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sea stones

Thursday, 16th October 2014

skiathos, 35 mm.

kατηγιώργης

kατηγιώργης

 

nikos portokaloglou – den meno pia edo

the way to the dock

Wednesday, 15th October 2014

skiathos, 35 mm.

în deschiderea seriei foto din insula skiathos, mi se pare firesc să vorbim despre katigiorgis, un sat de pescari de pe continent, populat de vreo 70 de locuitori şi de senzaţia că timpul n-a mai trecut p-acolo de naiba ştie când. am apucat să văd vreo două străduţe şi pontonul ăsta.
iar dacă mă-ntreabă cineva ce văd atunci când mă uit în faţă, apăi credeam că e mai complicat de-atât.

kατηγιώργης

kατηγιώργης

 

ani difranco – buildings and bridges

ce nu mai fac

Thursday, 4th September 2014

acum o vreme, mi-am propus să scriu măcar o dată pe lună aici. mai o carte, mai o muzică, mai o consemnare despre nimic. în ultimele două luni, nici n-am avut timp să stau să văd ce drac de gânduri îmi mai zboară pe lângă cap. e oribil; măcar am apucat să fug cu cortul la mare. şi să-mi iau ouzo şi mastică din aia bună de la skinos. masa şi dansul pe adresa redacţiei, vă rog.

vara asta, neavând atâta timp pentru insomnii ca la carte, cât să-mi păstrez creierul la locul lui, m-am trezit că m-au apucat iar angoasele (in)existenţiale. mi-au ajuns veşti despre cel puţin 10 (ze-ce) nunţi anul ăsta, din alea cu crinolină şi circ, de stai şi te-ntrebi ce naiba i-a apucat pe toţi deodată. şi, cum stăteam strâmb judecând drept, mi-am dat seama că-n vreo doi-trei ani (maximum) petrecerea de divorţ o să fie cool. sper doar ca, peste vreo alţi zece, să nu-nceapă plodul mult iubit să urle a “ce mă-nvăţaţi voi pe mine, că habar n-aveţi de voi”.

deci, să râdem.

am de gând să-mi duc pozele din skiathos la developat, păcat să skiathos e un fel de thassos cu englezi, în sensul de cosmopolită în sensul prost al cuvântului. şi nu e de la egee, că doar există mykonos, santorini, kalymnos, creta. dar am să revin pe tema asta.

pe bucăţi: mai visez din când în când migdalul şi strada pietruită. am intrat în magazinul de muzică din skiathos, era o dezordine perfectă acolo, plus vreo şase pisici – şi tocmai se vânduse ultimul cd cu yannis spathas. nici nikos portokaloglou n-aveau. patroana afacerii, o grecoaică şatenă-vopsită-blondă, m-a-ntrebat de unde am auzit de ei. nu m-a dus capul să-i zic că uneori muzica te aude pe tine. şi mi-am dat seama de faptul că totuşi m-aş muta, măcar o vreme, într-o ţară cu viteze la interneţ la fel de bune ca cele de la noi. să ne trăiască broadbandul, zic.

altfel, chiar nu ştiu ce nu mai fac.

depeche mode – the love thieves

 

Israel and the Fear Phenomenon

Friday, 20th June 2014

The tensions in nowadays Middle East have a multitude of causes, from ethnically stimulated conflicts to oil-impacted wars. But what exactly was the trigger that launched the enraged XXth century? The sudden advent of the Jews at the beginning of the century, the disappearance of the Ottoman Empire, an important stabilizing factor in the region, the Sykes – Picot Agreement, the British protectorate and mandate? What drove the future Israelis on the deserted piece of land on the shores of the Mediterranean, and how exactly did they build from scratch a nation in such a short time? And what sins did they commit while attaining their most fervent dream? All of the above are rather complicated questions, which require complex answers. Yet, there must be a common denominator among all these factors, a primal impulse that drove people beyond wars, beyond the rather recently-established rules of international politics, beyond the desperation of making functional an otherwise far-fetched kibbutz.

