Archive for the ‘video posts’ Category

Michael Church, in The Guardian:

“For Armenians, music is memory. And whenever they gather to honour their dead, the songs they sing are by the composer who speaks for the soul of their nation, Komitas Vardapet. He himself was a victim of the 1915 persecution, and though he survived physically, he was driven into madness by it. Outside Armenia he, too, has been swept under the carpet of history.”

Komitas’s output was modest: 80 choral works and songs, arrangements of the Armenian mass, and some dances for piano. But as his better-known compatriot Aram Khachaturian acknowledged, he singlehandedly laid the foundations for Armenia’s classical tradition. And as a collector and arranger of folksongs, he did for Armenia what Bartók did for Hungary, turning simple material into bewitchingly sophisticated polyphony. After a Komitas concert in Paris, Claude Debussy declared that on the basis of a single song, he deserved to be recognised as a great composer. Yet many classical musicians barely recognise his name.”

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Genocide media

Please take the time this week to read or watch some of these accounts:

2010 German documentary “1915 Aghet”

BBC documentary on the genocide:

2006 PBS documentary:

2005 PBS Minnesota Emmy Award winning documentary

Online galleries of the Armenian Genocide museum.

Interviews with eyewitnesses, and other stories at Armenipedia

Resources for teachers


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On my reading list is award winning travel writer Philip Marsden:

the crossing place

 I have cultivated in myself a sixth sense, an ‘Ararat’ sense: the sense of attraction to a mountain.

Osip Mandelstam

There’s only one people in the world who feel like they belong to a mountain: the Armenians.

Arto Tunçboyajyan

On our way to a school ski-trip at Tsakhkadzor, 40 minutes away from Yerevan (picture New Zealand, only more rocks, or as I imagined, an inside out “mines of Moria” from Lord of the Rings), Arpi, a Syrian Armenian co-worker from Aleppo, noted the difference between Arab and Armenian pessimism:

Inshallah, or God Willing, is what Arabs say for yes or maybe, it is their way of half-committing to everything. If you ask someone to do something or be somewhere, you usually get inshallah, which drives you crazy, because if they don’t show up, they just say it wasn’t God’s will, or they didn’t really mean it.”

However, in Armenia, there is a different sort of pessimism, almost as if the farther East you go the more determinist you get. Che means no, and you can hear this word in almost every single sentence spoken. They use che instead of yeah, or OK, or see? leading to an insufferable joltiness, almost as if you’re driving a 4×4 Lada over the inverted Mines of Moria on the way to Tsakhkadzor. Our taxi driver Ashot has carried the habit into his English: “You see over here? No. This is a good store to buy bread. No. It’s wery much the cheaper than Kaiser.”The NOs are always very emphatic.

Their famous saying which incorporates che (and I forget the direct words now…) can be transliterated as “there is no way”, or “probably not”. “This is how the Armenians respond to any potential future plan – probably not, and we always laugh at them for saying this,” says Arpi, who moved away from Aleppo two years ago.

Another favourite past-time for Armenians is watching others from a distance – when we arrived at Zvartnots Airport, there were at least 6 or 7 men sitting in the baggage claim area as I tried to rent a cart. We had 8 large bags, and were the only ones left in the terminal after the 5am arrival. As I walked around trying to fit all the bags and keep them from falling, the group of young men sat and watched in amusement.

“One time I spent about five minutes trying to park in a tight spot while a man watched me, smoking on the sidewalk,” says Arpi. “After finally getting into the parking spot, the man came up to me and said you can’t park there, it’s illegal.”

In a country with 40 per cent unemployment, it seems natural for the locals to have a bit of schadenfreude, or pleasure at another person’s misfortune – a type of emotional detachment that has grown out of Soviet era distrust.

I can see how natural pessimism could be one cause of the eventual claustrophobia some people feel in a city like Yerevan. Perhaps this habit of saying Che is part of the sense of melancholy that defines country. Ararat, a mountain out of reach of Armenian citizens, is the national symbol, to the extent that people usually have a picture of the twin peaks somewhere on a wall in their house. Like the Israelis with their own diaspora, Armenians share a conviction of a lost and idealized history.

I’ve been watching various documentaries on Armenia on Youtube. A quick survey reveals the contested nature of its boundaries – amateur historians point at maps proving Armenia’s existence before Azerbaijan, and re-mixes of genocide documentaries are posted in various forms. This one is accompanied by a suitably negative track from “System of a Down,” an Armenian grunge band from LA:

This one tries to dispel the “myth” of an Azeri homeland:

Here’s a not so subtle exploration of Armenian sites in Turkey:

Archaeology is one way to recover a sense of pride and nationalism. Tigranakert, the city of Tigran I, the greatest Armenian king who was defeated by Pompey, is in Azeri controlled territory:

Russia is one of the first countries to recognize the Armenian genocide:

Here is Putin quoting Peter the Great – “You have to pet the Armenians” and make them feel comfortable so that they migrate in greater numbers. Outside of Los Angeles, Moscow is probably the largest diaspora community:

How the Russians divide and conquer the Azeris and Armenians:

