“Just like Solzhenitsyn, I believe that in the end the word will break cement.”

–Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, in her closing statement at the Pussy Riot trial

Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich sit in a glass cage at a court room in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

To understand what Pussy Riot is all about, it is not enough to watch the video of their performance.  You need to read the word—in this case, the translated transcripts of their closing statements at the trial, available here.  This is how Katherine Holt, one of the translators, describes it:

“…they delivered impassioned, philosophically rigorous, and coherent statements about the Russian media landscape, about the co-opting of the Christ the Savior Cathedral as a political stage, about the manipulation of the Christian value of humility, about the need for individuals to think of themselves as citizens, about the role of contemporary art, about the dangers of conformity. And all this was coming on top of all the questions they had already raised (globally) about feminism, punk rock, the limits of public space, the role of cultural forces in political change.

These statements are inspiring to me as a Russia-watcher; they prove that the last nine months of protesting have not been for naught. But I should also add that to me as a person, as a woman, as someone who believes in critical thought and the power of ideas, these statements are acts of heroism.”
I couldn’t agree more.  And as a follow-up, I would remind Americans that it is not just Moscow that takes political prisoners—think of Tim DeChristopher, Bradley Manning,  or Julian Assange. (Assange is in essence being held captive in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London by the United States Government—against whom Assange’s address from the balcony there was (tellingly) very much directed.)

 

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“…an insanely good reason to rise….”, AKA, The Patriarchy is Alive and Well

I really do believe that, at some level, we are all as blameless and innocent as the stars.  And I believe in hell not at all.  But right now, all I can think of is how much I really, really want this impossibly ignorant man to roast there.   Thank you, Eve Ensler, for so powerfully voicing the outrage (WARNING–this could be triggering for some people):

“Dear Mr. Akin, I want you to imagine…”

all you people need to know

…………………..

It is all in there.

The true history of the CIA’s involvement with Lee Harvey Oswald,

and the name of the island on which Amelia Earheart spent the last twenty-three years of her life.

The one common household ingredient that would make cold fusion possible,

and the recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken.

The eighteen missing minutes of the Watergate tapes,

and the secret to healthier, younger-looking skin.

There are the cures for cancer,

and AIDS,

and male pattern baldness,

and the common cold.

Atlantis is there,

and the stone that killed the dinosaurs

right alongside Jimmy Hoffa

and the details of the secret Mormon plan to take over the world.

It’s all in there,

all in Mitt Romney’s tax returns

which he will take

to his grave.

………………

The Man with the Huge Oblong Rutabaga

Prologue:
After my notable second-place finish at the 2009 Rutabaga Curling International World Championships (one rutablogger referred to me as “…the man with the huge oblong rutabaga…”),  I approached the 2010 Games with the sense that I held my destiny in my own hands.  Or, more accurately, that I would soon be holding it in my my right hand. I still had the outsized, misshapen, paradigm-shifting rutabaga I had used in 2009, carefully preserved in yards of Saran Wrap and a ziplock bag, in my freezer.
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 No longer possessing the vibrant coloration of its youth, and having suffered significant freezer burn during its long confinement,  my ‘baga was nonetheless still throwable.  But, despite the months of tough physical and mental training I had put in that year…
 
