I was going to add this to the previous post, but for some reason could not! I think my computer is reeling from the absurdity of this story: Niko (Νίκος Νικολόπουλος) wrote something nasty about Xavier (Ξαβιέ Μπετέλ) and then said that it was really written by his friend Kiriakos Tobras (Κυριάκος Τόμπρας). This is all about a particular group of powerful men in Greece who are running around saying something like Δεν δέχομαι να προσχωρήσω στη λογική της γκέι ατζέντας (“I do not believe I have to accept the European Gay agenda”). This is a country which was eager to join the European club and when I was there, the EU Commission in Greece got me to illustrate one of the more absurd books I ever put my name to: “You are in Europe- Learn about Europe!” Some people, like Nikolopoulos evidently did not learn very much.
Europe has a liberal social image that promotes equality, friendship and assistance with better-off parts of the continent helping the less-successful parts. I know Europe as it stands has problems but it still remains a great ideal and was always clear about these aims even if federalism has crept in through some unwatched back door. I don’t really understand how a country like Greece which still boasts an island called Lesbos, and celebrates the history of Alexander the Great as well as the writings of Plato can possibly allow anyone to be championing such a ridiculous cause as this “we think there is a gay agenda” thing, especially when promoted in part by Churchmen who are civil servants*, that is, funded by the State. Truth is, of course, all this shouting and “tweeting” is done by only a minority of silly men with a complex, stirred up by a pile of pernicious priests. All of them should have better things to do. And, moreover, this story demonstrates how feeble these men can be: even when they are caught out, they are not honest enough to admit what they have done, or take proper responsibility for their own actions.
This is what Nikolopoulos is doing this afternoon. He is in Patras surrounded by Churchmen, so my cartoon (which drew links between him and the Archbishop of Thessaloniki) seems all the more pertinent.
*much needs to be said about the problems of having a “State church” especially when it thinks it has a right to vocalise about modern issues. I will write more on this!!
Here is some interesting news coming out of Greece: an independent MP, Nikos Nikolopoulos has tweeted a nasty message about the Prime Minister of Luxembourg who has just announced his plans to marry his gay partner. The twit or tweet seems fairly innocuous in English: “From the Europe of nations, to the Europe of queers. The Prime minister of Luxembourg has been engaged with his special one!” In Greek however, “Από την Ευρώπη των εθνών στην Ευρώπη των πουσταριών. Ο πρωθυπουργός του Λοξεμβούργου αρραβωνιάστηκε τον αγαπημένο του!” The word “των πουσταριών” is particularly offensive, a derivative of the word, Pousti, street-language in Greek for “gay”.
The Prime Minister somehow heard of this tweet but did not speak enough Greek to know what was being said and contacted the MP, “Hello, I heard you want to tell me something, but I don’t speak Greek. Sorry” – now for the juicy bit that exposes the full rump of this silly man, Nikolopoulos. He said the message had been written by Kyriakos Tobras. He then modified his original tweet. What a twit!
Here are the two tweets. The understated graciousness of the second is such a contrast to the nastiness of the first.
Here is Nikolopoulos’s replacement twit (it is almost as bad but does not sound as “chavish” perhaps):
I remember when I tried to register as self-employed in Athens back in 2001. I had been working for a company called Grivas which refused to pay me until I changed my employment status. Apparently, it was then impossible to do more than one particular type of job for any single company, and Grivas had me writing editorial, illustrating and recording vocals for their various English teaching materials, their decision, not mine. It was a horrible experience and a week of going from office to office in the then-labyrinthine bureaucracy was soul-destroyed. On the final day, with minutes to go before the tax office shut, I was asked for yet another pointless bit of paper. I am afraid I began to cry. At this point, the thug of a tax-manager started to assail me in Greek from across the room, saying that all english were “pousti”, and then listing (improbably but I remember this precisely) Thatcher, Blair, Clinton, as examples of gays in public office. This was about the time of the Monica Lewinsky affair. Incidentally, I knew that the man was the boss because he was overweight and had nothing on his desk save for a cup of coffee and a glass of water. Also, I knew enough Greek to understand what he meant, but I turned to the official next to me whose desk was heaving beneath paperwork and asked him what the word “pousti” might mean. “For example,” I added in my best Greek and as loudly as I could. “is that nice gentleman there who has so much to say about the english, also a pousti?” It shut the man up, and I got my papers quite quickly. I cannot recall if Grivas ever paid me what they owed. Probably not. Some of the other people working there seemed to have been driven to insanity and visits to an asylum in Dafni; others attempted suicide, taking a kitchen knife to their wrists. I know. I had to call the ambulance! It was tough living in Greece back then! But also rather exciting.
