Author Archive | John

Kalo mina!

It’s November 1st and here on Paros the weather is decidedly cold and chilly this morning.  The winter is beginning to set in.  99% of the tourists have left and the few that remain wander around the empty streets, looking in the windows of closed shops, shuttered tavernas…the island has been returned to those who live here.  Thank the gods!

Here are the bullet points…

— I am going to Naxos this weekend for a mountain bike race, my third on that island.  27km around a mountain and through the town of Sangri, high above the port.  The weather predictions are good–high pressure, 14-18C, sunny, breezy.  Perfect for biking.  We have had some rain which will keep the dust down and reduce the amount of loose, gravely ruts.  I’ll go and have fun.

— I am grateful and happy to have joined up with the Photography Club of Paros.  They are a good bunch of photography-loving folks with excellent eyes who love to take pictures.  I will begin a long-term darkroom project with them tonight.  For most of them, it will be a first in this digital-automatic age.  Each week, a member gets a 35mm camera (Pentax K1000/f.2 50mm lens) and roll of 35mm film (Ilford Pan 400) and shoots the roll.  Then we (me and the group member) go into the darkroom, develop the film, print, etc…all in a week.  So far there are about 10 people signed up, but that number, I predict, will jump to 20 quickly.  The project will go until the end of April and then they will look at the assembled portfolio and hang a small show.  For more reasons than I can count, this is a superb thing/event/group/happening with which to be involved.

— My own work is moving along.  The year-long Canon G-11 project is ticking away.  I am ready to print a new portfolio of abstract pieces.  I have to re-shoot or otherwise re-evaluate a b/w still life idea.  I am unhappy with several of the pieces due to their DoF, i.e. focus.

— My gym membership is paying off.  I have been going 2-4 times a week for either Hip/Abs classes or just to burn off calories on the treadmill.  After only a few weeks I can once again fit into my 34″ green Levis.  I will go this morning and push some more limits.  That, plus the biking, is keeping me fit and sane.

— The world?  Well…we all read the news and while it isn’t all bad, it isn’t great.  Leaks in the dam…death and disease, as Polly Jo would have said.

My life is Greece is expanding and growing every day.  I am eternally thankful to the wise woman who advised me over 5 years ago that if were to stay here on Paros, I would need to build a life around me.  And so I have.  Biking and exercise, photography and fellowship, the arts and humanities, connections in the community.  Thank you Liz!

–JDCM

 

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Happy Autumn!

I meant to post this yesterday right at the moment of the Autumnal Equinox…oh well…

The summer has ended, autumn has arrived.  Outside it is a brisk 27C (80F) at 22:00 (10PM) and the aroma of wet burning leaves fills my nose…well, no, not really.  But the temperature is correct.   Let’s face it, I do not miss the chilly, damp autumn from whence I came.

I was on the Saronic island of Aegina last week for a get-together with like-minded individuals, many of whom are close friends.  It was a nice 4 days of conversations, coffee and pistachios.  Aegina (Egg-in-a) is famous for the little nuts and, since my friends and I are all a little nuts, a good time was had by most.  It was also the weekend for the annual Pistachio Festival and the paraleia (seafront) was lined with booths and sellers of every permutation of pistachio of which one could imagine.  Skip the obvious food section and go right to body scrub, candles and even, I kid you not, interpretive modern dance.  I brought back a few kilos.  Of nuts, not interpretive modern flammable body scrubs.

Aegina also boasts (and rightly so) the Temple of Aphea.  I lingered for an extra day so I could go see it and it was worth the wait, despite the crushing heat and humidity.  Today’s header image is from that ancient place.

The world is going to hell in a hand basket but you don’t need me to tell you that.  Read the news.  Or not, that is your choice.  Burying one’s head in the sand sometimes seems to be as effective as almost anything else these days.

Here’s a simple hypothesis.  We (the species) have come to another tipping point and like all junctures of import, the voices always seem loudest and the urgency always most dire.  Not that these aspects don’t apply–they do.  The paradigm is turning and the shift is most fearfully felt by those who would seek to stop the wheels.  The conservative, sectarian, reptilian-brained dinosaurs will always cry the most as they are sucked into the tar pits.  They will fight back and struggle in the most violent of ways while the more clever, more evolved beasts watch on with a sense of…I don’t know, a sense of something.  Not satisfaction, but understanding perhaps.  “We are lucky. It could be us in the mucky mire,” they say to themselves.  It could still bite us in the ass, by the way, so keep the wheels turning, push the shift and blossom.  And stay away from the edge of the tar pit and don’t take this chance for granted!  Grab hold of a spoke and give it a heave-ho!

