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Cristi Puiu and the New Wave Every Woman is a Story About Breasts Barbarian Punk Diana Dondoe on Nobuyoshi Araki Letters from Romania A journal of Romanian nonfiction spring 2011 ● issue one ● www.decatorevista.ro

English language edition of Decât o Revistă


Cover lines The stories behind the cover images of the first issues of the Romanian edition of Decât o Revistă.

Decât o Revistă

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Decât o Revistă

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November 2009 DOBROVOLSCHI

April 2010 A NEW GENERATION

Mihai Dobrovolschi has been a staple of Romanian radio for more than a decade. He’s the gregarious morning host – these days on Radio Guerrilla –, always on, always witty, always charming, always playful. When photographer Alex Gâlmeanu shot him in 2004 for Bolero magazine, he ended up with a shot of Dobrovolschi fearfully holding a plug away from the socket in his mouth. What we wanted was the follow-up shot – what happened next? This is what Gâlmeanu and Dobro came up with. He’s plugged, he’s ready, he’s yours for consumption.

The mood in Romania as the recession plowed through was gloomy. The November 2009 presidential elections didn’t seem to make a difference. The men, those thousands of suits pondering politics and the economy, had failed to deliver. Power was powerless. But a new generation of women didn’t even flinch. They took the apathy as a green light. It was their time to start small business, make art, build NGOs, and show that change isn’t something that trickles down from the President’s office, but is built slowly, from the ground up.

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Decât o Revistă

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Decât o Revistă

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July 2010 WHEN I WAS 16

October 2010 ARTAN AND THE CHINESE SHOVEL

Putting a 16-year-old punk rocker on the cover was an easy decision, despite the odds. Otto, nicknamed The Barbarian, wasn’t a celebrity. His band had barely played a few gigs. He wasn’t going to sit for a portrait. But he had something special – unique to him, but accesible to us all. He was 16, the age of rebellion and absolute truths, the age at which you’re never wrong and everything is possible. Sixteen is the most punk any of us will ever be, and Otto was the perfect guy to remind us of that. The cover image was shot by Ioana Cîrlig.

Adrian “Artan” Pleşca is sometimes called “The Everest of Romanian music”. A former frontman for the band Timpuri Noi, a subversive outfit that was just as smart during communism as they were after, he was and is an inspiration to a horde of young rockers. His awkwardness and quirks made him an ideal choice for our idea: showcase the wonders of the Chinese army shovel, a multi-purpose tool that does everything you can imagine: from digging to chopping to opening beer. If Romania was to dig itself out of a funk, this was the tool to use. And Artan was the perfect candidate to use it. dor • spring 2011 • 5


The flag was included in the construction project of The People’s House from the start. It was placed exactly at half the distance between the lateral flanks, projected on an imaginary axis that starts from Alba Iulia Square and stops at the building of the Defense Ministry, right behind the People’s House. The flag flew for approximately one year, between 1988, when the last floor of the building was built, and 1989. The mast was 16 meters high, placed on a concrete octogonal platform 4 meters high and 6 meters wide.

After the revolution, the flag was taken down together with the metallic construction that supported it. (Petre Roman, the first prime minister of the post-communist government, says the reason for takingit down may have been its emblem of the Socialist Republic of Romania. From 1990 to 2002, nobody thought about putting the flag back up. In 1994, the Chamber of Deputies moved into The People’s House. At the same time, Law 75 regarding the carrying of the Romanian flag, the playing of the national anthem and the usage of the seals with the country’s emblem came into effect. The law made placing the flag back on The People’s House compulsory: “The flag should permanently be displayed outside and inside public institutions”.

