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Microaggressions

9 Jan

Kiyun Kim’s photography series Microaggressions capture the casual racism of our American society. The Fordham University student photographed fellow students holding signs with the subtle racist remarks they often hear. The comments probably aren’t intended to be racist, and I would imagine many people think they’re actually complimenting the person.

When I found out about Kim’s work via Flavorwire, I recognized a lot of the signs as comments I’d heard directed toward many of my friends. And while White privilege means I don’t have to deal with racism in the same way that others do, as someone whose skin is too pale for Greek functions and whose name is ethnic for many Americans—not all of whom were White—I have heard my fair share of remarks that were less than culturally sensitive.

 

“Stephanie, can you explain to the class who the Titans are?”

“That’s so nice of you to show an interest in your husband’s culture.”

“In the Koine, there are five different words for ‘love.’ Today we’ll be talking about philia. …I hope I pronounced that correctly with Stephanie sitting in the room!”

“Which is your favorite translation of The Iliad?”

“So how did you find out about this event?”

 

How do you deal with remarks like this? On the one hand, you don’t want to overreact because usually the people saying these things don’t understand the hurt it may cause. On the other hand, they will continue to say these things to you and to others if they’re not corrected.

A Perfect Morning to Jump Into the River

6 Jan

739px-Cross_being_thrown_at_Theophanyimage by Jim Maggas via Wikipedia

After a weekend of trudging through dirty city snow, I was surprised—and thankful!—this morning to discover the temperatures had risen enough to melt away the large icy barricades surrounding every crosswalk. I changed out of my snow boots and put on ballet flats. Ballet flats! In the winter! Even my puffy black jacket didn’t seem necessary, but perhaps that’s because a few days before it had been so cold I was wearing my jacket in my apartment.

The warmer winter temperatures had perfect timing. Today is the day in the Greek Orthodox religion where the priest throws a cross into the river and boys jump in to save it. We call it Theophany, but many religious New Yorkers would more likely know it as Epiphany. It refers to the day John the Baptist baptized Jesus of Nazareth in the Jordan River and is the revelation that Jesus is the Son of God. You can read my explanation here.

I wouldn’t recommend actually jumping into the river yourself, but I have witnessed the Blessing of the Water ceremony. If you ever get a chance, it’s quite a sight to see here in New York City!

Writing Wednesday: When Two Words Become One

11 Dec

1560

Welcome back to Aristophanes week!

Yesterday I mentioned that fun bit of trivia that Aristophanes is the creator of the longest word in literature that I gleaned from Oliver Tearle’s Huffington Post article “12 Fascinating Facts About Famous Literature.” Like any dutiful Greek scholar, I read some of Aristophanes’ plays when I was in college. They were strange and wild reads.

What I don’t remember learning back then and which I found while I was reading up on him this week was that Aristophanes had a knack for heaping words together, creating long, tongue-twisting compound words. It’s no wonder he’s the king of the longest word in literature!

Take a look at that last word in this stanza from The Acharnians:

How many are the things that vex my heart!
Pleasures are few, so very few — just four -
But stressful things are manysandthousandsandheaps!

The word Aristophanes used there in Greek was the made-up word ψαμμακοσιογάργαρα, which actually meant “sandhundredheaps.”

Meanwhile, in The Birds (no relation to Hitchcock’s film!), Aristophanes coined the word Νεφελοκοκκυγία, which translated is the compound word Cloudcuckooland. Genius, right?!

Okay, so when writing about the longest word in literature Tearle mentioned runner up James Joyce:

Some may think that James Joyce is responsible for the longest word in all of literature, but the longest he managed was 101 letters long, in Finnegans Wake. (This word, for those who are interested, was Bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhoun-awnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk, referring to the thunderclap associated with the Fall of Adam and Eve.)

You word nerds won’t find it too surprising that Joyce appropriated Aristophanes’ penchant for inventing new words since he was more than mildly inspired by Greek literature. You already know that Joyce’s Ulysses parallels Homer‘s The Odyssey. In Ulysses, he created made up and compound words like “scrotumtightening” and “endlessnessnessness.”

Now, I’ve made the point before about the connection between the Greek Classics, James Joyce and Jack Kerouac, and here is another instance in which we see the influence in that Kerouac used compound words as well. He used words like “hangjawed,” “redhot,” and “sicksicksick.”

Through the course of literary history, many authors have used compound words for effect and have coined their own words.

Can’t find the right word? Make up your own!

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Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” is now available as an ebook and paperback!

