robertogreco + ancientgreece   30

‘People are finally talking about class’: Astra Taylor on US democracy, socialism and revolution | Film | The Guardian
"Astra Taylor hasn’t always been interested in democracy. “There was this vagueness about the word that just seemed to be not just corruptible but almost inherently corrupt,” says the writer, film-maker and activist. “I was attracted to words like liberation, emancipation, equality, revolution, socialism. Any other word would get my pulse going more than democracy.” For her, democracy was a word imperial America used to sell free markets and push its agenda.

Yet Taylor, a lifelong activist, says that she also always felt there was “a contradiction” inherent in democracy that puzzled her. For all the cynicism the word attracted, she could see there was power in an idea meant to strengthen the people, a power that she explores in her new documentary, What Is Democracy?, and her upcoming book, Democracy May Not Exist, But We’ll Miss It When It’s Gone.

In the US, the election of Donald Trump in 2016 sundered the body politic, while that same year, the Brexit referendum split the UK. Trump has used his office to undermine the media, the legal system, the electoral process itself and anyone who questions his will – all while praising dictators and suggesting the US may one day have “a president for life”.

Russia has shown how foreign powers can use technology to hack democracy, the economic success of China’s one-party capitalism has demonstrated a different model, and the seemingly unstoppable rise of the 1% has laid bare how big money skews the system.

The D word really started to grip Taylor while she was writing her previous book, The People’s Platform, a critique of Silicon Valley’s self-interested “utopianism”, published in 2014. “I wanted to look at what a ‘democratic internet’ would look like,” she says. “Not an empty, Silicon Valley-type democracy, but a real one.”

Then there was her work with Occupy. In 2011, New York’s Zuccotti Park, a grim sunken square near Wall Street, became the focal point of a leaderless movement calling for change. Exactly what it wanted or how it would get it never really seemed clear, but the movement swept the US and the world. Occupy protests spread to 951 cities in 82 countries.

Critics were, and still are, cynical about Occupy. History may be kinder. “We are the 99%,” shouted the activists. The 1% had taken the reins of power. That idea has stuck and can be seen in most progressive political campaigns today, down to the eschewing of corporate cash for the small donations that are funding US politicians including Democratic presidential hopefuls Bernie Sanders, Beto O’Rourke and Elizabeth Warren.

Taylor also co-founded the Debt Collective, which grew out of Occupy; this buys student and medical debt on the debt markets and forgives it. It has wiped out $1bn (£770m) of debts so far and helped put student debt on the political agenda.

Occupy was “a shitshow – that’s a technical term,” says Taylor. Zuccotti Park was as divided by its constantly percussive drum circle as it was by its politics. “I love democracy more than I hate the drum circle,” read one sign in the park. Many Occupy activists were reluctant to engage with the existing system or even agree to properly define what changes they wanted, she says. There was a failure to translate protest into action. Democracy can’t be a place where “everyone has a voice but no one has any responsibility,” she says.

Taylor’s experience did get her thinking more about democracy. “There was this call for ‘real democracy’. So when you say that then you obviously believe there is ‘fake democracy’.”

In her new film and book, Taylor traces democracy back to its origins in Athens (a patriarchal slave state – we should have seen trouble coming) and then quizzes a diverse group of people, from the academic Cornel West to Syrian refugees and Trump-supporting Florida teens, asking what they now think of the word. The result? It’s not clear what any of us think democracy is or should be, or even if true democracy has ever existed (Taylor thinks not, although she thinks of democracy as a dynamic evolving concept that has yet to be achieved, and is more interested in exploring what the idea means to others than giving her own tight definition). That is Taylor’s aim: to make us think, to ask new questions and hopefully come up with new answers.

She is excited by some of the recent political shifts in the US. “For the first time in my life people are talking about class,” she says. “It’s just ridiculous that this was an unspeakable concept for so long – that is why we are in the predicament we are in.”

She is heartened to see a new generation of politicians, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, talking about “democratic socialism”. The S word was a no-no in US politics for generations, one that had “this sort of dated ring”, Taylor says. Now it is “something new, something that’s never been tried. Something in the future.”

While there has been plenty of bad news for democracy in recent years, there is no doubt that politics is changing. More women, more people of colour, teachers, LGBTQ candidates and people from low-income backgrounds are running for office, and winning. A new generation of activists are interested in union organising and strikes.

“People are thinking about power and how to take it, whereas the previous generation was more ambivalent about it, more anarchistic. Occupy was in that mould. There was a refusal to make demands – to do so was to legitimise the state,” she says.

And now? “You have millennials who are cheering on labour struggles. That’s amazing.”

While Taylor is hopeful change will come, she is wary of the powerful forces ranged against it and the left’s ability to mess it up. Nor does she think a “democratic socialist” future – if it’s even possible – would provide all the answers.

“We don’t live in an infinite world,” she says. Even a more equitable system would have to deal with inequality, not least in a world facing apocalyptic climate change. “To me, democratic socialism would just mean more interesting democratic dilemmas. We would no longer be arguing over whether billionaires should exist or be abolished – they should be abolished – but there are still so many questions,” she says.

Taylor is ready to ask those questions. Hip and lanky, she is the nice cool kid, the one in the band whose books and records you wanted to borrow, and who would let you. On top of her other work, Taylor is a musician who has played with her partner Jeff Mangum’s band, Neutral Milk Hotel. She’s a vegan who lives in Brooklyn (if this wasn’t obvious), and one of those interviewees who asks as many questions as she answers.

