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kottke.org posts about greece

Greek Weird Wave

posted by Chrysanthe Tenentes   Apr 11, 2019

Greek Weird Wave

Perhaps you saw The Lobster (stunning and strange dystopian love story starring Rachel Weisz and Colin Farrell) or my recent Oscar favorite The Favourite (cheeky and wicked period drama with the powerhouse trio of Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, and Olivia Colman) or maybe you’ve been following him since 2009’s Dogtooth. All three are examples of the relatively new “Greek Weird Wave” cinema, from the genre’s godfather himself, Yorgos Lanthimos. It’s hard to find pieces on Weird Wave written in English, but Dazed has a roundup from a few years ago: Greece may be broke, but its film scene is rich. Here’s a more current list of films via IMDB.

A more recent piece on Medium went a bit deeper into what makes a film Greek Weird Wave, stylistically speaking:

Reclusive and isolated social groups, with specific rules and a tendency for confinement are certainly the center of Lanthimos movies. He uses his actors in an innovative way, directing them to play as unrealistically as possible, in a way that reminds us of marionettes or robots who are not yet really aware of the element of speech and thought. Every frame is designed and stylized strictly, to a great extent where the camera stays motionless in space, after being set in a carefully thought-out position, where the only movement comes from the actors playing in the scene. In this unorthodox way Lanthimos is trying to introduce us to his unique utopian environments and isolated social groups.

I’m hoping The Favourite’s ten Oscar nominations were enough to get Lanthimos and Greek Weird Wave more attention so we can see more films from the genre in coming years, especially ones filmed and produced in Greece. They can use the economic boost.

Athens architecture map from Curbed

posted by Chrysanthe Tenentes   Apr 08, 2019

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You likely know that the Greek islands are stunning and special, but you may not know that Athens is an incredible city for architecture, well worth more than a few days in between sunning yourself on beaches. Beyond the obvious ancient sites (go see a show in the Odeon of Herodes Atticus!), Athens has classic mid-century modern design, a local vernacular plus a number of important buildings from the past decade. Its cafe culture, hidden alleys, well-curated museums, walkable scale, and deep history give it a unique charm that can’t be quickly summed up. You’ll feel it immediately if you dine al fresco under the glow of the Acropolis at night.

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Some of Athens’ ancient sites have been recently updated with contemporary structures, such as the Acropolis Museum, other neighborhoods are worth a wander for the graffiti and shaded facades, and there is significant Bauhaus presence and influence beyond the Gropius-designed American Embassy.

May, June, and September are all prime times. I don’t recommend going in August when it is VERY hot, but if you must, you can stay cool with freddo cappuccino (strong iced coffee with cold-foamed milk), the pulpiest fresh-squeezed orange juice, and of course, frozen Greek yogurt (what Pinkberry wishes it could be) as the locals do. Local English-language publication Greece Is has lots of useful travel tips if you’re not sure where to start your planning.

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Ancient Greek Vase Shaped Like a Lobster Claw

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 08, 2019

Greek Claw Vase

Greek Claw Vase

Terracotta vase in the form of a lobster claw from the collection at the Met. Circa 460 BC.

Because so many aspects of Greek life depended on the sea, a vase in the shape of a lobster claw is not surprising. It is, however, exceptional and may be a variant of the askos — a bag-shaped oil container provided with a vertical mouth and strap handle. The Dionysiac iconography of the lobster claw suggests that it was a novelty item used at symposia (drinking parties).

The vase bears an inscription that reads “the boy is fair”.

What’s going on in Greece?

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 29, 2015

Socrates once wrote, “He is richest who is content with the least.” Even the great Greek philosopher would be feeling a little too rich today in Greece where citizens, greeted by news that the nation’s banks would be closed for the week, lined up at ATMs and employed the Socratic method with the repetition of the question: “Where the hell’s my money?” And if you’ve taken a look at your stock portfolio, there’s a decent chance you’ve asked your broker the same question. Here’s an overview of the Greek economic crisis from NYT Upshot, and the latest updates from BBC.

