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I shall begin by trying to answer the question «Who is the Barberini Faun»? And I will do so by breaking it up in two pieces.

Pope Urban VIII, by Pietro da Cortona

Pope Urban VIII, by Pietro da Cortona

Who was Cardinal Francesco Barberini?

Maffeo Barberini  was a Florentine nobleman, who became Pope Urban VIII at the age of 56.

A patron of the arts, he commissioned many works to Bernini.

His nephew, Cardinal Francesco Barberini owned the statue that is the topic of this post.

Castel Sant' Angelo, Rome

Castel Sant’ Angelo, Rome

What is a Faun?

According to Wikipedia, the Faun is a rustic forest god or goddess, often associated with enchanted woods and the Greek god Pan and his satyrs.

The Wesleyan University webpage informs us that a Faun is the Roman equivalent of a Greek satyr. In Greek mythology, satyrs were human-like male woodland creatures with animal features including a goat-like tail, hooves, ears, or horns.

Cardinal Francesco Barberini, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, England

Cardinal Francesco Barberini, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, England

Who is the Barberini Faun?

The Barberini Faun is a Hellenistic marble statue, dated 3rd century BC.

The statue was sold to King Ludwig of Bavaria at the beginning of the 19th century and was placed in the Gluptothek, the museum that was created in order to house King Ludwig’s sculpture collection. The Barberini Faun is the first major sculpture you see when you visit the Munich Glyptothek. In what follows, I will try to express what I saw in this sculpture.

King Ludwig of Bavaria, Walhalla

King Ludwig of Bavaria, Walhalla

So, what is this all about?

From a distance, it looks like a young man who has fallen asleep in a rather relaxed position. His legs are spread apart, his genitals are in full view, and he does not appear to give a damn, because he is exhausted.

Barberini Faun, Glyptothek, Munich

Barberini Faun, Glyptothek, Munich

A faun asleep

The unknown sculptor scores big right from the beginning. A faun is supposed to be going all over, full of energy, seeking pleasure in all forms. But this one is asleep!

Barberini Faun - detail. Glyptothek, Munich

Barberini Faun – detail. Glyptothek, Munich

Or appears to be.

If we look more carefully, the body is not fully relaxed and loose.

Barberini Faun - detail. Glyptothek, Munich

Barberini Faun – detail. Glyptothek, Munich

Look at these latissimus dorsi muscles!

How could anyone be asleep and at the same time flex his muscles?

I therefore claim that the faun is not asleep, he is half-asleep. The word «half» is important, as in my view it denotes the boundary condition that defines the sculpture.  Having said that, it is better to say that the faun is on the boundary between being awake and asleep.

barberini_faun4

Barberini Faun – detail. Glyptothek, Munich

Is it a faun?

We usually take for granted that a faun is a faun, and do not seek any proof. In this case, there is proof, although the spectator needs to discover it. Yet again, the sculptor makes things interesting and exciting. From a distance there is no indication of the faun being a faun. He could be any young man. But as you close in, you realize that there is a tiny tail sticking out of his back. The faun is a faun!

Barberini Faun - detail. Glyptothek, Munich

Barberini Faun – detail. Glyptothek, Munich

The face

One of the «boundary conditions» of this sculpture is the face of the faun.

Michelangelo: Bacchus, detail, Museo del Bargello, Firenze

Michelangelo: Bacchus, detail, Museo del Bargello, Firenze

If we look at the face of Michelangelo’s David in Bargello, we see a soft, almost feminine face.

In contrast to this, the faun is masculine and rough.

The beauty of masculinity in Hellenistic times does not require to dress it with a feminine touch.

AV001628

Michelangelo, David. Academia, Firenze.

The age

Another interesting feature of the faun is that the man is not very young, or mature.

He is a young man at the height of his youth. Contrast this with Michelangelo’s David in Florence.

Barberini Faun - detail. Glyptothek, Munich

Barberini Faun – detail. Glyptothek, Munich

Another interesting contrast is with Rodin’s St. John.

A mature man, a body full of masculinity, but no sensuality.

Auguste Rodin, St. John the Baptist, Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Auguste Rodin, St. John the Baptist, Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Rodin seems to be so much preoccupied with the perfection of the muscle complex that he sanitizes the body, and makes it a spectacle, but not an object of desire.

The Sensual Body

The faun is a sensual being.

His body radiates raw sensuality, and dominates everything else.

In a way the sculpture is an exploration of male and human sensuality, as it emanates from the body.

Francis Bacon, Portrait of George Dyer Talking.

Francis Bacon, Portrait of George Dyer Talking.

I would also like to point out that the artist does not need to disfigure the body in order to appreciate it, like Francis Bacon did.

Bacon needs to destroy the body in order to enjoy and appreciate it.

barberini_faun9

The body is the undisputed protagonist of the Barberini Faun sculpture, and it does not need to be softened by the face, and/or the age, the instruments which the Renaissance artists used to express themselves, and the post impressionist giants deployed in their attempt to master the subject.