The Longest Word in Literature Is, Of Course, Greek

10 Dec

Ari

I always take a deep breath before I spell out my name for someone, a nonverbal warning to the person asking for it to prepare themselves. “N as in ‘Nancy,’” I say, then pause. “I-K.” Another pause, just like I heard my mother spelling it out so many times to credit card companies over the phone when I was growing up. The spelling out proceeded like that for some time, til all twelve letters were given.

Most of our friends get used to our long last name over time, so when I recently had to spell out the address of where my parents live in Greece for a family friend, I warned her to make sure she had enough room on the paper. This place name was long even for us.

I was not at all surprised, therefore, to learn via The Huffington Post, run by a Greek woman, that literature’s longest word can be found in a Greek play. Aristophanes’ Assemblywomen, an ancient comedy about the upheaval that occurs when women insert themselves in politics (things like: men must sleep with an ugly women before they sleep with a beautiful woman), contains a word that is 171 letters.

From Oliver Tearle:

Since you’re doubtless itching to know what this word is, I’ll give Aristophanes the final word: Lopado­­temacho­­selacho­­galeo­­kranio­­leipsano­­drim­­hypo­­trimmato­­silphio­­parao­­melito­­katakechy­­meno­­kichl­­epi­­kossypho­­phatto­­perister­­alektryon­­opte­­kephallio­­kigklo­­peleio­­lagoio­­siraio­­baphe­­tragano­­pterygon.

And if you’re curious what that looks like in Greek, I found it on Wikipedia:

λοπαδοτεμαχοσελαχογαλεοκρανιολειψανοδριμυποτριμματοσιλφιοκαραβομελιτοκατακεχυμενοκιχλεπικοσσυφοφαττοπεριστεραλεκτρυονοπτοκεφα-λλιοκιγκλοπελειολαγῳοσιραιοβαφητραγανοπτερύγων.

It’s the name of a dish that has about that many ingredients in it (okay, maybe only 16 or so but that’s still too many ingredients, and it sounds disgusting).

 

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Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” is now available as an ebook and paperback!

The Quotable Greek: Quick, Bring Me Wine

9 Dec

AristophanesImaginary portrait of Aristophanes from ca. 1896 via Wikipedia

“Quickly, bring me a beaker of wine, so that I may wet my mind and say something clever.”

~Aristophanes

 

 

Discover other Quotable Greeks here.

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Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” is now available as an ebook and paperback!

A Tribute to Constantine P. Cavafy

18 Nov

220px-Cavafy1900What an impressive mustache! Cavafy via Wikipedia

When you set out on your journey to Ithaca,
pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.

~ from the poem “Ithaca” by Constantine P. Cavafy

Born in the Egyptian province of Alexandria, Constantine Peter Cavafy was born to Greek parents in 1863. Riffing on last week’s British invasion theme, I’ll note that he actually spent some time in the Beatles‘ hometown of Liverpool. Cavafy’s life, like Kerouac’s, was one of movement. From Liverpool, he moved back to Alexandria, and then from there to Constantinople and back to Alexandria. He also spent some time in France.

Cavafy worked as a journalist, and it wasn’t until he was in his forties that he wrote his most important works of poetry — giving all us late-bloomers hope! He urges us to embrace life’s journey in his passionate 1911 poem Ithaca, inspired by Homer’s Odyssey. He urges us to slow down, to explore, to learn, to experience, to savor. It is the perspective one gains on the journey itself that matters.

Tonight PEN presents a tribute to Cavafy, featuring André Aciman, Michael Cunningham, Mark Doty, Olympia Dukakis, Craig Dykers, Edmund Keeley, Harry Kremmydas, Daniel Mendelsohn, Orhan Pamuk, Dimitris Papaioannou, and Kathleen Turner. For more information on the New York tribute, visit the PEN America website.

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Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” is now available as an ebook and paperback!

The Quotable Greek: One Word Frees Us of … Pain

4 Nov

441px-Sophocles_pushkinCast of the bust of Sophocles from the Farnese Collection via Wikipedia

 

“One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life:

that word is love.”

- Sophocles


Big Sur Comes Out Today

1 Nov

BIG_SUR_400

Kalo mina! The film adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s Big Sur comes out today. Will you be watching it?

It stars Jean-Marc Barr as a Jack Kerouac who’s overcome by the notoriety that descends on him after the publication of On the Road. Barr told Salon:

“I’ve been living Kerouac all my life. So there was nothing to play.”

Though that statement seems over-reaching, from the trailers the half-French Catholic does seem to get to a closer emulation of Kerouac than other recent actors.

Of course, he’s also playing Kerouac at a much different point in his life than he’s been portrayed in the other recent films. In “What Hollywood Gets Wrong About Jack Kerouac and the Beat Generation” for The Atlantic, Jordan Larson wrote:

But the current Beat revival arguably goes too far with its re-imagination of the Beat writers’ livelihoods as simple adolescent goofing around—its most prominent writers were, after all, well into their grown-up years when they wrote many of their most notable writings.