Her enquiring nature comes from her childhood. Born in Canada and raised in the other Athens, in the US state of Georgia, Taylor was “unschooled” – meaning she was allowed to learn, or not, when and how she liked and was never forced to go to school. The freedom inspired her. At 16, she enrolled at the University of Georgia, then quit for Brown, the elite Rhode Island university that counts John D Rockefeller Jr, the New York Times publisher AG Sulzberger and the actor Emma Watson among its alumni. She quit Brown too, deciding unschooling was a lifelong commitment.

The idea of unschooling is “built on a quite romantic notion of human nature”, she says. “That human beings are intrinsically good and curious and ambitious. Very Rousseau.”

She doesn’t think this is a good model for everyone. Some people need more structure, more guidance. “It’s almost rebellious of me that so much of my work as an adult activist is focused on public education, free public education,” she laughs.

But she believes in the ideas at the heart of unschooling – continual learning, encouraging curiosity, taking education outside the classroom and the school year and embracing trust. They are models we need now, she says, as we question a concept that many of us take for granted even as we worry about its future.

“For many, many students now education is anti-democratic,” she says. “It’s just a curriculum geared at essentially encouraging them to accept their lot in life.”

The decline in liberal arts and the rise of “practical” degrees in subjects such as pharmacology, nursing and construction management, she says, suggest a society that is tailoring people to the workplace rather than encouraging them to think about the big issues, while saddling them with major debts.

There is a structural reason for this, says Taylor. “I feel pretty pulled when young people ask me what to study, because I think they should study Plato and Rousseau. But not if it’s going to lead them to a lifetime of debt servitude. You can’t help but think of your education as something that needs a return on investment when it’s costing you $35,000 a year.”

Her book and film are an argument for the case that “of all academic disciplines, the one that demands to be democratised is political philosophy, which is basically the asking of the questions: how do we want to live? How should we live? What kind of people should we be? How should we govern ourselves? This is something that increasingly only the elites get to carve out time to think about. That is really a tragedy.”"
astrataylor  class  socialism  capitalism  democracy  2019  corruption  ows  occupywallstreet  activism  studentdebt  film  filmmaking  documentary  unschooling  publiceducation  education  curiosity  freedom  rousseau  plato  philosophy  debt  debtservitude  politics  policy  learning  howwelearn  donaldtrump  organizing  ancientgreece  athens  cornelwest 
25 days ago by robertogreco
Teju Cole en Instagram: “⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Brushing my teeth last night, on the cusp of the hour-stutter, I asked myself how evil came into the world. Pandora, the one who…”
"Brushing my teeth last night, on the cusp of the hour-stutter, I asked myself how evil came into the world. Pandora, the one who bears all gifts, is first named in Hesiod’s “Works and Days.” A century or so later, in the 6th century BCE, unknown Hebrew authors write “Genesis,” probably while in Babylonian exile, likely influenced by the Greek story.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Pandora opens the jar. Eve eats the fruit. The misogyny in the narratives is one parallel; another is that evil enters the world through too much knowledge. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, no less than Pandora’s Jar, is a device. The lid that is sprung, the knowledge that comes streaming out like arterial blood, the one-way torrent of pain that cannot be reversed or undone. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
The one who bears all gifts... ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Too much knowledge...
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
And no going back..."
tejucole  pandora  evil  knowledge  2018  ancientgreece  greekmyths  myths  religion  bible  babylonia  misogyny 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Can we hope to understand how the Greeks saw their world? | Aeon Essays
"The Greek colour experience was made of movement and shimmer. Can we ever glimpse what they saw when gazing out to sea?"
color  history  language  mariamichelasassi  ancientgreece  perception  2017  at  culture 
august 2018 by robertogreco
Diogenes - Wikipedia
"Diogenes (/daɪˈɒdʒəˌniːz/; Greek: Διογένης, Diogenēs [di.oɡénɛ͜ɛs]), also known as Diogenes the Cynic (Ancient Greek: Διογένης ὁ Κυνικός, Diogenēs ho Kunikos), was a Greek philosopher and one of the founders of Cynic philosophy. He was born in Sinope, an Ionian colony on the Black Sea,[1] in 412 or 404 B.C. and died at Corinth in 323 B.C.[2]

Diogenes was a controversial figure. His father minted coins for a living, and Diogenes was banished from Sinope when he took to debasement of currency.[1] After being exiled, he moved to Athens and criticized many cultural conventions of the city. He modelled himself on the example of Heracles, and believed that virtue was better revealed in action than in theory. He used his simple life-style and behaviour to criticize the social values and institutions of what he saw as a corrupt, confused society. He had a reputation for sleeping and eating wherever he chose in a highly non-traditional fashion, and took to toughening himself against nature. He declared himself a cosmopolitan and a citizen of the world rather than claiming allegiance to just one place. There are many tales about his dogging Antisthenes' footsteps and becoming his "faithful hound".[3]

Diogenes made a virtue of poverty. He begged for a living and often slept in a large ceramic jar in the marketplace.[4] He became notorious for his philosophical stunts, such as carrying a lamp during the day, claiming to be looking for an honest man. He criticized Plato, disputed his interpretation of Socrates, and sabotaged his lectures, sometimes distracting attenders by bringing food and eating during the discussions. Diogenes was also noted for having publicly mocked Alexander the Great.[5][6][7]

Diogenes was captured by pirates and sold into slavery, eventually settling in Corinth. There he passed his philosophy of Cynicism to Crates, who taught it to Zeno of Citium, who fashioned it into the school of Stoicism, one of the most enduring schools of Greek philosophy. None of Diogenes' writings have survived, but there are some details of his life from anecdotes (chreia), especially from Diogenes Laërtius' book Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers and some other sources.[8]"



