, that I could not stop sobbing till the end of the film.
The film is subtitled. You can see it in Rustaveli theatre. Don’t bother reserving the tickets, the room is mostly empty anyway…
P.S. my blurry and forced smile.

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Ides of March

March is an unstable month in Georgia and warm days are followed by rainy, windy, whiny days. March in Tbilisi is like one day in Denver: if you don’t like the weather, wait for ten minutes.
Last week was also full of surprises, some sunny, some gloomy, some just plain stupid. After three hearings, our dear parliament came up with jewel legislation: members of parliament may now wear “traditional” Georgian Chokhas! I don’t know exactly what are women supposed to wear in this scenario (mountain costumes? Long white dresses and clip-on fake braids?), but men can freely walk around in a military outfit of Caucasians circa 19th century, re-stylized by Georgian folk dances of the Soviet era.
Two things bother me: 1. Parliament sessions are used to discuss bullshit issues like Chokha-wearing and condom-application (these men just can’t get past their physical appearances!) while education, health and myriad of other issues require immediate attention 2. Choka and such are symbols of extreme nationalism, potentially dangerous and discriminative. Lastly, it is plain stupid. Imagine sitting around in leggings and robe in a room full of suits and ties. To each its own, maybe these men will deny “Western” conveniences like plastic water bottles and gas-consuming cars, switch to horses and metal jugs and thus help the environment.
Another surprise was a free ticket to Makarevich’s concert. Makarevich is an aging Russian rock band leader, who visited Georgia with his Jazz gig; since poisoning people hasn’t paid off yet (my hubby works at a tobacco company), we couldn’t go. The weather gods caused the band’s plane to get stranded in Moscow, concert—delayed, Georgians—drunk in nearby restaurants; one such kind drunk soul gave hubby his tickets. Thus, we listened to nice live music and avoided waiting for two hours of delay.
Speaking of music and unusual surprises, my, was I wrong bashing Tbilisi Open Air, this year they are bringing DEEP PURPLE! IN GEORGIA! OMG. OMG.
Last news, my hubby’s team just had What When Where TV game yesterday: I not in liberty to discuss it before it hits the screens and amazes Georgian public with its brilliance, but man, what a game! Also, the host told me something about the sexist question of the six cups and one pot, how it wasn’t supposed to be featured, but got in anyway and pointed at the person who sent it. I don’t know how to interpret his statement, was it basic acknowledgement that the question sucked but he had nothing to do with it, was it just a response to my post on their FB, did he agree with me or what, but there was some reaction and honestly, I was surprised. The host doesn’t usually talk to me (I am not a VIP player, more like a wife appendix). So, all the kids that wrote on the game’s FB wall, your messages were read and at least considered.
That’s it for the March, I have made so many references to older posts cause this seems like a summary scribble for this season, the season of cold and rain and snow and wind and shitty decisions and depressing winter. Spring is on the doorstep, and before we step into the Epoch of theGreat Stink (aha, here’s another reference), we can enjoy the calm and warmth of April.
Peace and love.
P.S. Tiny asparagus growing on my tiny balcony. Ah, spring!