I think I had found myself in the “wrong crowd”. There is certainly a “right crowd” in Greece. There was then and there clearly is now, and that crowd would wholly condemn Mr Nikolopoulos and all his fascist cronies, clerical and lay. I am very proud that I made good friends in Greece and that we remain in contact. Like me, they believe passionately that the “wrong crowd” is firmly on the way out, but like cockroaches, that wrong crowd takes its time going.
Here is a picture that was printed in the Greek newspaper eleftherotypia at the time- It shows what I looked like then!! (the article is about the shows that were on in the West End, and the closure of “Cats”)
I had hoped that institutionalised homophobia was a thing of the past in Greece, but apparently not. It is a shame. The younger generation of Greeks, among whom I count many good friends, are shocked by the story of Niko Nikolopoulos. But he is a dinosaur and they need to make sure his political career is rendered extinct as soon as practically possible. I have a small cartoon for this story which I will post later: my computer is in general melt-down as I write this!
Meanwhile, my hearty congratulations to the Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and his partner, Destenay Gauthier who are to be married on January 1st. He is not the first openly gay Prime Minister in Europe. Iceland’s Johanna Siguroardottir and Belgium’s Elio Di Ruppo beat him to this!
I am not sure what I think of UKIP. Douglas Carswell (here shown with a little more hair than he has now) has resigned and therefore triggered a by-election. He nobly castigates the present Prime minister for failing to deal with the difficult issue of Europe. Mr Cameron, says Carswell, “is not serious about real change. It’s about not changing things – it’s about hanging on to office,” he said.
As for hanging on to office, Carswell has a notion to do just that by switching parties and retaining his old seat.
The former Labour MP for Clacton made the folllowing observation about Carswell, “I don’t think this is as honourable as he says.This is Douglas Carswell panicking because for the last few elections he has promised his electorate would be campaigning to get them out of Europe and it has worn thin with those who vote for him. I think he is very worried would have lost his seat to UKIP.”
Carswell is not a man afraid of notoriety. He was the one responsible for organising calls on Michael Martin to step down as speaker, the first time in 300 years. He also criticised spending on military helicopters on an official trip to Afghanistan.
During a recent election round here, I had a chance to meet a wide range of local politicians and the UKIP lot seemed by far to be the nicest. At the moment, the man selected by UKIP to stand against the sitting Conservative Carswell is none too pleased with this evening’s news and refuses to step aside. He is a local farmer and a councillor. He claims to already have a campaign team and an election strategy. “Roger Lord is not now, nor has he ever been the by-election candidate for Clacton,” said UKIP’s party secretary. So much for Party memory…
This is what the Clacton Gazette said of Roger Lord on 29th July 2014:
“UKIP claims a Conservative MP’s days are numbered in Clacton after naming its own General Election hopeful.
“Roger Lord, 57, will stand against Douglas Carswell in the battle for the Clacton seat next year and UKIP bosses are confident the Great Bentley farmer will oust his Tory opponent.
“Ukip’s Clacton party secretary Anne Poonian said they had asked Eurosceptic Mr Carswell to defect from the Tories and join them.
Mrs Poonian has ‘no doubt’ UKIP will take the Clacton seat in next year’s General Election.”
According to the report, there are to be only 2000 votes in it! Here is my picture of poor, displaced Mr Lord. I am sure Nigel Farage wishes him well.