I have joined a photography group here on Paros.  It is group of “amateur” photographers from the local community who get together and talk about their work, have coffee…I like these folks for a few reasons, the most important being that they have few preconceived notions about themselves as “artistes.”  They work, play, take pictures, take their time, practice.  They support each other and have fun.  I like that.  I will always remember something my father said about writing…”Once you are known as a literary writer, your career is finished.”  He was right.  I try to avoid the folks who traipse about with high-priced gear and have little or no sense of the machine, it wide functionality and tell people “I’m a photographer” when really they are just playing at it.  The paradox is that to be an artist, one must have artistic sense.  I am not sure this can be taught, but one can be guided.  Perhaps “artist” is the wrong word.  I would rather be an illustrator of moments, a tracker of time, a collator of instances.  Then nothing else matters.  I can do what I want.  I am free.

–JDCM

“The Wedding Dance”
© John D.C. Masters
2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What a year…

Today is August 12, 2017.  It is an anniversary.  A year ago today I drove down the driveway of my childhood home for the last time.  I boarded the big plane and returned to Greece.  It has been a full year since I have been away from America and, while I have travelled a bit outside of Greece, I have not felt the need to return to that dark and fractured fortress.  I actually have not felt the need to leave Paros.  Everything I need, everything I want, is here.

Summer turned to Autumn, ushering in the green and wet winter.  By the time spring rolled around I had been adopted by a pair of cats and now, at the edge of summer’s end, with its heat, crush and crowds, I have my simple and healthy routine.  Most if this involves avoiding said crush and crowds.  I move through them as gently as I can, reminding myself that everyone is having fun, on vacation…Is it misanthropic to wish that they would all just go home?  Perhaps.  I am not alone, it seems.  Scan the newspapers for anti-tourist articles.  Hvar, Barcelona, Venice, Florence, Rome…I imagine there are many more cities but these are the top destinations that are fighting back against the overwhelming tide of cheap tourism.  Something must be done, if only to save the fragile ecologies that, indeed, seem to be the reasons for going to these places.  It is a Moebius strip of dilemma and solution.

The ultra-wealthy dream of the stars and colonization.  New energy techs butt heads with the global dinosaur juice cartels.  The concept of human identity and gender have been revealed to be as fluid as water.  New paradigms rise up, have been rising for decades.  In response to what threatens their withering grasp, the old paradigms of fear and warlord thinking shake their sabres more loudly than ever.  They seem to say, “If we can’t have it our way, then we are all going to go down in flames.”  How will humanity be saved?  Not by Jesus.  Not by Exxon.  Not by Coca-Cola.  Not by Little Green Men.  It has to be unilateral and evolutionary.  The minds of the trumpkimputins must go.  The old paradigm must fade if we, as a species, are ever to survive.  Humanism is the only hope for us.  We must take responsibility for our lives.  We must put aside our big, thinking and very stupid arrogant brains and finally understand that we are just another organism on this planet, no better or worse than any other.  We are subject to the same natural laws as the cockroach I liberated from my bathroom last night.  My cactus has more humility and true sense of place than most people.  What arrogance we have, thinking we are so special!  This will be our undoing, as it always has been.

So it has been a year…and what a year it is shaping up to be.

–JDCM

 

 

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Much to say…or maybe not…

It has been over a month-and-a-half since I last posted and so much has happened in the world and I have taken so many notes that I do not know where to begin.  The political news has made me almost numb to the idiocies of the American President and his sometimes-dangerously bizarre antics.  The heat waves and weather changes obvious here on Paros are indicative of the Anthropocene.  That I have been able to compile, and look forward to printing, four new photography portfolios is a real plus.  I will begin printing in September.  The typing and collating of my mother’s newspaper articles is ongoing.  I am struggling to learn the Bookwright software from Blurb.  I hope to figure it out.  I think there is something I am not doing that will make it easy.  Someday the book will be made.   So it’s bullet points this time.

