Mission 5: To do something for the nation

Suur tänud, paldies and thanks (...)

... to captain Roman and Dagne, to Kristaps and Baiba, to Viktorija, Gundars, to Sirke and Allan for the music, to Kristiina for the flag, to Arno for the text. Also to Kadri, Piret, Tiina, Märt, and the other people of Ruhnu. To Alyona, Anete, Karlīna, Laura, Miķelis of the invasion forces. And to many more. Listen to Alis P (LV) and Sirke (LV) as well as Vennaskond (EE). Marvelous music. And tomorrow, we go to take back Trinidad & Tobago.

P.S.: Tobago was a colony of Courland for a while, back in the 17th century; Courland is part of modern Latvia.

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Rudis' missions on TV

I will do some of my next missions together with the Latvian TV show "Bez Tabu" (without taboo) on TV3! Until end of October, they are searching for the 'real Latvian' - and after all, that's pretty exactly what I want to become. So I'll be about twice a week on "Bez Tabu". The next shows will be on air:

Tuesday, September 29th, 18.20 (CET):
Rudis is superstitious.

Thursday, October 1st, 18.20 (CET):
Rudis changes his looks, and turns into a sexy Latvian.

You can watch Bez Tabu online here!

Missed a show? Don't worry. You can find the show archives on this site.

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Updated Mission 4: Get into and go through Latvian media

These are parts of a broadcast of Riga's alternative radio station, Radio NABA. (...)

Marika, who's doing the "French Connection" show, invited me last Saturday. This time I brought some Swiss rock music, but maybe some day I'll have a chance to show off my favourite Latvian tunes.

Originally a pirate radio that was run by university students, the music radio NABA is nowadays the official fifth channel by Radio Latvia. Since all their people are volunteers and work simply out of enthusiasm for their channels, this station is really a colorful and genuine alternative voice besides all the commercial channels. Currently (and in the future) financial support is missing, so that radio NABA is unlikely to survive... but a Latvian culture landscape without radio NABA is really something I don't want to imagine.

Listen to radio NABA here.

Big thanks to Marika! I was pretty nervous, speaking for the first time into a radio microphone, and that in three foreign languages at once. But joking around and dancing a little in the studio made it rather easy in the end. You can (and should!) listen to Marika and her French Connection in Latvian-French-English at the same time every Saturday evening at 22:00 CET, 23:00 local time in Riga.

September 12th, 2009: Portrait about me in Sestdiena, the weekend supplement of Latvia's biggest daily Diena, written by Janis Rozenbergs. The text has also been published online (in Latvian), and has received a lot of comments, which seems to indicate how important these questions are - about identity, about becoming Latvian, and perhaps also about staying Latvian...

September 15th, 2009: A video report about my project by Inese Trenca from the news agency LETA. This was the first interview I tried to give entirely in Latvian. Of course with a lot of mistakes...! You can watch the film (in Latvian, no subtitles) on various Internet portals, such as TVNET or Apollo, again with lots of comments by viewers. The video isn't in the "arts" section of these portals, but under "life" - and hey, maybe that's really a better classification!

More information and interviews in Latvian media are probably going to come soon...

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Comment: Eye-opener

A Latvian wrote me: "I watched the interview, and had the feeling that finally someone opened my eyes. All of this is so logical, but now I also don't know what to do. Some say: Ignore it, forget it, don't do anything. But I think that's exactly the wrong direction - ignorance is the biggest problem!"

She's talking about the interview with Dr. Michael Hudson. He analyzes the Latvian economic crisis and makes recommendations what could and should be fixed. Very important, very interesting:
Open your eyes here.

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Album 6: My way home

An opera of love on Stabu iela and (...)

... the pain of fading love next to my apartment. Shakespearean dramas behind silent nightly city walls...

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Alis P's resurrection

There is this kind of music that you hear somewhere, and then you want to learn the language it's performed in. You want to understand it, and to feel it. That's what happened to me when I heard Latvian music - I really think there's hardly anything more beautiful than sung Latvian. And he sings...:

"There was a woman
Living at Wallpaper Street
She doesn't live there anymore
I no longer need her"

But we need him. He was silent for twenty years, now he's back. And he brought news songs in his guitar case. Not that I'd like all of them when hearing them for the first time. Some are sweet like marinated cucumbers, some are soft like amber. But as always, there is something mysterious in his voice, something that goes deep into you. A guitar that follows you on the street and doesn't leave you ever.
Listen here the fantastic song "Es gribu (iet gulēt)" ("I want (to go to sleep)"), from his new album "Uz priekšu (Onward)". And don't miss the other songs, some 20 years old.

He is Gundars Rullis. Gundars is Alis P., a poet and musician. And Gundars has his own "How to become Latvian" story: During the Soviet time, his family lived in exile in Sweden. He grew up and recorded his first album in Stockholm, where he still lives most of the time.
"Do you feel here, or there", I ask in incorrect Latvian.
"In between", he says.
"Another in-between person", I think.

