Let’s make Halloween really scary!

The Dark Knight Returns

The Dark Knight Returns by Jesse Dang at Flickr

The vast influence of American culture over the world is something you can slice through, smell and see with just a walk around Sofia on Halloween. The capital city of Bulgaria – the Eastern European country that stays in the shadow of it’s post-communistic social issues, is getting full of costumed people at the end of October. One big difference is that unlike in the U.S., most of the costumed people who wander the streets in zombie, witch or vampire fashion on that day aren’t children.

Celebrating Halloween is a funny thing. We all live in a world where masks are part of our daily routine. We cherish them and even switch them pretty often because we own a few masks for every occasion. With that in mind is a bit hard to imagine a character that will scare the evil spirits and win you a candy.

That’s why I came up with an idea. I believe that, unlike the bad Halloween outfits, the thing that’ll scare the hell out of everyone is putting down our masks. Getting rid of the happy Facebook persona, the witty Twitter character and the artsy Instagram self and being what we really are deep inside the shell of prejudices, social norms and self censorship. Such an approach to Halloween will make the celebrations something to be scared of, something to wait impatiently even if you know you won’t feel good at the moment. More importantly it can help people start knowing each other and themselves better.

After all, the scariest thing is to be really open about yourself. The reason is that we’re always scared of being cast out of the tribe and left alone with our ugly selves. Probably that’s the reason for America’s cultural dominance over our post-communistic society. We don’t want to be left out again. We just want to play with the cool kids, like every other kid on the block.

On tolerance

Tolerance

Tolerance by Don Moyer, on Flickr

In modern societies people generally agree that anyone can be as different as they want, as long as they don’t make others suffer. We accept and approve people who have different sexual preferences, gender, race, origins, and so on. But what’s going on with accepting people with different opinions? Is it possible for, let’s call them closed-minded people, to exist in this tolerant world?

Ever so often I see people who are deeply offended because somebody doesn’t like gay people around themselves. Or because someone have the opinion that women don’t really fit in some jobs. Every time there’s such a “controversial” opinion a storm of aggressive tolerant people shows up to explain the importance of acceptance and so on. I believe that’s really not OK, although I absolutely agree that we should accept everyone as what they are.

However, I believe that I have the right to get annoyed by overly queer gay men. As I have the right to get annoyed by cocky macho men. But more importantly I absolutely believe that I have the right to share my opinion about it – I don’t like such people. Although logic says this should be OK, reality is different and we all know it.

Tolerance is about accepting people as they are, even when you don’t like their lifestyle, opinion, religion, or whatever you can dislike about someone. Tolerance is definitely not about putting “different” in pedestal for the sake of it. Actually tolerance is all about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, so you can understand why they act and think that way.

After this little rant, I beg you – be tolerant not only about gender, sexuality or skin tone but also about opinions and ideas.

Keep it simple

"Letterpress Paul Rand Quote" by David Marshall and Elizabeth Ellis © All Rights Reserved

“Letterpress Paul Rand Quote” by David Marshall and Elizabeth Ellis © All Rights Reserved

With fourteen posts, for almost two years of it’s existence, I can’t really call Eastern Things a blog. Quantity doesn’t matter, some will argue, as long as there is quality. And they’ll be absolutely right.

The thing is I have really high criteria about quality, and really low self-esteem when it comes to my English writing skills.

I mean, I’m reading Medium on a weekly basis, The New York Times, The Verge, Pitchfork, even Thought Catalog. And what these sources share is the quality of writing, which I don’t feel like I’m able to achieve, although I really want it.

And then comes my biggest problem. Until few weeks ago I always wanted to strike some long and deep text concerning some long and deep problem. And that’s the worst way to start anything.

Right now I have a new plan that is quite simple – just write. It’s normal to start with just bits and snippets but that’s the only way to grow to longer thoughts and big essays.

I’ll be glad if you follow me in my way to the 1000 word post and I hope you won’t be too bored until then. Anyway thanks for the support – past and future.

The trailer for ‘Inhabit: A Permaculture Perspective’ thrills me

“A keystone species is any species in an ecosystem whose population and behaviour affects every other species.” These are the first words in the trailer for Inhabit: A Permaculture Perspective, a documentary about permaculture. In a nutshell that’s a philosophy of working and living with the nature, rather than abusing it.