–“Drumpf”–We all know it.  It is a fine example of onomatopoeia…the flatulent early-warning of someone who eats too much red meat…the sound of a fat drunk collapsing at the bottom of the stairs…the porcine grunt of a hog at the trough…a bamboozled public scoffing at the truth…the slow con hustle of the American Dream.

–I have been biking and swimming a lot.  Xionidaki and Kiri Marmalada start squeaking for their breakfast early, so I am up around 06:00.  Coffee, vitamins, email, the morning scan of the news…I am out on the bike by 07:00, swimming afterwards, coffee at a favourite cafe after that.  Obviously the routine is not that precise.  Suffice to say I am finished before it becomes too hot to exercise.  And it has been hot.  A few weeks ago Athens hit the mid-40sC and Paros was not far behind.  I had to use the AC in my flat, something I am not keen on doing since it  increases my carbon footprint.  It was either that or not sleep.  Thankfully is has been dry.  The prediction for next week is more heat.

            Xionidaki snoozing in the shade

 

–I have some work in a small group show this October in Hudson, New York.  I sent the 13 photos, matted and framed, a few weeks ago and they all arrived safely.  I will not be attending.  I also now have a good contact on the island of Antiparos for the photo show next summer. She really likes what I do and wants to hang it.  I was impressed by what I saw at the exhibit this year.  I still have a couple of irons in the fire for some events in between now and then.  I shall keep poking at them.

                 Kiri Marmalada

–Fish and vegetables.  That’s what I eat these days.  The local produce here on Paros is stunning.  Melons, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini…the cherry season seems to have lasted forever and I eagerly await the fresh figs in a couple of weeks.

–Oh yes…perhaps most important is that this month marks the first full summer I will have spent on Paros.  In the previous years I have always gone back to America to see my mother.  When August 12th comes around it will be a full year outside the walls of the Fortress.  I am happy for this.  It feels solid and right.

                Out biking…07:30 or so…

–I had a contrast MRI a few weeks ago in Athens to determine if there was anything I didn’t know about my Meniere’s Syndrome.  It was an easy procedure and I was in the clinic in the morning and back on Paros in time for supper.  Thank the gods for cheap flights!  The results are…nothing!  No tumors, no cysts, no aneurysms, no brain clouds, no small dwarves, no swelling of either labyrinth.  According to the ENT specialist, I have what they like to call a “Meniere’s-like Syndrome.”  Ha!  This will be the last investigation I will do.  I have the CD-ROM with the pictures but I do not have a DVD player or the required software to look at them.  I promise you all, I will sort this out.

After all, who doesn’t want to see the inside of their head?

–JDCM

 

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What’s happenin’….?

Kalo Mina!  I haven’t posted anything in well over a month.  Why?  Just being lazy, I suppose, because there is so much to talk about!  I should probably just get some stuff out of the way.

I am appalled by the behaviour of the current US President and his smarmy,  creepy entourage.  His European trip is finished (probably his only trip here) and he acted poorly–immature, arrogant–the worst kind of visitor.  I am not the only one to be shocked and amazed at his ignorant, insulting and banal actions.  We have all read the news.  We have all seen the clips.  I am not going to link to anything.  I am appalled and disturbed to know that there are people in the US who believe this kind of behaviour is acceptable.  Educated, well-read, professionals who feel that this is how an American President should act.  I even know some of these folks.  How ashamed I am to be connected to the US at times like these.  Phew!  Enough of that…

I have been invited to show some of my work in a small group exhibit in September.  It will be in Hudson, New York and the woman who is organizing the event asked me to send a few pieces.  I have 7 new prints from the darkroom and will send an additional 6 from previous shows that I already have matted and framed.  A Baker’s Dozen of b/w darkroom work, some of Greece and some of the area where the show will be held.  I will price them well and my instructions to her are to not send any of them back!

I have decided I need an agent to sell me and my work.  I cannot do it well.  Other people see things in my work that I do not and are better at that kind of ‘retail’ mentality.  So I will ask around.  It needn’t be a full time job or even the first and last agent I have.  Just someone to get the process off the ground.