Gundars recorded the new album in Latvia with his friends: Juris Kaukulis from Dzelzs Vilks ("Iron Wolf", a well-known local rock band) is an old friend with whom he used to play, also in songs by Dzelzs Vilks.
"Why do you sing in Latvian", I ask.
"Because I breathe this language", answers Juris.
"Most of the Latvian rock bands still sing in their mother tongue - how beautiful", I think.
And Gundars sings...:

"Diversity is the future
New generations are everything
we have
and will experience it all"

to where the sun shines,
where it will be better"

Come on,
let's go on
Restless with Gundars' guitar.

> An interview with Gundars and Juris here (in Latvian).

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Album 5: Free art, free soup

Artists and writers make soup twice every evening this week. Yesterday, the writer Pauls Bankovskis invited to a bean soup. Blaumana Street 10 has indeed turned into a warm-hearted meeting place in these chilly autumn evenings. Thanks to Katrina Neiburga and Agnese Krivade, who organize this art project.

All over real estate premises emptied by the economic crisis, there are exciting and interesting art projects to be visited these days. Altogether, the event is called "Survival Kit", organized by the Centre for Contemporary Art, and it's open until Sunday this week.

One part of the project is an art book shop and exhibition space, where every evening at 18:30, new workshops are held (by Urs Lehni, Lex Trüb, Egija Inzle and Maya Wismer). One of the funniest things for me still is, again and again, reading the Latvianized names of authors on the book covers, trying to guess which author is behind this local pseudonym.

P.S.: In order to be able to decline names in Latvian langauge, they are all written in a Latvian form. Thus Alice Cooper becomes Eliss Kūpers - with a long u that looks like "ū". And the famous secret agent 007 becomes Džeimss Bonds...

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Album 4: Hooligans

This is a photo of two Latvian hooligans. They were at the last game in October 2008, when the Latvian team lost 1:2 against the Swiss. Yesterday evening I walked through the Old Town in Riga, which was full of Swiss... hearing "Hopp švīc!" and "Du, lueg einiš dā, heš das meitli gsē." and "Du, mier sind bim štīk haoss!"... I could almost get paranoid!

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Album 3: Rugby in Latvia

Latvians are well known to be the most enthusiastic ice-hockey fans in the world, and right now they're suffering with their basketball team at the European Basketball Championships in Poland, and they're waiting for tonight's most important football game of the year for the World Cup Qualification... against whom the latter is played? Oh, it's of course against Switzerland.

So I think it's a good time to calm down these nerves and look at a friendly sport that is usually happening far away from the spotlight of attention: Rugby.

I had a chance to see the game of last year's champions EŽI/EK Sistēma against their younger team EŽI/LMT, in a "stadium" in a forest in the suburb of Jugla. The highest (and only) rugby leage in Latvia has exactly four teams.

My old friend Martins (phon: Martinjsch) plays with the older "Hedgehogs" (Eži, phon: Eschi). We know each other from hours of futile hitchhiking attempts somewhere in the Latvian hinterland. He was more successful in New Zealand, where he participated in a Rugby exchange program. Pretty great, I'd say: To practice and play for five months in a country where Rugby is about as important as ice-hockey is in Latvia. Martins told me that even on the schoolyard, girls and boys would play Rugby during the breaks.

This is Kristaps. He performed best in this game, had the most "tries", and could therefore frequently get a "conversion" with a kick to the goal. A try is 5 points, a conversion 2 points. Since Kristaps' old team went bankrupt, he drives twice or thrice a week the 60 km from the city of Jelgava to this Riga suburb for Rugby. Very passionate!

Martins and his Sistēma-Hedgehogs won the game 67:17. My congratulations!

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How I found my cap...


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Rudis at radio NABA

Tonight at 23.00 (Latvian time) / 22.00 (CET) - radio broadcast FRENCH CONNECTION in the latvian alternative radio NABA. I will present some rock music from the French part in Switzerland.
You can listen the show here: www.naba.lv >>> download the player under "Tiešraide".

I would like to say sorry for the permanent problems with the Gif animations because of "too much" visitors. I will try to find a better sollution during the week-end.

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Rudis' visual transformation

transformation of rūdis

Wednesday evening, we had a truly great evening at the Ednica Art Space, with good friends and nice guests. And also, we used the opportunity to do a little project review. What's clear is that this project can no longer be about just one guy's self-realization, but has to open up to involve more people. Therefore I'm inviting other artists, musicians, actors, whatever, who are inspired by and interested in this project, to join in. Because after all, I can't become Latvian without the support of some more Latvians who have a deeper understanding (and their own points of view!) of what a Latvian is. Also foreign artists can of course join in, provided they have some experience in, with, and about Latvia. Write me for more information!

