“A kiss makes the heart young again and wipes out the years.” - Rupert Brooke
Another very full day today, with attendance at a conference in the morning and then the graduation ceremony for our Melbourne Campus in the afternoon. It was all very good, but exhausting. We had dinner after the graduation at “Feddish” in Federation Square. Although the food was good, service was very slow…
For Song Saturday, a very special song sent to me by a very special person, so far away… It is sung by Eleni Peta, with lyrics by Marina Dimitroula and music by Constantine Katomeris.
A Kiss on the Open Seas
How shall I send you my kiss, So far away without it losing its warmth? So that it doesn’t drown in the oceans, So that it doesn’t bleed on the sharp rocks…
If I give it to the birds I don’t know if it will be delivered, If the wind carries it I am afraid it will be lost.
Maybe I shall give it to the silence Of a sleepless night, Which will wrap it gently In the nets of your dreams.
And when in your dream, I secretly touch your body, I’ll give you my gift of a kiss And then I shall be yours…
Φιλί στα Πέλαγα Τραγούδι – Ελένη ΠέταΣτίχοι – Μαρίνα Δημητρούλα. Μουσική – Κωνσταντίνος Κατωμέρης
Πως να σου στείλω ένα φιλί Τόσο μακριά πριν κρυώσει; Να μην πνιγεί στα πέλαγα Στα βράχια μην ματώσει…
Αν θα το δώσω στα πουλιά Δεν ξέρω πως θα φτάσει, Κι αν θα το πάρει ο άνεμος Φοβάμαι μην το χάσει.
Ίσως το δώσω στη σιωπή Μια νύχτα με αγρύπνια. Να το τυλίξει απαλά Στου ονείρου σου τα δίχτυα.
Κι όταν κρυφά μες στο όνειρο Αγγίξω το κορμί σου, Θα σου χαρίσω το φιλί Και θα γενώ δική σου.
A very busy day at work today, but quite satisfying as I got much done. Food Friday is fishy as it was this for dinner tonight:
SCALLOPS À LA GRECQUE
• 12 scallops in their shells • 3 tablespoons of olive oil • 1 lemon • 1 tablespoon flour • 1 cup of white wine • 1 cup of water • 1/2 tablespoon chopped rosemary • Salt, pepper • 1 rhizome of ginger, grated.
Wash and clean the scallops, removing all the grit from the gut. Drain them and season with salt and pepper. Heat the oil until very hot, scald the ginger and immediately the oil heats again put in the scallops, ensuring they are seared all around. Stir in the flour and once it browns slightly, pour in the wine and water, stirring all the while. Add the rosemary and keep heating until the sauce thickens. Serve each scallop in each pre-heated shell (have them in the oven while cooking the scallops).
Serve with dry white wine, a fresh green salad and crusty bread.
The 21st of May has been declared by the United Nations as the World Day for Cultural Diversity and for Dialogue and Development. This is further to the adoption of the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity by UNESCO on November 2001. This day provides us with an opportunity to deepen our understanding of the values of cultural diversity and to learn to “live together” better. UNESCO continues to promote greater awareness of the crucial relationship between culture and development and the important role that information and communication technologies play in this relationship.
In these days of globalisation, increased urbanisation, massive shifts of the world’s population to countries away from their origin, and the effects of a unifying and aggressive cultural imperialism (for ideological, imperialistic or economic purposes), it is important to remember the great richness that is there to be discovered for all who are interested in the great diversity of cultures around the world. Many of these cultures are under the risk of extinction.
I personally have seen it occurring in the country of my birth. Greek culture has been a vast storehouse of traditions, beliefs, folklore, observances, religious practices, music, dancing, art and even social mores that has been preserved for thousands of years. In the last few decades, this rich storehouse has been depleted and is at risk of bankruptcy. The European Union, of which Greece is now a member, has exerted a massive pressure for economic, social and cultural integration. This is aided and abetted by the export and avid consumption of American “pop culture” through a very efficient worldwide marketing and communication machine.
