Saturday, October 17, 2009

A visit to Naxos Archaeological museum (2009)

The Archaeological Museum of Naxos is located pretty centrally on the castle of the old town. It houses a rather fine collection of Cycladic figurines and mycenaean grave goods from the numerous LH cemeteries on the island. We went last year with K and A (seven years old at the time).
On the way up to the museum we spotted this rather nice spolion in a yard wall...

The museum is in the old town which is essentially the medieval castle of Naxos. There are many "Frankish" arches in evidence such as the one on the left and many heraldic designs of the various dukes and counts and lords who were installed after the fourth crusade (don't get me started).

The museum is housed in a Francescan building which shares this side of the square with the Ursuline building, all very tangible signs of the Catholic church's attempt to convert fellow Christians to caesaropapism on the one hand and the heresies of Rome on the other.

Strictly no photography is allowed in the museum (in clear contravention of Law 3028/2002) despite the potential for outreach. Inside, the museum houses a nice cycladic collection with good Late Helladic (second millennium BC) gravegoods and some kitsch looking Roman sculpture. In the open air part, there is assorted sculpture from all ages which is presumably not considered special enough to warrant a guard or protection from the elements. Most of the photos which follow are from the outside part of the exhibition as the lack of a guard allows some photographs to be taken.

The open air section has a large mosaic in the middle, showing the bull carrying Europa off in its centre and animal forms around the edges. In style it is not very different to mosaics from the late antique period all over the Roman empire. The outside section is really quite chaotic and without labelling. On the right, we have classical and gothic capitals rubbing shoulders without seeming to mind the millennium which separates them.

Amongst the many loose sculptural finds from all ages in the open air section, there was also this rather exciting archangel in the "stumpy dumpy" style of the late and post-Byzantine era.

On the left, above, we have various bits of sculpture with an unfinished kouros and on the right, an unfinished Kouros amongst more sculpture of various periods.

On the left, capitals from various periods and in various "styles" - note the very vernacular low relief moustachioed cubes. On the right, a rather nice capital with a medieval / late byzantine figure between two animals, reminiscent of the mistress / master of the animals motifs from many centuries before.

This is the only shot inside the museum I managed to shoot before being told that it was forbidden. It shows a rather nice seated Cycladic figurine from the end of the third millennium BC.

Korinna and Cousin A with the spolia... a walk up to the museum is an opportunity to walk through the town of Naxos and talk about the processes which lead to the incorporation of spolia in newer structures (which themselves become old).

A final few words on the museum: don't miss it. It is old-style with old style labelling and the sleepy-eyed guard will tell you (the ticket lady doesn't talk) that the reason you are not allowed to take photos is that the artefacts are unpublished (this is the case for some, not all the items).

The problem with this logic, of course, is that the excavations were in the late forties and early fifties, and the excavator is dead. This is compounded by the fact that no one in the ephor's seat since has the good sense to get up off their arses and make even a preliminary publication of the important bronze age cemeteries the grave goods of which are in the museum.

If they have enough money to waste on fancy-schmancy touch screens with exceedingly little information stored on them, all but one of which were inoperable (through either faults of design or omissions in the training of the local staff) only months after installation, then why is there no money to make a publication of the old digs? Perhaps because the kick-back off purchasing fancy schmancy touch screens sits better in the baggy pockets of ministry officials such as "bounce" Zachopoulos than the ghostly thanks of the original archaeologist...

Another (totally) final thing: don't be scared by the way the exhibits rattle and move about in their wooden cases as you walk over the creaking wooden boards of the museum. The ministry is informed. That's why they spent money on touch-screen machines that don't work.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

New Acropolis Museum disappointing anticlimax

This article was edited in December 2012 to correct some image links
Please see my new post on the improvements made since Summer 2009

Don't get me wrong. The new museum is great. It's unique in terms of the architecture and the finds being exhibited inside. It houses the foremost collection of archaic and classical "golden age" sculpture in the world. There is no other such collection and there can be no other.