This global economy stuff is all Greek to me. If you’re feeling the same, you might appreciate Quartz’s guide to everything you need to know about this unfolding Greek tragedy, Mashable’s list of the five things you need to know about the meltdown, and Felix Salmon’s helpful explainer.

Michael Lewis explains the Greek financial crisis by comparing it to a Berkeley pedestrian.

He simply wants to stress to you, and perhaps even himself, that he occupies the high ground. In doing so, he happens to increase the likelihood that he will wind up in the back of an ambulance.

The secret to living forever

posted by Aaron Cohen   Oct 26, 2012

The NYTimes Magazine has a story about the Greek island of Ikaria where old people just keep getting older instead of dying. There are many theories as to why this is, but my favorite in the article boils down to diet (just kidding, I like the idea about naps and sex).

Following the report by Pes and Poulain, Dr. Christina Chrysohoou, a cardiologist at the University of Athens School of Medicine, teamed up with half a dozen scientists to organize the Ikaria Study, which includes a survey of the diet of 673 Ikarians. She found that her subjects consumed about six times as many beans a day as Americans, ate fish twice a week and meat five times a month, drank on average two to three cups of coffee a day and took in about a quarter as much refined sugar — the elderly did not like soda. She also discovered they were consuming high levels of olive oil along with two to four glasses of wine a day.

Chrysohoou also suspected that Ikarians’ sleep and sex habits might have something to do with their long life. She cited a 2008 paper by the University of Athens Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health that studied more than 23,000 Greek adults. The researchers followed subjects for an average of six years, measuring their diets, physical activity and how much they napped. They found that occasional napping was associated with a 12 percent reduction in the risk of coronary heart disease, but that regular napping — at least three days weekly — was associated with a 37 percent reduction. She also pointed out a preliminary study of Ikarian men between 65 and 100 that included the fact that 80 percent of them claimed to have sex regularly, and a quarter of that self-reported group said they were doing so with “good duration” and “achievement.”

Fuck you, pay me (Simonides of Keos)

posted by Tim Carmody   May 02, 2011

One thing I will be doing from time to time this week is pulling down random books from my shelves and writing about them, under the belief that the internet is better when not all of it comes from the internet. Here’s the first installment.

According to tradition, Simonides of Keos was the first Greek poet who composed and sung poems for money, rather than being kept by a patron. He was also famously stingy and liked to pose riddles:

They say that Simonides had two boxes, one for favors, the other for fees. So when someone came to him asking for a favor he had the boxes displayed and opened: the one was found to be empty of graces, the other full of money. And that’s the way Simonides got rid of a person requesting a gift.

Simonides’s world was one where old relationships of gift-exchange and patronage were breaking down in favor of what for Greeks was a fairly new invention, coinage. And all of his poetry and the stories around him seem to play with this: how the old world mythic heroes and Gods (Homer’s subjects) gave way to Olympic champions and rich merchants (Simonides’s subjects), the way value can be real but invisible, how words can be things that you exchange, like gifts or cash. This is one thing that helps make Simonides unusually modern.

That, at least, is poet/critic Anne Carson’s take in her terrific book Economy of the Unlost, which juxtaposes Simonides and the equally staggering twentieth-century poet Paul Celan:

Simonides of Keos was the smartest person in the fifth century B.C., or so I have come to believe. History has it that he was also the stingiest. Fantastical in its anecdoes, undeniable in its implications, the stinginess of Simonides can tell us something about the moral life of a user of money and something about the poetic life of an economy of loss.

No one who uses money is unchanged by that.

No one who uses money can easily get a look at their own practice. Ask eye to see its own eyelashes, as the Chinese proverb says. Yet Simonides did so, not only because he was smart.

Another argument Carson makes is that because Simonides was willing to write for anyone who would pay, his epigraphs — literally, writing that would be inscribed on a gravestone — is the “first poetry in the ancient Greek tradition about which we can certainly say, these are texts written to be read: literature” (emphasis mine).