I competed in the 7th Round of Paros bicycle race last Sunday and I did very well.  The morning was perfect for the race, with light breezes from the north, sun and clouds.   In short, not too hot.  I was able to ride the 61km course in 2:31:45, which is a 6 minute improvement over my best time on the same route.  I placed 59th out of 99 bikes and 12th out of 18 in my age-group.  I am happy with these numbers.  Now I begin working towards the 40km mountain bike race on Paros towards the end of September which will be  gruelling.  Plus, the sea is wonderful so there is swimming every day.  In fact, I hope to do both–bike and swim–as soon as I post this missive.

I have begun yoga.  Odd…yoga has been around my life for so many years, people urging me to try it and all that.  I think my mind and heart were not ready.  There was too much I had to let go of before I could open up and do it.  Death, tumultuous change, perceived uprooting…On the surface it is allowing me to stretch muscles that I have been using in a way that actually stretches them.  I have discovered that those calisthenics and stretches I learned in high school were mostly wrong and don’t really stretch anything at all.  Deeper inside..I don’t know.  I have only taken three classes (once a week) so I’ll let you know what rises to the surface.  I know that I have moved on from where I was.

Uphill and off the saddle in Kostas

–JDCM

 

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Olivetti repair, part 2…

From Padova to Firenze I came…my lovingly repaired Olivetti in my baggage.  Now I am in Florence visiting with my sister and my niece and some friends–which has been super.  We have seen some beautiful sights but most of all we have eaten well and have had a great visit with each other.  We depart this city in a couple of days–they to America; me onto Venice.   I feel like I am in a variation of a Cole Porter musical…

To sum up the typewriter repair…after disassembly, Alessio removed all the rubber pieces and then bathed the ornate and beautiful chassis in a gentle flow of aeronautic petrol mixed with a very fine lubricant.  This removed all the dust, ink, paper and grime that had built up over the years.  The high octane solution evaporated in the outside air, leaving behind the machine oil.  Then he cleaned up the paper roller by attaching it to a lathe and sanding it gently with fine-grit sand paper.  He cleaned and wiped down the external casing.  After reassembly and insuring mechanical perfection, he adjusted the letter ‘a’ (it wasn’t striking well), attached a new ribbon, typed a test piece of paper, and gave the machine a final swipe with the cleaning cloth.  Presto! Fini!  There was more to it obviously.   The whole repair process took about four hours.  Grazie Alessio!

I will leave for Venice on Sunday, my bag filled with cheese….but that’s another story.

–JDCM

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Buona Pasqua da Padova…!

Padova is a lovely place to visit.  It is not a touristic town—all the tourists are in Venice, just north of here.  The current groups are mostly Italian, here for the Easter weekend.  There are lovely basilica (Basilica Pontificia di Sant’Antonio di Padova, etc…), some outstanding frescos (Cappella degli Scrovegni housing the most important…).  The restaurants are good to excellent.  My lodging is fine–the Hotel Donatello–a clean and neat family-run place right on the piazza opposite ‘Il Santo’….It has that thing that all 3-star Italian hotels seem to have–a sense of slightly frayed and rundown charm.  I’ll write a more comprehensive review of food, lodging and sights later.

The real reason I came here was to have my mother’s Olivetti Lettera 22 repaired and refurbished by Alessio Vescovo.   When the Olivetti was stripped down it was revealed to be more complex and more interesting than a modern computer.  He disassembled, cleaned and the reassembled it,  making the necessary needed repairs along the way.  He did all of this with a great sense of confidence and care. Today’s post only has photos of the disassembly.  Later will come photos of the cleaning and reassembly.  We found out some things.  It was built sometime between 1952 and 1954 and had been repainted a slightly darker shade if green before my mother bought it used in the mid-60s.  Interesting, no?

So Happy Easter, Kalo Pascha, etc…It’s all about renewal.

–JDCM

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Lebanon, part 2…

I don’t know why being in Athens makes me want to blog more about Lebanon.  Maybe it is this early morning, 7am light coming through the window of my hotel room…Not that that has anything to do with Beirut or Lebanon….So let’s talk about the food in Lebanon.  Like the stereotypes of falafel and kebabs, these places exist there and, trust me, the worst there is better than the best anywhere else, but there is so much more!  Salads much like the way salads are thought of here on Greece, as side dishes.  Eggplant, tomatoes, onions, etc…tabbouleh…Also plates of grilled meats (no pork) on sticks and the wonderful, fantastic kibbeh nayyeh (nigh-yah).  I may be weird, but there is nothing quite so good as prepared raw meat, either lamb or beef.  Mixed with salt, pepper, spices, olive oil….amazing!  I have only one photo and it doesn’t show details, but I have included a link that has good pictures and a solid recipe should anyone wish to try it.

