The Neoliberal Book Of The Dead – Chapter Four: Rage Against The Machine

  • April 10, 2017
The Neoliberal Book Of The Dead – Chapter Four:  Rage Against The Machine


Sunset is an angel weeping
Holding out a bloody sword
No matter how I squint I cannot
Make out what it’s pointing toward
Sometimes you feel like you live too long
Days drip slowly on the page
You catch yourself
Pacing the cage.

— Bruce Cockburn

The Neoliberal Book of the Dead – Chapter Three: The Zombie Doctrine

  • June 13, 2016
The Neoliberal Book of the Dead – Chapter Three:  The Zombie Doctrine

A Pre-Dystopian Tale.

You can’t live a post-revolutionary existence in a pre-revolutionary society.

This quote has stuck with me over the years, since I first heard it during the early 1970’s in the dining room of a longtime friend’s home in the Haight while interviewing spokespersons for a film I was shooting about a group of activists that had been instumental in creatiing the Free Clinic, the Food Bank, and had been active in several other Bay Area coalitions related to housing and healthcare for the indigent and homeless. Read more...

Tempus Fugit

  • September 29, 2015
Tempus Fugit

The News.

Ever see the musical “Newsies”? It’s a Disney Theatrical Productions stage musical based on the 1992 musical film Newsies, which in turn was inspired by the real-life Newsboys Strike of 1899 in New York City. Read more...

The Oracle: It Knows Where We Are

  • October 9, 2014
The Oracle: It Knows Where We Are


The Grid.

I employ a specific email address linked to our family site at used exclusively when sending email blasts out to an admittedly captive audience of family and friends after I’ve posted either a new item of vital importance and sage insight on our Blog or the latest video masterpiece depicting events from our family exploits and worldwide travails. Nobody ever responds to these messages, so I’m never sure if anyone bothers even to either read the email or view the posts. As a result, keeping this website going is a leap of faith, even for an septuagenarian agnostic anarchist like myself.

The Forever War

  • September 4, 2013
The Forever War

Science Fiction

The Forever War (1974) is a science fiction novel by Vietnam veteran and author Joe Haldeman, relating a tale of soldiers fighting an interstellar war between humanity and an enigmatic alien species called the Taurans. The novel explores the inhumanity of war and bureaucracy, and the psychological effects resulting from the time dilation of space travel (a soldier returns home from months on the “front” only to find that centuries have passed on Earth), won the Nebula Award in 1975, and the Hugo and the Locus awards in 1976. Read more...

The Old Country: Lviv

  • October 1, 2017
The Old Country:  Lviv

Monument to Taras Shevchenko, Lviv.


Having survived the first two days of my insane itinerary, my guide Diana Borysenko had scheduled us for two relatively relaxing days in Lviv consisting of various historical, museum and church tours, a vist to several unique cafes for coffee and confections, the sampling of local cuisine, and an evening at the Opera House to attend a “gala” presentation of the inaugural season of the LvivMozArt Festival.

LVIV [Лвів].

Well for starters how about a capsulized history of “Leo’s Town”. Lviv is the major city and cultural center in Western Ukraine, located a mere 70 kilometers from the Polish border with a current population approaching 800 thousand. Archaeologists claim to have evidence that the area was initially settled in the 5th Century, and by the early 13th Century after the dissolution of the Kievan Rus, the city itself was founded by Danylo Romanovych (Halytskyi), also known as Daniel of Galicia – crowned as the “First King of Ruthenia” – who then made it his capitol and named the city after his son, Lev (Leo). Over the following centuries, Lviv – which is known by five names (and probably a few more in the vernacular): Leopolis (Latin), Lviv (Ukrainian), Lvov (Russian), Lwow (Polish), and Lemberg (Austrian) – plus most of what is now Western Ukraine was conquered or ruled in succession by the Tatars (The Golden Horde), the Poles, the Hungarians, the Lithuanians, the Austrians, the Russians, the Poles again, the Germans, the Soviet Union, and finally became a part of independent Ukraine in 1991 after the USSR collapsed. The history of Ukraine — “The Frontier” — is a controversial one, with dark and complicated alliances and conflicted national characters as we shall briefly explore below.