Kerouac is definitely an adult in Big Sur. A rather depressed one at that. And it brings up the point I discussed earlier this week when mentioning Karen Yuan’s argument in the article “Notebook: Hollywood shouldn’t glamorize the Beat Generation’s self-destruction” for The Michigan Daily, and that is, whether portraying them as adolescents or as adults, Hollywood and the Beat Generation is being criticized.

What’s interesting about Big Sur, though, is that the executive producer is Jack Kerouac’s nephew Jim Sampas. He was also the producer of One Fast Move or I’m Gone: Kerouac’s Big Sur. Sampas also produced Dr. Sax and the Great World Snake and Joy Kicks Darkness, among other projects.

In 2009, Sampas told IFC:

“‘Big Sur’ is Jack’s most personal and confessional novel. I am blown away by his courage in writing about his own spiral downward with such honesty and depth. My goal is that this film we’ve created influences a younger generation to embrace this work. And if people who see this film are inspired by Jack no holds barred honesty, wouldn’t that be incredible?”

I had the pleasure of meeting Jim Sampas, a fellow Greek American, at this year’s Lowell Celebrates Kerouac, when Billy Koumantzelis (check out his CD on his time with Kerouac) introduced me to him. It will definitely be interesting to view this film in light of the others.

I’ve read mixed reviews, and I’d love to hear what others think of the film. Please post comments if you see it!

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Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” is now available as an ebook and paperback!

The Day We Said “No” during World War II

28 Oct

If there had not been the virtue and courage of the Greeks, we do not know which the outcome of World War II would have been Winston Churchill

Today is Oxi Day. The day Greeks said “No” during World War II.

You can read my post on the history of this day here.

 

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Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” is now available as an ebook and paperback!

Maria Fragoudaki’s “Superheroes”

3 Oct

mfragoudaki_11-lgMaria Fragoudaki’s “Sometimes I Cannot Control Myself”
2013
Mixed media on canvas. 70in x 56in.

Move over, Ben Affleck! Maria Fragoudaki‘s Superheroes opens tonight at New York’s One Art Space (23 Warren Street; Street level—Gallery 1; Manhattan). Fragoudaki explores issues of identity in New York City. Her larger-than-life works of mixed media shine like the bat signal, exposing the fast-paced, fragmented lives we lead here in Gotham.

Born in Athens, Greece, Fragoudaki has shown her work in New York as part of groups shows in the past, but this is her first solo show in New York City . Tonight’s opening reception begins at 6.

From the press release:

The inspiration for this body of work came in New York during the last two years. The artist explores issues of individual identity in a fast-changing world where anchoring points are disappearing. These themes, familiar in Maria’s work, take a new twist here as emotions are amplified by the uniquely fast-paced rhythm of the archetypal metropolis, New York.
At the center of this whirlpool where anxiety is constant and uncertainty the norm, the need for stable references, strength and reliance become more acute. This prompts her to reach to the world of superheroes, which in addition has direct references to New York. Drawing on the collective unconscious of pop-culture the artist creates immediate associations that facilitate a casual and direct communication with her audience.
In the creative process the superheroes become abstracted moving the focus to the notions they represent. Deceptively simple messages, with child-like directness, are superimposed at times as statements, at time as cries, while the medium of collage enhances the feeling of the fragmented self in the process of constructing identity and meaning.

Maria Fragoudaki’s first solo show in New York induces the public to connect with their emotions and conflicts. This exhibit allows each of us the opportunity to discover our own personal Superhero.

mfragoudaki_12-lgMaria Fragoudaki’s “Spiderman’s Arrival”
2013
Mixed media on canvas. 91in x 27in.

From Fragoudaki’s website:

Maria Fragoudaki was born in Athens in 1983. She studied chemistry, pharmacology and business management in London where she subsequently worked for a few years. She started painting systematically in 2008 and over the last 4 years she attended various courses and seminars in painting & fine art in New York and London. Her work utilises a wide variety of media such as oils and acrylics on large canvas surfaces and she has also produced other mixed media works incorporating the technique of collage. Over the last 4 years Maria has participated in numerous group exhibitions in New York, Belgium and Greece and has also presented her first solo exhibition in Skoufa Gallery in early 2011. She is currently working on her forthcoming solo show in London. Her work has been acquired by private and corporate collections in New York, London, Greece and Belgium.

Superheroes will run at One Art Space through October 24.

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Burning Furiously Beautiful is now available as an ebook! You can download your copy here.