A history of Yerevan, the city (which betrays its American influence by quoting Abraham Lincoln):

If you’re looking for straight up tourist survey of major sites in Armenia here’s an hour long doc:

CNN has a look at a modern life in Armenia, including the arts, the importance of chess education, and the birthright program:

Here’s a bit of our taxi ride over the Kievyan bridge toward downtown, which gives you a flavour Armenian techno music:

A Neolithic Stonehenge in southern Armenia that is 4,000 years older than the one in southern UK:

A tribute to home brew mulberry vodka in Armenia:

And finally, where we went skiing this week (I realized when I got to the top of the mountain that the last time I skied was in Manitoba 15 years ago):

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Yerevan, Armenia countdown:   1 week, 3 days.    Yes, I’m moving to Armenia with my family. We were offered a job there, and felt a strange connection to the place. For years, my wife Rachel and I have been volunteering at the Manitoba Chamber orchestra as ushers. We were always invited to the after-concert parties, so we met quite a few world-class musicians, including violinist James Ehnes, and the incredible Armenian/Canadian soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian.

Dle Yaman is a classic song about longing and separation, written after the genocide by Armenian composer Komitas. While teaching about emotions in AP Psych, I used this song to illustrate the emotion of huzun, or melancholy, which I had read about in Orham Pamuk’s Istanbul.  Spiritual sorrow, wanting to be close to God but being unable to, emptiness with the hope of fulfillment, a licence to introspect:


Yerevan, Armenia, with Mt. Ararat in the background.

Դլե յաման
Գյամին էկավ կրակի պես,
Վա՜յ, դլե յաման,
Էկավ, հասավ չուր ծովու կես,
Յաման, յաման:

Դլե յաման,
Մեր տուն, ձեր տուն իրար դիմաց,
Վա՜յ, դլե յաման,
Հերիք անես աչքով իմաց (originally it is Մենք սիրեցինք առանց իմաց, menk siretsink arants imats)
Յաման, յաման:

Դլե յաման,
Արև դիպավ Մասիս սարին,
Վա՜յ, դլե յաման,
Կարոտ մնացի ես իմ յարին,
Յաման, յաման:


Dle yaman, the wind blew like fire
vay dle yaman, blew to the half of the see
yaman, yaman…

Dle yaman, your ad my houses are in front of each other
Vay dle yaman, Don’t wink any more (originally it is “menk siretsink arants imats”, “we loved each outher without knowing”)

Dle yaman, the Sun touched the mount. Masis,
Vay dle yaman, I miss my lover,
Yaman, yaman
It seems fitting that she sings ” Evenstar” on the LOTR soundtrack:


Leaving Winnipeg, and leaving the programs I love at Grant Park is painful. Time to reflect on the highs and lows of my first couple years teaching, and look forward to a new challenge overseas. While scrolling through 3QD today I found this gem of a quote, spoken by Kennedy after the assassination of MLK Jr. He quotes Aeschylus’ Agamemnon:

Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget
Falls drop by drop upon the heart,
Until, in our own despair, against our will,
Comes wisdom through the awful grace of God

The experience of leaving a job I love is like a break-up producing a full spectrum of emotion. It’s simply confusing to be leaving people you love after spending so much time applying overseas and planning to leave. Through the confusion comes a profound thankfulness at simply being, and being where I have been, and where I am going.


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You might have heard of the “Flynn” effect, or the fact that our average IQ is rising steadily. James Flynn says that if we all travelled back in time 1oo years ago, we would have an average IQ of 130, whereas if you transported past generations to today, they would average 70. Why is this?

Well, mostly because of education, but also because of nutrition, environment, and conquering of diseases. The schooling argument has one ace up its sleeve – only 3% of the population 100 years ago were white collar professional types like teachers and doctors, whereas today, around 30% are.

So why are we still stumped by things like bad decisions in politics? Flynn, who is a moral philosopher, not a psychologist, says that we need to not only be smart, but also study history in order to make good decisions. Case in point – what happened to the previous 5 powers that invaded Afghanistan?


Chomsky also provides an interesting look at how “experimental” Dewey type schools shaped his education, and how constructivism should be tempered with boundaries and limits. In reference to creativity, Chomsky sides with the classical view of artistic merit, that mastery of a traditional form is required for truly creative expression. Language, he says, shows how rules and limits actually provide the basis for the creative use of words.



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Albert Ellis, the founder of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, was originally a Psychoanalyst but became disillusioned with its results. He turned to the teachings of an ancient Roman slave and philosopher – Epictetus. Epictetus was Greek, and followed the teachings of Socrates and Plato.

The Stoic philosophy has a familiar ring because it uses basically the same method as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – We can control our beliefs through rational dialogue, and build habits of thinking about the world realistically without becoming the slave of our emotions and the slave of circumstance. This is also the fundamental principle discovered by Stephen Covey in the bestseller “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.”

In this TED talk, Jules Evans describes how he suffered from panic attacks and stumbled upon CBT, which lead to the curing of his anxiety. He was so taken by this experience that he decided to interview Albert Ellis about the influence Epictetus had on his psychological theories.

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