"Death

There are conflicting accounts of Diogenes' death. He is alleged variously to have held his breath; to have become ill from eating raw octopus;[36] or to have suffered an infected dog bite.[37] When asked how he wished to be buried, he left instructions to be thrown outside the city wall so wild animals could feast on his body. When asked if he minded this, he said, "Not at all, as long as you provide me with a stick to chase the creatures away!" When asked how he could use the stick since he would lack awareness, he replied "If I lack awareness, then why should I care what happens to me when I am dead?"[38] At the end, Diogenes made fun of people's excessive concern with the "proper" treatment of the dead. The Corinthians erected to his memory a pillar on which rested a dog of Parian marble.[39]"



"Cynicism

Along with Antisthenes and Crates of Thebes, Diogenes is considered one of the founders of Cynicism. The ideas of Diogenes, like those of most other Cynics, must be arrived at indirectly. No writings of Diogenes survive even though he is reported to have authored over ten books, a volume of letters and seven tragedies.[40] Cynic ideas are inseparable from Cynic practice; therefore what we know about Diogenes is contained in anecdotes concerning his life and sayings attributed to him in a number of scattered classical sources.

Diogenes maintained that all the artificial growths of society were incompatible with happiness and that morality implies a return to the simplicity of nature. So great was his austerity and simplicity that the Stoics would later claim him to be a wise man or "sophos". In his words, "Humans have complicated every simple gift of the gods."[41] Although Socrates had previously identified himself as belonging to the world, rather than a city,[42] Diogenes is credited with the first known use of the word "cosmopolitan". When he was asked from where he came, he replied, "I am a citizen of the world (cosmopolites)".[43] This was a radical claim in a world where a man's identity was intimately tied to his citizenship of a particular city-state. An exile and an outcast, a man with no social identity, Diogenes made a mark on his contemporaries.

Diogenes had nothing but disdain for Plato and his abstract philosophy.[44] Diogenes viewed Antisthenes as the true heir to Socrates, and shared his love of virtue and indifference to wealth,[45] together with a disdain for general opinion.[46] Diogenes shared Socrates's belief that he could function as doctor to men's souls and improve them morally, while at the same time holding contempt for their obtuseness. Plato once described Diogenes as "a Socrates gone mad."[47]

Obscenity

Diogenes taught by living example. He tried to demonstrate that wisdom and happiness belong to the man who is independent of society and that civilization is regressive. He scorned not only family and political social organization, but also property rights and reputation. He even rejected normal ideas about human decency. Diogenes is said to have eaten in the marketplace,[48] urinated on some people who insulted him,[49] defecated in the theatre,[50] and masturbated in public. When asked about his eating in public he said, "If taking breakfast is nothing out of place, then it is nothing out of place in the marketplace. But taking breakfast is nothing out of place, therefore it is nothing out of place to take breakfast in the marketplace." [51] On the indecency of his masturbating in public he would say, "If only it were as easy to banish hunger by rubbing my belly."[52][53]

Diogenes as dogged or dog-like

Many anecdotes of Diogenes refer to his dog-like behavior, and his praise of a dog's virtues. It is not known whether Diogenes was insulted with the epithet "doggish" and made a virtue of it, or whether he first took up the dog theme himself. When asked why he was called a dog he replied, "I fawn on those who give me anything, I yelp at those who refuse, and I set my teeth in rascals."[20] Diogenes believed human beings live artificially and hypocritically and would do well to study the dog. Besides performing natural body functions in public with ease, a dog will eat anything, and make no fuss about where to sleep. Dogs live in the present without anxiety, and have no use for the pretensions of abstract philosophy. In addition to these virtues, dogs are thought to know instinctively who is friend and who is foe.[54] Unlike human beings who either dupe others or are duped, dogs will give an honest bark at the truth. Diogenes stated that "other dogs bite their enemies, I bite my friends to save them."[55]

The term "cynic" itself derives from the Greek word κυνικός, kynikos, "dog-like" and that from κύων, kyôn, "dog" (genitive: kynos).[56] One explanation offered in ancient times for why the Cynics were called dogs was because Antisthenes taught in the Cynosarges gymnasium at Athens.[57] The word Cynosarges means the place of the white dog. Later Cynics also sought to turn the word to their advantage, as a later commentator explained:
There are four reasons why the Cynics are so named. First because of the indifference of their way of life, for they make a cult of indifference and, like dogs, eat and make love in public, go barefoot, and sleep in tubs and at crossroads. The second reason is that the dog is a shameless animal, and they make a cult of shamelessness, not as being beneath modesty, but as superior to it. The third reason is that the dog is a good guard, and they guard the tenets of their philosophy. The fourth reason is that the dog is a discriminating animal which can distinguish between its friends and enemies. So do they recognize as friends those who are suited to philosophy, and receive them kindly, while those unfitted they drive away, like dogs, by barking at them.[58]

As noted (see Death), Diogenes' association with dogs was memorialized by the Corinthians, who erected to his memory a pillar on which rested a dog of Parian marble.[39]"
philosophy  stoicism  cynicism  diogenes  simplicity  simpleliving  voluntarypoverty  criticism  society  voluntarysimplicity  dogs  presence  present  everyday  plato  ancientgreece  socrates  practice  praxis  obscenity  cv 
march 2018 by robertogreco
Map showing the homeland of every character in Homer’s Iliad
"This is a map showing where all of the characters originated in Homer’s epic poem The Iliad. I know Greece is small by today’s standards, but it was surprising to me how geographically widespread the hometowns of the characters were. The Iliad is set sometime in the 11th or 12th century BC, about 400 years before Homer lived. I wonder if that level of mobility was accurate for the time or if Homer simply populated his poem with folks from all over Greece as a way of making listeners from many areas feel connected to the story — sort of the “hello, Cleveland!” of its time. (thx, adriana)

Update: I’ve gotten lots of feedback saying that not every character is represented in this map (particularly the women) and that some of the locations and hometowns are incorrect. Seems like Wikipedia might need to take a second look at it.