There is no real link between these two in reality but I love Arbuckle’s work – one of the great masters of silent cinema and treated appallingly by the early studios and by history. I think the shape of our Bertie and “Fatty” Arbuckle is similar. I need to make Bertie as agile frankly. Here is a drawing of a dance done by Arbuckle
and below is the progress reel for Bertie…
Regarding Arbuckle- there were plenty of other scandals that frankly were worse than anything he was involved in, and he was made the scapegoat for the industry at a time when moral crusaders, hot with the success of prohibition, had the “flickers” in its sights and probably planned to close hollywood. Arbuckle spent three weeks in gaol awaiting trial on a case that had been concocted by a woman known for racketeering, fraud, and extortion. Though acquitted of Murder after three trials, Arbuckle had admitted to possessing drink in a city that had a reputation for being fairly lax in applying the principles of Prohibition anyway. Under the Volstead Act, Arbuckle paid a small fine for the alcohol but I think that was sufficient in the end to damn him, and he was brought almost to bankruptcy by the legal expenses. Nominally innocent of the charge of murder, his films were, nevertheless, banned when he was credited by the Hollywood moguls as a man with “bad morals”, and less than a week after he was completely acquitted of murder in 1922, he was forbidden by Will H Hayes from working in cinema again. While he got round this and made a comeback of sorts in the 1930s, he died before he was able to fully realise his potential. This was a truly great performer and his treatment by the cinema industry was despicable.
The end of last year, Henry Astor asked me to do a title sequence for his film “Aubade”. He is an old friend and I was very happy to get involved. The film was beautifully put together telling the story of the making of a guitar, a song that is written specifically for that instrument and the performer playing it.
Here is the Youtube link and a screen capture:
The following frames are from an earlier version with a more elaborate font
There was an initial screening in the theatre at Chipping Norton where once we did Figaro- more on that very soon.
A truly great man and a charming person. I met him briefly while he was filming “In Love and War”, but I think my over-riding memory of him is as the Circus master in Dr Dolittle. This is a masterpiece of “putting over a song”. It is simply a joy from beginning to end. The 12 films he directed are solid pieces of work. Gandhi, a Bridge too far and Young Winston stick out as remarkable examples of good-old-fashioned crowd control. Chaplin gets a great performance from Robert Downey junior and Chorus Line is surprisingly effective though the subplot is distracting.
The picture above comes from a film I made about Interview technique. It can be found here:
Some progress this week in animating a walk cycle for the Burlington Bertie film.
Much of the walk is hidden behind stage scenery, but the process of getting that movement right is still necessary. Two things emerged in the week- firstly trying to get a walk working makes some very odd shapes in a 2d drawing that perhaps would look very wrong in 3d, and secondly, drawing up background scenery, I realise how important it is to draw a building to fully understand it. So I have now spent 3 days struggling with Big Ben and the house of Parliament. One thing I should add is that animation is genuinely easier with Toonboom/ Harmony, but these big tracking shots remain tough.
Pugin provides such complexity. Next week we are off to Ratcliffe to sketch the new prep school that is being built there. Oddly, the architect is a distant relative of the original Pugin. It is some sort of poetic justice. Here is an image of the cloisters at Ratcliffe and of the Pugin facade. I will post images of the new Prep school shortly of course.
Here is an icon of Photios, sometimes called Photius in the West and Saint Photios the Great in Orthodoxy
3 files about Homosexuality in the Bible: links below
We have just finished a new educational film about the 6 texts used in the Bible to condemn homosexuality.Because it is only 40 minutes long (it is divided into 3 parts on youtube) Below are parts 1 and 2:
I am afraid there are a number of glosses that i have made and which I will try to correct here over a number of blogs. I am aware that I have not really done justice (slight pun) to the text by Photios that is the lynch-pin of the main argument in the film. The issue I am discussing here occurs in the third part on youtube and the link to that part is here.
