December 1, 2020


“The US is currently in the grip of two interlocking addictions – greed and anger. An alliance between greed-addicted rich people and anger-addicted not-rich people constitutes the Republican Party”.

Ian Frazier, NYRB 17/12/2020

March 20, 2019


"You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately... Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!"

February 28, 2019

February 4, 2019


Yannis Ritsos

(Simply and indeterminately)

Death stands beneath the streetlamp,
he rolls a cigarette and smokes,
the smoke comes from his mouth.
We watched him smoking
and he had spittle in his mouth
and a tongue in his mouth,
and he had fingers.
He rolled his cigarette quietly.
He watched nothing. He smoked.

Quiet death, beneath the streetlamp –
his clothes were made of glass,
his body and his breath were glass,
his desolation was of glass.
And behind that glass could be seen
as through a window-pane
the pick and shovel,
our kitchen’s hearth,
even our broom.

Behind the window-pane, the gamekeeper walked down.
Shouting women washed laundry in the river.
No voice could be heard.
The verger picked up his straw pallet,
carried it to the other room,
and locked the door. And you could see
the pallet and the verger;
his body’s vapour as he lay upon the pallet
fashioned another body in the air.

And behind the locked cupboard could be seen
the shotgun and the shirt,
patched at the elbow –
a white shirt, white, whiter even than white
like Sunday at a mirador,
like moonlit marble.
Death wore a white shirt,
white as mute daybreak
after a crime.

As for death, he was a white shirt;
no bloodstain darkened it –
an empty shirt, spread on the line,
dried by yesterday's heat,
gleaming in moonlight, stiff as bone,
like a laid table white upon the terrace.
No one sat down to eat. A white night.
And the table stood there, laden, unwavering
as a lake in the night.

A knife walked upright through the night
along the table’s edge
like a sleepwalker on a roof;
- it did not fall; it was not sorrow.
An empty balance, poised in vacuum, weighed itself,
weighed emptiness though without weights;
silence weighed both pans equally
like the two shoulders of the shadow wandering
inside the shuttered shop.

It was so quiet behind death,
behind his window-panes -
a quiet sea at sunset.
Then three men came in with their caps,
with their big feet,
with beetled brows.
They broke bread on their knee.
They did not cross themselves.
They sat and ate.

Γιάννης Ρίτσος, «Τραγούδι για τον ήσυχο θάνατο», από τη Γενική Δοκιμή
Μετάφραση Γιάννης Σταθάτος

August 14, 2018


What went so disastrously wrong during the course of last week’s murderous wildfires? It is instructive to consider the procedures laid down by Greek law in the case of natural and man-made disasters, including of course wildfires. Let us imagine for a moment that you are mayor of a village or town, and receive a telephone call from a local farmer telling you that a small brush fire has broken out near a pine grove. What is your next move?

Before taking any action, you must determine into which of five possible categories the fire must be placed, namely: ‘low intensity local’; ‘high intensity local’; ‘low intensity regional’; ‘high intensity regional’; or ‘generalised’. This is a requirement of the Law of 10 April 2003, code-named Xenokrates, on the upgrading of civil protection, the practical details of which are currently described, thirteen years later, as being “under development”.

But, you may protest, all fires start out as ‘low intensity local’; only after they have burned out is it possible to define them satisfactorily. Rest easy, for it is not, after all, up to you to define the scale of the fire. It is up to the ‘Local Civil Defence Coordinating Committee’, which must meet in person, and whose members you must now instantly summon. They consist of:

  1. Yourself, as mayor; 
  2. Two members of the municipal council, including a member of the opposition; 
  3. Any specially trained cadres from Decentralised Civil Defence and the Regional Administration; 
  4. A representative of the locality’s Senior Military Commander; 
  5. The Chief of Police;
  6. The head of the Municipal Police Force; 
  7. A representative of the Coast Guard; 
  8.  The Fire Services Chief; 
  9. The head of the Municipal Technical Services; 
  10. A representative of the Forestry Service; 
  11. Representatives of municipal voluntary organisations; 
  12.  A secretary whose job it is be to keep the minutes.