One of the major challenges of the 21st Century is to convince people around the world that their indigenous culture, however meagre it is in terms of propaganda or number of its followers, is as worthy as any widely publicised and popular culture followed by many billions and which is imperialistically subsuming all others in its path. The challenge to make diversity out of difference, to promote unity by cultivating (not by reducing) human complexity will be one that is hard to accept and champion.
Forces of unity up till now have tended to subject our planet to a simplified order. Each of these efforts has missed the target and left bitter traces. Instead of unity there is often an increased division and prolongation of distrust and intolerance. Now is the time to build kinship on the basis of plurality, which has as its raw material the rich diversity of humankind. Culture is essential to this endeavour, as witnessed by the scope of world heritage sites and artworks and by the originality of creations which keep uniformity at bay.
The Diversity Festival organised by UNESCO in many regions of the world, from 11th to 22nd May 2009, to celebrate World Day for Cultural Diversity, for Dialogue and Development has the rich cultures of all people around the planet at its core. The Festival is made up of extremely diverse events, held in a multiplicity of places and countries from Paris to São Paulo.
Culture in all of its forms and diverse expressions enriches our life and surprises us with its delightful difference from the culture that we are brought up with. The independence, integrity and fruitful diversity of the culture of all the world’s countries promote the democratic principles of dignity, equality and mutual respect. This can be achieved through education, the sciences, culture and communication. Cultures are not monolithic and preserved through isolation, but they need be interdependent, enriching each other through mutual exchanges and borrowings, and that this diversity is a source of strength and unity.
culture |ˈkəl ch ər| noun 1 The arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively: 20th century popular culture. • A refined understanding or appreciation of this: Men of culture. • The customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group: Caribbean culture | People from many different cultures. • [with adj. ] The attitudes and behaviour characteristic of a particular social group: The emerging drug culture. 2 Biology: The cultivation of bacteria, tissue cells, etc., in an artificial medium containing nutrients: The cells proliferate readily in culture. • A preparation of cells obtained in such a way: The bacterium was isolated in two blood cultures. • The cultivation of plants: This variety of lettuce is popular for its ease of culture. verb [ trans. ] Biology Maintain (tissue cells, bacteria, etc.) in conditions suitable for growth. ORIGIN: Middle English (denoting a cultivated piece of land): The noun from French culture or directly from Latin cultura ‘growing, cultivation’; the verb from obsolete French culturer or medieval Latin culturare, both based on Latin colere ‘tend, cultivate’. In late Middle English the sense was [cultivation of the soil] and from this (early 16th century) arose [cultivation (of the mind, faculties, or manners)]; sense 1 dates from the early 19th century.
“Abundance of knowledge does not teach men to be wise.” - Heraclitus
For Poetry Wednesday, some food for thought from William Johnson Cory. The subject is the great Ancient Greek Philosopher, Heraclitus from Ephesus the great city of Caria on the shores of Asia Minor.
They told me, Heraclitus, they told me you were dead; They brought me bitter news to hear and bitter tears to shed. I wept, as I remembered, how often you and I Had tired the sun with talking and sent him down the sky.
And now that thou art lying, my dear old Carian guest, A handful of grey ashes, long long ago at rest, Still are thy pleasant voices, thy nightingales awake; For Death, he taketh all away, but them he cannot take.
William Johnson Cory (1823-1892)
Heraclitus of Ephesus (ca. 535–475 BCE) is probably the most significant philosopher of ancient Greece until Socrates and Plato. Heraclitus’s philosophy is perhaps even more fundamental in the formation of the European mind than any other thinker in European history, including Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Heraclitus, like Parmenides of Elea (early 5th century BCE), postulated a model of nature and the universe which created the foundation for all other speculation on physics and metaphysics.
His ideas that the universe is in constant flux (Πάντα ῥεῖ… - panta rei, “everything is in flux”) and that there is an underlying order or reason to this change (λόγος – logos, reason) form the essential foundation of the European world view. Whether it’s a science, economics, or political science course that you study, to some extent everything you do in that class originates with Heraclitus’s ideas on change and the “logos”.
