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The great Gothic cathedral

Monday, 13 July, 2015 0 Comments

“I never weary of great churches. It is my favorite kind of mountain scenery. Mankind was never so happily inspired as when it made a cathedral.” — Robert Louis Stevenson

Duomo di Milano

Nothing is more permanent than the temporary

Sunday, 12 July, 2015 0 Comments

All eyes have been on Greece this week. We’re on topic today, but is a somewhat oblique way. A. E. Stallings studied classics in Athens, Georgia, and has lived since 1999 in Athens, Greece. She has published three books of poetry and is the recipient of fellowships from the MacArthur Foundation and the Guggenheim Foundation. Her husband, John Psaropoulos, is the former editor of the former Athens News and now blogs at The New Athenian. Together, they’re raising a small argonaut, Jason.

After a Greek Proverb

We’re here for the time being, I answer to the query—
Just for a couple of years, we said, a dozen years back.
Nothing is more permanent than the temporary.

We dine sitting on folding chairs — they were cheap but cheery.
We’ve taped the broken window pane. TV’s still out of whack.
We’re here for the time being, I answer to the query.

When we crossed the water, we only brought what we could carry,
But there are always boxes that you never do unpack.
Nothing is more permanent than the temporary.

Sometimes when I’m feeling weepy, you propose a theory:
Nostalgia and tear gas have the same acrid smack.
We’re here for the time being, I answer to the query—

We stash bones in the closet when we don’t have time to bury,
Stuff receipts in envelopes, file papers in a stack.
Nothing is more permanent than the temporary.

Twelve years now and we’re still eating off the ordinary:
We left our wedding china behind, afraid that it might crack.
We’re here for the time being, we answer to the query,
But nothing is more permanent than the temporary.

A. E. Stallings

A.E. Stallings

Xáos

Saturday, 11 July, 2015 0 Comments

Ahetas was born in Australia, but grew up in Greece, appearing with various avant-garde and free bands in Athens. He spends his time between London and Athens.

Dubulah was born in Germany to a Greek mother and English father and grew up in London listening to Greek music and western music. He is now living in Spain.

With Greece facing Xáos, Ahetas and Dubulah have created a soundtrack for the crisis.

“Since the Xáos project commenced, European politics and economics have influenced the way the album has evolved. For in recent years, Greece has been a country in crisis, and the fight for survival against insane and counter-productive austerity measures has taken precedence over any cultural expression or art. There was little enough support for homegrown artists before the crisis began, but now there is almost none. But this is a country with a remarkable musical history and massive talent, without outlet or appreciation. And the fight-back has begun.”

Saving live with better UI

Friday, 10 July, 2015 0 Comments

Better user interface design can save lives says Harold Thimbleby, a professor of computer science at Swansea University, who is well known for his works on user interface design in the field of human-computer interaction. As Steve Jobs once said, “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”

Dissolved

Thursday, 9 July, 2015 0 Comments

“The film almost completely falls apart in a second half in which Reese and Sarah have to run through 2017 San Francisco to stop the launch of Genisys, an operating system designed to link everyone’s information and devices to a single, powerful system. (In a line that typifies Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier’s clunker-filled script, one character refers to it as “the ultimate killer app.” Heh.)”

A snippet there from a review of Terminator Genisys by Keith Phipps that appeared in The Dissolve on 30 June. Yesterday, it fell to the lot of Phipps to announce, out of the blue, the dissolve of The Dissolve: “For the past two years — well, two years this Friday — it’s been our pleasure to put up this site, a site founded on and driven by a love for movies, alongside a company with passion and talent for creating thoughtful, important work. Sadly, because of the various challenges inherent in launching a freestanding website in a crowded publishing environment, financial and otherwise, today is the last day we will be doing that.”

This is dispiriting as the critiques were superb. The list of Dissolve reviews is lengthy and each showcases fine writing and informed opinion so let’s hope that the archive will be preserved. The Terminator trundles on and on into an embarrassing future, but The Dissolve, unhappily, is no more:

“Terminator Genisys then becomes as loud as it is tedious, and cutesy touches like J.K. Simmons’ essentially pointless appearance as a drunk cop who believes in time travel don’t help. A montage in which Sarah, Reese, and Pops get arrested, set to Inner Circle’s ‘Bad Boys,’ made famous as the theme to Cops, plays like the series finding its nadir. Or, more accurately, the nadir of the nadir. Unavoidably, Genisys has Schwarzenegger’s T-800 promise ‘I’ll be back.’ Fine. But it’s probably time to shut down the lurching, brainless machine this franchise has become.”

The End

Meanwhile, in China

Wednesday, 8 July, 2015 0 Comments

The world is worried about Greece becoming a Cuba on the Med, with ouzo instead of rum and olives in place of bananas, but there’s an even bigger problem on the horizon: China. The rout in Shanghai is far more troubling than the drama in Athens. Consider:

“A stock market crash there has seen $3.2 trillion wiped from the value of Chinese shares in just three weeks, triggering an emergency response from the government and warnings of ‘monstrous’ public disorder. . . . In an extraordinary move, the People’s Bank of China has begun lending money to investors to buy shares in the flailing market.”

That’s from a report filed Down Under yesterday titled Chinese chaos worse than Greece. In an echo of 1929, the writer notes: “Underscoring growing jitters amid the three-week sell-off, police in Beijing detained a man on Sunday for allegedly spreading a rumour online that a person jumped to their death in the city’s financial district due to China’s precarious stock markets.”

