Sunday, December 31, 2006

Sh'norhavor Nor Dari!!

Happy New Year, jhoghovurt-jan. I can't report much from Armenia (except that it's cold), since I'm in LA on a long overdue extended visit. It's been 10 days already and I've been catching up with all my southern California family, and my old school friends. Starting tonight I begin catching up with my Armenia friends...

There's too much to write, but nothing to write at the same time. It doesn't feel like time's gone by, really...

Since I'm supposed to leave for lunch right now, I'll just complain about Armavia airlines real quick. Can I tell you that Armavia served us FRIED FISH for breakfast. And they busted my hump about transferring 3 kilos from one bag to another even though I was WAY under the limit and the old per bag limit was 9 kilos more just a year ago anyway. What is their problem?? Who wants to shift carefully packed bags in the check-in line at the airport?

Ending the year in a... tap!

The countdown begins, it's officially the last day of the year. I just got home from a Redskins game (in DC right now) which we lost against the NY Giants. We had a chance. We were SO CLOSE! But we choked. 1st down... incomplete pass. 2nd down... incomplete pass. 3rd down... incomplete pass. Last chance, 4TH DOWN!!!! Incomplete pass. Idiots.

So now I have to get up at the break of dawn to hop on the road to New York where my sister, brother-in-law, and friends await to bring in the new year at... drum roll.... some restaurant in New Jersey. I was considering going to Times Square, but my simple little cold dragged out to a looooonnnnngggg simple little cold and it wouldn't be smart to taunt it. That and security these days takes all the fun out of it apparently. So New Jersey it is. I hate New Years anyway. Too much pressure to celebrate.

Anyhoo, to put a cap on the year, I put together a "Best of 2006" photo collection on my website which includes many new photos which I just recently found time to upload. Check it out:

http://www.digitalrailroad.net/Arsineh/glbs.aspx?lid=6939552&e=0&p=0

Signing off... Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

This, that & Happy New Year!

2007 seems like such an odd ugly number, no?

Anyway, we had 30+ hour constant snowfall a couple of days ago, and Yerevan is completely white. Today is sunny, and I’m sure by the end of the day the beautiful white will turn into complete mud.

This winter I noticed retail stores in Yerevan resembling western style shops more and more. Most clothing stores have big sales, up to 70% off. I remember a year ago you would rarely read sale signs advertising more than 7% off. But even with this 70% off, prices are still ridiculous! A Guess store franchise just opened on Northern Avenue. I walked in yesterday to see dress shirts for $150+. I saw a tuque which I liked for about $40. Am I being cheap? Have I gotten used to other things being inexpensive in this country? Bally shoes has a big sale too. A few months ago I saw, and liked, a pair of shoes there for about $600. I'd consider buying them if they were at least 80% off. Dream on.

About a month ago I ended up with a perforated eardrum. That was one of the scariest things I had to go through. I kept thinking, what am I going to do if my hearing doesn’t get back to normal? Luckily, I found one of the best ear doctors in the country. In the end, he didn't even take 1 dram from me. When I asked him why, he said, "Tenc el e linum" (it happens like that too), implying not everything is about money. Meanwhile, I had taken about $200 with me to the hospital.

Then, a few days ago I had connected a million things in my home to end up with a blown Soviet-style fuse! No electricity in this cold is a scary thought. An electrician came by to fix the problem and refused to take more than $2 from me. My positive mood came to an end after I visited a bank to pay my bills. ONCE MORE, the issue of not standing in line and budding comes up. I was waiting in line for 10 minutes, when some woman came in and just stood in front of me. Long story short, after I told her, "When you walked in you should have asked who’s last in line", she told me I’m an "andastiarak" (ill-bred) and I have no right to tell her what to do. Of course none of the scared sheep around us said anything, but that, as always, didn't stop me from putting her in her place. All I kept thinking was, this woman definitely hasn't seen the commercials I produce about respecting each other in such situations. At that moment, some guy walked in and asked out-loud, "Where is the end of the line?" I couldn’t resist but to tell the woman, "Aha, this is what I’m talking about." Then followed another woman who asked the same thing.

You know, we have no major amusement parks with big rides in Armenia, but everyday life in Armenia is like the most extreme roller coaster ride out there! But lately the drops seem to be less than the climbs, and I thank God I haven't regretted this move ... yet.

God, please make 2007 a good year for all of humankind, and especially our race of "jghayn" people.

Happy New Year to all!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Spend Christmas 2007-8 in Yerevan!

Many of you know I started a tradition years ago preparing a list of recommendations for Christmas gifts supporting fellow Armenian artists, vendors, organizations, etc. I've decided to take a break this year as many of the products are becoming repetitive. The purpose was to spread the idea of buying from Armenians. It seems the idea stuck, however if you are still scrambling for gifts this late in the game, email me, I'd be happy to make personal recommendations.

