Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Daughters of Fable

Myths, legends, fairy tales, in fact any sort of narration would fall under the "fable category", as the word originates in the Latin "fabula" ("story") and that in turn from "fari" ("to speak"). However, through centuries of mutations, unfathomable linguistic mechanisms and that wild factor known as "the human condition", what we call fable today is a fictional story (whether based on long forgotten facts or not), handed down for centuries through oral tradition until it reached our day, passing through Gutenberg' s era to be, finally, widely recorded on and transmitted through paper.

We like fables: one could even argue that, before we are exposed to the rigors and cynicism of our world, we are genetically predisposed to like them. We like to be put to sleep by a gentle voice recounting tales of kingdoms, oh so far away and be convinced to eat in order to grow strong like those we see as our mythic counterparts. Fables, though they may change form, medium (is it pure coincidence that the game "Fable" has been one of the most successful games to be produced in recent years?) and their apparent popularity may also seem to fluctuate, but at the end of the day, a fable properly prepared and presented will always win our hearts, much like Bill Willingham's "Fables" (in my opinion the only ever worthy rival of Neil Gaiman's "The Sandman").

Yes, we like, we love fables and make no mistake: some love them even to the point of actively trying to preserve the tradition of oral storytelling, reminding us why Aesop and Homer ended up being taught in schools. Three such people are the Daughters of Fable of this post's title, a.k.a. Vassilia Vaxevani, Antonia Velliou and Iphigenia Kakridoni (actually, if I have understood the meaning of their ensemble's name, "Talespinners" may have been a more appropriate translation in the cultural context, but I elected to use the other one all the same, as I am a great fan of puns).

I first met Vassilia as the newest member of Comicdom.gr, when I returned from one of my prolonged cases of Houdini Syndrome. During the course of several discussions, she mentioned that "she was attending lessons and was working on her thesis", when she had already told me she was a teacher. Turns out, she has been attending the "Narration School" of the Center for Study and Propagation of Myths and Fables! I was dumbstruck. There was such a thing?! Not only is there such a thing, but they are holding a Narration Festival around "Magic and the Supernatural World" in Athens, from the 18th to the 20th of December 2009, at the Traditional Greek Art Museum. Make sure to check it out!

Back to the main subject, Vassilia invited me to one of the Storytelling Nights of the Daughters of Fable, titled "The Wiles of Men and Women" (at Makari Music Scene - 125, Zoodohou Pigis St., Exarheia, Athens), featuring fables from Arabia, Russia, Africa, Spain (I think) and perhaps a couple whose origin I cannot deduce. Not only did the three young women have very different styles (by strictly personal judgment, I have dubbed Antonia the "Dark Spinner", Iphigenia the "Rosy Romantic" and Vassilia the "Daydreamer" - although you must bear in mind that this was after watching them only once), but during the African tale of the Lioness and the Turtle they incorporated members of the audience as the key characters of the story.

All in all, it was a very entertaining and fun 2 hours, which unearthed this warm and fuzzy feeling inside me, reminding me of summers long ago, when we would gather around a beach fire and talk of Todd the Gray, or in a small room with a hookah and tell the tale of Weasel's triumphs and laments...

Keep dreaming,


P.S. I took two pictures of the Daughters that night and although they seemed OK on the camera's miniscule screen, it turned out that in full size they were a blurry mess... Someone's lens needs some serious cleaning, pronto!

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Literary Section - News II: Ahmes, Moonchild

Today is a big day, since my father's second book, "Ahmes, Moonchild" came out (before moving any further, I must stress that this book is in Greek and the aforementioned is my own translation of the original title, "Αχμές, ο Γιός του Φεγγαριού") by Polis Publishing.

It is a purely fictional account of the life of Ahmes, the first Mathematician in history to be known by name, having signed the famous Rhind Scroll (named after the Scottish archaeologist who found it, Henry Rhind), a collection of 84 solved mathematical problems, sometime around 1600 BC.

