Babel

9 May

The RWOF claims that a society can’t function, can’t exist even, without one, unifying language. But every courtroom, bureaucratic office, emergency room and even a historic barber shop has one of this kind of sign posted…and they all function more quickly and efficiently than any, say, in Athens.

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White people go away

8 May

The author, Panayiota didn’t say, because she didn’t want, but last year Time Out put out an article on the world’s 50 up-and-coming coolest neighborhoods, Astoria, New York, was the only mahalla on the list. Also the events, that occurred on last weekend’s Orthodox Easter — a complaint to the police that people coming out of a church carrying torches looked like they were doing something dangerous, and a complaint to the same precinct that neighbors were cooking some sort of animal on a spit and it was gross and the smell offensive — both kinna nail it that the neighborhood was Astoria.

Joan Acocella, an unrecognized genius, once wrote in the New Yorker, that: “New Yorkers can be born anywhere; then one day they show up and fit right in.” That’s exactly right. But that other breed, of heartland migrants who want to bring their Wonder bread with them, and immediately start a war with the city’s funk. Well, there should be…I dunno…a screening process at least.

And my own tangential take on the ‘hood issue from, I believe, a last year’s post:

Time Out’s cities: Astoria! and…Kypsele? No Pera propaganda, brother Turks of mine :( — and Belgrade…

29 Sep

Ok!

Time Out has come out with the fifty coolest neighborhoods in the world, and two — arguably three — of them are Greek; one in Athens, Kypsele, and another in the capital of the Greek diaspora, New York: Astoria.  (Yeah, Melbourne…ok…chill).  Now there are only what, 14 or 15 million of us in the whole world, and we corner 8th and 16th outta 50.  Not just not bad, but figures that make it clear there’s a connection between Greek-ness and urbanity — even Greek villages are really just tiny Greek cities — the polis and everything political life implies, that runs deep.

Ditmars

AstoriaAstoria

KypseleKypsele

What if you have no Greeks (or worse, no Jews).  Well, brother Turk, take a walk, or a nerve-wracking tourist shove, down what you’ve turned your “İstiklâl” into: its new garish, overlit, Gap-outlet, Gulfie, Saudi hideousness…  And weep.  That we left.

Oh, and what’s arguably the “third” Greek neighborhood…  Ok, I scrolled down the list, nervously expecting to find Pera (Beyoğlu) there, the formerly, largely Greek mahalla — the formerly Greek, Jewish and Armenian heart of the City actually — because Turkey’s American public relations firms deserve every dollar they get from the Turkey accounts and they manage to shove a fictitious Turkish tolerant multiculturalism in our face whenever they get the chance, and Pera has, for about the past 15 years, taken pride of place in this masquerade of Istanbul hipness and Turkish cosmopolitanism — quite an accomplishment since the Midnight Express days. (Too bad Turkey itself reverts back to Midnight a little bit more every day.)  And Pera wasn’t there, not on the list!

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The old Grande Rue — Pera

And…  Well, and…a few years back I wrote a post here called: Nobody really cares about Gezi Park: Greek thoughts on the protests of 2013.  And perhaps the biggest stinger in the article was:

“All – I thought a lot about whether I should use “almost all” in this sentence and decided against it –because all the hippest, funkiest, most attractive, gentrified neighborhoods in the historic parts of İstanbul are neighborhoods that were significantly, if not largely, minority-inhabited until well into the twentieth century: not just Pera and Galata, but Cihangir and Tarlabaşı, and Kurtuluş — of course — and up and down the western shores of the Bosphorus and much of its eastern towns too, and central Kadiköy and Moda and the Islands.  (And if serious gentrifying ever begins in the old city it’ll be in Samatya and Kumkapı and Fener and Balat; I wouldn’t put any big money into Çarşamba just yet.)”

And so, happily, I didn’t find Pera being prostituted again by Turkey as a symbol of a multiculturalism that the Turkish Republic eradicated, exterminated, expelled and that no longer exists.  But I scrolled a bit further down…and there was Kadiköy and Moda, #42, also, until well into the 60s, heavily Greek and Armenian.  More sweet justification!

(I’ll take Egyptians on for the empty, dingy Alexandria they got stuck with after our good-bye party in another post.)

KadikoyKadiköy

Finally, came the sweetest of all, my beloved Dorćol in my beloved Belgrade.  50th on the list of 50.  You have to be pretty attuned to the Serbian soul to know what coming in 50th out of 50 means.  It doesn’t mean being last.  It means: “You think we’re cool?  Who asked you?”

img_0828.jpgThe Rakia Bar in Dorćol

Plus, Belgrade comes in in way first place over all of these cities in one important way: the guys.  No joke.

