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The phenomenal photography of Iason Athanasiadis

13 Oct

73404041_10162931096545001_7830632434751242240_nOran, Algeria

Athanasiadis, English on one side, Greek from Trebizond and Niğde in central Anatolia via Constantinople on the other, is a talented photographer, videographer and documentary-maker, a writer, political analyst, and television producer who’s worked throughout the Jadde world from Algeria to Afghanistan, an environmental activist, blogger (see, for Greek-speakers, Τι χαμπέρια από την Πόλη (“What’s new in the City” …Istanbul), fluent in Arabic and Farsi, a good eater and drinker (which readers by now know is a prerequisite for my taking you seriously), a loyal friend and just all-around cool guy to know.

I bumped into Iason on line (I tried calling him “Jason”, which would be a little more οἰκεῖο for me, like a Jewish kid in New York I might have gone to high school with, plus it would save me from declension dilemmas: like should it be: “I bumped into Iason-a…”?, but he set me “straight”) when he posted a piece back in 2015 on Yianes Varoufakis, the economist that Syriza had as finance minister back then and who they hung out to dry as soon as he became inconvenient.  It wasn’t so much the Varoufakis coverage itself that grabbed my attention, but the larger context he put the man in, as I expressed at the time in Varoufakis, a dead Greek cosmopolitanism, and a Greece that now has nothing else:

What was most interesting — and most gratifying, though it confirms a sad truth about the Greek statelet — is that Athanasiadis chooses to portray Varoufakis as a product of a giant Greek Diaspora that the twentieth century, and twentieth-century nationalism, destroyed:

“He [Varoufakis] is also a kind of Greek largely eclipsed from the international stage since the 1960s; polyglot, adventurous, and hailing from a lively and vibrant Greek diaspora before it solidified into small-minded communities nurturing a parochial definition of Hellenism fossilised sometime circa 1950. Varoufakis’ father was born and grew up in Cairo’s fabled Greek community, directs a major Greek metallurgical interest, and maintains an interest in Hellenistic civilisation on the Mediterranean seaboard.”


“Varoufakis seems to hail from another Hellenism, the one defeated at the end of the 19th century when politics and circumstance conspired to ensure that the Hellas that entered the 20th century was narrowly defined by national borders, rather than the spread-out Greek-speaking cosmopolitanisms of North Africa, the Levant and Anatolia.

“Always a protectorate of the West, modern Greece was trapped by small-minded nationalisms (including its vendetta with post-Ottoman Turkey), resulting in the homogeneous and small-minded parochialisms from which the Golden Dawn impulse springs today.”

[my bold emphases in all of above]

Yes, thanks, Iasona…  For stating so clearly what the essential thesis of this blog is: that Hellenism was, and is, doomed in many ways since it contracted into an EBSN (ethnicity-based nation-state).  The sad truth is that the economic and cultural loci of the Greek world were always outside the Helladic peninsula (see my: Upon escaping from Greece… from this past September and myriad other posts) from early Classical times until the 1960s.

Anyway.  Though he constantly puts out beautiful photography, there was something about his photos from Algeria this past spring — probably because they captured the beauty of late winter in the Mediterranean, before everything gets zapped brown by the summer heat – that made me want to share his work and draw deserved attention his way.

Iason Algeria canaryIason AlgeriaJason Algeria cypressesJason theater pic AlgeriaJason's cattle foto Kabilie

For some reason, I’ve never been particularly drawn to North Africa intellectually or culturally, but these photos sparked something.  I sat and watched Pontecorvo’s Battle of Algiers again the evening these were posted.  And looking for some time and circumstance when I can go see for myself.

And as if they weren’t enough, then a real revelation to me: that Tunis, a city Iason loves dearly, is a kind of Mediterranean Havana, crumbling but gorgeous.  He calls the selection Love Song to Tunis: Nostalgia for the Present:


Then he recently took a trip to what in Greek we would call my “specific homeland” — Epiros.  And my ego is already flattered when someone wants to visit what till recently was an unfairly ignored part of the country (or will tourism now ruin it?); when Iasonas captures its spirit and its magnificent grey/green emptiness I’m particularly moved:


Check out more of Iason’s work on his Facebook page; and I’ll be bringing you more here as well.