Today, those “precarious stock markets” have moved into the danger zone and the air is filled with talk of China’s “Black Wednesday”. The Sydney Morning Herald has a rolling blog on the situation titled, rather worryingly, China panic grows. Snippets:

“Losses on the ASX have accelerated again on the early slump in Shanghai, and the Aussie dollar just hit its next six-year low, showing that the Chinese turmoil is starting to affect local investor sentiment.”

“China’s securities regulator says “panic sentiment” has set in mainland sharemarkets, contributing to an ‘irrational’ sell-off that has defied the government’s urgent attempts to stem the market freefall.”

“I’ve never seen this kind of slump before. I don’t think anyone has. Liquidity is totally depleted,” said Du Changchun, an analyst at Northeast Securities.”

Update: The SMH blog is now titled “China panic spreads”. It’s a “developing story”.

7/7: A decade later

Tuesday, 7 July, 2015 0 Comments

The sworn enemies of civilization attacked London on 7 July 2005. On that day, four Islamist suicide bombers carrying rucksacks of explosives killed 52 people in the worst single terrorist atrocity on British soil. In the decade since, the adherents of the barbarian ideology that inspired the London bombers have shown that they are willing to use any means to murder the young, the old and the innocent. Regardless of class, faith or colour, the killers strike again and again. Being in the wrong place when the time comes, on a beach in Tunisia, say, does not shield one from those who violate every human norm in pursuit of their caliphate dreams. Being human is sufficient guilt for the death sentence carried out by the jihadist.

In June 2007, the late Christopher Hitchens wrote a column for Vanity Fair titled Londonistan Calling in which he explored the racist fanaticism that had taken hold in many of London’s mosques and schools. Snippet:

“It was argued for a while that the 7/7 perpetrators were victims of unemployment and poverty, until their remains were identified and it became clear that most of them came from educated and reasonably well-off backgrounds. The excuses then abruptly switched, and we were asked to believe that it was Tony Blair’s policy in Iraq and Afghanistan that motivated the killers. Suppose the latter to be true. It would still be the case that they belong to a movement that hates Jews and Indians and all kuffar, or ‘unbelievers': a fanatical sect that believes itself entitled to use deadly violence at any time. The roots of violence, that is to say, are in the preaching of it, and the sanctification of it.”

It is cold comfort today to ponder the thought that the roots of Islamist violence are in the preaching of it, and the sanctification of it, but it is remains the bitter truth.

07/07 London terror victims

I said, pretend you’ve got no money

Monday, 6 July, 2015 0 Comments

“I said, pretend you’ve got no money,
She just laughed and said, Oh you’re so funny.”

Common People, Pulp

In May, the Greek newspaper Athens Voice suggested that the woman who inspired the Pulp song is Danae Stratou, wife of Yanis Varoufakis, the former Greek minister of Finance. Ms Stratou studied at Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London between 1983 and 1988 and is the eldest daughter of a wealthy Greek businessman.

That celebrated Paris Match spread in March raised eyebrows and generated questions about the contrast between Syriza reality and rhetoric. Yanis Varoufakis was a player. He remains a puzzle. “I wear the creditors’ loathing with pride,” said Minister No More.

Common People

Thermopylae today

Sunday, 5 July, 2015 0 Comments

Thermopylae is famed for the battle that took place there in 480 BC, in which an outnumbered Greek force (including 300 Spartans) held off a substantially larger army of Persians under Xerxes. In his poem Thermopylae, C.P. Cavafy points out that although the Greeks knew they would be defeated, they were not deterred. They fought and died for their principles. Cavafy says that if we have values, we should defend them even if we know there is the danger of failure, loss and betrayal.

Thermopylae

Honour to those who in the life they lead
define and guard a Thermopylae.
Never betraying what is right,
consistent and just in all they do
but showing pity also, and compassion;
generous when they are rich, and when they are poor,
still generous in small ways,
still helping as much as they can;
always speaking the truth,
yet without hating those who lie.

And even more honour is due to them
when they foresee (as many do foresee)
that in the end Ephialtis will make his appearance,
that the Medes will break through after all.

(translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard)

C.P. Cavafy

“Well, I shuffled through the city on the 4th of July”

Saturday, 4 July, 2015 0 Comments

New York, New York was included on an acclaimed Ryan Adams album that was scheduled for release on 11 September 2001. The material on Gold was written long before the 9/11 terror attacks and the themes, hard loving and heavy drinking, were the stuff of young lives in a city full of adventure. Songs of innocence, in a sense.

New York, New York acquired poignant fame because Adams shot the accompanying video on 7 September on the banks of the East River with the Twin Towers featuring prominently in the background. Sic transit gloria mundi.

Give me the money or I’ll shoot!

Friday, 3 July, 2015 0 Comments

Intra-European affairs are fraught these days, given the dissent about Brexit, migrants and Putin. The Greco-German relationship is going through an especially rough patch right now thanks to lending/borrowing “issues” and the cover of today’s Handelsblatt, the daily financial paper published in Düsseldorf, sums up the fear and loathing.

Handelsblatt

Meanwhile, “Greek politics is short-term. The long term is for Germans,” notes David Patrikarakos in Politico. Problem is, Germans and Greeks are united by the euro. Still.

By the way, those taken aback by the Handelsblatt cover, should take a look at the depictions of German leaders in Greece. They’re not very subtle. Here is a referendum poster in Athens that shows the face of German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble and states: “He has been drinking your blood for five years, now tell him No.”

No