Should you ignore this step and attempt to take any initiative off your own bat, you are in breach of the law and subject to heavy penalties. You therefore summon these worthies from their scattered homes and offices; several hours later, the committee come the saddening but alas inevitable conclusion that the fire, left to its own devices, has spread beyond the confines of the municipality and may legitimately be defined as ‘regional’. The Region should now be informed (through official channels!) and must in its turn decide whether the fire is ‘low intensity regional’, meaning that it can be fought on a regional level, or whether it has mutated to ‘high intensity regional’, requiring the assistance of third parties.

This, you will be unsurprised to hear, now requires the convening of the Region’s Civil Defence Coordinating Committee, which consists of the regional equivalents of the local committee members listed above, plus several new ones. The time elapsed since the original phone call from the civic-minded farmer having expanded to satisfy bureaucratic requirements, the inevitable result will be that the small brush fire has by now almost certainly achieved ‘high intensity regional’ status, unless of course it has already burnt everything in its path and reached the sea. Stay with me.

Let us suppose that some twenty-plus regional committee members have been tracked down, locked in a room, debated long enough for everybody to express his or her opinion freely and have finally resolved upon a plan of action. How will orders be passed on to the people on the ground tasked with carrying out the plan? The answer is, with very great difficulty, since the Xenokrates law skirts such vulgar practical details with ease. In the real world, no system of communications equally accessible to police, fire services and municipal authorities exists. Last year, the British SEPURA communications system was acquired at an annual cost of 1.6m Euros. Unfortunately, when put to the test during last week’s deadly fires, it apparently failed to work; furthermore, it does not in any case allow for communication between the various services. On the ground, police and firemen were reduced to the use of their personal cellphones, where these functioned.

Finally, we come to the crucial issue of overall operational command. Who gives orders to the heterogeneous collection of authorities attempting to cope with the ever-spreading wildfire (police, municipal forces, army, fire fighters, volunteers, etc, etc)? The answer is nobody and everybody, with the overriding concern at the highest administrative levels being the avoidance of any possible comeback for the inevitable disaster. Significantly, the latest legislation governing the relationship between municipal and regional governments states clearly that “between the two levels of local government there can exist no hierarchical or controlling relationship, but only a relationship of mutual aid and collaboration”. In other words, if the municipality decides to direct all its resources to the east and the region opts to do the same to the west, nobody can knock their stupid heads together. Similarly, each will probably be directing radically different requests to third parties.

As a final grace note, one should note that the vast majority of posts in the aforementioned chains of responsibility are filled not by experts, technocrats or even competent all-round administrators, but political appointees criminally (I use the term advisedly) ignorant of the practicalities of civil defence. And that is why everything went up in smoke, and will continue to do so, year after year…

I have lifted (and translated very freely) the information contained in this post from a far more extensive, informative and impassioned article by Thanos Tzimeros, latterly a counsellor in the Attica Regional Council and a man clearly familiar with the practicalities of civil defence in Greece.

The original Greek article can be downloaded here.
The full text of the Xenokrates law in all its turgid, semi-literate bureaucratic glory can be downloaded here.

May 13, 2018


Ο Νίκος Βατόπουλος μας προσέφερε στη σημερινή Καθημερινή το κοάν της εποχής που ζούμε. Δοκιμάστε το: κάθε φορά που θα βρίσκεστε μπροστά σε κάποια καινούργια τερατώδη ηλιθιότητα, κάποιο νέο δείγμα απίστευτης ανευθυνότητας ή εγκληματικής αμάθειας, μην αφήσετε την πίεσή σας να ανέβει σε επίπεδα επικίνδυνα για την υγεία, παρά επαναλάβετε χαμηλόφωνα δυό-τρεις φορές τη φράση «Πελαγοδρομούν τιποτολογώντας αυτοχειροκροτούμενοι». Φυσικά τίποτα δεν θα αλλάξει, αλλά θα έχετε τουλάχιστον επανακτήσει, εν μέρει τουλάχιστον, την ηρεμία σας...

