all, thoughts

How to talk to Ukrainian-Americans in bars 

…but really, how to talk to foreign-born Americans in general.

Like a very large chunk of Eastern European immigrants in the United States, and in New York City in particular, I moved here with my family in the early 1990s when the Soviet Union fell apart and the Iron Curtain was lifted, finally allowing us to escape. I was just a kid and my “formative years” are split with a solid emphasis on the American side.

However, while I identify as a New Yorker first and foremost, having grown up and lived here for 20+ years, my developmentally-challenged vocal cords betray an unmistakable trace of a foreign accent, and my fair complexion and facial features read as some sort of European and sometimes as Middle Eastern, depending on what make-up I’m wearing and what color I’ve decided to dye my hair that month.

This puts me, and countless others Hyphenated-Americans with whom I’ve traded “growing up immigrant” war stories over the years into a kind of cultural orphanage – we’re children of neither the Old World nor the New, not really belonging to the immigrant community, and generally ostracized by it and our families for being “too Americanized” and having all the wrong values and belief systems. And yet we’re always being forcibly distanced from and reminded of our “foreignness” by those having so many of the same early life experiences as us simply because we weren’t born here like they were.

Internally, we are Westerners – we think and speak in English, and share a common cultural history with the natives, having grown up listening to, watching, reading, loving, and being influenced by the same American media. Most of our friends are American or fellow early-childhood immigrants who identify as American. We date, fall in love, and marry almost exclusively outside our birth culture. All those nice feelings of belonging in the United States, however, end swiftly upon meeting someone new in a bar or at a party. It all starts innocently enough:

—    Where are you from?
—    Brooklyn.
—    No, but where are you REALLY from?

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all, inspiration

Timesickness of a Perpetual Nomad

“….somewhere around 2003 the texture of daily life inside Western media-driven societies began to morph, and quickly, to the point where, a half-decade later, it’s now obvious to people who were around in the twentieth century that time not only seems to be moving more quickly, but is beginning to feel funny, too.

There’s no more tolerance for waiting of any sort. We want all the facts and we want them now. To go without email for forty-eight hours can trigger a meltdown. You can’t slow down, even once, ever, without becoming irrelevant. Music has become more important because music is a constant. School reunions are beside the point because we already know what our old classmates have done. Children often spend more time in dreamland and cyberspace than in real life. Time is speeding up even faster.

And then the economy collapsed in a weird way that felt like a hard-to-describe mix of Google, The New York Times’s website, pop-up ads for Russian pornography websites, and psychic radiation emitted by all those people you see standing by the produce section at 6:15pm on a weeknight, phoning home to see if spinach is a good idea. All this information and more has overtly, osmotically, or perhaps inadvertently damaged a collective sense of time that has been working well enough since the Industrial Revolution and the rise of the middle classes. This “timesickness” is probably what killed the economy, and God only knows what it’s up to next.

Everywhere we look, people are making online links—to conspiracy, porn, and gossip sites; to medical data sites and genetics sites; to baseball sites and sites for Fiestaware collectors; to sites where they can access free movies and free TV, arrange hookups with old flames or taunt old enemies—and time has begun to erase the twentieth-century way of structuring one’s day and locating one’s sense of community. People are now doing their deepest thinking and making their most emotionally charged connections with people around the planet at all times of the day. Geography has become irrelevant. Our online phantom world has become the new us. We create complex webs of information and people who support us, and yet they are so fleeting, so tenuous. Time speeds up and then it begins to shrink. Years pass by in minutes. Life becomes that strange experience in which you’re zooming along a freeway and suddenly realize that you haven’t paid any attention to driving for the last fifteen minutes, yet you’re still alive and didn’t crash. The voice inside your head has become a different voice. It used to be “you.” Now your voice is that of a perpetual nomad drifting along a melting landscape, living day to day, expecting everything and nothing.”

— Douglas Coupland, in “Marshall McLuhan: You Know Nothing Of My Work!”

all, inspiration

Daily Inspiration: Dark Side of Classic Album Covers

A fantastic online gallery of work by the artist Harvezt imagines what lies behind some of the most iconic album covers.

The Dark Side of the Covers series takes on the famous album covers by Nirvana, David Bowie, The Beatles, Rage Against The Machine, The Velvet Underground, Iron Maiden and others, unveiling the artwork’s unspoken context by craftily recreating what the reverse shot would look like if a camera had been placed in the background of the original cover.


Nirvana – Nevermind

Led Zeppelin - IV

Led Zeppelin – IV

Beatles - Yellow Submarine

Beatles – Yellow Submarine

Check out the entire set on Flicker, with the accompanied explanations of the history behind the album and its original artwork.