Update: The map was made using the Catalogue of Ships, a list of Achaean ships that sailed to Troy, and the Trojan Catalogue, a list of battle contingents that fought for Troy. That’s why it’s incomplete. An excerpt:
Now will I tell the captains of the ships and the ships in their order. Of the Boeotians Peneleos and Leïtus were captains, and Arcesilaus and Prothoënor and Clonius; these were they that dwelt in Hyria and rocky Aulis and Schoenus and Scolus and Eteonus with its many ridges, Thespeia, Graea, and spacious Mycalessus; and that dwelt about Harma and Eilesium and Erythrae; and that held Eleon and Hyle and Peteon, Ocalea and Medeon, the well-built citadel, Copae, Eutresis, and Thisbe, the haunt of doves; that dwelt in Coroneia and grassy Haliartus, and that held Plataea and dwelt in Glisas; that held lower Thebe, the well-built citadel, and holy Onchestus, the bright grove of Poseidon; and that held Arne, rich in vines, and Mideia and sacred Nisa and Anthedon on the seaboard.


(via @po8crg)"
maps  mapping  homer  theilliad  illiad  ancientgreece 
january 2018 by robertogreco
How Ancient Greek Statues Really Looked: Research Reveals their Bold, Bright Colors and Patterns | Open Culture
"“Did they have color in the past?” This question, one often hears, ranks among the darndest things said by kids, or at least kids who have learned a little about history, but not the history of photography. But even the kids who get seriously swept up in stories and images of the past might hold on to the misconception, given how thoroughly time has monochromatized the artifacts of previous civilizations. As much as such precocious youngsters have always learned from trips to the museum to see, for instance, ancient Greek statues, they haven’t come away with an accurate impression of how they really looked in their day.

Recent research has begun to change that. “To us, classical antiquity means white marble,” writes Smithsonian magazine’s Matthew Gurewitsch. “Not so to the Greeks, who thought of their gods in living color and portrayed them that way too. The temples that housed them were in color, also, like mighty stage sets. Time and weather have stripped most of the hues away. And for centuries people who should have known better pretended that color scarcely mattered.” But today, the right mix of inspection with ultraviolet light and infrared and x-ray spectroscopy has made it possible to figure out the very colors with which these apparently colorless statues once called out to the eye.

Enter German archaeologist Vinzenz Brinkmann, who, “armed with high-intensity lamps, ultraviolet light, cameras, plaster casts and jars of costly powdered minerals,” has “spent the past quarter century trying to revive the peacock glory that was Greece” by “creating full-scale plaster or marble copies hand-painted in the same mineral and organic pigments used by the ancients: green from malachite, blue from azurite, yellow and ocher from arsenic compounds, red from cinnabar, black from burned bone and vine.” You can see the results in the Getty Museum video at the top of the post.

In the years since the discovery of ancient Greek statues’ original colors, the reactions of us moderns have, shall we say, varied. We’ve grown accustomed to, and grown to admire, the austerity of white marble, which we’ve come to associate with an idea of the purity of antiquity. (The Getty itself used a similarly evocative stone, extensively and at staggering expense, in the construction of their Richard Meier-designed complex overlooking Los Angeles.) And so the bold colors revealed by Brinkmann and his collaborators may, on first or even second glance, strike us as gaudy, kitschy, tacky. However you re-evaluate its aesthetics, though, you have to feel a certain exhilaration at the fact that the ancient world has continued to hold surprises for us."
ancientgreece  art  color  2016  vinzenzbrinkmann 
september 2016 by robertogreco
Inspiration Information: “The Whispering Muse” - The New Yorker
"At the beginning of my novel “The Whispering Muse,” the two main narrators meet for the first time in the mess room of a freighter on its maiden journey from Denmark to the Black Sea. As the octogenarian racial theorist/fish enthusiast Valdimar Haraldsson sizes up the ship’s muscular second mate, a man of the hesitant, storytelling type, he is surprised to see that his rival uses a primitive gadget to help him tell his tale:
Before embarking on his tales the mate had the habit of drawing a rotten chip of wood from his pocket and holding it to his right ear like a telephone receiver. He listened to the chip for a minute or two, closing his eyes as if in sleep, while under his eyelids his pupils quivered to and fro.

When the ship’s captain sees how flabbergasted old Haraldsson is by the second mate’s pantomime with this piece of wood—which looks like nothing so much as the rotten driftwood that used to wash up on the shores of his youth, “bored by worms, gnawed by insects, polished by wind and water, hammered by rocks”—he leans in and whispers, “That’s where he gets the story from … ”

The chip of wood turns out to be a splinter from the bow timber of the great ship Argo, the famous vessel steered through the Mediterranean Sea by the legendary Jason, the son of Aeson, and powered by his crew of heroes, the Argonauts. Because the bow of the Argo was fashioned from one of the talking oaks of Zeus, the splinter keeps a spark of its old power, a whisper of its original voice. It carries across the millennia the tales of its travels and the adventures of its crew:
At first it is wordless, like crooning over a cradle, then it swells into a song. The singer is a woman.

Just as the second mate relies on his instruments of wood and words to inspire his narration, so did I use a handful of metaphorical whispering devices to inspire and inform my writing of the novel: five books made from tree pulp, their pages sprinkled with letters.

The first of these was “Innan lands og utan” (“Home and Abroad”), a suspiciously boring book of travel stories written by my great-grandfather, Matthías Þórðarson frá Móum, an avid but forgotten author of books about the fish trade and himself. In it, he tells three stories: the first about his return to Iceland from Copenhagen after years abroad; the second about a visit to the Setes Valley, in Norway; and the third about a sea journey in the late nineteen-forties from Copenhagen to the Mediterranean.

