Sunday, August 28, 2016

Who was Boris Gobunov, by Julia Koroleva

On the 20th of September for the first time in my life I am going to visit Bolshoi Theatre, thanks to my dear friend Julie Renee Phelan. I'm going to watch opera named “Boris Godunov”. It is written by great Russian musician Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky in 1869 and based on a tragedy by Alexandr Sergeevich Pushkin, created in 1825 while he was in exile.

It is a historical play and the main character – Boris Godunov, actually existed and he is a significant figure in Russian history. He was born in 1552 in a family of a landlord, but after a marriage of Ivan the Terrible’s son and Godunov’s sister he was granted a title of Boyar. And, when the Tsar died in 1584 he became a regent for his son. For 13 of 14 years of Fjodor’s rulership it was Boris, who was ruling the state. That period was a period of better relation between Russia and Europe and also of great changes inside the country: for instance, Godunov was building new cities, my hometown among them.

While Fjodor was alive, the inherent of the throne was his younger brother, Dmitriy. He mysteriously died in 1591. Many accused Godunov of assassinating him, but after an investigation it was stated, that a young man died because of an epilepsy attack. And in 1598 after a death of Fjodor Boris Godunov was crowned as a rightful ruler.

After several years the rumor went through the country: Dmitriy is alive and he is going to claim the throne. It is generally believed that the real Dmitriy died in Uglich, and that this Dmitriy's name was actually Grigoriy Otrepyev, although this is far from certain. Anyway, the impostor is known as False Dmitriy the First and he was in fact quite successful.

Boris was sick for a long time, and after a dinner, when all his doctors were assured he was fine because of his good appetite, he suddenly felt bad, went to his privy chamber and died in the age of 53.
Soon after his death the revolt was made by False Dmitriy and Godunov’s son and wife were killed by Dmitriy’s allies. False Dmitriy ruled Russia for one year after these events.

This is what I know about the man I am going to watch an opera about. I know, thought, the play, written by Pushkin differs from the historical context. How much, I am going to find out and let you know on the 20th of September.

Friday, August 26, 2016

The Cold War from the Outside, by Julie Renee Phelan

Lake Tapps
My name is Julie Renee Phelan; I was born in November of 1964, and was the fifth child of five children born within seven years. My father was a highly decorated Seabee, a member of the United States Naval Construction Force from the Korean War. I lived on a small island, circumference of which was less than two miles. The lake was filled every summer by glacier water that would melt from Mt. Rainier and flow down a river to fill our lake, and in the winter the water was used to produce hydro-electricity. It was a turbulent time in the United States; our president John F. Kennedy was assassinated one year before I was born, we were engaged not only in a war in Vietnam, but also a Cold War and a Cultural Revolution. I was a curious soul, and my first
Home, where I grew up.
memories came to me around 1968 when I would listen to the music of the Beatles, who wrote “Back in the U.S.S.R.”, other memories that year include watching Walter Cronkite reporting on CBS news regarding the assassination of Martin Luther King, and the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. In 1969, I watched Cronkite report on Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landing on the moon, and again he reported in 1970 about Apollo 13, when the three astronauts after several malfunctions, remarkably were able to return safely to earth. I also recall vividly watching his reports, when they showed thousands of body bags of our soldiers returning to our country from the Vietnam War. As well, I recall him reporting in 1972 regarding the Watergate break-in, the scandal, and the subsequent resignation of our president Richard Nixon in August of 1974. Again in April of 1975, it was Cronkite who finally gave us the news that the Vietnam War at long last had finally come to an end.

My Dad and I
That was a lot of history for a ten year old to swallow and understand. I recall specifically a conversation that I had with my father after the end of the Vietnam War was announced. He was working out in the yard and was not to busy so I came up to him and asked, “You mean we are not at war? How can that be? We have always been at war.”

Dieriniger Middle School
My father smiled with a grin of finally understanding my perspective, and he responded, “No Julie Bug we do not always have to be at war. We still have the Cold War, but that is not much of a war, we just ignore each other. Believe it or not, we do have times of peace, and those, well those are the good times.” He looked up into the sky as though smiling at God himself, shook his head, shrugged his shoulders, still chuckling at my naivete, and went back to work on clipping some hedges.

A Dieringer Middle School, Fifth Grade Cladd
I admit I was a little confused and still a bit stumped, but pleased that we did not have to watch anymore body bags on the nightly news. For me, it was a new reality … I live in a country that is not at war for the first time in my life. Wow, a new reality.

This Cold War did not bother me at the time, I mean what is wrong with ignoring each other. I did look on the world map to see where the U.S.S.R. was; it was a huge country. The peace on the news however ended quickly, the nightly news started showing clips of Russian troops marching down some large boulevard with tanks in Moscow. The soldiers looked fierce and stern, and the pictures as they were intended to do, scared me.