Some restaurant notes:

Don’t go to Çiya in Kadiköy.  Unfortunately, the food is spectacular, and I’m a sadist for posting this picture:

CiyaBut the unfortunate part is that Çiya is owned by a sociological type: the newly comfortable, if not rich, provincial, pious middle-class; that’s the AKP’s and Erdoğan‘s political power base.  What that means on the ground is that your great food is prepared by puritans who won’t serve you alcohol, so you can’t have a leisurely rakı or beer dinner, but have to scarf it all down and leave, paying with dough that might indirectly end up in the AK’s coffers or ballot boxes.  The same goes with the otherwise excellent Hayvore in Pera.  Amazing Black Sea dishes but no booze.  Go ahead if you want.  You can go to Saudi too if you want.  I refuse to.  Even if I didn’t want to drink: just on principle.  And they — Hayvore — make one of my absolute favorite dishes which I can’t find anywhere else: an anchovy pilav.  But I’ll live without.  Or make it myself.

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And then, a little less geopolitically charged, there’s the completely baffling phenomenon of Cyclades in Astoria.  I can’t argue with the fish.  And if fish is their mission statement then fine, because it’s always fresh and expertly cooked — even if the owners are Albanian and hadn’t seen the sea till they were sixteen.  But you do want to eat something along with the fish and everything else is awful.  The cacık and eggplant salad is made inedible by that crazed Greek overuse of raw garlic, so that all you have is the bitterness of the bulb and not even the taste or aroma.  The zucchini and eggplant are fried in old oil.  The raw oil served for greens or salad is horrible — cheap, and I’m not even sure it’s 100% olive.  And in a Greek fish meal, where almost everything is dressed with raw oil, it really needs to be the best quality or everything else is shot.  The bread — and one thing we do well, γαμώτομου, is bread — is nasty and old.  This place reminds me of food in tourist traps in the old days before the foodie revolution in Greece in the 00s.

And they commit one incomprehensible abomination.  They serve oven-baked potatoes — with lemon, fine… But. With. The. Fish.  These are potatoes, that according to the taxonomy and order of Greek food, if such a primitive cuisine can be said to have such order, are baked in the oven with meat in a composite dish or casserole.  It’s a sin of commission to serve them with fish, with which they haven’t even been cooked, unless you’re going for plaki which means tomatoes and a whole different palate.  And they taste as if they’ve been soaked overnight in lemon.  And I dunno, but the yellow color is so suspiciously bright that it looks like yellow dye #2.  Investigate them; I’m sure I’m right.  And, of course, everything comes garnished with piles of more lemon wedges, to satisfy that deep Greek urge to obliterate the taste of everything else on the table.

And people — Manhattan people — come out to Queens and wait, for over an hour, malaka, to get a table at this Soviet cafeteria (the lighting is awful; the music is deafening).  They’ll often go cross the street to wait to be called, to get a drink at Michael PsilakisMP Taverna, where the food is phenomenal.  It’s only slightly reinterpreted Greek — it’s deeply faithful to the roots but Psilakis — I dunno — freshens things, and combines traditional ingredients in ways that make you wonder why no one else had ever tried this.  It’s generally full and has a great and friendly bar that looks out on the bustle of Ditmars Boulevard.  But it should be a destination spot and it’s not.  And Cyclades is.  It makes me think that white people will eat bad food if they think it gives them woke and authenticity street cred.  And convince themselves it’s good.

He dicho.

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ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ  ΑΝΕΣΤΗ

2 May

Always thought New York couldn’t out-run me. And it hasn’t. Period. Don’t worry.

But catching up to the city, it’s space and pace after four years away…well, that’s certainly made these last few Clonopin months.

The Dead Adonis Caravaggio

So I really have no spiritual vim this year to give you something heart-churning, transcendental, tear-inducing and beautiful. Instead, I’m just posting a rather dry Gregory Nagy article about Adonis and how the “handsome, Dying and Resurrected Young god” is a mythic theme that’s been running through the Middle Eastern religious imagination since forever.

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— from Atis to Adonis to JC to Hussein — since forever.

Good art anthropology. An easy read. Some juicy carnal poetry. And a few pretty pictures. Χριστος Ανέστη!

