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Fresh insights about energy, politics, travels, sports, music…

Category Archives: life

Back to school

2016-09-20-11-26-03

Edinburgh, UK

After three years of incredible personal, professional, and business growth, I take my leave from The Conway Bulletin to undertake a doctoral degree at the University of Glasgow.

When I started at the Bulletin as a Kazakhstan correspondent, the newspaper had only 3 pages. Back then, everyone was excited about the start of the Kashagan offshore oilfield, which would have soon disappointed hopefuls when its pipes broke. Interestingly, Kashagan just re-started a few days ago. But now the Bulletin counts hundreds of subscribers, not just dozens, runs 12 pages packed with news every week and has a fully-working archive with over 7,000 news items from the past six years.

Now, after writing well over 2,500 news stories and around 200 news wires, covering  elections around Central Asia and the South Caucasus, and doing an immense amount of daily research, it’s time for me to move on to my next challenge, back into academia.

At Glasgow, I’ll fold back into my research of Kazakhstan’s energy sector, with a particular eye this time to its social impact. This means that I will travel more to Central Asia, attend more academic conferences, and write more for a diverse range of outlets.

For a brief period, I will continue to work part-time at the Bulletin, hoping that my replacement can be found soon. And I will stay on in Edinburgh until there’s a good reason to move.

After almost two years, the blog is back. Or is it?

Street Boy, I Think of You – Part 2

Croton-on-Hudson, NY

Well, Rodriguez has made it into my daily routine. I remember his lyrics, his riffs, his pauses. It’s time to post a review of his second and last album so far, “Coming From Reality”.

There is little doubt that if “Cold Fact” didn’t make it into the US charts, there would be no game for “Coming From Reality“, which came out only one year later in 1971. Rodriguez was playing around in Midwestern bars while Jimi Hendrix was already a legend and the Beatles had already disbanded. Johnny Cash was The Man In Black and Bob Dylan was living his fame. Rodriguez was to become only a musician by night: his new album sold only few copies in the US and his record label dropped him… two weeks before Christmas, as he mentions in “Cause”, although the song was recorded months before the release and the sacking. He would move on to work in factories in pre-crisis Detroit.

“Coming From Reality” is a dark album. There are almost no cheerful lines in Rodriguez’s poetry here. Climb Up on My Music seems a call to the listener, it’s about trust, Rodriguez says: there was a girl named Christmas, / Did I tell ya she drank gold?. Not much sense, just blind trust is what Rodriguez needs from his audience. At least at a first glance. His guitar laments his way into the next track A Most Disgusting Song, which is perhaps the cleverest, reflecting on the craft and the stress of being a musician. The simplicity with which he treats his audience is reflected in the casual name-dropping (Jimmy “Bad Luck” Butts, old playboy Ralph, Mr. Flood, Linda, Tim, Tom, Martha…). The message targets the routine, the dullness, the literally disgusting never-ending present: everyone’s drinking the detergents / that cannot remove their hurts … every night it’s the same old thing / Getting high, getting drunk, getting horny. Then, oh, a sweet love song… about a lost love; I Think Of You is not a song about the break up, but tracks the nostalgic feeling that comes months, years after the end of a relationship. A psychedelic trip starts suddenly thereafter with Heikki’s Suburbia Bus Tour, a crazy ride, with verses that chase each other in a hectic and messy manner: Rodriguez warns to look out for the cops and the itchy trigger fingers, but no-one disagrees that happiness is free on Heikki’s suburbia bus tour ride. A lullaby-like love song turns the mood back to sad-mode: Silver Words? is about the odd feeling of having a chance with the person that made you fall in love. The violin gets introduced by the end of the song and comes back in the next track Sandrevan Lullaby – Lifestyle, back to the real blues, but with string instruments resounding like an orchestra. “America gains another pound / Only time will bring some people around / Idols and flags are slowly melting” – it’s always winter in Rodriguez’s calendar. To Whom It May Concern is actually addressed pretty accurately, despite the title, to those who are waiting for love. The song would thematically fit perfectly in between “Silver Words” and “I Think Of You”. Then It Started Out So Nice throws you into a magic world… of sorrow and melancholy, of course, but still magic. Again some name-dropping, this time mythical: Genji, the Ixea mountains, Orion, etc. From the sea to the skies, it was a great love, remembered with the words of somebody who knows, that love is lost. Coming from fantasy, back to reality, Halfway Up The Stairs is another song about missed opportunities, half-baked ideas, unfinished tasks. Here comes the masterpiece of the album: Cause. From his oft-cited inner city to the local factory, the working class seems to cry through Rodriguez’s voice: Cause they told me everybody’s got to pay their dues / And I explained that I had overpaid them. The album ended here with an Estonian Archangel, Molly McDonald, Willy Thompson, and Annie Johnson, the common names of common people, exceptional figures of the constant, flat present.

