Tag Archives: Iason Athanasiadis

Iason Athanasiadis on Christmas in Greece, my comments and Kotsovolos’ Black Friday

26 Nov

Iason, on Facebook page:

Χθες στις 12:28 μ.μ.  · Imagine a nightmarish future in which life has devolved into being locked up as part of happily-clappily participating in a ghastly consumerist pantomime whose script was written by the intern of the local multinational’s press office. Oh, it appears to be life in Greece today. 😊

I couldn’t agree with Iasona more, as I’ve watched Christmas balloon into something ugly and tacky in Greece over the past few years.

The most horrible εξέλιξη though, is the adoption of Black Friday, that obscene American consumption orgy that has seen people trampled and killed at Targets throughout the states. And it’s new here, so people still haven’t started on the moral meta-talk about the practice, as opposed to the States, where at least there has been a little bit of soul-searching about what Black Friday says about America in the past decade or so.

Though this commercial from Kotsovolos appliance stores promoting Black Friday in a Greek mountain village — complete with clarinet acompaniment — does make me reluctantly laugh…especially the giagia at 0:33 shouting “Don’t skip” τελάλη with bell.

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November 21st: the feast of the Presentation of the Virgin; the Virgin in the Crossroad in C-town; and, November 8th: feast of the Archangels, Слава/Slava of the Ђоковићи/Đokovići

22 Nov

Today, November 21st is one of my favorite Orthodox holidays, the Presentation (Εἴσόδια/Воведение) of the Virgin to the Temple. God gives Joachim and Anna, who have not been able to have a child, the blessing of conceiving Mary. Riding on the old Jewish story of Sarah, Abraham’s wife, also not being able to conceive, until the angels visit Abraham and announce that Sarah, already 80 years old, will conceive the male child who then becomes Isaac (in a wonderful moment of irreverent Jewish humor, Sarah hears all this from the kitchen and laughs out loud), Anna herself names the Jewish matriarch in her prayers to God, asking him to perform the same miracle for her.

(Sadistically, God then later orders Abraham to sacrifice Isaac and Abraham obeys, but God then puts a ram in Isaac’s place at the last moment; don’t ask me to explain this one-more story of the monotheist God’s perversity and cruel power plays — listen to Benjamin Britten’s beautiful setting of the story below. *1)

When she’s three years old, Joachim and Anna take the toddler Mary to live in the Temple in Jerusalem, in order to thank God for the miracle of her birth or to keep her pure, since she’s such a holy baby, or until she starts to menstruate and thus turns of marrying age — it’s not very clear which it is (and let’s, again, ignore Semitic monotheism’s misogynist obsession with female purity.)

But they somewhat sadly leave her at the Temple, and as they walk away they turn and look, and the child Mary is not only not crying for the parents who have abandoned her here with all these long-bearded old men, but she’s dancing happily — “with her feet” — delighted to be living in the Lord’s house, and all the years she spends there an angel descends daily and feeds her “like a dove.”

The Church of the Savior in Chora in C-town has a set of Mary’s life cycle mosaics in the exonarthex;

The Presentation of Mary to the Temple (above)

And the angel that descends to feed her (above)

Click and enjoy these here because if you go to the Church of the Chora in Istanbul today, these and many other beautiful mosaics and frescoes will be covered by the drapes of the hysterics and puritans of monotheism.”

And a couple of Western images of the holiday (below), though it has largely fallen into obscurity today in the Catholic Church:

Giotto’s fresco of the event in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua (above)

And Titian’s spectacular fresco (above) — along with details (below) — in the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice

The story of the Presentation of the Virgin is not found in any of the canonical gospels but only in the apocryphal Gospel of St. James, also known as the Infancy Gospel. This is probably why it’s been forgotten in the Catholic West; the Catholic Church, in its lame post-Vatican II attempts at modernization, deleted important saints from the Church calendar, like George and Catherine and Nicholas, because we have no scientific evidence of their miracles (hellloooo…do we have “scientific evidence” of the Incarnation or the Resurrection or any “scientific” proof of the doctrine of the Transubstantiation/Communion? Don’t get me started and let’s not go there…), they certainly were not going to give any credence to an apocryphal tall tale, even though, as the above masterpieces of Giotto and Titian testify, it was still an important enough Catholic holiday during the Renaissance.