Victory Parade in Moscow, Russia
In the Spring of 1975, I was attending Dieringer Middle School, and was in the 5th grade. I was rather excited because I actually had a history teacher, who had an unusual name, Mr. Kovochovich. Is he from the Soviet Union? Can he tell us about them? It was unfortunate, we only studied Washington State and United States history, which really did not interest me, except the Cuban Missile Crisis, which seemed pretty one-sided to me. I was still very concerned about those soldiers marching in what they call, Red Square. The News Reporter on every station, CBS, NBC, and ABC would report the same statement: "Communist their goal is world domination. The front line of a new kind of war. A conspiracy to corrupt democratic values, and bring about a new war to overthrow our nation."  This statement was read on May 9th each year during the U.S.S.R.'s Victory Parade, which they had for winning World War II.

Victory Parade in Moscow, Russia
In 1979, I graduated from the 8th grade from Dieringer Middle School, and began school at Sumner Junior High School, which was overcrowded. I opted out of attending school for a large part of that year, and laid inside a cozy sleeping bag that I had stashed away at the Driftwood Point Park on the island, up inside the chimney of one of the old fireplaces; no one was using the park during the school year, except me. Often times I would look at that huge majestic Mt. Rainier, which appeared as though it sat on the lake, and dreamed of visiting far away countries as I listened to the lapping of the lake water against the shoreline. While at the park, I began reading anything that I could get my hands on, which was mostly Russian Literature, the usual suspects, Crime and Punishment, War and Peace, The Idiot, and Doctor Zhivago.

Breakfast Club
Occasionally I would have to return to school to hand books back in and check more out at the school library. As well, there was a teacher, Mrs. Nieman, who taught advanced placement English, which means we had to test high enough to get into the class. When at school I always attended Mrs. Nieman's class, and we had many great English writers, one of which includes Shannon Schonberg-Eddy, whose work I admired at the time and still admire. We were a class of geeks, which reflected the movie, “The Breakfast Club.” We consisted of scholars, jocks, beauty queens, and band members, we were a bunch of oddball, but smart oddballs. We enjoyed each others company, and admired each others input; we had this one guy by the name of Poindexter who always came in late with papers flying out of his trombone case. 

That year I did however miss more than sixty days of school, and had to take a test to pass the ninth grade. My score reported that I was on par with a junior in college so they allowed me to continue on into the tenth grade.

I was more interested than ever in what was currently happening in the U.S.S.R. We did get to watch the U.S.S.R. compete in the Olympics until Jimmy Carter boycotted the Moscow Olympics in 1980, which was extremely disappointing to me. Not only did I not get to see the Olympic athletes from the U.S.S.R, but I did not get to see images of Moscow. We had no news information from the U.S.S.R., except these clips of soldiers who looked really cold as they were marching with tanks in Red Square. 

U.S.S.R. Flag
The Iron Curtain was strong, no news or any sort of information came to us from inside the U.S.S.R. They seemed angry. Were they angry because we were ignoring them? I knew there was a nuclear arms race to build more and more nuclear bombs. I had lost count on how many times each country could destroy the world, I think we were able to destroy the world ten times over. I thought, how silly, wasn't once enough?

In 1983, I went off to Central Washington University, where I studied Economics and Accounting. In order to obtain a degree, not even history was a basic or breadth requirement. In Economics, the system of communism was not even discussed. In 1986, I went off to the University of Hawaii for a Summer semester to study ballet, which is where I was able to gain some insight into the U.S.S.R. It was there that I met a young Norwegian man, named Lars. I had several questions for him. Were most Russians white like us? Were they nice? Why did they seem so angry? 

Lars explained what he could; yes, most Russians were white, and they seemed nice enough. He added that they had a long standing issue with the United States that goes back to just after World War II. He said it was something about Poland and then some speech that Churchill made. I was amazed and of course immediately in love with him due to his knowledge of the world, and obvious great looks.

A Nazi SS Officer
In 1988, I graduated from Central Washington University, and married Lars soon thereafter. We traveled throughout Norway and Sweden, we took a cruise ship from Sweden to Kiel in West Germany, where his grandparents lived in Lubeck, and it was the best place in Germany to see over the Wall that separated West and East Germany. In Lubeck, we climbed the stairs to the top of the tower, and looked through binoculars over the Wall. I did not see much other than some old dilapidated industrial buildings that were in great need of repair, and all the buildings were painted the same color of gray; it did not look very inviting. This was the first time I thought that maybe there was a problem with ignoring the other side. I felt bad, and an emptiness filled my insides. I thought there maybe something is really there that we really should know.