Each story has its particular charm. In the first, he describes how happy and honored his countrymen were to see him again after all his years away; in the second, he is captivated by the traditional costumes and rhymed poetry of the Setes Valley people, their pale skin color, ruddy cheeks, and fine body postures; and, in the third, he is more occupied with the inside of the ship than anything that happens outside it—even when he steps ashore, in Morocco, and visits one of its Grand Bazaars, the narration falls flat compared to his enthusiastic descriptions of his cabin. It was this third story that caught my eye as possible material. Its “anti-narration” had the flavor of modernist writing in its main character’s insistent refusal to engage with what is supposed to be noteworthy in a story. Yet it wasn’t enough to sustain a whole novel.

Then I came across a two-part essay that my great-grandfather published in an Icelandic journal in 1936. It is called “Fiskur og menning” (“Fish and Culture”), and, while I read it, the image that I had had of him as a rather amusing but boring old fart got both weirder and darker. In the essay, he proposes, in all seriousness, a theory about the relationship between fish consumption and the superiority of the Nordic race. With its overt agenda of genetic purity, it’s quite an unsavory piece of writing. I figured that enough shadows had now been added to the old man’s character to keep a writer and his reader busy for at least a hundred and fifty pages. But the thought of being locked up for weeks on end on a ship with my fish-obsessed, racist great-grandfather instantly brought on an intense feeling of suffocation. I had to find a way to make it bearable.

Aboard his freighter, my great-grandfather had mentioned a crew member who continually told stories. He could be my ally against boredom! But, because my great-grandfather had found the sailor’s tales too cheap and dirty to record, I had to look elsewhere for tales from the salty seas. Two years earlier, at the annual used-book market in Reykjavík, a book had caught my eye by virtue of its ridiculous cover. It was garishly bedecked with photographs of a sturdy man in situations that clearly showed that he had sailed the seven seas, had feasted in many a harbor, and flexed his muscles both fighting and embracing. Of course, I had brought it home. The book, “Enn sigli ég minn sjó” (“More Life on the Ocean Wave”), was the seafaring memoirs of Hrafn Valdimarsson, and it was a horn of plenty when it came to tales of hardship on the seas and adventures in faraway lands. To my joy, I soon discovered that it was the sequel to “Ég sigli minn sjó” (“Life on the Ocean Wave”), in which the events described so shamelessly were even more delectable.

I had definitely found a figure strong enough to counter the lectures on racial superiority and seafood. But, as I started pitching him against the old man in my novel, who by now had acquired the name Valdimar Haraldsson, I realized that even these tales left no bigger mark on my fictional character than they had on my great-grandfather. I needed something that would clash like a titan’s shield against the overwhelming banality of one of the poorest excuses for a myth in modern times: the myth of the Nordic Übermensch.

The year before, I had traveled to Greece to be at the opening ceremony of the 2004 Olympic Games, in Athens, where Björk sang the song that she and I had written for the occasion. The lyrics had been inspired by the Greek myths, with their cycles of metamorphosis and their complicated interactions between man and the superior powers that surround him, and so I made a point during my stay to visit the ruins of the great Temple of Poseidon, at Sounion. There, I discovered that Poseidon had never left the dilapidated temple, that in fact he still lay, in his magnificent blueness, at the bottom of the cliffs that supported this structure that men had so long ago built in his honor. With the memory of that year’s Indonesian tsunami fresh in my mind, I knew that, although he was calm and beautiful on the day of my visit to his temple, Poseidon remained an uncontrollable, unpredictable force. He and his fellow gods from Mount Olympus had not forsaken us, even if we had forsaken them.

Now I turned to them for help.

After a short search through my library that included quickly rejecting the Odyssey (for the obvious reason that it has already been used with good results by diverse novelists and poets, such as James Joyce and Derek Walcott, to name but two), I found a story, a setting, and a character that matched the journey I had already set out on. The story was the Argonautica, by Appollonius of Rhodes. It was a story that I thought I knew well from repeated viewings of the Ray Harryhausen film “Jason and the Argonauts” at the Sunday matinées of my childhood. But now I discovered an episode in the original that takes place well before the Argo sails through the Symplegades in search of the Golden Fleece, a tale of how the fearless captain and his crew of mighty heroes become trapped on Lemnos, an island of women who take the Argonauts on as lovers/sex slaves while they repopulate their nation. It is a gem of a seafaring tale—the germ of a tale—that has been told in an endless variety of ways ever since. And it was a tale that I knew a sailor like Hrafn Valdimarsson would have loved, and would have loved to tell.

From the crew list of the Argo (as it is proposed by Robert Graves), I hired a little-known hero who, I believed, brought the most interesting point of view on the situation of a group of men held captive by their lust for womanly flesh: Caeneus, who had been born a girl but metamorphosed into an invincible man after being raped by Poseidon; after life as a soldier, he transformed into a bird in a battle with the centaurs. Now he could take on the unlikely guise of the second mate aboard my novel’s merchant ship.

That is how an alliance was made between the ancient hero Caeneus and the Icelandic seaman Hrafn Valdimarsson, how their voices, their fates, were joined to fight the intolerable drone of my great-grandfather. But even great men like those two need an amazing tool to help them to tell their tale: a talkative, rotten chip of wood that came from the great ship Argo itself. At the end of “The Whispering Muse,” the old man does indeed learn a lesson, but the cost to his rival storyteller is dear.

My great-grandfather died in 1959, having completed his magnum opus, “Síldarsaga Íslands” (“The History of Herring Fishing in Iceland”). It is said that Hrafn Valdimarsson spent his last years in Greenwich Village. Caeneus is eternal and flying around the world on his seagull’s wings.