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….my first-round hurl went awry.  (Was I perhaps wearing the wrong hat?)
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At the end of the day, I found myself watching resignedly from the sidelines….
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….while another curler stood in that place on the platform I felt could have been mine.
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2011, I vowed, would be different.  This, then, is the story of those games.
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 The Man with the Huge Oblong Rutabaga
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It is the bitterly cold morning of December 17th, 2011.  At the Farmer’s Market in Ithaca, NY, Billy The Rutabaga-Sniffing Wonder Dog is on hand to greet to spectators and competitors alike to this year’s curl.
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To the heart-stirring strains of The Theme from Chariots of Fire, the other curlers and I hold our vegetables proudly aloft as we march in the Parade of the Athletes.
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Looking at those around me, I can’t help but wonder:
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“Which of thes stellar athletes, alongside whom I have just marched in the Parade, might I soon find pitted against me for the Championship?”
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At the close of opening ceremonies, the High Commissioner raises the traditional Golden Chalice….
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….and the games begin!
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While the curlers of today have adopted a wide variety of “scientifically” designed techniques and stances…
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…and while much effort has been spent in exploring various ways that the vegetable might legally be modified, in order to permit more accurate tosses…
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…there are still no universally accepted means to achieve reliable accuracy.  Distance, often, is the most crucial factor.  It can be quite difficult to keep a rolling rutabaga from either rocketing off into next county…
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….or falling woefully short of its goal.
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Because the ‘baga I use tends to skid and thud rather than rolling smoothly*, and because of its unusual size and weight, I can give it a full-bodied hurl without fear of it going past its target.  Moreover, I am throwing with a focus and determination borne of last year’s disappointments.  My toss in the initial bracket goes well, and I qualify for the final round.
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This is the competition I must face for the Gold.  While some of the other curlers may appear more formidable, it is 10-year-old James, participating in his first curl ever, who is to give me my stiffest challenge.  That’s him on the right, in the blue shirt.
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My curl starts out promisingly…
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….and as I watch my ‘baga tumble toward the traffic cone and skid to a halt, I can feel with a rising anticipation that this may be what I had barely dared hope for.  The curl of a lifetime.
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Awestruck and disbelieving, Tournament Officials take a measurement for the record books.
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Undaunted by the enormity of the task he now faces, and carrying with him the supreme confidence of youth, James tosses his tuber…
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….and sends it heading straight for the target!
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The crowd watches transfixed as James’ ‘baga  hits the cone, and rolls crazily to one side.
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While I retain the gold-medal position, James’ throw gives him a second-place finish in the official standings….
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…and the first place in not just his mother’s heart, but everyone else’s as well.
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We savor our moment on the victory platform.  James, too, will be freezing his rutabaga for use in next year’s curl.
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Thanks to everyone who makes The International Rutabaga Curl a huge success each year, and truly the premiere sporting event of its kind.  And a very special thanks to Jerry Feist for his wonderful photography.  My report on the 2009 curl, again featuring much of Jerry’s work, is also available on this blog: www.everydayispoetry.com
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*For a more comprehensive analysis of the ways that rutabagas can roll (or not), see Paisley and WeingartenOn the Rotational and Translational Kinematics of Thrown Root Vegetables, Trans. Proc. Roy. Soc. Jour. Lett. Phys. Chem. Psych, 4:21 32-35, 2003.
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Rutabaga Madness

With another rutabaga curling season erratically wobbling ever closer to its climax (this year’s culminating event, the International Rutabaga Curling Championship, will be held this Saturday, December 17th),  I thought I’d share this photo essay of my silver-medal winning performance in the 2009 finals.  Fans will be encouraged to know that I still have the original championship rutabaga in the freezer, and will be using that same ‘baga (press reports at the time referred to a possible “paradigm shift” in the sport, due to its unusual size and shape) to make another run for glory in this year’s contest.

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Despite the frigid weather, a huge crowd had gathered early to watch the event.

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The critical moment:  choosing the freakishly outsized rutabaga that is to catapult me to glory just hours later.

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The rutabaga modification station.  While pre-throw-trimming is permitted by tournament rules, I am proud of the fact that I won my medal using a completely unaltered vegetable.

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The 2008 gold medalist throws..

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…and the crowd watches with rapt attention as the ‘baga approaches the target.

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Will it stop in time?

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To chants of “Shred it!” from the crowd, the referee prepares to dole out the ultimate punishment for a  violation of the official rules.

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Another competitor throws…

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…and falls short.
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A nervous referee tries in vain to clear the crowd from getting too close to the courseway before my toss, for their own safety.  No one has ever before thrown such a large rutabaga in an officially sanctioned event.
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Starting my approach in front of a dubious bystander…
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Just look at that form…
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An unprecedentedly accurate toss!  Skeptical Tournament officials verify that it is, in fact, a rutabaga…
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…and the crowd goes wild!
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Only by an unbelievably skillful toss from a woman wearing mustard-colored sweat pants, in the waning moments of the competition…
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…am I kept from claiming the Gold.
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On the victory stand, bowing my head to receive the silver medal.

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Basking in my moment of glory…

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…and talking to the press.  No doubt Nike will be calling with an endorsement offer soon.

 

(Photography credit:  Jerry Feist.