December 12, 2017


The long-established Law of Unintended Consequences states that human actions always have unanticipated effects, and that these are almost invariably negative. As a subset of the law proper, I hereby propose the Law of Consequential Reciprocity, or Boomerang Law, according to which "the greater and more sweeping the benefits of any new development are claimed to be, the greater and more pernicious will be its unintended consequences". As an example, I give you Twitter.

August 6, 2017


Ο λόγος του εικαστικού Κώστα Τσόκλη, όπως τον συνάντησα σε πρόσφατη συνέντευξη που φιλοξένησε η Καθημερινή, μου θύμισε αναπόφευκτα τον αείμνηστο Αλέξανδρο Καπάνταη, όπως τον χάρισε στη αιωνιότητα ο Αλέξανδρος Κοτζιάς...

Σύμφωνα με τον καλλιτέχνη, τα έργα του «Δέκα σημεία όρασης» «θα μείνουν για πάντα εκεί, να δείχνουν αιωνίως μια διαφορετική εικόνα, μέχρι να καταστραφεί ο πλανήτης. Αυτήν τη φορά κλείνω το μάτι στον θεό – του είπα, “έλα να δημιουργήσουμε μαζί”. Τον εκβίασα. Έκοψα ένα κομμάτι από τη φύση του και το έκανα έργο. Eίναι μια απεγνωσμένη απάντηση στην αγωνία η τέχνη να ζει μαζί μας. Το έργο μου είναι αγιογραφίες του θεού και ταυτόχρονα αυτοπροσωπογραφίες. Νομίζω ότι αυτοβιογραφούμαι. [...] Ένα πράγμα αγάπησα στη ζωή: τον έρωτα, τη στιγμή της κορύφωσής του, εκεί που δεν ξέρεις αν είσαι άντρας ή γυναίκα. Είμαι ένας λιτός άπληστος. Ζω μια μάχη με την αιωνιότητα».

May 23, 2017


 The Turkish Embassy in Washington yesterday announced that the protestors attacked by Erdogan's goons “began aggressively provoking Turkish-American citizens who had peacefully assembled to greet the President”. What do such aggrieved and self-righteous statements remind one of, if not of the virtually similar expressions of outrage emanating from other authoritarian regimes engaged in repressing dissent, from Stalinist Soviet Union and Maoist China to Khomeinist Iran and Salafist Saudi Arabia?

Perhaps not surprisingly, all authoritarian or totalitarian regimes inevitably revert to the same wooden language and the same passive-aggressive response in defense of their otherwise indefensible actions: "The patriotic [police/soldiers/vigilantes/armed thugs] defended their persons and the honour of their country against the aggressively protesting [students/housewives/running dogs/traitorous hyenas] by [gently pushing them back/remonstrating with them/beating their skulls in]. This particular rhetorical trope is based on the principle that the more you have to apologise for, the more stridently outraged and unapologetic you should sound. Plus ca change...

December 24, 2016


Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas
Brevity is indeed the soul of wit. But some people need to have the obvious spelt out in easy-to-grasp terms...

October 21, 2016


At first sight, Myrsini Koutli’s photographic compositions slot neatly into the genre of contemporary urban and suburban photography: rich colours, locations of a studied banality, interstitial sites considered with a carefully neutral environmental and political eye. However, that neutrality is discreetly undermined by the still blander texts which complement the images in black or white sans-serif lettering. These consist of simple definitions of everyday nouns drawn from some English dictionary: river, hill, mountain, cloud, lake. Inevitably, the cognitive dissonance between definition and subject, text and image, in these deliberately ironic conjunctions confirm the poverty of the contemporary urban landscape. With On Definitions, Koutli uses technology and aesthetics to resurrect the conceptual art movement of the seventies, slyly combining image and text with the deliberation of a Victor Burgin.