As I walked through the Village during my stay in New York for the World Voices Literary Festival, I heard a seagull’s scream: “ARRK! ARRK!”

That is a tale for another day, but now you know where I got my story."
sjón  2014  iceland  writing  literature  howwewrite  research  storytelling  odyssey  ancientgreece  combinatorywriting  fish  culture  history  argonautica  appollonius  rayharryhausen 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Mary Beard · The Public Voice of Women · LRB 20 March 2014
"There is more to all this than meets the eye, however. This ‘muteness’ is not just a reflection of women’s general disempowerment throughout the classical world: no voting rights, limited legal and economic independence and so on. Ancient women were obviously not likely to raise their voices in a political sphere in which they had no formal stake. But we’re dealing with a much more active and loaded exclusion of women from public speech than that – and, importantly, it’s one with a much greater impact than we usually acknowledge on our own traditions, conventions and assumptions about the voice of women. What I mean is that public speaking and oratory were not merely things that ancient women didn’t do: they were exclusive practices and skills that defined masculinity as a gender. As we saw with Telemachus, to become a man – and we’re talking elite man – was to claim the right to speak. Public speech was a – if not the – defining attribute of maleness. A woman speaking in public was, in most circumstances, by definition not a woman. We find repeated stress throughout ancient literature on the authority of the deep male voice. As one ancient scientific treatise explicitly put it, a low-pitched voice indicated manly courage, a high-pitched voice female cowardice. Or as other classical writers insisted, the tone and timbre of women’s speech always threatened to subvert not just the voice of the male orator, but also the social and political stability, the health, of the whole state. So another second-century lecturer and guru, Dio Chrysostom, whose name, significantly, means Dio ‘the Golden Mouth’, asked his audience to imagine a situation where ‘an entire community was struck by the following strange affliction: all the men suddenly got female voices, and no male – child or adult – could say anything in a manly way. Would not that seem terrible and harder to bear than any plague? I’m sure they would send off to a sanctuary to consult the gods and try to propitiate the divine power with many gifts.’ He wasn’t joking.

What I want to underline here is that this is not the peculiar ideology of some distant culture. Distant in time it may be. But this is the tradition of gendered speaking – and the theorising of gendered speaking – of which we are still, directly or more often indirectly, the heirs. I don’t want to overstate the case. Western culture doesn’t owe everything to the Greeks and Romans, in speaking or in anything else (thank heavens it doesn’t; none of us would fancy living in a Greco-Roman world). There are all kinds of variant and competing influences on us, and our political system has happily overthrown many of the gendered certainties of antiquity. Yet it remains the fact that our own traditions of debate and public speaking, their conventions and rules, still lie very much in the shadow of the classical world. The modern techniques of rhetoric and persuasion formulated in the Renaissance were drawn explicitly from ancient speeches and handbooks. Our own terms of rhetorical analysis go back directly to Aristotle and Cicero (it’s common to point out that Barack Obama, or his speech writers, have learned their best tricks from Cicero). And so far as the House of Commons is concerned, those 19th-century gentlemen who devised, or enshrined, most of the parliamentary rules and procedures that we are now familiar with were brought up on exactly those classical theories, slogans and prejudices that I’ve been quoting. Again, we’re not simply the victims or dupes of our classical inheritance, but classical traditions have provided us with a powerful template for thinking about public speech, and for deciding what counts as good oratory or bad, persuasive or not, and whose speech is to be given space to be heard. And gender is obviously an important part of that mix."



"These attitudes, assumptions and prejudices are hard-wired into us: not into our brains (there is no neurological reason for us to hear low-pitched voices as more authoritative than high-pitched ones); but into our culture, our language and millennia of our history. And when we are thinking about the under-representation of women in national politics, their relative muteness in the public sphere, we have to think beyond what the prime minister and his chums got up to in the Bullingdon Club, beyond the bad behaviour and blokeish culture of Westminster, beyond even family-friendly hours and childcare provision (important as those are). We have to focus on the even more fundamental issues of how we have learned to hear the contributions of women or – going back to the cartoon for a moment – on what I’d like to call the ‘Miss Triggs question’. Not just, how does she get a word in edgeways? But how can we make ourselves more aware about the processes and prejudices that make us not listen to her."
2014  marybeard  classics  feminism  gender  voice  communication  women  speech  ancientgreece  ancientrome 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Nigel Warburton –Cosmopolitanism
"Life is bearable in part because we can so easily resist imagining the extent of suffering across the globe. And if we do think about it, for most of us that thinking is dispassionate and removed. That is how we as a species live. Perhaps it’s why the collective noun for a group of apes is a ‘shrewdness’."

"But Diogenes wasn’t simply trying to scorn orthodoxy and shock those around him. His declaration was a signal that he took nature — the cosmos — as his guide to life, rather than the parochial and often arbitrary laws of a particular city-state. The cosmos had its own laws. Rather than being in thrall to local custom and kowtowing to those of high status, Diogenes was responsible to humanity as a whole. His loyalty was to human reason, unpolluted by petty concerns with wealth and power. And reason, as Socrates well knew, unsettled the status quo."

"One source of evil in the world is people’s inability to ‘decentre’ — to imagine what it would be like to be different, under attack from killer drones, or tortured, or beaten by state-controlled thugs at a protest rally. The internet has provided a window on our common humanity; indeed, it allows us to see more than many of us are comfortable to take in. Nevertheless, in principle, it gives us a greater connection with a wider range of people around the world than ever before. We can’t claim ignorance if we have wi-fi. It remains to be seen whether this connection will lead to greater polarisation of viewpoints, or a new sense of what we have in common."

