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.

Advertisements

#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

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

UKF presented awesomeness

I never mentioned it here before, but aside from my love for indie rock, I’m really into dubstep. This affection is growing for the last year or something and when I found out about the UKF party at my favourite club in Sofia – Mixtape 5, I was really hyped.

UKF BulgariaI need to mention the host of the party True Badness who are really amazing guys for bringing UKF here. If you’re unaware of it – UKF started as two YouTube channels dedicated to dubstep and drum&bass but later became bigger and now serves as some kind of promoter for this music. They hold a lot of parties around Europe and present many of the best DJs playing bass music.

But let’s get back to Sofia and our UKF party which happened last night. For me all started just before midnight when I, my roommate Martin and two Austrian couchsurfers we hosted for the weekend, went to the club. During our first beers the dubstep hall wasn’t crowded and the beats weren’t something special. However, soon enough the Bulgarian DJ Knife kicked in with some heavy beats that made the crowd move a little more.

DJ Knife. Photo: BG : Mikser

The actual party started with Diamondz – another local DJ. He took over and played really sick tunes for the already huge throng. These were the first moments when everybody was jumping and dancing. Diamondz’s set was very good with well calculated ups and downs that gave us time to rest between the harder parts, during which people were going amok.

During a cigarette break I saw that Cookie Monsta – the headliner of the party, won’t come because his flight was delayed by WizzAir. Regardless of the fact I’m not a big fan of him I was disappointed. May be it was because that was yet another cancelled artist who was supposed to play in Bulgaria. Of course we managed to have good time and happily the promoters promised another party with Cookie Monsta.

The British duo Genetix brought dirtier sound and few moments which were more dancy than jumpy. At the end of their set they throwed a skateboard into the crowd and I fought for it. Sadly, I lost it in rock, paper, scissors game when only me and one other guy were left with the board in hands. Nevertheless, I fought bravely and now I have nasty bruises on my hands.

Photo: BG : Mikser

The last DJ I heard was Gemini. His set started good but soon after that it got boring for my taste. The part I heard had some things from Skrillex’s tracks mixed with some strange beats to jump on. And I’m not really into pointless jumping at parties. That’s why I offered the guys to go home and we did.

Although I didn’t went to the drum&bass hall I had amazing time. I think that was easily the best party I’ve been to. I really hope to see Cookie Monsta soon on another party good as this one. Until then I’ll be stuck on UKF’s channels even more than before.

I’ve been surfed

Last few weeks were really crazy for me, but I don’t mind because everything happening is really amazing and interesting. One of the amazing things done this month is my first CouchSurfing experience as a host. I was looking forward to this moment for a long time and it was even better than expected.

I hosted two really nice girls from Berlin. D. who studied in Turkey in the past half year and her roommate and friend H. who went to pick her up. They decided to have a long trip through Eastern Europe on their way back to Berlin and the reason they cited was “We just don’t know this part of Europe, which is so sad and stupid”.

Their arrival wasn’t packed with good luck because this Sunday was the rainiest day in Sofia since May. All day long it rained with some pauses. Actually it wasn’t raining while we had local meals at Divaka and during our coffee break. But it rained on our way from the station to my flat, while we tried to have a walk after our lunch and we almost drowned on our way to zbl and Ru’s home. There we played some cards, drank few beers and talked about almost everything from music and card games to politics and psychology.

The second day was sunny and really nice for walks. We had plan to visit the Museum of Socialistic Art but when we arrived the guard told me it wasn’t working in Mondays. Something they forgot to mention on the website which says working time 10 to 17:30. Aside from that the girls were really surprised when we stopped in front of a random building and I told them it was the museum. Actually there’s only one big label saying Ministry of Culture written in Bulgarian. If you go there make sure you’re with someone local.

After this failure we went to buy bus tickets from the station and to the Women’s market. That’s one of the dirtiest and most colourful areas in Sofia. Friends of mine asked me why I want to take foreigners to this ugly place. My answer was and will always be – that’s one of the most amazing areas in my city. The biggest reason is that’s the oldest area of Sofia with some of the most beautiful old buildings. I’m really sad because most of those buildings are ruining and are actually dangerous. My second reason are the people you can see at this market.

The biggest part are the gypsies. There are all versions of them – poor, traders, thieves, old, young, dirty, clean. The second biggest group are older people who are going there because of the prices. They are really interesting to see too, although kinda sad. The smallest part of the people are these strange people who would fit better in a shopping mall.

H. and D. told me that Women’s Market was their favourite place we visited, and that’s my first proof that Women’s market is a must-visit for every tourist in Sofia. From the market we walked for awhile to the National Palace of Culture where we met Ru and had some pizza. Then we went to the National Theatre’s Garden to drink beers with another friends of mine. There we stumbled upon one really amazing show mixing theatre, dance and swirling fire. It ended with amazing fireworks after which we had another bunch of nice conversations. Before we went home we passed by Soviet’s Army Monument for another beer and little more time for chatting.