Six things about the Flag Among the many legends surrounding the gigantic People’s House, some refer to the flag flying on the highest flank. The flag is not a hologram, it’s not made of metal or from the sail used on boats. No, there isn’t a granite deposit underneath the building that generates currents so strong that the placing of the flag on the roof would be impossible. And no, the flag wasn’t put there because Gheorghe Funar, Romania’s most nationalistic politician, said so. / By Sorana Stănescu

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It was only in 2002, when the platform of the C4 flank was repaired, that the Chamber of Deputies decided to raise the flag again. One of the projects was designed by the chief architect of the building, Anca Petrescu, and included a transparent mast, made of plastic and metal, with an interior elevator illuminated at night. The mast would have been 20 meters high, and the pennant was meant to be either 6x4, either 4x2 meters. It wouldn’t have been “so complicated” to be put into practice, says Petrescu today. But the deputies rejected the idea and chose a simplified project: the 4 meter high octagonal base was cut to 2.5 meters, and the mast was reduced to a steel pole, 21 cm in diameter and 14 meters high.


Putting the flag on top of the building and replacing it whenever it’s torn is indeed an endurance test. The person who goes up with the flag has to have good balance, because there is no ladder there. He has to reach the 84 meters high platform and then climb the steel pole using metal props. He puts one prop forward, and then lifts his leg. He keeps moving the props to get to the top, explains Ovidiu Leşcu, former chief of the General Directorate for Development in the Chamber of Deputies. He climbs, takes down the old flag and replaces it with the new one. Many times there is ice on the pole and the wind is very strong, which makes the climbing difficult. Today, there are only three employees fit to complete this task.

The base: 2.5 meters. The mast: 14 meters. The flag: 3.20 by 4.80 meters.

Finding the proper fabric for the flag was the second stepping stone, since it had to resist the wind’s whipping effect. The rain and the wind (which at that altitude sometimes reaches 100 km/hour) tear apart the red part of the flag, the one at the exterior. The solution came from a military unit, which indicated the necessary technical conditions of the fabric. There were 11 total: the thinness of the stitches, the weight of the fabric and its resistance to hydrostatic pressure. After testing several materials, on the drizzly day of December 27, 2002, the first post-revolutionary flag was placed on the top of the building. Today the pennant is 4.80 meters long and 3.20 meters wide.

The colors are established by law: cobalt blue, chrome yellow and red vermilion. In Pantone, the color codes are: 280c, 116c and 186c (these are approximations taken from a French reference book, since the Romanian law doesn’t specify them). From 2002 to 2008, the monthly replacement rate was three flags. Since 2008, the building’s administrators changed the fabric to 100% polyester, which is more resistant because it lets the air pass through. Now the flag is replaced every month and a half, maybe two. It costs between 100 and 300 Lei, or 20 to 70 Euro.

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R Speaking Romanian A report from the frontier of language.

F

– Words by Peter Frank

rom the moment I first heard the word “înainte” I knew it was not a real word. It could not be. It was merely a few consonants embedded into at least six mangled, intertwined, unpronounceable vowel sounds. But I was wrong. I checked. It is a word. I know that because, while perusing the stacks of antique books at a local shop, I discovered a rare etymological dictionary. Why it was in English, I don’t know. But there it was: the explanation, the first recorded use of the word “înainte”. Of course, as Romanians, you know the story. But to me, it helped explain much about the language. It seems that on or about October 4 in the year 1183 or so, during yet another invasion by some pesky neighbor, one of the top hefes trying to find Ploieşti, stopped a young boy to ask directions. The two year old, eating the traditional lunch of peanut butter on sliced mamaliga, pointed straight ahead and suggested the man, dressed in what looked like pajamas, go take a nap. And so, as any true Romanian knows, “nani te” – spoken with a peanut butter accent – became the word for straight ahead. And thus a language is born. This story explained a lot, for it seems to me that Romanian is one of the few surviving pure ancient languages, a clear pool of pristine words, into which several invaders over the centuries have poured their various buckets of murky water. And now it’s America’s turn. How else do you explain

