Category Archives: Reviews

Maltese festival, Armenian violinist and habitus questions

Social theorist Pierre Bourdieu famously defined the sum of acquired tastes and various dispositions as habitus – not exactly an over-structure where individuals merely participate, but neither an individual portfolio of competences, crafted upon a free choice among components. Although this theory is about everything and anything, I find it very useful both academically and in my own observations about societies.

On April 20th a friend and I went to see a free concert in Valletta – a part of the Malta International Music Festival. The concert hall, hidden somewhere inside the Mediterranean Conference Centre, looked long and small, and we wondered where we could enjoy the best acoustics. The crowd looked cheerful, and there were several dressed-up children with excited parents, suggesting that the Russia-based duo, Karen Shakhgaldyan (violin) and Natalia Sokolovskaya (piano) are not the only stars of the evening for some.

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False news, world literature maps, and why not anything goes for small countries

Culture reporting is every bit as serious as war reporting.
– My friend Alexandra Belopolsky, a culture reporter

Several of my Facebook friends shared this map, which claims to represent each country’s favorite book. How does one measure that, the creators did not bother to explain too much. A reddit list became the primary venue to crowdsource this information, but clearly the author came up with the list out of the blue and did not quite respond to comments. Some of my friends were pleased to find respectable works of literature representing their ancestral or adoptive homelands. Lithuanians, it seems, were left puzzled. Continue reading

2014 in review

My high school principal, who is a known blogger in Lithuania, says that to be liked, blogs must be personal. When I check readership stats, I see that my blog enjoyed much more popularity when it was more personal. I also enjoy blogs with a personal touch. So this year I’m planning to continue posting old and new travel diaries and various stories I encounter. For the first post of 2015, I’ll use this questionnaire as a basis (here are  2010 and 2011 in review). Continue reading

Dali & Magritte visit a small town near Kaunas

On Sunday I used the last opportunity to visit an exhibition of various minor works by Dali and Magritte at Raudondvaris manor, not far from Kaunas. Thanks to my friend R., who was willing to drive there in this suddenly freezing weather, we reached the recently redeveloped suburban area, which used to be a famous noble clan’s estate (you can read more about the history of Raudondvaris manor here).

Museums in Lithuania can hardly ever afford bringing really famous works, but this was a rare opportunity to see Salvador Dali’s ‘applied’ art. His career spanned for decades, so he was asked to design and produce various decorative objects, such as medals for Olympic games or the 25th anniversary of Israel (I hadn’t known that before), tapestries and ceramic plates. There were also some quite known watercolors, such as illustrations for Dante’s Divine Comedy. The fallen angel with drawers is one of my favorites. I also searched for the image of his ceramic plate from the Seasons set, the one portraying fall, which is a human figure with a cube instead of its head, and trees growing from it. But I couldn’t find it on google. Continue reading

Bar food and beer tour with Marius Plečkaitis

Walking by creepy looking blue lights from a wallpaper shop in the central station area, we are disappointed to see that a tiny shop with an old-school concrete sign is closed. Having spent many years in Kaunas, did I ever go there to buy meat pastries (čeburekai)? Definitely not. But on a tour with a connoisseur guide and a group consisting of friends and people I’ve just met, I am ready to uncover working-class and simply under-appreciated small shops and bars in my native city.

I am a member of LUNI, the Free University network in Lithuania, which consists of several groups of people who exchange knowledge without any fees or personal benefit. The network has nothing to do with the Western European tradition of free universities, and it is not a university. It is an initiative to exchange knowledge in non-systemic settings after education became more expensive in Lithuania. This month the Kaunas branch of LUNI organized a very special event – a bar food and beer tour with poet and restaurant reviewer Marius Plečkaitis (interview with him in Lithuanian). Food and drink tours are among the recent initiatives in Kaunas, where people explore their city and visit unusual spots that they wouldn’t venture into alone.

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French festival in Budapest last night

Last night I went to Bal Populaire, hosted by the French Institute in Budapest. There was a French band Stabar (swing and humorous performances), Cabaret Medrano (one of the tons of Hungarian bands that play Balkan music), and the famous Dj Palotai.

It was fun to observe how people were dancing. Mostly French people showed up – turns out that there was another festival at the Balaton lake.

I wonder if any street festival can ever take place without a character like this appearing from somewhere and dancing away.

Dancing and drinking

Drawing and crafts

I’m reading this book. I started it probably around a year ago, reading parts of it at different times and then putting it away. Thoughts inspired by this book helped me formulate the reasons for leaving my old job. There is much in it to think about for every ‘knowledge worker’. On the other hand, I was always aware of the fact that many of these crafty professions the author admires are almost entirely male-dominated and could be very hostile to the rare women who attempt to venture into this world. This is often cited as one of the reasons why girls try hard in academic subjects – most professions that are open to them without academic education are extremely low-paid, exhausting and otherwise unattractive.

As a teenager I had a dream to own a vintage Soviet car that I could take apart and put back together myself, like my uncle used to do with his first Zaporozhets. Yet I would have never had the courage that the author of this book had, to seek out experienced mechanics and get them to teach me something. Let alone in parallel with doing a PhD in Philosophy. Courage is something they should teach in primary school. Continue reading

Restaurant review for tofu fans + more on eating out

My friend Y. discovered a really cool restaurant in Shibuya. It’s called “Sora no niwa” (here’s one review with a map) and is about 10 min walk from Shibuya station. It specialises in tofu, and thus is a paradise for vegetarians and vegans, or those who aren’t yet convinced that the seemingly tasteless Japanese invention can turn into a broad variety of unforgettably delicious miracles, or anyone. Tofu, made from soybeans, is really low in fat, so those with restricted diet would also rejoice at the possibility to fill their stomach without the feeling of guilt. We had some creatively made tofu snacks, tofu soup, tofu which gets cooked right on the table, tofu tempura, tofu with rice, tofu tiramisu and tofu cocktail… Tofu-avocado and tofu-cheese snacks were heavenly! Also, the atmosphere is really pleasant. Good choice in all aspects! Maybe a bit expensive though.

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