Summer in the city

summerinthecity

In the glare of the midday sun, a small disorderly chorus of human voices can be heard chanting a rhyming slogan. The video is shaky, the images blurred and distant. The audio is muffled, but one familiar sound cuts through the hubub and renders the chanting barely audible: the dry, rhythmical vibration of cicadas. The self-styled anarchist collective Rouvikonas (Rubicon) are staging a protest outside the Greek parliament, in their customary style, leafletting against the detention of prisoners who they consider political, the prison system, and society in general, which is (in their telling) one big prison. The video is repeated on a loop on every news bulletin, the timeless lullaby of the cicadas subtly undermining the revolutionary message and scuppering the carefully cultivated outrage of the presenters, reminding us that it is, after all, midsummer in Athens. Soon, even the anarchists will pack their bags and head to one of the lesser known islands, and the city will be deserted.

cicada
(it is the male cicada that makes the noise)

Already, people have started to drift away, if not physically then mentally. It is getting harder to get hold of friends and co-workers, longer to get anything accomplished. Social media timelines are filling up with photos of beaches, sunsets and meals in seaside tavernas. Ιn the absence of an unfolding political drama, banking crisis or cliffhanger negotiations, it feels like people are starting to let go.

In the last few weeks, a number of loose ends have been tied on the political scene. Greece finally concluded the dreaded second programme review – a mandatory progress assessment by the country’s creditors – which had been extended by about eighteen months of painful negotiations with the inevitable suspense, recriminations, and further austerity measures, banked (and almost immediately disbursed) the loan instalment that had been contingent on its completion, received a credit upgrade by Standard & Poors, and topped it all by issuing a new bond. Homework duly handed in and graded, school is most definitely out for the country’s leadership, even if most peoples’ reality is somewhat less celebratory.

It seemed a bit touch and go for a while, and the silly season appeared to kick of early, when the Greek press started publishing translated extracts from Adults in the Room, the tell-all memoir of Yanis Varoufakis’s turbulent love affair with Syriza which culminated in his traumatic six-month tenure as Finance Minister and chief bailout negotiator. Although the disclosures were not quite as risqué as the title might suggest, it soon became apparent that public discourse was about to turn into a very public karaoke face-off, Varoufakis kicking off with his favourite refrain, A Lover Spurned, Tsipras belting out a defiant My Way (“I have made mistakes… big mistakes”), Varoufakis retaliating with some vintage Gloria Gaynor. Musical accompaniment has been provided by the opposition, calling for a special investigation into the events of two summers ago when Greece came perilously close to exiting the Euro. The memoirs offer little new in terms of hard evidence, but the tune is catchy. After the 2015 debacle, Varoufakis no longer enjoys the kind of rock star reception in Greece that still greets him in other parts of Europe (one Greek recently wrote to entreat the Financial Times not to “promote” his views) but everyone snaps to attention at the slightest whiff of dirty laundry,

On a slightly more serious note, the government seems to have opened up another battle front, this time with the judiciary. Tsipras himself, and several of his ministers issuing Trumpian denunciations of any court decisions that run counter government policy or pet political causes (I use that epithet descriptively, even though the US president was rather late to the populist party compared to our guys or some of the less scrupulous European leaders). In his most recent TV interview, the prime minister rather pompously intoned that “separation of powers is one thing, and powers of separation is another” – demonstrating that he hasn’t outgrown the kind of nonsensical word game that scores top grades in the stilted style of essay-writing that is drilled into us in Greek high school. But that wasn’t as bad as his interviewer, who at one point, addressing the question Turkish violations of Greek airspace, tripped himself up on another Tsipras metaphor with surreal results: “So this dog comes into our garden and approaches our plants, to put this allegorically, this dog comes into the Aegean, flies over our islands, this dog overflies inhabited islands…” The threat of Turkish canine airborne divisions trained to micturate on our gardenias may not have occurred to anyone previously, but some will be sleeping more uneasily this summer.