The predominance of the body of the Barberini Faun, makes it totally unnecessary to pay any particular attention to the genitals. as a spectator, you get the whole package, not just a part of it.

A Hellenistic Porno?

Is the Barberini Faun a pornographic sculpture?

I do no think so. On the contrary, I could argue that it is a naturalistic sculpture. If you like male bodies, you like it. If not, you like it because it gives you an appreciation of the whole body, every inch of it.

Pornography is fragmentation and disassociation. A situation where the parts do not belong anywhere, where the parts are the whole thing.

A stroll in Petralona, Athens, Greece

Κυριακή, 22 Μαρτίου, 2015

Petralona is a neighborhood in Athens, Greece. It is near the Acropolis area, and easily accessible.

I have not been there for years. Two of my father’s sisters used to live in Petralona many many years ago. I remember going there by train (overground). The train divides the neighborhood in two parts: Ano (Upper) and Kato (Lower) Petralona.

The train that divides Petralona in two parts

Petralona: The train that divides Petralona in two parts

The houses were small, one or two floors only, there were no multistories like in the centre of Athens.

An obligation brought me recently back to Petralona early in the morning of a nice day. Before starting with my meeting I had a chance to take some photos and walk around.

What you will see in this post is the result of this early morning stroll.

Neoclassical style in ruins

Petralona: Neoclassical style in ruins

The houses of the well-to-do middle class in old Athens used to follow the neoclassical style. There are still some ruins in the area. But not many, for two reasons. The neighborhood was never rich. Therefore, the neoclassical style houses were rather few to begin with. Even so, in the 60s and 70s most of them were demolished, and multistory monstrosities took their place.

Dry Cleaning "Happiness"

Dry Cleaning «Happiness»

But even today, there are single story houses in Petralona,  The building craze did not cover the whole area with multistory apartment complexes. There were – and still are – some shops in the single or double story buildings, serving the neighborhood. The shop in the photo above is today closed. It used to be a dry cleaning shop with the catchy name «Happiness». It has been closed for many years, as I can tell from the telephone number which is in the very old 6-digit format.

Hybrid urban space in Petralona

Hybrid urban space in Petralona

As is always the case, between the multistory buildings and the single or double story ones, there are some hybrids. Hybrids are forms that simply take up any empty space that has been left out of the «normal» urban development.

Petralona PAO Gate 13

Petralona PAO Gate 13

Petralona is a neighborhood in Athens, and as such it supports the Athens football team, Panathinaikos, or PAO for short.

PAO graffiti in Petralona

PAO graffiti in Petralona

PAO is my team, and it has not been doing well in the last 15 years.   Watching the graffiti on the walls in Petralona, somehow helped me recover some of my wounded PAO pride.

gavroi3

Inevitably, cursing on the opponents, the supporters of the arch rival Olympiakos is a necessity like oxygen.

wall

The nickname of the hated opponents is «anchovies» and they are rumoured to also be anorgasmic whores, or so says the writing on the wall.

Football graffiti in Petralona

Football graffiti in Petralona

There is another team in the greater metropolitan area, AEK, which is today playing in a lower league. Remnants of the days of glory can be seen in Petralona, which somehow belong to the old times.

I am being tortured

«I am being tortured»

What I have shown of the graffiti so far is the rather regular hate graffiti, with the football team’s insignia and a lot of hate words. But in Petralona there is a lot more!

Football hate graffitti

Football hate graffitti

The huge walls supporting the elevated train lines provided the ample needed space. The master artist creates the big picture, and the minor artists or not add and embellish. It is truly the work of a community.

Petralona Club graffitti

Petralona graffitti

Equally, the walls around the high school of the neighborhood are canvases for the young artists.

Petralona graffitti

Petralona graffitti

In a sense we have the peaceful co-existence of the «traditionalists» and the «modernists».

This is my favourite work, especially the rose.

Petralona Dark Rose

Petralona Dark Rose

It is a dark, Gothic rose that even the traditionalists have left untouched.

I enjoyed my stroll, because I discovered the anonymous modernist graffitti artists of Petralona.

This post does not have many words

The protagonists of the post speak for themselves.

I will introduce them and pay my respects.

The rest belongs to the senses.

It all started with a bet, which I lost (unfortunately, the implications of this loss are much much more important).

Having lost the bet, I had to offer to the winner lunch.

Knowing fully well the horrible implications of the lost bet, not the lunch, but the real ones, I decided to make the lunch a festive occasion, that even for a split millisecond counterbalances the horrendous implications of the event that led to the loss of the bet.

My menu was simple.

Foies Gras de Canard

Foies Gras de Canard

We started with foies gras de canard, accompanied by caramelised pears.

Foies Gras de Canard

Foies Gras de Canard

I served it medium sliced, with the fat on it.

Caramelised Pears

Caramelised Pears

The second dish was the divine boudin noir of  Christian Parra.

