Saturday, December 19, 2009

Snowed in!

We are snowed in. Thoroughly! The city is beautiful and I may say even serene despite the desperate attempts of lunatic drivers to stand up to what a particularly generous winter is throwing at this city. Bucharest is a city that is never quite like others and where public services are haphazard and erratic at best of times. These days traffic is such a nightmare that, if reasonable, we are constrained to stroll leisurely through heavy snow. It is difficult, cold, but beautiful and gives you time to reflect without being angered by other equally stressed drivers.

On the political scene the big news is that the court rejected the challenge PSD presented and opened the way for validating the elections. This promptly happened earlier this week. They didn't even bother to discuss the three different issues backed by proof raised by Geoana's party. This despite a growing number of evidence of at least serious questions regarding the electoral process ... Consequently Mircea Geoana did what was the only decent and responsible thing to do: he conceded in order to avoid a further and protracted political scandal while he mentioned the intention to continue the investigation via the means of a special parliamentary commission. As an additional quirk the official results show he actually "won" the election in Romania but he trails the incumbent about 70.000 votes out of 150.000 abroad. Promptly on some "free" blogs the country is now called "strawberryland". This is a pun on the votes of Romanians in Spain and Italy generically called strawberry pickers. Of course this is a meaningless and bitter thing to say. On one hand the Geoana campaign totally missed this political demographic and on the other hand the number of serious flaws in the process make rather questionable their responsibility in the result.

The overall situation is a bit "green" as we say here. The prospects of a stable (and competent) government backed by a large majority are slim. The returning president's party is using any possible mean to dislodge MP's from the socialist and liberal groups in the parliament and this with some success. A bunch of 12 or so deputies and senators have declared they will quit their groups and sit with the "independent" group led by a famous and fairly sinister turncoat general - he left PSD some time ago when he failed to appoint himself minister of interior and promptly joined the "presidential" camp. This way the president's party amassed a majority in both chambers. It is enough for most activity except changing fundamental laws.

We have a new prime-minister designate: the same pathetic communist activist styled guy (except he claims in a terrible wooden tongue his conservative and rightist credo) the parliament deposed three month ago! I have the very bizarre and unpleasant feeling of living in a time loop. A kind of semi-nightmarish groundhog day. For now it seems the government coalition will be the PDL - the president's party - and the Hungarian minority party. The latter are always interested - they have been in government for about 16 of the past 20 years! With parliamentary support from the group of the other ethnic minorities (it is officially called so) and the "independents" group before mentioned. There are high chances the cabinet will pass through parliament and by Christmas we will have a functional government of sorts. We will have to see how the budget looks like in January next year but times will be tough.

Apparently the socialists and the liberals will form the opposition. After a few tough days the party rallied around Geoana and except a few voices known previously to be in both camps there seems to be solidarity with somebody who has put a lot of effort in this last campaign.

Next week Romania celebrates twenty years since its Revolution. Also it commemorates its tragic victims. It is equally tragic to see that former apparatchiks and nomenclatura types mixed with straight out former securitate operatives, all directly linked to the oppressive Ceausescu regime are getting an almost total control over this country.

Christmas is coming and the country is all white. Hanukkah lights are still on. The fight should go on for a good society. Ever since the enlightenment it never ends. The Leviathan is always near and we only live a stalemate.

Monday, December 07, 2009


Originally uploaded by Andrei Singer
As far as Romanian elections go I will try to write a coherent piece tomorrow. Today I am just thinking about one good man. A man I trust. One that is flawed as the rest of us, one that has uncertainties, and hesitations, and moments of doubt. One that does make mistakes at odd times and pays the price. But also one that has dreams and inspires people to do more and not to be content. One that asks us as Kennedy once did what could we do for our country and not the other way around. One that had proposed to this nation of ours to team up, to get out of the gutter where history and terrible leadership dropped us.

Apparently we cannot yet escape this gutter. We are still idiotically pleased with cheep symbols of acceptance given by the bigger and richer nations, unaware or uninterested that we inspire nothing but contempt. We accept as inevitable the shambolic state of our economy and the eternal condemnation to poverty for a vast majority and total medieval misery for some in exchange for a free ticket to rob and plunder and subject by will of the polls. Democracy is nothing without a republic of citizens. Instead of citizens we have mobs and cliques. With one clique in particular using an invented populist “majority”. I am afraid so few of us are conscious or care for the pity mixed with avoidance we elicit abroad.

