Monday, 31 March 2008

Gravel Concert

Addition to Lithuanian Drivers' Hall of Shame:
Light brown BMW 745i, licence number DRG 939. Offence: parking in a space for drivers with disabilities. I observed this at Rimi Hypermarket in the afternoon of 30 March. Four ereliai buying beer...
Gėda! Gėda! Gėda!
I called the police, but (surprise, surprise) they didn't show before the culprits took off--assuming they came at all. I didn't hang around to see.

Here's most of a Gravel concert that took place at the end of 2007. There are actually nine clips, but I couldn't get the last one to work, so I'm only posting eight.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Two Clips about Lithuania

As sort of a companion piece to the clips I posted about Vilnius (on 20 March), here are a couple of clips about Lithuania.

Friday, 28 March 2008

Alcohol and the Easter Holiday

Another article from ( This one is about the city of Panevėžys and the Easter holiday, during which most people got four days off. With a population of around 120,000, it's the fifth largest city in Lithuania. The translation is mine.

Long Weekend Not Complete Without Alcohol

The Easter holiday was a stressful time for police and doctors in Panevezys. Domestic conflicts, injuries suffered by drunken people, and people brought from bars and night clubs and off the street to sober up in the police station are all proof that people in our city still do not know how to celebrate without alcohol.

Paramedics working for the district [something like a county in the U.S.A.] responded to more calls than they had to during Christmas. Quite a few of the people who called for help were also drunk.

According to Regina Bucinskiene, spokesperson for police headquarters, the police responded to 501 incidents on 21–25 March, but most of them of minor. The most serious was when a drunken father was beaten by his drunken son and needed to be taken to hospital.

Bucinskiene reported that the police had to help settle 30 domestic conflicts and 59 people were taken to the police station. Forty-seven of those people had to spend the night there to sober up. Among those taken to the police station were nine minors. The most drunks, 16, were taken to the station on the second day of Easter [24 March]. Over the five long days of the holiday [I guess the author is counting Friday as well], there were 11 robberies, 2 muggings, and 255 traffic offenses (in which 13 drivers were drunk).

The police spokesperson emphasized that as usual during holidays there were extra police working.

Injuries suffered by drunks

Valentinas Andrejevas, chief of police at the 1st precinct, stated that the police were forced to pick up drunks from various locations: bars, night clubs, and the street. There were domestic conflicts and fights between young people.

Andrejevas reported that some of the drunks picked up were minors. One 16-year-old boy found on the street was suffering from alcohol poisoning and had a concussion. It is thought that the teen hit his head on the curb when he fell down.

According to Andrejevas, when the parents of the drunken minors arrived at the police station, some behaved properly and others defended their children and blamed the police. [That seems to be quite common here.]

In Panevezys District, the holiday was comparatively peaceful. On 22–25 March, eight police patrols checked 430 drivers and discovered 52 traffic violations, five of which were drunken drivers. Over the four days, 73 people reported incidents.

Vida Vienzindiene, chief paramedic in Panevezys District, reported that her office unexpectedly received the most calls, 45, on the first day of Easter [23 March]. People called for various reasons: illnesses got worse or people suffered minor injuries in conflicts. Those who suffered injuries were most often drunk.

Alcoholics have gotten younger

In the city there were no more calls for ambulances than there have been over other holiday weekends. Because the weather was wintry, some people were injured after slipping on ice and others suffered from problems with their digestion or hearts.

Lina Trokaj, head of reception at Panevezys Hospital, said that her department was flooded with non-emergency cases. Over the five days, about 400 people were checked in just because their family doctors were not working.

Most of those who were injured were also drunk, Trokaj said. She added that there were more drunken men than women and that some of the drunken people were minors.

Geidre Raudonikiene, chief psychiatrist at the Addiction Treatment Center, noted that the center was usually quieter during religious holidays. Over the past weekend, only four detoxification proceedures needed to be done.

According to the psychiatrist, the center expects more people to come in several days after the holiday since people always put off contacting them until the holiday has passed. There have been times after holidays when so many people wanted to be treated that the center ran out of beds and had to prescribe outpatient treatment.