Boudin Noir

Boudin Noir

I tasted it for the first time in London, and was mesmerised by its flavours and texture.

Boudin Noir - Sliced

Boudin Noir – Sliced

I wanted to accompany it with something light, but at the same time tasty.

Beetroot with celery

Beetroot with celery

The first obvious choice was mashed potatoes.

Boudin Noir Served

Boudin Noir Served

The second was my original recipe of lightly steamed beetroot, mixed with butter flavoured celery. It really worked!

Some apples with butter and honey added the finishing touch.

The boudin was enjoyed with a bottle of 2001 Patrimo di Feudi San Gregorio, an outstanding merlot!

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

(Humpty Dumpty, English nursery rhyme)

Denslow's Humpty Dumpty

Denslow’s Humpty Dumpty

Is it an egg, or is it a man?

This is a reasonable question when it comes to Humpty Dumpty.

Bill Woodrow is an English sculptor who gave his own answer to the question, by creating in 1987 the work «English Heritage – Humpty Fucking Dumpty».

I saw Woodrow’s work at London’s London Royal Academy of Arts in January 2014. I was impressed by his ability to play with and transform everyday life objects into a contemplative story. This is why I write this note to present and discuss «Humpty Fucking Dumpty». In what follows I have drawn heavily form the Tate curator’s notes (1).

 

Humpty Fucking Dumpty 1987 Bill Woodrow born 1948 Purchased 1987

Humpty Fucking Dumpty 1987 Bill Woodrow born 1948 Tate Gallery, London Purchased 1987

Woodrow attended St Martin’s School of Art (1968-71) and Chelsea School of Art (1971-2) in London where he rebelled against the formalist abstraction prevalent in sculpture at that time. At the end of the 1970s he began working with discarded household furniture and other objects to create incongruous juxtapositions often giving rise to allegorical or metaphorical readings. (1)

The sculpture should be seen in the context of the elevation of history and ‘heritage’ as a political value in Britain. (2)

Bill Woodrow

Bill Woodrow

This work consists of a wooden vaulting box that has been pulled apart like a concertina. Each constituent piece of wood is propped open at alternate ends by the insertion of a small object, most of which were made by the artist. The objects are intended to symbolize human progress, creating what Woodrow calls ‘a section through history’. (1)

 

Plough

Plough

Starting from the bottom, the lowest object represents a wheeled plough which denotes both the invention of the wheel and the early importance of agriculture. In conversation with a Tate curator in March 1992, Woodrow explained that, although ‘farming was probably invented a long time before the wheel; the two together seemed to be a very significant starting point for the development of the human race’. (1)

 

Book

Book

 

The second object used to wedge open the vaulting box is the representation of a book. (1)

The artist has described this as a leap forward in history, signifying ‘the dissemination of knowledge or development of the intellect … It was the beginning of some network of communication and knowledge’ (quoted in Tate Gallery: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions 1986-88, Tate Gallery, London 1996, p.517). (1)

Woodrow is very keen to use books in his works. The book I recall most vividly is the bench in «Sitting on History».

Bill Woodrow: Sitting on History

Bill Woodrow: Sitting on History

‘Sitting on History,’ with its ball and chain, refers to the book as a receptacle of information. History is filtered through millions of pages of writing, making the book the major vehicle for research and study. Woodrow proposes that although one absorbs knowledge, one appears to have great difficulty in changing one’s behaviour as a result. (3)

Clocking-in machine

Clocking-in machine

The third motif is a clocking-in machine which is intended to invoke the industrial revolution. (1)

Bill Woodrow, Elephant, 1984, Tate Galley

Bill Woodrow, Elephant, 1984, Tate Galley

Woodrow is not soft on industrialisation. In his 1984 «Elephant», we can see the relics of industrialisation forming a deadly circle around the gun carrying elephant.

Radiation box

Radiation box

The fourth object, and the only one not made by the artist, is a box which he painted yellow and black with radiation hazard markings to ‘signify the nuclear era’, which makes reference to both nuclear power and nuclear war. Woodrow has commented that he was also thinking about the damage to the nuclear reactor at Chernobyl, then part of the Soviet Union, which occurred the year before in 1986. (1)

This radiation box is the agent of instability and destruction. What up to this level has been benign, stable, and controllable, now assumes uncontrollable dimensions and has a clear touch of evil.

The Iran P5+1 negotiations on Iran’s nuclear weapons program testify to the evil factor that has been unleashed by the WWII victors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Bill Woodrow: Endeavour: Cannon dredged from the first wreck of the Ship of Fools, 1995

Bill Woodrow: Endeavour: Cannon dredged from the first wreck of the Ship of Fools, 1995

Weapons of destruction appear often in Woodrow’s work. In 1995 Woodrow sculpted a cannon dredged from the first wreck of the ship of fools.