What Photios says
I have provided the Greek text of what Photios writes on the film, though it is on-screen fleetingly-
so here it is again:
Photios was very interested in the way Greek changes over the years from the various forms of Ancient /Attic Greek used by Homer to the Greek of the Septuagint and then the koine used in the New Testament. Photios was familiar on a day-by-day basis with the Byzantine Greek of the Imperial court and the Church but there was probably yet another more colloquial version of that in the streets of “the city”, H Polis.
So his greatest work is probably his lexicon, which has helped scholars today to work out how words have changed their meanings and how Greek grammar has evolved. This is particularly important if you want to avoid the nonsense of the Jehovah’s Witnesses who wrongly ascribe at best an Attic grammar to the New Testament and at worst some inexperienced mumbo-jumbo. I met a man today who was sitting by the canal reading a bible. I asked which version and he said “the New World Translation”. I could not get away fast enough! There are endless errors in this Jehovah’s witness text, some simply bizarre- like the use of “torture stake” for “cross” because the Jehovah’s witnesses do not accept that Jesus died on a cross and the refusal to translate any words for hell because they do not believe in hell either. Anyway, the crucial passage is John 1:1 (in every manuscript except Codex L which has ὁ Θεός ἦν ὁ Λόγος)-
here is the correct version:
Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ Λόγος, καὶ ὁ Λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν Θεόν, καὶ Θεός ἦν ὁ Λόγος the last phrase of which is in Greek a form of Yoda-speak:
“And God the word he was” or some such “Star wars” jabber.
But it should be translated: “the word was God” but is translated by the Jehovah’s witnesses as “the word wasa god”. Origin thinks that John omits the article because he refers to Jesus as God and not to the Father and Origin argues, “the true God is Ho Theos” (Commentary on John Book 2, chapter 2) which comes close to the Jehovah’s witness position of denying the Trinity, but not quite. Later scholars absolutely reject this: Bultmann, for example, is incandescent at the thought that the omitted definite article means only or merely “divine”: Denn man kann doch nicht verstehen: er war ein Gott, ein Gottwesen, als ob θεός ein Gattungsbegriff wäre- (he thinks, instead, that the word THEOS has some special grammatical rules of its own) but there is another solution.
Here it is:
In koine greek, though not in Attic greek, there was an increasing temptation to omit the article when a definite noun (a name) precedes the verb or when a noun should be identified as the predicate.
This is often called “Colwell’s rule” and other instances can be found in Mark 15:39 and Matthew 27:42-
βασιλεὺς Ἰσραήλ ἐστιν.
The rule can be adjusted slightly because the “anthrous” noun, that is a noun without a definite article, can sometimes (as maybe here) simply be a way of establishing importance or prominence. The purpose of this paragraph is not so much to rebutt the Jehovah’s witness but to demonstrate that Greek was at the time when the New Testament was written in a state of flux and that Photios understood this.
In his commentary, therefore, on Romans 2, Photios considers Paul’s use of words very carefully and concludes that Paul was being specific about a particular part of the law/ the Torah.
Tracking down the fragment
Only a fragment of this commentary exists today and is found in a collection of patristic fragments so it is itself a bit obscure. I managed to track down the text but struggled with the translation and called on an old friend in Athens who sent me off to see a man he called Bill who turned out to be the same man who had first “discovered” the text and published a small article on it in the early part of this century. When looking at obscure texts, the chances are that you are dealing with just a handful of people who know about them, translate them and use them. So, I had a fruitful and entertaining correspondence with Professor Bill Berg, the very man responsible for digging up this brilliant little gem. For my part, I was struggling with elements of the paragraph which seemed to me to be deeply anti-semitic and he agreed. So that was that. They are not important to the argument but they suggest that the man who was writing was doing so quickly and with alot of passion. It is not really surprising that this was the man who single-handedly fractured the Church. Many Catholics today dismiss the “filioque” dispute as a linguistic quibble and I remember having a long debate about this over a few weeks in the letters page of the Athens News, but the Greeks and Russians still regard the issues in the filioque as central to their decision to perpetuate the schism. For Photios and the modern Orthodox one of the central issues of the filioque is its origin in the writings of Augustine and this itself taints the theology of Augustine for the Orthodox.certainly. I think this is why there is a slightly different understanding of “original sin” in the East. In the film, I make reference to a number of “Church fathers” among them St John Chrysostom and St Athanasius.
