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Read Me tag on Alice in Wonderland edition illustrated by Iassen Ghiuselev

A new edition of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland came out this month in Bulgaria, illustrated by the prominent Bulgarian artist Iassen Ghiuselev.

Iassen is one of those people who are more famous and recognized abroad than at home, despite the fact that he lives in Bulgaria most of the time. The illustrator works for major publishing houses in the USA, Europe and Asia, and has won several international awards. Among the stories he has illustrated are Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, Pinocchio, Don Quixote, Oliver Twist, the fairy tales of Brothers Grimm, Oscar Wilde, and John Ruskin, and more.

The illustrated edition of Lewis Carroll’s book that just came out in Bulgaria has been in circulation in Canada and parts of Europe since 2000 thanks to Simply Read Books, Vancouver. In order to draw Alice, Iassen mixes Gothic imagery with Escher-style impossible perspective and modern techniques to convey his interpretation of the dream-like Wonderland.

Take a magic tour through the Iassen Ghiuselev’s official website.

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Last week, I visited Christ Church College in Oxford, where in 1856, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll, met his inspiration for his famous novels Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.

Alice and the Queen of Hearts, illustration by Iassen Ghiuselev

In 1856, while Dodgson was a mathematics tutor and a logician at Oxford, a new Dean, Henry Liddell, arrived at Christ Church together with his family.  Dodgson became close friends with the Liddell family and began inventing stories to amuse their three girls: Lorina, Edith and Alice.

Dodgson based his novel on real life elements but with a magical twist: the Mad-Hatter’s tea party and the Queen of Hearts’ game of cricket are fantastic allusions to typical British past-times. The Dodo is a caricature of the author himself who stuttered and often mispronounced his last name as Dodo-Dodgson. The White Rabbit is based on Dean Liddell himself. The book is also full of anagrams and logics problems which contribute to the twisted sense of time and space in Wonderland.

Walking around Christ Church is amazing because you recognize many of the novels’ elements: in the college’s marvelous Great Hall, you can see the brass long-necked ornaments around the fireplace (remember, Alice’s neck grows tall like a serpent’s), the dodo in the stained glass window, and the downward spiral staircase behind the Dean’s table (the rabbit’s hole).

Curious to learn more about Bulgarian fairy tales? Read my post about the Slavic samodivi.


Poli Genova, Bulgarian contestant for Eurovision 2011

It’s that time of the year again: time for Eurovision 2011 – Düsseldorf. (read my post about Bulgaria in Eurovision 2010)

This year, the Bulgarian contestant is the lovely Poli Genova!

I still remember Poli as the face of the children’s music TV show Bonn-Bon. Born in 1987, she now hosts and stars in many shows while also pursuing a degree as a Director.  Poli took part in the national level of Eurovision 2009, but her song One Lifetime is Not Enough became second in the finals.

This year, she became the national champion with a new song, Na Inat (In Defiance)!  The lyrics go: “I will find the strength inside me, I know there is so much that I can achieve. There is so much love in me, there is a reason for me to stay. We will stay and we will find a reason to stay in spite of everything. There is so much we can achieve here.” Thus, the song urges young Bulgarian people to stay in our country and to try to achieve their dreams here, “in defiance”! Poli is the perfect person to sing such a song because she is the epitome of successful Bulgarian youth!

Listen to the Bulgarian Eurovision 2011 song below and comment if you absolutely love it!!! Do you think that Poli should translate the lyrics?

Watch Bulgaria’s performance on the Eurovision semi-final on May 12th and vote for Bulgaria!


Happy 8th March, the International Day of Women!

I wanted to tell you more about Bulgarian women today, so I browsed the web and found several forums with previous years’ polls about the Greatest Bulgarian Women from the past to the present. These are my top ten Bulgarian women-idols, in no particular order:

Valya Balkanska – the folklore singer we are most proud of, as her song “Izlel e Delyu Haydutin” became part of the Voyager space odyssey in 1977. 

Baba Tonka – Tonka Obretenova was a revolutionary during the movement for our independence from the Ottoman yoke in the 1810s. She was an elderly but courageous lady who greatly supported the secret revolutionary committee and offered shelter to many of the heroes of that time who in turn affectionately called her Baba Tonka (grandmother Tonka).

Raina Kniaginia and the flag of the April Uprising, 1876Raina Kniaginia – Have you seen the woman- personification of the French revolution in the painting Liberty Leading the People? Raina Kniaginia is that person for us, but she was a real historical figure. When she was 20, she famously sew the flag of the April Uprising against the Ottoman yoke in 1876 and waved it together with the revolutionary hero Georgi Benkovski.