[Goes well with: http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/archives/2013/03/01/facebook-college.html and http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/02/27/dont_trust_anyone_over_70 ]
petersinger  kwameanthonyappiah  philosophy  empathy  cosmopolitanism  culture  nigelwarburton  casssunstein  facebook  twitter  internet  blogs  blogging  ideas  connectivism  poverty  2013  diogenes  athens  ancientgreece  identity  nationalism  globalism  cynicism  cv  local  localism  glocal  jamesjoyce  circlesofresidence  stephendedalus 
march 2013 by robertogreco
Zooniverse - Ancient Lives
"The data gathered by Ancient Lives helps scholars study the Oxyrhynchus collection. Transcriptions collected digitally are combined with human and computer logic to identify known texts and documents."
oxyrhynchus  ancientgreece  ancientgreeks  history  zooniverse  from delicious
november 2011 by robertogreco
BBC Dimensions: Democracy of Classical Athens
"Athens is cited as the birthplace of democracy yet only a fraction of its people were allowed to vote.<br />
<br />
How many of your friends would have been able to vote?"
athens  greece  comparison  classideas  ancientcivilization  ancientgreece  howmanyreally?  from delicious
september 2011 by robertogreco
Amazon.com: The Genealogy of Greek Mythology: An Illustrated Family Tree of Greek Myth from the First Gods to the Founders of Rome (9781592400133): Vanessa James: Books
"A stunning, fully illustrated and comprehensively annotated genealogical map of the universe of Greek myth, presented in a unique, easy-to-use format. <br />
From the television hit Xena, to the Oscar-winning box-office smash Gladiator and to Broadway's Medea, the sagas of antiquity continue to attract avid audiences. Now the lore and legend of Ancient Greece have been distilled into one spectacularly illustrated resource. The Genealogy of Greek Mythology brings to life the complete cast of characters, mortal and mythic alike. <br />
Accompanied by more than 125 captivating full-color photographs of art and artifacts, the narratives and bloodlines mapped out in The Genealogy of Greek Mythology are wonderfully user friendly. Beginning with Chaos-the period before the Earth was born-Vanessa James traces the succession of gods and titans through to the first generations of historically verifiable people of the ancient Aegean…"
books  toorder  classideas  greekmyths  greeks  myths  ancientgreece  genealogy  mythology  from delicious
august 2011 by robertogreco
(hm) Electric Literacy Playground
[Wayback link: https://web.archive.org/web/20101028060343/http://www.headmine.net/electric-literacy-playground ]

"In the 20th century, youth culture gave birth to a new sensory training ground that helped us explore and adapt to the emerging electronic environment."

""To think of such a culture as 'preliterate' is already to distort it. It is like thinking of a horse as an automobile without wheels." - Walter Ong"

"Since we are, like the ancient Athenians, living through the beginning of a major technological revolution that is putting pressures on every aspect of our cultural fabric, de Kerckhove's study of the Greek theater should make us pause and ask ...

"What would a playground for electric literacy look like?" and "Have we already created such an environment?""

"What would a sensory training ground for electric literacy feel like?"

"The distinctions between art and utility are already beginning to blur in our digital world."
education  technology  culture  history  media  art  headmine  utility  glvo  cv  literacy  senses  sensory  training  unschooling  deschooling  digital  marshallmcluhan  ancientgreece  play  digitalliteracy  society  sensemaking  bighere  longnow  walterong  tcsnmy  lcproject  shiftctrlesc  secondaryorality  from delicious
june 2011 by robertogreco
International Philosophy Sketch from Monty Python
"The Germans playing 4-2-4, Leibniz in goal, back four Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer and Schelling, front-runners Schlegel, Wittgenstein, Nietzsche and Heidegger, and the mid-field duo of Beckenbauer and Jaspers. Beckenbauer obviously a bit of a surprise there."
humor  philosophy  football  satire  film  montypython  wittgenstein  kant  nietzsche  heidegger  hegel  leibniz  plato  socrates  aristotle  archimedes  sophocles  ancientgreece  soccer  sports  futbol  from delicious
march 2011 by robertogreco
Museum - Wikipedia
"The English "museum" comes from the Latin word, and is pluralized as "museums" (or rarely, "musea"). It is originally from the Greek Μουσεῖον (Mouseion), which denotes a place or temple dedicated to the Muses (the patron divinities in Greek mythology of the arts), and hence a building set apart for study and the arts, especially the Musaeum (institute) for philosophy and research at Alexandria by Ptolemy I Soter about 280 BCE. The first museum/library is considered to be the one of Plato in Athens. However, Pausanias gives another place called "Museum", namely a small hill in Classical Athens opposite the Akropolis. The hill was called Mouseion after Mousaious, a man who used to sing on the hill and died there of old age and was subsequently buried there as well."
etymology  words  english  history  museums  muses  art  arts  philosophy  ancientgreece  ancientgreeks  latin  from delicious
january 2011 by robertogreco
From the Trenches - Carved in Living Color
"Leave your preconceived notions of ancient art at home. A groundbreaking exhibition at Harvard University's Arthur M. Sackler Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts, shows how marble statues actually looked in antiquity: covered from head to toe in vibrant paint. Based on 25 years of research by Vinzenz Brinkmann, formerly a curator at the Glyptothek Museum in Germany, Gods in Color: Painted Sculpture of Classical Antiquity features more than 20 full-size color reconstructions of Greek and Roman works, alongside 35 original statues and reliefs." [via: http://io9.com/5616498/ultraviolet-light-reveals-how-ancient-greek-statues-really-looked]
ancient  archaeology  greece  sculpture  history  ancienthistory  ancientgreece  arthistory  painting  art  statues  from delicious
august 2010 by robertogreco
A Walk Through the Ancient World
"When the first immersive 3D games came out, I asked a programmer if he knew of anyone who had used that technology to create a Virtual Ancient Rome or Ancient Athens. I loved the idea of walking around in a place whose current face was changed out of all recognition from its golden age. He shook his head. Creating virtual worlds was way too time consuming and required too much specialist knowledge and so was too expensive. A virtual Rome wouldn't create the profit that Doom did.