Michael Lewis on the Greek financial crisis

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 15, 2010

Of all the stories I’ve heard about the recent financial crisis — the high-risk mortgage loans, the CDOs, the credit default swaps, the Icelandic crisis — the story of the collapse of the Greek economy by Michael Lewis in the October issue of Vanity Fair is the craziest. And it’s the only one involving monks.

The tsunami of cheap credit that rolled across the planet between 2002 and 2007 has just now created a new opportunity for travel: financial-disaster tourism. The credit wasn’t just money, it was temptation. It offered entire societies the chance to reveal aspects of their characters they could not normally afford to indulge. Entire countries were told, “The lights are out, you can do whatever you want to do and no one will ever know.” What they wanted to do with money in the dark varied. Americans wanted to own homes far larger than they could afford, and to allow the strong to exploit the weak. Icelanders wanted to stop fishing and become investment bankers, and to allow their alpha males to reveal a theretofore suppressed megalomania. The Germans wanted to be even more German; the Irish wanted to stop being Irish. All these different societies were touched by the same event, but each responded to it in its own peculiar way.

As it turned out, what the Greeks wanted to do, once the lights went out and they were alone in the dark with a pile of borrowed money, was turn their government into a pinata stuffed with fantastic sums and give as many citizens as possible a whack at it. In just the past decade the wage bill of the Greek public sector has doubled, in real terms-and that number doesn’t take into account the bribes collected by public officials. The average government job pays almost three times the average private-sector job. The national railroad has annual revenues of 100 million euros against an annual wage bill of 400 million, plus 300 million euros in other expenses. The average state railroad employee earns 65,000 euros a year. Twenty years ago a successful businessman turned minister of finance named Stefanos Manos pointed out that it would be cheaper to put all Greece’s rail passengers into taxicabs: it’s still true. “We have a railroad company which is bankrupt beyond comprehension,” Manos put it to me. “And yet there isn’t a single private company in Greece with that kind of average pay.” The Greek public-school system is the site of breathtaking inefficiency: one of the lowest-ranked systems in Europe, it nonetheless employs four times as many teachers per pupil as the highest-ranked, Finland’s. Greeks who send their children to public schools simply assume that they will need to hire private tutors to make sure they actually learn something. There are three government-owned defense companies: together they have billions of euros in debts, and mounting losses. The retirement age for Greek jobs classified as “arduous” is as early as 55 for men and 50 for women. As this is also the moment when the state begins to shovel out generous pensions, more than 600 Greek professions somehow managed to get themselves classified as arduous: hairdressers, radio announcers, waiters, musicians, and on and on and on. The Greek public health-care system spends far more on supplies than the European average-and it is not uncommon, several Greeks tell me, to see nurses and doctors leaving the job with their arms filled with paper towels and diapers and whatever else they can plunder from the supply closets.

Read the whole thing…it’s insane.

Athens’ modern Olympic ruins

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 18, 2010

Many of the stadiums and venues from the 2004 Athens Olympics are now lying abandoned, unused since the Games and symbolic of the disfunctional Greek economy.

Softball has no following in Greece, and the construction of a permanent softball stadium hasn’t changed that. […] Greeks like sports, but they like smoking more.

A city “winning” the right to host the Olympic Games seems like buying a pig in a poke.

A 2000 year-old Greek computer accurately tracked the

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 30, 2006

A 2000 year-old Greek computer accurately tracked the motion of the sun, the irregular orbit of the moon, and predicted lunar eclipses. “Remarkably, scans showed the device uses a differential gear, which was previously believed to have been invented in the 16th century. The level of miniaturisation and complexity of its parts is comparable to that of 18th century clocks.”

The Oxyrhynchus Papyri, a cache of previously

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 20, 2005

The Oxyrhynchus Papyri, a cache of previously unreadable ancient documents discovered a century ago, are now being read using IR imaging techniques. “Oxford’s classicists have used it to make a series of astonishing discoveries, including writing by Sophocles, Euripides, Hesiod and other literary giants of the ancient world, lost for millennia.”