I'd like to propose a new idea this year. As you gather with your families and friends this Christmas, consider a new idea for next year: travel to Armenia for Christmas with the family in 2007-8. The concept of a holiday season is growing in Armenia as is the intention to build on winter tourism. Christmas is becoming exciting in Yerevan again, and tourism in the winter is being developed. As usual, I have no personal gain or alternative interest in encouraging people to go to Armenia. It's purely for the sake of boosting Armenian tourism, thus the economy (okay, a better Armenian economy does help me secure better business, but I promise my intensions are pure). But it's also for the sake of bringing Armenians together for one more tradition.

I'm working on my own family to come visit me in Yerevan for Christmas next year. I'd love to see all of you in Yerevan too!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Pss Pss

I think our (Armenians) most beloved game is "pss pss telephone". Stallone recently gave an interview, which Ariseneh posted on here, and already, Armenian media is mentioning he is already "going to shoot the film". Vay mama jan. Reading the article, I never got the impression that he was 'for sure' going to do the project.

It is COLD OUT! My family in Canada is saying it's quite warm there, friends that just came back from Moscow said it wasn't really cold there, even friends that just visited Gyurmi said the weather was mild there, but Yerevan is FREEZING!!!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Stallone's 40 Days of Musa Dagh?

An article in the Denver Post seems to be under the impression that Sylvester Stallone still has intentions to finally direct the epic film of "40 Days of Musa Dagh," an attempt he made many years ago until Turkey put enough pressure on the production to stump it. Perhaps he's prepared to face the pressure... certainly sounds like it in this article:

...So what is the Stallone Surprise, the project he's always wanted to write or direct?

For years Stallone's wanted to create an epic, and the book that intrigues him is Franz Werfel's "The Forty Days of Musa Dagh," detailing the Turkish genocide of its Armenian community in 1915. (After futile attempts to turn the novel into a movie, filmmakers finally succeeded in 1982, but it was a low-profile production.)

French ships eventually rescued some Armenians, and Stallone has his favorite scene memorized: "The French ships come, and they've dropped the ladders and everybody has climbed up the side. The ships sail. The hero, the one who set up the rescue, has fallen asleep, exhausted, behind a rock on the slope above. The camera pulls back, and the ships and the sea are on one side, and there's one lonely figure at the top of the mountain, and the Turks are coming up the mountain by the thousands on the far side."

A pretty great shot.

The movie would be "an epic about the complete destruction of a civilization," Stallone said. Then he laughed at the ambition. "Talk about a political hot potato. The Turks have been killing that subject for 85 years."



See the full article at http://www.denverpost.com/search/ci_4841925

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Important Petition - Please Sign

July the 24th 2006 at about 1:30am.

A 17-year old girl by the name of Araz was with some friends that night at a dance club in Yerevan.

On their way home, they had to stop off at a friend's home to pick up some of their belongings. They were in a taxi, which they got out of on Baghramyan Street, and when Araz and her sister were crossing the street, Araz was hit by a reckless driver. This was a split-second after she let go of her sister's hand.

They tried calling an ambulance, but there was no phone connection. They tried stopping passing cars, but nobody stopped. Her brother (who was with them) carried Araz and ran to a car that drove them to the hospital, but it was too late. Araz wasn’t breathing anymore.

A 3-month long trial was held to punish the driver, and in the end the man received 2 years of probation, not allowed to leave the country and drive for 2 years. Not even 6 months after the incident, the man's sentence was annulled since it was his first such crime.

Araz was just about to turn 18, and had just graduated from high school, and looking forward to university.

There is NOTHING being done in Armenia to prevent dangerous driving. The majority of police seem to care less about preventing such accidents. Anyone who has been to Armenia knows how bad the situation is.

PLEASE sign the following petition so that this VERY IMPORTANT issue can be brought to the attention of the Armenian government.

www.petitionspot.com/petitions/araz

Monday, December 18, 2006

Armenian Internet Monopoly Scrapped

OH MY GOD!!! The world has changed.... well, that might be an exaggeration, but wow, surfing the web has just gotten a world easier in Armenia! Now there can finally be all kinds of normal internet access, high-speed, wireless, everything that we take for granted in the west, for much much less money than we now pay for bad quality dial-up (or the same price). (see article)

Now that that's taken care of, how do we enforce the smoking laws of this country????

Increased wealth in Armenia?

This year, there has been an increasing number of stores in Yerevan that are adorned with Christmas decorations: more bright lights, more color, more decorated trees, more people dressed up as Santa (did anyone see the one trying to promote the lottery of a Mercedes car in front of Cinema Moscow?). I recall only about three years ago when you would hardly see stores that were decorated – or at least, if there were decorations, they were relatively meager. The consumer-driven market is in full force maybe not in Armenia, but definitely in Yerevan. Stores are doing everything to compete with one another to attract their customers.

