Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Chinggis under construction

Mongolia, 2007 July
Maja Catipovic

how strange a thing

“We have almost forgotten how strange a thing it is that so huge and powerful and intelligent an animal as a horse should allow another, and far more feeble animal, to ride upon its back.”

--Peter Gray

Goths, Vandals, Huns, et cetera

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Mongol Shuudan

The logo of the Russian anarcho-punk rock band Mongol Shuudan.

In Mongolian, “Mongol Shuudan” means “Mongolian Postal Service.”

Their music is inspired by the history of the anarchist forces of Nestor Makhno (the “Black Army,” which fought against both the Whites and the Reds) in the Russian Civil War.

Their name was inspired by a postage stamp.

Hopscotch to Oblivion

Hopscotch to oblivion
Spain, Barcelona, 2003
Andy Wright

Thursday, February 21, 2008

EXCO, the Experimental College of the Twin Cities

EXCO, "made up of two chapters, the first chapter based out of Macalester College (EXCO-Mac) that began in 2006 and a second one based out of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities (EXCO-UMN) that began in 2007," offers free classes in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota.

List of classes:

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Here's a literary post at Cracked:

10 Words and Phrases You Won't Believe Shakespeare Invented

“Shakespeare invented more words than most people even know. Seriously, there's at least 1,500 different words and phrases that don't appear anywhere prior to the Bard of Avon putting them on paper. When he got stuck trying to think up a word, the man just made his own....

Where We'd Be Without It:
Well, for one, we wouldn't have a handy phrase to describe what worms create when they burrow through moist earth. Also, we wouldn't be able to FLY FUCKING STARSHIPS THROUGH SPACE AND TIME.
Why It's Un-Fucking-Believable:
Mainly because it's from the goddamned future. When you invent a word that describes technology so far beyond your own time's that it makes the neutron bomb look like a guy clapping really hard, you can take the rest of the day off. The Starfleet Federation, producers of Sliders and future population of Tau Ceti IV Alpha Base thank you, William Shakespeare....

household words
Where We'd Be Without It:
Unable to describe the entries in this list.
Why It's Un-Fucking-Believable:
Because so few people have the foresight to invent words to describe their own legacy. In fact, other than this phrase, we can only think of one person who invented a word that perfectly captures the sum of their impact on the planet. And even then, not everyone counts 'strategery' as a word.”


9 Words That Don't Mean What You Think

People think it means:
Actually means:
Not a damned thing.”

Friday, February 08, 2008

nestled in the modern mind

"Greek thinkers in the classical period, though they set no bounds to the daring of their thought, and though their wild speculations could easily lead to thoroughgoing scepticism, were yet too healthy-minded to entertain seriously either the problem of the existence of the 'outside' world or its specialized version, the reality of other persons. It was Descartes, the 'father of modern philosophy', who neatly chopped the whole human person into a knowing subject and a known object, that sired the rogue twins.

"Doubt for Descartes was a methodological stance, but the thought that all of the world around us could conceivably be a delusion or a dream, which Descartes introduced simply as a thought experiment, nestled in the modern mind, so that there is hardly any major philosopher during the past four centuries who has not had to grapple with it."

--D.R. Khashaba, "Subjectivism and Solipsism"

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Mongolian competitors in historic electronic gaming event

“...19-year-old Lkhagvasuren Byambasuren aims to win glory... at the Second Asian Indoor Games (, an international multi-event sporting competition that includes hockey, swimming and cycling.

“Byambasuren aims to win gold... through the popular video game ‘FIFA 2007.’ That's because this year, for the first time, the Games will include an ‘electronic sports’ category....

“His ambition will surprise nobody who's been to Game Arena, an Internet cafe in Mongolia's frigid capital city Ulaanbaatar. This is where the nation's best video game players tend to congregate. Among them are Mongolia's two other representatives for the Games: 18-year-old Ganzorig Batbold, who will compete in the car-racing game ‘Need for Speed: Most Wanted,’ and 23-year-old Bilguun Chimedregzen, who aims for glory at ‘NBA Live 07.’ All three emerged victorious in national competitions held to find the best players.

“This dream team will face formidable competition, though. Tsogt Sharavrentsen, the overseas manager of Mongolia's national e-sports program, is most concerned about competition from China and South Korea. Those players, he says, receive better training and are well-supported by both sponsors and their governments.

“‘In Mongolia it's very difficult because nobody understands e-sports,’ he says. ‘They think it's like a game.’

“The Olympic Council of Asia couldn't disagree more. A few years ago at a board meeting in Kuwait, it decided video games were serious enough to include in the event....