John William Waterhouse (1849–1917), The Awakening of Adonis. Andrew Lloyd Webber collection. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

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The theo-eroticism of mythmaking about Aphrodite’s love for boys like Adonis (FULL ARTICLE)

Gregory Nagy

January 9, 2021

Adonis and Aphrodite Carvaggio

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Joseph Fiennes in “Risen”

1 May

I think the Romans in Passion story films have always colored our vision of that people: tough, competent blokes who get things done, an image promoted by some first-class marketing of course.  Especially if you’re Orthodox, and have spent a good part of several hours over your lifetime in the gilded dark of the evening of Holy Thursday or “Twelve Gospels” (technically the Matins for Good Friday), listening to the several point-of-view and repeated takes on the same narrative, the Romans almost steal the story.  I was rejolted by that realization last night, by the “Seventh Gospel”s display of Latin sticklerism for fairness, and respect for juridical procedure.  This is the Gospel where Jesus is taken out three times by Pilate to display to the crowds, repeating each time his ruling of the Nazarene’s innocence and pleading for his life.  This is also the only Roman female voice in the Gospels too: Pilates’ wife, who warns her husband that she has dreamt terrible things about this man and that he should release him.

Into this historical-narrative of what Marguerite Yourcenar correctly post-prophesied would become a bloody circling tale and horrid “series of frenzies and misconceptions…” comes Risen (2016) by Kevin Reynolds, a film that until well in the later half is wholly focused on the Romans and their practical and existential vexations.  Pilate (Peter Firth) is the one we all know: coming to the end of his service, annoyed by his contentious Judeaen ward of bearded clerics, and by the constant combo of legal fraction and violent rebellion he has to navigate and keep in place, all especially with his boss Caesar’s upcoming arrival for a tour of the province.

Unknown until now comes Clavius (Joseph Fiennes), looking every bit the Roman tribune: appropriate attitude, soldierly, fit and tan. He’s also dreaming of serving Rome, then finishing his military duty and duly retiring to some lovely Horatian farm idyll in Italy, with olives, vineyards, oxen and a wife.  Clavius is a by-the-book man too, but he’s got a slightly different edge about him than the others.  He’s relatively kinder and permissive with his men.  He’s got an immediately sharper eye for what pushes the “natives” buttons — not to be confused for compassion – and senses that there’s something different and even off with the Nazarene.

This is where the emotional perspicacity of the film kind of goes off its tracks and as Clavius starts to become more and more of Christ’s follower, the late parts of the film become filled with Hallmark images of sunrises in the Galilean countryside.

I can control my reaction because the material has its emotional valence for me.  Other times it’s just pissed me off.  But it’s a shame, because it’s a good film with a truly innovative conceit, but as Fiennes’ strong, προβληματισμένο, complicated character starts looking more and more like he’s drinking the Kool Aid – or as one film critic, who I can’t find now, wrote: “…the colonies of bats start sailing around…” the whole thing falls into tatters.  Watch the first two thirds.  Don’t bother with it at all if this stuff is not your style.

Or just enjoy Fiennes’ leather-banded forearms.

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New Header Image: Konstantin Savitsky, Monk 1897

28 Mar

This will have to do until Holy Week/Easter.

Special thanks to Pelagia in Belgrade (old post) for first posting this image @Ljiljana1972.

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And some slightly weird seguing/addendum:

For more on B-Town see also: “I haven’t seen any other English-language writer pull these elements together into such a compelling portrait of the city.” :

Hi Niko,

Predictably enough, when I first discovered your blog (a happy accident — I was googling “Sveti Jovan Bigorski” and spent an unusual amount of time leafing through search results) one of the first things I did was look under the ‘Serbia’ tag. I’ve already seen all four of the posts you’ve referenced. All four are terrific, but I’m especially enamored of your take on Belgrade — you really understand the place and its people and its historical-geographical specifics. I haven’t seen any other English-language writer pull these elements together into such a compelling portrait of the city. It’s obvious that you care about the place, which means a lot.

Just that I’m particularly proud of that review… :)

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Thank God I’m not actually IN Greece right now — I gladly admit that I’d be fit to be tied and committed.

27 Mar

1821-2021: Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall enjoy the Karagözilikia of the Bicentennial celebrations — masked, of course

27 Mar

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Mosque in Greece vandalized in honor of “Greek” “Independence”

27 Mar

And if asked you’d say you’re in favor of a “Greece for Greek Christians” wouldn’t you? But your shameless use of the Cross is proof you know and understand nothing of what those words mean. And you sign off with IC/XP/NI/KA , next to “Turks, you’re gonna die.” Why don’t you come forward publicly and take responsibility for your artwork?