Three more songs were added in later editions of the album, particularly in the bootleg version distributed in South Africa, where Rodriguez was a constant feature on the radio (the few allowed tracks) and in basements. I’ll Slip Away, Can’t Get Away and Street Boy are about journeys, of course. In the first track, Rodriguez communicates the uneasiness of conformity and the inability to continue a relationship, be it a sentimental or a political one: Now I’m tired of lying and I’m sick of trying / Cause I’m losing who I really am / And I’m not choosing to be like them. In the second song, Rodriguez explains his origins with a touch of color: Born in the troubled city / In Rock and Roll, USA / In the shadow of the tallest building / I vowed I would break away, but he can’t. Then, my personal favorite, Street Boy, which speaks of a nomadic and innocent life, perhaps naive. The singer gives some grown-up advice to the boy, but acknowledges his need to get away and find himself. The last word is a warning though: you’ll never find or ever meet / Any street boy who’s ever beat the streets.

This concludes my two-part praise of my new favorite musician and songwriter. Click here for the first part and here for more guesses on the meanings of his lyrics.

Street Boy, I Think of You – Part 1

Croton-On-Hudson, NY

I met Rodriguez only three weeks ago, on a lazy post-graduation morning. It shattered my views on American ballads and protest songs in one, jaw-dropping experience. I wanted to watch the documentary Searching for Sugarman for a year, since I saw the poster and the mysterious aura around it in the streets of Tallinn. Only three months ago, I was concentrating on Viktor Tsoy’s Russian lyrics, which are bare-boned and melancholic. Then Rodriguez blew my mind.

Rodriguez, Sixto, Jesus, whatever his name, is better than Bob Dylan, better than Johnny Cash. Who’s Neil Young? Why is Paul Simon not showing up, overshadowing this little known songwriter? How does a blue-collar working man-turned musician (and/or the other way around) get to #1 in someone’s 2014 ranking by releasing only two albums in 1970 and 1971?

The quick answer is: I have no idea, but it did.

I saw the documentary, almost in tears for both the story and the depth of the lyrics in his songs, masterpieces of songwriting. I’m of course not a musician or a songwriter, but my brain and my ears keep exchanging high-fives. Every word is spelled out as if it was the last one coming out of Rodriguez’s mouth. Every song has a rhythm that fits the verses, which are built carefully, like a domino structure: once you hit play, something beautiful unravels. Here’s my take on “Cold Fact“, released by Sussex in March 1970 in the United States, which sold only a few thousand copies until success hit back in the 90s and after the release of the documentary. Thirty minutes of awesomeness buried deep in radio station archives, until better PR got it to the masses.

