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Entries : Category [ culture ]
...the stuff with the certain "je ne sais quoi", art, style
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29 June 2008

In geheimer Mission

... durch die Wüste Gobi

Vor vielen, vielen Jahren fand ich in der Schulbibliothek ein Buch in zwei Bänden, in dem zwei Jungen durch eine ferne Welt reisten. Ich hatte keine Ahnung, ob das Buch einen wirklichen Hintergrund hatte (und nicht erstunken und erlogen war wie die Schinken von Karl May). Trotzdem gefiel mir das Buch sehr gut. Es hinterliess einen tiefen Eindruck bei mir, ich erinnerte mich immer wieder daran, hatte aber Autor und Titel vergessen. Im Mai stolperte ich dann in der NZZ über einen Artikel zu einer Hörspiel-Adaption, deren Geschichte mir irgendwie bekannt vorkam. Ich suchte auf dem Netz nach und tatsächlich, das war das Buch, dass ich gelesen hatte.

Nicht nur das: Ich fand auch heraus, wer der Autor Fritz Mühlenweg wirklich war und dass seine Bücher auf Tatsachen und persönlichen Erfahrungen aufbauen. Wie üblich dauerte es noch eine Weile, bis ich mich zum Handeln durchringen konnte, aber schlussendlich wollte ich das Buch haben und wieder lesen. Da Eleni sowieso ein anderes Paket nach Griechenland schicken sollte, war sie so freundlich und kaufte das Buch für mich, um es mitzuschicken.

Das Buch schildert den "Road Trip" zweier Jungen, die im chinesischen Bürgerkrieg plötzlich nicht mehr auf direktem Weg nach Hause können und deswegen einen kleinen Umweg machen müssen... quer durch die Wüste Gobi. Dabei lernen sie nicht nur ihre chinesischen Begleiter von unerwarteten Seiten kennen, sondern auch die gänzliche unbekannte und neue Welt der Mongolei, soviel anders als was sie von China gewohnt sind (und von dem was wir als europäische Leser gewohnt sind erst recht).

Und jetzt? Jetzt hab ich's durchgelesen und ich werd's wohl recht bald nochmal durchlesen. Klar ist es zu einem Teil ein Jugend-Buch und als solches nicht immer zu tiefst anspruchsvoll zu lesen. Zum Beispiel ist der eigentlich Fehltritt, der die sofortige Rückkehr verhindert, doch etwas fadenscheinig - aber was solls, wir wollen ja, dass die beiden ihre Abenteuer erleben und irgendwo muss die Reise ja anfangen.

Das Buch macht das "Jugendbuch-Etikett" locker wieder in Lebendigkeit und Lesefreude wett. Wer das Buch noch nicht kennt, dem kann ich es empfehlen, wer es schon damals gelesen hat, dem wird das wiedersehen sowieso Spass machen.

Posted by betabug at 22:48 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
04 September 2008

The State of Life and Balkan Music

Work, the Acropolis again, Goran Bregovic
A sketch of the acropolis in Athens and a ticket to the Goran Bregovic concert

Not into much writing at the moment. The picture shows some things I've been up to yesterday.

Work has picked up a lot, so I'm busy with those things in the background. Yesterday after work I went to the Acropolis where I would meet some friends for the concert of Goran Bregovic (together with his "Wedding and Funeral Orchestra", a choir, and a string orchestra). I was early, so I went to Filopappou and made a postcard with a view of the Acropolis.

A bit later, the actual concert was wonderful. Putting so many musicians on stage results in a very full sound, especially in a place with so good acoustics. Combine that with Mr. Bregovic's tunes... I loved it.

Posted by betabug at 14:50 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
07 October 2008

Happy 60th Birthday 2CV

Still young after all those years!
My old 2CV at the time of the 1999 world meeting in Greece

A mail from Jukka (finish 2CV fan) reminded me this morning that the 2CV is celebrating its 60th birthday today! Happy Birthday little car, so young after all those years!