For those that only read or hear the propaganda dished out by the corporate-owned Western MSM, you should understand – if you don’t already – that as of this writing, Ukraine is at war (again) along its Eastern borders with its historical adversary Russia and when I say “historical” I mean “for centuries”; almost as long as Rome was at war with the Persians. For hundreds of years both the area including its indigenous Slavic people that comprises much of what is now modern Ukraine was referred to as “Little Russia” [Мала Рус]; a term still used today by Russian nationalists who deny that Ukraine and Ukrainians are distinct from Russia and Russians. Remember the toponym “ukraine” transliterates to “frontier” or “borderland” thus a “ukrainian” might for some likewise transliterate to “country bumpkin” or even “dumb illiterate”. Today many Ukrainian nationalists consider the term to be an insult, indicative of imperial Russian (and Soviet) historical suppression of the Ukrainian national ethos.

Memorials and Monuments

Lychakiv Cemetery

Leopold Levitskiy Memorial

So I am taking a bit of “poetic license” here in starting the narrative of our visit to Lviv with monuments and memorials beginning in a cemetery. The Lychakiv Cemetery, officially called the State History and Culture Museum-Preserve, has been the primary necropolis of Lviv’s intelligentsia and upper classes since the 18th Century so it contains memorial areas dedicated to historical families and figures both Ukrainian and Polish such as writers, poets, teachers, performers and political leaders including Stepan Bandera, poet Ivan Franko, graphic artist Leopold Levitskiy, opera star Solomiya Krushelnytska, to name a few.

Right now there is a war happening in the East and as a result people are dying, the evidence being fresh graves at a recently dedicated memorial site containing the remains of local soldiers located in an addition to Lychakiv Cemetary that was recently created to honor the dead. Approaching the memorial on foot Diana and I walked past several mourners, including a man standing alone with tears streaming down his face. And as I passed him I got the feeling that I was an intruder, disrupting not only his private grieving but also that of an entire nation, internally locked in an interminable war with itself — this Forever War being waged between the socio-economic classes, a battle that seemingly impacts only those that fight it while those that perpetuate it reap the profits. Momentarily overcome by despair, I muttered to myself: “The clock is ticking, world. The clock is ticking”.

There are also military memorials and monuments dedicated even to Soviet soldiers who died fighting the Nazis; also the Cemetery of the Defenders of Lwów dedicated to Poles who fought in the post WW I wars of 1919-1921 against both Ukrainian Nationalists and the Soviets; and amazingly a Ukrainian National Army Memorial that includes tombs of soldiers of the SS-Division – Galicia (prior to 1944 titled the 14th SS-Volunteer Division “Galicia” [14а Добровільна Дивізія СС “Галичина”]; and a monument to the unknown soldiers who died fighting the Soviets in 1944. But you get the idea; the Russians are not well thought of in Galicia.

Monument to Taras Shevchenko

Dedicated on the first anniversary of Ukrainian independence, the Monument to Taras Shevchenko features a statue of the poet fronting a massive 12 meter pylon called The Wave of the Ukrainian Revival which is itself adorned with numerous allegorical bas-reliefs on both sides depicting the history of Ukraine from the Kievan Rus era to the present [see feature image above].

Monument to Stepan Bandera.

Stepan Bandera was a Ukrainian political activist and a leader of the nationalist and independence movement of Ukraine including the OUN and the UPA.

Emblem of OUN-B

In the early months of World War II he cooperated with Nazi Germany, but after Ukrainians declared an independent Ukrainian state (30 Jun 1941), the Gestapo arrested him on 15 September 1941 and he became a prisoner in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. In 1944, with Germany rapidly losing ground in the war in the face of the advancing Allied armies, Bandera was released, in the hope that he could deter the advancing Soviet forces. Fourteen years after the end of the war, in 1959, the KGB had Bandera assassinated in Munich, Germany.

—- Wiki

This monument, dedicated in 2007, has prompted much critical debate throughout the country concerning the role played by Bandera and both the OUN and the UPA both during and post WW II, applauded by Ukrainian Nationalists and decried by Russian Nationalists and others. In fact recent surveys have disclosed that the further East one travels in Ukraine itself, the less positive are citizen attitudes towards Bandera; the highest being in Galicia; the lowest in Crimea and oblasts on the country’s Eastern borders.

