Martin Luther King on the myths of capitalism

17 Jan

Ironic Serbs

17 Jan

This takes some real balls: National Arab Orchestra – Inta ‘Omri / إنت عمري

17 Jan

I mean she’s pretty good and the orchestra’s not bad either. But to live up her predecessor and the first, half-goddess’ interpretation of the song , man… I didn’t even think any one had tried that before.

Umm Kalsoum (below), the first interpreter of “Inta ‘Omri” – إنت عمري — “You are my life”

Oum Kalthoum, date and provenance unknown Yes, her name and the name of the song are transliterated in 37 different ways.

And the goddess-diva singing the original. Tip: give it some time, this music and its format demand a stacked attention span.


Greatest mahallades in NYC (not sure I agree, but…ok)

15 Jan


I finally went down to the World Trade Center, first trip since 2002 first anniversary — what a bummer…

12 Jan

First: St. Nicholas isn’t done yet. How long does it take to build the above small church? They haven’t even put a cross on the dome yet.

I have a special emotional investment in this church, beyond the fact that it was the first Greek church in New York, or that in the beginning it was shared by the Syrian and Lebanese and Palestinian Greek Orthodox communities from “Little Syria”, which was levelled to build the WTC, or because Tsar Nicholas II sent the church a relic of St. Nicholas that was found in the rubble after the events of 2001. It’s also because for my father’s funeral in 2005 we asked people to make a donation to the St. Nicholas Reconstruction Fund instead of flowers, so I’m proud that a lot of friends and family have had a part in the rebuilding, but that’s also why I want it finished already! We’ve paid for it! I need to get in there and light a candle soon or I’ll sue the Port Authority.

The old church of St. Nicholas withe the old towers behind it. The block on which the church sat was torn down, but it’s policy to never sell an Orthodox church, ever, which is why there are so many pretty unattended and empty Greek churches in the city (St. George in the Barrio or Hagioi Anargyroi in Washington Heights) because the Greeks have left the neighborhood, but the churches stay functioning churches, even with almost no congregation. So the Archdiocese refused to sell the old St. Nicholas when the towers were built so it sat in the middle of a parking lot, which was the only purpose the block was good for, for more than 30 years.

Then, the Liberty or Freedom Tower or whatever it’s called is the kind of mediocre architecture New York seems to get saddled with more than any other great city. The old towers, which I know nobody ever really liked (though I thought it was seriously inopportune and nasty to talk about how unattractive they were right after their destruction) were at least impressive in their bulk, which wasn’t in the middle of the city, but, to surprising visual effect, at the edge of the city. They seemed to be two harbor piers that all of Manhattan island was tethered to. It was wonderful.

Of all the proposed designs for the new towers, the ones I liked most when the competition was announced were the designs of English architect Norman Foster. They had the bulk of the old towers and were visually really interesting, with weirdly angled surfaces that would have probably reflected light in complex ways. (See models below)

But the “9/11 families”, aflame with borough sentimentality and sense of aesthetics, were upset with the Foster design, because it looked too much like a crumpled, broken or collapsing building to them. So the design went back to the committee, which chose Daniel Liebeskind‘s boring design, which the committee then modified again; then, after deciding to make a tower of lower height, the committee compensated with a spire which ridiculously makes the whole structure add up to 1,776 feet. Think “freedom fries”.

So, since as the French say: “A camel is a tiger drawn up by a committee” we got stuck — “…Just Like That” — with this banal piece of Dubai-liki (below) and that was the end of any real architectural aspirations for downtown Manhattan. The least common denominator always wins.

One funny thing though, the spire on the top of the building kinna looks like a minaret.




Serbs, Djoković and hate, a tweet from my penpal P. in Belgrade

12 Jan

Whose are you? – Čiji si ti?

11 Jan

23 Dec

Ah, “whose are you” literally? That’s what older folk in rural Greece used to say — Τίνος είσαι; — when they ran into you and they didn’t recognize you but assumed you were related to someone in the community or else what would you be doing in their God-forsaken village.

They don’t say that any more, because with cars and roads and planes and super-fast ferries, and with weird places like Epiros, or desolate islands which used to take two days to get to, like Donousa, becoming hip vacation spots, anybody can be expected to do outlandish things like show up in your village even when they’re not related to any one!

Translation of Greek above: “Average Greek grandmother when strangers show up in her village.”


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Photo: Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae, Arcadia, Peloponnese, girl with distaff and spindle, date unknown (I’d say 1950s), my grandmother’s kilimia, my mother’s house

11 Jan

If you don’t know what a distaff and spindle are see links, also hand-spinning with some beautiful photos.

A still popular Greek folk song says: “…θέλει καλή γυναίκα, να ξέρει ρόκα κι αργαλειό, να ξέρει να υφαίνει.” — “[He] needs a good wife, who knows her distaff and loom, who knows how to weave.”

You could still see older woman with distaff and spindle, strolling on country roads in Greece, in a kind of spinning-induced trance — it must be very soothing — till the 1990s.

We have a literal trunk-load of my maternal grandmother’s weaving, and that’s just what survived the burning of my mother’s ancestral home by Communist guerillas during WWII in 1943. They had been using the house as headquarters, and a place to rape or torture women for, like, hiding a bag of rice to feed her children during the famine caused by the German occupation; she should have shared the rice with the collective, theoretically, but in reality it just would’ve been eaten by the Communists themselves. When the Nationalists started closing in on them, they abandoned the village and set fire to the house.

It’s so like my mother to lug these pounds and pounds of wool with her from Greece when they emigrated to New York; her whole family has always described themselves as “pathologically sentimental” (“μια αρρωστημένη συναισθηματικότητα”), which is a gene I guess I inherited. They only come out on holidays and make the house stink of mothballs, which is a smell I kinna like.

The front gate of my mother’s house/compound. We tried to rebuild it all a while ago but ran out of money. The square hole you see on the left side of the inside of the gate was for sticking a rifle into, so that bullets would come out through an even smaller hole on the front of the gate, in case unwanted guests came knocking. Wild times (or rather, wilder) in the Balkans back then.



Novak and his cross

10 Jan

For me there’s always been something “real man” about a guy who’s not too macho to show some form of piety* — we all know those Greek men who cross themselves like they’re flicking crumbs off their tie, right? — especially if that “real man” is Orthodox, Serbian and Novak Djoković. I have a long history of dating sons of clergymen: priests, rabbis, even pastors.

Let’s hope he gets out of this Australian mess as soon as possible, though it’s hard for me to not put part of the blame on him.

* By “piety” I do not mean the Fellowship, or the Family, or C Street, or American Evangelism in any, any, any form, which I don’t consider Christianity or even religion, but the most dangerous threat to faith of any kind since Calvin. I hope my readers knew that about me before reading this.

Maggie Gyllenhaal’s “The Lost Child”

10 Jan

Gyllenhaal’s film is minorly brilliant, haunting and unheimlich in a deep sense. But she only dedicated about 20 seconds of screen time to Oliver Jackson Cohen. WTF? That’s criminal. Why did she even bother with him?

Olivia Coleman, of course, was incredible — as always. Along with a brilliant performance, she also projects a certain kind of archetypal Englishwoman, not always in a flattering manner.

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