Time also to remember all those hours, days and nights I spent in the two 2CVs I had the luck to have owned. The time I drove all the night through the hills of then northern Yougoslavia (nowadays Croatia and Slovenia), endlessly turning over the same cassette, tired but enjoying the drive till the daylight came up and the driving continued into the day with Charlott taking over the wheel. Or the first days driving my first 2CV from France to Portugal, no music player yet, singing along aloud (happily nobody heard me), then picking up some hitchhikers and enjoying the company.

More: Stopping in Greece at the side of the road, driving into an olive grove, in the shade of the old trees replacing the engine's ventilator because it had cracked. Back in Switzerland in a freezing winter, with so much snow that the roads weren't cleared, me speeding along, overtaking Mercedes and BMWs two and three at a time on the white, snow covered roads. The same winter, driving home in the evening from work, the car and the atmosphere so thoroughly cooled down, that the 20 minute drive home gave the heating just enough time to warm the car up from -15ºC to 5ºC, me covered in 2 pullovers, down jacket, gloves, cap and a woolen blanket over my legs.

Finally leaving Switzerland and before that bringing the car to my uncle's garage almost with tears in my eyes, to have it find a new owner there.

Happy Birthday 2CV! May you stay with us strong and healthy for a long time yet!

Posted by betabug at 10:06 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
18 October 2008

bookstop: An Addition to my Athens bookshop list

Small, but sympathetic

For some time now I've been keeping a list of English bookstores in Athens, through posts on this blog and that page that collects them all on my "other" site. Today I searched for something from Haruki Murakami and didn't find anything at Politia bookstore. But I remembered another English book shop a bit further off on Akadimia which I had seen in passing. I went there and indeed they did have 5 or 6 of the books there.

The shop isn't very big, but it's well lit and sympathetic. It's been there for years, but somehow I have never before been inside. The address is Acadimias 69, smack in the center of Athens, on the web at

Posted by betabug at 20:13 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
20 October 2008

Water Falls

Sunday rain, M.C. Escher, Tea with Marialena
A sketch of Lycabettos hill and a ticket to the Herakleidon museum in Athens

There's this special thing with the Internet, that you get to know people in person after you've known them in writing for some time already. At least this happens much more now, where it used to be a phenomenon of letter friends and public figures, now with bloggers and online chat, it's an experience I've happened a few times.

This Sunday I met Marialena whose weblog I've followed for some years now. I had happened on that blog somehow by accident, but the style of writing and many of the topics interested me (even though I must confess don't read everything always). After exchanging comments for some time now we finally got our act together and met in real life. We went to see an exhibition of works (and works-in-progress) of M.C. Escher at the Herakleidon museum in Thisio.

To get to the exhibition we had to pass through an unexpected downpour. Marialena had to pass with the scooter through a river that had formed below the Thisio metro station. I arrived by train and was greeted by a crowd who waited the rain out in the station building. We walked through the downpour to the museum and while we watched, the sky cleared up.

The exhibition was really quite the experience. I had known reproductions of some of his works and remember them since my childhood. The ever falling water, with all its details was still alive in my memory. Seeing actual prints, along with sketches and even printing plates (in stone and wood) in the original is much more impressive though. Both original lithography and wood print are much more expressive than reproductions in "normal" offset print.

After the exhibition, we went for some tea and chat. Our wet feet tried to dry up a little bit, the hot tea was helping. We seemed to have a lot of stories to tell, as we went on and on for hours. Finally even Panos showed up and we talked some more, the two of them starting to talk about scooters and bikes. As for the picture: A few hours before the meeting I passed by the National Gallery to draw Lycabettus hill from there. The photo shows one of the two postcards I made, together with the nice ticket from the Herakleidon museum.

Posted by betabug at 21:34 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
07 November 2008

Gibson Quotes

Pure poetry

Rereading William Gibson's "All Tomorrow's Parties" here. Instead of a review (great book, list differences to the "Neuromancer" trilogy, ...), this morning in the bus I had the idea to post a few quotes, since Gibson's writing is often so condensed, it becomes pure poetry.

"I was dreaming of hell," he says.
"How was it?"
"An elevator, descending."
"Christ," says the voice, "this poetry is unlike you."

That's actually where the idea of this "quotes" post came from.