Fast forward a decade and the programming necessary becomes easier to do and the number of people who know how to do it have increased substantially. The costs involved in creating a virtual world have decreased at the same time that academic and scholarly institutions have become much more willing to invest in it.

Now that it's quite a bit easier to find a virtual ancient city to stroll through, I thought I would survey a few options and provide you with a short virtual atlas of the ancient world."
ancient  ancientrome  classics  archaeology  middleages  history  ancientgreece  3d  virtual  tcsnmy  classideas  ancientcivilization  ancienthistory  ancienchina  china  rome  athens  mexico  ancientmexico 
july 2010 by robertogreco
Encyclopedia Mythica: Pronunciation guide [via: http://ayjay.jottit.com/links_for_students]
"This pronunciation guide is mainly for English speaking readers. The pronunciation of Greek and Latin words in other languages, such as Dutch or German or Spanish, is quite different. We can expect that the pronunciation of some words will remain highly disputable and we will never get consensus about. The main function of this guide is to give readers at least some idea of how to pronounce the names of the various deities mentioned in this encyclopedia."
tohare  tcsnmy  ancientgreece  pronunciation  greek  greece  mythology  myths  literature  classics  ancient  srg 
july 2010 by robertogreco
Charlotte Higgins says one of the most interesting aspects of Barack Obama's speeches is the enormous debt they owe to the oratory of the Romans | World news | The Guardian
"Here's the thing: to understand the next four years of American politics, you are going to need to understand something of the politics of ancient Greece and Rome.
via:regine  barackobama  rhetoric  speech  oratory  elections  2008  ancientgreece  ancientrome  communication  cicero 
november 2008 by robertogreco
Decoding The Heavens | Jo Marchant | Home
" In 1900 a group of sponge divers blown off course in the Mediterranean discovered an Ancient Greek shipwreck dating from around 70 BC. Lying unnoticed for months amongst their hard-won haul was what appeared to be a formless lump of corroded rock. It turned out to be the most stunning scientific artefact we have from antiquity. For more than a century this 'Antikythera mechanism' puzzled academics. It was ancient clockwork, unmatched in complexity for 1000 years - but who could have made it, and what was it for? Now, more than 2000 years after the device was lost at sea, scientists have pieced together its intricate workings and revealed its secrets."
technology  computing  via:preoccupations  antikytheramechanism  tcsnmy  ancientcivilization  ancientgreece  ancienthistory  ancients  archaeology  astronomy 
november 2008 by robertogreco
A life in writing: Derek Walcott | Books | The Guardian
""I always have difficulty with the Greek tragic plays...Do you believe in the myth that the play expresses?...You can't act a myth...the poet...can make his language grandiose, but the interior tone must be human. That's the achievement of Shakespeare: this grandiose poetry is spoken as if somebody could say it""; "Walcott insisted on "the importance of the shape that you make out of a poem...Pasternak said: 'Great poets have no time to be original.'" Imitation..."is not only a form of flattery, but is in a way creation. No two things are going to be alike. Whatever you bring to the craft is going to be individualistic"; ""the totalitarian view of anything, the callous view, the indifference to beauty. If you are indifferent to that, as part of your politics, then everything is permissible. If you can say God is dead, then harmony is dead, melody is dead, music is dead, therefore faith is dead. Therefore it's easy to do what you have to do in the name of necessity""
via:preoccupations  derekwalcott  poetry  ancientgreece  inspiration  originality  literature  storytelling  writing  latinamerica  caribbean  imitation  creativity  opera  race 
october 2008 by robertogreco
'The Odyssey' and 'The Iliad' are giving up new secrets about the ancient world - The Boston Globe
"But thanks to evidence from a range of disciplines, we are in the middle of a massive reappraisal of these foundational works of Western literature. Recent advances in archeology and linguistics offer the strongest support yet that the Trojan War did take place, with evidence coming from the large excavation at the likely site of Troy, as well as new analysis of cuneiform tablets from the dominant empire of the region. Insights from comparative anthropology have transformed studies of the society that created the poems and allowed us to analyze the epics in a new way, suggesting that their particular patterns of violence contain a hidden key to ancient Greek history - though not necessarily the key that Homer's readers once thought they were being given."
classics  greece  ancientgreece  homer  literature  myth  archaeology  history  tcsnmy  classideas 
october 2008 by robertogreco
World's First Computer Displayed Olympic Calendar | Wired Science from Wired.com
"The world's first known scientific instrument plotted the positions of celestial bodies nineteen years into the future -- and as an added bonus, it kept track of upcoming Olympics."
ancientgreece  computing  olympics  time  greeks  astronomy  calculation  history  science  antikytheramechanism 
july 2008 by robertogreco
Discovering How Greeks Computed In 100 B.C. - NYTimes.com
"After a closer examination of...the Antikythera Mechanism, scientists have found that the device not only predicted solar eclipses but also organized the calendar in the four-year cycles of the Olympiad, forerunner of the modern Olympic Games."
ancientgreece  computing  olympics  time  greeks  astronomy  calculation  history  science  antikytheramechanism 
july 2008 by robertogreco
Mysteries of computer from 65BC are solved | Science | The Guardian
"Since its discovery, scientists have been trying to reconstruct the device, which is now known to be an astronomical calendar capable of tracking with remarkable precision the position of the sun, several heavenly bodies and the phases of the moon. Exper
archaeology  history  computing  astronomy  technology  science  computers  antikytheramechanism  greeks  ancientgreece 
february 2008 by robertogreco

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