The repetitiveness of Sugar Man closely resembles the addict hailing the pusher for more. This song is the formal entrance by Rodriguez into your veins. Only Good For Conversation brings you to a harsher sound of protest towards some customary behaviors, more to come, undoubtedly. Crucify Your Mind is the masterpiece: Was it a huntsman or a player / That made you pay the cost / That now assumes relaxed positions / And prostitutes your loss? Again, the entrance punches you at each pause. Then a long title that would never make it through radios, charts, or memories This Is Not A Song, It’s an Outburst: Or, The Establishment Blues, a protest song that reminds me of Simon & Garfunkel’s The Only Living Boy In New York only because it has a better weather-related verse: Public gets irate but forget the vote date / Weatherman complaining, predicted sun, it’s raining […] I opened the window to listen to the news / But all I heard was the Establishment’s Blues – try to get more contemporary than that. Hate Street Dialogue is against the state’s monopoly on the use of violence against its own citizens: A dime, a dollar they’re all the same / When a man comes to bust your game. / The turnkey comes, his face a grin / Locks the cell I’m in again. There’s one or two things Johnny Cash could learn from Rodriguez’s crude images here. Thanks for your time, then you can thank me for mine, that’s the first verse of Forget It, about love that has worn out. No begging, like to the local sugar man, just forget it. Inner City Blues is another angry song which repeats the album title Cold Fact over and over, while building clever braids with lyrics that could make sense even if you listened only to one every two verses. Will it ever all be straight / I doubt it, says Rodriguez, while making again Christian references. Then comes the bass. The supporting band for his first concert in South Africa played the riff for minutes, while the crowd was cheering  their idol, before he could finally open the song with the now-famous verse I WonderI wonder about the love you can’t find / And I wonder about the loneliness that’s mine – an uneasy song, less lyric-focused but an incredibly catchy tune. Like Janis is again a great ballad with snappy and clever verses that are better served with the music. A bit more disturbing to the ear is Gommorah (A Nursery Rhyme) is a surprising blues track with an actual nursery rhyme within. Help your kids to dream with a Biblical tale about hate, says Rodriguez. Once more, a protest song follows. Rich Folks’ Hoax has an ironic take on the class-system: Rich folks have the same jokes / And they park in basic places. Jane S. Piddy is a weird song that will be repeated in its concept in the second album. Among incredibly poetic lyrics, random name-dropping happens. Who are all these people, nobody knows and nobody cares, I guess that’s the message.

I saw my reflection in my father’s final tears
The wind was slowly melting, San Francisco disappears
Acid heads, unmade beds, and you Woodward world queers

If this has not been enough for you, then don’t bother to wait for the next post, which will take on Rodriguez’s second and last (so far) studio album.

Calcio-spettacolo – #JZ4ever edition

Almaty, Kazakhstan

Finalmente sono stati decisi gli ultimi orari delle partite della Serie A, così posso completare il mio umile studio della follia del calcio italiano, che non fa più vedere la luce del sole ai calciatori. Stasera, un’altra nottata per vedere l’ultimo Zanetti.

Trentotto partite. Una squadra che mangia tutto, un’altra che lascia qualche briciola e tante altre mediocrità. Alcune mediocrità hanno speso tanto e hanno fallito i propri obiettivi, alcune altre mediocrità sono salite sul piedistallo e hanno lanciato campioni giovani e maturi e a volte sono state tutt’altro che mediocri, ma solo a volte. Insomma, mentre ancora mi fanno male gli occhi per le partite che ho guardato, ho pensato al motivo per il quale mi sono dovuto fare le nottate qui in Kazakistan. Tutte le cavolo di partite sono giocate la sera!

Spalmare il campionato su più orari, più giorni, più pre-pranzi e pre-cene per vendere meglio i diritti tv. Va bene. Ma bisogna dare un senso a questo “spettacolo”, soprattutto vista la sua qualità. Ho fatto un breve calcolo per le cinque squadre più seguite:

Juventus: 20 partite in notturna (20.45 o 21) e 7 nel tardo pomeriggio (18/18.30/19) – 11 con il sole

Roma: 22 partite in notturna (20.45 o 21) e 3 nel tardo pomeriggio (18/18.30/19) – 13 con il sole