So, let me tell you about the museum, then, the museum that they have been building for more than four years; the museum that has been built and finished for the last two years (which were spent on the transfer of the exhibits from one building to the other). I emphasise the timescales involved, to pre-empt the whingers who will try to reason that all that is wrong with the museum is a result of the short timescales involved.

I have been critical of the management of the Museum Opening through this blog in the past. I had hoped to be able to come back with a gushingly positive review of the museum itself, to show to myself as well as to the world that Greece knows how to manage its cultural heritage. Unfortunately, this will not be possible. The museum is not so much a varnished turd, as a lilly gilded with shite (and then varnished). The material the museologists had to work with was amazing, the museum itself is rather disappointing in spite of this amazing material.

My complaints cluster around certain categories all of which are seen in the light of the media blitz telling us that this museum represents THE new way forward for all museums in Greece and that this is the face of the future.

Printed material
My first criticism is the lack of printed material for visitors. In every other archaeological site and museum in the country including the forgotten House of Tiles at Lerna which seems to receive no more than eight visitors annually, the visitors are given a glossy printed "guide" in their choice of English or Greek language, showing a floor plan of the site or museum and information about what is being seen. This is given out together with the entry ticket.

At the Acropolis Museum, which admittedly has just opened (but which has been in a state of being about to open for the best part of two years), the visitor is given his barcoded ticket (a nice touch, although it has been implemented in less advanced countries such as Turkey for years) and that's it. No leaflet, nothing. From there on, the visitor is left at the mercy of the occasional signage pointing him to the next floor. The result of this, I saw quite clearly in the group of English-speaking tourists wondering whether there was anything more to see on the floor above the gift shop and cafeteria. I interrupted them and helpfully offered that they may want to go upstairs, given that the museum was built essentially for the plastercasts on show there.

Sure, there may be a printed leaflet on the way, but why isn't it here yet? Was there not enough time? Was the floor plan not known?

Photography ban
This, at the time of my visit had me more annoyed than anything else. I have been away from friends such as the moscophoros or the sandal-binder for about four years, and now I can see them again, I am not allowed to photograph them. This unjustified ban is as unjustifiable as the illegal summerhouses being built in the burnt forests of Attika.

I am curious from where the authorities of the new acropolis Museum think they are given the right to impose a blanket ban on photography in the museum. Certainly not through Law 3028/2002 on the protection of antiquities (and in general of the cultural heritage of the country).
Sandal-binder Moschophoros

Apparently, the ban was put in place (according to the guard I asked) because some people were taking "improper" pictures together with the statues. This very unique ban on photography is put in place because people are interacting with art? I am shocked! I am shocked, given the copious amounts of information you give the visitor about the exhibition, and given the respect for the art he is watching that this information will have built in the visitor, I am shocked that some chose to photograph themselves standing next to or even pointing at the penis of a statue. How could someone do this after all the interesting information the museum has provided? And even so: how elitist and snobby does one have to be to proscribe how exactly the visitor is to react to art, that some reactions are acceptable and some unacceptable?

Is the museum in the present century? Does it acknowledge the universal nature of the items on show inside? How can it argue that this universally recognised art should be accessible to all people of the world and then proscribe to these same people the way to enjoy it? Is the status of the Venus de Milo or the Lacoon or indeed of the originals of the plastercasts of the Parthenon marbles any different because photography is allowed?

Ban this sick filth!
(Photos have been downloaded in low res, clicking on the image will take you to the original source)

I will not dwell on the photography ban as I consider it wholly temporary. I am just sad that I could not share all the wondrous things I saw, the new faces of old friends.

Poor explanatory materials
Two problems here, both of which stem from the narrow-mindedness inherent in the system. The labels and explanations are written by archaeologists for archaeologists. The labels on each individual item are very cursory and the general texts do nothing to help the casual visitor who has heard of neither Kekrops nor Erechteus nor indeed Hercules (unless in relation to Xena, warrior princess).

