Thursday, 15 November 2012


Earlier today, a young, unemployed girl in Athens, no more than 20 years old, set herself alight. I can't begin to imagine her state of being prior to her suicide. In times of crisis, many of us have thought, at least once or twice that we can't take it anymore. Obviously I am not referring to the absolute anymore but to the loss of any hope for a better future and to the forced compromise we feel that we are bound to make with the ugly present. 
For me it used to be once a month, now it's more like once a day but still, we have to keep moving, we just have. If not for us then for the people who have trusted us with their hearts. Tomorrow might not be the way we imagined it to be but, even now that I feel I am about to hit rock bottom, I am certain that with a bit of trying, if not tomorrow then maybe the day after tomorrow will be a better one because it simply has to be a better one. 
I don't have faith in Greece but I have faith in myself. With a bit of love and effort I will eventually build something. I am writing this now so that I read it every time I question myself. 
My only hope is that it won't take years for things to change. 
Cheers to the good days and cheers to the people who love us. 

Saturday, 10 December 2011

John William Waterhouse

'I am Half Sick of Shadows' said the Lady of Shalott

She left the web, she left the loom,

She made three paces thro' the room,

She saw the water lily boom,

She saw the helmet and the plume,

She looked down to Camelot.

Out flew the web and floated wide,

The mirror crack'd from side to side

'The curse is come upon me', cried

The Lady of Shalott.

And down the river's dim expanse,

Like some bold seer in a trance,


The broad stream bore her far away.

('The Lady of Shalott' by Tennyson)

I met a lady in the meads,

Full beautiful -a faery's child,

Her hair was long, her foot was light,

And her eyes were wild.

She took me to her elfin grot,

And there she wept, and sigh'd full sore,

And there I shut her wild wild eyes

With kisses four.

And there she lulled me asleep,

And there I dream'd -Ah! woe betide!

The latest dream I ever dream'd

On the cold hill's side.

I saw pale kings and princes too,

Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;

They cried -'La Belle Dam sans Merci

Hath thee in a thrall!'

('La Belle Dame Sans Merci' by Keats)

.. in a clear wall'd city on the sea,

Near gilded organ pipes, her hair

Wound with white roses, slept St. Cecily;

An angel look'd at her.

('The Palace of Art' by Tennyson)

Miranda (1875), the daughter of Prospero

('The Tempest' by Shakespeare)

'Get out of my sunshine', replied Diogenes

Nothing could be more pitiably effeminate than the appearance of this young man.. An unmeaning smiled dilated his thin, colourless lips; and as he looked down on his strange favourites, he occasionally whispered to them a few broken expressions of endearment, almost infantine in their simplicity. His whole soul seemed to be engrossed by the labour of distributing his grain, and he followed the different movements of the poultry with an earnestness of attention, which seemed almost idiotic in its ridiculous intensity. If it be asked, why a person so contemptible as this soltiary youth has been introduced with so much care, and described with so much minuteness, it must be answered, that, though destined to form no important figure in this work, he played, from his position, a remarkable part in the great drama on which it is founded -for this feeder of chickens was no less a person than Honorius, Emperor of Rome.

('Antonina; or, the Fall of Rome' by Collins)

'Where's my serpent of old Nile? For so he calls me'

('Antony and Cleopatra' by Shakespeare)

The Oracle or Teraph was a human head, cured with spices, which was fixed against the wall, and lamps being lit before it and other rites performed, the imagination of diviners was so excited that they supposed that they heard a low voice speaking future events.

Waterhouse, 1884.

Circe Offering the Cup to Ulysses

('Odyssey' by Homer)

Ulysses and the Sirens
('Odyssey' by Homer)

caerulaque induitur velamina perque ferarum

(Metamorphoses, Book XIV by Ovid)

Who would be a

A mermaid fair,

Singing alone,

Combing her hair

('The mermaid' by Tennyson)

So spake she, and our high hearts consented thereto. So then in the daytime she would weave the mighty web, and in the night unravel the same.

('Odyssey' by Homer)

Greek - FYROM relations in the early 1990s

On April 3, 2008, the NATO communiqué in Bucharest read that ‘an invitation to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia will be extended as soon as a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue has been reached’. The Karamanlis Premiership vetoed its northern neighbour’s accession into NATO and three years later, on December 5, 2011, the International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled that Greece was wrong to block FYROM's bid because of the row over its name.