Since I was a kid the people around me, mostly my uncle, taught me that we should protect the nature and be part of it. Now as a grown up I see that humanity does it’s best to distant itself from the nature as much as possible. We live in big cities, eat processed food made from genetically modified organisms, breathe and release toxic gases and communicate through machines. And that’s just the begging of it.

I have actually never heard of permaculture before I saw this movie trailer and probably that’s the reason I was so excited about it. This philosophy sounds just like the right thing our modern agriculture, and not only, should embrace. Anyway, I’m really excited to see this movie and I hope it reaches its second Kickstarter goal of $45,000.

#ДАНСwithme or why are Bulgarians protesting

Something important is happening in Bulgaria, the poorest EU member country. Tens of thousands of people were out on the streets for four days in a row and as it looks, they’ll be there again today.But let’s start with some recap of what has been going on around in the last few months.

The resignation

I’ll start with the story of the resignation of our ex-PM Boyko Borisov. He is the leader of GERB (Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria), one of the biggest parties in Bulgaria. The government he was PM of was in power from 2009 to February 2013 and brought even more frantic corruption, extremely bad misrule in both the public and the private sector, awful bureaucracy and what was worst for the people – high unemployment and more poverty. Those were the reasons behind the protests in February, which were triggered by high utility bills in the winter months, but quickly turned anti-government. The protests led to the resignation of Borisov and the preliminary elections of this spring.

The elections

The elections, which happened on May 12, were won once again by GERB, but with just 30% of the votes. Second, with 27% of the support, came BSP (Bulgarian Socialist Party), which was part of the government of the Triple Coalition, in power from 2005 to 2009. The third party with 11% of the votes was DPS (Movement for Rights and Liberties, the party of the ethnic turkish people in Bulgaria), also part of the aforementioned coalition. The last party that made it to the new parliament, with 7% of the votes, is Ataka (Attack) – far right party, whose leader Volen Siderov is one of the most outrageous nationalists in our parliament. Those elections were shocking and filled with violations. Still, they were considered valid.

The new government

After GERB failed to form a cabinet and Borisov returned the mandate, BSP, in coalition with DPS, successfully formed the new cabinet. That was possible because of the leader of Ataka, who informally supported the now ruling parties. Just few weeks in the term, this government started to enrage the people with awkward discussions and decisions. The most absurd one was about the lift of the smoking ban I wrote about a few months ago.

This is the short story of one of the most unstable governments in Bulgaria. Or probably just another unstable government of Bulgaria.

DanceWithMe as #ДАНСwithMe

DANS (or ДАНС in cyrillic) is the abbreviation of the State Agency for National Security or just something like the ‘Bulgarian version of FBI’. Last Friday, in another absurd episode of our local political drama, the parliament voted Delian Peevski as the new chief of DANS.

Peevski is the son and partner of the biggest media mogul in Bulgaria and one of the most controversial MP in Bulgaria. The media outlets he and his mother own are popular for being servants of the power, no matter who’s in charge of the country. He was also part of many corruption scandals during the Triple Coalition.

This appointment is the reason for the massive rallies in Sofia and many other cities around Bulgaria in the last 4 days. More info about them you can get from here.

The different protest

There is something different about the protests this time and it is the people who participate. Contrary to the February rallies, now I see many friends out on the streets. The protesters now aren’t out because they are poor and they want a new messiah to come and save them. The are in fact out there because they don’t want any more appointments like this, and the protests turned anti-government because it’s obvious that this parliament can’t offer the wanted adequate governance of the country.

The swap

In the last few years every bigger protest in Bulgaria ends in the same way. Some paid skinheads, football fans and nationalists mix with the protesters and provoke the police. This leads to a lot of violence, which is a good reason for all the media publishings in favour of the power to make the protesters look like a bunch of criminals. Sadly, there’ll be attempts to do the same, but I hope we’ll resist.

The world’s on fire

I also hope that we’ll get the support we need from outside. Share what you see and read, tell your friends what’s going on. Tell them about #ДАНСwithme in Bulgaria, about #OccupyGezi in Turkey, about #changebrazil in Brazil, about Germany, Northern Ireland, England, Spain. Share the fact that the world’s on fire!