Thankfully, everyone loves sporting success, and when the national junior basketball team won the European cup (or, “the who won the what?” as most people would have asked just a few days ago), politicians lined up hoping that some of that magical victory dust would rub off on them. But here’s a hint to politicians: standing next to a whole team of basketball players is virtually guaranteed to make you look like a midget with bad posture. Tsipras went all out by putting on a team jersey over his shirt, and then fumbling the autographed ball.

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Somewhere, a little boy named after a mythical bard and an iconic Marxist guerrilla cringed as he anticipated the fresh bullying possibilities his dad had just exposed him to. Meanwhile, the man who would be PM, ND’s Kyriakos Mitsotakis, managed an even more embarrassing attempt at sports banter (he is notorious for jinxing the teams he supports), despite bringing along the token retired basketball player in his shadow cabinet.

A reminder that to win, it is not enough for the other guys to fail in defence, you also need to be able to score. If you don’t have a shot at winning and are not averse to looking like a cougar, perhaps it’s best to emulate PASOK leader Fofi Gennimata and strike a poolside pose with the water polo team.

fofi_polo1

Meanwhile, several major news outlets reported that the government was rushing through legislation to introduce a rubber stamp bonus for civil servants. One editor apologised for reproducing the hoax, which originated in a publication which advertises its own content as “quality political disinformation since 1867”, blaming the heat.

PHOTOS: Slim Aarons/Getty photo of the Canellopoulos penthouse pool, 1961, via guardian.co.uk, Robert E. Snodgrass cicada via Smithsoniankathimerini.gr, iefimerida.gr

 

 

Summer in the city

I wasn’t there when…

tsipras16

It was a beautiful autumn evening as I walked to Athens’s Tae Kwon Do arena where the 2nd Syriza party conference is being held this week. The air was warm but the shadows long, and the light had the golden hazy quality that is peculiarly Attic. I had only decided to check out the conference the day before, when I saw the posters announcing it, plastered – illegally – along the median strip of most major roads in town.

To get to the Tae Kwon Do, one of the least unsuccessful pieces of Athens’s Olympic legacy now functioning as an expo centre and occasional refugee shelter, I had to pick my way along the seafront strip aspirationally rebranded as the “Athens Riviera”, along the gulf of Faliro. This involved traversing a maze of underpasses, flyovers and empty stranded car parks reminiscent J.G. Ballard’s dystopian Concrete Island, walking the narrow pavement along the coastal highway past the last holdouts of the nightclubs that once lined that stretch of road, and finally crossing the freshly planted park surrounding the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre which resembles a Mediterranean zen garden, and over a pedestrian bridge towards the setting sun.

The conference piqued my interest in part because I have never attended a Greek political gathering of any sort, and I happened to be in the neighbourhood. I have attended political conferences in the UK for different parties as a non-member in a professional capacity and found them to be fascinating experiences, but I am simply not a party animal in any sense (except perhaps ironically when Tony Hadley from Spandau Ballet belted out “Gold” at one of the otherwise stolid Tory events). Anyway, I digress. I probably wouldn’t cross the road to attend a routine political event by most other political parties, as I haven’t done in all my years in Greece. The closest I came was the run-up to the July 2015 referendum, which was adrenaline-inducing, both in the exciting and the downright scary sense. I thought it would be interesting to see how Syriza measured up, after inspiring such passion in both the positive and the negative sense, at its second ever conference after a year and a half in power, having climbed a rapid learning curve, and with the honeymoon period decidedly behind them.

I also figured that being a relatively new political formation and making a big deal of inclusiveness it would be easy to blag my way in. In the UK, party conference attendees have to register weeks in advance, get a conference pass in the post and queue to get through tight security barriers.

As I approached the venue I was struck by the calm. I had expected something along the lines of the KNE (Communist Party Youth) festivals that used to take place down the road from us when I was growing up, and where Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras cut his teeth in the not too distant past: tannoys blaring Theodorakis songs and slogans, leafletting, honking horns and music late into the night. Here, only a few flags fluttering in the autumn breeze gave away a party event rather than an Ideal Home expo. Thin crowds milled outside, little groups of friends greeting one another, craning their necks to find more people they recognised, smoking. There were a few recognisable faces, including senior cabinet minsters, mingling outside. Three times I thought I spotted the rotund mustachioed Parliamentary speaker Nikos Voutsis, only to realise that the paunch and braces were something of a common look among male attendees of a certain age.