“Of course, video game contests are not uncommon -- especially in Asia. Channel-surf in Seoul, for example, and you'll likely stumble upon video game action, complete with breathless commentators, on-screen maneuvering and close-ups of players' intent faces.

“But it's rare for video games to be included as part of a multi-sport event -- Chau says it's the first time, as far as he knows -- and to be recognized by a sports governing body as weighty as the OCA. The council, recognized by the International Olympic Committee, includes the National Olympic Committees of 40-plus nations (

“So far, nine nations have signed up for the e-sports event. Others include India, Iran and Kyrgyzstan. (The Games are held October 26 to November 3.)

“The OCA decided that the video games chosen should be versions of real sports. This criteria -- and a marketing tie-up -- led to the choices being ‘FIFA 07,’ ‘NBA Live 07’ and ‘Need for Speed: Most Wanted.’ All the titles are from California-based game publisher Electronic Arts. The company's marketing muscle was a factor in the decision, Chau says, as was the popularity of the games themselves.

“More important, he says, is what the event means for video games. ‘This is a very important moment. We are witnessing the development of e-sports. Its development has reached a different level than being merely a game to play with.’”, 2007 August 28

sometimes seem to

"I sometimes seem to myself to wander around the world merely accumulating material for future nostalgias."

--Vikram Seth, From Heaven Lake: Travels Through Sinkiang and Tibet, 1983

Monday, February 04, 2008

The Story of the Weeping Camel

"so i was wondering if you've seen the film weeping camel and what you might have thought about it. i'm taking another filmmaking class and we're discussing it tomorrow. -lisa"

I saw "Weeping Camel" in Portland, Oregon, in 2004, as I was on my way back to Mongolia. The audience was stunned; the reaction was very positive. I know the film was popular in the politically liberal-minded markets of Europe and the coasts of the States. In Mongolia, it was a huge flop. I read one opinion (I think it was by the filmmaker) that posited that the fact that the film was a documentary turned off Mongolians, because they have ideas about documentaries, held over from Soviet times, as silly propagandizing films portraying the glory of the worker.

But I think "Camel" is just not that interesting to Mongolians. There's not much of a story to it. Many of the film's scenes are simply scenes from regular countryside life. One of the most shocking, humorous, incredible scenes for the Portland audience was when a five-year-old boy runs outside the ger and crawls up onto the back of a huge camel and then whips the camel until it stands up and then he rides away on it. But for a Mongolian, that scene has no novelty and can elicit no reaction; it's just another boring scene in which nothing really happens.

To think about it, would you want to watch a film of some average ol' Americans in Ohio or somewhere, just following them around in their ordinary routine, working and cooking and showering and whatever? Can you think of anything more boring? Anyway, "Weeping Camel" flopped in Mongolia.

I was uncertain about the people portrayed in "Camel." The film's style was of a documentary, but it seemed to me that the people were acting out predetermined roles, or perhaps they were self-conscious about having a camera on them.

I think of "Camel" as an example of a concept that I had read about in "Anthropology of Tourism" seminar: the commodification of culture--specifically, the commodification of so-called "indigenous" culture to be marketed to wealthy, liberal foreigners.

The only Mongolians I know who have seen "Camel" are ones who work in the tourism industry. Many tourists have come to Mongolia stating that their interest was piqued by that movie, so some Mongolians have viewed the movie just out of curiosity. In the main, "Weeping Camel" was ignored in Mongolia, and would be almost entirely unknown if the filmmaker had not received some international recognition through awards, which did make the papers in Ulaanbaatar.

So what do Mongolians watch? Melodramatic South Korean television serials and films. There are Mongolians making films for the Mongolian market, more of them, it seems, with each passing year. Many of these popular films seem to be set in Ulaanbaatar and are crime/gunfight/kick-'em-in-the-face flicks, which in the States might be described with the adjectives "cheesy" and "bad."

I read that the filmmaker's follow-up movie, "The Cave of the Yellow Dog," was very slightly more popular than "Weeping Camel" in Mongolia, perhaps because there was a stronger story to it. I haven't seen that film. In fact, I don't know anyone who has.

Friday, February 01, 2008

meaner than I want to

“You can go head and have the baby,” I say. “I give him my name.”

I say it meaner than I want to. She just look up at me and don’t say nothing. Then she say, “He ain’t yours.”

I say, “I know he ain’t mine. But don’t nobody else have to know. Even the baby. He don’t even never have to know.”

--Gayl Jones, “White Rat,” 1971