This is the tenth sculpture in Woodrow’s series devoted to the theme of the ‘Ship of Fools’, a commentary on the foolishness of mankind, wrapped in wry humour. ‘Endeavour’ comprises uncomfortably penetrating insights into human nature, particularly, mankind’s seeming inability to learn from experience. (4) 

Bill Woodrow, The Swallow, 1984

Bill Woodrow, The Swallow, 1984

Back in 1984, Woodrow sculpted «The Swallow», a rather ambivalent work, in the sense that there may still be the possibility of escape from the inevitability of massive destruction.

 

Humpty Dumpty

Humpty Dumpty

 

The figure of Humpty Dumpty was placed on top of the structure to further add to the sense of its precariousness. With this addition of Humpty Dumpty, Woodrow accepted that the sculpture had specifically English connotations. For him, it ‘seemed to signify, or to be a very appropriate symbol in a way for my notions about this country and the western world in general and its idea of progress, getting better and better and yet being very unstable’ (quoted in Tate Gallery: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions 1986-88, p.518). (1)

 Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.

Woodrow seems to contemplate this great fall, and anticipates it. But he is not a doom and gloom prophet, he is simply a realist.

It is in this context that «English Heritage» comes into play.

Woodrow sounds sarcastic when he uses the word «fucking» in the title. Making a play with words, he appears to denigrate Humpty Dumpty, when in fact he does so to the prevalent notion of «English Heritage».

Moreover, by using the words ‘English Heritage’ in the title, Woodrow refers not to the institution of the same name, but to the concept of his own heritage. He has commented on the way in which references to ‘Britain’s glorious past are used to take your mind off present difficulties and hardships. It is an escapist device and there seemed to be a lot of it around at the time’ (quoted in Tate Gallery: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions 1986-88, p.518). Woodrow felt that nostalgic jingoism was particularly prevalent in the 1980s, prompted in part by the Falklands War in 1982. By employing the word ‘fucking’ in the title, the artist is being openly critical of this attitude. The word is used to denote a sense of anger and despair at the state of the nation. It was also a reaction against what he saw as the moralistic atmosphere of the period. (1)

Bill Woodrow at the RA in London

Bill Woodrow at the RA in London

Sources

(1) English Heritage – Humpty Fucking Dumpty 1987, Tate Gallery 

(2) The Oxford Index

(3) Bill Woodrow: Sitting on History

(4) Endeavour: Cannon dredged from the first wreck of the Ship of Fools

The definition of «arete» by Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics

Τετάρτη, 18 Φεβρουαρίου, 2015

Eduardo Chillida, Competition - Harmony

Eduardo Chillida, Competition – Harmony

Introduction

We often talk about «arete«, or «virtue«, although the latin-based word is not coveying the full meaning. As it happens in these cases, we all use the same word, but each one has potentially a different understanding or interpretation of it.

Having just finished reading Plato’s «Meno», I was reminded of the definition of «arete» by Aristotle in Nicomachean Ethics, and its interprpetation by the French-Greek philosopher Cornelius Castoriadis.

There are at least three major issues to address.

First of all, whereas Plato in Menon is so keen to arrive at a definition of virtue, it appears as if this is a strictly theoretical exercise. Aristotle, on the other hand, claims that the issue is «how to act».

Then we have the question of whether virtue is knowledge or a habit, whether it can be attained and acquired by rationality or by perception.

Finally, there is the question of the context of virtue.

I will proceed to quote from the text in the Greek original of the Nicomachean Ethics, then give the translation in modern Greek, and then provide a translation and/or interpretation in English. For the modern Greek translation I will use the translations available in the «Gate of the Greek Language» (reference 3), and on some occasions my translation. The «standard» english translation I will use is by William David Ross (reference 1).

Eduardo Chillida, Homenaje a Picasso

Eduardo Chillida, Homenaje a Picasso

Why define «arete»?

Ἐπεὶ οὖν ἡ παροῦσα πραγματεία οὐ θεωρίας ἕνεκά ἐστιν ὥσπερ αἱ ἄλλαι (οὐ γὰρ ἵνα εἰδῶμεν τί ἐστιν ἡ ἀρετὴ σκεπτόμεθα, ἀλλ᾽ ἵν᾽ ἀγαθοὶ γενώμεθα, ἐπεὶ οὐδὲν ἂν ἦν ὄφελος αὐτῆς), ἀναγκαῖον ἐπισκέψασθαι τὰ περὶ τὰς (30) πράξεις, πῶς πρακτέον αὐτάς· αὗται γάρ εἰσι κύριαι καὶ τοῦ ποιὰς γενέσθαι τὰς ἕξεις, καθάπερ εἰρήκαμεν. (1103b, 25-30)

Επειδή λοιπόν η παρούσα φιλοσοφική μας ενασχόληση δεν έχει ως στόχο της, όπως οι άλλες, τη θεωρητική γνώση (η έρευνά μας δηλαδή δεν γίνεται για να μάθουμε τι είναι η αρετή, αλλά για να γίνουμε ενάρετοι ― αλλιώς δεν θα είχε κανένα νόημα), είναι ανάγκη να εξετάσουμε το θέμα «πράξεις», με το νόημα (30) «πώς πρέπει να τις πράττουμε» ― αυτό, φυσικά, επειδή από αυτές εξαρτάται και το τι θα είναι τελικά οι έξεις μας, όπως το έχουμε ήδη πει. (3, μετάφραση Δ. Λυπουρλής).