The Middle Eastern contemporary history puts the observer in front of a huge challenge: that of pointing to the common grounds constituted by the Arab language and the reverence to Mecca, which reinforce an already strong sense of community, of togetherness, of membership to an entity much bigger than a regional or national one. Moreover, one can add the rule of the Ottoman Empire over the region, which lasted for approximately 250 years, and managed to leave deep traces despite frequent interruptions. The British and French colonial rule over the whole region added to this oriental legacy either a strong monarchical tradition, in the British-lead colonies, or a stronger-cultural-than-political legacy in the French colonies, especially when it comes to Maghreb[1].

Despite all these similarities, ever since the demise of the Ottoman Empire and the end of the First World War, the common grounds were more likely to be grounds for divorce: the Middle East never was, nor attempted to be (in spite of some ambitions) a homogenous structure. It is hugely diverse in terms of ethnic groups, of geography, of culture, and ultimately in terms of political culture. And, on top of this huge diversity, on top of the dreams and vows made for a Palestinian state, the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s brought upon a much more thorny issue: Zionism, Jews, and the establishment of a Jewish state in the Palestinian territory.

The year of 1948, when the state of Israel officially came into being, marks the beginning of a forceful and hurried process of nation building. One cannot argue against the fact that Israel is a most recent – and most powerful – nation, which seems to be built out of sheer nothingness. But is it really sheer nothingness?

Let us go a little bit back in time. On their way to Jaffa, the first twenty-one travellers, among which we can find Herbert Bentwich, a leading Zionist of the time, are of higher middle class. It is the year of 1897, and the creation of a state of Israel starts to become a necessity for the Jews whose only means of ethnic survival are their religion and their isolated way of life they lead in the ghettoes of Europe. The need for sovereignty, for independence, for a state in the era of states and nationhood is one of the primary factors leading Bentwich and the other pilgrims onto this deserted Palestinian land. But Zionism in this era is a romantic Zionism, one which more or less deliberately chooses to ignore the Palestinian villages seen on this piece of land. In the years following the Kishinev pogrom, which took place in 1903, approximately one million Jews fled Europe to establish themselves on the Palestinian territory[2]. Later on in the XXth century, when tragedy showed its face and decimated the Jewish population of Europe, it became clear that Zionism[3] might be the only solution that could be able to save the Jewish legacy. So, as a consequence, Israel became stringent.

During the first half of the XXth century, it became clear that nationalism is not the only force behind Zionism and behind the many well – off Jews leaving behind their rather wealthy existence in order to establish themselves on a remote, unresourceful land somewhere on the shores of the Mediterranean. Fear, fight for survival were the factors that brought together Jews from all over the Europe, Jews with different traditions, speaking different languages and having different backgrounds. It was fear and suffering that united and gathered them in Palestine.

Having this in mind, it is suddenly much easier to understand how exactly the first kibbutzim were built from both a concrete and a sociological point of view. Ein Harod, Masada or Degania (each with its own story of creation) – why would any sane man join such communities, what reason should there be other than running away from a nightmare.

A fact of utmost importance and interest in the establishment of a Zionist Israel is the issue of the Palestinians living on the Palestinian territory. It is deeply ironical how Israel committed the original sin by ousting the Arabs from the Arab villages neighbouring the newly built kibbutzim. Arabs were now starting to seek revenge, which came immediately after the creation of the state, under the form of the 1948 war. It was a disaster in terms of refugees: approximately seven hundred thousands of Palestinian Arabs were displaced, while some eight hundred thousand Jews were displaced from Arab countries surrounding Israel during or after the war. The war ended with an Israeli victory and with a strategic failure of the Arab League. The Suez Crisis was the first drawback for the Israeli state, as it ended with an Egyptian political victory and with Gamal Abdel Nasser, the Egyptian president, on a huge wave of popularity and with huge ambitions for a Pan-Arabic project. The situation further complicated with the Six Day War, which demonstrated quite clearly the Israeli military superiority, won in quite a few years. Continuous territorial gains were to put even more pressure on Israel’s neighbours, and to deepen the Palestinian problem. Yet, it was for the first time in a long period when the Israeli general feeling was that of undisclosed optimism, which was to be confirmed a bit later, in 1973, with the Yom Kippur war, the critical moment when Gaza Strip and the West Bank came under the Israeli administration.