Here we have Fontaine, a guy who sells collectors watches (and other collectors items) in a small store on the repurposed golden gate bridge, who looks at some collector's commando knifes...

They spoke to him mainly, as did the window of any army surplus store, of male fear and powerlessness.

Here a character called Rydell tries to rent a room at a Bed and Breakfast:

"You have money?"
"A credit chip," Rydell said.
"Any contagious diseases?"
"Are you a drug abuser?"
"No," Rydell said.
"A drug dealer?"
"Smoke anything? Cigarettes, a pipe?"
"Are you a violent person?"
Rydell hesitated. "No."
"More to the point, have you accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal saviour?"
"No," Rydell said, "I haven't."
"That's good," she said, turning down the propane ring. "That's one thing I can't tolerate. Raised by 'em."

You can read Tolkien giving you 16 verses of some Elves song, or you can have Gibson put a song into two short paragraphs:

And Creedmore sang about a train pulling out of a station, about the two lights on the back of it: how the blue light was his baby.

How the red light was his mind.

Like the chinese sumo kid in the "Bad Sector" store says:

"Thanks for the screwdriver," Chevette said. "I gotta go see a little black boy now."
"Really? What about?"
"A van," Chevette said.
"Girl," he said, raising his eyebrows, "you deep."

Gibson, you deep, man.

If you haven't read the book yet, or any of Gibson's (except for "The Difference Engine", which suxx), read them now.

Posted by betabug at 09:52 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
29 November 2008

Φωκαία and Félix Sartiaux

Book presentation at the IFA

Picking up on my cultural program after a long time, I went to the Institut Français d'Athènes (the IFA) to see a presentation of the book "Phocée 1913-1920 – le témoignage de Félix Sartiaux". I didn't really know what to expect, except that the book is about this town Φωκαία (Fokaia) near to Smyrna and containing old photos. I arrived there to find a lot of old people, which turned out to be the members of the "association" (σωματείο) of the people descending from that town.

There were three people speaking, the interest factor of their speeches rising on a logarithmic scale - starting with the president of the Rizario foundation starting with something very close to sub-zero freezing point of boredom. The mayor of today's Φωκαία on Attika had already a more interesting talk, giving some good background on the history of the town, from the ancient times, through the "catastrophy of asia minor" to the refugee's rebuilding at the current town.

At last Haris Yakoumis, photo-historian and author of the book spoke. He presented the background story of the pictures - a suitcase full of glass plates turning up through a Turkish dealer. How he searched on the background of the pictures and discovered the story of Félix Sartiaux, French archeologist and photographer who witnessed the refugee drama of 1914 in Fokaia. I was moved, both by the story and the pictures. All the while he "slideshowed" through the pictures, was able to give little stories and information on each picture, unraveling the story along.

Posted by betabug at 11:19 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
20 May 2009

From the Olymp to the Everest

Mountain movie

My friends from the mountain club dragged me to town tonight. There is a public viewing of the movie "Από τον Όλυμπο στο Έβερεστ" (From the Olympos to the Everest). It's a film about a greek team of alpinists going up the Everest. Apparently it is vastly attractive, the place is packed. There are way more people than chairs. The ventilation system seems to be on the way out too. This with the ever warmer spring temperatures in Athens.

Me I arrived in time, got a seat. Now waiting for the battle to end and the movie to start. Going up the Everest.

Posted by betabug at 20:21 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
21 May 2009

Olymp to Everest

Seen the movie too now

There was a long delay before the showing of the movie Olympos to Everest (see previous post). The reason was that more than double the expected viewers had shown up, so they were setting up a second projection. When that was done, there was another delay to get the audio working again. Finally we saw the movie.

I was moved. The film is really strong, telling a strong story. It's a documentary, so when there's drama, there's real life drama, when we're laughing, we're laughing with real people. Given that I was there with the members of a Greek mountain club, many of the people around me knew the people on the screen in person. There is indeed a lot of drama and a lot of good laughs in the movie. There are also images of tough and beautiful mountain landscapes.