Since, then, the present inquiry does not aim at theoretical knowledge like the others (for we are inquiring not in order to know what virtue is, but in order to become good, since otherwise our inquiry would have been of no use), we must examine the nature of actions, namely how we ought to do them; for these determine also the nature of the states of character that are produced, as we have said. (1)

My comment: Aristotle makes it quite clear from the beginning that his inquiry aims at determing how to act. His focus is not theoretical knowledge, but real life and what we do in it.

Eduardo Chillida, Barcelona i

Eduardo Chillida, Barcelona i

Definition of (moral) «arete» 

«…ἀρετὴν δὲ λέγομεν ἀνθρωπίνην οὐ τὴν τοῦ σώματος ἀλλὰ τὴν τῆς ψυχῆς· καὶ τὴν εὐδαιμονίαν δὲ ψυχῆς ἐνέργειαν λέγομεν.» (1102a, 15-20)

Όταν αναφερόμαστε στην ανθρώπινη αρετή, εννοούμε την αρετή της ψυχής, και όχι του σώματος. Και η ευτυχία εξάλλου είναι ενεργούμενο της ψυχής.

By human virtue we mean not that of the body but that of the soul; and happiness also we call an activity of soul. (1)

Διορίζεται δὲ καὶ ἡ ἀρετὴ κατὰ τὴν διαφορὰν ταύτην· λέγομεν γὰρ αὐτῶν τὰς (5) μὲν διανοητικὰς τὰς δὲ ἠθικάς, σοφίαν μὲν καὶ σύνεσιν καὶ φρόνησιν διανοητικάς, ἐλευθεριότητα δὲ καὶ σωφροσύνην ἠθικάς. (1103a, 3-7)

Και στην αρετή διακρίνουμε δύο είδη: διανοητική αρετή, όπως είναι η σοφία και η σύνεση, και ηθική όπως είναι η γενναιοδωρία και η σωφροσύνη.

Virtue too is distinguished into kinds in accordance with this difference; for we say that some of the virtues are intellectual and others moral, philosophic wisdom and understanding and practical wisdom being intellectual, liberality and temperance moral. (1)

«Διττῆς δὴ τῆς ἀρετῆς οὔσης, τῆς μὲν διανοητικῆς τῆς (15) δὲ ἠθικῆς, ἡ μὲν διανοητικὴ τὸ πλεῖον ἐκ διδασκαλίας ἔχει καὶ τὴν γένεσιν καὶ τὴν αὔξησιν, διόπερ ἐμπειρίας δεῖται καὶ χρόνου, ἡ δ᾽ ἠθικὴ ἐξ ἔθους περιγίνεται, ὅθεν καὶ τοὔνομα ἔσχηκε μικρὸν παρεκκλῖνον ἀπὸ τοῦ ἔθους. ἐξ οὗ καὶ δῆλον ὅτι οὐδεμία τῶν ἠθικῶν ἀρετῶν φύσει ἡμῖν ἐγγίνεται·» (1103a, 14-19)

Δύο είναι, όπως είδαμε, τα είδη της αρετής, η διανοητική και η ηθική. (15) Η διανοητική αρετή χρωστάει και τη γένεση και την αύξησή της κατά κύριο λόγο στη διδασκαλία (γιαυτό και εκείνο που χρειάζεται γι’ αυτήν είναι η πείρα και ο χρόνος), ενώ η ηθική αρετή είναι αποτέλεσμα του έθους (και το ίδιο της το όνομα, άλλωστε, μικρή μόνο διαφορά παρουσιάζει από τη λέξη έθος). Αυτό ακριβώς κάνει φανερό ότι καμιά ηθική αρετή δεν υπάρχει μέσα μας εκ φύσεως. (3, μετάφραση Δ. Λυπουρλής).

Virtue, then, being of two kinds, intellectual and moral, intellectual virtue in the main owes both its birth and its growth to teaching (for which reason it requires experience and time), while moral virtue comes about as a result of habit, whence also its name (ethike) is one that is formed by a slight variation from the word ethos (habit). From this it is also plain that none of the moral virtues arises in us by nature; (1)

Eduardo Chillida, Zabaldu

Eduardo Chillida, Zabaldu

Definition and interpretation by C Castoriadis

«Ἔστιν ἄρα ἡ ἀρετὴ ἕξις προαιρετική, ἐν μεσότητι οὖσα τῇ πρὸς ἡμᾶς, ὡρισμένῃ λόγῳ καὶ ᾧ ἂν ὁ φρόνιμος ὁρίσειεν». (1107a, 1-5)

An almost literal translation of this definition in English would read like this:

«Virtue, then, is a habit or trained faculty of choice, the characteristic of which lies in moderation or observance of the mean relative to the persons concerned, as determined by reason, i.e. by the reason by which the prudent man would determine it.»