We have again embraced the nauseous and noxious path of personality cult. We chose en masse the ultimate populism. Elections may be fraudulent but that is the least of our problems. Democracy is robed and raped, devoid of any content and relevance in a system where the power rests again and again and again with the ubiquitous remnants of the most appalling underworld. Former securitate executives, former servants of the political police and other seedy nomenclature types related to this crowd or their relatives are choking this country. When somebody tries to change things it will be defied whether he or she comes from left or right.

If the result wouldn’t be enough on its own, I received today an e-mail showing the depth to which the communist style ass kissing and opportunistic positioning can go. A colleague of mine just sent out an e-mail promptly attaching a speech by the deposed and interim PM to show her most loyal allegiance. Pathetic and ultimately rather sad, as I am tonight for this entire nation, for those that I know are ashamed, and last but not least for one man that I know promised us something else. I believe him. I trust he does not give up.

For a good and courageous man

Originally uploaded by Andrei Singer
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream–and not make dreams your master,
If you can think–and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ‘em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings–nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And–which is more–you’ll be a Man, my son!

–Rudyard Kipling

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Originally uploaded by Andrei Singer
One starts to walk the streets with a specific photographic idea. Often it is so elusive that despite one's best effort to follow it it does not materialize. Then again, from time to time, you stumble on the right light, the right angle, the good alley. The difference between a great photographer and an amateur is probably the ability to generate this circumstances. I love this image but I am so painfully aware of the luck it took to make it. Finding a muse on the other hand is all a different matter. That is the other half and there I was even luckier.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Originally uploaded by Andrei Singer
Again, it is death that informs my deeds and invades my thoughts. It was predictable. It never is. A good man, a great father, and terrific friend is now more. I met his son. He and I were buddies and I was almost adopted into the family. My wife loved him as I did. She did not know him as well as I did. He provided me with a template for a generous and loving father. By the book. He adored his sons and they love him back as they should. He was a happy man. He died alone as we all do. But not completely. A woman was there and no wonder for he was truly absolutely lovable. I will miss him every time I go back or think of that dreamy, provincial, and ultimately detestable little city he loved so much.


Originally uploaded by Andrei Singer
There is nothing that prompts our curiosity more then the unusual in a setting we believe we know al about. A subtle change in ritual, a new design, a word, a glance, a fleeting impression of new, of different, challenges and excites our imagination. One can call this a moment of curious ecumenism.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Reading good books

Originally uploaded by Andrei Singer
"The future of the world no longer disturbs me; I do not try still to calculate, with anguish, how long or how short a time the Roman peace will endure; I leave that to the Gods. Not that I have acquired more confidence in their justice, which is not our justice, or more faith in human wisdom; the contrary is true. Life is atrocious, we know. But precisely because I expect little of the human condition, man's periods of felicity, his partial progress, his efforts to begin over again and to continue, all seem to me like so many prodigies which nearly compensate for monstrous mass of ills and defeats, of indifference and error. Catastrophe and ruin will come; disorder will triumph, but order will too, from time to time. Peace will again establish itself between two periods and there regain the meaning which we have tried to give them. Not all our books will perish, nor our statues, if broken, lie unrepaired; other domes and pediments will rise from our domes and pediments; some few men will think and work and feel as we have done, and I venture to count upon such continuators, placed irregularly throughout the centuries, and upon this kind of intermittent immortality."
— Marguerite Yourcenar />

Et le but d'unne vie d'homme

Originally uploaded by Andrei Singer
"Passion such as hers is all consent, asking little in return. I had merely to enter a room where she was to see her face take on that peaceful expression of one who is resting in bed. If I touched her, I had the impression that all the blood in her veins was turning to honey."
— Marguerite Yourcenar