Same.+He+sucked+at+putting+out+fires+though+_2c7005008ced9f70ccb1f58fd49822fa

Teaching photography

keep calm and take pictures

My photography philosophy in a nutshell (Photo credit: tyler.wainright)

I told you about my English classes in my last post. I also mentioned my awesome teacher. What I missed was how I ‘pay’ for her teaching. The answer is simple – I’m teaching Photography. Believe me it was as shocking for me.

I do know stuff about photography. I know how DSLR cameras work, what is the process when you shoot a picture, what are aperture, shutter, depth of field, etc. However, I am totally clueless about teaching. For years I’ve been thinking what would be like if I become one but I never even imagined it could happen to me. At least not so soon. Or teaching Photography.

The story is that I was bitching about my English to L. (my English teacher), whose job description is English teacher. So at one point she offered me to teach me. I told her that at the moment I can’t afford it but she said ‘Don’t worry I’ll think of a way you’ll repay me’. Few weeks later, after few more conversations on the topic, we met to discuss my English classes. At the end of it I asked L. about the payment and she was like “Teach me photography”. I’m not 100% sure, but I think I laughed before accepting in a little shock.

So, now I’m learning English, which feels surprisingly close to banging my head to a wall, and teach Photography. The latter feels horribly wrong and inappropriate but still so satisfying. The best part of it is I’ve learned so much more about photography than ever before. So, double thank you, L.

Learning English

Teacher

Teacher (Photo credit: tim ellis)

I’m learning English. I mean, with a teacher, exercises and everything else. Until now my knowledge for the language was based on TV shows, video games and news articles. As a result I have really good passive knowledge for the language. The mission my teacher and I are facing is the upgrade of my active knowledge. Her words.

So, after three English lessons I feel like my world is falling apart. Month ago life was easy and I wasn’t questioning every third word I wrote. Now my head feels like hit by train and I stumble upon every word I try to write in English, even when I tweet or post a facebook status. The worst of it is that I never experienced something like this before. I have always been the guy who remembers everything just by listening in class. Contrary to my habits now I need to study hard for every class. And I still can’t manage to be as good as I want to.

However, I’m sure I’ll be way more optimistic about it in just a month. But for now I’ll stick to my bitching about how hard it is for me. The good part of it is that I have the coolest and most supportive teacher you can think of. She makes tasty cakes, drinks excellent tea and reads good books(and lends them to me), so we can talk about the books while eating cake over a cup of tea.

Hey, Brits, we don’t want to come!

What? You're Not Coming?

You mad, Queen?

If you missed the About page – I’m a Bulgarian student, 21 y.o. I’m mentioning this because I’ll talk about the continuing debate about Britain and its future in or out of the European Union. Also, after I realized that British politicians are as stupid populistic idiots as ours and British people are as stupid as Bulgarian, for believing them, I feel irritated for the obviously working machinations of the British media and politicians when they speak about Bulgaria and Romania.

The problem is that eurosceptic British parties are using the poorest members of the EU to validate their statements that the Union is bad for Britain. Suddenly the largest concern for the UK is the immigrants from the European Union. Still, it seems that nobody can use Google and find out that less than a third of the immigrants in the UK are from the EU. However, the populistic idiocy on this topic reached its peak not long ago when the leader of the UK Independence Party Nigel Farage scared the frak out of people speaking about 29 million Bulgarian and Romanian people who are “coming to Britain”. See the full video.

Basically, the things said about Bulgaria by this obvious eurosceptic are really close to the truth. We are the poorest member of EU, many of our people are extremely poor even for our understandings, we are struggling for our food, the mafia rules around. However, the average salary isn’t 200 Euro, it’s more like 400 Euro and living here is extremely cheap, so these 400 Euro for us are way more than any Brit can imagine. And if you believe in what Mr. Farage said you should imagine some Baghdad-like place, which is far from what Bulgaria is.

Of all the things said I most strongly disagree with the statement that 29 mln. people from Romania and Bulgaria will take their bags, leave their homes and families and will start living in England. The main reason is that the UK is hard and expensive country to even try to start proper life in and Bulgarians are aware of this important fact. I’m going to finish my bachelor’s next year and I want to study for master’s abroad. My childhood dream is to study in England but I won’t be able to do it. So I started looking for places where the politics towards immigrants are better, education is affordable or free and there are jobs for the foreign shit I’ll be when I arrive. I’m sure that many people in Bulgaria went through the same line of thoughts and changed their plans.