I only had to walk through an airport-style scanner and put my bag through an x-ray machine. No photo ID badges, and only a couple of discreet police buses for security. Inside the hall, I had an hour to kill before the programme was due to start. The PA system played an eclectic mix, “Bella Ciao” alternating with “Rock the Casbah” and Greek dad-rock. Looking around me, I estimated the average age of the gathering audience to be mid to late 50s, perhaps a bit older. Some had brought children who were already fidgeting. One small section towards the back of the arena was taken up by the Syriza youth, who were the only ones showing a sense of occasion. As I leant over the bannister the gentleman next to me smoked a candyfloss-scented electronic cigarette. Around 10 minutes before the scheduled starting time, a disembodied male voice came on the PA system: “Comrades, comrades, please take your seats so that the conference can begin”. There was a slight show of purpose in the crowd. At the third attempt, the announcer started to betray some impatience, adopting the deliberate phrasing of a kindergarten teacher: “Comrades, please. We are taking our seats and settling down so that the conference can begin”.

There was a rustle and random sections of the audience stood up and applauded. “Who is it?” whispered the group of women next to me. “It’s Alexis, it’s him!” (this is the first genuine excitement of the evening). On the big screens we could see Tsipras and a group of senior party figures making their way from the back of the hall through the crowd to the stage. The hall was still not full. There was the odd empty seat in the stands, and the floor was only crowded near the front. To the sound of some kind of instrumental folk-rock which I didn’t recognise, Tsipras shook hands along the front rows, while the rest of the audience chatted.

Once the meet and greet had concluded, the voice proceeded to introduce the honorary conference committee as they rose to take their places on the stage. I only recognised a few names of the presiding team. After them came a colourful, diverse group, which I would have trouble picturing onstage with a more established party: a Muslim MP from Thrace, a Paralympian, the president of the Philippino domestic workers’ association, and eventually a long list of resistance fighters, dissidents and Communist party members with histories of imprisonment and exile. After the applause subsided, the Syriza youth section erupted into a chant of “On barren islands and in prisons, the Communists never bowed”. This was greeted by stony silence from audience.

The party secretary stood up to give the welcome address. He was not an inspiring speaker, and I have to admit that I have a short attention span when it comes to political speeches in general. My mind starts to wander within the first couple of sentences and I revert to people-watching. What I did notice was that I was not alone. At a UK party conference of the governing party, even as a registered attendee I would not even be in the main hall, I would probably be watching a screen in an overflow room, but there would still be a palpable atmosphere that carried you along. I recently watched in amazement a snippet of the fractious Republic convention in the US, where the floor delegates dutifully applauded Ted Cruz on cue for several minutes before it slowly dawned on them that he was not in fact going to endorse Donald Trump as expected. Based on these precedents, I was concerned that I would stand out if I failed to applaud. There was in fact very little applause on cue, and when it came, several people around me didn’t join in. Only the Syriza youth chanted occasionally.

The tone was particularly flat when the speaker tried to whip the audience up by stating repeatedly that this was the first conference of its kind in Greece, “held by a leftist party while in government”. I had read more experienced and knowledgeable commentators note that this conference would be very different from the first, partly because the centre of gravity of the senior Syriza team had shifted from the more radical personalities of their opposition days and their first term toward the more conservative figures drawn from the ranks of the Socialist PASOK party, which had governed Greece on and off since the early 80s. This was clearly borne out in the audience by the frosty reception that greeted the “first time left” claims.