Here is St Athanasius:
St John Chrysostom who wrote the text used for the Liturgy every sunday in Orthodoxy has also got a reputation for intollerance. This needs more examination, and again may need to be put in context.
Romans 2: 26-27:
Back to Romans. The verse Photios is considering is Chapter 2. 26-27.
So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? Then those who are physically uncircumcised but keep the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law.
Photios says about this:
(Photios’ words in brackets here)
“for the Jews, (them) Paul (he) talks about the Torah (the law); for the uncircumcised, he talks about the ‘justices of the law’ not the whole law but only a specific part.”
Photios has not quite gone all the way but it can be demonstrated by statements in, for instance, the beginning of Luke when Luke describes Zacharia and his wife keeping “all the jobs and justices of the law” that there are two different parts to the Torah and that these two parts were acknowledged as such at the time of Christ. Things change when the Temple falls in AD 70- and Judaism redefines itself as rabbinic or Pharisaic Judaism so this may explain why such a distinction gets lost.
The Golden Rule is the King’s Law
“The Golden Rule” (to love one another), broadly speaking, is that part of the Torah which is endorsed by Paul as central to the Christian life and is also flagged up by Jesus. Let me explain!! The measure of our relationship with God is to be found in our relationship with one another. This is defined by Christ in the Golden Rule, (Mtt 7:12: Πάντα οὖν ὅσα [a]ἐὰν θέλητε ἵνα ποιῶσιν ὑμῖν οἱ ἄνθρωποι, οὕτως καὶ ὑμεῖς ποιεῖτε αὐτοῖς· οὗτος γάρ ἐστιν ὁ νόμος καὶ οἱ προφῆται.) but it is also found in Hillel (Shabbat 31a: What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn) and is embedded in Lev xix 18.
In the epistle of James, this is called “the Kingly law”:
Now, a “kingly law” was regarded in the ancient world as something that took precedence over any other existing laws. An example of this can be found in Pergamum (Deissmann) but the idea is fairly straightforward. If Christ had issued the Golden rule as a “kingly law” then that takes precedence over anything else in the Torah. The Golden rule is to deal well with others. It is not about cultic practice. In other words, the Gentile might well be able to keep the “kingly law” (which sums up the whole Torah anyway) in the knowledge that he can not keep the Torah itself. This happens at a time when elements of Pharasaic Judaism were perhaps getting out of control. People were indulging in the cultic observances as a way to make up for their failing with one another. David Wood suggests that this is the kernel of Paul’s message- that no amount of cultic obedience can erase offences to the Golden rule. That is paramount and trumps the cultic laws, because the “kingly law” is absolute.
In terms of the two types of law, and here I think the film does an adequate enough job in part 3:
Homosexuality falls into those laws defined as “cultic”: rather than into those laws that support the “Golden Rule”, what Wood calls “the Justices”. Paul might not like Homosexuality (personally) but he does not think it is something that will damn someone to eternal death, particularly if they are mindful of the Golden Rule. What is damning instead is nastiness, and spite and I suppose writing hateful things in a blog. We must be nice to Jehovah’s witnesses when they knock on the door. Be nice but do not necessarily agree with what they say. Islam!! When I began this study, I fully intended to broaden the film with an episode about Islam, partly because I had heard of a (mostly underground) gay mosque in Paris. There is a big debate in Islam about toleration. I think it comes down to three verses from the Koran which I shall print here: The first is from Sura 5.51 which says that Muslims should not be friends with people of other faiths, specifically Jews and Christians.
In other words, if you are confident enough about your own identity, it makes sense to befriend others who either reject that identity or who do not share it. The more we talk with our “enemies”, the more we both learn.
Nothing comes from prejudice and hatred.
