Sunday, 26 August 2007

Armenian campaign aided by new forces: it is no longer just an Armenian issue

Recognition of genocide grows

Although White House does seem to cling to its "there were massacres, but no G-word, please" policy on the issue, as Boston Globe reports today, there are important changes in mind and growing trend in the US involving wide range of political and social circles to demand formal acknowledgement of Armenian Genocide of 1915.

I highly recommend reading the full article which details background and current developments, including recent Jewish controversy on the issue which sparked world-wide headlines.

"For decades, it was almost strictly an Armenian issue. No matter how hard they lobbied politicians to recognize the genocide of their people more than 90 years ago, Armenian-Americans often failed. When it mattered most, they lacked the political clout and friends to make a difference.

But the recent uproar in Watertown, home to roughly 8,000 Armenian-Americans, shows that the dynamics of the debate have changed. It is no longer just Armenian-Americans pushing for formal recognition of the genocide of Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks during World War I, but also Jews and politicians of many backgrounds.

Observers cite decades of lobbying and a raft of recent scholarly work on the subject as reasons for the change. But the shift is also indicative of a growing antigenocide constituency in the United States. Stirred up by recent massacres in Rwanda, the Balkans, and Darfur, Americans may be more concerned about genocide today than ever before, said Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel. "

Friday, 24 August 2007

You are mad if they don't like what you say

Russia: a neo-KGB state

Declaring dissidents to be mad and locking them up was a peculiarly Soviet tradition, says the Moscow weekly Profil, so it's appalling to find that such sinister practices are still going on.

Three years ago, a journalist called Larisa Arap gave a press interview describing abuses she'd witnessed in a psychiatric hospital near Murmansk. Medical staff, she claimed, would force children to "kiss their feet" and would apply electric shocks if they resisted. Some inmates, said Arap, weren't ill at all: one woman had been declared insane merely so her family could get their hands on her house; another was sectioned after accusing a teacher of abusing her daughter. Afraid of scandal, the school head lobbied to have her put away.

Arap received no feedback about these charges until earlier this year when she went for a routine medical check-up [to get a driving license]: recognising her name as that of a troublemaker, the doctor promptly sectioned her; she is now being "treated" by the very medics she criticised three years ago. Those who lobbied for her release say that doctors have threatened to "arrange things" for them too. The communists may have gone but "punitive psychiatry" is still very much with us.

*source: The Week magazine

Telegraph also run details of this horrific story.

P.S. Larisa Arap is a member of the United Civil Front - the opposition party of Garry Kasparov, ex-chess champion. She has been "discharged" few days ago.

Islamic Republic of Fear

Iran makes a grotesque spectacle of itself

The rest of the world may be more concerned about Iran's nuclear ambitions. But for many Iranians, the issue that has begun to outweigh other troubles, such as poverty, unemployment and the danger of war with America, is human rights.

*The Economist

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Armenia vs Portugal Euro 2008: Draw which equals to Victory

Another great day for Armenian football!

I am extremely happy to witness continuous resurgence of Armenian football. Well done, guys! Congrats to all of us! It is delightful to see the kind of confidence and quality which was displayed by our national team against world class footballers. Do not be surprised if in time you read world media's shock of Armenia's draw or defeat like they do it now for current favourites. You never know with Armenia :)

Here are just some of the headlines which caught my eyes:
Qualifier Report: Poor Portugal Held By Animated Armenia
A great move from Cristiano Ronaldo saved Portuguese honour in Erevan as the visitors suffered an early goal and only harvested a meagre point from their away fixture. The result is a let-down for Scolari and his men and postpones Portugal's chances of making it through to Switzerland and Austria next year... A bad day for Portugal that delays the long-awaited classification for the Euro 2008 and leaves Coach Felipão stewing in his own juice.

Sky Sports
Cristiano Ronaldo partially saved Portugal's blushes in Armenia
Prior to kick-off and Portugal had hoped victory against Armenia would push them closer to Euro 2008 qualifying Group A leaders Poland, but a 1-1 draw on their travels will be deemed a hugely disappointing result. And it could have been so much worse, for on 12 minutes, Armenia had the temerity to take the lead courtesy of Robert Arzumanyan's surprise opener.

Sporting Life
Portugal's star-studded team could not overcome their eastern European counterparts in the second half as Armenia held on for their third surprise result in a row, having defeated Kazakhstan and Poland in the last set of fixtures.