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Two Hundred Years Ago Today Apparently: some Greek and Albanian-speaking Christians in southern Greece declared their secession from the Ottoman Empire…

25 Mar

…what ensued was the massacre, expulsion and complete annihilation of the Muslim and Jewish communities of south and central Greece. (This is what Greeks like to call “genocide” as long as the victims are Greek: like in the “Pontic Genocide” or the “Anatolian Genocide” or the “Smyrna Genocide”). Below are some selections from an old post of mine that’ll give you more details of the whole, gruesome process, and then a very interesting video interview with historian Mark Mazower, which touches upon the problematic nature of using “Greek” or “Hellenic” or “Christian” or “nation” or “independence” in this particular context, or how it’s a tricky process to refer to the chaotic rebellion of a motley crew of Greek and Albanian, Pashtun-like warlords and feudal landlords by the lofty term of “National War of Independence”. Definitely watch the interview; it covers a million different, interesting facts and nuances.

A super-intelligent and erudite but nationalistly straight-jacketed close relative of mine, who readers have met before under an older alias but who now goes as the “Right-Wing Old Fart” (Δεξιός κωλόγερος) — not an insult, just a personal joke based on his once telling me that he’s relishing the process of growing into a Right-Wing Old Fart — says that I write things like this post because I’m ridden with certain “complexes” and I’m aiding and abetting the enemies of our Fatherland… Yes, that was the word he used, though I’ll be fair and say that it doesn’t have the same ominous Germanic tone in Greek.

No I don’t. I don’t care about the fatherland or its devious, ever-scheming enemies. I care about the polity where the vast majority of my people now live, for better or worse, and for its satellites like where I live, and because I want that polity to contain a society that’s just and equal and fair and tolerant and cosmopolitan and historically enlightened. Maybe I used to just write things like this to annoy people. And maybe now I mostly do it just to annoy people, because the people who are annoyed by these things are so easily annoyed that it gives me a kind of perverse pleasure.

But the real reason I do it is in order to lift the official silence about the past, in this case the Ottoman past, and to get at least some people to wrap their heads around the magnitude of the slaughter, dislocation, persecution, suffering and destruction that was necessary to create ethnically homogeneous nation-states out of the crumbling empire. The RWOF is not bothered by all those things; yes, it was grievous and painful, he’ll say (οδυνηρό) but it had to happen, because a state can only function with one, clear identity. He’s obsessed with what he calls “monoculturalism” and is even irritated by the notion that someone (like me) can have two passports. And while we’re on the topic of “complex-ridden”, I have often suggested that his mania for “one-ness” is something that needs to be approached psychoanalytically and not ideologically, but to no avail.

I’m addressing the people who don’t know about the past but who maybe, when educated, will start to reconsider the ideological and race (and racist) foundation of the modern nation-state, instead of considering it natural or inevitable. The rest will hopefully grow from there.

That’s all I have to say right now. Read on for more from the past or from other writers. Thanks!

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“A month later, in September [1821], a combined force led by Kolokotrones and Petrobey Mavromihalis captured Tripolitsa [the Ottoman administrative center of the Peloponnese].  Historian W Alison Philips tells a horrific tale of mutilation and slaughter  “For three days the miserable inhabitants were given over to lust and cruelty of a mob of savages. Neither sex nor age was spared. Women and children were tortured before being put to death. So great was the slaughter that Kolokotronis himself says that, from the gate of the citadel his horse’s hoofs never touched the ground. His path of triumph was carpeted with corpses. At the end of two days, the wretched remnant of the Mussulmans were deliberately collected, to the number of some two thousand souls, of every age and sex, but principally women and children, were led out to a ravine in the neighboring mountains and there butchered like cattle.”

A Prussian officer described the incidents that took place after the capture of Tripolitsa by the rebels, as follows:

“A young Turkish girl, as beautiful as Helen, the queen of Troy, was shot and killed by the male cousin of Kolokotronis; a Turkish boy, with a noose around his neck, was paraded in the streets; was thrown into a ditch; was stoned, stabbed and then, while he was still alive, was tied to a wooden plank and burnt on fire; three Turkish children were slowly roasted on fire in front of the very eyes of their parents. While all these nasty incidents were taking place, the leader of the rebellion Ypsilantis remained as a spectator and tried to justify the actions of the rebels as,’we are at war; anything can happen’.” Based on the accounts of one hundred European officers who were present at the scene, and did nothing to intervene, William St. Clair wrote: “Upwards of ten thousand Turks were put to death. Prisoners who were suspected of having concealed their money were tortured. Their arms and legs were cut off and they were slowly roasted over fires. Pregnant women were cut open, their heads cut off, and dogs’ heads stuck between their legs. From Friday to Sunday the air was filled with the sound of screams… One Greek boasted that he personally killed ninety people. The Jewish colony was systematically tortured… For weeks afterwards starving Turkish children running helplessly about the ruins were being cut down and shot at by exultant Greeks… The wells were poisoned by the bodies that had been thrown in…”   Although the total estimates of the casualties vary, the Turkish, Muslim Albanian and Jewish population of the Peloponnese had ceased to exist as a settled community after the early massacres. Some estimates of the Turkish and Muslim Albanian civilian deaths by the rebels range from 15,000 out of 40,000 Muslim residents to 30,000 only in Tripolitsa.   According to historians W Alison Phillips, George Finlay, William St. Clair and Barbara Jelavich, massacres of Turkish civilians started simultaneously with the outbreak of the revolt, while Harris J. Booras considers that the massacres followed the brutal hanging of Ecumenical Patriarch Gregory V of Constantinople.  Finlay has claimed that the extermination of the Muslims in the rural districts was the result of a premeditated design and it proceeded more from the suggestions of men of letters, than from the revengeful feelings of the people.  St. Clair wrote that: “The orgy of genocide exhausted itself in the Peloponnese only when there were no more Turks to kill.”   There were also calculated massacres towards the Muslim inhabitants of the islands in the Aegean. This is because one of the aims of the Greek revolutionaries was to embroil as many Greek communities as possible in their struggle.  By engineering some atrocity against the local Turkish population, diverse Greek communities would have to ally themselves with the revolutionaries fearing retaliation from the Ottomans. In one case, in March 1821, Greeks from Samos landed on Chios and attacked the Muslim population living in that island. Among the Samian belligerents was an ancestor of mine, Dimitrios Kalymnios.When the Samians withdrew to the safety of their island, the Ottomans descended upon defenceless Chios and carried out an atrocity that horrified the rest of the world: the massacre of Chios.[my, N.B., emphases throughout this last paragraph — just so that nobody is allowed to take something like the the Massacre of Chios out of historic context again…]

“The final word, if there is one, goes to Theodore Kolokotronis, who in his account of the fall of Tripolitsa, was unrepentant to the last: “When I entered Tripolitsa, they showed me a plane tree in the market-place where the Greeks had always been hung. “Alas!” I said, “how many of my own clan — of my own race — have been hung there!” And I ordered it to be cut down. I felt some consolation then from the slaughter of the Turks. …”

DEAN KALIMNIOU kalymnios@hotmail.com First published in NKEE on Saturday 6 April 2013. – READ HIS WHOLE POST: “Diatribe” ; it’s very intelligent.

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And one sad little detail I discovered somewhere else, though I can’t find the source for it: “European officers, including Colonel Thomas Gordon, who happened to be at Tripolitsa during the massacre, witnessed the hair-raising incidents there, and some of them later recalled these events in all their ugliness. Colonel Gordon became so disgusted with the Greek barbarities that he resigned from the service of the Greeks. A young German philhellene doctor, Wilhelm Boldemann, who could not bear to witness these scenes, committed suicide by taking poison. Some of the other European philhellenes who were extremely disillusioned, followed suit.”

The poor, idealistic, Werther-like German Romantic, come to fight and  liberate the sons of Pericles and Leonidas, kills himself out of disappointment…it just seemed to encapsulate the whole patheticness of a certain kind of European Helleno-latry.

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And here (below) is the man himself, Kolokotronis, proud of his corpse-strewn victory lap in Tripolica and one of the fathers of our country, projected onto the White Tower (Beyaz Kule) of Salonica for this year’s bicentennial celebrations.

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And the excellent lecture/discussion with Mark Mazower — highly recommended:

Look for next post about what really happened on March 25th!

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Death and Exile: the ethnic cleansing of Ottoman Muslims: 1821 – 1922, some suggested reading for Greek Independence Bicentennial

25 Mar

An excellent book, and probably only monograph, to deal with the step by step expulsion and ethnic cleansing of Ottoman Muslims through the nineteenth and and early twentieth centuries, but tracing roots of the process back to even the century before is Justin McCarthy’s Death and Exile: The Ethnic Cleansing of Ottoman Muslims, 1821-1922.  Not polemic, not propagandistic, just the facts and figures that speak for themselves.  It should be required reading for every Christian in the former Ottoman sphere.

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