Raudonikiene stated that recently many people have requested the treatment offered by the center. The reason for this may be that their prices are lower than other such treatment centers. She was quite upset to report that the age of people requesting treatment for the effects of alcohol has gone down quite a lot. More and more 18–30-year-old people on whose faces alcohol has already left its marks are asking for help. Most state that they began using alcohol at about the age of 13.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Speaking English

A quick post before I'm away for the Easter holiday.
A couple of comedy sketches about speaking English.

Thursday, 20 March 2008


Vilnius, Lithuania is the city in which I've lived for most of the past 11 years. With a population of about 650,000, it's big but not too big. It can with justification be called a beautiful city, but like any other city, it has its ugly parts. I can't say I love it, but I certainly don't hate it. I think you get my drift...

Anyway, some videos and slide shows of the beautiful parts of Vilnius.
A promotional video. Welcoming Spirit is the title of the last section. My comment: yeah, if they know you're a foreigner (who has light-colored skin). It seems to be quite normal for inhabitants to behave rather rudely to each other here.
Driving in Vilnius. This is cool! And good music.
One of three videos made by a French tourist. The highlights of his trip from beginning to end. Very nicely done.
Part two.
Part three.
Actually a slide show. Nice photos. Pleasant music.
A slide show made by some tourists. The last part tells the sad history of the Jewish population of the city in WWII.
Another slide show. But turn the volume down! The music is just pitiful.
Yet another slide show. Warning: Turn the volume down. The music is Lithuanian but the vocalist is singing about Paris!

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Will Lithuanians Drink Themselves to Death in Five Years?

I found this article here: The translation is mine.

Will We Drink Ourselves to Death in Five Years?

Last year each statistical Lithuanian citizen consumed 14.3 liters (almost 3.8 gallons) of pure alcohol, 2 liters (half a gallon) more than was consumed in the preceding year. According to this statistic in the European Union, Lithuania is only surpassed by Hungary. In terms of teenage female drinking, Lithuania is in second place behind the United Kingdom. In terms of teenage male drinking, Lithuania is in second place behind Estonia. According to foreign experts, the alcohol market in Lithuania is expected to grow 35.5 percent in the next few years.

Teens drinking more and more

Dr. Aurelijus Veryga, the president of the National Tobacco and Alcohol Coalition, says that the quantity of alcohol consumed per person has risen on account of children.

"Some groups of adults simply cannot physically consume more alcohol. The quanitities mentioned earlier are calculated by counting all 3.6 million citizens, including babies. And many Lithuanians who are counted in these figures have in fact emigrated. Because of that, the actual amount of alcohol consumed per capita is somewhat higher. Besides, bootleg alcohol wasn't counted in those figures," Veryga said.

In 2006 there was a survey that asked teens whether they had ever been drunk. In the 11 and younger age group, 33.9 percent of girls and 39.6 percent of boys answered "yes". According to Veryga, this proves that children in Lithuania try alcohol at a very young age.

Further statistics: 12-year-old girls (22.4 percent) and boys (23.3 percent), 13-year-old girls (20 percent) and boys (17.3 percent), 14-year-old girls (13.9 percent) and boys (12.2 percent), 15-year-old girls (6.6 percent) and boys (5.8 percent), and 16+ girls (1.2 percent) and boys (1.7 percent). As strange as it may seem, the statistics do not favor girls. The reason for that could however be that girls are more honest. The statistics also clearly show the effects of alcohol on children. The smaller they are, the less alcohol is needed to get them drunk.

A survey conducted in 2003 showed that only 2 percent of teens 15–16 years old had never tried alcohol.

"That teens are drinking more is also proved by cases of alcohol poisoning. In 2001 only 19 children 7–14 years of age had experienced the toxic effects of alcohol. By 2006, this figure had risen to 269. The same can be seen in the 15–17 age group; the figure grew from 37 to 250," Veryga said.

By the way, according to teen drinking Lithuania was in much better shape in 1998. Out of 29 countries, Lithuania was 24th in terms of girls and 17th in terms of boys. But by 2006, out of 37 countries only girls from the United Kingdom and boys from Estonia drank more than girls and boys in Lithuania. 22.13 percent of girls and 29.33 percent of boys reported being drunk two times or more.

Vodka - the queen of drinks

Teens tend to drink cider and beer, but older people, both men and women, are more apt to trade weaker drinks for vodka, which is both stronger and cheaper.