Napoli: 23 partite in notturna (20.45 o 21) e 6 nel tardo pomeriggio (18/18.30/19) – 9 con il sole

Inter: 24 partite in notturna (20.45 o 21) e 3 nel tardo pomeriggio (18/18.30/19) – 11 con il sole

Milan: 26 partite in notturna (20.45 o 21) e 3 nel tardo pomeriggio (18/18.30/19) – 9 con il sole

Soltanto in 3 giornate le partite sono state giocate allo stesso orario (5a, 10a e 30a), tutte alla sera (20.45). Il resto è stata una scelta di palinsesto televisivo. Ora, per chi come me non vive nello stesso fuso-orario dell’Italia ed è costretto a fare le notti per vedersi “la partita”, ecco che le occhiaie cominciano ad allargarsi. Se poi tifi una squadra di Milano, su 76 partite, ben 50 sono state disputate in notturna. Visto il rendimento e il gioco espresso dalle due squadre milanesi, si può solo concludere che queste siano state notti sprecate.

C’è ancora una notturna in programma per l’ultima di campionato, ma quella che brucia di più a un’interista è quella passata domenica scorsa. Stare sveglio fino alle due e non vedere Zanetti sul campo per il derby è stata una ferita simile al 5 maggio. Se oggi, l’ultima a San Siro del capitano di una vita, quello scempio si dovesse ripetere, torno a piedi in Italia e tolgo le zeta dal cognome del mister.

(Non) va bene

Almaty, Kazakhstan 

Tra mille nuove idee, un freschissimo e IMPORTANTISSIMO progetto (energybrains.org), ogni tanto è bene cercare su Google il proprio nome. Anche se si fa quasi a tempo perso. La “presenza online” è importante per chi si occupa di giornalismo e ricerca accademica, ma anche per chi volesse capire quanto della sua vita sia stato condiviso sulla grande rete.

E fu così che trovai un paio di citazioni dei miei lavori. Un articolo di un collega dell’Università tedesca di Siegen, Michael Sander, che ha pubblicato un ottimo articolo sulla pregevolissima rivista Energy Policy, un faro nella ricerca accademica per quanto riguarda l’energia. L’articolo citato è quello scritto a quattro mani con Elvira Oliva, che tra l’altro è anche una colonna portante del progetto Energy Brains di cui sopra.

Un’altra citazione è nella recensione della letteratura della tesi di Master di un giovane ricercatore norvegese. La citazione riguarda il mio libro sul ruolo dell’energia nella politica estera russa nei confronti del Kazakistan. Leggere come gli altri interpretano la tua analisi fa molto piacere (soprattutto quando il messaggio che hai provato a inviare è arrivato a destinazione). [Anche se l’ammontare di bibliografia e analisi copiata e incollata mi fa dubitare del sistema accademico norvegese]

Fin qui tutto (molto) bene. Poi incappi in infocusnewsanalysis (un’accozzaglia di parole-chiave tutte nel titolo!), che in un’analisi sulla situazione in Ucraina del dicembre scorso riporta, quasi per intero un mio articolo scritto per AGIenergia. Senza inserire né il nome della fonte, né un link di riferimento. Non va bene. Ringrazio per le belle parole, ma così muoiono sia il giornalismo, sia l’etica di chi scrive.

Lavorare con un settimanale britannico (The Conway Bulletin) mi sta insegnando che lavorare gratis non è un vanto, una buona azione che serve a farsi conoscere. È un danno prima di tutto ai colleghi che di giornalismo ci vivono (a fatica) e innesca meccanismi tali per cui si può copiare e incollare, senza sentire il bisogno di citare in maniera appropriata.

Bottom line: andatevi a cercare su Google, ci saranno probabilmente belle sorprese, ma quasi sicuramente qualcosa che non vorreste vedere.

Stampa estera, Foreign press, зарубежная пресса

Almaty, Kazakhstan 

This is a trilingual post, perché non mi capiscono когда по-итальянский говорю.