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conversations in which I understand nothing except the occasional “trend-setter,” “hotspot,” “sex bomb” sprinkled throughout? During a meeting, just as my attention drifts comfortably away, it’s like hearing your name suddenly called. “Barul are un happy hour tare.” What? What did you say? And then the real confusion begins. “Catering” means the shop delivers, not that they will provide a shawarma banquet for your wedding. “Nonstop” means it’s open 24 hours, not that it flies to Paris without any layovers. And when people shout “Hai, Romania”, they are not saying hello. Most importantly, at restaurants, “Fried Crap” on the menu does not mean, well, fried crap. Now, keep in mind that I’m not the best judge of a foreign language. I’m American. I once had a Scottish employee who, when he spoke English, I could not understand a word he said. And I’ve taken four years of German, each one conveniently called “Introduction to German.” So I have to be careful. As a former editor, my first inclination is to correct and change things, even (like most editors) when they don’t need it. Verb tenses. Conjugations. Mispronouning nouns. Like when I learn: “Ce fac?” I immediately want to add a definite article, as in: “What THE fac?” I realize I’m still a guest in this country, so I don’t want to complain too much. I know this has been your language since, well, at least the revolution. But why do you make it so difficult? For example, all the useful adjectives begin with “m”? Do you realize how confusing that is? “Mult”, “mic”, “mare”. Then there’s “mai


mic”. Mai mic? That’s like being uncertain about another piece of cake and saying “yes no”. I say pick one, it’s either mai or mic. And as long as I’m on the topic, “mult” is a good word. But what’s a “mesc” and why do I wish someone much of it when I thank them? Then there are your word endings. Honestly, I believe you make them up as you go. For me, I just throw “–ului” at the end when I’m not sure. I don’t know what it means but it usually brings a smile. I recommend that instead of borrowing English words, just borrow the endings. The most we add at the end of a word is “-es” (unless the word’s from Latin then we’re supposed to change the “-us” to an “-i” when it’s plural, but we never bother so nevermind.) And finally, seriously, do you really want me to believe “s-a” is a word? Where I come from it’s the first half of the equation: s – a = x. I knew, in hindsight, I was in trouble. On one of my first trips here, I was changing planes in Italy and a woman, with four children, asked if I could help carry a bag down the ramp and push her baby stroller

while she struggled with the toddlers. I had no idea what she was saying, and despite my obvious confusion, she continued to speak as if we were old friends. All I knew was that she was talking to me in some language that sounded like Italian fired from a machine gun. It is certainly true that the biggest problem here is that so many people speak English. I learned more Spanish in one week, immersed in a town where no one spoke English, than I’ve learned of Romanian in a whole year living here. But soon, I hope, all this confusion will be a distant memory. I plan to be speaking like a native in no time. I’ve created and memorized helpful phrases like: “Unde este toaleta?”, “Nu înţeleg absolut nimic” and “Îmi pare rău, munceşte cineva aici!?”. And soon I’ll resume lessons. In the meantime, I’m listening to the complete recorded speeches of dubious politicians. But to truly succeed, first I’ll buy some peanut butter. Peter Frank is American. Since 2009, he has been living in Romania, working in the media, and trying to learn the language.

e t n i a ap în

Cr

Ce

? a t e l a o t e t ? c unde es i m i a m t l u m c a f

. c s e m u ţ l u M

. u ă er

r a p Îmi

! a i n â m o R i,

Ha

* Curious what the Romanian words mean? Google Translate them. dor • spring 2011 • 39


R

Every Woman Is a Story About Breasts Ever since we anxiously start longing for them up until they fall victims to gravity, we spend our lives obsessing about their fate. Every woman is a story about breasts. This is mine.