Yom Kippur was also the moment when the Israeli state was to acknowledge the fact that the military domination of the Arab world was rather impossible to guarantee, especially due to Sadat’s early achievements during the war. Yet, this was the moment when both parties, Arabs and Israelis altogether, realised the fact that war was too risky to be a permanent solution. The peace negotiations that occurred after the war were actually the first encounters of the belligerents since the 1948 war. The Camp David Accords in 1975 were a diplomatic breakthrough for the Middle East, and their consequences were to be seen on a long term period. First and foremost, the normalization of the relations between Egypt and Israel brought the death of Anwar Sadat, who was killed by fundamentalists enraged on the peace securement with Israel. Moreover, it changed Egypt’s perception in the Middle East and constituted the end of a united Arab world supposed to fight against Israel. Last but not least, it was the occasion on which the Palestinian issue became the predominant one in the Arab – Israeli[4] relations.

Meanwhile the Israeli military forces were busy defending and gaining new territories, Israel devised its supreme weapon, a weapon supposed to defend the country from its enraged neighbours. The nuclear power plant in Dimona was – and still is, for most of its aspects – a denied and unrecognized project. Yet, small attempts to bringing this project and the engineers that worked on the development of the perpetually denied nuclear bomb have been done. The most recent one is Ari Shavit’s exposé, in this latest book, „My Promised Land” (a book recently published and rather criticised for seeming to favour the Israeli side, despite not claiming any objectivity over the situation), about the building and development of the power plant in Dimona, under the disclaimer that he and his editor have decided to remove from the aforementioned chapter the information that could potentially harm the national security of the state of Israel. It was a project built on clandestinity from the very beginning, as it was quite clear that none of the global powers in the 1960s would approve such a project while having to bear the legacy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

But it was a defence solution the Israelis felt they needed. It was part of a strategy of development which focused mainly on technology and it was the main engine for Israel’s growth, one that works even today. Not the same can be said about the secularism on which Israel was founded, since ultra-Orthodox Jews are gradually increasing in number and become more and more visible in domestic politics ever since the 1990s.

Nowadays, Israel stands in front of a huge mental challenge: the will of replicating the performances of the previous generation, the one that literally raised Israel from sand through Jaffa oranges up to the modern, shiny, glancing Tel Aviv. It was a generation that lived with the most fearsome of fears, that of the possibility of unforgiving disappearance of Israel, of the Jews altogether. A generation that built itself out of fear and into creating a future, that made possible Israel – one must definitely admit that the Israeli nation building process was one of the fastest and most successful ever seen in a democratic country. And it has to stand up to the challenge while the situation on the region is not an easy one at all, especially after one lost war with Hezbollah and Iran building its nuclear programme without being bothered by the international sanctions imposed upon them by the United Nations.

These are some of the reasons for which fear was one of the main engines of the Middle East. Once with the generation shift, things have changed in this respect – there is a huge difference in the cultural terms in which the Holocaust is perceived by and taught to the young Jewish generation. Furthermore, there is a shift in population, allowing the ultra-Orthodox Jews to become more and more numerous, thus challenging the secular type of education that ensured the technological and economic advancement of Israel during the later XXth century.

Of course, fear is not, nor will be everything about Israel and the Middle East. Each layer of issues – political, cultural, religious, and economic – bears its toll over the dynamics of the region, making it the one of the most volatile around the globe. Moreover, each leader has its own personality – and the current Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, has not made things any simpler for the whole region or for the international actors directly interested in the Middle East, especially the United States of America.

The identity of a nation transforms from and within its people. This stands true for Israel, too, a nations whose identity is composed also of fear. But with each generation fears change, and so does Israel.