Below is the Greek text in screen shots; sorry couldn’t find a cut-and-paste form of the passage with full Greek accent system and I always try to when I post something; you’ll have to click:

and English:

“When the child turned three, Joachim said, “Let’s call the pure women of the Hebrews. Let them take up lamps and light them so that the child will not turn back and her heart will never be led away from the temple of the Lord.” And they did these things until they went up to the temple of the Lord. And the priest welcomed her.  Kissing her, he blessed her and said, “The Lord God has magnified your name for all generations; through you the Lord will reveal deliverance to the children of Israel in the last days.” And he set her down on the third step of the altar and the Lord God poured grace upon her. She danced triumphantly with her feet and every house in Israel loved her.”

And her parents went down, marveling at and praising and glorifying the Lord God because the child had not turned back to look at them. While Mary was in the temple of the Lord, she was fed like a dove and received food from the hand of an angel.” (emphases mine)

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Furthermore…today is also the feast of one of my favorite churches in the whole world, the Presentation of the Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church of Stavrodromi or the Church of the Panagia in Pera in the Pera/Beyoğlu section of C-town. This church is hidden in an alley off the current İstiklâl Caddesi, the Jadde of this blog.

The church is a little hard to find, since it’s one of Istanbul’s pre-Tanzimat churches, meaning it was built before the 19th century reforms (1789) that lifted traditional restrictions on the building of non-Muslim places of worship; before the reforms churches had to have low, barn-like roofs because domes were not allowed, had to have high walls surrounding their premises, so that they were not conspicuous from the street, were prohibitted from having bell-towers (all church bell towers in Istanbul date from after the 1850s), and generally could not be higher or be more visible than any neighboring mosques (Wait…you mean, Islam isn’t the most tolerant religion in the world?).

View of Panagia Pera from above, hidden by surrounding buildings; western facade; and eastern facade with conspicuously later bell-tower. (below)

So, while the exterior was traditionally Ottoman in its plainness and modesty, the interior testifies to the fact that this Pera parish became Istanbul’s most extravagantly wealthy community beginning in the early 19th c. (pics below, from Iason AthanasiadisΤί χαμπέρια από την Πόλη;)

Even more compelling about Pera’s Panagia is that it survived unscathed the Anti-Greek Pogrom of September 1955. Of course, the old ladies will tell you that that was a miracle…why almost all of the rest of Istanbul’s 90 plus churches were completely ransacked or totally destroyed is a question you’re tempted to ask. Did its enforced inconspicuousness save it? I dunno. Yes, it’s a little hard to find, but it’s only about 50 yards off Pera’s main drag and the rioters of this Menderes-government-organized orgy of destruction knew every single Greek business on the street and in the neighborhood and every single other Greek church throughout Istanbul… It’s hard to believe that they didn’t know of Pera’s second largest Greek church, after the Holy Trinity in Taksim, which was thoroughly gutted. Let’s just call it a nice surprise.

Hagia Triada (below), now restored:

The neighboring Zappeion, (above) once Istanbul’s most prestigious lycée for girls: “Surrounding buildings of the Aya Triada are still left black from the arson attack in 1955. The priests of the Church refuse to clean the surface so that the memory of the Istanbul riots will be remembered.”

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More… Today, on the Julian (Old) Calendar still used by Russians, Serbs, Bulgarians and Macedonians, but not Romanians — I think — is November 8th the Feast of the Archangels, Michael and Gabriel. Always a thirteen-day difference, so you know.

It’s the Slava of the Đokovići. A Слава/Slava is…(from an old post):

“…Serbs are the only Orthodox Christians to not observe personal namedays.

Serbian-Slava-Festivityὁ σῖτος, ὁ οἶνος καὶ τὸ ἔλεον τοῦ δούλου σουthe wheat, wine and oil of Thy servant


Instead they observe the saint’s day on which their clan’s ancestors first converted to Christianity in a beautiful celebration called a slava, (the “glory”) and hereworth reading — which is essentially an offering and feast of remembrance, a ritual of ancestor-worship that proves that Serbs probably have more of one foot still in the pagan past than any other Slavic people

Slava 1

Many of their funerary customs are similar to ours — like the artos or artoklasia above and koljivo below — meaning they developed together spontaneously or they represent the influence of known Slavic sub-strata in the language, genes and culture of modern Greeks — and now that I said that I’ll have to go into a witness protection program.

