Archive for April, 2017

Cloth Buddies

April 12th, 2017

It may mean anthropomorphizing garments and binkies. It seems to run on the male side of my family.

Two of my three sons were very attached to their baby blankets. I ended up salvaging them by first patching each, and then by cutting down and re-hemming the sturdiest surviving parts. One son, it turns out, really liked the satin binding; he could be diverted with a satin slip.

Pic Note: This is a fair-use image retrieved from wikipedia.

I can relate for myself. I don’t fetishize individual garments or cloth objects. Yet, I am very fond of wear-softened cotton or silk shirts. Alas, I have had to admit that I have worn out yet another favorite shirt.

This one is a maroon cotton long sleeved one (almost all my shirts are long-sleeved and cotton). The collar and cuffs are clearly worn, showing white threads. Sigh.

I have also come to a tipping point with three Woodrich animal-print cotton shirts. There was a moose one, hunting dogs, and bears. I have had these for years. wear them equally and they are wearing out simultaneously.

Woodrich has long ago removed these from production. They make a bastardized version, very heavy, very thick chamois cotton. I have a couple of those in good shape; they really are too hot and bulky to ever bring the comfort and joy of the previous versions.

This seems to make many women including my wife somewhat disdainful. Women tend to have more and more diverse clothes from men. Women are thus more comfortable tossing garments that show wear. They are also far less willing than I to darn and otherwise patch a shirt.

Like my sons, I enjoy a soft piece of cloth. More than just nice to touch, it seems that the shirts and I have been through a lot together. That’s where the weird anthropomorphizing comes it. It’s almost animistic. I can’t say that my soft shirt has a soul, but it sure is pleasant to wear.

Drinking where Hercules killed the lion

April 5th, 2017

Don’t expect Greek table wines to stand up to those from the likes of Italy and France. It is infamous for bland ones.

Many will seem watery. That’s historically reasonable too. Think of a symposium, which is Greek for drinking together. In ancient times, the likes of Socrates would resolve matters philosophical, governmental and more over wine. However, a big however, they watered their wine equally or more; they wanted to keep a clear head for the discussions.

Over my life, I’ve had decent Greek wines. Moreover my wife and I are fond of retsina. I’ve heard many compare the resin-tinged wine to the way kerosene smells. Then in disclosure note that I love malt whiskey, particularly those from Islay. My absolute favorite is the very peaty Lagavulin. Even some Scotch fans say it reminds them of iodine.

On our recent swing through Greece, we found a nice white from Corfu and a new favorite brand of retsina. We also tasted two whites and three reds at Domaine Skouras  in Nemea, near Corinth. Those included some real winners.


Dimitris at Skouras really knows his horticulture. Nearly as important he is a great showman. He made the tour and tasting funny and fun.
We did two dry whites — a 100% Moscofilero and the Armyra, 95% Chafrdonnay and 5% Malagousia. The former was flowery and the latter fruity. Either would would be a fine patio buddy. They were respectively just under 8 € and just under 10 €. Things are cheap in Greece, but these would be well worth more.
Of our 3 reds, two featured the classic Nemean Saint George (Agiorgitiko) grape. Saint George was 100% and Megas Oenos (snicker, big wine) 80% with 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. Fleva was 100% Syrah. The 17.4 € Megas allegedly would cellar well for 15 years. The 14 € Fleva had complex nose and mouth. I liked the 8.8 € Saint George best, medium body with long finish.
Back in the bleachers, we discovered a new favorite retsina at several restaurants on Corfu and in Athens. Malamatina is full flavored and not too heavy on the resin. It is an excellent meal wine.

Pix Notes: You’re welcome to anything useful. They are Creative Commons, so just cite Mike Ball once. Click images to enlarge.

Fetishes of Heroes and Appearances

April 4th, 2017

Let me be straight up about Achilles. His treatment of Hector and King Priam knock Achilles out of the running for noble and honorable. I’d put him in the gonif class (the Greek for scoundrel is αχρείος).

However, Elisabeth, Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary, fetishized old weak heel Achilles. She built a palace in his name (Achilleion) in Gastouri just south of Corfu town. It is chockablock with Achilles statues by German sculptor  Ernst Herter and others.

The late 19th Century wife of Emperor Franz Joseph I had considerable power and wealth, she was also a cautionary tale. Such negativity aside, the palace is a splendid tour.

Imperial Obsessions

Raised in nobility, married an emperor (too young at 16), and she even met goal number one for her type — she produced a male heir to the throne. What was the problem then?

Sissi (sometimes Sisi) as Elisabeth was known was not happy in the Hapsburg court. It was formal and stuffy, and came with a controlling mother-in-law, Archduchess Sophie.

Moreover, she was not as enamored of her hubby as he was of her. Instead, she was a looker who was determined to be the most beautiful woman in view. Children? Age? No, nothing was an excuse for her.