The individual labels rarely go beyond a name and a catalogue number, as if this is enough for 95% of the visitors to the museum who hardly realise that possibly all of the archaic sculpture they are looking at is on display because of the same Persians depicted in the hit film "300" (this is Spaaaarta!). To put it journalistically, while the "what" and possibly the "when" are covered (albeit in a very superficial way), the "where", "why" and "how" are left very much missing.

Why is there no text describing for example, what the gigantomachy is? Or indeed what the amazonomachy and kentaromachy scenes are representing: the Greeks and the 'other'? What is the procession showing on the Parthenon frieze, how many horsemen are there and is it a coincidence that there are 192 of them? In the room full of the Archaic Kouros / Kore / Horsemen: Why was this sculpture erected, where exactly, by who, for what purpose, how was it made, where did the raw materials come from, how much would it have cost (how precious was it) and most significantly, how come this sculpture has come down to us: why was it buried in pits? Perserschutt is a wonderfully fun word, after all (Perserschutt on wikipedia). Why is the Kritias Boy so called, but more interestingly, how is the weight balanced on his feet? What does that do to his buttocks? It is infuriating that for the first time visitors to the museum can walk around a three dimensional sculpture that was created to be seen in the round and there is no help offered to them to guide them in their appreciation. It is easy to appreciate the hair on both the Kritias Boy and the Blonde Boy when you know what to look for, but unfortunately most visitors do not. And why are there no analyses of the composition of the kentauromachy metopes contrasting those showing elegant use of space to those without? Finally - for the first time the friezes and metopes of the Parthenon are displayed in glorious 360 degrees, with their back surfaces exposed to the museum goers. This is the case with the balustrades of the temple of Athene Nike also. This is a joy to behold if, like me you are interested in the makers' marks and the pragmatic side of decorating a temple - ie how to fix the decoration to the temple itself. But again, it is mentioned nowhere that it is possible to see this and that the visitor may learn from this innovative way of displaying the exhibits.

It is snobby and elitist to throw art at the people without providing explanations and insight for those interested in learning how to appreciate it more.
I'm not saying there should be touch screens and multimedia mumbo-jumbo (although that would show a more 20th century approach to museum displays), just more information and the right sort of information. At the moment it is almost totally lacking in printed form and totally lacking in the form of walkman style audio tours. Even the jumbled Roman and late antique town under the pilotis of the museum are left completely unexplained, despite the marvels of modern engineering employed to protect them.

Lack of child-friendly ideas
Children do not exist, at least for the curators of the new acropolis museum and their handlers at the Ministry of Culture.

Very few of the exhibited items are accessible to children, those that are, are accessible by accident rather than by design. Even so, there is no printed information for children of the sort that one finds in museums in Rome which provoke the kids into interacting with their past.

All it takes is a sign with big font text asking kids some questions to get them thinking: Questions could range from the totally neutral: Why do you think the statue of the Kore has got one hand extended? To the (unacceptably) sentimentalist-political: What do you think the five Karyatids are thinking about the empty space next to them?

Both of these last two faults may be explained by the fact that there was no time. I realise that the three to four years or so between the closing of the old museum and the opening of the new one are a very short space of time (almost unimaginably short, approaching quantum-short) for the hiring of archaeologists with museological postgraduate qualifications to prepare texts for the visitors. Such people do exist, and I am sure they would have loved such a challenge. Time was not the problem. The problem is that the Ministry does not care, at all levels. From the guard in the Mycenaean room at the National Archaeological Museum who wouldn't know, if asked, where the Sesklo finds are (just through the door on the left) to all other levels of the hierarchy, apathy is king. The lustre of the exhibits is expected to carry the lacklustre effort made to dress them, but this, unfortunately, will no longer do.