[1] Mehran KAMRAVA, “The Modern Middle East. A Political History Since the First World War”, University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 2005, pp. 9 – 34

[2]Ari SHAVIT, ”My Promised Land. The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel”, SCRIBE, Sage Publications, Australia & United Kingdom, 2014, pp. 26 – 27

[3]Donna Robinson DIVINE, „Zionism and the Politics of Authenticity”, Israel Studies, Volume 19, Number 2, 2014, pp. 94 – 110

[4]Elie REKHESS, „The Arab Minority in Israel: Reconsidering the “1948 Paradigm””, Israel Studies, Volume 19, Number 2, 2014, pp. 187 – 217

wings for life şi prima evadare – dragoste la prima participare

Monday, 12th May 2014

în ultimele două săptămâni am fost la (cred eu) cele mai bine organizate două evenimente sportive de la noi: Red Bull Wings for Life World Run şi Prima Evadare. ambele comunicate senzaţional, ambele făcute posibile cu ajutorul unor voluntari zâmbăreţi şi foarte dedicaţi. pe rând, despre fiecare.

RedBull Wings for Life World Run

m-am înscris la cursa asta de alergare pentru că 1. în toamnă am decis să-mi diversific pregătirea fizică; 2. conceptul cursei e fantastic; 3. întotdeauna, dar absolut întotdeauna atunci când mă lasă genunchiul am în minte imagini cu paralimpici – if they are able to do it, there is no fuckin’ way i won’t; 4. mi-am făcut cadou de ziua mea cu ocazia asta.

aveam un target de 10 – 12 kilometri alergaţi până să mă depăşească maşina de finish. planul de antrenament s-a dus pe apa sâmbetei din a doua sau a treia săptămână, pentru că facultate + job = foarte puţin timp liber + foarte multă oboseală. şi, ca să fie totul bine, în ultimele trei alergări înainte de cursă am avut trei accidentări – genunchi, gleznă şi spate -, la care s-a adăugat sarea şi piperul: nu am apucat să-mi schimb pantofii de alergat la timp.

în noaptea şi-n dimineaţa de dinaintea concursului, a plouat de-a rupt. am ajuns la start mult prea devreme, m-am udat la picioare prin bălţi aproape instantaneu. după care a-nceput să se lumineze cerul, să se facă zăpuşeală, hai la start, uite-o pe carmen, uite-o şi pe meri, hihihi-hahaha.

primul kilometru l-am alergat umăr la umăr cu carmen, după care – cum se-ntâmplă de obicei – zdrang!, genunchiul. îu. iar aveam două opţiuni: ori mă opream, mă aşezam în fund pe-o bordură şi aşteptam să vină maşina (cel puţin o jumătate de oră de stat), ori continuam să mergo-alerg, şontâc-şontâc. din ciclul “mai dă-l dracului de genunchi, sunt oameni în scaun pe rotile care aleargă maratoane”, am luat-o înainte. la kilometrul 4, mi-am dat seama că s-ar putea să am nevoie de o toaletă relativ urgent. ajung la kilometrul 5, unde era primul punct de alimentare, înşfac un pahar cu apă şi decid să nu mă opresc, că dracu’ o mai lua din loc de-acolo. şi dă-i şi luptă, şi luptă şi dă-i. la km 7 + 500 apare felix pe biclă, în spatele meu, cât să mă mai ţină de vorbă. la kilometrul 8 şiceva m-au ajuns din urmă muntele + voluntarii de la nomad merida cst, apoi a trecut şi maşina de mine, apoi am văzut o toaletă pe marginea drumului. and that was bliss.

o cursă foarte mişto, chit că nu mi-am atins obiectivul. impecabil organizată, de la voluntari la garderobă, de la punctele de alimentare la ridicarea pachetului de start. la anul, vreau să fiu voluntar pe bicicletă, s-apuc să văd toată cursa. wings for life a fost şi ocazia cu care am pus punct alergatului pe beton/asfalt – este mult, mult, mult prea ucigător pentru nişte articulaţii şi-aşa destul de sensibile.