Dieci giorni fa, un blog kazako ha ripreso un mio articolo apparso su “L’Indro” sull’Affaire Ablyazov.Fin qui, ero contento.

Poi ho scoperto, che per un problema di interpretazione dei pronomi utilizzati, il curatore dell’articolo aveva fondamentalmente travisato il messaggio che avevo scritto.

Avrei detto che un giovane imprenditore sarebbe diventato il prossimo presidente del Kazakistan. E lo sapevo solo io?

No, secondo il blog, la loro fallace interpretazione delle mie parole rifletterebbe un sentimento condiviso nella stampa estera.

Di nuovo, contento di essere letto con attenzione in Kazakistan, ma contrariato dall’incapacità di tradurre per bene (dall’italiano al russo).

Ho lasciato un commento sul post, ma solo dopo che più di 4.000 persone avevano visitato la pagina.

Ora capisco come si creano i cicloni di false notizie.

Andiamo avanti.

Ten days ago, a blog in Kazakhstan reported an article of mine on the Ablyazov Affaire, published on “L’Indro”.Up to this point, I was happy.

Then I discovered that, due to a problem with the interpretation of the pronouns I used, the person that blogged the piece fundamentally missed the point of my message.

I apparently said that a young entrepreneur would have become the next president of Kazakhstan. And was I the only one who knew?

Not according to their blog. In their opinion, the fallacious interpretation of my words reflects a feeling common in the whole foreign press.

Again, I’m happy that people in Kazakhstan read me, but I’m grumpy, for they are incapable of translating well (from Italian into Russian).

I wrote a comment on the post, but only after more that 4,000 people had visited the page.

Now I know how small mis-interpretations become hurricanes of false news.

Let’s go forward.

Десять дней назад, блог в Казахстане сообщил, мою статью на Аблязова Affaire, опубликованным на “L’Indro”.До этого момента, я был счастлив.

Тогда я узнал, что, из-за проблем интерпретации местоимений, которые я использовал,  блогер существенно ошибился мысль моего сообщения.

Я, видимо, сказал, что молодой предприниматель стал бы следующим президентом Казахстана. И был я единственный, кто знал?

Не по их блога. По их мнению, ошибочна интерпретация моих слов отражает общее мнение, которое можно увидеть на зарубежной прессе.

Опять же, я счастлив, что люди в Казахстане меня читают, но я я недоволен, потому, что они не смогли хорошо переводить (с итальянского на русский).

Я написал комментарий на блоге, но только после более 4000 человек посмотрили страницу.

Теперь я знаю, как маленькая плохая интерпретация становятся ураганы ложных новостей.

Давайте вперед пойдём.

Alma-Аға

Almaty, Kazakhstan

It’s been 3 months since I moved to Kazakhstan and almost 4 months since my last post.
There are reasons for this. Shortly, I’ll list them below.

– I am successfully continuing my collaboration with the newspaper ‘L’Indro‘, where I publish two weekly columns on the post-Soviet region, covering mostly politics and economics, with a pinch of energy, of course. With the newspaper I also got to experience the “press pass” for the first time and talked to several fellow journalists at KIOGE in Almaty and KazEnergy Forum in Astana.

– I am also on the lookout for opportunities to publish stories in English again.

– I was interviewed twice. Once by ‘MilanoFinanza‘, the ‘Financial Times‘ of Italy. The long interview was on one of my favorite topics: the future of energy in Russia. It occupies the first 4 pages of a special issue of the weekly magazine that was distributed at the G20 in St. Petersburg in September. The last interview, was taken today, with a journalist from Barcelona working for the new information platform Extramurs, “planetary” news in Català. We discussed about the Arctic and the geopolitical challenges around it. I probably talked too much about energy, but I structured my answers around the vicious circle Global Warming – Northern Route – Oil&Gas Drilling – Global Warming… If we leave it to the Smithian invisible hand of market forces, we’ll pretty soon live an eternal summer.