So, we come to the final question: what is the role of a museum, in the 21st century? If the role of a museum is to teach or to communicate to the visitor about the exhibits, then the New Acropolis Museum fails. Other than presenting the exhibits, this museum does very little else. Granted, the architecture is amazing especially in the use of natural light.

However, the New Acropolis Museum does not explain nor does it help the visitor to understand the conditions which existed while the exhibits were being made, or why this is important to today's society.
I have been taught that one does not respect that which one does not know well. No wonder that in a society which seeks to impose admiration of the past without also seeking to promote understanding of that same past, we continue to show disrespect to ourselves and our heritages.

Given the state of the Ministry of Culture and its status as dumping ground for otherwise useless political has-beens (not forgetting the rotund fraudsters), it is no surprise that the Greek state has failed to make the most of the new museum. The problem is intimately linked to the leadership of the Ministry, because the problem is one of vision. There is no forward-thinking vision because those entrusted with the protection of Greece's heritage sit safe in their own blinkered world view: they cannot see beyond the walls of the offices surrounding the soft chairs to which their comfortable arses irrevocably adhere thanks to anachronistic civil service staffing laws.

The irony of naming the archaeo-web portal of the ministry "Odysseus" is not lost on many. It would have been fitting had the people of the ministry shared the hero's inquisitive nature and had allowed themselves to "get to know the cities and minds of many men" like he is said to have done.

We cannot assume that because we have the unique resource on our doorstep, that we know what to do with it and how to manage it. This last sentence alone is likely to rile the feathers of many within the musty, cocooned and introverted ranks of Greek academia.

So - final verdict: go to the museum, but learn about the exhibits before you set out.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

I dreampt about Charlie a few nights ago

I did not actually see him in the dream, but he was there and it was funny how I never found myself face to face with him. Charlie died a few years ago. He had hurled himself off the top of a building in a far away land. I had known him since we had interacted at the Bryanston Greek summer camp in 1990. Turns out that he was friends with Kerridge at school and then he also turns up at college.

The thing is, in the dream, I only realised after I had woken up that I had been dreaming about a dead guy. It felt quite normal to be waiting around on a stage for a rehearsal for which Charlie was late and to be talking on the phone about him with someone and trying to persuade him by e-mail to send me his CV so we could work together. Of course he never came to the rehearsal, never replied to the mails and never took the job, but while it was frustrating that I couldn't find him, I never twigged that the underlying reason might have been that this was a dream and Charlie had in fact been dead for close to ten years.

Anyway - once again ave atque vale. Be sure you are remembered here yet and will be.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

New acropolis museum - opening soon... or is it?

I am writing to complain about the sheer volume of information that is being poured on us Athenian Culture-Vultures about the opening of the new Acropolis Museum.

As of 3 June a mere 17 days away from the opening, no press release has been released by the Greek Ministry of Culture. Did I write Ministry of Culture, I meant to write the ministry for has-been ministers moved over here to keep a low profile while fat-man general secretary "bounce" Zachopoulos skims the cream off the milk.

So - where were we? Ah, yes. Nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

Don't believe me? Look at the photo - screen grab from the press-release page of the MiniCult on 3 June. Mr. Samaras, the man who loved Greece enough to resign as Foreign Minister when the borders were opened in the early nineties seems less enamoured of Greece now. He has the perfect opportunity to bring the world's attention to this country and to our showcase super-duper-wow museum. Paging Mr. Samaras!

So, I wish I could write more about the opening. Truth is, I know nothing about it. There is no information on the site of the MiniCult and no information on the site of the museum itself other than the opening date of 20 June.

If I were a journalist in foreign parts I would not know anything about the opening of this museum. That is a shame, Mr. Samaras. And it's all yours.