O

– Words by Crina Moşneagu

ne morning, my boyfriend and I were lying on the couch when I asked him, aimlessly, if he liked my breasts. “Yeah,” he said with a flirtatious look, setting his newspaper aside. “I like them.” “Why?” I continued, skeptical. “Because they fit my palm perfectly. Because they respond graciously each time I touch them. Look,” he said, gently running his finger over my nipples, which instantly hardened. “I asked, why you liked mine, not breasts in general,” I hissed, letting go of his embrace. I wasn’t about to let him get away with a truism, because even now, at 30, I occasionally still doubt their power of attraction. My relationship with breasts was a rather difficult one. I always had something to accuse them of: they started growing too early, they didn’t grow fast enough, they grew too much, they

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hurt too much, they had suddenly disappeared and would not grow back. I don’t know if I ever really gave them the chance to prove they were there for me, that they can electrify, open doors, twist minds, and be addictive. It’s true that sometimes I took advantage of their charm, but somehow, either vaguely or directly, on purpose or unconsciously, I think I always rejected them. My breasts made their appearance sometime at the beginning of 6th grade. I was 11, the youngest in my class. It was already October, but summer and autumn were still negotiating. I went to school during the afternoon and we were getting ready for drawing class. In front of me sat Andrei: Prince Charming, Casanova, God. There was no girl in that class who wasn’t secretly, but passionately, in love with him. We were all hoping that one day – the holiest of days – we would find a note on our desk, in our pencil box, or in our math or Romanian language notebook. A note from him, more valuable than the most precious engagement ring.


The Scapegoat A portrait of Romania’s most important filmmaker. words by cristian lupșa photographs by carmen gociu cover photograph by alex gâlmeanu

T

hree hours in one of the cherry-colored seats of the Republica movie theatre in Cluj, and I feel like I’ve slept on the floor. My back hurts, my neck is stiff, the upholstery has branded my skin and my knees are sore from all the leg crossing and rubbing against the seat in front. I’m not alone. Most of the 1,000 people who showed up for the premiere of Cristi Puiu’s latest film, Aurora, at the Transylvania International Film Festival, are still here, and they’re clapping. They clap for more than 20 seconds after the closing credits interrupt the mind games that the wonder boy of Romanian cinema put us through, and they clap again, moments later, when he strolls down the corridor and hops on stage. He’s wearing jeans, a sailor tee, and a professor’s jacket. His scruffy hair clashes with the precise cut he had in the role of Viorel, the murderer he plays in his film. “Thank you,” he says into the microphone. “Thank you for holding out to the end. I’m sorry I didn’t say it at the start: those who can’t take it can leave. I’ve been standing there, by the exit, writing everyone down.” He laughs and the audience responds. He told us from the very beginning that Aurora was going to be a long film; not to apologize, but to warn us that it’ll be an experience, three hours that will batter our brains and bodies. Three hours that Puiu needed in order to show Viorel crisscrossing the 54 • dor • spring 2011


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Roman Style Review 92 • dor • spring 2011


anian w Photographs by Alex Gâlmeanu Words by Matei Schwartz

The greatest problem of contemporary Romanian fashion is confusion – neither the consumers, nor the experts seem to agree on what the word means. You can see it on the runways, in the avalanche of local “fashion weeks”, in magazine editorials. Is fashion something created by omnipresent scandalprone celebrities, or is it an entire ecosystem, ranging from design schools to factories? The professionals featured here argue for the latter. They are a reason for hope. >

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style

give us our daily shawarma You think your designer shoes are too good for the sidewalk of a street food vendor? You think rucola is better than cabbage? You think certain foods belong to certain social classes? We don't. That's why we insist you're never too good for a shawarma*. Photographs by Andrei Pungovschi Styling by Ailin Ibraim Styling assistant Gabriela Piţurlea Make-up by Marina Chiorean Hair-styling by Bogdan Mirică/ Fantasy Hair Team

* Shawarma is anything but a traditional Romanian dish. Still, we eat it as if it were.

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Ipekyol raincoat Louis Vuitton handbag DnV – Zebra Love pumps Rebelle gloves Oxette watch

Chicken shawarma with garlic sauce and mint – Shark, Buzeşti Open Market, Bucharest.

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