Ross translates it as follows: «Virtue, then, is a state of character concerned with choice, lying in a mean, i.e. the mean relative to us, this being determined by a rational principle, and by that principle by which the man of practical wisdom would determine it.» (1)

The French-Greek philosopher Cornelius Castoriadis in one of his seminars (2) has provided a lucid interpretation of Aristotle’s definition, and I would like to share it as I consider it brilliant and illuminating.

Eduardo Chillida, Homenaje a Aime Maeght

Eduardo Chillida, Homenaje a Aime Maeght

«Ἔστιν ἄρα ἡ ἀρετὴ ἕξις προαιρετική»

Είναι λοιπόν η αρετή μια συνήθεια απόκτημα ελεύθερης επιλογής

Interpretation: Arete is an acquired inclination, which we do not have since birth and we follow and exercise by choice. Castoriadis discusses the possible use of the word «habitus», but opts for inclination instead, to emphasize the active element of the word, as opposed to the rather passive nature of «habitus».Not only arete is an inclination we acquire during life, but we acquire it by choice, not because we were forced to by dire circumstances. Arete is exercised by choice, and cannot be forced.

Eduardo Chillida, Aundi II

Eduardo Chillida, Aundi II

«ἐν μεσότητι οὖσα τῇ πρὸς ἡμᾶς»

που βρίσκεται στο ενδιάμεσο των άκρων που καθορίζουμε εμείς οι ίδιοι

Interpretation: Arete lies in the middle ground between extremes, in a context defined by our condition. The middle ground is not necessarily an arithmetic mean or median, and the extremes are not universal or all encompassing, but are defined in the context of «our» condition, and have no meaning without it. The community enters the definition with the «our», and shatters the strictly individual focus usually attached to arete.

«ὡρισμένῃ λόγῳ καὶ ᾧ ἂν ὁ φρόνιμος ὁρίσειεν».

και προσδιορίζεται από τη λογική που καθορίζει ο φρόνιμος άνθρωπος

Interpetation: Arete is determined by impersonal reason and defined by the man of prudence, which is the ability to reason well within the real conditions of life.

Eduardo Chillida, Zedatu IV

Eduardo Chillida, Zedatu IV

Navigating the middle position

Being in the middle ground, between two extremes, is not an easy task. And attaining the proper position is a matter of perception rather than of reason.

«Τριῶν δὴ διαθέσεων οὐσῶν, δύο μὲν κακιῶν, τῆς μὲν καθ᾽ ὑπερβολὴν τῆς δὲ κατ᾽ ἔλλειψιν, μιᾶς δ᾽ ἀρετῆς τῆς μεσότητος, πᾶσαι πάσαις ἀντίκεινταί πως·» (1108b, 15-20)

There are three kinds of disposition, then, two of them vices, involving excess and deficiency respectively, and one a virtue, viz. the mean, and all are in a sense opposed to all; (1)

«(20) Ὅτι μὲν οὖν ἐστὶν ἡ ἀρετὴ ἡ ἠθικὴ μεσότης, καὶ πῶς, καὶ ὅτι μεσότης δύο κακιῶν, τῆς μὲν καθ᾽ ὑπερβολὴν τῆς δὲ κατ᾽ ἔλλειψιν, καὶ ὅτι τοιαύτη ἐστὶ διὰ τὸ στοχαστικὴ τοῦ μέσου εἶναι τοῦ ἐν τοῖς πάθεσι καὶ ἐν ταῖς πράξεσιν, ἱκανῶς εἴρηται. διὸ καὶ ἔργον ἐστὶ σπουδαῖον εἶναι.» (1109a, 20-25)

That moral virtue is a mean, then, and in what sense it is so, and that it is a mean between two vices, the one involving excess, the other deficiency, and that it is such because its character is to aim at what is intermediate in passions and in actions, has been sufficiently stated. Hence also it is no easy task to be good. (1)

«ἀλλ᾽ ὁ μὲν μικρὸν τοῦ εὖ παρεκβαίνων οὐ ψέγεται, οὔτ᾽ ἐπὶ τὸ μᾶλλον οὔτ᾽ ἐπὶ τὸ (20) ἧττον, ὁ δὲ πλέον· οὗτος γὰρ οὐ λανθάνει. ὁ δὲ μέχρι τίνος καὶ ἐπὶ πόσον ψεκτὸς οὐ ῥᾴδιον τῷ λόγῳ ἀφορίσαι· οὐδὲ γὰρ ἄλλο οὐδὲν τῶν αἰσθητῶν· τὰ δὲ τοιαῦτα ἐν τοῖς καθ᾽ ἕκαστα, καὶ ἐν τῇ αἰσθήσει ἡ κρίσις.» (1109b, 20-25)