– I enrolled in 6 graduate courses at KIMEP University. The most challenging of which, is Kazakh language, of course (look at the bad pun in the title, Alma-Ata, Alma-Mater…)

– I am in the process of finishing 2 academic publications. One is a comparison of the effects of EU accession in Bulgarian and Lithuanian nuclear energy policies (edited volume, published by Brill, The Netherlands). The other is a paper on my dissertation topic: bringing Gramscian concept to the study of energy and foreign policy in the case of Caspian pipeline politics (edited volume, published by ibidem, Germany).

– I will also finish up my economic research on Nord Stream as soon as I get my last interviews back.

Work, work, work… But life in Kazakhstan goes well nonetheless. Nice and warm here in Almaty. I met several beautiful people that accompany me in the everyday struggle against Soviet-era bureaucracy.

A highlight was the meeting with an Italian singer that has captured the ears and the hearts of many Kazakhs: Son Pascal. Originally, I approached him for an interview. Then, soon after we developed a fresh friendship. I’m sure our adventure at the sauna last week with the two oldest Kazakhs alive, talking about the internet (?!), open-heart operations (?!), and wives (?!), was not the last.

Oh, and most importantly, the NEW PROJECT that I’ve been working on for 2 years now will see the light before the end of the year. It’s going to be awesome and it will make me happy. I will soon share the details.

Which Side Are You On?

Tallinn, Estonia

DISCLAIMER-THAT-I-DON’T-NEED: I may or may not have made references to past, current, or future employers/schools/publications/friends. The internet is not a real place anyways.

Throughout my mature life, I was/am/will be torn in between controversial issues for my own beliefs. Working for a company/organization which has interests in furthering what I hate the most (wars, economic blockades, antagonistic discourses, racism, supremacism, machism…). Writing articles that make people working in these places/publications twitch and edit it all out or refuse it. Working for a government that despises its own Constitution, which says that “Italy repudiates war” and still our army kills and gets killed in armed conflicts abroad, among other horrible things. Studying and getting a bursary to link and justify a regime with limited freedom to the eyes of armchair bureaucrats and intellectuals in Europe. Keeping my friendship (or even Facebook friendship) with people whose beliefs are so distant from mine that I can’t believe our relationship even started. Possibly applying to work for energy companies that pollute, exploit, and corrupt (all of them?). Arguing in academic circles about the relevance of the use of a confrontational and biased attitude from our Western (or sometimes Semi-Western) perspective built by newspaper articles and rhetoric from various pundits (isn’t the purpose to understand and analyze? Aren’t we just judging and misrepresenting instead?).

Coping and sucking it up has become a true skill of mine. I should put it in my CV: “I will be able to withstand all the bullshit that goes on at your workplace”.

But isn’t that what most of us does every day? What am I complaining about? I am sick of this fake “courage” of mine that pushes me into dead ends where I can only realize how awful the world can be on this side. While I try to gain the necessary courage to successfully make the move to a side that is more in line with my thinking, I will keep learning to the tiniest details what is bad and needs to be eradicated.

 

 

I’m on that side. The other one.

New adventures

Tallinn, Estonia

Getting to a country where you have no clue about the local language is tough. Buying food is tough: what exactly am I buying? I just figured out how the announcements on the bus work. I get names and streets confused all the time, I can’t pronounce anything correctly. It has never happened to me before (maybe in Paris… Yes, I’m being sarcastic). It is also absolutely my fault, because the lack of time impeded me to get a grasp of this difficult language.

Now, in the streets of Tallinn, I hear more Russian than many here admit. Right now, a lady is saying да и нет on the phone.

The modern European feeling is mixed with the Soviet-era apartment blocks and the cute and medieval old town.

Clean and tourist-friendly, this small capital city could teach a lot to many West European cities. Its long summer days are about to start and humidity has allowed the flowers to bloom.

My part-time job will be the first of the new adventures. Some activities are still ongoing, like the preparation of a co-authored book chapter, a long paper, and 4 presentations about them.