Despite the fact that the ancient Greeks considered Heraclitus one of their principal philosophers, unfortunately little remains of his writings. A few fragments, quoted by other Greek writers give us only a tantalising taste of his ideas and arguments. These passages are difficult to read and interpret fully, not only because they are quoted out of context, but because Heraclitus deliberately cultivated an obscure writing style (so obscure, in fact, that the Greeks nicknamed him the “Riddler” or the "Dark One").
However, by piecing together all of the fragments that we have of Heraclitus’s writings, we are able to piece together the central components of his thought. We can understand his concept of the logos, although it may be difficult to contextualise it in the universal sense. We can consider his claim that the logos consists of all the paired opposites in the universe, but what is the nature of the logos as the composite of all paired opposites? How does the Logos explain change? Fascinating glimpses of a great mind, as though one were trying to discover the meaning of life through snippets of conversations overheard in a busy train terminal…
Some of these fragments:
ποταμοῖσι τοῖσιν αὐτοῖσιν ἐμϐαίνουσιν, ἕτερα καὶ ἕτερα ὕδατα ἐπιρρεῖ. potamoisi toisin autoisin embainousin, hetera kai hetera hudata epirrei “On those stepping into rivers the same, other and other waters flow.”
τὰ ὄντα ἰέναι τε πάντα καὶ μένειν οὐδέν ta onta ienai te panta kai menein ouden “All beings going and remaining not at all”
ποταμοῖς τοῖς αὐτοῖς ἐμβαίνομέν τε καὶ οὐκ ἐμβαίνομεν, εἶμέν τε καὶ οὐκ εἶμεν. potamois tois autois embainomen te kai ouk embainomen eimen te kai ouk eimen “We both step and do not step in the same rivers. We are and are not.”
ἐκ τῶν διαφερόντων καλλίστην ἁρμονίαν ek tōn diapherontōn kallistēn harmonian “Out of discord comes the fairest harmony”
Some of these ideas have been independently vocalized and explored by the great Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu (6th century BCE).
The painting above is by Bramante and depicts Heraclitus on the left as the “Crying Philosopher”, while on the right is Democritus, the “Laughing Philosopher”, personifying the essence of their credos.
“Refugees have done more for my heart and my spirit than I can ever express in words.” - Angelina Jolie
Today marks a commemorative day that is observed in Greece to remember the genocide of the Pontian-Greeks. The Pontus (Εύξεινος Πόντος - Euxeinos Pontos), is the Black Sea and Greeks settled the area from around 1000 BCE when they first visited the area for trade mainly in gold and minerals. The trip of Jason and the Argonauts to Colchis commemorates Greek visits to the Pontus. Mythology is full of more adventures in the region, including the travels of Ulysses to the country of the Cimmerians, the punishment of Prometheus by Zeus chaining his body on the mountains of Caucasus, the travels of Hercules to the Black Sea, which all testify to the existence of ancient Greek trading routes in the Black Sea.
The trading posts started to develop in to permanent Greek settlements by about 800 BC. The city of Miletus on the Western shore of Asia Minor was the first to start the colonisation of the Black Sea by founding a daughter-city, Sinope. This became a rapidly growing city gifted with a good harbour and easy accessibility to the hinterland. More colonial cities developed along the length of the Northern shore of Asia Minor, along the coast of the Black Sea. Large populations of Greeks settled there and their cities became powerful cultural and trading centres.
During the first centuries of their existence the colonies retained the same patterns of social and political organisation as their colonial mother-towns. With the passage of time, the Greek cities dominated the political life of the region and the local indigenous people became hellenised. In the Alexandrian period, the economic power of the Pontian-Greek cities peaked, with Greek culture leaving an indelible mark on the surrounding regions. Under the reign of the Pontian king Mithridates VI Eupator (134-63 BCE), Greek became the official language of the many different (and until then polyglot) people of Asia Minor. During Roman times, Greek culture in the eastern part of the Black Sea flourished and the Pontian-Greek cities retained their freedom, independence and self-determination as well as continuing to play a leading role in the economic and cultural life of the region.