Baba Vanga – Blinded by a wind storm as a child, Baba Vanga received the mystic powers to see the future. She lead a very pious life in a region with hot thermal waters called Rupite near the Kozhuh mountains. Many ordinary people and even doctors and government officials went to see her and believed in her advice. Many of her prophecies have come true. I should write a longer article about her soon!

Stefka Kostadinova – she is our most celebrated female sports champion. In 1987, she set a world record in high jump, 2.09 meters, which still has not been surpassed. She is currently the president of out Olympic Committee.

Nevena Kokanova, "First lady of Bulgarian cinema "Nevena Kokanova – the “First Lady of Bulgarian cinema”. One of the most beautiful and talented actresses ever to live!

Dora Gabe and Elisaveta Bagriana – I can never decide which one of these two ladies I like more, so I will just include them side by side. Dora and Elisaveta were contemporaries: socialites, beauty icons, best friends, rivals for the heart of the same man, and the two most talented poets of their time.

Raina Kabaivanska – one of the world’s best opera singers. Luciano Pavarotti once said, “Tosca of the past was Maria Callas. Tosca of the present is Raina Kabaivanska”.

Neshka Robeva – a genius choreographer who intertwines modern ballet with tradition folklore dances. Her magical performances have inspired audiences from every continent to fall in love with Bulgarian dance and rhythm.

Lily Ivanova – She has been the prima of Bulgarian pop music for over 50 years and has delivered over 10,000 stage performances all over the globe. Her songs have and will continue to bring joy to several generations.


 

Which country was I in again?! I get a little bit confused when I see my parents, a Bulgarian high school, the Bulgarian London Choir, the Ambassador, a March 3rd celebration, and a big BG audience all at once in London!

Today, March 3, is Bulgaria’s Independence Day. On this day, we celebrate the signing of the San Stefano Treaty in 1878, which ended the war for the liberation of Bulgaria after 500 years of Ottoman yoke, and the beginning of the third Bulgarian kingdom.

A day before that, March 2nd, the Bulgarian Embassy in London invited all Bulgarian expatriates and their friends to a concert in Regent Hall on Oxford Street.

Luckily, this coincided with my parents’ arrival in London! I couldn’t resist the temptation of seeing a Bulgarian concert in London (so that I can write about it in my blog), so I basically dragged my parents from the airport to the event – despite their protests about wanting to do something English.

I don’t know what I was expecting. Probably something splendid because after all, this is London. But it wasn’t anything as exclusive as the gala events of the famous Bulgarian London City Club.

I think I have mixed feelings about the concert. On one hand, it was quite disappointing that there was no decorations, no flags really, and a very plain program. I was even irritated at one point: before we heard a recital by the students from the Bulgarian school, their teacher asked the audience to be lenient about the mistakes that her students might make because “they’ve tried to learn the piece as well as they can despite of the pressure that the English language has put on their Bulgarian language”…

…really?! I’m sorry but you just can’t say that because it’s a very bad excuse. Even if you spend most of the time in the UK, even if one of your parents is British, even if you do most of your communication in English, don’t try to make any excuses about not being fluent in your mother tongue (or both of your native tongues, if that is the case). Other than that, the students did a pretty fine job actually. Especially that young girl who filled the entire hall with her powerful voice.

The second part of the show, on the other hand, was simply mind-blowing! It was The London Bulgarian Choir who sang “folklore songs from the present and the past”. You MUST listen to their music on their official website above, because they are exceptional! And a big portion of them is not even Bulgarian!! Their conductor and lead singer, Dessislava Stefanova, a former student of the Philip Koutev Bulgarian Folk Ensemble, is a an enchanting singer and a very good marketer: if you come by London you can sign up for private classes or workshops with her. You can also follow the London Bulgarian Choir on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, MySpace, YouTube, Wikipedia, or via their mailing list. Dessislava translated and explained one of their songs in English for the many “friends of Bulgaria”:

–     Mitre, Mitre, why does your son look so ill?

Is it from too much rakia-brandy? Or is it from eating too many pickles?

–      My son is not ill; last night he came from Saparevo village.

He made love to all the Saparevo girls and wrote them down in his book.

But he lost the book, so now he is like ill.


 

Yesterday, Google’s logo wore a martenitsa, the traditional Bulgarian symbol of the coming of spring! The martenitsa is an ornament made of intertwined red and white wool, often in the shape of a boy and a girl.  It symbolizes the arrival of spring, good health, and fertility.

We start wearing the martenitsa on March 1st, the day of Baba Marta (Grandmother March), and we wear it until we see a budding tree or a stork.

March 1st is also popular in Romania and Moldova under the name Martisor. Google called its file Martisor but it linked to articles about Baba Marta.

I just received some martenitisi from my cousin and my mom. I wonder how my colleagues at my internship will react when I present them one each?

Read my article about hanging martenitsi on trees in Boston.

 

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