According to the ICJ ruling, Greece breached its obligation not to object to the country’s admission to or membership in NATO under Article 11, paragraph 1, of the Interim Accord of 1995. Greece claimed that it was justified to block the candidacy because FYROM had already breached the Interim Accord. However the ICJ noted that only one breach had been established – the use of a prohibited symbol in 2004 – and that the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia had discontinued using the symbol that year. Moreover, it stated that Greece had failed to establish that it had objected to the NATO candidacy in response to that specific breach.

Τhe UN-led ‘Interim Accord’ (following the Security Council Resolution 817/1993) was a turning point for the relations between the two countries. In short, Greece recognized FYROM under its provisional name and lifted the (previously imposed) embargo while the latter removed the Greek Macedonian emblem from its flag and accepted the interpretation of certain clauses of its constitution which were likely to foment irredentist claims and justify interference in the domestic of Greece under the pretext of ‘caring for the status and rights’ of Macedonian minorities.

As the title of a remarkable book regarding the Greek stance towards Europe points out, in the 1990s, the role of Greece in a changing Europe (the dissolution of Yugoslavia) could possibly be placed between European Integration and Balkan Disintegration.

On the eve of the crisis in Yugoslavia, the EU committed itself to work towards the maintenance of the unity of the federal Yugoslav state. However, under German pressure, in 1991, the Extraordinary EPC Ministerial Meeting recognized the independence of Slovenia and Croatia, although the Badinter Arbitration Commission, previously set up by the EU to advise the members on the applications of the Yugoslav Republics for recognition, had disqualified Croatia. Genscher, the German Foreign Minister, made a deal with Samaras, the Greek Foreign Minister, to exclude the Yugoslav ‘Macedonia’ from recognition if Greece agreed to fall in line with the others on Croatia. In relation to FYROM, the Ministers decided that the newly born country should ‘adopt constitutional and political guarantees ensuring that it has no territorial claims towards a neighbouring Community State and that it will conduct no hostile propaganda activities versus a neighbouring Community State, including the use of a denomination which implies territorial claims’ (EPC Press Release 129/91). Subsequently, the Badinter Arbitration Commission issued an advisory opinion in favor of recognition that Greece considered as inadequate. Therefore, EU requested the Portuguese Presidency to approach the two sides in order to find a common acceptable solution. The ‘Pinheiro Package’, proposed by the Portuguese Foreign Minister, Joao Pinheiro, in April 1992, suggested the name ‘New Macedonia’ as a suitable state denomination. However, Samaras, following the maximalist ‘no Macedonia or its derivatives’, turned out the proposal. Even after the ‘Pinheiro Package’, Europe backed Greece although not all members were that keen on such a pro-Greek approach. In their meeting at Gimaraes, in May 1992, they declared that they could recognize the former SRM as an independent and sovereign state, ‘under a name which could be acceptable to all interested parties’. Furthermore, two months later, in the Lisbon summit, additionally to the Gimaraes declaration, the EU leaders stated that they would recognize the new state ‘under a name which will not include the denomination Macedonia’.

The wave of nationalist hysteria unleashed during the early 1990s made any potential compromise seem impossible. New ‘experts’ of the Macedonian Question emerged, the so-called ‘Macedonologues’, seeking to ‘enlighten’ the public on a rather complicated issue (Kofos 1999). Gradually, a unique consensus emerged through the politics of populism, strongly influenced by a faulty nationalistic perception over the facts and history. On the one hand, FYROM’s ‘Macedonian’ propaganda was historically unfounded. On the other hand, Greece’s reaction to the provocations was mishandled. The purpose of the slogan introduced in the one million strong demonstrations in Thessaloniki, in 1992, - ‘Macedonia is Greek’ (η Μακεδονία είναι Ελληνική) – was dual. To make a statement on the direct connection of the modern Greek Province of Macedonia to the ancient Macedonia and, therefore, defend the people’s right to their heritage and to declare that no tolerance is acceptable when Greek fundamental rights are being violated. Nevertheless, the aforementioned slogan was a misleading one, in the sense that although the territory of the ancient King Philip’s Macedonian Kingdom coincided, more or less, with the present Greek province, however, in modern times, Greece, Bulgaria and FYROM have the geographic right to parts of the wider region of the ‘Macedonia’. As Kofos points out (1999), even suggestions to use the term ‘Slav Macedonian’ or any other compound name (such as ‘Vardar Macedonia’) were viewed as national treason. The new independent state was christened ‘Skopje’ in public parlance as well as in official documents, while its people were referred as ‘Skopjans’. Even the century-old ‘Macedonian Question’ was purified to become ‘Skopjano’.