Prima Evadare

alt concurs impecabil, numai bun să fie primul maraton de mtb la care am participat. la o săptămână distanţă de wings for life, genunchiul n-a apucat să se recupereze complet, m-a cam durut toată săptămâna, inclusiv în ziua de dinaintea concursului. n-am plecat de-acasă cu vreun obiectiv în minte şi-a fost de ajutor.

prima parte a traseului a fost excelentă, am depăşit mult luând-o prin bălţi şi având o medie de viteză foarte bună pentru mine, undeva la 18 – 19 km/h. (şi bineînţeles că am uitat să pornesc strava de la bun început.) am ajuns la palat (primul punct de alimentare) în aproximativ o oră şi jumătate. deja începusem să visez la cai verzi pe pereţi (adică terminat concursul în sub 4 ore), dar noroiul a lovit decisiv. au fost multe porţiuni în care s-a mers pe lângă bicicletă şi nici să fi fost avion nu puteai depăşi. a fost fun până la CP7, unde am căzut psihic, aveam o minunată senzaţie de plumb în picioare, de “fuck this shit”, nu mai puteam ignora băşica spartă de pe degetul opozabil drept, genunchiul a avut vagi momente de mârâială, începuse să mă deranjeze că nu puteam pedala şi trebuia să merg pe lângă biclă – şi nici asta cu prea mult spor, că se aluneca în draci.

am ajuns după o veşnicie la CP8 (oază de linişte şi pământ uscat, apă, banane, geluri, ieeeei), mai erau doar 14 kilometri până la finish, maximum-maximorum 45 de minute de pedalat în teorie. practic, a mai durat o oră şi jumătate. o porţiune altfel superbă, dar inundată de noroi – şi de oameni care se dădeau jos de pe biciclete. pe ultimii 4 kilometri, uscaţi (slavă cerului), am numărat pedale şi dumnezei. mai mult din inerţie, de obicei număr oi.

un dezolant loc 173 la feminin open, mult peste 5 ore făcute pe traseu. normal că se putea mai bine, dar aşa-i când te lasă nervii. merită totuşi menţionaţi domnii care nu puteau depăşi decât dacă te agăţau în mers şi orgoliile masculine care nu s-ar fi dat din loc pentru nimic în lume. ce să zic, noroc că nu m-am confruntat decât pe prima porţiune cu aşa ceva.

mă-ntorc la anul la prima evadare. până atunci, mi-am propus cel puţin un maraton mtb pe lună şi câteva sesiuni de antrenament cu cineva care mănâncă mtb pe pâine. de dragul locurilor pe care n-ajungi să le vezi altfel decât pe bicicletă.

***

îmi place foarte mult să văd din ce în ce mai multă lume care iese la alergat, care bicicleşte în draci. sunt evenimente sportive care au ajuns deja tradiţie (vezi prima evadare), cu mulţi participanţi de toate nivelurile. dovada ca se poate. dacă vrei, desigur.

un an de muncit mai târziu

Saturday, 10th May 2014

epifania: acum câteva săptămâni s-a împlinit un an de când muncesc şi sunt plătită pentru asta. sau, ca s-o spun altfel, sunt plătită să învăţ. mult, repede, bine, acum.

un an mai târziu, încă ţin minte ce-am avut în cap atunci când am vrut job din primul an de facultate, pe lângă nevoia stringentă de a-mi finanţa hobby-urile. ştiam c-o să-mi dau pe ochi frumoşi timpul liber şi ştiam că, la un moment dat, voi ajunge să nu mai am timp de hobby-urile datorită (sau din cauza) cărora am luat decizia. nu ştiam că vor dispărea insomniile. îmi cam lipsesc.

deşi, ca de obicei, “am luat decizia” e, de fapt, un concurs de împrejurări mai mult sau mai puţin fericite. am norocul (deduc că e noroc) să fac o facultate la care am intrat cu aşteptări zero şi de care m-am îndrăgostit iremediabil, poate tocmai datorită aşteptărilor lipsă; de dragul politicii care nu e niciodată ceea ce pare, de dragul ochilor pe care ţi-i deschide larg, de dragul faptului că te face capabil să citeşti o ştire critic, să-nţelegi ce naiba e cu lumea asta şi de ce. dar asta nu e un hard skill. nimeni nu o să te angajeze pentru că ţi-a plăcut leo strauss şi  înţelegi de ce consiliul de securitate al onu nu poate lua vreo decizie, vreodată. (singura dată când s-a întâmplat, rusia n-a fost acolo, iar ce-a ieşit a fost oricum, numai bun nu. poate-o fi bine aşa, nu ştiu ce să zic. mă rog, altă dată despre chestia asta.)