What I saw in my sleep last night (9 June 2009)

So there I was in an airport - I know, I tend to spend a lot of time in airports - just watching people around me, when suddenly I notice what looks like a guy in a 'Binson fleece. Almost without thinking, I shout out, "Kit!" in the sort of voice reserved for boatie self-identification over large distances which is superficially disapproving but ultimately appreciative of the thing being spotted.

The fleece wearer turns to look at me and it's JWH! Out of nowhere Big-Geoff also appears in a 'Binson Lent VIII fleece from 1993. JWH is happy to see me and asks to see photos of the little one. I tell him I have none save for those on my mobile. I give him the mobile. He plays with the menu and restores it to factory settings. Ever the joker old JWH! It was always his favourite trick to switch his friends' Nokia phones to Arabic language, this joke went one better.

I woke thinking it had been a jolly long time since I'd heard any news from Big Geoff and I wondered how Caius were doing this season.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

"Maybe later" - lessons in non-sequiturs from cabbies

The taxi touts in Moscow's Sheremetevo are infamous. I had read all about them. They swarm like flies and they are quite insistent, and never wanting to take "no" for a final answer on being told that you are not interested in their services, they always ask "Maybe later?".

I went through Sheremetevo back in March 2007 on my way to and from the Siberian town of Kemerevo. I have a rather nice video of my take-off from Kemerevo over at you tube and it's actually one of the most popular videos I have released (go figure!). This is important right now not to serve as a reminder of unfulfilled promises of blogging from various locations, but to place my first exposure to this curious retort: "Maybe later?".

It had me almost in laughter, because it was always phrased as a question, rather than a statement. And it was always an earnest question, one which expected an answer.

What answer can someone give? "Err, yes. OK then, I don't want a cab right now, but, maybe later, I will have made up my mind to use your services, so stick around! No, really, don't take another fare, because I have said that maybe later I'll need you." I mean, like WTF?

When you are offering some fruit, a drink, a guided tour of the arrivals lounge, the question "Maybe later?" makes sense. When you are offering a potentially unlicensed, certainly dodgy-looking taxi service where the driver will have minimal command of about 4 words of English, if the customer does not want to ride with you now, trust me, there is very little chance that he will want to do so later. I mean, barring a zombie outbreak in the terminal.

So here we were in Otopeni airport (Bucharest) this morning, surrounded by taxi touts, again, (because the imbecile driver who is meant to pick me up is late, again, but that's a different story) and I explain to the guy that, no I do not want a taxi because someone is coming to get me - I actually say this - Taxi is coming for me. And what does the guy say?

You guessed it - in his most straight-faced non-rhetorical pleading question intonation: "Maybe later?". "Yes," I tell him, "maybe."

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The bodies exhibition in Athens: I went, I saw, I was left ambivalent

So, we went to the famous bodies exhibition, not without some moral qualms, but intending to be looking at the people just as much as the exhibits.

The obviously Asiatic bodies in the exhibition were impressive. Before we start, it should be noted that I am a curious bear and as such, I am aware that under the skin, there are a whole bunch of interesting tissues and organs. I was not there in the exhibition to be told that I have a liver and to wonder at the positioning of said organ. Anyone who has either butchered an animal or prepared an animal for the cooking process will not have been surprised at the large number of stringy tendons or the ubiquity of cartilage or indeed the branching nervous and circulatory systems. I have opened anatomy texts and I have seen butchered vertebrates, thank you very much. What was impressive was the painstaking work which has obviously gone into these exhibits.

The realisation that we humans are also animals and that we look like meat on the inside came to me many years ago. I was not shocked by this. It was, however, interesting to see where the good cuts are on a human cadaver (gluteus and thighs, if you are interested) and it was interesting to see just how indistinguishable a lump of gluteus meat would be from a nice slab of beef on the table. The reactions of the visitors ranged from shock to awkwardness of fathers with young adolescent girls in an exhibition where in every room there was a man with his penis out for all to see. I enjoyed the crowd, I enjoyed seeing that one lady had fainted - overwhelmed no doubt by the realisation that we are as much animals as we are "human".