Besides giving a plausible account of how, why and when Ahmes compiled the scroll containing the sum of mathematical knowledge of his time, the book tells the colorful tale of how he was found by Pianki, one of the Royal Hunters, how he was raised by him and his beautiful wife, Tadinanefer, as well as of his friendship with orphaned Amanthys, a Minoan boy whom the evil whims of merciless pirates, through the merciful winds of fate, landed in Egypt. More than that, it's the account of his journey through life, towards an accomplishment that will seem monumental more than two-score centuries later, preserved by one pale, sickly man.

I would not say more. The book is an adventure on two levels: on one hand, it's the life adventure of two friends who survived and were brought together by providence and on the other, the adventure of learning, discovery and knowledge. Although any reader worth their salt will see the bias of a son writing about his father's book, I still believe that, had I not enjoyed it, I may have not written this post.

Although the book is in Greek, I have faith that it will be successful enough to be translated in English, like his previous one, "Pythagorean Crimes" (English edition by Parmenides Publishing) was. Meanwhile, you can take my word for it or, if you can read Greek, visit my father's blog for a peek.



Friday, 6 November 2009

Thou Shall Not Steal, Terms and Conditions Apply

Hello again: well, this is another post to fill in while waiting for the one being prepared, but I believe no less interesting. It concerns "Fast Forward Magazine" (well, ROMzine actually, since it's in DVD form) and its "Street Art Issue", that is the one before the current "Asta Na Pane Issue".

The DVD is distributed free and I came by it coincidentally, while out shopping for - what else - books and comics. Seeing as most free material of this kind is usually not worth bothering with (and to me, street art is pretty to look at but it also reminds me how badly I suck at drawing anything), I left it lying around my room for quite some time. Then, a few months back, during a routine clean-up of miscellaneous and obsolete stuff, I was checking anything lying on my desk, before deciding whether I should chuck it in the recycle bin or not. Finally, I inserted the DVD in the PC's drive.

It just goes to show that the old adage concerning rules and exceptions still holds true: "Fast Forward" was anything BUT a disappointment and it currently resides safely on my DVD shelf. The funny thing is: its title material was probably the least interesting to me, whereas a fantastic documentary, by Steal This Film Project, conspicuously titled "Steal This Film", completely won me over.

Contrary to what the title might imply, the film does not stick to the matter of piracy, file-sharing etc. alone, but instead it goes on to do an analysis of modern information dissemination, a historical review of the reaction to any new popular medium and/ or method of information sharing and duplication. Furthermore, it generally does a very interesting overview of this whole issue, its origins, the wrong handling which backfired on the related industry and much more.

I watched it in one breath and naturally, I then dug through every corner of the rest of the DVD:
movie and video-game trailers, a paint-ball feature, shotgun comics reviews by Makis Katalifos of Jemma Books and Comics, a short film about last year's Torture Garden at Second Skin and of course, graffiti. I also liked the simple, functional 3D interface very much.

In the end, I believe I will become a loyal reader (or is it watcher, in this case?) of the team's material and try to track down their previous issues (the new one is already out, from what I see on their official site). Furthermore, lots of material from all the issues can be found in the archive, so make sure to check it out.

Unfortunately, I suppose "Steal This Film" was just too huge to put on there but you could always check the project's official website (link a few paragraphs up) and help promote their way of thinking, if you agree with it.



Thursday, 5 November 2009

Cultural Priorities

I have been trying forever to write the second part of Celluloid Vampires and Then Some, and it just keeps getting bigger and bigger, so I thought I would relate an experience I had today, instead, since the Dogtooth post has been on there for a month and a half.

As seems to have become customary, today I spent quite a bit of money compulsively and in rapid succession but I am more than happy with what I got: first I went to the Solaris comic store to buy some bags and boards for my comic issues and then I spotted "The Art of Osamu Tezuka: God of Manga" by Helen McCarthy. Aside from being a huge, beautifully made book also featuring a DVD documentary as an extra, I realized it was much more than just an artbook: actually it's an Osamu Tezuka encyclopedia, featuring a biography, photographic material not just from his manga but also his life, from childhood, and adolescence, his time as mangaka and animator and up to his death and beyond. There's an (I think) exhaustive list of characters and their multiple uses and appearances, his works in chronological order, as well as a ton of analysis on it, positive and negative commentary and lots and lots more! I believe it's worth every cent of the 40 euros I paid for it.