"The draw is a logical result for the match," Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said. "We definitely came here to win, but Armenia played quality soccer today."

"Today it was a beautiful evening for Armenian soccer,"
Armenia coach Ian Porterfield said.

In the meantime, as Arsineh pointed out in Life in Armenia, "It feels great to be Armenian today. That's all I have to say. Armenians from all around the world and Armenia itself filled the streets of Yerevan to celebrate together... drums and tamborines, even metal ashtrays were used as make-shift noise makers. Amazing! Even the seed stand guy was all smiles and chatty tonight."

Saturday, 18 August 2007

Armenian Army Abuses Go Unchecked

Defence minister pledges to clean up poor practice, but conscripts say corruption and violence are still rife.

According to Zhanna Aleksanian, a journalist and human rights activist who has extensively researched abuses in the military, "Bribery is commonplace in the army. Beatings and violence meted out by officers are not even discussed. Parents prefer to remain silent on this issue, as they do not want to harm their sons even more."

Full story by Institute for War and Peace Reporting - here

Friday, 17 August 2007

Is this the final split up for System Of A Down?

*picture via (left to right): John Dolmayan (drums); Daron Malakian (guitar); Serj Tankian (vocals) and Shavo Odadjian (bass)

OK, they do not like using words "splitting up" or "breaking up", instead preferring "hiatus". But in reality, they all gone their separate ways:

Serj is working on his solo album Elect the Dead (due 23 October) and managing his record label.

Shavo is working with a band Achozen which has not yet released any songs.

John is managing his comics business and, as announced on Thursday, partnered up with Daron on his new project.

Daron is working on his new project - Scars on Broadway ... and yesterday posted the following update on his myspace page:

"Hey everyone. I just wanted to give you all an update on what's goin' on with my new band Scars On Broadway. I have partnered up with John Dolmayan who is playing drums, and I'm on vocals and guitar, etc. Accompanied by some great musicians, we are preparing to go into the studio really soon to record our debut album. John and I are really excited about this new project and can't wait to get on stage and perform live for you guys. Till then, keep a close eye on the Scars on Broadway myspace page, and official website, for the latest news, and music......and prepare to be SCARRED FOR LIFE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Daron Malakian"
*picture via Wikipedia

This announcement by Daron, in practice, formalised their break-up. Well, in future, they may do re-union tours, like other bands do, but...

Is this the end of era for SOAD? I wish I could be proved wrong, but I am afraid the answer is Yes...

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Hunk Putin? - No, thank you!

He made world headlines again, not for his actions or policy, but for his body. In an attempt to ammend his image with 'sexy macho' touch, he shows off his judo trained physique. In short, Putin goes fishing and strips off.

But the most hilarious picture with excellent Spiegel commentary is this one:

"Here Putin appears to be auditioning for a part in a Village People tribute show. We know the 80s are back, Vlads, but can a world leader really pull off fingerless leather gloves? And why the shrubbery in the belt?"

In case you can't get enough of these pictures, there are more here

*source of pictures: Reuters and DPA

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Faithless - Bombs

According to some reports, MTV's main channel would not play this anti-war music video "Bombs" by Faithless considering it too 'controversial'.

Friday, 10 August 2007

Arts review Yerevan: Michael De Marsche unveiled as director of Cafesjian Museum of Modern Art in Yerevan

In what has been described by some as “shocking news”, it was announced today that well known and highly successful Michael De Marsche resigned as director of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center to become the new director of the Gerald L. Cafesjian Museum Foundation in Yerevan.

*Michael De Marsche (picture by The Gazette)

It’s interesting and very indicative - the way this news presented here:

“In what has got to be described as shocking news, Michael De Marsche resigned as director of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center on August 9, just seven days after the new David Owen Tryba-designed wing was unveiled.

Even more shocking is why: He’s becoming the new director of the Gerald L. Cafesjian Museum Foundation in Yerevan, Armenia! I couldn’t make this stuff up.