The apostles St Andrew and St Peter brought Christianity to Pontus, profitting from the fact that the language of the populace was Greek, which had become the lingua franca of the time. As Christianity spread, Greek culture and national identity became fused with it. The result was that a homogenous culture emerged, based on the uniting element of Greek Christian Orthodoxy.
The capture of Constantinople by the Franks in 1204 CE, resulted in the fragmentation of the Byzantine Empire into small Frankish states. Smaller Greek states survived and Alexius, a member of the Byzantine dynasty of the Komnenoi, with his brother David, founded the Empire of the Great Komnenoi of Trebizond on the Pontus. The Georgian queen Thamar (aunt of Alexius and David) aided in the establishment of this state. Up until that point, Trebizond was relatively insignificant but because of the Komnenoi’s choice, it became a powerful dysnastic centre.
The fall of Constantinople (1453 CE) the fall of Trebizond (1461 CE) mark one of the great turning points in Greek history. Immediately after the capture of Trebizond by the Ottomans, many inhabitants of the rich coastal towns and the villages fled. Most of them escaped into the remote mountain regions of Pontus where in protective isolation they were free to continue their cultural, religious and linguistic tradition. Some of the refugees settled in central Russia, others on the coasts of southern Russia, in Georgia, Armenia and Kazakhstan, where they founded new Greek cities. These thriving cultural centres were able to welcome persecuted Greeks in later years. This resulted in the simultaneous existence of a second, ever-growing Pontian-Greek civilisation (particularly in Russia), which throughout the whole period of the Ottoman Empire received refugees. These refugees were fleeing the 1914-18 persecution of Pontians by the reigning Ottoman regime.
By 1918 the total Pontian-Greek population in Russia had grown to 650,000 people. On the opposite shore of the Black Sea, on Turkish territory, the history and culture of the Pontian-Greeks and also of the other Greek inhabitants came to a tragic end through the treaty of Lausanne in 1923. This treaty brought about the forceful expulsion of Greek people living on Turkish territory (the “Asia Minor Catastrophe”). Similarly, Turks living on Greek soil were expelled to Turkey.
The criterion for the population exchanges outlined in the treaty of Lausanne was religion. Greeks who become Muslim in the 17th century could stay in Turkey. This explains why inhabitants in regions around the Pontian towns of Tonya, Ophis, Sourmena and Matsouka still live in Turkey and speak their Pontian-Greek dialect. They remember their Greek heritage and preserve their Greek (and some Christian traditions, although nominally they are Muslim).
Pontians living in the territory of the former Soviet Union are still estimated to be half a million people who stick to their Pontian-Greek traditions. The Pontians managed, like all persecuted peoples, to stick together and through hard work they established themselves in their new adopted homes. They preserved their language, tradition, songs and dances, their culture.
“Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.” - Sydney J. Harris
The movie for this Movie Monday is a classic piece of British drama, Anthony Asquith’s 1951 film of Terence Ratigan’s play, “The Browning Version”. This is a dark and wonderfully acted piece of psychological drama, which more than 50 years after its making still looks fresh and has the power to involve, engage and move the viewer.
The plot centres on Andrew Crocker-Harris (AKA “The Crock” to his students), a stuffy professor of Classical Greek at an English public (i.e. private) school. He is greatly disliked by his students and his fellow teachers and when he retires because of poor health he is denied a deserved pension by the stingy headmaster. To make matters worse his younger wife who is a social climber cheats on him with a younger professor. Although Crocker-Harris began his career eighteen years earlier as a brilliant young scholar, he has been buried by the stiff rigidity of school rules and regimentation and has made himself cold and distant from all human emotion. While his future seems to be financially ruinous and his marriage has failed, the kindness of one of his students rekindles his humanity.
