Trashing France Again

12 Apr

Two dumb articles from the Times: one on “saving” “dying” French food: “Can Anyone Save French Food?” and another condescending screed: “Letter from France – A Vegetarian and Gluten Free Guide to Paris” — so patronizing and culturally presumptuous about so many things that if it had been about any other country we would call it colonialist — about how France is finally becoming a civilized country and giving Vegans and other related creatures more dining options.  It just doesn’t stop.

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Chef James Henry of Bones. Jonathan de Villiers for The New York Times (click)

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Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

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“All that is good is inherited…” — Nietzsche, Paris and me…

12 Apr

1 Nietzsche, Friedrich - Portrait, 1860

(click)

Rereading my post on leaving Paris: “Leaving…” (March 2), particularly the phrase: “And all marked by the supremely intelligent understanding that it all starts on the surface — that that’s what counts — and that it works its way down from there,” —  and all of my posts on France: “Toulouse: Who ever lov’d that lov’d not at first sight?” , it struck me how colored they were by early university readings of Nietzsche, particularly these two passages from The Will to Power, here taken from Walter Kaufmann’s translation, emphases from the original:

       “Beauty no accident. The beauty of a race or family, their grace and graciousness in all gestures, is won by work: like genius, it is the end result of the accumulated work of generations. One must have made great sacrifices to good taste, one must have done much and omitted much for its sake – seventeenth-century France is admirable in both respects – and good taste must have furnished a principle for selecting company, place, dress, sexual satisfaction; one must have preferred beauty to advantage, habit, opinion, and inertia. Supreme rule of conduct: before oneself too, one must not “let oneself go.” The good things are immeasurably costly; and the law always holds that those who have them are different than those who acquire them. All that is good is inherited: whatever is not inherited is imperfect, is a mere beginning.

       “In Athens, in the time of Cicero, who expresses his surprise about this, the men and youths were far superior in beauty to the women. But what work and exertion in the service of beauty had the male sex there imposed on itself for centuries! For one should make no mistake about the method in this case: a breeding of feelings and thoughts alone is almost nothing (this is the great misunderstanding underlying German education, which is wholly illusory): one must first persuade the body. Strict perseverance in significant and exquisite gestures together with the obligation to live only with people who do not “let themselves go” – that is quite enough for one to become significant and exquisite, and in two or three generations all this becomes inward. It is decisive for the lot of a people and of humanity that culture should begin in the right place – not in the “soul” (as was the fateful superstition of the priests and half-priests): the right place is the body, the gesture, the diet, physiology; the rest follows from that. Therefore the Greeks remain the first cultural event in history: they knew, they did, what was needed; and Christianity, which despised the body, has been the greatest misfortune of humanity so far.”

and:

“One thing is needful. “Giving style” to one’s character – a great and rare art! It is exercised by those who see all the strengths and weaknesses of their own natures and then comprehend them in an artistic plan until everything appears as art and reason and even weakness delights the eye. Here a large mass of second nature has been added; there a piece of original nature has been removed: both by long practice and daily labor. Here the ugly which could not be removed is hidden; there it has been reinterpreted and made sublime… It will be the strong and domineering natures who enjoy their finest gaiety in such compulsion, in such constraint and perfection under a law of their own; the passion of their tremendous will relents when confronted with stylized, conquered, and serving nature; even when they have to build palaces and lay out gardens, they demur at giving nature a free hand…  For one thing is needful: that a human being attain his satisfaction with himself – whether it be by this or by that poetry and art; only then is a human being at all tolerable to behold. Whoever is dissatisfied with himself is always ready to revenge himself therefore; we others will be his victims, if only by always having to stand his ugly sight. For the sight of the ugly makes men bad and gloomy.”

It’s easy to mock these — Nietzsche is an easy and cheap target — grandiloquent, sweeping statements of aristocraticness from a man who, in reality, was a socially inept, painfully shy and anxiety-ridden pastor’s son, who got through most of adult life on mountains of “mother’s little helpers” and whose last, lucid moments of consciousness of the world were spent weeping next to a dying horse on a street in Turin.  But I say more the mangia that accrues to him for seeing and calling life and existence as he felt them to be — or should be ideally —  even if he himself could not be that heroic ideal.  And not doing what most of us do: cater our credo and worldview to match what we already know are our limitations.

All that is good is inherited: whatever is not inherited is imperfect, is a mere beginning...” seems particularly true to me, as unfair as it must seem to some.