The man, however, who deviates little from goodness is not blamed, whether he do so in the direction of the more or of the less, but only the man who deviates more widely; for he does not fail to be noticed. But up to what point and to what extent a man must deviate before he becomes blameworthy it is not easy to determine by reasoning, any more than anything else that is perceived by the senses; such things depend on particular facts, and the decision rests with perception. (1)

References

(1) Αριστοτέλους, Ηθικά Νικομάχεια. [ed. J. Bywater, Aristotle’s Ethica Nicomachea. Oxford, 1894] translated by William David Ross. I own the «Oxford World’s Classics» 2009 printed edition.

(2) Κορνήλιος Καστοριάδης, Η Ελληνική Ιδιαιτερότητα, Τόμος Γ”, Θουκυδίδης, η ισχύς και το δίκαιο. Εκδόσεις Κριτική, Αθήνα 2011. Please note that the Castoriadis book is in Greek, and the translation into English is mine. In addition, I have not used Castoriadis’ statements verbatim, but with a sense of poetic license.

(3) Πύλη. Αρχαία Ελληνική Γλώσσα και Γραμματεία. Αριστοτέλους, Ηθικά Νικομάχεια

I am a fool to want you

Παρασκευή, 13 Φεβρουαρίου, 2015

Edvard Munch, Separation

Edvard Munch, Separation

«I’m A Fool To Want You»

I’m a fool to want you
I’m a fool to want you
To want a love that can’t be true
A love that’s there for others too
I’m a fool to hold you
Such a fool to hold you
To seek a kiss, not mine alone
To share a kiss that devil has known
Time and time again I said I’d leave you
Time and time again I went away
But then would come the time when I would need you
And once again these words I’ll have to say
Take me back, I love you
Pity me, I need you
I know it’s wrong,it must be wrong
But right or wrong, I can’t get along without you
I am a fool to want you - Frank Sinatra - Columbia 78 (1951)

I am a fool to want you – Frank Sinatra – Columbia 78 (1951)

«I’m a Fool to Want You» is a 1951 song composed by Frank Sinatra, Jack Wolf, and Joel Herron.

It is one of my all time favourites. Desperate, frail, exhausted, dispirited, wounded but still alive, surrendered to a gruesome passion, the lover sings almost like in a confession that makes one wish to be destroyed by an impossible love, to be a fool, rather than not experience this love at all. I do not know. I never had this experience, but I always learn. I heard the song for the first time with a friend who at the time was in love with a man who later almost destroyed her. They were both married with other spouses at the time. Naturally, the performer was Billie Holiday.

Frank Sinatra with Ava Gardner in 1951

Frank Sinatra with Ava Gardner in 1951

Today I will start from the very beginning, 1951, Frank Sinatra, and gradually move forward to other performers and interpretations.

The song was written in early 1951 during a dark and desperate period in Sinatra’s soap opera-like relationship with actress Ava Gardner (“The Last Goddess” was “the” love of his life). So great was Sinatra’s grief and deep his despair over losing her that her attempted to end his own life on two separate occasions.

Frank Sinatra first recorded the song with the Ray Charles Singers on March 27, 1951 in an arrangement by Axel Stordahl in New York.

He was 36 years old when he sang this song. Sinatra and Gardner began their affair in the fall of 1949 while Sinatra was still married to his first wife (the mother of Nancy, Frank Jr. and Tina). Granted a divorce, Sinatra quickly married Gardner in November ‘51. But their fervent and volatile love was simply too hot and all-consuming and they separated in October ‘53. After a series of many failed reconciliations the two finally divorced in July ‘57, two short months after Sinatra made a second recording of this song.

He recorded the second version at the Capitol Tower in Hollywood on May 1, 1957, arranged and conducted by Gordon Jenkins, which was released in 1957 on the album Where Are You?.

The great Billie Holiday also sang the song.

This song is from Billie`s final album «Lady in Satin» completed in 1958 and released in her lifetime. Her final album, Billie Holiday, being recorded in March 1959 and released just after her death.

Billie Holiday in Olympia, November 1958

Billie Holiday in Olympia, November 1958

Ray Ellis said of the album: «I would say that the most emotional moment was her listening to the playback of «I’m a Fool to Want You». There were tears in her eyes…After we finished the album I went into the control room and listened to all the takes. I must admit I was unhappy with her performance, but I was just listening musically instead of emotionally. It wasn’t until I heard the final mix a few weeks later that I realized how great her performance really was.»

tsuyoshi-yamamoto-trio-_-midnight-sugar

After the shattering performance by Billie Holiday, it is time to listen to Tsuyoshi Yamamoto trio’s rendition of 1974. Soft, slow, but inspired, like the flow of blood back in the empty vessels of the despairing lover. There is no voice. The piece is from the album «Midnight Sugar». Touring with the Micky Curtis Band, Yamamoto had the chance to explore several international experiences that he would later use on this album as he worked with this band in France, England and Switzerland. In this album, the Tsuyoshi Yamamoto Trio plays two of Tsuyoshi’s own blues improvisations followed by jazz ballads that became standards for the trio. Yamamoto’s skill and his jazz feeling adds that certain touch of liveliness and spontaneity

Tsuyoshi Yamamoto (piano) Isoo Fukui (bass) Tetsujiro Obara (drums).