A Political postscript:
drawing from earlier this year: debate on Question time about the impact of Gay Marriage:
It is worth checking out the following link which is about a “humanitarian Mosque” in South Africa catering to gay muslims. My own instinct is that such division should be unnecessary but the fact that this debate is opening in Islam tells us just how progressive the religion has become. At the same time, of course, there is also all the nonsense promoted by ISIS. It is salutary to think that at the same time that the Crusades were being waged in the name of Christ, there was also St Francis of Assisi. Maybe the fact that the latest Pope has taken the name Francis is a reason to hope for more tolerance in a world that has gone a little crazy.
A while ago I wrote about the Elgin marbles and the Pergamon marbles might be seen as a similar problem, though their origin is in Turkey, not Greece. Today, we tried to see them in their museum in Berlin and what a misery it was. It did not help that as we approached the museum, it began to rain, but maybe that was a divine message, a rebuke maybe. We made our way to what appeared to be the front door of the museum which, like so much in berlin is in the process of restoration, so the whole thing resembled a building site.
And there in the rain was a sorrowful queue stretching around the block. I thought this must have been for the special exhibition hosted here on Babylon but no! It was for the Pergamon marbles, the altar of Zeus and the price- astonishing at 12e each! Now the real issue is that in a matter of weeks, the Pergamon exhibition itself will be closed for the next 5 years and the altar will be denied the public till about 2019!
The Zeus Altar was built in the third century B.C. by the founder of Antalya, Attalos to commemorate the victory over the Galatians. The German excavations led by Carl Humman took place between 1878 and 1886 and involved an elaborate jigsaw puzzle of the various sections of the huge altar. The sultan, Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II, was believed at the time to be saving antiquity by inviting scholars and archaeologists to explore, catalogue and if necessary ship back to Europe a variety of priceless artifacts.
Legal Evidence for retaining Pergamon
In 2002, the then Cultural State Secretary Fikret Üccan said in Die Welt, “They tell us, the Pergamon Altar and other artefacts in the Pergamon Museum were carried out of Turkey with a permission. We can’t verify this. They show us old letters, some of them written by people without much responsibility in that time.” Other Turkish officials have been more forthright about the legal rights to the Pergamon marbles but they ignore an “irade”, an order of the Padisah, a high Ottoman official, where the sultan abstained from every right to the findings in Pergamon in exchange for 20,000 Marks.
Like Greece’s call for the return of the Elgin marbles, Turkey’s current Prime Minister echoes his predecessor, in demanding the return of the Pergamon altar. Countering this, German officials say that Turkey has scant regard for its own antiquities and insufficient experience of exhibiting them properly. They point to the flooding of Allianoi in 2011. But like the Elgin marbles, there is a question about the legality and the morality of keeping the acquisitions.
Muted and limited requests
Ömer Çelik, however, the culture and tourism minister in 2013, was less abrasive than his predecessor Culture Minister Ertugrul Gunay and said in an article printed in Der Speigel that the altar was not in fact up for negotiation: “This particular artifact was turned over to German authorities, with the necessary permits, during the time of the Ottoman Empire. We are not asking for the return of such artifacts. However, we do want to work, through negotiations and simple persuasion, to bring back items that left Turkey without permits and therefore illegally.” He goes on to list the five items specifically requested: “the sarcophagus from the tomb of Haci Ibrahim Veli, a fisherman statue from Aphrodisias and the prayer niche from the Beyhekim Mosque in Konya. We are also asking for the return of a window frame from the same mosque, and of Iznik tiles from the Piyale Pasha Mosque in Istanbul.” All of these items were exported from Turkey at a time between 1884 and 1906 when exports of art was prohibited except on the personal orders of the Sultan. No such orders exist to cover these items. In response, Hermann Parzinger for the Museum accused Turkey of “chauvinism”, pointed to the return of the Hittite Sphinx of Hattusa (“as a voluntary gesture of friendship”*) and says the rest of the claims are baseless. Making the matter worse is the poor maintenance of a German excavation site in Miletus and the theft of a statue at Göbekli Tepe in 2010 which was also being excavated by a German-led team. Celik says, “I’m not saying the head of the excavation team stole the statue, simply that he didn’t take the necessary security measures. Germany paid a fine for what happened.”
