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Gaza we are Coming

A moving docu-thriller.

In August 2008, two wooden Greek ships laden with 44 activists from 17 different countries managed something no other vessel had in 41 years and broke the marine blockade that Israel has unilaterally imposed in Gaza, in contravention of international law.

The mission was the brainchild of the Free Gaza Movement, founded in 2006, who realised that the only realistic way of breaking through the blockade was via the sea.

However the project was fraught with delays and risks from the outset and in the words of Paul Larudee from the group: “This project died a thousand deaths and every time it was about to die someone, somebody new, stepped forward to save the project.”

The last such person was Vangelis Pissias, a Greek who was touched by the Palestinian issue during his youth in Egypt and provided the boats for the group to undertake the mission to Gaza.

All involved were aware of the perilous nature of the mission. Previous attempts have been thwarted and boats even exploded. Activists have also been found dead in suspicious circumstances.

Gaza, We Are Coming, is a special documentary that charts the history of the project to break the blockade of Gaza by sea.

It explores the motives of those involved including the ordinary Greeks who volunteered to participate in this dangerous but successful operation.

It also recounts how the boats were built secretly in Greek shipyards, the logistics involved, the attempts to thwart the mission and why it was laden with such historical importance and pressure to succeed.

Summer Travelogue

Daniel Fuller at Art:21 Blog –interesting:

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Upon arriving in Athens, several curious and helpful people gave me every warning to stay far away from the Kerameikos and Metaxourgeio neighborhoods, which was exactly where I was headed, for ReMap KM 2. Settled by new immigrants from Egypt, Iran, Afghanistan, and Lebanon, and dubbed Little Bangladesh, these neighborhoods are defined by poverty, drugs, petty crime, and prostitution.

Just as I was about to head into the first gallery, Nice & Fit from Berlin, a teenager came barreling around the corner, ran out into the intersection, and was gone without a trace. Six of Athens’s finest gave chase for a couple blocks before giving up the pursuit. Perhaps the bad reputation is sadly deserved. But there was a tremendously festive spirit that night. Hundreds of brave art appreciators were following maps, strolling between abandoned buildings where the 21 international galleries and 16 independent projects had set up squats. It felt like we visitors had set up a block party on derelict pedestrian streets after the residents had agreed to disappear for the night.

Many of us ended our tours at Breeder Gallery’s elegant new space at the end of the nearly empty Iasonos Street. Co-owner George Vamvakidis explained to me that these seedy blocks were once part of Athens’s most affluent neighborhood, the grand homes creating a romantic passageway. As the city expanded, younger residents moved to further out suburbs, their parents died, and the crumbling facades were left to decay. I asked George if it had been a good idea to relocate his gallery to oblivion. He said he liked the action the street gets—all types of action—and that the foot traffic increased as the city grew darker each night. As it turns out, the vast majority of the seemingly abandoned-looking buildings were far from empty. Rather, they had been adapted into brothels, woven into the massive web of Greece’s legal sex trade.

Early the next morning, when I returned to the area to take a few photos in the light, I found myself walking behind the only other person who was out and about. He was dressed smartly, with a polo shirt tucked into his jeans and I assumed him to be a fellow tourist, perhaps a gallery-hopping collector, as we were both fumbling maps while walking. Suddenly he stopped, looked left, looked right, steadied himself, and then bolted through the front door of one of the brothels. I was left alone in the middle of the walkway completely surprised.

Read more…

Knossos: Fakes, Facts, and Mystery

One enormous virtue of Cathy Gere’s Knossos and the Prophets of Modernism is that she leaves to one side the barren debate over whether Evans himself was a good or a bad character, either archaeologically or politically. Her subject is not so much the excavation of Knossos but the role that Minoan archaeology played within twentieth-century culture (and, conversely, how twentieth-century culture, from Evans on, projected its own concerns onto Minoan archaeology). It was at Knossos, she argues, that prehistory gave shape to a prophetic modernist vision, which repeatedly reinvented the Minoans as Dionysiac, peaceable protofeminists in touch with their inner souls.

Admittedly, they were presented in subtly different shades as time and politics moved on (more or less free love, for example), but they almost always appeared in stark contrast to the militaristic Aryan culture of their roughly contemporary prehistoric rivals, the Mycenaeans. From de Chirico to the Summer of Love, from Jane Ellen Harrison to Freud and H.D., theorists, artists, and dreamers found their future in the remote Minoan past.

