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Posts Tagged ‘protests’

This Russian is not a teen, and she’s not political. She’s 22 and wants people to learn the natural-sounding American English that she teaches online.

I loved the TikTok video by Lera Sycheva (neurolera on TikTok) showing how one could pretend to be American in a Russian anti-government protest. Like most viewers, I assumed she was all about politics. She isn’t.

After the Daily Mail wrote an inaccurate story about Sycheva, PRI’s “The World” assigned a reporter to interview her over Skype this week. I don’t have the transcript, but I can quote Sycheva’s view of politics: “Politics are dirty. It’s not for normal people.”

At “The World,” Daniel Ofman got the real story: “Last month, leading up to a protest in support of opposition politician and Kremlin critic, Alexei Navalny, the hashtag #FreeNavalny blew up on Russian TikTok. But one video, in particular, grabbed a ton of attention. In it, a Russian TikToker with the username neurolera explains how to say some key phrases with an American accent, which ‘can save your life, or how to pretend to be American if you get detained at a protest.’ ”

Turns out her TikTok advice on pretending to be an American in a protest was based on something that happened more than a year ago in a different protest. At that time she saw a video on the news in which a Russian police officer left some guy alone because he claimed to be an American. Sycheva saw an opportunity for teaching American English.

If you listen to the interview at “The World,” here, you can get a bonus — Sycheva’s description of her time in Montana, where (unlike Russians, she notes ) people smile all the time.

Now, about the Daily Mail report: They got Sycheva’s age and motivations wrong, but they got it right how people were responding to the TikTok post.

Ryan Fahey reported, “Law enforcement agencies are preparing to suppress nationwide demonstrations after 44-year-old Navalny urged supporters to flood the streets to protest him being detained on return to Russia. Navalny, who was charged with flouting the rules of a suspended jail term, was being treated in Berlin for suspected poisoning with the nerve agent novichok. Soon after he roused from his coma, he accused President Vladimir Putin of orchestrating his attempted assassination.  

“Moscow police today said they would ‘immediately suppress’ any ‘unsanctioned protests’ in support of the dissident in the capital tomorrow. Protest coordinators have planned demonstrations in at least 65 other cities. Several Navalny aides have already been arrested. 

“TikTok user @neurolera, who gives her name as Lera in her bio, posted a video of herself explaining the pronunciation of common American phrases. .. Lera’s first tip is to confidently tell the officers, ‘I’m American’. She then stresses the tone and intonation for the statement to sound as if it’s coming from the lips of a native speaker. 

“If asked for a passport, Lera advises, protesters should tell the police they left it in their hotel room. Lera then suggests shouting: ‘You’re violating my human rights!’ … Finally, Lera advises demonstrators in trouble to pull out a phone and tell officers they will be getting in touch with their lawyer. …

“Teachers, and the Kremlin, have warned schoolchildren against attending. …

” ‘These are Western social networks, they manipulate our children in every possible way in order to bring them to the streets,’ parents’ leader Olga Letkova said. ‘At the protests, there will certainly be provocations and attempts to turn this into bloody massacres. … It is obvious that this is a coup attempt that is being conducted in the West.’ ” LOL.

More at the Daily Mail, here. You need to watch the video. Sycheva’s body language is hilarious. This is how other nationalities often see Americans — obnoxiously entitled.

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Art in Time of War

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Photo: Dalloul Foundation
Installation view of the Ramzi and Saeda Dalloul Art Foundation in Beirut, Lebanon. The private museum is not expected to open to the public for a few years.

Today’s article brings up the dilemma I mentioned recently about trying to share something interesting when the situation on the ground is changing fast and the thing described could disappear overnight. (My version of the Greek philosopher Heraclitus: “You can’t step in the same river twice.”)

In September,  Rebecca Anne Proctor of artnet News attempted to capture the fluid art scene in Beirut, Lebanon, amid daily antigovernment protests.

“Hanging in the booth of Saleh Barakat Gallery during the 10th edition of the Beirut Art Fair last week was the latest work by Lebanese painter Ayman Baalbaki: a large-scale depiction of Beirut’s Piccadilly Theatre in its present, ruined state, priced at $250,000. Painted in fleshy red and black brushstrokes, the empty, ghostly theatre in Hamra serves as a potent reminder of both the city’s rich cultural history and its present economic predicament.

“Bordered by Syria to the north and east and Israel to the south, the little Levant country of Lebanon is used to continuous states of economic and political woe. Yet after its parliament approved a 2019 austerity budget in late July in an attempt to rescue the economy from spiraling debt and unlock billions of dollars in international aid, many believe the country is now experiencing some of its darkest days yet. …

“The country has also been deeply affected by the Syrian refugee crisis. Lebanon, home to a population of six million, is currently hosting more than 950,000 Syrian refugees, according to the UNHCR. There are also mounting tensions with Israel—in late August, Israeli drones struck an Iranian-backed Palestinian militia in the Eastern Bekaa Valley. …

“ ‘The crisis is very present and things are very tough, but what do you do in such a moment?’ asks the prominent Beirut art dealer Saleh Barakat. … ‘It’s either you close or you make a decision to continue. We took the latter decision. We want to resist by moving on in a positive way.’

“One small silver lining, he says, is that artists feel less pressure to churn out commercial material, freeing them up to experiment. … Often, that results in art that reflects the world around them.

“Most recently, Barakat mounted ‘Interminable Seasons of Migration,’ an exhibition of sculptures made out of bits of car metal by Lebanese artist Ginane Makki Bacho that portrayed the millions of refugees escaping conflict in Syria.

‘I wanted to show the tremendous exodus of people fleeing the war with or without expectation or hope of a secured destination,’ the 71-year-old artist says. …

“Even in times of crisis, however, the art market manages to chug along, and Beirut is home to a number of deep-pocketed collectors who can ride out the storm … ‘It was a really good week,’ [Barakat] says. ‘I was very surprised.’

“The fair remains under the leadership of its founder, French-born Laure d’Hauteville, who has worked to raise the profile of the event. … She claims that ‘the fair has not at all been affected by the economic crisis — we had more museum groups and collectors than ever.’ …

“ ‘I remain an optimist,’ says Mazen Soueid, an economist and advisor to Lebanon’s prime minister, of Lebanon’s future. ‘Resilience is part of the country’s DNA; a lot of the downside is due to the regional rather than the local factors. Let us be frank: the region is at war; and for a country in the middle of a region at war, we are actually still holding up.’ …

“Indeed, the new austerity measures seem not to have dramatically affected Beirut’s rising crop of new museums. … Among them is the Beirut Museum of Art (BeMA), dedicated to Lebanese art and slated to open in 2023. …

“There’s also the Dalloul family collection, known as the Ramzi and Saeda Dalloul Art Foundation (DAF), comprising more than 4,000 Modern and contemporary Middle Eastern artworks. Their private museum is scheduled to open within the next three years. …

“[Some dealers are] facing challenges they never could have anticipated. ‘We are going through a huge crisis,’ says Joumana Asseily, owner of Marfa’ Gallery, … They new austerity measures have affected Asseily’s ability to transport artworks abroad. … Recently, she tried to reclaim three works that were lent to a traveling exhibition in Europe, only to be asked at customs to pay for the objects as if she had purchased them.

“ ‘It’s a nightmare. … I still have artworks stuck in customs — it’s been around eight weeks. [But] even if it is a struggle, I want to stay and work. There are great artists, a great scene, and amazing energy in Beirut.’ ”

More here.

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