The Conservative government led by Mitsotakis had a very fragile majority in parliament and could not afford to take major political risks. The persistence of the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Antonis Samaras, in rejecting not only the usage of the name ‘Macedonia’ but, also, any other determinants, such as - Slav-Macedonian - led the country to a thorough international isolation. In October 1992, The Economist was writing that ‘Greek intractability infuriates the Community. Greece will be overruled. So Mr. Mitsotakis [the then Prime Minister] would like to find a way out of the mess. If it were not for the aggressive populists in New Democracy, he would be in favour of de facto recognition for Macedonia. But his two leading rivals for the party’s leadership resist this. Samaras, a former Foreign Minister, opposes the idea of a double name. This week Mr. Samaras resigned his seat, when the party snubbed him on the matter. Evert, a former star in the Prime Minister’s office, says he and his supporters will resign if “Macedonia” is recognized as such’ (The Economist, October 24th 1992). It is evident therefore that the traditional political culture in Greece had been a major obstacle in the adoption of a more pragmatic and issue-oriented policy style, independent from domestic populism and the short-term fear of leadership challenge.

The awkward way of handling the problem by the Greek diplomacy, other infamous policy initiatives such as the total commercial blockade (embargo) imposed on FYROM by Papandreou, in 1994, and the general persistence of Greece’s leadership in handling the situation as a ‘national issue’, gradually led Europe to differentiate from its EU partner and become more reluctant to the new state and less co-operative with Greece.

In conclusion, in the early 1990s, Greece, because of its nationalistic, symbolic and formalistic policy style, failed to use two of the most influential instruments for resolving problems; negotiation and compromise. The political consequences of the short-sided policies promoted a credibility gap between the country and its European partners that would take years to overcome and prohibited the country from playing an important role in the Balkans. New policy objectives were not introduced until after 1996 during the Simitis administration, at the core of which, the only successful route for the country was to modernize, ‘re-Europeanise’ and ‘de-skopjanise’ its Foreign Policy.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Don't be frightened, Mr. Gould is here

Conductor Leonard Bernstein's remarks from the podium prior to the New York Philharmonic concert of April 6, 1962.

Don't be frightened, Mr. Gould is here. He will appear in a moment. I'm not, as you know, in the habit of speaking on any concert except the Thursday-night previews, but a curious situation has arisen, which merits, I think, a word or two. You are about to hear a rather, shall we say, unorthodox performance of the Brahms D Minor Concerto, a performance distinctly different from any I've ever heard, or even dreamt of for that matter, in its remarkably broad tempi and its frequent departures from Brahms' dynamic indications. I cannot say I am in total agreement with Mr. Gould's conception, and this raises the interesting question: "What am I doing conducting it?". I'm conducting it because Mr. Gould is so valid and serious an artist that I must take seriously anything he conceives in good faith, and his conception is interesting enough that I feel you should hear it, too.

But the age-old question still remains: In a concerto, who is the boss? The soloist or the conductor?. The answer is, of course, sometimes the one and sometimes the other, depending on the people involved. But almost always, the two manage to get together by persuasion or charm or even threats to achieve a unified performance. I have only once before in my life had to submit to a soloist's wholly new and incompatible concept and that was the last time I accompanied Mr. Gould. But this time, the discrepancies between our views are so great that I feel I must make this small disclaimer. So why, to repeat the question, am I conducting it? Why do I not make a minor scandal - get a substitute soloist, or let an assistant conduct it?

