Archive for June, 2009

Good-bye, gambling?

June 30, 2009

Local casinoThe gambling sign on the building which you see in the picture may soon be taken away. That is, if the law on banning all gambling places – from trendy casinos in city centers to one-armed bandits in underground passes or elsewhere in side-alley hangouts – is not watered down.

When in the early 1990s Ukraine turned into a free-for-all place, the gambling dens started growing in a crazy-quilt way and soon became ubiqutous. Nowadays you can hardly see a city block without an entertainment establishment of this kind. I can only guess what is going on behind the closed doors in the window-less buildings that flash out with blinking lights at night and which function – according to the signs on the doors –  round the clock. When I am out for my morning jog in the morning I sometimes see groups of young people at the entrances to these building – definitely after a night-long gambling spree.

Ukraine is far from being strait-laced – with so many of the Ukrainians  drinking and smoking heavily. However, the popular sentiments are definitely anti-gambling. That is why the Ukrainian parliament, though being torn apart by continuous internal strifes, voted almost unanimously for closing down the gambling industry. The parliamentarians overuled even the veto of the President who said that the law was populist and poorly thought over.

Even though this nation has generally removed the word “sin” out of its active vocabulary, I am glad that it still feels that certain actions can be “sinful” and it will be unacceptable for a country to officially sanctify the vice – whatever the reasons might be.

There’s one “but”. A gambler at one of casinos in Kyiv is quoted to say: “Our corrupt authorities will shut up as soon as they receive their share. With money you can do here whatever you want.”

That’s all there is to it.

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HERBIVOROUS CARS

June 29, 2009

While relating the history of his travels, a character of Thomas More’s UTOPIA gives a metonymic picture of early capitalism development by an example of “carnivorous sheep”. It goes about enclosures: the importance of woolen cloth to the early 16th century economy led to richer farmers overstocking common pastures with their animals and commoners were frequently driven off and the countryside depopulated. “English shepe deuourers of men” has the English version of Thomas More’s books (the original was written in Latin).
The character also sees an ineradicable human trait behind the process of devouring – people’s “insatiable gluttony”. After five hundred years the human nature has hardly changed. This thought comes to mind when one compares photos of Kyiv dating back some fifty years ago and as you see Kyiv now. High-rises are ruining the comfort of verdure which was enveloping the streets of the city half a century ago. And cars that are being parked on flowerbeds and lawns look like modern grass-eating monsters to me. Actually, you can hardly recognize earlier flowerbeds and lawns in tamped plots of what was grassy land before.
A science-fiction story has it that a child of some future society is arrested and put into a penitentiary only because she has found a blade of grass among the concrete jungle of skyscrapers where she lives. It looks like the prediction is coming true.

June 11, 2009

CHESS

My generation has a special feeling towards the game of chess. Chess was cultivated on an official level in the Soviet Union and the chess-champions (for about three decades after the war all of them were from the U.S.S.R. ) Mikhail Botvinnik,  Vasiliy Smyslov, Mikhail Tal, Tigran Petrosyan were kind of national heroes. Championship matches including return matches which were usually arranged if the champion lost the first match to a contender, were followed very closely. My father used to carry pocket chess with him — to analyse the progress of the competition. The latest moves of competitors were broadcast live on the radio.

Some thirty years ago the “chess corner” of the public garden near the Red Building of Kyiv University was packed with chess-players. Though they were called “amateurs”,  the standards of playing were rather high. Rumours go that a chess champion of Portugal took pains to draw a game with a six-year boy who frequented this place.

Now there are only a few tables at which chess is played in the public garden. The rest are being used for playing cards or checkers or just by university students for quick birthday celebrations. When in winter the cold gets bitter, those who are “newcomers” to the place vanish, but  the most ardent adherents of this cerebral enterprise remain. That’s when I took a picture of them. I do not have time enough to “stand and stare” — only some minutes for taking some snaps.Shaxisty1

June 9, 2009

CONTINUITY

continuity 2

At the end of May my Yahoo! service provider officially informed me that they are closing their blog space Yahoo!360 and that I will have to move my content to a new profile before July 12th. To transfer the information which I have been writing for almost two years was no easy task and for this transference I am greatly indebted to my daughter who applied her IT acumen to help Dad. You may understand that downloading an archive of all the posts and uploading them on a new blog-site may turn into an unsurmountable problem for a person  who in the days of yore used to stick a steel nib into a pen-holder before dipping it in an ink-pot to write a couple of words (the ink on the nib was enough to scribble a word or two before you had to dip for another portion of the pigmented liquid). I just asked myself one simple question: why do I want to get my previous writings posted on a new site? Wouldn’t it be better to leave everything behind on the old site and start writing a new blog from scratch? What was that “something” that made me cling to the material written between September 2007 and May 2009?

The answer may be found in a person’s instinctive wish to keep life a coherent whole, to make an uninterrupted flow of it and to explain its every part in terms of past and future events. That desire is embodied in the word “continuity”. The concept is very important in methodology of teaching, it’s a high priority for writers of long-running TV series  who are set on maintaining the unity of the plot and the connection between objects, places and events.

The dictionary says that the words “persistence, durability, enduringness, lastingness, strength”  are also related to continuity.

Are you cherishing the memories of your childhood? Are you faithful to the commitments of your youth? Are you still keeping letters you used to receive in the past from people who were (and are) very dear to you? Do you think that parents have contributed significantly to what you are at the moment? Do you see your ideas and aspirations continued in your children? If the answer to each of these questions is “yes”, then the time is not “out of joint” for you (Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”) and you are a happy person – the person of continuity.


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