The reason for this of course is the role that the Ukrainian nationalist movements personified by the OUN and UPA have played in the struggle for independence; from the fight by Ruthenians for a free state, to the Sich Riflemen Brigades of WW I, to the SS Galicia Division of WW II, all have had one common enemy – Russia in all of its incarnations. And in that struggle partisans have had to make controversial alliances; with the Poles; with the Austrians; and the most heinous being with the Nazis. A contemporary example of this “frenemy” policy would be the United States aligning with the Wahhabist Saudis (whose citizens were responsible for the 9/11 attacks), Zionist Israel, and Shia dominated Iraq to fight other Shia majority countries like Syria, Yemen, and Iran.

The truth is the world needs more activists. If current events are any indication, it seems that on the one hand nationalism, often conflated with xenophobia and even fascism, aims to protect cultural heritage and the status quo but is stuck in reverse with old ideas and failed policies. While on the other globalism – proposed by neo-liberal capitalists as a market-based solution for re-distributing wealth and eternal economic growth has in fact resulted in a race to the bottom for all but the elite class; both ideologies being sides of the same coin only the few get to spend. We live in a world beset by challenging environmental and economic problems exacerbated by a seemingly perpetual state of war (The Forever War). Attempting to solve any of these issues will require a combination of partisanship, activism and diplomacy rather than armed conflict. Just ask yourself “who benefits and who doesn’t?”

Okay, I’ll get off my “soap box”. Back to Diana:

Pigs In A Blanket

Holubtsi (Classic)

There comes a time in during any travelogue when you have to eat. In fact one could make the case that a major reason for traveling at all is to sample the host country’s cuisine. Well, grab your napkins and gather around the table. As a kid I remember Grandma Anna toiling away in her kitchen preparing delicious batches of pedaheh (pirogi) and holubtsi (stuffed cabbage rolls) – better known to me as “pigs in a blanket” — with most of the ingredients harvested locally right from her own garden (well the “pigs” didn’t grow there of course). I still have a mental image of her out in the Sun among the cabbages, her babushka wrapped about her head, filling her bushel basket with vegetables. I just have to say, it’s not the same image I get as the one of pushing a cart up aisle four at the Piggly Wiggly.

7 Piggies Sign

Anyway, Diana promised me a sumptuous lunch at one of Lviv’s must-eat restaurants known as the 7 Piggies. I was really looking forward to this place and it didn’t disappoint. First we had the borsht soup, followed by a sampling of varenyky (dumplings), and finally the holubtsi — their version being prepared with a tasty tomato cream sauce — all of it washed down with a wonderful mixed fruit drink I could not get enough of. Yum! Ok. Now I was definitely ready for more sites of interest including one of the most unique museums in the country.

Shevchenskivskiy (Shevchenko) Park.

Hutsul Wooden Church

Next we visited the Shevchenskivskiy Park. Better known as the “Open-air Museum of Folk Architecture and Rural Life”, this ethnographic park is dedicated to the conservation of the rural architecture, every-day utensils, the folk art, and the preservation of the cultural practices and skills from the Past.

Every area consists of historically-accurate buildings, complete with the practical tools and manufactory implements from last three centuries and is one of the largest open-air museums in Europe. Every installation consists of authentic interiors presenting the image of the daily life, work and leisure of the typical Western Ukrainian village. On weekends, the park also includes events such as masterclasses and demonstrations of traditional crafts, such as baking, pottery, doll making, wood carving, egg painting, bee keeping, etc. Here’s one — the village blacksmith.

We also stopped to view the work of one of Diana’s aquaintances; an artist who delicately paints by hand these intricately-decorated pysanka or Ukrainian Easter eggs. The process is amazing; taking a “real” chicken, goose, or ostrich egg (where to you get ostrich eggs in Ukraine?); drawing or etching either a traditional or unique design on it using a pysaltse (or pysachok) pen. The pen consists of a small metal reservoir with a fine tip/opening on a wooden or plastic handle. Wax is scooped into the reservoir, heated, and then the stylus is used to write with wax on an egg’s shell.