I did not enjoy one aspect of the exhibition and this was the avoidance of one question. The exhibition covered the how and what and where and when really rather well and graphically - what was missing, of course, was the why... There was no talk about the bilateral symmetry of the body and what it means, there was no talk of the anterioposterior and dorsoventral axiality of the human form, and why these three axes might exist. There was no talk of evolution. In Darwin's bi-centennial year, when you show people that they are animals, vertebrates, made slightly imperfectly, why stop short of going the whole hog and telling them why? Our nervous system laid out on the table is not so different to that of a fish, our tetrapod skeleton is not so perfectly adapted to supporting our bi-pedal body as it could have been... and more obvious than anything else, the crazy positioning of and plumbing for our testes is so patently not designed from scratch and so loudly begging for an explanation in each room, but the testes cry out in vain.

This pandering to the north American audience for whom the literal interpretation of the bible is the only truth took much of the shine off the exhibition. The excision of evolution from the explanation of human anatomy leaves the exhibition more naked than the exhibition's chinamen who were missing their skins. This missed opportunity to teach truth to an audience which has just had its eyes opened to the fact that we are animals no different to the lamb we spitted last week is a great pity. No one preparing the kokoretsi last week could have missed the similarity between the chinaman's heart on display and the lamb's heart on his plate.

Was the visit worth €16 with a camera, video and mobile phone ban? Possibly, possibly not. Should I have gone given the ethical quandary behind the exhibition? Should I have given the €16 to people who have bought cadavers from prisons in countries with shitty human rights records? Perhaps not. But if I hadn’t gone, I would not be able to tell you that I found it incongruous to see that all these convicts had perfect lily-white teeth. Chinese prisons must have pretty good dental programmes for their death-row inmates. Especially when compared to the pedicures / manicures. So, yes, if I had wanted truths, perhaps I should have known that I would not find them at an exhibition where the organiser feels it would be too shocking to keep the original teeth.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Lion diaries on caving blog

I have started transcribing my diaries from my trip to Crete last July. Enjoy!

What I saw in my sleep last night

Possibly influenced by the fact that I had spent the evening with my cousin who is serving in Rhodes, I saw myself walking around Lindos - although I did not know this until about half way through the dream.

Of course it wasn't the real Lindos. I was on an asphalted path, next to a railing, beyond which rose a limestone hill. On the sides of the hill, walls were visible, in my mind, they were norman / frankish era walls, but they did not fit the description as they were essentially massive marble monolithic constructions covered in ionic flutes and egg-and-dart edging. Walking along I was reminded a little of Jackson's Minas Tirith, except everything had the trappings and finishings of the ionic order.

As I walked down the path with the hill to my right, the hill fell away and the asphalt walkway with the railing were now raised above an open space over to my right where stones had been placed in such a way as to form letters - I could make out no words for a while and then I saw that the heaped stones spelled out the word "Lindenberg", from which I guessed this was Lindos I was looking at, although quite why the Germans would have spelled out the letters in this way, I could not understand.

Turning to my right, I saw a huge classical temple (which had been hidden from view by the hill and "norman" fortifications) with its pediment and pedimental sculpture intact - the order was, again, Ionic.

And there I was, looking at this, and I started framing the scene in my mind's eye and playing a soundtrack over it, thinking how I would work the panning and the reveal from the pedimental statues to the whole temple, thinking about the cuts from scene to scene, etc. And then I started thinking about whether or not Warner Music Group own the rights to the recording of Carl Orf's Catulli Carmina which I intended to use for the video I was planning out.

Then I woke up.

WMG - get out of my frikking head, already.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Cycladic Museum, November 2007

The Cycladic Museum in Athens houses an amazing collection of little statuettes glorifying the pudendum in the way that only prehistoric people could.