 Εκ πρώτης όψεως, οι φωτογραφικές συνθέσεις της Μυρσίνης Κουτλή εντάσσονται υπάκουα στο πλαίσιο της σύγχρονης φωτογραφίας αστικού και περιαστικού τοπίου: πλούσια χρώματα, προσεχτικά επιλεγμένοι «ά-τόποι», interstitial sites που αντιμετωπίζονται με ουδέτερη πολιτική και περιβαλλοντολογική ματιά.  Την ουδετερότητα όμως αυτή έρχεται να υποσκάψει διακριτικά το ακόμα ποιό ουδέτερο κείμενο που συμπληρώνει την εικόνα με λιτά, λευκά ή μαύρα sans-serif γράμματα. Πρόκειται για απλούς ορισμούς καθημερινών λέξεων βγαλμένων από κάποιο αγγλικό λεξικό: ποτάμι, λόφος, βροχή, βουνό, σύννεφο, λίμνη.  Αναπόφευκτα, η γνωστική ασυμφωνία μεταξύ ορισμού και θέασης, κειμένου και εικόνας, στις με εμφανή πονηριά επιλεγμένες συζεύξεις, έρχεται να υπογραμμίσει ειρωνικά τη σημερινή χρεοκοπία των λέξεων. Διακριτικά, με την εργασία αυτή η Κουτλή ανανεώνει με σύγχρονη τεχνοτροπία και αισθητική τις προθέσεις του πολιτικά ευαισθητοποιημένου κινήματος νοηματικής τέχνης της δεκαετίας 1970, συνδυάζοντας ανατρεπτικά εικόνα και γλώσσα με τη σπουδή ενός Victor Burgin. 

August 21, 2016


Following the passage of recent legislation, right-thinking Europeans can rest easy in the knowledge that their eyes will no longer be offended by the sight of burqa-clad maenads flaunting their religious beliefs on the continent's beaches, like the shameless group of religious fanatics pictured above.

July 19, 2016


“Fanatical defenders of religion start out attacking contemporary secular culture; it’s no surprise when they end up forsaking any meaningful religious experience. In a similar way, many liberal warriors are so eager to fight anti-democratic fundamentalism that they end up flinging away freedom and democracy if only they may fight terror. The ‘terrorists’ may be ready to wreck this world for love of another, but the warriors on terror are just as ready to wreck their own democratic world out of hatred for the Muslim other. Some of them love human dignity so much that they are ready to legalise torture to defend it. The defenders of Europe against the immigrant threat are doing much the same. In their zeal to protect the Judeo-Christian legacy, they are ready to forsake what is most important in that legacy. The anti-immigrant defenders of Europe, not the notional crowds of immigrants waiting to invade it, are the true threat to Europe.”

Slavoj Žižek, “Barbarism with a Human Face”, London Review of Books, vol.36 no.9, 8 May 2014

July 14, 2016


τὸ κακὸν δοκεῖν ποτ᾽ ἐσθλὸν
τῷδ᾽ ἔμμεν ὅτῳ φρένας
θεὸς ἄγει πρὸς ἄταν:

πράσσει δ᾽ ὀλίγιστον χρόνον ἐκτὸς ἄτας. 

Sometimes the gods
lure a man’s mind forward to disaster,
and he thinks evil’s something good.
But then he lives only the briefest time
free of catastrophe.

Sophocles, Antigone


June 28, 2016


An almost surreal depiction of the Aegean island of Greater Kalogero, lying roughly halfway between Andros and Chios, from the Isolario of Benedetto Bordone (1528). An utterly barren, virtually sheer volcanic rock with a total surface of just over an acre, Kalogero was the site of an anchorite monastery from about the 12th to the 17th centuries. The monks were largely dependent on passing ships for the means of sustenance, reaching them with a small boat which could be launched from up high by means of a counterbalanced crane. The line between entrepreneurial activity and brigandage being notoriously blurred in these waters, the monks are also believed to have regularly provided safe storage facilities for the local pirates.

Libro di Benedetto Bordone. Nel qual si ragiona de tutte l'isole del mondo, con li lor nomi antichi & moderni, historie, fauole, & modi del loro uiuere, & in qual parte del mare stanno, & in qual parallelo & clima giacciono. 