Pysanka Artist

All of this is done by hand, mind you; somehow draining the yoke and the white from its interior; carefully cracking the egg open at the middle and inserting papier mache within the two halves of the shell; glueing it all back together again, and finally finishing the art work on the exterior of egg shell. I’m told each pysanka takes the better part of a day to complete. I wound up buying a bunch of them for my nieces (whom I love to pieces).

Saint George’s Cathedral (BG)

Cathedrals, Churches, and Chapels

According to the Wiki, there are three major cathedrals in Lviv: the Armenian Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary which has origins dating back to the mid-14th Century and serves as the main cathedral of the Armenian Apostolic Church; the Roman Catholic Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption or simply The Latin Cathedral which dates from the 15th Century; and Saint George’s Cathedral dating from the 13th Century which is the mother church of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic (Eastern Rite) church situated on Saint George Hill.

At one time — before the Communist Era — there were more than 60 major places of worship in Lviv, including the Golden Rose Synagogue, considered to be the oldest in Ukraine now a ruin having been almost completely demolished by the invading Nazi’s in 1941. Dedicated as a World Heritage Site in 1998, oft-delayed plans are in the works to preserve the Golden Rose Synagogue as a memorial site.

Apparently the only cathedral to survive the Communist Era relatively unscathed was the Latin Cathedral, since most if not all churches and synagogues were either demolished, shuttered, used as depositories for weaponry, converted to military barracks, or used to store books as was Saints Peter and Paul Garrison Church and even up until 2011 it was home to more than 2 million volumes.

We visited several churches and chapels including the Garrison Church AKA Jesuit Church; the 18th Century Baroque revival Dominican Church; the glorious neo-Gothic Church of Saints Olga and Elizabeth; and the magnificently ornate Boim Chapel situated next to the Latin Cathedral, with a statue of the thinking man’s Jesus perched atop its cupola. We’ve put together a mini-tour for you here:

Chocolatiers and Chimneysweeps

Okay! Who’s ready for some chocolate! Well I don’t know about you, but I was. Maybe it had something to do with what I ruminated about in the first post of this series: religious convictions vs pagan confections? Anyway, Diana navigated us to the place where they make some of the best chocolate West of Switzerland – Lvivska Matusternya Shokoladu or the Lviv Handmade Chocolate factory. It was a busy place so we had to queue up which was a good thing because we had time to choose among the myriad of chocolate delights before us, finally setting on an assortment of truffles that we spirited off to enjoy at a nearby coffee shop.

Afterwards we stopped at another chocolatier’s shop near Rynok Square where the delicacies were fashioned into tools, toy cars, animals, and even replicas of Nikon cameras. Don’t believe me? Here’s a picture….I think it’s a Nikon F2.

Around the corner we stopped on by another unique shop, the multi-storied House Of Legends restaurant fronted by the image of a fire-breathing dragon. Each of its floors mounted by creaky wooden stairs, contains a tiny space dedicated to one sort of uniquely Lviv urban oeuvre or another; books, the weather, time, and the perfect cobblestone. On the roof is a cafe festooned with an actual car with oars sticking out of its sides, where one can sit suspended over the side of the building. And in the background perched on a chimney is the icon of a chimneysweep holding a bucket. “Legend” has it that if you can pitch a coin successfully into the bucket you will be blessed with good luck (or maybe one of those chocolate cameras).

Wolfgang, Franz and Company.

So what could possibly top off a tour like this? What attraction or monument or event could be a perfect capstone to an amazing five day excursion into both the past and present of this “Old Country”? How about some great old music: arias from some of the classic Mozart operas (Wolfgang and Franz) performed by the Academic Symphony Orchestra led by Ukrainian conductor Oksana Lyniv and featuring eight singers from Ukraine, Germany, Lithuania, and Romania for the inaugural season of the LvivMozArt Festival at the grand old Opera House? Well Diana got us seats right up front, practically in the laps of the string section itself. Here’s how the evening ended:


The events of the four previous days of my visit especially the time spent in Ternopil oblast, when coupled with the morning in the Lychakiv Cemetery — witnessing the fresh graves of the newly fallen and a man publicly sharing his grief over a lost loved one in a senseless war (and as a veteran I can make a strong case that all wars are futile exercises in self-perpetuation) — emotionally caught me up, binding me to our family heritage as both humans and Ukrainians, so much so that on the ensuing evening prior to my taking leave of this war-ravaged country from the point-of-view of this narrative, I spent a sleepless night weeping on my pillow, as much for those lost lives and for those to come, as for the kindnesses of strangers, their selfless commitment to the service of others, and the open-hearted passion for creating harmony and sharing that I will now carry with me to the End of Days. Thank you Ukrainians and thank you Diana Borysenko.