..ca de obicei, “am luat decizia” e, de fapt, un concurs de împrejurări mai mult sau mai puţin fericite. după felurite încercări (radio, evenimente, odiseea interviurilor la care am fost e ..lungă, normal), după draga mea revdepov, nişte oameni (băi, când ieşim să mai bem?) au considerat că pot. pot, dar mai e mult până departe. publicitatea pare foarte glamour, cool, trendy, există hype-ul ăsta, senzaţia de importanţă vag arogantă pe care o emană în afară; uneori e, alteori nu e. dar, întotdeauna, e de muncă. şi, la cum mi se-arată, nu pare deloc excepţia între alte inginerii şi economii.

şi-apoi, mai e un lucru: în răstimpul ăsta atât de scurt, am văzut destule idei murind mai mult sau mai puţin din faşă, pentru că n-au existat oamenii care să pună tot puzzle-ul de bugete, resurse şi time framing-uri laolaltă, să facă să funcţioneze totul. atâţia project manageri care nu pot să danseze în echilibristica asta a lui “fă să se-ntâmple”.

mă rog, alegi să fii minge de ping-pong sau să ţii paleta-n mână. chestie de perspectivă.

dar, în lipsă de orientare în spaţiu (vorba vine), e reconfortant să ştii că mai ai timp să greşeşti. gambling, despre asta e vorba. concursul de împrejurări pe care îl faci să lucreze pentru tine.

it’s not that complicated, is it.

johnny cash – god’s gonna cut you down

on ari shavit’s “my promised land”

Saturday, 10th May 2014

ari shavit, a leading israeli opinion leader, columnist and writer, with a strong zionist descendence, recently published “my promised land. the triumph and tragedy of israel”, a passionate yet balanced and truthful account of what, why and how has israel become the nation it is today, both on domestic and international levels.promised-land-shav_2821269a

he recalls the story of israel from herbert bentwich (shavit’s great-grandfather) to today’s coloured and vivacious tel aviv and tomorrow’s middle eastern anxieties. he fully acknowledges the palestinian tragedy, and he talks in the most open way one can hear today about israel’s nuclear program, the nuclear power plant in dimona, and the technological boom that made israel march in one of the fastest growth processes one has ever witnessed. shavit gives a gruelling account on the 1975 settlement, on the peace movement, and on how the dynamics of the political scene in israel evolved throughout the 1990s. it openly talks about the way in which the youngsters of israel found their liberation in night clubs, and on how several israeli family businesses turned into giant corporations dominating the international market.

but, most importantly, ari shavit writes about fear. about the existential fear that drove israelis on this harsh piece of land in the middle east, that made the kibbutz an existing, functional reality, that transformed zionism in a way that its creators would have never imagined (nor accepted, most probably). the fear that gathered together jews from all around europe, that somehow put together left wing secularism  and ultra-orthodoxy, ashkenazim, mizrahi and spehardi jews.

it is also worthy to get a closer look at shavit’s aproval of benjamin netanyahu’s policies and politics on the iranian issue, or the blaming process for israel’s failure to win over hezbollah in 2006.

the book has been criticised for depicting arabs as a very distant collective character, not being talked to enough. yet, the book never dares to be a fully objective account on israeli history, but a very personal one, of people that lived and made the israeli reality. an account of a promised land which failed to be perfect and sinned in the most brutal way it could have ever done.

definitely worth a read.

(and i might have found the starting point for my thesis. not to mention that one day i’d like to visit the yad vashem memorial in jerusalem.)

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