Gere writes with clarity and wit, but she never sacrifices the fascinating complexity of her tale to a simple story line. She is excellent, for example, on the “blurry boundary between restorations, reconstructions, replicas, and fakes,” insisting that there is no clear and undisputed line that separates the processes of archaeology from those of invention or forgery. One of her most telling examples is the so-called “Ring of Nestor.” According to Evans’s own account (which is suspiciously vague on some of the details), this gold signet ring had been dug up by peasants on the Greek mainland near the site of Pylos, the legendary home of King Nestor, one of Homer’s heroes—hence the ring’s nickname. On the death of the finder, it passed to a neighbor, at which point Evans got to hear about it and “thanks to the kindness of a friend” (as he put it) he was shown an impression of its design. He immediately went to Pylos to acquire it. For, although it was not strictly Cretan, he believed that the intricate image on its bezel represented the Minoan Mother Goddess among scenes from the afterlife; and he was particularly excited by the vague traces of what he interpreted as butterflies and chrysalises (of the common white), “symbols of the life beyond.”

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Command a Room Like a Man

I can only think of one person who would find this post useful (and in the same time remotely flattering) but I doubt he’s a reader of fireEXIT. Be that as it may the reason this feed caught my attention was that the photo looked so very familiar and yet I had never seen it before.

Credits (and more) here.

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We’ve probably all seen those men who can enter any room and instantly command it. I’m not talking about the loud and boisterous dolt who makes a scene with obnoxious alpha-male jackassery. I’m talking about the man who exudes a silent magnetic charisma that electrifies the entire room just by his presence. People feel better when this type of man is around and they want to be near him.

The benefits of being able to walk into any social situation and completely own it are innumerable. The man who can command a room is more persuasive in his business presentations, easily meets and makes friends, and attracts more women. While many men are born with the ability to charismatically command a room, it can also be learned. Below we’ve provided a few tips to get you started on being El Capitan of any social or professional situation.

Walk in boldly. Many men walk into a room timidly because they don’t want to appear presumptions or self-important. While you shouldn’t barge into people’s home, once you’re invited in, walk in with a bit of pep in your step. You’re supposed to be there, so act like it.

Theodore Roosevelt was a master at walking into a room boldly. In 1881, Roosevelt was elected to the New York Assembly at the age of 23. Accounts from fellow assemblymen on Roosevelt’s first day in office all describe the impressive entrance of the young man. ()

More photos by Nat Farbman here. I found the details in a couple of them particularly spooky.

Greek police flatten migrant camp

Greek riot police have led an operation to demolish a makeshift camp housing illegal immigrants in the western port city of Patras.

The camp was used by migrants hoping to smuggle themselves onto ships bound for Italy and Western Europe.

Its closure is more proof of Greece’s tougher stance on illegal immigration.

The camp had been a source of tension with many Greeks who regarded it as a major eyesore for themselves and for tourists arriving from Italy.

About 100 riot police escorted bulldozers into the camp before dawn.
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They levelled scores of cardboard and plastic hovels.

Only a makeshift mosque and a tent used by volunteer doctors were left untouched.

The camp in Patras had been in existence in some form or another for 13 years.

A few months ago, it accommodated about 1,800 people, mainly from Afghanistan.

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Cringe moment of the month (This must have come via inter-party memos. I doubt the Foreign Office would be so wrong): “Turning the Tide on Democratic Pessimism”: The speech David Miliband delivered at Monday’s memorial lecture.

Now that Labour knows about Marousi that fourth term is in the bag =)

But I am struck by an example from a Parliamentary system closer to home. Only one European socialist party really did well in the European elections – in Greece – is also the party that has been most radical in its institutional reforms. The changes have been profound:

opening up the party so that now over 900 000 Greeks, out of a population of 11 million, have equal rights as members or ‘friends’

tackling a macho culture with quotas for male and female representation

taking forward innovation with the use of deliberative democracy to select the PASOK candidate for an Athens municipality, and open primaries to select party candidates for local elections

promoting high standards through a Members’ Ombudsman to guard ethical standards

committing to education through an Institute for Adult Education for all officers, members and friends

improving society through Every Day a Citizen, an organization dedicated to citizen engagement

and a pre Congress dialogue with debate on the political programme in 1600 teams and committees

We need to be exploring all these ideas.

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(via @vrypan)

Paolo Poloni conte l’histoire des Juifs de Thessalonique

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Le film de Paolo Poloni, partant des individus, de leur vie et de leurs souvenirs, rend compte d’un monde englouti, de la perte des relations d’un peuple, de sa culture et de sa langue, contant une histoire au carrefour entre les Balkans, l’empire ottoman et le monde hellénique.

L’histoire des juifs de Thessalonique, ville grecque sur la Méditerranée posée au sud des Balkans. Fondé sur le parcours existentiel des protagonistes, le film brosse un panorama historique et politique, une fresque cinématographique.