And if this is not enough, I have to confess from the name of many Bulgarians. Dear Brits, we don’t like you. You are ugly and fat, you are rude and you live in one of the countries with the worst weather in Europe. On the other hand you treat foreigners like shit and come to our country to drink cheap alcohol and vomit on the street. You’re disgusting and most of us don’t even want to imagine living on your island.

So, dear Brits, Mr. Farage, Queen of England, sleep calm. The amount of Bulgarian and Romanian immigrants most surely won’t change much after January 1st 2014. We won’t invade your precious island full of rain, Pakistanis and wonderful music. Still, you’re welcome to vomit on our seaside and have cheap whores, while hating us.

Smoking idiocy

smoking kidsThere’s something horribly wrong in Bulgarian’s rebellious spirit. For example it is not a bad thing to be against all stupid decisions of your government. I just believe that people should be really careful when they choose their causes and the things they fight for to the end.

Bulgarians are actually really bad at choosing and fighting. The latest big cause of our society is to lift the smoking ban that’s part of our lives since June. Although I’m a smoker I absolutely support the ban but since there are two positions in every dispute, I’ll try to present the other one, too.

The pro-smoking people, all of them smokers, said the ban prevents the business from making money. Restaurant owners said that their earnings are 50% down compared to last year. There are countless stories of bartenders, waiters and owners who waved fingers at our government and said that the ban is killing their business. There are also many smokers who said that smoking ban is discriminating people and it’s questioning their freedom of choice to smoke or not. Back in May there were protests of smokers against the ban which I consider as one of the most ridiculous and stupid protests ever happened on Earth.

Those things are the “wrong” part of our society’s spirit. During a period in which people are struggling to find job and are in their poorest state since the dark end of the 90’s, some idiots with cigarettes go out to fight for their right to… kill themselves, while killing the surrounding people. Instead I would prefer massive riots for changes in our education, healthcare or justice system which are really important but nobody cares.

The pro-smokers proposed a new rule – you can’t smoke where food is served and is OK everywhere else after 10PM. Here comes the second wrong part in the freedom idiocy of Bulgaria. Right now in Sofia you can have a cigarette in almost every bar, restaurant or club after midnight or 1-2 AM, depending on the place. So practically the thing is to legalize this manner. A manner that goes with every ban, rule or advice that Bulgarians don’t like. Actually you can hear people in Bulgaria complaining that nobody is going according to the law around here, while speeding on the highway or smoking in the bar.

While my fellow countrymen practice their freedom cretinism I, the smoker, am fully supporting the ban. Surprisingly, I guess, the main reason is I don’t like to smell like cigarettes when I go back home after party. Also, I feel more comfortable in a room/bar/pub/restaurant with clean, fresh air. And last, but not least, I smoke less cigarettes this way, while, in a way, taking care of my friends’ health. This makes me feel better and I really hope the ban will survive this attack.

__________

The picture is from Frieke Janssens’ amazing series Smoking Kids. You can check it at http://frieke.com

We’re all kids

Inspiration is something really awkward in my live. I’m always looking for it but I’m only finding it when I’m not looking. I guess that goes for everybody out there, so I won’t moan about it. Still, how comes we’re only inspired when we’re paying attention to specific, uninspiring things?

For example I’ve got some really nice ideas about stuff I’ve been wondering recently, while having a 12 hours bus travel. The thing is that travel was the most boring thing since my last 14 hours bus travel. The whole time I was listening to music while the driver was playing the ridiculously dumb Rush Hour movie. I tried to read a book, to write a thing, to listen more carefully to the music on my iPod but at the end I was always bored to death. And at the exact moment I gave up, ideas were flooding my mind out of nowhere.

I guess the reason is hidden in the fact that humans are children. You know how kids always tend to do the exactly opposite of what you want them to do? And this overwhelming moment when you leave them alone and they magically do what you wanted. The same goes with inspiration and doing things altogether. I’m always bored to death when I need to write my weekly article for the magazine I work for. In the mean time  I’m full of ideas exactly ten minutes after I send the e-mail with the text.

I guess this happens with people’s minds when comes to ideas, too. You just need to drift off, be calm and start daydreaming to be able to produce anything good. It’s not like the other way is impossible, just the results are much worse.

So be children and let yourself daydreaming and playing around. It always helps.