In case you missed it you can read both the first post in this series: The Old Country – Ternopil Oblast, recently updated with hot information and the second installment: The Old Country – Ivano Frankivsk Oblast and find out about Babij Mountain. Be sure stay tuned for the complete video of The Old Country due on the site soon.

до побачення.

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The Old Country: Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast

  • September 26, 2017
The Old Country:  Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast

Annunciation (The Savior) Church, a 15th Century Carpathian Wooden Church.

Dolyna [Долйна].

Well if the itinerary for Day One was ridiculous — four towns, 350 kilometers or more round trip, and roads that were in places more like obstacle courses — Day Two would prove to be insane. We’re talking about a tour of Sub-Carpathian Ukraine that involves at least 400 kilometers of driving in one day — a weekend day at that — smack in the middle of August which is high tourist season for this part of the world – not the smartest of plans. My guide Diana Borysenko had alerted me that trips to Kolomyya and Yaremche in Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast normally call for a night’s layover, and on top of that I even wanted to go to Dolyna as well and beat the bushes for signs of the mythical, mysterious and most-likely ficticious Babij Mountain, a local folk story or rural legend from Dolyna that a distant Polish relative named Wlodzimierz Macewicz pinged me about via our family heritage site some years back — which we posted a blog about then. But now I couldn’t even retrieve Wlodzimierz’s original message regarding the place nor could I find its location again on Google Earth — both ominous signs. Yet at 8:00 AM sharp that Saturday morning in Lviv, Diana picked me up in “Mary” and we were off on “Шлах” again. Remember that “Bat Out of Hell?”

The origins of Dolyna (which transliterates to “valley”) date back as far as the 10th Century. The city is located in the largest oil-producing region in Ukraine with a population of nearly 21 thousand souls currently. Somewhere among those 21,000 there had to be a Babij or Babiy or two or at least someone who knew something about them, since Wlodzimierz seemed certain people with our patronymic lived in the area.

The Search For Babij Mountain

However I wasn’t holding my breath as Diana piloted “Mary” along the main thoroughfare headed for the center of town. “We will have to ask someone for directions”, she muttered and just then, right on cue as if by magic, there appeared a man clutching a package – perhaps a breakfast of varenyky — approaching on the right hand side of the street. Pulling the car to a stop she powered down the window and with a captivating smile began querying him about the possible location of a “Babijova Hora” (Babij Mountain) or a location where we could find out more about it. Again the smile and the long blonde hair worked like pixie dust as the man was soon doing his best to give Diana directions, gesturing towards a place some distance further down the road to the West that he seemed to call “babiy-yeeka”. So, after thanking him we were off, now searching for a place with a slightly different-sounding name that actually might even exist. But was it really a mountain? Dolyna seemed surrounded by foothills and we had come into town earlier via a route that passed through them.

About a quarter-hour later we reached an intersection and Diana pulled over, unsure of how to proceed; turn to the right, the left, or to go straight. Kitty-corner to our location sat a local store with small patio fronted by several parked cars. Outside there were a half-dozen or so young men standing around drinking coffee apparently just chilling or waiting for someone or something to happen. Little did they know what was about to hit them.

Yup. We headed straight for the lot of them, and once Diana bounced out of the car, twelve eyes followed her around to where she stood and the “Blonde Magic” started to work once more. After a brief exchange during which “babiy-yeeka” was uttered a few more times, one of the men, evidently having agreed to show us the way up the hill, jumped into his car and we were off behind him in hot pursuit. The search for Babij Mountain was about to reach critical mass.