Later on, I met with Kyoshiro and some other friends for coffee (well, chocolate milk-shake for me, for which I was sorely criticized) and Kyoshiro had brought me a little thing of beauty bought from eBay, the complete "Blackstar" from Filmation!!! Just to be clear, "Blackstar" first aired in 1981 and for many, perhaps including the company itself, it was merely the dry run before "He-Man". In comparison to virtually anything created in Japan during the same period, it's more than primitive in every way (imagine that "Captain Harlock" and "Candy Candy" were put into animation before the 80s). However, it has been a piece of nostalgia which has completely eluded my grasp for the better part of a decade (I have never been good with sites such as eBay, so buzz off). Not on the internet as a torrent, not in any local store, not on any of the usual sites for such purchases and when even collections of "He-Man" and "Thundercats" started appearing, and it still remained nowhere in sight, I had lost all hope of ever seeing it again. Yet, I finally have all 13 episodes in my hands and have already watched the first two (geek's guilty pleasures).

Still, I have not yet made it to my actual point. Even later on, I visited a Metropolis (now multi-store) on Panepistimiou Ave. in search of a book by Neocles Galanopoulos (a Greek writer along with whom we were featured among the 14 writers of "Ecocrimes" anthology), titled "Death Out of Nowhere" (Topos Editions). Entering the store, much to my surprise, I was met by the sound of brutal vocals and metal music, rather more loud than any other time I have happened to visit the store (not that I have ever heard black metal played in every floor simultaneously at any of these stores, but regardless).

Though I generally hate brutal vocals and have serious problems with death and / or black metal being labeled as "music", what I was hearing was not in fact so bad (the female back vocals and the occasional somber reciting did help), although of course I did not understand a word of it during the main body of the songs. At any rate, while searching for the book I came across some of the labeled "Ground Floor Offers": among them was a complete series of books from Penguin Editions, reprinting somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 books which gave birth to the great ideas of humanity, from Plato, Seneca, Lao Tzu, Darwin, Henry-David Thoreau, William Shakespeare, to George Orwell, Virginia Woolf, Fyodor Dostoyevski, Thomas More and many, many, inconceivably more for 5 euros each! After a very lengthy deliberation, I ended up choosing "Confessions of an English Opium Eater" by Thomas de Quincy and "Decline of the English Murder" by George Orwell. Believe me, it was a tough choice, made only harder by the fact that each book's appearance is designed to reflect its content, though they are all pocket-size).

The music was still gong strong. When I asked one of the employees a question and realized that he could not hear me, I was certain that something was off - there HAD to be a reason why that sort of music was being played at that volume... and then I saw them, just across the door connecting the two sections of the ground floor: hair uniformly long in both sexes, dyed black in abundance by the women, too much actual metal on all the people and blue-jeans. I could not understand for the life of me, what was all that metal crowd doing in the ground floor (that section is on the 1st floor and then again, you never see so many all at once these days). So I headed there to even find cameras and reporters directed to what I assumed was a metal band and merchandise for PS3 dubbed "Brutal Legends".

Finally, it hit me and a bit of looking around filled in any holes in my understanding: the black metal band from 1987, Rotting Christ, were proudly featured in the new expansion of "Guitar Hero", "Brutal Legends". That's what all the fuss was about...

After purchasing the book I had come for, as well as my other two selections, I still dug through the pile of Penguin's "Great Ideas" series and made probably unrealistic plans for buying all 80 of them sooner or later. The music was still on when I left. Now, I never liked Rotting Christ (although the HAVE gotten better since I last heard them in the late 90s) and I have already expressed my views on the particular sort of music, but that is not the point in and of itself: the point is, I saw all those literary masterpieces, cheap and beautifully printed... in an offers stack, with barely three people (myself included) stooping to dig through the pile, while some Greek black metal band featured in a video-game was suddenly sensational news. Though I have not fully digested what that implies, I can be certain of one thing: at that moment, as I was leaving, I felt ill.

What are your thoughts?