Lars and I stayed with his grandparents. His grandfather, Peter Mueller was part of the track and field team; he was a triple jumper, who did not medal in the Berlin Olympics in 1936. More interestingly, he then was a Nazi Officer. I did see his Nazi uniforms which were pretty sharp looking including his boots, but it left a bad taste in my mouth. As well, although I grew up on a small island below Mt. Rainier, I knew what a SS German Officer's uniform looked like, which was exactly what I was looking at. I swallowed my spit, and went back to the dinner table to food that I could not seem to swallow, some how I lost my appetite, and had a stomach ache.

According to Peter he was sent to Norway. In Norway, he would learn where they were going to the next day, and would go that day door to door to warn the Norwegians to warn them of the Nazis coming the next day. It was at one of those doors, that he met Lars' grandmother, and they fell in love.

Adolph Hitler
Peter did explain that before anyone knew it Hitler had come to power, and his neighbors and friends were no longer friendly, everyone was informing on each other regarding anyone who was against the Third Reich. Anyone against the Third Reich was either incarcerated or shot and killed. The Jewish people were marked originally with just arm bans, and then subsequently took away to what they believed to be a work camp. It however became more markedly clear that it was not just a “work camp”, when the Jewish people resisted they were shot and killed in the streets outside their homes as an example for other Jewish people, who failed to comply with going to their “work camps.” If the people did not inform on the Jewish or others against the Third Reich to the government, and the government found out that they may have known, their family would be killed. 

U.S.S.R. Flag
I did ask Peter about Russia, and he smiled, laughed, and said, “I was glad to be in Norway. Russia was the best thing that ever happened, it ended the war.” He explained how Hitler overextended himself, and it was an extremely harsh winter in Russia. The German soldiers did not have adequate supplies, such as shoes and coats and guns and not even ammunition. Hitler was too aggressive and was fighting wars on too many fronts, and the Third Reich imploded.

I asked Peter what he thought of Americans? He responded grimly and with much disdain, and in the only English that I heard him speak, "A bunch of gangsters." He however was kind enough to me. At the time, he was approximately seventy years old, and still walked up to twelve to thirteen miles per day. It is an interesting note that Lars never told me his grandfather was a Nazi officer until we arrived at their home In Lubeck, and I brought the subject up about World War II.

Lars and I continued are travels we also went to Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and Austria. It was an enlightening experience, but the marriage was short lived, one year. 

United States Flag
In 1989, I became an Internal Revenue Agent for the Internal Revenue Service, and specialized in not for profit organizations, while I was an Agent, the German wall came down, everyone was so excited until we saw what was on the other side in what was East Germany. Thankfully, West Germany came to their aid, and they were able to provide basic necessities and rebuild East Germany from the ground-up. During that time, I was also a graduate student in Economics at California State University, and later transferred to the University of California at Los Angeles. In 1991, the Soviet Union came to an end, countries were redistributed and the former U.S.S.R. became much smaller, and is now referred to as Russia.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Review: Ballet: The Nutcracker, by the Bolshoi Ballet, by Julie Renee Phelan

Bolshoi Theatre
Review by Thumper: Thumps from 1 to 5: Thumps of 5.
The Bolshoi Ballet must be the world’s greatest ballet company. The word Bolshoi means grand in Russian. The company indeed is grand; it consists of more than 200 dancers. It is also grand in their performance, as I watch my mind turns to concern, my body turns to exhaustion, but my heart wants more; about half way through their inhuman routine, which they perform as though natural and effortless, I fear someone may drop dead on stage, but they keep going and going and going. Their spins are so fast that sometimes the performers appear as blurs, and their twists and turns are perfectly on cue with the musical score, their positions are elegant and elongated. Only twice did I perceive perhaps a slight imperfection. I attended the matinee, and suspect that some of the performers are understudies because they have another performance tonight. How can I describe a performance that is indescribable? I cannot describe something that has the appearance of being outside the limits of human possibilities. As I write this review, I still cannot grasp the magnificent achievement and emotional depth of the Bolshoi Ballet; their apparent effortless movements coupled with their fluidity of motion creates a long lasting affect on the audience by questioning the limits of human possibilities in order to create beauty. Their performance can only be described in one word, "Bravo."
Bolshoi Ballet
The Nutcracker originally premiered at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg on a Sunday, December 18, 1892, which was choreographed by Marius Petipa and Ivanov, and the musical score, which was written by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. I watched the Nutcracker however at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, Russia, which was designed by Joseph Boye. The theatre, originally built between 1821 and 1824, has a neoclassical façade, which is also depicted on the Russian 100 ruble banknote. The main building has been renovated and rebuilt many times. On October 28, 2011, the Bolshoi was re-opened after an exhaustive six year renovation, which cost about $700 million. The renovation included restoring the acoustics to its original quality, as well as restoring the opulent imperial decor.
Bolshoi Theatre
I notice there are many children in the audience; they are finely dressed, and very well behaved. When I returned to the hostel, many people ask about the ballet. I respond with my awe inspiring words of gratitude toward their inhuman achievement as performers. One of the ladies at the hostel, asks, “Why did I go? The Nutcracker is for children.” I replied, "We in the United States must all be children because many of us are adults in the audience without children." She replies, "That is true. The United States does consist of a bunch of elderly children." We had a good laugh together.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Why Are Russian Rubles So Worthless? by Julie Renee Phelan