These are going to be, again, very busy months. And the blog activity will be the first to suffer. Also because the e-magazines with which I am collaborating (The Hidden Transcript and VostokCable) would probably prefer that I devoted my time to writing for them.

Queen Rocks Live

Glasgow,UK

What prompts you to embark in a long and expensive bus trip in the easternmost outskirts of Glasgow on a nice and sunny Sunday? Of course, the greatest band that has ever performed live. Let me be clear on this: Queen is the band that has taken live gigs to the craziest level of entertainment. I probably haven’t been to as many concerts as you, reading out there, but I’ve seen plenty of Queen lives. I also went to a couple of “Queen” concerts in 2005 and 2008, trying to experience half of the joy that Queen fans could have felt in the 70s and 80s. Half as the lineup: Roger and Brian are the only left since Freddie’s death and John’s departure. Half as the fun: Paul Rodgers as a singer is OK, but the way he mocks Freddie and over-does the final verses is unbearable. I liked how Queen managed to do in the last album what they’ve done their entire career: put everyone’s input so that each component’s quality would be shown at his best. Unfortunately, the presence of Paul made the quality of the album plummet with respect to previous Queen albums. And Brian perhaps exaggerated in his astronomy complex.

I grew up with Queen. Freddie Mercury was my personal English teacher. I avidly asked for CDs as Christmas and birthday presents. I recorded VHS tapes with their shows, I bought some. Soon came the internet and I started downloading their most obscure gigs, the quality of which was so poor you could barely hear the music (thanks anyway, WinMX). I also downloaded videos with my old friend 56K modem, which needed an entire day to obtain the Bohemian Rhapsody videoclip, that I now have in every possible format and have seen one million times (yes, my generation didn’t have YouTube. We paid for stuff back then, be it the original price or the connection time).

Now Queen split up with Paul Rodgers and is perhaps dropping “nostalgia” and concentrating on good memories. That’s how Hungarian Rhapsody came to the world’s screens this past week. Yes, you go to a movie theater and you watch a “live” concert 26 years after. Why? Because it’s awesome.

First of all, a cinema gives you a better sound and video quality than your laptop or even your “home theater”. Second, it’s just like a concert: you find yourself surrounded by strangers who share your same feelings about the band. You’re not forcing your family to watch something on YouTube with you. And lastly, you pay due respect to the giants of live rock (who in fact look like giants on that huge screen). It’s the closest to Freddie you can get. If you’re not a creeper.

The concert in Budapest is preceded by some footage from 1986 (approx 25 min.) that explains better the reason why Queen put together the album “A Kind of Magic” and why they finally decided to go on a European tour. That same tour that featured Live at Wembley and the concert at Knebworth (yes, you nerd, you know what I’m talking about). And they were directed to Hungary because the smuggling of rock music, the opening of the Eastern Bloc, and the growing new audience basin had just ripened the situation for an epic concert on the Danube. The whole concert was filmed by a Hungarian director by the name of János Zsombolyai, who did a great job in fading in some backstage stories during the concert.

At the time, it was a big deal in so many ways: their stage was the biggest ever created, their audiences were the biggest a rock band attracted, it was their first time beyond the Iron Curtain, Freddie came in with a two-sided British and Hungarian flag for We Will Rock You and he sang a folk song in Hungarian (the rehearsals and backstage are fully provided in the movie). Here’s a sneak peek:

Tavaszi szél vizet áraszt, virágom, virágom // Minden madár társat választ virágom, virágom.

Yesterday, it was a big deal for me. I spent 2 hours on a bus getting lost to get to the cinema (ended up paying £5.30 for all the bus tickets I wasted), together with a Bulgarian friend we talked about music and politics under communism, and then we came back to the city after a full 6 hours journey to the past. The turnout at the movie theater was not especially great, but it taught me one simple thing: I was born in the wrong decade.

Thank you for your music, Freddie, Brian, Roger and John.