Paris chairs Rebecca Plotnickil_570xN.269434329photo: Rebecca Plotnick

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Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

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“Mary, don’t you weep”

12 Apr

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The Resurrection of Lazarus, Giotto, Assisi, Lower chapel (click)

(This Saturday of Lazarus, I’m just pretty much reposting a post I put up three years ago, only a few days after this blog was started)

“Today, the day before Palm Sunday, is known as the Saturday of Lazarus in the Orthodox Church, the day that commemorates Christ’s raising of his friend Lazarus from the dead, prefiguring his own Resurrection. 

“And here’s Aretha Franklin’s incomparable rendition of the old gospel song: “Mary Don’t You Weep,” which commemorates the story of Lazarus and the Passover story as well.  Below are the lyrics (“If you hadda been here, my brother woudna died…” always kills me) of this spiritual, which dates from before the Civil War, as its moving conflation of the two tales of redemption would indicate:”

 

 

 

(Choir) Oh oh mary (x8)
(Soloist) Mmm don’t moan
Listen Mary

(Choir) Oh Mary don’t you weep
Oh Martha don’t you moan
Oh Mary don’t you weep
(Soloist) Tell your sister to don’t moan
(Choir) Oh Martha don’t you moan

(Soloist) Pharaohs Army
(Choir) Pharaohs army
(Soloist) All of them men got drowned in the sea one day
(Choir) Drown in the Red Sea
(Soloist) Yes they did

(Soloist) Now if I could
(Choir) If I could
(Soloist) If I could I surly would
(Choir) Surely would
(Soloist) I’d stand right up on the rock
(Choir) Stand on the rock
(Soloist) I’d stand right where moses stood
(Choir) Moses stood
(Soloist) Yes I would

(Soloist) Pharaohs army
(Choir) Pharaohs army
(Soloist) I know you know that story of
how they got drowned in the sea one day, oh yeah
(Choir) Drown in the Red Sea

(Soloist Lazarus Story Ad-lib)

We gonna review the story of two sisters
Called mary and martha
They had a brother
Named Lazarus
One day while Jesus was away
Their dear ol’ brother died, yeah yeah
Well now Mary went running to Jesus
She said, “Master,
My sweet lord!”
“Oh if you had’ve been here my brother wouldn’t have died!”
Oh yes she did.
Jesus said, “come on and show me, show
me where you, show me where you buried
him, show me where you laid him down!”
And when he got there, Jesus said,
“For the benefit of you who don’t believe,
Who don’t believe in me this evening!
I’m gone call this creature, oh yes I am!
He said “Lazarus, Mmm Lazarus,
Hear my Hear my voice! Lazarus!
Oh yeah!”
He got up walking like a natural man,
oh yes he did! Jesus said,
“Now now now,
Mary, Mary don’t you weep!”
Mmm Oh mary don’t you weep
Go on home and don’t you and your sister moan. Don’t moan.
Tell martha not to moan

(Choir) Pharaohs army
(Soloist) Because you see Pharaohs army,
(Choir) Drown in the red sea
(Soloist) they got drowned in the Red Sea

(Soloist) Oh Mary don’t weep
(Choir) Oh Mary don’t you weep (x3)
(Soloist) Mary dont weep
(Choir) Oh Mary don’t you weep
(Soloist) Mary don’t weep
(Together) Tell Martha don’t you moan

 

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

 

 

Nole: “…the world No. 2 is in the process of knocking his game into overdrive.”

29 Mar

(Sorry, but sometimes the Jadde is just gonna be the Nole Djokovic page for a few days….  Especially at times like this.  I know…there are more important things happening in the world, but sometimes the most important is, well…)

 

 

From The Bleacher Report:

Novak Djokovic’s Win over Andy Murray Isn’t Tainted by Bad Call

Novak Djokovic has gotten off to a relatively slow start this year, but the world No. 2 is in the process of knocking his game into overdrive.

Don’t let the fact that his victory over Andy Murray in the quarterfinals of the Sony Open was heavily assisted by a bad call fool you into thinking any differently.

Nole is 12-2 on the year, and he got his first tournament title of the year at Indian Wells in the last event. It is hard to knock that kind of start, but we’ve grown accustomed to Djokovic having multiple titles at this point of the year. This was the first time in four years he hasn’t won the Australian Open.