For example, about 50 percent of 15–17-year-old boys drink beer and about 15 percent drink cider. But in the 25–30 age group, the popularity of beer begins to drop and vodka and other strong drinks begin to become more popular. People who are 65 and older choose vodka much more often than any other alcoholic drink.

Girls 15–17 years of age more are more apt to drink cider or alcoholic cocktails. In the 18–24 age group, there is very little difference in the amount of wine, cider and beer consumed. Women 25–34 years old more often drink wine, but older women tend to drink stonger alcoholic drinks.

"The use of alcohol is rising every year, and the forecast made by the market research company Euromonitor International--that the alcohol market would grow 35.5 percent over the next five years--is proving to be correct. The company showed that market growth was caused by people earning more, favorable laws, and quickly growing retail sales," Veryga said. According to him, although people in more developed countries make more money, they buy less alcohol than we do because of the high cost.

"Since Soviet times our purchasing power in terms of alcohol has grown about 10 times. Earlier with a Soviet paycheck a person could buy 10 bottles of vodka; now that figure stands at almost 100. And in fact people buy more, especially since various incentives are offered: discounts or free mugs, glasses, or CDs. People often rationalize a purchace by telling themselves they are buying for the future, but in fact by always having alcohol at hand, people drink more," Veryga said.

He added that since 1995 the alcohol law has been changed 24 times, but not in the right way; the laws regulating the advertisement and sale of alcohol became more liberal. Only recently has this trend been reversed.

In Lithuania the amount of money spent every month on advertising alcohol is an amazing sum--about 10 million litas (2.896 million euros or 4.566 million dollars). A large part of the advertising, especially for cider and alcoholic cocktails, is focused on a young audience. About 75 percent of underaged youth say they have no problems getting alcohol.

Rich people drink more often

According to a survey performed last year by RAIT, 56 percent of Lithuanians first tried alcohol while they were still underaged: 37 percent said that they had first tried alcohol when 14–17, 7 percent reported that they had first tried alcohol when 10–13, and 4 percent said that they had first tried alcohol when they were younger than 10.

Men more often reported that they had first tried alcohol when in their teens. Women and older respondents (55–74) were more often introduced to alcohol after reaching the legal drinking age.

Other statistics: 50 percent drink alcohol one time per month or less, 19 percent drink several times a month, 10 percent drink a least once a week, and 8 percent drink 2–5 times a week.

Those respondents 18–24 years old most often reported that they drink one time a week. The people most often drinking 2–3 times a week were people who were making an average of 901 litas (261 euros or 411 dollars) or more per family member per week and inhabitants of cities. Twelve percent of the people who reported that they had tried alcohol stated that they no longer drink.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

New Pornographers on NPR

I have an article to translate but no time to translate it...

So, once again, something to listen to: the New Pornographers in concert.

Friday, 14 March 2008


I mentioned this video in my last post. Jurga.
I really like the song and the video.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Alina Orlova

A strange thing happened to me a couple of weeks ago. As I was channel surfing on a Friday (or Saturday?) night, I came across a concert of a Lithuanian performer, and I was transfixed. Now, in general I'd say that the vast majority of Lithuanian music is, to be extremely kind, non-inspiring. There's a fair amount that is unlistenable. Oh, earlier there was Hyperbolė, Bix, and Antis. As for now I can listen to a few groups, but in general their music doesn't do a lot for me; it's just not the kind of music I normally listen to. I do like quite of lot of what Mamontovas does; well, he can be with justification called a genius. And of course, occasionally a singer or a group performs something that I like (for example, Jurga Šeiduikytė's song 5th Season--the video is great), but that's really a rarity. But, anyway, this performer, Alina Orlova, is different. Here's a clip from that concert: The name of the song is Vasaris (February). "February won't last forever." (By the way, my son has also performed in that church with the ensemble he's in.) There's something about her voice and the honesty with which she sings. Her voice really reached out and grabbed me. Anyway, as I was saying, I was transfixed and stopped surfing to listen to her concert. Amazing. I bought her album last weekend. Well, I have to admit that I was more impressed with her live performance, but there's plenty to like on the album and I've only begun listening to it. So far, my favorite songs are Lijo, Mėnulis, Vasaris, and Ramuma. You can listen to some of her songs here: (By the way, her list of Myspace friends includes "Valdas", who just happens to be the president of Lithuania. Who'd a thunk that the president of Lithuania would have his own Myspace page? Cool.)