I can’t remember much more of his speech. As my eye wandered I fixed on two incongruous figures seated in the youth section: two twenty-something guys in sharp suits and carefully trimmed beards, smoking cigars like the wannabe Gordon Gekkos used to do while the ordered sushi around the old Athens Stock Exchange. Had they stumbled in from a Nea Demokratia event, or were they perhaps a Cuban youth delegation? One of them ostentatiously brushed down his jacket sleeve after one of his more casually-attired comrades in the stand bumped into him.

syriza16

Eventually, the secretary ceded his place to Alexis Tsipras. This also struck me as odd compared to the Anglo-American experience, where the party leader’s speech typically forms the crescendo of the conference programme, after all the aspirants and the grandees have had a chance to warm up the audience and iron out the message. Maybe this is how it’s done in Greece, but I found it interesting that Syriza wouldn’t have challenged such a tradition, given their emphasis on bottom-up process and consultative deliberation, to have the leader set the tone up front in such an obvious way. But, oddly, I was looking forward to this. I had never found Tsipras to be an engaging speaker when I had watched him on TV. He declaims in a loud nasal monotone that some people compare to the late Andreas Papandreou, who was generally counted as an inspirational orator, but I find soporific. He peppers (or should I say crams) his sentences with political clichés of the type described in Greece as “wooden language”, which hark back to the cold war days of the 1970s. In the comfort of my own home I tend to drift off to make a coffee or get a drink and read about it later, but having heard Tsipras described as a “firebrand” and “charismatic” I expected that the live experience would be more engaging. The principle had worked when I was dragged to Neil Young and Springsteen concerts only to be dragged away a reluctant convert.

On this occasion I was wrong. I stayed engaged long enough to sense the audience freeze again when the “first time left” message was repeated. They did the same when Tsipras claimed the July 2015 referendum will remain etched on our memories as the greatest moment in modern history. There was stony silence when he said that leaving the Euro was never part of the Syriza plan – earlier in the day, a leaked book excerpt quoted French President Hollande to the effect that Tsipras had approached Russian President Putin to print drachmas in Russia in the event of a Grexit. Talk of changing Europe from within barely caused a ripple in the audience; ditto the mention of the pantomime villains, the media and the old political parties.

The floor was still only two thirds full. A busty blonde woman in a tight black dress strode up and down the back of the audience wiggling her hips and blowing kisses to her friends (?) in the stands. You will have to resort to more expert commentary for what followed. Rumours have it that the party conference is the prelude to a ruthless cabinet reshuffle, but I didn’t stay to pick up any hints of this. My curiosity satisfied I left, probably a third of the way through Tsipras’s speech. Maybe it was different in the “old days”, a mere couple of years ago. Maybe this is just what happens when a party grows up, or maybe it has burned out already.

If it was exciting, I wasn’t there.

PHOTOS by Atlantis Host, October 2016.

I wasn’t there when…

Dear Aunt Cassandra: the yuppies are revolting

PRETTY IN PINK

Dear Aunt Cassandra,

What is it with all the yuppies coming out the woodwork? One day I’m too kool for skool rocking the no-tie look and wiping the floor with the oldsters, the next day I turn up and some preppy d**chebag is chatting up my girl. So what, James Spader, today you’re inviting us to a pool party at daddy’s mansion to humiliate us (as if!), tomorrow you’re done for insider trading. Boom! You’re toast, Duckie the underdog wins the girl (or is it the Andrew McCarthy guy? – must watch “Pretty in Pink” again. Or was I thinking of “The Breakfast Club”? or Ferris Bueller? Yeah I’m definitely Ferris Bueller – dude its been too long since I had a Brat Pack marathon, happy days…). Anyway it’s not like he’s not that cool either – he’s way too old for the floppy hair and he has those weird boggly eyes. And he really is a daddy’s boy. I’m mainly worried that he’ll get an interview with Uncle Wolfgang, and then there goes the summer job at the bank… He’s just the type, neoliberal yuppie scum. “I went to Harvard, dontcha know?” Well check this out, I came tops at Harvard and didn’t even have to pay tuition! 

Then I head downtown to check out the vinyl and it’s wall-to-wall business attire, marching and chanting, like a zombie apocalypse but reeking of Drakkar Noir and Poison. Am I hallucinating, or have the ’80s come back to bite me?

What gives?

Your loving nephew, Alex.

lawyers


 

Dear Alexander,

I wish you wouldn’t use words like “neol*beral”, you know it upsets me when you swear…

Now, be honest with me, are you back on the Ibogaine? Zombie apocalypse in central Athens, indeed… Are you sure it wasn’t the old comrades in their new dress code? There is some pretty ideologically correct neckwear available these days!