Central to the film is Aeschylus’ tragedy of Agamemnon whose wife Clytaemnestra is cheating on him while he is away fighting in the Trojan War. On his return, the wife and her lover Aegisthus murder Agamemnon in his bath. The play not only mirrors Crocker-Harris’s life, but is also pivotal to the story. The title relates to the Browning translation of the “Agamemnon”.
The acting in this film is superb with Michael Redgrave giving a great performance as Crocker-Harris. Jean Kent as his duplicitous and shrewish wife supports him admirably. Nigel Patrick as the lover and Crock-Harris’s colleague is good, as is the young Brian Smith, playing the likeable young student, Taplow. The starring role won Michael Redgrave best actor in that year’s Cannes festival and the film also won best screenplay there. Ratigan who wrote the screenplay adapted it from his own play and the transfer from stage to film has been done eloquently and with a good understanding of the medium. As Ratigan was a homosexual it is easy to read a subtext into the movie, but the film works well even without such a subtlety.
It is quite a moving film, but not in the standard “tear-jerker” fashion of “Goodbye Mr Chips”. There is a raw energy in the film and a biting candour that grips the viewer as the layers are removed from the characters. In the end when their souls have been laid bare, one cannot but identify in turn with the tragedy in each of them. This is definitely a great film to watch, but be warned, it’s quite challenging viewing!
“A work of art which did not begin in emotion is not art.” - Paul Cézanne
The French painter Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) was one of the most important figures in the development of modern painting. In particular, the evolution of cubism and abstraction was largely due to his innovations (so now you know who to blame!). During the greater part of his own lifetime, however, Cézanne was largely ignored, and he worked in isolation. He mistrusted critics, had few friends, and, until 1895, exhibited only occasionally. He was alienated even from his family, who found his behaviour peculiar and failed to appreciate his revolutionary art.
For many years Cézanne was known only to his old impressionist colleagues and to a few younger radical post-impressionist artists, including the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh and the French painter Paul Gauguin. In 1895, however, Ambroise Vollard, an ambitious Paris art dealer, arranged a show of Cézanne's works and over the next few years promoted them successfully. By 1904, Cézanne was featured in a major official exhibition, and by the time of his death (in Aix on October 22, 1906) he had attained the status of a legendary figure. During his last years many younger artists traveled to Aix to observe him at work and to receive any words of wisdom he might offer. Both his style and his theory remained mysterious and cryptic; he seemed to some a naive primitive, while to others he was a sophisticated master of technical procedure. The intensity of his color, coupled with the apparent rigour of his compositional organisation, signalled to most that, despite the artist's own frequent despair, he had synthesised the basic expressive and representational elements of painting in a highly original manner.
Cézanne's goal was, in his own mind, never fully attained. He left most of his works unfinished and destroyed many others. He complained of his failure at rendering the human figure. Even the great figural works of his last years (eg, the “Large Bathers”, painted 1899-1906), reveal curious distortions that seem to have been dictated by the rigour of the system of colour modulation he imposed on his own representations. The succeeding generation of painters, however, eventually came to be receptive to nearly all of Cézanne's idiosyncrasies. Cézanne's heirs felt that the naturalistic painting of impressionism had become formularised, and a new and original style, however difficult it might be, was needed to return a sense of sincerity and commitment to modern art.
I like many of Cézanne’s still life paintings, such as the one I feature, and also some of his landscapes where the elements of the painting assume a strange sculptural quality that achieves monumental proportions. I would have to agree with him on his own self-assessment o his figural painters. His “Great Bathers" look like they were modelled on transsexual men soldiers whose transformation into the opposite sex was influenced the stalwart physique of the men and marred by worst efforts of a terrible plastic surgeon…
I have been blogging daily on this platform for several years now. It is surprising that I have persisted as the world is changing and "microblogging" is now the norm. I blog to amuse myself, make comment on current affairs, externalise some of my creativity, keep notes on things that interest me, learn something new and to surprise myself with things that I discover about this wonderful, and sometimes crazy, world we live in.
I sometimes get the impression that I am on a soapbox delivering a monologue, so your comments are welcome.