The decorations are not what surprise me – but that these stores seem to always be busy (whether people buy the products is another story). The number of retail customers and even the number of car owners seem to grow by the day, yet the cost of living in Armenia has amplified horrendously.

Does this mean that the wealth in Armenia is increasing? How can that be when a large percentage still lives with an average monthly salary of around $100 a month? With the dollar rate decreasing daily, the increasing cost of living, and with the average Armenian barely making their ends meet with their household bills, it’s no wonder that locals are dying to leave the country for a better (financial) life for their families abroad. Even if a family survives off its remittances from other sources abroad, how long can it continue accepting these financial impediments?

I’m happy to see more clothing or grocery stores, but these ‘improvements’ should be complemented with an increase of effective social services for everyone, equitable health care and a comprehensive advancement of the public’s welfare. Only then can we say that Armenia is wealthier.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Armenian Music Awards

Finally snowing in Yerevan! Hope this means we get some warmer weather soon.

So tonight was the Annual Armenian Music Awards in Yerevan. Politics in music could have never been more obvious. The head juror was none other than Arthur Grigoryan, the person who runs the local state music school. If you are a singer that does not graduate from his school, you will find it extremely difficult to get anywhere in the local market. Jurors also included members of Parliament, not all music experts.

Could it have been any more obvious that everything was planned? If someone was to win in one category, they could not win in another. Why? Because they were not even included in another category. For example, HAYQ's "Qami Pchi" won "Hit of the Year", but the group was not included in other categories such as "Best New Artist" or "Best Group".

"Best Male Singer" and "Best Female Singer" categories each had only 2 nominations. What the hell? "Best Male" category included Mister X and, as expected, Hayko. Who won? The won who "totally deserved to win" ... Hayko. He got on stage, his applause didn't last long, so he stood there physically trying to make the audience applaud him. Let me point out that Mister X has no ties with the state music school which I mentioned above. Other male singers whom have produced a number of hits this year, such as Tigran Petrosyan and Arman Hovhannisyan were not included in this category, why? Because they won in other categories. Imagine "Titanic" or "Gladiator" only being nominated in one category at the Oscars, because it would be wrong to win more than one award.

This event should have been held at the Circus. Did I mention in about 15 performances 90% was lipsynced? AMOT!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

New American-Armenian lobby

But before I get to that, I want to congratulate the Karabakhtsis for their new constitution which passed on Wednesday. With 87% voter turnout, and 99% voting yes on the constitution which again reaffirms their independence, the constitution would have passed even without the changes in demographics since the war started. And instead of being congratulated by the west for a democratic vote, and a historic day, Karabakh was instead trodden upon. Luckily it does not depend on the west for support or it would have been trampled to death like so many khachkars in Jugha.

Now, as I mentioned there is a new Armenian lobby organization in Washington, DC. Gerard Cafesjian is starting U.S.-Armenia Public Affairs Committee (USAPAC), and says it will compliment the other lobby organizations. It will be headed by Ross Vartian and Rob Moser, both previously at the Assembly. Very interesting stuff!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Ice-skating in Swan Lake (by the Opera)

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Monday, December 11, 2006

We're FAMOUS!

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AGBU Magazine has done a story on Armenian blogs, which we are in :-) I saw the printed version, but it isn't on their website yet. In any case, we're not just virtual anymore... we're on paper! Anyway, if you get the magazine, check it out.

Other than that it's the usual around here for this time of year. It's pretty cold, though not unbearable yet. No snow in Yerevan yet, but there is frost/frozen water in the mornings. It will come soon enough, though hopefully not until I'm safely off in warmer climes. I'm actually going to LA this Christmas. It's been many years now, so I thought I'd check things out. I'll also check out a bit of Mexico if I can, since LA won't be quite warm enough for my taste.

Other random notes, I tried brought home a rotisserie chicken from In 'n Out tonight. It was good, though it doesn't come with the famous garlic sauce that keeps us going back to Zankou... speaking of which I haven't had Zankou in years and will soon. Along with fish tacos, the REAL In 'n Out, and a ton of other things I love to eat. I hear that Falafel Arax has closed. If this terrible news is true, I'll have to take some flowers to the site of that great, great hole in the wall. The shawermas were to die for!

I'm also sticking a picture of the inside of city hall here since y'all love pictures :-)

Passing of Pinochet, Not an Idea

I had a hard time titling this one, so please don't misread it. There are mixed feelings in Chile about the violent dictator's death, which seems to be playing out in protests and riots as I speak. But I am clear on where I stand, the man was a genocidal dictator and should have been brought to justice while he was alive.

There is a reason I bring this up. Just the other day, I was sitting with friends discussing some of the societal bad habits in Armenia that need change. From spitting on the sidewalk to dangerous driving, it seems while Yerevan rapidly leaps into economic boom, the people remain behind the times in social standards. The transformation is exposing the stark contrast in behavior and creating social class divisions on another level.