As for the other stuff, darling, this isn’t the ’80s and your life isn’t a Brat Pack film. You really need to snap out of it. But while we’re trapped in this unproductive analogy, I should point out that the world has moved on, and James Spader has gone from being the all-purpose Reaganite villain to everyone’s favourite cuddly sex creep. And where is your Andrew McCarthy now? All I’m saying is, you can’t bank on dialectical materialism giving your preppy friend his come-uppance.

It’s a topsy turvy world, my boy. You’re not the underdog anymore. You will just have to deal with it.

Your despairing Aunt Cassandra.

P.S. When you go to Davos next week please don’t crack any jokes about “visiting auntie’s money”, OK? Nobody finds that funny.

 

Images: Title: PRETTY IN PINK • Pers: SPADER, JAMES / RINGWALD, MOLLY • Year: 1986 • Dir: DEUTCH, HOWARD • Ref: PRE016AP • Credit: [ PARAMOUNT / THE KOBAL COLLECTION ]; AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis via ajc.com

 

Dear Aunt Cassandra: the yuppies are revolting

Tsipras “double” conspiracy continues to rage in anticipation of TV address

alexis-tsipras-540x304

Greeks are waiting with bated breath for tonight’s televised address to the nation by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, wondering which Alexis will be taking to their screens and why*. Rumours that Tsipras was kidnapped earlier this year by a neoliberal cabal and replaced by an austerity-friendly double have received further support by the PM’s erratic behaviour in recent weeks.

Veteran Tsipras-watchers point to his strangely discombobulated performance on a recent diplomatic visit to Turkey, where he failed to recognise a Turkish player for Barcelona, which he claims to be his favourite football team. Others dismiss this, asking with a shrug “what do you expect from a volleyball player?” In the wake of this development, one his closest collaborators resigned his seat, saying in private that he no longer recognised his old friend.

The rumours however were fuelled further by a series of what can only be described as a series of drunk-tweets following the visit, in which the Greek PM posed his Turkish counterpart a classic passive-aggressive make-up question both in Greek and mangled English: “Why can’t we stop arming against one another and instead bond over extracting aid from the Europeans to manage their refugee crisis?”

TsipDav

Puzzlement became even more intense after Tsipras (“or whoever was managing his Twitter account,” as one observer commented with a knowing wink) rushed to delete the English version (“possibly embarrassed by the over-enthusiastic use of a thesaurus – mercurial? WTF??” according to a more sceptical expert reached by email last week). The Turkish PM’s altogether more laconic response was translated from diplomaticspeak to mean, “No thanks, buddy, we’ve already got that covered”:

Speculation is raging that the Tsipras double planted by the “European project”/CIA-Mossad consortium has “gone rogue” due to excessive exposure to chemtrails, a well-known phenomenon in Greece, or prolonged Ibogaine deprivation due to a worsening shortage of imported drugs.

The PM’s televised address, originally scheduled for last week, was postponed due to “ill health”, prompting rumours that his handlers decided to withdraw him for an emergency re-programming session. It is believed that their goal was to use the address to gather support for painful pension reforms due to be put before parliament in the coming weeks, which it is feared could lead the government to lose its majority. Veteran conspiracy theorists claim to have evidence of a top secret facility code-named “The Island of Dr Schauble” in the depths a glacial lake in the Black Forest, where “personality re-alignment” is carried out at the behest of the New World Order in order to produce compliant reform clients. It is said that the neoliberal elites are desperate as they now see Tsipras as the only hope for implementing their sinister programme, following the complete implosion of the Greek official opposition.

Tsipras-watchers, however, speculate that his personality is proving particularly resistant to treatment. As evidence they cite a press release published yesterday in Greek by the PM’s office.

The release, which (if genuine) was issued in response to publications in the German press comparing Greece’s recent progress to that of a rudderless ship, opens with a defiant shout-out to the “unrepentant and fixated enemies of Greece” who “misinform and speculate (σπεκουλάρουν),” before hailing the “great success” of the recent recapitalisation of the Greek banks (a clear sign of delusion according to critics) and signing off with a sarcastic “Get well soon…” (the final “…” thought to have replaced the even more on-the-nose “h8ers” at the last minute due to the limitations of Google Translate).