Apparently, that does not mean he is headed for a down year, and the Serb asserted his dominance against Murray.

See rest: Djokovic’s Win over Andy Murray”

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Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

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“Conan! What is best in life?” “To crush your enemies — See them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women!”

25 Mar

– from Conan the Barbarian, Robert E. Howard

and:

– from The Bleacher Report:

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Source: AFP (click)

“With the win at the BNP Paribas Open, the No. 2 player in the world looked sharp, strong and returned to a superb form of tennis that had him as one of the most dominant forces just years ago.

“Not only did Djokovic come away with a title, but he also proved to himself that he had returned to the mentality that he had when he was crushing the competition. The 26-year-old spoke about the regained confidence with ESPN:

“Not winning a title and coming here, there were certain doubts. I had ups and downs in my concentration in opening rounds, but I managed to stay mentally strong and have that self-belief. That’s something that definitely makes this title very special to me.”

Did we all hear that?  “C-R-U-S-H-I-N-G THE COMPETITION!!!” 

Maybe being No. 2 is a good thing, man…keeps him hungry, I dunno…  But HUUUAAAHHH!!!  CRUSH the competition!!!

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Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

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The Annunciation: “And I thank you for choosing me…”

25 Mar

AnnunciationSantaMariaMaggiore

The Annunciation of the Virgin mosaic from Rome’s Santa Maria Maggiore (click)

Today is the Feast of the Annunciation, when the Archangel Gabriel appeared to a terrified, barely post-adolescent Jewish girl in a village in Galilee and told her that she was going to become God’s mother.  And in one of the greatest acts of moral bravery in history, this — what? fourteen-year-old? — Jewish girl said: “Yeah…ok.”

This is a “yes” which we should all pray to be given the opportunity to offer up to some one or to some greater thing, in even the tiniest of manners, at some one point in our lives.  It, oddly enough or not, always puts me in mind of the name “Reza,” which I’ve always loved on Persian men, since as far as I understand it, it means “willingness, acceptance, consent…” a saying-yes to Life or to the Divine Will.  (The other is “Peyman,” with its comparable sense of promise and commitment.)  Except in Mary’s case it’s a “saying-yes” that’s particularly female in its bravery, since she barely understands what’s being asked of her and she consents out of pure love, and most men find such consent difficult without first knowing what glory there is in it for them.  Instead Mary does the glorifying:

Μεγαλύνει ἡ ψυχή μου τὸν Κύριον καὶ ἠγαλλίασεν τὸ πνεῦμά μου ἐπὶ τῷ Θεῷ τῷ σωτῆρί μου,
ὅτι ἐπέβλεψεν ἐπὶ τὴν ταπείνωσιν τῆς δούλης αυτοῦ. ἰδοὺ γὰρ ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν μακαριοῦσίν με πᾶσαι αἱ γενεαί,
ὅτι ἐποίησέν μοι μεγάλα ὁ δυνατός, καὶ ἅγιον τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ, καὶ τὸ ἔλεος αὐτοῦ εἰς γενεὰς καὶ γενεὰς τοῖς φοβουμένοις αυτόν.
Ἐποίησεν κράτος ἐν βραχίονι αὐτοῦ, διεσκόρπισεν ὑπερηφάνους διανοίᾳ καρδίας αὐτῶν·
καθεῖλεν δυνάστας ἀπὸ θρόνων καὶ ὕψωσεν ταπεινούς, πεινῶντας ἐνέπλησεν ἀγαθῶν καὶ πλουτοῦντας ἐξαπέστειλεν κενούς.
ἀντελάβετο Ἰσραὴλ παιδὸς αὐτοῦ, μνησθῆναι ἐλέους, καθὼς ἐλάλησεν πρὸς τοὺς πατέρας ἡμῶν τῷ Αβραὰμ καὶ τῷ σπέρματι αὐτοῦ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα.
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46 And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,