Koljivo_from_wheat

Koljivo or Koliva just like Greeks make.  Commemorating the dead with the seeds of life.

So my man, Novak Đoković tweeted a message on the occasion of his family’s Slava today:

Novak Djokovic@DjokerNole

Срећна Слава свима који данас славе Св. Архангела Михајла. Нека нас наш заштитник чува и води кроз живот у светлости,љубави и миру.”

Happy Glory to all who today celebrate St. Archangel Michael. May our protector keep us and guide us through life in light, love and peace.

Cool… Wish I were there. Thanks for your attention this far. Later!

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*1 Benjamin Britten’s beautiful setting of the Abraham and Isaac story:

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Write us: with comments or observations, or to be put on our mailing list or to be taken off our mailing list, contact us at nikobakos@gmail.com.

Photos: Iason Athanasiadis, II

4 Nov

Kyries in DuggaKyries on an excursion to the ruins of the Roman city of Dougga or Thuga, Tunisia

In Kef walking towards AlgeriaIn Kef, Tunisia, walking towards Algeria

74205655_10163032778135001_6322744497448943616_oFrom album: Love Song to Tunis, Urban depth, in Rue Umm Kalthum/نهج أم كلثوم

See more of Iason’s work here: The phenomenal photography of Iason Athanasiadisand at his Facebook page.

 

Photo: more Iason Athanasiadis, I

30 Oct

See more of his work here:  The phenomenal photography of Iason Athanasiadis .

Iason Athanasiades bar sceneLocals jostle at the bar of the Swiss Hotel in Algiers. Despite – or perhaps because of – being situated opposite a police station, the bar is a hangout for journalists, who have often been targeted in the past in Algeria by non-government forces.

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Varoufakis, a dead Greek cosmopolitanism, and a Greece that now has nothing else

8 Feb

bdec44f200d445ceb018834ba071fe73_18(click)

From Al Jazeera by Iason Athanasiadis: The Greek Varometer: The irreverent, shaven-headed, motorbike-riding academic’s arrival is viewed in messianic terms.

I’m posting this for completely tangential reasons.  Because as I’ve said before, I’m not in the least capable of any political economic analyses, and, though I’m instinctively and emotionally happy about SYRIZA‘s victory, I really can’t tell how things are going to turn out.

(This Guardian article paints things as pretty dire, though of course that might just be more bullying and threat masked as “inevitability”: Tsipras favours Greek jobless over creditors in defiant policy speech:

The British chancellor, George Osborne, admitted the UK had already embarked on contingency plans in preparation for a Greek exit from the single currency. “This standoff between Greece and the eurozone is increasing the risks every day,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show on Sunday, adding that Athens’ departure from the bloc would not only send European financial markets into a tailspin, but cause “real ructions” in the UK.

Earlier, Alan Greenspan, the former head of the US Federal Reserve, said it was only a matter of time before the country left the eurozone. He said it was difficult to see why anyone would be willing to lend Greece more money and that without additional loans, the country would be forced to default and leave the euro.

“It’s just a matter of time before everyone recognises that parting is the best strategy,” he told BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend. “It is not a decision where they are going to come to an agreement. All the cards are being held by the members of the eurozone.”

Greenspan also conceded that a Greek exit might trigger a meltdown in global financial markets: “I don’t think we have a choice.”)

But that’s not what was most interesting to me in Athansiadis’ article.  What was most interesting — and most gratifying, though it confirms a sad truth about the Greek statelet — is that Athansiadis 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.”

and

“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.  The modern Greek kingdom/state was always an economic basket-case from its beginnings and dependent on the Greek diaspora for its economic existence and, in fact, its cultural wealth and vibrancy as well.  There has rarely been a time that modern Greece was not teetering on the brink of insolvency or bankruptcy and the credit-backed 80s and 90s were simply smoke-and-mirrors that obscured that reality.