Yerevan, by the way, is the capital of the country, and the foundation, established by entrepreneur Cafesjian, is currently constructing a huge new cultural facility that will serve as a permanent home for his extensive collection of modern art as well as a venue for traveling exhibitions. "

As a huge fan and admirer of modern art, I am very excited with this news and the fact that very soon, hopefully by the end of year or so, as initially planned, Cafesjian Museum of Modern Art – Yerevan MoMA, will open its doors to public. This will enable Yerevan to rival London’s Tate Modern, New York’s MoMa and others, and establish our capital as a major cultural destination. It will host Cafesjian’s permanent art collection, comprising of works in glass by internationally known artists Stanislav Libenski and Yaroslava Brichtova, paintings by Joan Miro, Pablo Picasso and Marc Chagall, and the distinctive sculptures of Fernando Botero, as well as influential traveling exhibitions. The arts centre will include open air cinema, decorative pool, sculpture park, and public spaces for arts education, seminars and discussions. At last, our capital will be put on the map of major modern art centres in the world and current church-filled image of our country will hopefully get much anticipated other dimensions. Here is a hint to people who are behind tourism industry and promotional travel clips of Armenia – no more churches, please!

For background info, read articles by ArmeniaNow here and here

As part of Cafesjian Museum of Modern Art, Yerevan has already became home to a number of fascinating works by world famous contemporary artists (source of pictures - ArmeniaNow and Cafesjian Museum Foundation):

Fernando Botero "Cat"

Fernando Botero "Roman Warrior"

Barry Flanagan "Hare on Bell"

Barry Flanagan "Acrobats"

Stanislav Libensky / Yaroslava Brichtova "Open Window"

Lynn Chadwick "Sitting Forms"

Lynn Chadwick "Stairway"

Arts review London: Warhol vs Banksy

If you happened to be in London, the coolest weekend opening is Warhol vs Banksy exhibition at intimate The Hospital venue in London Covent Garden. I was there today and enjoyed it in full. Highly recommend it. I never thought or realised before that Andy Warhol has had such an influence on Banksy, so this exhibit was quite a revelation for me.

Here is just one example: Kate Moss (2005) by Banksy vs. Merilyn (1967) by Warhol:

There are more and better works by both artists at The Hospital; the exhibition is from 10th of August until 1st of September.

I’ve seen many of Andy Warhol’s works, but Double Exposure self-portrait was a discovery for me today - it's just fantastic, really, really. I wish I could buy at least a poster of it but nothing was on sale.

From The Hospital press release:

“A face to face show of classic drawings and paintings by Andy Warhol set against the infamous graffiti work of Banksy. The Hospital Gallery is delighted to present Warhol Vs Banksy; the first exhibition anywhere by the world’s two hottest artists today. Campbell’s or Tesco? Grace Kelly, Muhammad Ali, Winston Churchill, Mick Jagger, Queen Elizabeth, The Beatles, Smiley Man police statue, Andy Warhol himself and others make for a potent cocktail of celebrity, satire and voyeurism. Upon contact opposing pictures are explosive for their contrast, even of the same subject.”

Sunday, 5 August 2007

Serj Tankian - The Unthinking Majority

Just released. Powerful stuff from Serj Tankian (System Of A Down). Love it. Well done, Serj!

From Serj Tankian's statement:

The "Unthinking Majority" is a song that I needed to release now, before my record or single comes out, to make a statement about the current catastrophe of our failing democracy. It is unlike any other song on my solo record [Elect the Dead] and meant to inspire collective action...

Friday, 3 August 2007

White House "gave in" and withdrew Hoagland's nomination as its envoy to Armenia

It's official - White House gave in to Senate pressure and withdrew nomination of Richard Hoagland as ambassador to Armenia - exceptional move by US administration standards! The news was first reported by The California Courier more than two weeks ago. However, it was denied by US embassy in Yerevan just couple of days ago.

Today's official confirmation follows months of pressure upon administration, to formally acknowledge Armenian Genocide of 1915, by various political circles, Senators, Armenian lobby and, most prominently, Senator Robert Menendez who repeatedly blocked Hoagland's nomination for his refusal to acknowledge Armenian Genocide during Senate hearings on his appointment. It is widely believed that Hoagland's predecessor John Evans was forced into early retirement after publicly acknowledging the Genocide.

I must say that by refusing to recognise Armenian genocide Hoagland merely followed official White House line, like I suppose any other ambassador would have done. Whether today's announcement is an indication of change in policy of US administration in relation to Armenian Genocide issue; the growing "importance" of US/Armenia high level relationships in the region or just an indication of coming election year in the US, remains to be seen. I wonder what will be the next ambassador designate's answer to Senator Robert Menendez Armenian Genocide question if the nomination process goes through the Senate as usual?