47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

48 For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

49 For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.

50 And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.

51 He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

52 He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.

53 He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.

54 He hath helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;

55 As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.

That’s March 25th: the Annunciation of the Virgin.  The rest — by which we mostly mean Greek Independence Day — is bullshit.  Nothing that led to the establishment of the first independent Kingdom of Greece happened on March 25th.  There were sporadic outbreaks of rebellion, some semi-coordinated, among Ottoman Greeks throughout the Empire in the early spring of 1821, but there was no raising of any standards, or launching of any campaigns or declarations of any kind made on March 25, 1821 as far as we know.  Except for sporadic massacring nothing much occurred at all that year until the fall, when, only with foreign help, the Greek rebels were able to finally take Tripolitsa in the Peloponnese and butcher the majority of its Muslim and Jewish — meaning practically its entire — population.  And eventually all that happened is that the Greek statelet slapped its observation of Independence Day onto the Annunciation in a conscious-or-not appropriation of the holiday’s already inherent meanings of conception, inception and beginning (I think that, the Julian Calendar still in operation at the time, March 25th was also Easter Sunday that year so, with the theme of Resurrection added, the temptation was irresistible) and so Althusser’s Ideological State Apparatus smothered one of the loveliest holidays of the Church with flags and parades and tanks and national anthem sap and all the other cheezy trappings of N/S patriotism.

But by the same token, the Annunciation itself was slapped by the Church onto the pre-existing observation of the Vernal Equinox (by a few days), the Persian Zoroastrian New Year, Nowruz, the first day of spring, the first day of the month of Aries — with its already inherent meanings of conception, inception and beginning.  And fast forward nine months, exactly (she was nothing if not on-time our Pantanassa*) and we have Christ born on (or near) another Zoroastrian holiday, Yalda, which marks the Winter Solstice and the beginning of the lengthened days and the Sun’s return to our lives.  The Winter Solstice, in more ancient Iranian religion, was the birth date of the deity Mithra, often associated with the Sun, and who — guess what? — was often said to be born in a cave, of a virgin mother, and who saved the world through the sacrifice of a bull along with a whole other complex of shifting tales and myths that I’m not an expert on.

But though Mithra seemed to fade into a secondary deity in classical Sassanian Zoroastrianism, he was accepted with great fervor and enthusiasm into the highly eclectic polytheism of the late Roman world, where he was especially popular in the Roman army.  Many of the latter emperors were devout followers and there are historians that believe — seems like a bit of an exaggeration to me — that the West came close to being a Mithraic civilization instead of a Christian one.  But the Church slapped Christ’s December 25th birthday onto Mithra’s (I’m simplifying some) and that was the end of Mithraism.  Which is a bummer, because by the Second Century A.D., Mithraism had evolved, in Roman hands, into a super-butch, male virility bull-cult for an initiated military elite, all wrapped-up in the full panoply of Hermetic-Alexandrian-Astrological wisdom, where Roman officers and soldiers gathered in caves and commemorated the sacrificed bull and honored its blood  (we don’t really know what occurred because it was only for the initiated but a sacrifice and subsequent shared meal of some kind was probably involved) and Christianity is kinda — well — is kind of lacking in those kinds of thrills.  One of my best beloved Roman ancestors, Julian the Apostate (the subject of four Cavafy poems), a fascinating figure, who was both a devotee of Mithra and an initiate into the Eleusinian mysteries, tried to reverse his uncle Constantine’s establishment of Christianity as the Roman state religion and give support to the traditional pagan cults, their rites, rituals and sacrifices, but it was already too late.  People just wanted their blood as metaphor by then, a shift in consciousness that has always been considered psychic or intellectual progress of some kind though — like the shift to monotheism itself — I could never quite understand why.  Those of us who still like reality better still have and have always had Spain though; that’s unless the European Union and PETA and the Catalans take their sanitary Handy-Wipes to the corrida too and that’ll be the real end.

Ah, but even then we’ll still have Mexico…

"Tauroctony" - Mithras slaying a bull

Mithra and the Bull, from the Vatican Museum (no other info) (click: it’s a huge and beautiful file)

What conclusions can we draw from all this?  One, is that humanity is not particularly imaginative and just kinda copies itself over and over ad infinitum.  Second, is the idea that often comes up when looking at our zone, thinking about “our parts,” more closely — and that’s the simple conclusion that everything is Persian.  Not just our food, our music or dance, our dress, our color palette, our poetic sensibility and ideas about love, but our common penchant for narrative cycles of martyrdom and rebirth (see: “Ashura 1435: a poem from Agha Shahid Ali”) and the deeper structures of our spiritual psyches.  It’s tempting; instead of the inane arguments about what’s Greek and what’s Arab and what’s Indian and what’s Turkish — everything is Persian, and be done with it.  Alexander seemed to have gotten it; shouldn’t be too hard for the rest of us.  But probably the truth lies and always will lie with Jung: and that is that all of the imaginary activity of the human unconscious operates on one, unified, symbolic grid of archetypes.