The reality is that Greece itself has nothing.  And never did.  “Φτώχεια, καλή καρδιά”…and mostly γκρίνια…*(1)  Its dying agriculture doesn’t and never did produce anything that its Mediterranean or even Balkan neighbors don’t produce in greater quantity and often better quality.  (Even my mother used to buy Bulgarian feta when I was a kid.**[2])  Its industry was always rudimentary and not particularly competitive — certainly not for export — and has practically disappeared.  If Greece ever had the potential of becoming a regionally important service center economy, like Singapore or Hong Kong or, closer to home, Lebanon before its civil war, that potential has never been realized — except in Cyprus to a certain degree — for a whole panoply of reasons that I think I’m not qualified to get into.  And whereas the great Greek financial magnates and industrialists and merchants of Alexandria and Odessa and Constantinople and Smyrna and Bucharest and Constanța and Iași in the nineteenth century liberally poured their wealth into building the institutions of the new state,***(3) the Greek families that today control our one potentially and traditionally great economic resource, commercial shipping, largely choose to keep their wealth off-shore.

I’m sorry to say that I can’t see what could possibly change this picture.  More tourism?  Neither reforms of the the Troika or the SYRIZA type will change fundamental material realities.  I’m afraid that Hellenism only flourishes when it’s part of a larger regional political economic network and I’m not sure that Europe is that network.  But then who?  A Turkey we always choose to respond to with hostility****(4) — to which it obligingly reciprocates?  Or the Balkans, which we denigrate, while Turkey is busy building commercial and economic and cultural ties with Balkan Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo?*****(5)  Or the total basket-case countries of the Arab world?  Or Russia in its current pariah-state condition?

And yet those were the parts of the world where the most dynamic communities of Greeks always existed.  Modern nationalism destroyed them.  And not just Greek nationalism, of course.  But Turkish and Egyptian nationalism and that of everyone else in the region.  Every one in their own box.

I’m just afraid that that contraction cost us more than it did anyone else. 

And I don’t see how it can be reversed.

Med19304(click)

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*(1) The lyrics from a famous Xarkakos song: “Poverty, a good heart, and lots of kvetching…”  Here’s the great Bithikotses’ recording of it.

**(2) And being from a village and region with a largely pastoral economy, she knew her feta; but the Bulgarian product tasted more like the hard, fattier, well-brined cheese she was used to, as compared to the cream-cheese mush Greece used to export in those days.  Granted, the quality has improved greatly since then.  As has that of Greek wines.  Especially the whites.  Build an economy on that.

At some point in the late nineteenth century, the economy of the Greek kingdom was deeply dependent on one thing: black (often called “Zante”) currants.  Forget Cuba and sugar or the Gulf states and oil.  This was a mono-crop dependency that rested wholly on prayers that Brits would continue to use copious amounts of these currants in their plum puddings at Christmas and not find another source for them.  When they did, or when demand for them stopped for whatever reason, the Greek economy collapsed.

***(3) One of the most obnoxious traits of the Neo-Greek middle-class is their denigrating, mocking, condescending attitude toward what constitutes the Diaspora of today, mainly Greek-Americans and Greek-Australians.  The dynamics of cultural assimilation in both countries and in the modern world generally will assure that New York or Melbourne will never become a Greek Constantinople or Alexandria, of course.  But that Neo-Greeks choose to look at their compatriots that left the country in the twentieth century, not as tragic victims of the country’s material limitations and war-time chaos, nor as an incredibly dynamic and enterprising group of Greeks who left for foreign shores and “spun gold out of thin air” there, in Patrick Leigh Fermor‘s famous words, but as rubes and hicks to be made fun of, while they sat home on their asses waiting for a growing welfare state to feed them, is just one of the most infuriating manifestations of Neo-Greeks’ blinkered worldview.  Snobs in a way that only the truly provincial can be — which I always say.  Much more to say about that.

****(4) Of course, there is the phenomenon of the so-called “Neo-Polites,” the considerable number of young Greeks who, for economic, or intellectual, or historic, or cultural, or sentimental reasons, have recently started to migrate “back” to İstanbul — though the extent to which we can call this a reconstituting of Constantinopolitan Greek life is pretty questionable.  It’s much more likely that a Roman life of sorts in İstanbul will ultimately be given a new lease by the Syrian Christians who have moved to the City in large numbers in the past decades.  Also much more to say about all that.

*****(5) Now, many Greeks in Albania, who are strikingly uninterested in Greece, have started to extend commercial and manufacturing networks into the rest of the country from the small pocket of territory they inhabit in the south; I have close relatives who, out of nothing, have built a phyllo/yufka manufacturing company, based in my father’s village of Derviçani, that sells throughout Albania and is looking how to expand into neighboring countries as well.  How far that will go is also to be seen.

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

 

 

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