Everywhere you look, female figures with breasts and outlined pudenda greet you from behind the well lit and glass-faced displays. The occasional male figurine serves to form a very noticeable exception to the girls-only rule of figuring carving. In all it is a wonderful collection.

The great pity is that everything in the museum is a result of illegal archaeological digging purchased in swiss and American auctions and is therefore devoid of context. Context, of course, is important if you want your archaeological collection to be anything more than a treasure-chest of pretty things. The act of buying such things at auction also serves to create a demand for illegal digs, because the digger knows that there will be interest at auction.

It's easy to attack the morals of the museum of Cycladic art, and in their defense, it should be said that they do a fine job of displaying and explaining everything, unless you are a child or not tall enough to look at the exhibits.

When we went in November 2007, one of the reasons for going was for K to make an evaluation of the kiddie-friendliness of the museum. It didn't score too high.

You can re-live the fun we had by clicking on this video (you may find the intro a little dizzying - it settles after that). Isn't it kind of Warner Music Group not to ask youtube to suspend this particular video? I suppose I am getting better at picking backing tracks that Warner don't own, thereby giving free publicity to artists signed to other labels. Oops WMG, you lose, again!

Friday, March 06, 2009

and the story of how WMG continued to chafe my nuts...

So, the video I uploaded in December 2008 with our trip to Zesta Nera cave in Sidhirokastro has been unceremoniously removed by YouTube who seem totally oblivious to the bad karma they are courting by siding with big business against the little people.

Visitors to the webpage showing the Zesta Nera video are now greeted with the text above: This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by WMG.

When I go t the copyright claim page, I get this message:

my video, may have content from Room "26" by Lalo Schiffrin... well, no shit, yes it does! The music of Lalo Schiffrin is great, moving, moody and still swinging at the same time. Especially that track. So, yes, my creation - my video about our visit to Zesta Nera needed that piece of music to stick it together in the same way that a collage needs sellotape to keep it together. You don't see 3M getting upset at the use of double sided sticking tape every time a collage is made, though do you?

The version of the video embedded in my caving blog is still playing, although no doubt, it too will become a broken link soon.

I am upset, again, at youtube and wmg. The use of the Schiffrin piece is arguably not a violation of copyright and is definitely not bringing me any financial benefit.

Anyway - I'll keep everyone posted on the craziness as it evolves.

WMG, I know you will read this (you read my previous post about you).
Your strategy is wrong, wake up! Don't alienate the fans of the artists you milk.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

and the four freedoms

So, like what's the EU all about? Well, some would say, it's all about the four freedoms:
* The free movement of goods;
* The free movement of persons (and citizenship), including free movement of workers, and freedom of establishment;
* The free movement of services;
* The free movement of capital.

What are we going to talk about today? Yup - free movement persons. I am a person. The Greek state is denying me the freedom to move. I have had enough of this.

I have a degree from a UK university. This degree allows me to seek jobs for which degrees are required, in the UK and indeed many other places in the world. This degree also allows me to continue studying, to do graduate studies. In the UK.

When I try to move these rights to Greece, to enjoy the benefits of my degree in the country where I was born, I am told by the state that I cannot. That this degree is not recognised and is therefore worthless to me when seeking employment requiring a degree or when trying to enter a postgraduate course. This is the law.

Are my rights being fucked in the arse by the Greek state? I think they are.

Am I going to do something about it? I don't know yet, but I'll keep you all informed. The Socrates of the Krito would sit and take this, but then the laws Socrates dies under in the Krito were not laws created by small and narrow-minded parochial bureaucrats afraid of losing their privileged positions of social authority to better educated people coming with degrees from universities which are actually engaged in teaching and research.

So maybe I will have to fight this.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

made you look, made you stare...

Warner Music Group lols aplenty!

Not two hours had passed since I published, and the Warner bloodhounds came sniffing round the blog like flies buzzing round a spray of explosive diarrhea.