         What does Russia not have that the United States have? A lot, we in the United States have manners; we live in a country where people for the most part are well behaved. For example, and this is only one of many situations that I have experienced; if I go into a restaurant in Moscow, Russia, while even trying my very best to speak Russian, they will start yelling at me that I cannot have seaweed salad with spicy tuna rolls at a Japanese restaurant. I explain that is exactly what I want ... seaweed salad with spicy tuna rolls. So my waiter leaves the room to get the manger, and he explains to me ... it is not customary to have seaweed salad with spicy tuna rolls. I explain to him that I have never heard of such a rule when ordering sushi. I reminded them that I am the customer, a concept that is perplexing to them.
           They did deliver the seaweed salad and the spicy tuna rolls as well as the sake, which I did take a couple of sips … as they are continuing the argument as it relates to my behavior as being that which is a substandard ordering process, which they did while standing around my table, while pointing their fingers at me, still I did not agree. So they brought down another manager who actually took a seat without an invitation at my table, and continues to express my socially inappropriate behavior in the ordering process.
            I pointed out to him that none of us are Japanese, but my first boyfriend was, and I do recall his family ate sushi with seaweed. After another five minutes of this ongoing argument, I took $1,000 rubles out of my wallet, which is about $15.00, however the normal cost in the States would be $50.00, laid it down on the table without having eaten anything, and walked out of the restaurant.  As I left, I did say in perfect Russian, “So, do you really want to know why your rubble is worthless? If you cannot provide good service to a customer, the customer will not return for your services." 
            Beware as well of Sundury Bath House, the service there sends chills up my spine just thinking about it. In both establishments, the truth is not the inappropriateness of my ordering, what I ordered was on the menu, or request for services, which they obligatorily provided, but rather their mean and spiteful attitudes are about me being from the United States. 

Biography: Catullus, Gaius Valerius, by Julie Renee Phelan

The poet,
Gaius Valerius Catullus was born around 84 B.C., and died young in approximately 54. He was born into an affluent family that lived in Verona, which was Cisalpine Gaul, but is currently, Northern Italy. The father of Catullus was a frequent guest at the dinner table of Julius Caesar. Although Catullus migrated in the early part of his life to Rome, his poetry reflects more emotional roots from Verona. His poetry tends to be emotional, and therefore, many scholars believe his works reflect his life. However, this tendency to read his pieces as biographical are part of the genre in which he wrote, which was the projection of an image of the self, a mask behind which the poet uses the poetic tools of rhetoric. His achievement lies in his ability to transform seemingly ordinary experiences into believable and entertaining poetry. Therefore, the readership of today cannot ascertain where the real or imaginary mask of the poet begins and where the real or imaginary mask of the poet ends.
            However, Catullus is a character in the majority of his poems, appearing in name in a few and implicitly in many others. The Catullus portrayed in his works was passionate about love and friendship, someone who demanded more than others were able to reciprocate. He was very demanding of his girl, Lesbia, a married woman, who was not only his sexual partner but is often spoken of as a member of his own family. As a reader, we may ascertain that Lesbia may have been put off by his infantile dependencies, and futile demands for her fidelity. Catullus portrays himself as a desperate personality with addictive tendencies, which makes betrayal a prominent theme throughout his works.
The social position of Catullus and his family gave him many liberties, which included the right to mock Caesar, other public officials as well as the wealthy in verse.  Catullus was audacious and often obscene. Some contemporaries of Catullus may have read his works almost like a tabloid reports on various scandals of celebrities. However, long after the public officials and other notables had passed, he was read for his eloquence of verse. The vernacular usage of Vulgar Latin by Catullus gives his language a racy freshness that is not seen in other poets of his time. However, Catullus did use some traditional literary devices, which include the virtues of wit and brevity. As well, he used iambic rhythm, dactylic hexameters (the meter of Homer and Virgil), elegiac couplets, and mockery, be it irreverent or self. The mixture of vulgarity and learned craftsmanship gave him a unique style that can only be identified as his own.
Work Cited
Catullus, Gaius Valerius. The Student’s Catullus. Ed. Daniel H. Garrison. University of Oklahoma Press: Norman, 2012. Print.
#1. Modern bust of Catullus on the Piazza Carducci, Sirmione.
#2. "Catullus at Lesbia's," by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1864. 
#3. Catullus, Gaius Valerius. #5 "To Lesbia, About Kisses" 1st Century B.C.