To feel like a slug, check out her wikipedia entry on her physical regimen. She was 5’8″ and maintained 110 pounds via exercise and diet through four pregnancies and high social life. It seems she was anorexic, which goes with the package.

So how you might ask did a Hungarian big-shot come to love Achilles, and all things Greek, and to build a palace off Northwest Greece? Her wiki entry has numerous citations and there are several good biographies of her. The short of it is that Sissi fancied herself a scholar and saw the ancient Greeks as the epitome of humanity.  What better basis to continually study the language, culture, philosophy and arts of Greece?

Arm’s Length

Alas, Sissi never enjoyed the Hapsburg game. She and her emperor produced some children, including the mandatory male heir. Apparently neither of them pointed out that the world had a long history of successful women rulers. When the time and circumstances arose, they were stuck.

Their one son, Rudolph, at 31 shot his 17-year-old mistress, then himself to death. Daddy had said he couldn’t divorce his wife, Princess Stéphanie of Belgium (arranged noble marriage of course). You can read how this cascade of related events likely lead to WWI. For Sissi, it was closer to home.

She piled on the plans and work orders. She had many builders and craftsmen imported (such as Italian marble workers), and led the palace to completion in just over two years.

Sissi visited the palace for long periods twice a year until an Italian anarchist assassinated her nearly 10 years later. Then her daughter Maria-Valeria did little with the property and sold it within a decade to Kaiser Wilhelm II. He shuffled and replace a few of the statues, as emperors are wont to do.

The palace suffered various uses, shifting furniture but not the paintings and statues…at least once Wilhelm blundered around. He removed a statue of a Jewish poet, Heinrich Heine, and had added a gigantic full-drag Achilles bronze in hoplite armor. In the main though, it survived pretty well through serving as a rescue center for children, having its second floor transformed from bedrooms into a casino (featured in the Bond flick For Your Eyes Only), and use as an Axis-powered HQ.

What’s to See?

For your 8 € entry, you get use of an audio tour box and a real view of the splendors of the Gilded Age, royal version. Vista fans and gardening types can revel in the grounds. Levels of terracing lead overlook the forest and old plantings.

Some olive trees are centuries old and huge. This one that our guide claimed was maybe 600 years old was about 3 feet across before splaying out at the base. It has large holes from a common vine disease. It continues to produce. O
Life sized statues of the nine muses lined a patio. Here are snaps of Melpomene (muse of tragedy, holding a tragic mask) and Terpsichore (muse of dance with a lyre).

Behind them were 14 busts, 13 ancient Greek philosophers, and somewhat inexplicably William Shakespeare.

Furniture outside and a fountain by the muses featured another of Sissi’s obsessions, dolphins.
That bronze Achilles Wilhelm commissioned included a shield with an intimidating gorgon.
Befitting the palace’s name, the highlight statue is a gigantic dying Achilles.
For drama, dying Achilles appears pulling the fatal arrow from his heel.

Pix Notes: You’re welcome to anything useful. They are Creative Commons, so just cite Mike Ball once. Click images to enlarge.

 

 

Public Pets Abound in Greece

April 3rd, 2017

Among the things we learned in Greece recently was that stray dogs and cats are ubiquitous. In the few major cities and all tourist sites, seemingly healthy and clearly well fed furry things lounge and beg.

Pix Notes: You’re welcome to anything useful. They are Creative Commons, so just cite Mike Ball once. Click images to enlarge.

There are ways and ways of viewing public-pet reality. Here’s one writer’s thoughts close to mine. The Friends of the Strays of Greece sees anguish and death for them. In fact, in rural areas where stray dogs may be kept as hunting animals, then discarded, street life is not good.

What we experienced was the public-pet picture. Many tavernas and other eateries had a resident dog. It would bask and nap in  the sun on the paving stones.Various people would speak to, pet and feed the dog.

Where we saw cats was mostly at tourist sites and mostly outside of large cities. They and they dogs seemed to keep their distance. Tourists would feed them. The cats were much more cautious than the dogs.

I thought of how different Athenians are from Parisians. Both love dogs, but deal with them very unlike the other.

Parisians clearly own their dogs and take them home, as well as everywhere they go. That includes groceries, bars and all kinds of restaurants. That extends beyond Paris too. I recall a meal at Scorlion in Saint-Jean-d’Angély near Cognac. A well-dressed elderly woman parked a pair of primary-school aged boys, likely grandsons, on the patio outside. She brought her dog in and they dined while the boys waited outside for a couple of hours.

…and the poop…

Right up with Parisians’ disdain for anyone who speaks what they consider imperfect French, is having to experience dog feces. The smell permeates the city and one has to be constantly careful where shoes go. This seems peculiar in a city and nation that has so many virtues and joys. Let us remember that the revolutionary call liberté,égalité,fraternité did not add considération.

Greeks on the other hand seem to clean up after their dogs. Walks through towns or country did not include assaults on the nose or shoe. Perhaps a country that prides itself on founding democracy should tend to the commonweal. Arf,