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A mish-mash of opinion and viewpoints

Yom Kippur

By Mariam Kevlishvili

Some people don’t eat meat and dairy products on Wednesdays and Fridays, some don’t eat or drink from dawn to sundown for a month, some give up a favorite thing for several weeks and some of us did not eat, drink, smoke, use a cell-phone, listen to music or use anything electronic for 25 hours just a couple of days ago.

Starting sunset of September 25 and ending nightfall of September 26, the Jewish community celebrated Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement and forgiveness – one of the holiest in the Jewish religion. During this day Jewish people fast, prey and repent for 25 hours, giving up all that can give them joy and satisfaction.

I spent Yom Kippur in a small Israeli community in San Antonio, and I have to admit, I did try to fast just out of solidarity, but I wasn’t able to.

Before the fast they prepared a dinner. I love to eat with them because their food is always full of spices, but this time around it was pretty blend. They explained to me that they avoid salt and spices before starting to fast because it makes you thirsty.

They talked to me about the importance of this day. Some of them were not even as religious: they don’t eat kosher, or prey regularly but they said that this holiday is what keeps them Jewish.

Although it was a heavy day for most of them, it was still a lot of fun. Because I was the only Goya (non-Jewish, like they call me) I was the electricity-person. I was the only one allowed to turn the lights on and off and regulate the AC. They played backgammon and cards and talked and talked and talked. There was nothing else to do.

Most of them were heavy smokers, so the hardest part was not smoking a cigarette for more than a day. One guy kept putting an unlit cigarette in his mouth and pulling on it. Eventually he broke and smoked “just one” but that was his only compromise.

On Wednesday they opened up the fast with tea and piece of cake, but–surprisingly to me–they didn’t eat as much afterwards. They said that after not eating for 25 hours your stomach cannot take that much.

Although celebration of Yom Kippur is strictly a Jewish tradition, being a part of it I felt like all the religions have more in common than it seems. Probably everyone, even if they are not religiously affiliated, needs some time set aside to evaluate their past, forgive, let go and start all over again.

Fifty Shades of Grey

By Mariam Kevlishvili

The flight from Warsaw to New York lasts over 9 hours. That was my official excuse for buying Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. Honestly, I was just curious because almost every woman in the airport was holding a book in her hands that was Fifty Shades of something. I had heard that it was an erotic book and that it was a Twilight fan fiction, so with this combination I was expecting a literary version of True Blood.

Courtesy Photo. Fifty Shades of Grey cover art

Sadly, nothing about this book is magical. If you ask me, nothing about this book is even erotic. This book is just really unhealthy.

The plot describes a dysfunctional relationship of a young inexperienced girl and a man, who used to be abused as child and grew up to be a sadist. One might ask, how is this different from all the vampire and werewolf books, where heroines are fragile and helpless and are rescued by these magical bad boys that despite being monsters are kind at heart? The answer is simple: they don’t exist.

Fifty Shades of Grey promotes unhealthy, dominant-submissive, sado-masochistic relationships in a whole new way by transferring it from the adult fairytale-land to the real world.

The main character, Christian, is obviously psychologically disturbed. He beats women because they remind him of his mother, and he is obsessive, controlling and incredibly jealous. When he encounters Anastasia, he wants to be her “dominant” (a term author uses to describe the abusive partner) but he ends up falling in love with her and marrying her.

This plot would have been acceptable if his sadistic and controlling tendencies had disappeared by the end of the series, but they don’t. Anastasia just learns how to adapt to them. By the end of the book she starts to enjoy most of her beating, appreciate the pain inflicted on her, and in one of the last scenes she even addresses her husband as “Sir.”

However, I don’t mean to criticize the book. I don’t think that any book should be censored. Fiction writers are entitled to their own opinions about relationships. What surprises me is the reception of this book. After so many years of struggle for equal rights, why do so many women find having a domineering male so arousing?

Soviet movies make lasting impression

By Mariam Kevlishvili

Not everyone knows that Classic American movies and blockbusters are popular all around the world. Every foreigner I know (myself included) has seen Star Wars, and Sleepless in Seattle and The Godfather.  It’s not only American teenagers that await every new sequel of Harry Potter, and not only American girls stalk the famous and attractive actors on the web.
So it seems a little unfair that the movies that shaped the culture of other countries, maybe smaller, maybe bigger, maybe less powerful but definitely not any less important than USA, have remained unheard of in the United States.
One of the most beloved movies in Russia is The Irony of Fate, or Enjoy Your Bath! (Ирония судьбы, или С лёгким паром).

The Irony of Fate DVD

It is a tradition for everyone who has ever lived in the Soviet Union to watch it every New Year. This is one of the funniest and kind-hearted movies a person can ever see. The plot is based on the fact that, during the reign of the USSR, uniformity was very common. So after Zhenya get’s unconsciously drunk with his friends on a New Years Eve in Moscow, He gets on a flight to St. Petersburg and sleeps through the whole flight. He does not realize that he left Moscow until he gets in a Taxi, still pretty drunk, and gives the driver his address in Moscow.  Ironically, there’s exactly the same street, exactly the same apartment with the same lock in St. Petersburg as the one Zhenya owns in Moscow. So he gets in the apartment and goes to sleep until a very angry and scared owner of the apartment tries to wake him up to get him out of there because she wants to meet on New Years with her fiancé.
I will not ruin the whole movie for you, you should see the rest.
I will also tell you about my favorite movie from Republic of Georgia. It is not as kind as the one I previously described, but it is definitely a great piece of art. Repentance (მონანიება), directed by Tengiz Abuladze, portrays the Soviet Regime under Joseph Stalin (who was born and raised in my native country of Georgia) and Lavrenti Berya, his right-hand. The plot is set in a small town of Georgia and tells a story of a mayor, Varlam Aravidze, who seems to be “loved” by everyone. But when he dies, someone keeps digging him out of his grave. When they study the case, it is revealed that Varlam had been a dictator, abused and tortured many families and ruined everyone’s lives who ever dared to cross his way.

Official poster of Repentance

This movie has impossibly emotional and pretty disturbing developments. For example, there is one very powerful scene when a woman with her daughter is looking through logs that were swept onto the shore, trying to find the name of her imporisoned husband. Varlam’s prisoners had been sent away to an unknown destination for an unknown amount of time, and they were writing their names on the logs that were falling in the river, hoping that their families would find out that they were alive.  It’s impossible not to be touched.
This is one of the movies which will always be relevant because political leaders always seem to get out of hand when they gain too much power. I would strongly recommend you to watch it. It will be an unforgettable experience. And don’t try to hide the tears, because unfortunately a lot of people still live under the same exact regime. To be completely honest, when I first saw it, it shocked me how little had the things changed in my country of Georgia.


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Posted by on Oct 3 2012. Filed under Blogs. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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