Because I am fascinated, glad to have the chance for a new look at this much-played work. Because, what's more, there are moments in Mr. Gould's performance that emerge with astonishing freshness and conviction. Thirdly, because we can all learn something from this extraordinary artist who is a thinking performer, and finally because there is in music what Dimitri Mitropoulos used to callthe sportive element’, that factor of curiosity, adventure, experiment, and I can assure you that it has been an adventure this week collaborating with Mr. Gould on this Brahms concerto, and it's in this spirit of adventure that we now present it to you.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Reflections: Lost+

Five years ago I boarded on a plane to London. I studied. I worked. I had fun. Then I had my heart broken and like a doctor, I prescribed my self an antibiotic in the form of an airplane ticket to New York. I went. I saw. I spent. I healed. I boarded on a plane to Athens. Having lived in Greece for almost a year now I feel a changed person. I try hard not to lose faith in me, in other people and in the system. As a result, more and more do I lose faith in me, in people and in the system. Except for when I don’t. At times I feel strong, yet weak; fortunate, yet a touch pessimistic; regularly lucky and blessed. What amazed me most is the bonding with the people – the variables of my micro cosmos, who turned out to be the driving force to my road trip. We have had together many joyful and some not so joyful times. We have shared love, laughter and silence. We have run up hills, taken long walks, drove miles, visited places, danced until dawn, sang by the fire, held hands, exchanged beautiful glances, raised our glasses. We have come a long way.

Never before did I feel so disadvantaged yet so privileged. Having learned what ‘live within one’s means’ feels like, I have come to appreciate the truth and the hidden grace behind life’s much acclaimed simplicity. At last, I shook off Lord Tennyson’s brutal line, ‘and faith unfaithful kept him falsely true’.

This is the tale of a girl who, against all odds, in the past twelve months has lived merrily within her means, rain or shine. In all its vanity, this has been a mellow year. You have hope in me now.

I started writing this blog post as a tribute to my beloved friends. Life’s unforeseeable circumstances resulted in the loss of my brother’s dearest friend, Fanis. This post is dedicated to his loving memory for all the joy he brought to my brother’s life. May he rest in peace. His warm smile, kind eyes and soft voice will dwell in my soul forever.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Thoughts on Greece's new Prime Minister

Right after the appointment of Lucas Papademos as the country's new Prime Minister, I was asked my initial reaction on the news. In short, I believe that Papademos, not being a politician per se, has the potential to provide fair leadership at a time when the Greek people, let down by their politicians, are reaching their limits. His job is to act as a mediator between the people of the country, on the one hand, desperate for political stability and, on the other hand, the country's international partners and the market, in need for signals of commitment.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Top 11 Presidential Republican Candidate quotes of 2011

The Washington Post’s Chris Chilliza’s The Fix has recently put together a list of the 11 best /worst political quotes of 2011. Inspired by his twitter appeal, I compiled my personal favorite list of the 11 worst Presidential Republican Candidate quotes of 2011. For those of you who might wonder why I get fixated on GOP (God’s Own Party?), the answer is rather plain. At the moment I am half the way around the world and GOP is (one of) my source(s) of entertainment.

1. 'The first thing I'm going to do is build a double fence' - M. Bachmann (H. Cain, on the other hand, will build a fence twenty feet high, with barbed wire, electrified. With a sign on the other side that says ‘it can kill you’)

2. ‘The third agency of government I would do away with - the Education, the Commerce and let's see. I can't, the third one, I can't, sorry’ – R. Perry (Ooops!)

3. ‘That’s the order: religion, morality and knowledge’ – N. Gingrich (followed by How can I trust you with power if you don’t pray?)

4. ‘That's what freedom is all about: taking your own risks’ – R. Paul (in response to W. Blitzer’s question ‘He [30 year old man] doesn't have it [insurance] and he needs intensive care for six months. Who pays?’)

5. ‘You'd think by now they [politicians in Washington] would get the message. An earthquake, a hurricane. Are you listening?’ – M. Bachmann

6. ‘No, I will not. There is this creeping attempt to gradually ease Sharia law and the Muslim faith into our government’ – H. Cain (in response to ‘Would you be comfortable appointing a Muslim, either in your cabinet or as a federal judge?’)

7. ‘I ‘ve never hired an illegal in my life’ – M. Romney (actually, he did)

8. ‘Social security is a Ponzi scheme’ – R. Perry

9. ‘We should be like 1900, we should be like 1940, 1950, 1960. I propose [..] we tide people over until we come to our senses and realize that FEMA has been around since 1978’ – R. Paul (arguing that the federal government should reduce FEMA’s role in disaster relief. In fact, ‘the greatest natural disaster to ever strike the United States occurred in 1900 at Galveston, Texas’ according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. More than 6,000 people died)

10. ‘Evolution is a theory that’s out there and it’s got some gaps in it’ – R. Perry

11. ‘Removing "Don't Ask /Don’t Tell" I think tries to inject social policy into the military [..] and that’s tragic’ – R. Santorum