So after about ten minutes of driving up a one-lane dirt track — suitable in places only for an all-wheel drive vehicle — we happened upon an elderly couple who were out picking blackberries that lovely morning. Here is their tale of one or two of the legends associated with Babiy-yeeka [Бабїйєка?]:

So there we have it. Babij Mountain was either in fact or in legend a region called “Babiy-yeeka” and existed, perhaps only in the oral mythos of the area which alleges that this mountain or ridge or plateau was named “Бабїйєка” (??) after a WW II era Ukrainian Nationalist – surnamed Babiy – who used this mountainous region as a base of operations, together with other insurgents allied with the OUN leader and Ukrainian national hero Stepan Bandera, against the Soviet regime. Evidently his only surviving son, who was named Stepan (after Bandera?), had recently died but there were third or fourth generation Babiys still living in the area. If only we had the time….. Yet another reason for a repeat visit.

By the way you can  see more video on this segment and others in our video post “The Old Country” coming as soon as I can crank it out.

Next stop, Kolomyya.

Kolomyya [Коломия].

First settled in the 13th Century, Kolomyya is major center of the Hutsul [Гуцули] culture which includes much of Sub-Carpathian Ukraine and northern Transcarpathian Romania [Maramureş] just across the border. Up to this point, I had neither the time nor the inclination to buy any gifts or souvenirs of my trip, but Diana assured me this was definitely the place to start at least looking so that became part of “The Plan” for the day which would first include stops at two famous local museums.

Hutsul Folk Art and History

First on the list was the National Hutsul Museum of Folk Art which features installations of art, woodworking, ceramics, metallurgy, fabrics, music, and even cheeses developed by this mountain culture. One of the installations that we were allowed to shoot featured a unique papier-mâché painting by a Hutsul artist:

The museum’s website also offers a limited virtual tour — no substitute for a literal tour given by Diana of course — which features links that
provide audio samples of several musical instruments that the Hutsuls used, including the bagpipes [Duda], a hand-held horn [Trembita], the hammered dulcimer [Tsymbaly], and mouth harp [Drymba]. Diana was especially insistant that I be allowed to hear what these musical instruments sounded like as we’d been sharing music tracks in our travels, so when the museum’s computer that visitors use to access the recorded sound samples froze up, she found a docent who re-booted it. What can I say? More of that Blonde Magic.

Pysanky Museum

Next it was on to a very unique museum. The Pysanka Museum, which possesses thousands of pysanky or hand-painted Ukrainian Easter Eggs, is the only one of its kind in the world and is considered to be a cultural landmark of modern Ukraine. No, pysanky are not to be confused with the Faberge’ Eggs — those are Russian, okay? The building that houses this collection, assembled from most of the oblasts in the country as well as from around the world, is itself shaped like a giant pysanka. The art and craft of painting or should I say “writing” a pysanka is a very delicate process as described here from a post by Irina Bilan:

Kistka or Pysaltse Pens

The traditional method of drawing intricate patterns on eggs involves a stylus and wax. The word ‘pysanka’, that we use for naming Easter egg, comes from the Ukrainian word ‘pysaty’, which means to write. This is because the ornamentation is most commonly applied with a writing tool (called ‘kistka’ or ‘pysal’tse’) through which melted beeswax flows in the same manner as ink flows through a fountain pen.

How about a quick tour.

Yaremche [Яремчe].

Bridge over Prut River near Craft Fair

Next it was on to Yaremche, a tourist mecca and gateway to the Carpathian Mountain ski areas and water rafting areas along the Prut [Прут] River. Situated next to the Probiy [Пробій] Waterfall is a popular souvenir market, specializing in Hutsul crafts and embroidered collectibles where the local entertainment apparently was to witness the machismo (read: insanity) of young men hurling themselves from the pedestrian bridge spanning the gorge into the whirlpool 20 meters or so below – not something Diana could watch, given that she has two sons and a daughter (“one slip and they are crippled for life”).

We had planned to shop and then sample the local cuisine at a nearby restaurant, but the restaurant was closed for a private wedding party, so we had to improvise. The problem was that — well — it was Summer plus it was a weekend and people tend to get married and have their receptions at restaurants and resorts in the area in the Summer and on weekends, so after several more rebuffs we just hit the road for the long drive back to Lviv.