*The statue had been taken to Germany initially for what was called “restoration work” but it was then added to the permanent collection in the Pergamon museum.
the charge of Chauvinsim
The claim of “chauvinism” is peculiar but becomes more understandable in the light of German frustration to borrow a portrait head of Alexander the Great. The insurance became so great, the loan became impossible. At the same time, the Germans say that Turkey wants many antiquities to be sent back to Turkish museums, either as part of their permanent collection or as fairly permanent loans. the deal, from the German point of view, is unfair. The British museum had identified and arranged for the transport of 35 objects for the “Hajj” exhibition in 2012. Because it has not returned the “Samsat stele”, the 35 objects destined for the UK were denied an export licence and the British museum had to scrabble around to find suitable replacement pieces. The director of the British Museum said of the Stele, “At no point between 1927 and 2005 have the Turkish authorities, who were fully aware of the stele’s location, suggested that it has been improperly acquired or should be returned.”
Turkey counters with reference to the repatriation of works looted by the Soviets from Germany. “In his interview with Der SPIEGEL,” says Çelik, “Mr. Parzinger said that all the treasures the Soviets stole from Germany during and after World War II must be returned to Germany. We consider this legitimate. It is then also logical to say that everything that was exported from Turkey without a permit should be given back. We can’t say that one thing is right but the other wrong.”
All this talk of repatriation is echoed by a former culture minister in Egypt, Zahi Hawass. “Countries that have had their heritage assets removed by other nations need to fight together to improve their chances of having them returned,” he said a few years’ ago.
Refocusing the debate
I think the debate here is mistaken. One of the positive aspects of the British museum position is that access to the marbles there is free and relatively painless. The Parthenon museum in Athens is expensive so the public get a better deal in London. I think it is difficult to argue with that. On top of that, the sale of the marbles to Elgin is fairly straightforward, the legality of the sale was debated in Parliament and a special gallery was created to house the marbles.
Three points need to be made:
Regarding the Pergamon marbles, I see only one legitimate reason for their return, and that is fairly strong -that is that the Berlin museum charges tourists to view the artifact. Free access is reasonable especially if the artifact itself is questionable acquired.
The legal position is fairly clear. We cannot invalidate a contract without good reason even if our attitude to the trading of national artifacts has changed since the 19th century.
The third and final point is that Turkey must ask whether the Pergamon altar is really part of its own national heritage- it could legitimately be claimed to be part of the Greek heritage and Greece might one day add the Pergamon marbles to its list of demands for repatriation to the Acropolis museum.
Meanwhile the Turks have built a replica altar in Pergamon with a sign saying that the original is currently in Berlin and it is hoped that a “museum of the civilisations” will open in 2023 in Ankara and that it will be stocked with Turkish themed loans from a number of international collections.
Sadly, the Turkish government, like the Greek government cannot have it both ways. You cannot call a person a thief and then ask the same person to loan you some of his (probably stolen) stuff, particularly if you make a fuss about claiming a moral right to possession of the stuff anyway. Who would sanction such a loan? What guarantee would there be that you would ever return the stuff (especially when we know you think it is really yours)? This is a moral minefield but the climate is changing.
In the Economist in May 2012, the thenTurkish Culture Minister Günay wrote, “I wholeheartedly believe that each and every antiquity in any part of the world should eventually go back to its homeland.”
When I began teaching, people called me Robin and began to say “Nanu nannu” in class. I had no idea what they were on about until I saw “Dead Poet’s society” which was quite shocking. It was like looking in a mirror. Both the actor and the story were horribly familiar. Already, I had asked students to stand on their desk to see things from a different perspective, so I knew in an instant, as I watched that film, that my teaching career would be brief and that I was somehow linked to this bewitching man called Robin Williams.
