The inimitable luthier, Panayiotis Kafetzopoulos, now has a Facebook page, where he is posting photos and videos of his unique and beautiful instruments. I encourage you to take a look–these are really exceptional instruments. Here’s a preview, featuring a basobouzouki played by Stelios, who used to play regularly on Friday nights at Rebetiki Istoria:
A few hours ago a reprehensible man became the 45th President of the United States. This man openly mocked a disabled reporter; he claimed that John McCain was not a war hero because he had been captured in Vietnam; he quarreled openly with Gold Star parents; he is on video bragging about using his wealth and celebrity to sexually assault women–to “grab them by the pussy,” to use his words; he currently stands accused by roughly a dozen different women of various acts of sexual assault or harassment–but claims he never would have done so because some were too ugly for his liking; he mocked Ted Cruz’s wife, insulting her looks–he is a grotesque, sexist monstrosity. He also rose to political prominence as a leading figure in the deeply racist birther movement, claiming that President Obama was not an American citizen and therefore an illegitimate president; he scapegoats Mexicans and Muslims, labeling the former rapists and criminals, chiefly responsible for the economic ruin of America’s Rust Belt, while the latter are to be blamed collectively for the actions of terrorists across the globe. Thus, they must be banned entirely from entering the US and placed onto a federal registry. He also ran a fake university that was nothing more than a predatory institution meant to scam students; he operated a fake charity, whose proceeds he apparently used to purchase art of himself; he regularly stiffed contractors and other blue collar workers who worked on his properties, causing them (very often) to go out of business; he (more or less) openly bragged about not paying taxes for years on end due to a massive business write off years ago; he encouraged violence at his campaign rallies, and does not respect the country’s democratic institutions or norms–rather, he admires (openly) authoritarian strongmen around the globe. He is ignorant of public policy, seems to have no interest in learning anything about it, and does not understand in the least the tremendous benefits that accrue to the US as a result of its long standing alliances. The man is so simple-minded and ignorant that he simply sees everything as a sort of zero sum game, some sort of transaction in which the US is getting the worse of it. He has already said dumb things–about NATO, the One China policy–which, make no mistake, will have serious ramifications. I have no doubt that he does not understand any of this, nor might he ever.
This creature is now the most powerful man in the world–an erratic, temperamental, ignorant, bullying man-child with authoritarian inclinations will now stand at the head of the most powerful country and military in the world.
And how did we get here? For this we have to thank a broken Republican party, which has become so institutionally dysfunctional that it could not stop his rise during the primaries. The party fed its base such a steady diet of irrational nonsense over the last eight years via the conservative media bubble that Trump could come along and simply dispense with the dog whistle, saying all the things that the GOP base/primary voters wanted to hear. And then naked partisanship propelled him to victory in the general, as the entire GOP establishment eventually fell in line behind him and the “conservative” coalition came out and voted for him. Sure, there remained some principled conservatives–John Kasich among them, various think tank types–but defections were extremely minimal. He was embraced, eventually.
So it seems that we do indeed live in a great age of partisanship. There really are two Americas, a fact which I have long sought to play down. The divisions which separate the two are deep and meaningful and won’t go away any time soon. To claim otherwise would be to fundamentally misunderstand the country as it is today.
If you would like to humanize the humanitarian crisis that’s happening right now in the Middle East, Turkey, Greece and the Aegean, watch this short documentary from the NYT. In it, you will be presented with a view of the crisis from the front lines – the Greek coast guard and the refugees themselves. What can one say? The scenes are simply heartbreaking. Refugees–among them many women and children–desperately attempting to flee war and state collapse, and on the other side, the Greek coast guard and Greek islanders who simply lack the resources to deal with such an enormous, difficult situation but make every effort to do so. And no one lends a hand. The EU has forsaken Greece, made it into some sort of quarantine zone–problem solved, they must say! Typical Eurocrats–heartless, cruel, selfish to the core. And the broader international community? Well, the US has done little, in no small part due to the rampant Islamophobia gripping the country (fomented more so by the vile campaign of Donald Trump). And so the lost are left to fend for themselves, told (effectively), to deal with it, wait a bit (or, you know, for months or years), for some sort of coherent policy to emerge. Such will never arrive. For these are the world’s forgotten, the have nots–everyday Syrians, Afghans, and others–the “collateral damage” from the games of the great powers, whose mercy is absent and lust for destruction knows no bounds. Perhaps a few heads of state should sit and watch this video–watch as near-dead children are rescued and resuscitated, watch as the masses of the dispossessed float in the cold Aegean–and see their policies in action. For ours is a reprehensible global order, writ large in this video through the suffering of the innocent.
The Archaeological Museum of Ancient Corinth has produced a wonderful video of the Corinthia’s antiquities from the air. Take a look:
Here, Stavros Kourousis, author of From Tabouras to Bouzouki, plays one of Tsaous’ actual instruments–the larger tabouras (he also played a smaller tzouras). As Kourousis notes, Tsaous recorded Diamanto Alaniara, Blamissa, Se mia Mikroula, and Yelasmenos with this instrument. It sounds the way it does, in part, because the strings are quite old. According to the man who keeps the instrument, they haven’t been changed since Tsaous’ death in 1942 (though this is somewhat difficult to believe).
From 1911, to be precise. I stumbled upon this video on YouTube tonight and thought–what a sound! That guy’s bouzouki sounds just like the pre-war bouzoukia. Turns out, it is a pre-war bouzouki, made by Karambas in 1911 in NYC.
The bouzouki player is Stavros Kourousis, who has also written an excellent book, From Tabouras to Bouzouki, which is well worth reading (if you can find it). Remarkably, this was recorded at the BSA–the British School of Archaeology at Athens–which hosted a rebetika night last November. You can check out the instrument at Spyros Dimis’ excellent blog (just scroll down a bit). Of course, it could be a replica….well, what can we here at Mediterranean Palimpsest do to confirm such things anyway? We’re a small operation, after all.
Want a bit more? Here’s Stavros talking about his book (in Greek):
Natalia has posted a nice review of Alan Kaiser’s new book, Archaeology, Sexism, and Scandal: The Long-Suppressed Story of One Woman’s Discoveries and the Man who Stole Credit for Them. The title is apt. Kaiser came to the School when I was member a few years ago and told us of his difficulties finding a publisher–so it’s good to see that he finally did so. In fact, dozens of outlets turned him down–and not because of the quality of his work. As one of these reviewers noted, “What you are dealing with here is part of the unwritten history of classical archaeology. Best to leave it unwritten.” Natalia also provides a nice overview of David Robinson as an excavator (he was quite bad), his relationship with the School (also bad), his extraordinary ability to alienate members of his field team, and (of course) Mary Ross Ellingson, the female protagonist here.