I move on with another instrumental interpretation of the song, rendered by Dexter Gordon’s saxophone.

The saxophone adds a dimension of fragility and volatility, and in this sense it also exacerbates the – naturally emerging – internal upheaval, making an even stronger impression on the listener. I just love it.

Dexter_Gordon_-_ClubhouseLP

It came out in the album Clubhouse, recorded in 1965, but not released until 1979 by Blue Note Records.

It is time to wrap up and close. I have chosen Elvis Costello and Chet Baker for the closing interpretation.

I like Costello and his interpretation, whilst I find Chet Baker’s performance magical. They performed in Ronnie Scott’s, London, on the 6th June 1986.

The musicians of this memorable performance were:

What a great song, and how magnificent the interpretations!

Restaurante El Serbal, Santander, Cantabria, Spain

Κυριακή, 8 Φεβρουαρίου, 2015

santander

Early in January I visited Cantabria, Spain and I was lucky to have lunch at El Serbal, a restaurant in the city of Santander. The restaurant is on the ground floor of an nondescript appartment complex in the center of the city.

I opted for the tasting menu paired with wines.

Amuse bouche

Amuse bouche

The amuse bouche was a fishball. I could taste the sea, but I would have liked a bit of acidity to break the saltiness and sweetness of the ball.

Fish suquet over prawns and seaweeds

Fish suquet over prawns and seaweeds

The first dish on the menu was a fish stew called «suquet». As I read in «Spanish Recipes»:

Suquet is the diminutive form of suc, or ‘juice’, in Catalan, which meansthat this wonderfully flavored dish is more correctly called juicy fish stew. The fish and shellfish used vary from cook to cook, and so does the amount of liquid – in fact, some people call this a stew, while others call it a soup – but saffron and almonds are typically part of the mix. – See more at: http://www.spain-recipes.com/suquet.html#sthash.WIbIv7o1.dpuf

It was very light, tasty, and I particularly enjoyed the prawn’s head, the best proof of the freshness of the ingredient. The seaweed was not prominent, and I confess I would have liked its presence to be more emphatic.

Cocido montañés

Cocido montañés: black pudding fritter, chorizo «churro»

The second dish was a deconstructed local stew of the mountains.

Cocido montañés is a delicious combination of beans, greens and compango, a mix of pork fat, chorizo, ribs and black pudding from the matacíu del chon (pig butchering), accompanied by breadcrumbs, egg and other meats.

As you can see there were in the middle one piece of black pudding, one piece of pork fat, and pork belly. On the left you can see the chorizo churro, a piece of deep fried chorizo sausage. On the right is a rather awkwardly placed green bean tempura.

I have never tasted the proper stew, so I cannot relate it to the deconstructed. All the pieces were tasty, the supreme being the chorizo and the fat. The black pudding was too small apiece, and rather dry, whereas the pork belly was rather bland.

Sauteed mushrooms

Sauteed mushrooms

Sauteed mushrooms picked in the forests of the nearby mountains. Absolutely delicious! Superb ingredient, cooked with respect and care so that the natural flavors are not overpowered by the seasoning and dressing of the dish.

Catch of the day

Catch of the day

The catch of the day was merluza. Perfectly cooked, accompanied by some tasty bits and pieces which I now forget.

Shoulder of Iberian pork

Shoulder of Iberian pork

The Iberian pork shoulder was melting in the mouth. It was served on a bed of cous cous dressed in teriyaki sauce. Japan rules! Splendid simplicity, and taste to the full!

Torrija

Caramelized Torrija de Brioche

The first desert was caramelized torrija made from brioche. Torrija is a traditional «sweet» in Spain, made form stale white bread. The up market dish that I tasted was made with brioche, not exactly stale white bread, and it was absolutely delicious! I could taste the butter, I could see the caramelized sugar, I could smell the eggs of the brioche.

Nougat pie

Nougat pie

The nougat pie with ice cream that followed was nice, but I found the pastry a bit tough. It lacked the flaky delicate texture that I would have preferred. The ice cream though was faultless.

For the love of chocolate

For the love of chocolate

The coffee was served accompanied by a chocolate tray. The concoction in the small container was delicious! The trufflw did not drive me crazy, but one cannot have it all!

I went away around 5 o’clock in the afternoon, and realized that although I had been in Santander for three hours only, I already liked the place. Thank you El Serbal! Thank you Rafael!

 

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