As an animator, spending hours at my desk, there are times when I feel I am walking off the set of “Awakenings”. Also, on animation- the Genie in Aladdin. While this character and the film owe so much to Richard Williams earlier work on “the Thief and the Cobbler”, the Robin Williams voice allowed for a huge range of activity on screen. Often an animator tries to mimic the actions and moves of the actor providing the voice, but in this case Eric Goldberg notes that Williams tended to be fairly static when recording, so what we see on film is a representation of the zany spirit that must have been in Williams’ head. The face is a loose caricature of Williams nevertheless.
Now, back to my story. In 2004, some twenty years after my adopted mother died, I finally located my “birth-mother”, a woman with the improbably Dickensian name of “Cobbledick”. She had been to a supermarket in Derby around Christmas-time and had bought some flour there that in her words “was riddled with mites”. She had put the flour in her kitchen cupboard and later, opening the cupboard, she found the insects had spread. “I could not go into the kitchen without weeping. The flour decimated Christmas.”
Once we read this story on the internet, we knew that we had found my birth-mother- a lady of remarkable theatricality. We learnt perhaps too late that she was also someone who was sadly malicious, deceptive and divisive. She seemed to take pleasure in dumping each of her many children often in a particularly cruel way and those I made contact with remain quite bruised by the experience. I was lucky, I think, to have been adopted. She visited us on a few occasions, intending to stay for a couple of days but lingering for a week or more each time. On one occasion she turned up unannounced having had a tiff with her 5th or 6th husband who she claimed on and off to have divorced or lost. She claimed that he was beating her, but he was the one with the bruises. And he was there till the end.
At some point in the 1960s, I discovered that she had been prosecuted for bigamy. I simply did not think that sort of thing happened, but it is all over the bits of my family tree I could piece together. My grandfather fought in the Somme, survived and returned to a wife in Ireland, and another one in Manchester, never letting on that there was a third thriving somewhere in Paris. With a family like this, is it little wonder I still think there may be a direct link to Robin Williams? In the end, while I was recovering from a botched appendectomy arising from haemophilia complications, one of the few things my mother must have given to me- she went away and we never saw her again. She died a few years ago. Ironically she died on a day while I was filming the Edward Lear film in Albania and discussing my bizarre family with some Albanians. They could not get round the idea that she had given birth to 9 children and abandoned them all. She might have been an appalling mother but she was a great yarn!
I was one of three children born during a relationship she had with a man called Erik Williams- there is the Robin connection (I know it took a few paragraphs to get there)! I think my parents had eloped from Ireland or something. Although my mother claimed to know the addresses of my two siblings, she never let on and took the information to her grave. All I know is that Ronald joined the Navy, served in Malta and married a Maltese girl. I know next to nothing about my sister except that she spent time in Nottingham.
Anyway, that is the peculiarity. After being identified as a Robin Williams’ lookalike in school, I found that my real family was also called Williams. How strange is that!It is odd that two of the men I have come most admire over the years, Robin Williams and the animator Richard Williams should both share the name of my birth parents! We look for connections in life but frankly they do not need to be biological. Whether there is any real link between me and Robin, therefore, I cannot tell. But today, learning that Robin Williams had died and apparently had killed himself, I feel quite bereft. It is like loosing a member of the family!
There are many sweet stories appearing about Robin. Some of the nicest are linked to the help he gave to Christopher Reeve after he fell off his horse. Williams turned up in hospital pretending to be Russian (he had perfected a Russian accent for “Moscow on the Hudson”) and offering an anal probe. It made Reeve laugh at a time when he thought there was really no point in going on. More than that, Williams covered his medical expenses. Here is some of that story from a news report and interview with Chris Reeve:
It is awful to read stories of his fears of bankruptcy and of the details of his death. More awful perhaps are the tales of bile and prejudice that have come out from people who should know better or who should shut up – suicide is an illness and often a terminal one. It is something that calls out for greater care from friends, medical professionals and the wider public, particularly of those who survive a suicide bid and those who are left behind when the attempt is, as here, evidently successul. Poor Robin.
Here is a picture in his memory. Such a gifted man and a kind man too.