Monday, October 05, 2009

Originally uploaded by Andrei Singer
I almost never post landscapes. It is simply not my thing. Tonight is different. A person I knew in very auspicious and positive circumstances died in very dire circumstances. He was a soldier. This was not the least apparent. He was self effacing and had the brightest of smiles. He was all hope for the world and when there was no reason for hope he was there about to create those reasons. He was a soldier in the business of saving lives. One by one, delivering clean water. And he knew exactly why he was doing what he was doing. This sense of purpose was always evident. I knew U.S. Army Capt. Benjamin Sklaver way too little. Today I hate myself for that. I have all the right excuses. He was younger then I was and a year bellow in the grad school we attended. Today a good few years later (but how few they appear now) I am married, he is just engaged ... I have maybe a few pictures of him in the midst of other grad students but these are more appropriate. Oseh shalom bim'romav hu ya'aseh shalom aleinu

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Res Sic Stantibus

Originally uploaded by Andrei Singer
Hips surgery averted, just! It reminds us all of our vulnerability. One takes such things as mobility, access, and free will of doing things for granted. It is so for most of us most of the time. But it is not for all, all the time. We almost never stop to consider these risks, accidents of life, and for some facts of living unless ourselves or somebody close is put in a position of experiencing dependency or limited mobility. Humanity should be indeed measured by its attention to those that face this challenge.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Wurgeengel meets its nemesis

Originally uploaded by Andrei Singer
There are few places one can go and from the very first time to feel at home. When it comes to bars it is getting close to impossible. Most are true horrors when it comes to drinks and many are short on atmosphere. When you consider the patrons as well it gets hard to find a bar that is indeed special. I have a very short list of favorites with most falling in the category of bars doing one thing great: one particular drink, one great presence behind the bar, music, design, crowd. Then there are even fewer that excel at everything and are the perfect Bar! Some of those on my list include: Archiduc in Brussels, Schuman's in Munich, The Hemingway Bar in Paris, Caprice and Limbo in Boston (but I hear these two went south). The common thing is that these all are rather small places. Berlin's Windhorst just made it on the list. The owner/bartender is doing some very special and rare magic in this little place. Crammed between two large buildings on a side street crossing Friederich Strasse, Windhorst is arguably the best cocktail bar Berlin has to offer. For some reason it reminded me of another favorite in the city the Wurgeengel though the two places couldn't be more different in size, location and appearance. After talking to the bartender now I know why: he worked there for many years. The attention to detail in this place is akin to a fine and lost art. The selection of spirits, the perfectly and tastefully selected bar list that is in itself an object of beauty with its book-cloth binding and superb paper, all are just a hint to the perfectionist, detail fanatic, while minimalist in gestures, ritual of making a drink that Windhorst displays. Double frozen ice, elegant Boston shakers, fresh fruit and juice and a diversity of ingredients that is also reflected in two sections of the list that are rarely found in small bars: old forgotten classics with rye whisky and an extremely generous and imaginative non-alcoholic drinks. All these preparatory steps being taken one reaches the apex of the Windhorst experience: the perfection of preparation that justifies all of the above. The party of six I joined occupied the entire bar-front and couldn't be more different in tastes. Three rounds of cocktails later we were all tipsy but enchanted. To complement this Windhorst offers a music selection that matches the sophistication of his drinks. A vinyl collection heavy on old-time R&B, soul, jazz and newly resurrected groove. King Brit meets K&D. We said our goodbyes on Belleruche ... try it.

Angel Esterminador

Originally uploaded by Andrei Singer
This is it! The weirdness of it all. Life as a social species. Trying so fucking hard ... no escape and no resolution. Determined to keep rolling and destroying everything and everybody-else. We are all alike we are not identical. We escape the rules but we make new ones. No escape of being executioners. We all take turns and we regret not having done enough ... Are we good enough?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

To leave Istanbul

To leave Istanbul one has many choices. There is the train right from beneath the streets of Sirkeci at the nexus between the Golden Horn and Bosporus. Reminiscences of the Orient Express are of course excused and thoroughly justified. Then there is the soulless and practical option of taking an international flight but the real beauty comes in the form of the divers choice of ferries to all imaginable destinations in the Bosporus and beyond in the Med and Black Sea. I like how Kara Deniz sounds ... But then Istanbul is so big that like in NY one has the option to turn around, regret, hesitate for a long, long time as the city stretches all over the shores for miles. It is all Istanbul, bridges, ships, shores, waves, hills, lights, mosques and minarets, red flags, shops. All alive and bustling with Istanbulus always erratic, always busy, always away ... traveling in their own city. And us ... coming and going. Returning is not an option is a disease.