Chronia Polla to those whose namedays are today.  And signing off this post with R&B singer Lauryn Hill’s beautiful “To Zion” where the subtitle of this post comes from.  This was a song that came from her real-life experience of having to choose between having an unexpected baby and sticking with her career.  “One day…you gonna understand…”  Lyrics are below:

“To Zion”

Unsure of what the balance held
I touched my belly overwhelmed
By what I had been chosen to perform
But then an angel came one day
Told me to kneel down and pray
For unto me a man child would be born
Woe this crazy circumstance
I knew his life deserved a chance
But everybody told me to be smart
Look at your career they said,
“Lauryn, baby use your head”
But instead I chose to use my heart

Now the joy of my world is in Zion
Now the joy of my world is in Zion

How beautiful if nothing more
Than to wait at Zion’s door
I’ve never been in love like this before
Now let me pray to keep you from
The perils that will surely come
See life for you my prince has just begun
And I thank you for choosing me
To come through unto life to be
A beautiful reflection of His grace
See I know that a gift so great
Is only one God could create
And I’m reminded every time I see your face

That the joy of my world is in Zion
Now the joy of my world is in Zion
Now the joy of my world is in Zion
Now the joy of my world is in Zion

Marching, marching, marching to Zion
Marching, marching
Marching, marching, marching to Zion
Beautiful, beautiful Zion
[repeat to end of song]

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*”παντάνασσα,” pantanassa, is one of my favorite epithets for the Virgin, but whether it means “all-breathing, giver-of-breath, breath-granting” I can’t tell, nor can anybody else I know.

**Latest addendum note: Beloved dinosaur cousin — who is the always the one one should go to for these question, since he’s a monster of erudition in most fields, but especially Greek language, informs us that Pantanassa has nothing to do with breath or breathing, as many of us must assume, but: Η άνασσα είναι το θηλυκό του άνακτος (ονομαστική: άναξ), του βασιλέως (εξ ου και ανάκτορα).  “Anassa” is the feminine form of “Anax,” meaning king, same root as “Anaktora,” or palace.  So it simply means “Queen of Queens,” which is kind of disappointingly Catholic-sounding.  Speaks to a whole history of Greek and Latin vocabulary mixing itself up, replacing, re-replacing, disappearing and then appearing again, especially in titles of government or military due to initial composite character of Byzantine state structure.  I’m assuming, i.e., άνασσα was already an archaically Greek word at the time, for example, the Chairetismoi were written.

And a personal sensory note:  According to the guidelines of Orthodox fasting, which if observed carefully constitute the most elegantly designed spiritual economy of partaking and abstaining one can imagine (probably only Hinduism could produce a more intelligent  schema) — again, the guidelines, not the rules, meaning it doesn’t affect your G.P.A. at the end of term if you slip up, like if you’re Catholic — fish is considered meat, and is not eaten during Lent.  But there are festive days, essentially the Annunciation and Palm Sunday, which even in the sorrow of Lent, should be marked as Feasts, and then the eating of fish is practically obligatory.  Today in the streets of Greek neighborhoods, therefore, here in Athens or in Astoria, in apartment house corridors and restaurants, the smell of fried bacalao is all-pervasive.  One of my strongest sensory memories of Holy Week as a child is being taken to the matins for Holy Monday on Palm Sunday evening, the first of the so-called “Nymphios” or “Bridegroom” services (the reference being to Christ coming to Jerusalem for Passover and to meet his fate) and all the old women in church smelling like fish fritanga.

And a really interesting article from Wiki about “Tauroctony” or “Bull-slaying” if you’re interested in the phenomenon religio-anthropologically.  Again, the best book, that’s both an anthropology of Mediterranean bull cults and the best sociological history of Spanish bullfighting there is, is Timothy Mitchell’s “Blood Sport: A Social History of Spanish Bullfighting.”

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Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

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سال نو مبارک — Happy New Year to everyone

19 Mar

Sabzeh_Wheat Sprouts

“Verdes como el trigo verde y el verde, verde limón.” — Rafael de León

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And two spectacular Chahārshanbe Suri (click) photos from a Kurdish town in Turkey.

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Chaharshanbeh-Suri-Persian-Fire-Jumping-Festival-2013(click)

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Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

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