Wednesday, February 04, 2009

... and Youtube's new copyright policy whereby they kiss the ass of big buisiness to the detriment of the little guy

or how I started looking for an alternative

Youtube are now working with WMG and UMG - Warner Music Group and Universal Music Group - to help the firms reduce lost earnings from uploaded material to which they hold the copyright.

Admirable, huh? Coupled with whatever sizzling hot piece of database management and retrieval software is needed to give youtube almost real-time recognition of music that is the intellectual property of their new bedfellows, it becomes quite a technological feat as well. So bravo to youtube.

Since late last year, I have fallen foul of this new policing-the-net initiative not once, but twice! Once with a track from WMG and once with a track from UMG. In the latter case, the movie stayed on youtube, but can only be downloaded for viewing if you happen to be in one of the following countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, South Korea, Spain, United Kingdom, United States (not Greece nor Turkey, which is a pity as these are the two main audiences I was aiming at).

The Warner track led to the video being muted, which is unfortunate as not all the audio was owned by Warner and much of the effect if the video was ruined by the lack of audio.

My complaint is that this new policy is stifling my creativity. If it continues I am sure it will kill the youtube community who will only put up with so much before finding another home which won't mind fair use of music tracks on top of otherwise totally home made, not for profit videos. I am not talking about kids uploading music videos (which is an obvious and, in my opinion pointless infringement of copyright), nor indeed about people uploading bits of live performances (for which fair use could, conceivably, be argued) - I am talking about videos where someone has taken the time to sit and edit video and still footage and set this with varying degrees of care and creativity against a tune, which happens to be the intellectual property of someone else.

So here we go: while messrs Bonham, Plant, Page and Jones, have the moral right to their works - and this means that they have a right to control how their creation is used and while Herge has the right to say, "hey, I don't want Tintin portrayed as a drug addict" (whatever), given that the soundtracks to my videos are a small part of the whole, a whole into which a considerable amount of work and creativity has been expended, and given that the end result does not go against the original artists' vision for the piece, I think that youtube should relax a little with the whole copyright business. We are talking about the creators moral right - not the copyright owners paper rights on the piece (which obviously are being to some extent violated).

So back we come - post-google youtube is shitting on the people who built it, while leaping into bed with big business to the detriment of the site's users and (dare I say it) the original creators of the tracks being used as musical backing on the videos in question.

I have spent the best part of last night uploading my video with four different soundtracks to find one which I like which is acceptable to youtube. How annoyed has that made me, youtube? Will I jump ship as soon as an alternative presents itself? What do you reckon?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

On This Day I Complete My Thirty-Sixth Year

’Tis time this heart should be unmoved,
Since others it hath ceased to move:
Yet, though I cannot be beloved,
Still let me love!

My days are in the yellow leaf;
The flowers and fruits of love are gone;
The worm, the canker, and the grief,
Are mine alone!

The fire that on my bosom preys
Is lone as some volcanic isle;
No torch is kindled at its blaze—
A funeral pile!

The hope, the fear, the jealous care,
The exalted portion of the pain
And power of love, I cannot share,
But wear the chain.

But ’tis not thus—and ’tis not here—
Such thoughts should shake my soul, nor now,
Where glory decks the hero’s bier,
Or binds his brow.

The sword, the banner, and the field,
Glory and Greece, around me see!
The Spartan, borne upon his shield,
Was not more free.

Awake! (not Greece—she is awake!)
Awake, my spirit! Think through whom
Thy life-blood tracks its parent lake,
And then strike home!

Tread those reviving passions down,
Unworthy manhood!—unto thee
Indifferent should the smile or frown
Of beauty be.

If thou regret’st thy youth, why live?
The land of honourable death
Is here:—up to the field, and give
Away thy breath!

Seek out—less often sought than found—
A soldier’s grave, for thee the best;
Then look around, and choose thy ground,
And take thy rest.

George Gordon, Lord Byron
Messolonghi, 22 January 1824