What is the movie about? To quote one description:

"Από τον Όλυμπο στο Έβερεστ" - "η συναρπαστική ιστορία μιας ομάδας νεαρόν που κατέβηκε πρώτη φορά από το χωριό τους στον Όλυμπο για να πάει να φάει κλαμπ στα Έβερεστ στην Αθήνα".

Ups, wrong description from the cheap joke department! In fact it's the story of the first Greek expedition to succeed to the top of mount Everest. But it's more like a group of guys who succeed over themselves to reach farther than they ever did before (and yes, there was another Greek up there before, but that's not really the point).

Posted by betabug at 09:47 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
26 June 2009

Metro Art

An installation by George Zongolopoulos
Installation in the Athens Metro Syntagma station by George Zongolopoulos

There are many sculptures and art pieces in the Athens Metro system. Some of it I pass quite often, sometimes even daily. Some other things are more well hidden.

A few weeks ago, going a path and direction I never took before, in the Syntagma station, I came across this installation. It is by the sculptor George Zongolopoulos (Γιώργος Ζογγολόπουλος, 1903-2004).

It struck me as very beautiful, a piece of art that you can look at and loose yourself within. I would have liked it if this was in some place where I passed more often. I believe I would stop and look each time.

In case you can't make head or tails from my picture: The installation seems to be in some kind of ventilation shaft. The passengers walk right underneath it, some of them not even noticing that there is something above them. Look up though and you will notice a round window to the sky, silver coated walls and an assortment of "flying" objects. Every little move of your position will change the light, the positions of the objects, the reflections.

Posted by betabug at 13:30 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
28 June 2009

Open Air Art

Another scultpure by George Zongolopoulos in Paleo Psychiko
sculpture by George Zongolopoulos in Paleo Psychiko / Athens

Speaking of the art of George Zongolopoulos (Γιώργος Ζογγολόπουλος), there is another of his works which I have seen. Some weeks ago I went to my friend indyone's (Yannis) marriage. On the way to the church in Παλαιό Ψυχικό (Palaio Psychiko), I came across this thing. I had no idea what it was, but saw it as beautiful.

Only when I searched about the artist for the previous post, did I notice that what I had seen and pictured was one more of his works.

It was by chance a very good moment to take pictures of this sculpture. The afternoon sun highlights the metal beams in front of the trees. Art in public places is quite often not understood, people see it as "this strange thing" or even ridicule things. OK, myself I might not like every piece of art displayed on streets and places. But sometimes I come across something that just looks good, seems to have spirit. In those moments I can appreciate art, no matter if I "know" anything about it or not.

Posted by betabug at 13:27 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
09 June 2010

Sculptures by Vana Xenou

Sculpture Exhibition at the National Garden

These days the moment there is a sculpture exhibition taking place at the National Garden (next to Syntagma Square) in Athens. The sculptures are by Vana Xenou (Βάνα Ξένου). The exhibition will be there till some time in August. When you enter the gardens from the entrance with the palm trees on Amalias, next to the parliament, you can find some information sheets. The sheets have a description in Greek and the positions of the exhibits marked on a map of the park.

I always get lost in the National Garden. So after the 3rd time there, I'm still not sure I've seen all of the sculptures. There are some that I like very much, that really work well in the surroundings. There are others that speak less to me, as is expected with any collection of art pieces.

The first times there, I've taken some "notes" (fast pictures taken with my mobile phone) and today after work I carried the Arca-Swiss there. I took one picture of one of the sculptures. No need to hurry, this is large format photography. Also I was a bit tired after working all day, also expected. I'm sure I'll go back and take some more slow pictures.

Posted by betabug at 22:48 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
19 June 2010

Dance Dance Dance

A Book by Haruki Murakami

I like the books of Haruki Murakami and I have a bunch of them. When I went to the bookstop (see my list of english bookshops in Athens) to get something to read, I picked up Dance Dance Dance". When I started to read it, I got a strange feeling: there seemed to be something wrong, did I buy a book I already had? There was this talk about a hotel, sheep, a girlfriend with special ears. Weird feeling, but then Murakami's books are full of weird stuff. I went home to check.