In Yiddish: “Living like God in Odessa”

11 Oct

Or as we say in my parts: “Σαν πασιάς στα Γιάννενα” — “Like the paşa of Jiannena”

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“Fucking do it Erdoğan” — Right on Bobby! Totally with you…

11 Oct

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Yikes! A challenge to my loyalties: Tsitsipas beats Djoković in Shanghai

11 Oct

_109191090_tsitsipas_reutersVictory over Djokovic marked the biggest match win of Tsitsipas’ career

BBC: Shanghai Masters: Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer knocked out in quarter-finals


Another idiot: Orhan Pamuk: we have to accept democracy even if people vote to abolish it

11 Oct

Because, I guess like Plato said, the “δήμος”, the people, are “τυραννόφρων”, tyrant-leaning.

No, Orhan Bey, it’s not some complicated Zen conundrum, though it may qualify as an oxymoron: it simply should not be constitutionally permissible for a politician, or political party, who make it abundantly clear that they won’t respect democratic principles if they come to power, to be allowed to participate in the electoral process and…come to power. 

Of course, as a Westerner and an infidel, I’m not allowed to talk about taqiyya, because the MESA girls will get after me (“Do you even know anything about Islam, Niko?” — “Yes”), since I’m clearly not an Islamic scholar and I don’t have the right to latch an entire attitude towards Islam on one supposedly obscure concept that I apparently don’t even understand.  But when Erdoğan has gone on the record saying: “Democracy is a bus that we ride to where we need to go, then get off” — echoing similar pronouncements from Morsi that come from a shared Muslim Brotherhood background — you can call it whatever you want, but it’s…well…

Well, I’ll tell you a story.  When Benjamin Franklin came out of the constitutional convention in Philadelphia in 1787, a gathered crowd wanted to know what sort of new government they had, a monarchy or a republic.  And he replied: “A republic, if you can keep it.”

The other concept out of American political history we can draw into the thread here is this line from the 1776 Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” [my emphases]

Let’s keep the rest of the Muslim world out of the narrative here (but keep Russia and China and — most disconcertingly — India, in mind).  Just Turkey.  And Turks.  Clearly Turks have not been able to “keep” their “republic”.  Since their “independence”, or since Atatürk’s death, about every decade and a half reason enough has surfaced to call out the military and abrogate the “government” the “people” have “instituted”.  Clearly there is not a developed enough a civil society, despite the tricky surface appearances in Turkey of hyper-modernity, that can stand up to a government that has become “destructive” of the rights of the “consenting” governed.

But those “governed”…”consent”… and that’s our big-brother neighbor’s problem.

“Ζήλος λήψεται λαόν απαίδευτον” says the Septuagint translation of the Psalms: “Zeal will take hold of an unschooled people.” — roughly.  At what point do the “governed” lose their rights — when would Franklin call it — and when are we forced to take a position opposed to Mr. Pamuk’s, and disregard the voice of the people?  Why, when they have voted for him now, three or four times, not counting his first round as mayor of Pera, each time giving him a greater mandate on power, and eroding Turkey’s already cotton-candy democratic institutions, should we respect what to the people “shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”?  WHAT THE F*CK DO THEY KNOW?  And who’s there to effect a process of resistance in Turkey? to stand up to this charmless, dangerous narcissist and his kabal, even if there were sufficient popular opposition to his climb to power?  A bicameral government to force a vote on his unconstitutional behavior?  A Turkish Nancy Pelosi to begin impeachment hearings?  Anybody at all? who wouldn’t end up in jail the same night he even dared to express such ideas?

The old solution, the army, is gone.  An “unschooled” new provincial, religious, middle-class (God help us) and young and young-ish left-leaning White Turks (God help us) who voted for Erdoğan, guilty about their parents’ and grandparents’ monolithic Kemalism, were happy to stand by and watch the Turkish army being castrated since the beginning of the Padishah’s reign.

Know what?  What horrified me most about events in Turkey in the past decade was the supposed “counter-coup” to the “coup” of July 2016 — an “Auspicious Event” for the 21st century.  The tearing apart, by revolting, lit Turkish mobs (who, as I wrote at the time, must make any Greek or Armenian’s hair stand on end), of poor Mehmetçiks who were just following orders, to support a democratically elected dictator.  It’s more than just a little Orwellian, and all I could think of that night was a favorite verse from  Mayakovsky:

Чего одаривать по шаблону намалеванному

сиянием трактирную ораву!

Видешь — опять

голгофнику оплеванному

предпочитают Варраву.

Why bestow such radiance on this drunken mass?

What do they have to offer?

You see — once again

they prefer Barabbas

over the Man of Calvary.



Erdoğan: no wonder they adore him

11 Oct

Humorless and totally irony-free; self-important and grandiose; and a stunning combo of arrogance and blockheadedness — he may be the quintessential Turk at his worst.


“Why this gift to Turkey would simultaneously be a gift to Russia?”

10 Oct

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