Big thanks to Mr. Gifmemore for the help, and to all the guests of the evening who joined in for my (or their?) visual transformation.

And here's a video of the actual little show, the "project review", so to say:

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Mission 3: Becoming superstitious

Many Latvian feels connected to their pagan roots - and it's not only during the midsummer festival, St. John's Day, when you can see that. It can easily happen that your friend won't shake your hand because you're standing in the doorway. Superstition is a part of everyday life, and thanks to the comments of many of my readers, I could finally enrich my life with some superstition. Here's a selection:


  1. If you left your home but you need to return, because there's something you forgot: You should look into the mirror."

  2. Photobucket

  3. If you whistle inside a room, you're inviting the devil."

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  5. "If someone wants to present you a sharp object (a knife or similar), you have to give him a symbolic amount of money in return."

  6. Photobucket

  7. "If bread falls on the floor, you must pick it up and kiss it."

  8. Photobucket

  9. "If you eat fish on New Year's Eve and put the fish scales into your wallet, then money will keep flowing into it during the year."

  10. Photobucket

  11. "If you place gloves on a table, you won't have money."

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  13. "You should always have a bit of money with you, because if your wallet is empty, the devil will come and shit into it."

  14. Photobucket

  15. "If you wear your clothes inside out, you'll get drunk fast."

These little animations were created in cooperation with David. Thanks also to Anete, Inese and Mikelis for their help. More ideas about superstition you find in these (Latvian) comments.
Want to see more of David's animated gifs? Visit his gifmemore-Blog.

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Schizophrenic situation in football game?

I enjoy that my Latvian readers are actively joining in here, writing comments and starting small discussions on my blog. Thanks for that! The most active writer, "Anonymous", wanted to know what I think about the recent football game of last year's Latvian champions FK Ventspils against the Swiss champion FC Zurich in the Champions' League group stage qualification. You should know that not only for FK Ventspils, this was a very important game...
This qualification period is also FC Zurich's third attempt to finally reach the Champions' League group stage. Also for Switzerland, every time a club qualifies for this competition, it's a small miracle.

I think that the day before yesterday in Skonto stadium, the smarter team won. A 0:3 is maybe a bit much, but the Ventspils defense indeed had more holes than any Swiss cheese. And regarding their attack - well, if you manage to miss the target with a shot from four meters distance, then that's obviously not the 1:1, but very, very bad luck.

I myself wasn't torn between the two teams at all. I was as hopeful as the Latvian fans. And not only because I know how important it would be for Latvian football if a team would qualify for the first time for the Champions League (even though the UEFA Europa League is pretty good, too). But it's also an old fight deep down in my heart, because the team I'm rooting for is not from Zurich, but from Bern, and its colors are yellow and black. This team is called "Jang Bois" oder "Jaunie Puiši", as Latvian journalists might write.

But I admit that before the game, I was a little annoyed: Swiss newspapers reported that the Latvian hosts had tried to play all sorts of little psycho games with their guests. Suddenly almost all the hotels were booked, and the guest team apparently wasn't invited to practice on the official pitch - instead, FC Zurich was told that they had to rent a pitch for 400 Euros per hour. Well, hello - that's not exactly normal, and it's not exactly how you treat a guest team, do you. I'd say that all the Rimi cashiers and central market sellers together are friendlier than these football apparatchiks.
After Zurich's officials were reacting rather angrily, it was reported that the hosts suddenly became cantingly nice and friendly. In my view, this sort of behavior has a bad smell of dark old times. It's the kind of behavior with one would expect when buying illegal alcohol, and not the way you want to be seen abroad. Unfortunately, not even an advertising film about Latvian Spa centres can correct too much of that kind of image...

What I appreciated a lot during the game, though, was the Ventspils fan club. They were the true football fans, colorful and loud, and even when their team was 0:3 behind, they still waved their flags and chanted their songs, mostly in Russian. My respect! Well, I could imagine that quite some Latvian spectators had mixed feelings about these fans and their Russian-language banners and songs. But how important can it be in what language you support your (ultimately Latvian) team, also considering how many of the well-known Latvian football players have Russian roots. 90%, someone told me, but I'm not sure if that number is correct. Anyhow: When the Swiss national team is playing, you could also hear the fans in two or three different languages. By the way, the Latvia - Switzerland world cup qualification game is up in early September...!
Though maybe, if I want to become Latvian, I have to start being bored of football, and switch to ice-hockey instead? But I couldn't give up football, I like it too much for that...

P.S.: Here's the legendary advertising film for Latvian spas by the Latvian Tourism Development Agency - a film that made every Latvian I ever met shiver in embarrassment... firstly, a significant amount of money (around 60'000 Euro?) disappeared for the production of this piece, but then, at least some of the people responsible for this advertising disaster had to disappear, too...

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