Indeed there is "A wild sheep chase" with all those ingredients. But it's not the same book. "Dance Dance Dance" is something like the continuation of the sheep chase book. Since it isn't mentioned on the outside or in the book and since Murakami isn't the writer who does serial fiction, this took me by surprise. It's a good continuation though. I read it with great pleasure, then went back a week later to reread "sheep chase" and now I'm rereading "Dance Dance Dance".

Murakami is something of an author of the slightly surreal. Some of his books play to a great part in surreal or "unreal" worlds In most of them the world is almost normal, with just some moments of really weird things happening, while his best known book ("Norwegian Woods") plays in a world that is just plain normal - leaving aside that it's Japan, which for me and you probably isn't everyday's place.

"A wild sheep chase" and "Dance Dance Dance" are somewhere in the middle of that scale. Strange things happen. Most of it is the normal surrealism of daily life in the capitalist society of the 20th century. I like that mix. It keeps me on my toes. Hey, there are people here who claim that some strange rock pillars in the Hymittos hills here are a portal to other worlds. So why shouldn't these things be in books too? (And no, this is no science fiction.)

So, conclusion: "Dance Dance Dance" is very enjoyable. I like reading it again. I like it to spin on the story of the sheep chase. It made me remember all kinds of weird stories from the first read that I discover again on the 2nd read. Recommended.

Posted by betabug at 12:28 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
08 November 2010

Bookmarks and Page Numbers


With books, sometimes I use bookmarks, sometimes I just remember page numbers (and sometimes I just flip around till I find where I left off}. Whatever I do, I think about it. So when I use a tiny piece of cardboard from a film box, I might keep it around through 2 or 3 books. What does that tell about me?

There's this book I'm reading right now. I had it lying around quite long, now I picked it up again. I'm off to the number system. The reason I left the book lying there is ofcoz that it hit me as kind of boring at the start, ok. So now I tried again and on the first read I made it till page 4. Next time I sat in the bus, I stopped at page 8. I don't remember where I was reading when I stopped at page 16 next. Now I'm at page 32.

For a large part of my small readership those numbers will appear familiar. I'm hesitating right now to pick up the book again, since I don't know if I should - or have to - read till the next number in that series now, in one go. Besides, what does that tell about me?

Posted by betabug at 21:16 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
20 December 2010

Analog Appreciation

Nostalgia or a different feel to things

Already a week ago, Adamo (the made a short post about Fountain pens, ink and paper, that sparked some thinking in me. Here is what I commented on his post - my comment would work equally well on its own:

Between vinyl records, film-based photography, fontain pens and manual typewriters (and probably some others I forgot), there are various movements that appreciate “analog” technologies again. What I like about all these is the change of pace and introspection that goes with them. Having to stop and turn a record every 20 minutes gives listening to music a different feel, as does writing with a fountain pen. (Have you been to the tiny cafe “Petite Fleur” in Kolonaki? They have a record player, when they’re too busy to flip the record, there will be a spell of silence from the speakers.

The syndrome of having to collect all kind of stuff is on another level too though, lots of people just buy things. I try to counter that by using only what I already have :-)

... and then I could have gone on at length about these things. I'm really starting to appreciate many of these things lately. Maybe I'm just nostalgic, but I honestly believe I like the feel these things give me and I see some difference in the results. The results differ not only due to the differing texture of the technology, but also due to a different involvement of the author.

Posted by betabug at 11:17 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
27 December 2010

How I spent Christmas

Reading Moby Dick

Merry Crisis! Καλά Χρωστούμενα! Christmas days are over, I'm still slacking, since I "cashed in" my last two vacation days for this year.
So, what did I do over the holidays? I ate a lot, didn't go out much and been reading "Moby Dick". Now that is one book that needs a lot of patience. I'd started it a long time ago, but since I read it only at R's place and had been reading lots of other stuff... It takes a while.
I'm now almost halfway through it. Just now, for the first time any real action is happening.
So, do I like it? Yes, it is interesting. It has some dry parts, where things drag out. Then, next chapter, the style changes and stuff moves. The book has a bit of a bad name ("the last guy who really read it was the guy who wrote the Cliff's") and I can imagine it would be a pain to read it for school. At my own pace, over a slacking holiday, it's just fine!

Posted by betabug at 20:33 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
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