Of course Diana subsequently found a place to stop; again booked for a wedding but which also had a lovely quiet garden where we shared a dinner consisting of some tasty local trout. Then it was back on the road for Lviv hoping to get back before darkness fell.

Here’s a short clip — of what Mother Nature had in store for us…

In case you missed it you can read our first post in this series: The Old Country – Ternopil Oblast recently updated with hot information. Plus, hot off the press here is our last installment entitled The Old Country: Lviv where we visit a House of Legends and finally track down Pigs-in-a-Blanket at the 7Piggies.

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Ruthenia, Galicia and the Babij Surname

  • September 26, 2017
Ruthenia, Galicia and the Babij Surname

Cousin Sue Roth sent me an email recently concering the origins of the famous Hollywood director Billy Wilder. It seems Mr. Wilder (nee Samuel) was originally born in the town of Sucha, Galicia then a province of Austria Hungary. So Mr. Wilder was a Ruthenian by birth. Sue termed the revelation “weird”.

As usual when we find links like this they tend to send us off on what usually turns out to be a wild goose chase or goat rodeo. But sometimes these weird tidbits provide even more incentives for researching who we are or at least “were”. So where did Sammy Wilder’s origins lead us?

The Old Country: Ternopil Oblast

  • September 23, 2017
The Old Country:  Ternopil Oblast


The earliest recollection I have of hearing the ethnic appellation Ukrainian applied to our family name Babij was in the Fall Quarter of my first year of college during the Kennedy Era when I received a telephone call from a woman (whose name unfortunately I do not recall) inviting me to a gathering of Ukrainian-descendant students to be held at an apartment in the campus married housing complex. The woman went on to describe what typically went on during such occasions: an exchange of tales relating to family lineage and history; performances of traditional folk songs and dance; picnics where participants cooked and ate traditional food like beet soup, pedaheh (varenyky) dumplings and stuffed cabbage called holubtsi or “pigs in a blanket”, similar to those I’d tasted before that had been made by Grandma Anna; and Sunday excursions to the local Orthodox church for Mass.

DNA Test Results Redux

  • April 18, 2017
DNA Test Results Redux

The DNA results are in from 23andMe and they seem more in line with what we were expecting. This is not to say that the MyHeritage results were inaccurate (they did have a very cool map display), but the 23andMe analysis is much more detailed and scientifically oriented – if one needs to go there. There are maps, but they’re “graphically challenged” as you’ll see below. Read more...

Patrick Hickey – In Memoriam

  • March 8, 2017
Patrick Hickey – In Memoriam

Remembrance For Patrick Hickey

I first met Patrick when we were both students at UCLA in the mid 1970’s. At the time I was employed at the Film School as a graduate assistant, teaching a class in beginning filmmaking techniques called “Project One” in which undergrads learned how to make a film project utilizing Super 8 cameras and editing equipment while at the same time working on one of my own Earth-shattering “masterpieces” which would usually keep me occupied into the wee hours of the morning.

DNA Test Results

  • February 18, 2017
DNA Test Results

So….I received my DNA test results from (an Israeli company – parent to and the results are …. middling to mildly surprising. The key point to keep in mind is that results of this kind only show the population groupings with whom I share DNA with. Click on the featured image for a close-up of the genetic map.

Death of the Democratic Party

  • February 9, 2017
Death of the Democratic Party

Pins and Needles.

When was the last time you got picked on for doing something you either didn’t do, or failed to do, or forgot to do, or did the opposite of doing, or actually did do but in your own mind felt justified in doing? Yeah, I know. This is a classic example of a martyr complex or guilt by dissociation; a self-imposed behavioral conditioning programmed by our socialization process that puts our ego at the center of our own universe vis a vis that of the “greater good”.

100th Anniversary: Anna Chuda and John (Ivan) Babij

  • June 15, 2016
100th Anniversary:  Anna Chuda and John (Ivan) Babij

On May 14th 1916, one hundred years ago, Anna Chuda and John (Ivan) Babij were married in Saint George’s Ukrainian Catholic Church on East 7th Street in New York City.