A very good friend of mine (local) expressed his opinion that we need a leader like [insert dictator's name of your choice, I'd rather not mention which he referred to] to make an example of some people for bad driving to put the fear into people. That's the only way society will change here. I have a lot of respect for this individual, but this idea was so far beyond my comprehension. He's an educated and peaceful talent who chose to stay in Armenia because he loves it here. I understand the frustration, but not the idea. If for anything, let me say I love America for the way it achieved its ideas. Freedom continues to be demanded by the people, not enforced by a corrupt murderous dictator, current president aside. These differences are clear between the Diaspora and locals. The Soviet mentality of how change is forced, and the American idealism of change demanded from the people.

A Pinochet for Armenia? No, I don't think so. That's the last thing we need... a corrupt genocidal dictator of our own. There are enough others in the region who are too willing to fill that role. I have an idea. Instead of standing by and waiting for a leader to make it all better, let's set the example. I believe this friend of mind is already putting my idea in practice, perhaps just releasing his frustrations among friends as we all were (I almost saw the end of Arsineh a few times crossing the street lately).

But I'm tired of listening to ideas. I'd rather talk about the anti-smoking ad infront of Moscow Cinema and how 2007 is the beginning of the end for smoking in Armenia. :) Baby steps, but we are changing a whole lot faster than other countries who faces the same troubles. Cops are even doing their jobs by pulling people over for doing something wrong. People are actually afraid of parking diagonally with the front of the car on the sidewalk blocking the walk way for pedestrians (though I still see plenty of it).

Hey, just elect me to be Armenia's president and traffic in Armenia will be under control. Oh, how I would turn this place around! :)

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Congratulations to Silva. And Der Hova.

Hey gang,

Check this out.

I got to know about her and voted in the first round thanks to Der Hova's post, which is the case for many others too, I'm sure. So, let's be just a little bit prouder today.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Bambir is BACK!!! and Arsineh Backtracks.

My sources say all Bambir members are back in Yerevan with a new look and perhaps better English. They spent the last six months in LA doing God only knows what. I hear some shows, among other things. I hope the experience broadened their musical scope, but I'm glad they are back.

On to life. The last few weeks have been on a happy rollercoaster. Work has been overwhelming, but I avoided getting sick this time. I just completed a book of photography in Armenia including photos from myself, Raffi Kojian and Davit Ayvazyan. It wont be for sale, it's actually for VivaCell and will be their Christmas gift this year. But it's looking mighty good. I'm off to the printers soon to do a second press check. Oh, on that note, if anyone wants to work with printers in Armenia, knock on wood, Limush is an up-and-coming printer which has just expanded and provides incredible customer service and quality. That's for all the design and print geeks out there like me.

Otherwise, I just moved to a new apartment near Sakharovi Hrabarag and I'm loving it. Heated floors, good clean ventalated shower, clean kitchen... only after days of scrubbing top to bottom to remove any remnance of messy interns who rented through the summer/fall. What was once a beautiful home is now a beautiful home again. Why the need to move you ask? Bottom line: health. It's becoming very clear to me that my immune system has a hard enough time fighting off these little suckers (germs) that while trying to keep me warm at the same time, it doesn't stand a chance against the smallest germ. I know this now. That, and the opporunity fell in my lap.


To back up and cover things I never had time to blog about, I also attended the Women's march a couple weeks ago, here are some photos. It felt good to see the reaction to such a crowd. At the same time, it exposed some of the deep-rooted chauvinism when some men disregarded the thought completely. But the march was a step in the right direction. I also have to note that I was surprised by the male attendance to the march. The assumption may be that they were all diasporan, but there were plenty of local male marchers. I was impressed. And since Raffi N wrote enough about the actual purpose, I'll refrain from reiterating.

Adding to the the event riddled pattern of my life, I recently attended a fashion show for children with a Christmas theme. The show intended to bring out the Christmas spirit a bit early this year. It took place at Nina Hovnanian's store, Treasures of Armenia. I took photos, but only for the catalog we will be preparing for them. No previews of that today. However, I will say that I felt I was in another world... doing a photo shoot of models in Armenia. That is so not my thing, and yet, it was. The models were funny and fun to work with. All seemed eager to be in front of the camera, some were pretty, some were ok. All were divas.

Also, here are a couple photos from the Mister X concert. Thought y'all might enjoy (ahem... shoosh).



Saturday, December 02, 2006

Hayerene Djisht Khosink

I just received this link from a friend regarding how incorrect we speak the Armenian language.

One of the few commercials I co-produced earlier this year was regarding this topic, but geared towards local Armenians (Eastern Armenian.) And to this day I receive comments regarding this issue.

Anyway, it's pathetic, but quite funny. Enjoy!