Here are the lyrics for Lijo, which means "It Rained":
My translation:
Horses graze in your eyes,
But the sky in them is always dreary.
You know words, they always run from you.
Everything is similar to Lego.

Because the day that you were born,
It rained and rained and rained. (x2)

Lego from spiders,
On the walls of the toilet.
From blind dogs,
And the trunks of pine trees.
You know words,
They torture you.
Let's go get drunk,
On Cosmonaut wine. (At least that what it sounds like to me. Whoever put the lyrics on the site above disagrees with me, but I think he or she is wrong--as I may also be.)

Then the refrain again.

Here are the lyrics for Menulyje, which means "On the Moon".
My translation:
There are no schools on the moon.
And no wars take place on the moon.
And on the moon there are many cafeterias,
That serve free buns.
Deer live on the moon.
They aren't hit by cars.
When they gaze so gently,
Not even children have sore throats.

Your feet don't get wet on the moon.
And parents don't die on the moon.
Everyone is his own Noah there.
Umbrellas aren't needed at all there.
There are dragons on the moon.
We can pet them.
But why, why brother,
Is that moon so far away?
So far away...

I think it's beautiful. Whatever one might think about her voice or her music in general, her lyrics are poetic.

It's worth buying her album just to support real talent in Lithuania.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

More Canadian Music

I can't get enough of these guys: (More New Pornographers)

And a word for the day: parterre--
An ornamental flower garden having the beds and paths arranged to form a pattern.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Five Things I Will Never Say about Lithuanian Food

5ives (Merlin's Lists of Five Things) ( is a site I like to visit from time to time, especially when I need a dose of comic relief in my day. So, as a tribute to that site I've made my own list of 5ives about Lithuanian food.

Five things I will never say about Lithuanian food

1. There's nothing like warm balandeliai on a cold winter day. (Balandeliai are ground meat and rice wrapped in cabbage leaves and boiled.)

2. This is too spicy for my taste!

3. These cepeliniai are the very definition of haut cuisine. (Cepeliniai are a kind of potato dumping with ground meat inside.)

4. Ah, I love the smell of cooked cabbage in the morning.

5. Yeah, I'll take another pig's ear. There. That one with all the hair on it.

Friday, 7 March 2008

Canadian Music

I ran across these on YouTube today:
How many music videos have you seen with people skipping rope?

And another one I stumbled upon quite some time ago:

God bless Canada and Canadians!

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Unseen Lithuania

First, the word for the day: epistemology--The branch of philosophy that studies the nature of knowledge, its presuppsitions and foundation, and its extent and validity.

Unseen Lithuania...
Amazing photographs of Lithuania taken from ultralight aircraft, helicopters, hot air balloons, and airplanes. The site seems quite well done and photography buffs may find something of interest on his "The Making of" page. Just really beautiful photos...

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

25% of Lithuanians Still Haul Water by Bucket

I was going to write about something else, but I saw this article and it fit so well with a radio program I heard this morning. The program reported that salaries in Lithuania were the lowest in the EU and that the difference between what normal workers and and upper-level managers make was the biggest in the Baltic States (a geographical region that includes Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, three countries that for 40 years were part of the U.S.S.R.).

If anyone reads Lithuanian, the article can be found here: I won't translate the entire article.

25% of Lithuanians Still Haul Water by Bucket

Every fourth inhabitant of this country still hauls water by bucket, and 33% of Lithuanians are living in poverty in one way or another, Dr. Romas Lazutka, a professor of philosophy at Vilnius University, said. Although it's obvious that some citizens are living a "Western European" lifestyle, the economic situation of others has changed little in the past 20 years.

-Has the gap between the rich and the poor grown larger?
-It has without a doubt because those who are rich are growing richer and the situation of those who live on the streets isn't changing and isn't likely to change. When we're talking about poverty, we shouldn't talk only about people who live on the street. It's worth asking whether the gap between the rich and the poor, not only people who live on the street, is getting bigger.