H. and D. told me they had really good time and invited me in Berlin. I think they were honest, because I had amazing time, too. This CS experience was just another proof for me that people are meant to communicate with each other regardless their nationality, colour, language or cultural differences. I really hope that was just the beginning of one amazing trip for these girls. Meanwhile I’m preparing for my next surfers who are coming next monday.

Open season – Loud Festival 2012

Every year around April I start thinking about the coming summer. Many questions bother me and most of them are about music festivals and all the stupid things you have to think of while preparing for them. This festival season was different than these in the recent years because it started in early June with my hometown’s Loud Festival – probably the next big metal festival in Bulgaria.

Loud Festival Poster

The line-up

One of the things that are common for Bulgaria’s scene is the high average age of the artists we see on festivals. Usually it’s ok to have Slayer and W.A.S.P. for the headliners’ slots, as in the case with Loud Festival, but when the youngest band on the festival are Soulfly (formed in 1997) things are getting kinda old-school. But don’t worry we’ve seen worse.

Aside from the age the line-up of the first day was really strange because of the mix of symphonic/gothic metal bands Tristania and Lacuna Coil followed by Behemoth with their blackened death metal and Symphony X in the progressive side. Add the shock rock of W.A.S.P. for headliner and you’ll have, as we love to say in Bulgaria, a meal with grapes.

Day two had more consistent artists with five extreme bands in the face of Asphyx, Meshuggah, Soulfly, Annihilator and Slayer. As I’m a bit of thrash fan I was really exited for the second day while went on day one because of my friends. I think now is the confession moment – I would never pay for such a lousy and old line-up, although I had fun. God bless media passes!

The organisation

Loud Festival

I’m absolutely certain the only things done well on Loud Festival was the access control, the wristband exchange on the entrance and the fun zones. No lines, no waiting and mostly polite security people on the entrance which is something significant around. While not having fun on the only stage of the festival people were able to do karaoke on specially designated stage, jump with bungee or just do some shopping on the souvenir and merchandise stands.

However anything else was horrible – expensive food and drinks, extremely huge lines for beer and food, shitty sound and little sea of mud in front of the stage. Considering the fact these are the guys who made the 2010 and 2011 editions of Kavarna Rock Festival and some of the best metal concerts in Sofia in the past few years i was disappointed.

The bands

Fans During Meshuggah

Fans during Meshuggah. Photo by Georgi Kojuharov@dnevnik.bg

Day one started with the Norse symphony crap Tristania, who may sound good if they change the singer and have better sound. Lacuna Coil made the show, but it was damaged by even worse sound. However, I really liked the singer Cristina Scabbia and her Lady Gaga jokes, also Andrea Ferro’s energy, but I doubt I’ll ever play song of theirs. The personal highlight of the evening were Behemoth, who got on stage with their usual make up and all the satanic feel and look. While looking like some retarded teenagers they sound really awesome live, even better than on record. May be I had to leave after their set, but I decided to try and listen Symphony X – big mistake. Those guys had so many solos and boring things in their so called show that they’ll make at least a dozen of dragons kill themselves before the end. W.A.S.P., who I watched few years ago, were really sad view. The energy I remember from Blackie Lawless was gone and the show was amazingly stupid. Few tracks before the encore me and couple of friends were going home, for which I don’t regret.

Fans in the mud during Soulfly

Although I skipped the performance of Asphyx, day two was far better. For me it started with the Swedish titans Meshuggah. On the records they sound really unpolished, but live they are smashing metal machine. Add the crazy looks of singer Jens Kidman and some pouring rain during really hot summer day and you’ll get the perfect metal afternoon combination. Because of the pouring rain just in front of the stage there was not-so-little sea of mud which became moshpit arena during Soulfly’s performance. That was my second Soulfly concert and it was just like the first – really raw energy, extremely good Max Cavalera and engulfing moshpits. Canadian thrash legends Annihilator had the difficult task to enjoy the crowd between two legends Soulfly and Slayer and I can say they did their job pretty well. With a setlist full of hits, classics and some of the best songs from the new album they made even the most sceptic people shaking their heads. However, the night actually started in the moment when Tom Araya went on stage. Bulgarians love Slayer and the crowd showed that love with really good moshpits in the mud and too much singing for a thrash concert. In one moment everybody started singing “Happy Birthday” for Dave Lombardo, who happened to have birthday on that day. On the other hand the band played all the favourite songs – Raining Blood, South of Heaven, Die by the Sword, World Painted Blood, etc., of course without too much politenesses or encore.

Wrap up

Considering that was the first edition, Loud Festival was good. But when gets on mind it wasn’t the first festival organized by those people, I’m not so excited. The line up was horrible and I hope next year they’ll have some younger bands. The good part is that in Bulgaria you can have fun on almost every concert because the crowd is always awesome. That was the case with Loud Festival 2012, too. Last but not least, thanks to my friends I had more than just fun, so I’ll just pick the right company again when I go to Loud Festival 2013.