I feel that this dish is a symbol of what can be right with the world.  You need meat that is fresh, handled by as few people as possible, from a source you know and butcher who knows what you want, i.e. no processed, packaged brand name big store shrink wrapped meats.  Buy local, stay healthy–in mind, body and planet!

Let’s talk about the government for a bit.  This is what I know:  Lebanon is a ‘failed state’ and, as such, has no government.  Yes…they have a president, a parliament, etc…they even have diplomatic relations with many countries like the USA, France, Greece…so on that level they are legitimate.  But the government doesn’t run the country.  The country is run by a group of families–let’s say 20-most of whom have been in power of some sort since the Middle-Ages.  Now, these families are very wealthy and most own the very legitimate and wealthy banks.  They are also the patrons of the very good and well-known hospitals and universities in Beirut.  They are the patrons of everything.  Think of it as the Five Families that run New York in ‘The Godfather’ and you’ll get the picture.  They run it all and, for the most part, the people like it that way.

Regarding militias…all but one militia have officially disarmed.  That is good.  These patrons, these wealthy families, are not all associated with militias, but the militias are all associated with wealthy patrons.  Make sense?  So whether you are Christian, Druze, Sunni or Shia–you have a friend somewhere making sure that your children go to good private schools, your parking spaces on your street are kept up, your fuel oil is delivered in the winter, you have medical care for your family, churches and mosques are kept up and polished, etc…

Let’s talk about the Power Ship!  Electricity is scare on Lebanon, hence the air pollution problem one sees everywhere.  Private home generators are needed to compensate for daily brown-outs which as a tourist, you’ll never notice.  In 2013, a Turkish company floated this amazing thing over to Lebanon and leased it to them for a few years.  There is a better article about it and the company here.  It is a pretty interesting idea–and one that is supposed to be temporary.  The problem is that the Families that run the country cannot agree in where to put the new stand-alone, on-shore, full-time power station.  No one wants to miss out on the money and no one wants to donate the free land for building, etc…so the Power Ship sits, expensively sending its energy to the country–and everyone loses.

 

 

 

 

 

My friend Thanassis took the photo of supper and the Power Ship photo came from the web somewhere.  That wide angle lens on the iPhone really distorts the image a lot…

–JDCM

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Lebanon, part 1…

I have my laptop back!  While Apple in Athens had it up on blocks, I took the opportunity to get off-island and travel.  I went to Lebanon to visit some friends in Beirut, see the country, eat the food…fascinating, sad, vibrant, beautiful, ancient.  It was an easy, inexpensive, 2-hour flight on MEA.  Up and down.  Beirut reminded me somewhat of Athens, but only more so.  I’ll have better details later, but I just wanted to set the thread spinning…Here are some pictures.  Many more to come!

Looking north from the top of the crusaders castle in Saida.   Much of the coast of Lebanon looks like this.

 

The Mohammad Al Amin Mosque, just west of the old Green Line, Beirut.  It is a 21st century addition to the cityscape.

An interior of the Druze castle in Beit el dine.  This is an amazing castle, in perfect condition and all but empty of visitors.  I pretty much had the place to myself.  I’ll post more from here.

Beit el dine interior…

The Cedars of Lebanon, Jabal Barouk, Chouf.  The cones of the Cedars look more like roses…It was silent but for birdsong when I was there.

The Temple of Bacchus, Baalbek, Bekaa Valley.  The whole Roman site is slowly being rebuilt and cleaned up.  This is actually a small temple.  The Temple of Jupiter is 3 times larger.

A view of Byblos…a layer cake of civilizations…Phoenician, two or three Greek, then a couple of Roman, Byzantine, Middle Ages, Ottoman, French Mandate, Arab…

Another view of the mosque…that other building is the old cinema. During the civil war in the 1980s, Palestinian guerrillas would hang out there and watch action flicks in between skirmishes–or so I have read.  There are movements trying to keep it as is, in memorium, but it is falling apart.

–JDCM

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