June 25, 2016


History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.
Karl Marx

June 12, 2016


Two press photographs from the glorious summer days of Greek High Kitsch, the Colonels' Dictatorship of 1967-1974. Above, George Papadopoulos, junta leader now in the role of Prime Minister, visits a military unit accompanied by a phalanx of uniformed officers on the occasion of Easter Sunday (probably in 1968). In honour of the day, they are passing between two halves of a red easter egg painted with the message Χριστός Ανέστη, "Christ is risen". The looked-for audience response would have been to ponder the colonel's slogan, "Greece is risen", but the association with baby chickens is irresistible.

The lower photograph illustrates what was perhaps one of the high points of that profoundly tacky annual performance in Athens Stadium, the Celebration of Greek Military Virtue. An improbable number (fifteen or more) of the despised ESA military police cling to one another on a motorcycle, the topmost man waving a Greek flag disfigured by the dictatorship's soldier-and-pinioned-phoenix symbol. It is probably safe to assume that none of those involved saw anything remotely homoerotic in this and similar early works of performance art by the junta.

February 7, 2016


On perhaps two or three days a year, very early on a cold, clear morning, you can see all of Crete from Kythera, lying end-to-end on the horizon beyond Antikythera and almost close enough to touch.

August 17, 2014


Η Κωνσταντίνα Σταματογιαννάκη συμμετείχε στο περσινό Συνέδριο για την Ιστορία της Ελληνικής Φωτογραφίας στα Κυθηρα με την πολύ ενδιαφέρουσα διάλεξη «Τάσος Μελετόπουλος, φωτογράφος του θεάτρου». Το περιεχόμενο της διάλεξης ήταν ένα μικρό μόνο μέρος εντατικής έρευνας γύρω από το αρχείο Μελετόπουλου και την ιστορία του Εθνικού Θεάτρου που διεξήγαγε στο Ελληνικό Λογοτεχνικό & Ιστορικό Αρχείο (ΕΛΙΑ).  Καρπός της πολυετούς αυτής έρευνας υπήρξε η πρόσφατη δημοσίευση από το ΜΙΕΤ του πλούσια εικονογραφημένου τόμου Εθνικό Θέατρο. Τα Πρώτα Χρόνια (1930-1941). Πέρα από την αυτονόητη σημασία του δημοσιεύματος για την ιστορία του θεάτρου, το έργο της Σταματογιαννάκη θα αποτελέσει σε βάθος χρόνου μόνιμη πηγή αναφοράς για την φωτογραφία θεάτρου. Όπως όλες οι εκδόσεις του Μορφωτικού Ιδρύματος Εθνικής Τραπέζης, το βιβλίο, και ειδικά οι αναπαραγωγές, είναι ποιοτικά άριστο.

Μοναδικό μελανό αλλά και εντελώς αδικαιολόγητο σημείο αποτελεί η ριζική υποβάθμιση της ερευνήτριας. Αν και ουσιαστικά υπεύθυνη για το 99% της έρευνας και συγγραφής του έργου, αντί να μνημονεύεται ως υπεύθυνη της έκδοσης στη σελίδα τίτλου του βιβλίου, όπως απαιτεί η επιστημονική δεοντολογία, αναφέρεται απλά μεταξύ των κειμενογράφων, και μάλιστα δεύτερη κατά σειρά. Το θέμα δεν είναι καθόλου επουσιώδες, τη στιγμή που οι διεθνείς βιβλιογραφικές αναφορές βασίζονται κατά πάγια τακτική στις πληροφορίες της σελίδας τίτλου. Μπορεί ίσως η ερευνήτρια να αποδέχθηκε την ουσιαστική αυτή υποβάθμιση της εργασίας της από μετριοφροσύνη, δεν παύει όμως να πρόκειται για δεοντολογικά απαράδεκτη παραποίηση. Και δεν είναι πρώτη φορά που συμβαίνει κάτι τέτοιο στον χώρο των σοβαρών Ελληνικών εκδόσεων, ειδικά όταν πρόκειται για φωτογραφική ή εικαστική έρευνα.


January 22, 2014


Joan Thirlaway, location unknown, 22 November 2013

Matthew Taylor, Middleton Moor, Derbyshire, 19 January 2014

Owen Humphreys, Rigg, Gretna Green, 25 November 2013

srerobinson, Rigg, Gretna Green, 4 January 2014

Source: The Guardian, 22 January 2014