-A couple of years ago, there was a lot of talk about two Lithuanias. Can we still say that there are two Lithuanias?
-It's possible to say that, but in that case we're not talking only about poverty in Lithuania. I'd say that we could also talk about the division between people who have the power to make decisions and those who don't. But speaking in terms of money, the salary gap in Lithuania is the largest in the EU. The wealthiest 20% are making 8 times more money than the poorest 20%. The average in the EU is 5 times more.

-What did you have in mind by saying that some Lithuanians live a "Western European" lifestyle?
-Such people travel abroad a couple of times a year, have a nice house or apartment, own a new car, don't overwork or save money at the cost of their health, and can take advantage of all types of entertainment.
But surveys show that 30% of Lithuanians cannot even leave their homes for a week during their vacations. Such households still burn wood for heating and cooking and don't have any money to pay for the most necessary home repairs.
(The next section talks about what indicators the professor is using to measure poverty. I'll skip that.)

-Are there a lot of people living in poverty in our country?
-Yes, more than 20% according to income and 30-50% according to other measurements. For example 25% of Lithuanians still haul their water by bucket from a well.

-Yes. About the same percentage still have only outhouses, no indoor plumbing. And there is no government program to combat this problem in the countryside. (But let me add that such conditions can also be found in the capital of Lithuania.) The houses there are falling apart, have no running water...

-Why isn't more said about poverty in the country?
-People don't want to talk about inequality because they connect it with Bolshevism. They just don't understand how much this problem has been discussed over the past hundred years and how it is viewed in civilized capitalistic countries.
The topic of poverty is also avoided by the richest group, who are not particularly patriotic or good citizens...

Monday, 3 March 2008

Lithuanian Drivers

Lithuanian drivers have got to be in the running for the titles of the worst and most inconsiderate drivers in the world. Obviously, this is a generalization and there are many good, considerate drivers on the roads. But Lithuania does have the highest rate of deaths due to traffic accidents in the European Union, and I wouldn't be surprised if it had the highest in the world. The statistics for the EU can be found here: Check out the last page where the rates per million are. Nobody's even close.

The government has been forced to recognize the problem and has started a campaign to "stop the war on the roads". Lots of posters, TV and radio commercials, etc., but it's hard to say whether it's really having any affect on the behavior of people. The problem is manifold. The problem of people drinking and driving is huge. Another problem is the rapidly increasing number of cars on the road and huge number of new drivers with very few years of driving experience, a legacy of Soviet times. But in my opinion, the biggest problem is quite simply that there is a significant percentage of totally inconsiderate drivers. I won't attempt to make any generalization about who they are because I believe that such drivers come from both sexes and all age groups. Speeding, lack of signalling (which is in general widespread here), and aggressive driving are the hallmarks of such drivers. The real shame is that I doubt there will be much of a change anytime soon. The problem is rooted in the peoples' general lack of consideration and empathy for others. That is not something that is easily changed.

I plan to report from time to time on this issue. I've had numerous run-ins with drivers here, both while driving and while a pedestrian. Some drivers have seemed to be genuinely surprised that I mentioned having a problem with their driving. Some have apologized. And some have wanted to fight. (Both times that happened I was almost hit while crossing the street at a pedestrian crossing. One of those drivers was totally convinced that I was in the wrong.)

But... what caused me to write about this subject was earlier in the day thinking about a situation that happened several months ago to my wife and children. They were crossing the road not far from our apartment and were nearly hit by a guy. And if that wasn't bad enough, he had the gall to make an obscene gesture to my wife after he had almost hit them. Now, in general I don't suppose that vigilanteism or revenge is really suitable, but in this case it may be called for. Having said that, I want to record this for posterity--before I forget any more than I have already.
black Alfa Romeo, licence plate number AZA 007 (or 006)
I am waiting for the day our paths cross.

Sunday, 2 March 2008


Today--a few songs to listen to.
I can't remember how I came across this, but I've enjoyed listening to the songs on this site, particularly Shiny Shoes. "Don't let the art of dying get you down, because death is here to stay."
Another site I just stumbled upon some time ago. There are several songs you can download there. My favorite: Low Low Thing.
This is what I'm listening to as I write this. If you're not familiar with soukous (a type of music from Africa) and other types of African music, I recommend this as a nice introduction. Right now Ndima by Bell'a Njoh is playing. How could one listen to this and not like it? Music that makes you want to move and celebrate.
Another band I like to listen to from time to time.