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* Salonica, the trailer

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(Hat tip: mgpolitis)

Frisée, poires et bleu

…ἔκτοσθεν δ’ αὐλῆς μέγας ὄρχατος ἄγχι θυράων
τετράγυος: περὶ δ’ ἕρκος ἐλήλαται ἀμφοτέρωθεν.
ἔνθα δὲ δένδρεα μακρὰ πεφύκασι τηλεθόωντα,
ὄγχναι καὶ ῥοιαὶ καὶ μηλέαι ἀγλαόκαρποι
συκέαι τε γλυκεραὶ καὶ ἐλαῖαι τηλεθόωσαι.
τάων οὔ ποτε καρπὸς ἀπόλλυται οὐδ’ ἀπολείπει
χείματος οὐδὲ θέρευς, ἐπετήσιος: ἀλλὰ μάλ’ αἰεὶ
Ζεφυρίη πνείουσα τὰ μὲν φύει, ἄλλα δὲ πέσσει.

— L’Odyssée, Chant vii

Au marché:

le coeur d’une salade frisée
2 poires mûres mais fermes
100 g de bleu d’Auvergne ou de bleu des Basques
50 g de noisettes
le jus d’un demi-citron
3 c. à soupe d’huile d’olive
1 c. à café d’huile de noisette
1 c. à soupe de vinaigre balsamique
1 c. à café de sauce de soja japonaise
poivre du moulin

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(Lire la suite)

Jonathan Littell’s letter to the Jury of the Athens Prize for Literature

The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell was awarded the Athens Prize for Literature (24 june 2009). This is Littell’s letter ‘To the Jury of the Athens Prize for Literature’:

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Barcelona, June 23, 2009

Ladies and gentlemen,

I have just been informed that my book Les Bienveillantes — Eumenides in Greek — has been awarded the Athens Prize for Literature. I am very touched by this honor, all the more so as it has been granted in and by the very city where those same Eumenides, pacified at last, were once settled “in honor for the rest of time,” to make “their home at Athene’s side.”

In the days when Aeschylus wrote his great tragedy, literature was a public affair, the affair of every citizen. It was a political affair, in which the most fundamental values and problems of the polis would be invoked and debated, a religious affair too, an affair of ethics as much as aesthetics. Judgment of the work was thus the business of the whole city. The prize that was awarded incarnated the public’s sense that the work had, in some important way, contributed to the public good, and the prize ceremony, like all political and religious ceremonies of the time, was a public event, one worthy of record, to be remembered by succeeding generations.

Today, the matter is different. While literature may touch on affairs of politics or religion, it no longer participates directly in them. Even when it seeks to explore the deepest questions besetting mankind, it now properly belongs, in the common view, to that sphere of human activity known as “culture.” The divorce, one might say, is complete. This fact in itself is neither admirable nor deplorable, it is simply a state of affairs. And as such it implies new roles, new responsibilities. It has always been my view that literature is a very private matter now, and that what takes place between a writer and his work belongs to a sphere utterly separate from the interaction of that work with those who read it, comment it, praise it or damn it. Privacy, for me, is a fundamental condition of creation, of work. It was so before my book was published, and must remain so now. It is in this spirit that I express my hope that my inability to join you today will be taken for what it is, an expression of our common love for literature. I thank you very much.

Jonathan Littell

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Related links:
* Transgression, The New York Review of Books (March 2009)

The singular achievement of Littell’s novel is the way in which he brings us uncomfortably close to the thinking of people whose careers took them from police work to euthanasia, and worse. The twist is that while Aue tries to get into the mind of an ordinary, working-class man like Döll, Littell very persuasively illumines the thoughts of Aue himself.

* ΔΟΘΗΚΑΝ ΤΑ ΒΡΑΒΕΙΑ/ επιστολή του Τζόνοθαν Λίτελ για τη βράβευση (in Greek)

* Photo source: New York Times, Books

Snatched from northern climes
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The emergent commons approach:

Greek demands to get back the Elgin marbles risk stopping a better idea: museums lending their treasures

The choice is between the free circulation of treasures and a stand-off in which each museum grimly clings to what it claims to own. Instead of grandstanding, the Greek culture minister should call the British Museum’s bluff and ask for a loan. The nervous British would then have to test the waters by, say, sending to Athens a single piece of the Parthenon frieze. If that piece were to be seized, then so be it. But if on the due date, the Greeks surprised everybody and returned the sculpture, then the lending programme would surely be expanded. By taking small steps, the Greeks may yet encourage the British to make the big leap.