The current whereabouts of both the “real Alexis” and his “double” are unknown, as even the most hardened conspiracy theorists have lost the thread of their investigations. Some have gone so far as to speculate that it is in fact he who will be replacing Socialist firebrand Nicolás Maduro as he prepares to vacate the presidential mansion in Caracas after his defeat in the weekend parliamentary elections. Crypto-linguists comparing Maduro’s grudging concession speech blaming a US-instigated right-wing “counter-revolution” and “economic war” argued that the close resemblance of the rhetoric to the Greek PM’s press release lends credence to this hypothesis. Experts are closely monitoring the activity of numerous Swiss bank accounts where Venezuelan government officials among others stashed close to $15 billion in the course of their embattled rule.

Meanwhile, ordinary Greeks are pre-ordering pizzas a stocking up on beer to watch tonight’s speech, which is expected to deliver record ratings in a country where the daily average 4+ hours of TV viewing have gone through the roof in the past year, due in great part to political blockbusters such as the July referendum and the cliffhanger negotiations with the troika, now in their third series. Bookmakers OPAP are believed to have registered record takings on the back of the “Tsipras bet”, a welcome boost to their bottom line in advance of the introduction of a €0.05 per wager tax on betting due to be introduced as part of the latest tax reform package.


*All stories and tweets linked to or reproduced are genuine, everything in between is a fabrication.

 

 

Tsipras “double” conspiracy continues to rage in anticipation of TV address

“Adios, bro”: That resignation message in full

split

Earlier today, Syriza MP and former government spokesman Gabriel Sakellaridis submitted his resignation, under pressure from PM Alexis Tsipras after he had made it know he would not be voting in favour of the latest bundle of measures going through the Greek Parliament tonight. The development is considered significant as Sakellaridis has been considered a member of Tsipras’s inner circle. The following message was left on Tsipras’s voicemail*.


“Bro (κολλητἐ)

Don’t worry, I’m gonna go quietly, dignified, like. I’ll make some sh*t up about principles, “irreconcilable differences”, “inability to implement” etc., like we’re gonna keep it civilised for the sake of the kids. Anyone who knows what’s what will know that’s lame… Like, we all knew there was a sh*tstorm brewing when we got behind you in September, but I’ll let you handle the tricky questions, boss.

I think you and me both know what this is about, bro.

You’re hanging out with Fatty all the time, war-gaming with Fatty, letting Fatty pick the drinks order. You know he goes around telling people you’re his b*tch behind your back, don’t you? And when it’s not Fatty, it’s Nikos. Nikos gets the fancy ministry, Nikos gets to ride the chopper, Nikos gets to do the oligarch-bashing. And all the geeks that we used to take the p*ss out of, now they’re you’re best friends. Little Lord Fauntleroy with his crumpled professor’s jackets and his stupid accent. What a loser! At least Yanis had a big bike.

But you know what crossed the line for me? First, you take that uptight bint Olga with you in the jet instead of me. Then you go to the football game, VIP box and all. Then you get to tour the changing rooms. I know it was just Turkey, man, but the f*cking national team?! You know I would have given both my arms! “Who do you play for? Barcelona? My favourite team”. WTF?? Listen to yourself, dude, you sound like some stupid chick trying to fit in with the guys so she can score with the captain. Stick to volleyball man, that’s more your speed.

I never thought it would come to this, bro. You broke up the the Rat Pack, the Revolutionary Reservoir Dogs. For what? Just to fit in… Bottom line, you’re no fun anymore. One of these days you’ll lose a bet and have to wear a tie, and we’ll see who’s laughing then…

Seriously, though. I love you, man, and good luck with it all. You know where to find me when this is all over. We can crack open a beer, order a pizza, watch some “Jackass”, just like the old days, before you sold out.

Adios bro. ¡Hasta la Victoria Siempre!

Word.”

* Stories, tweets and Facebook posts linked to or reproduced are genuine. Everything in between is a fabrication.

Image adapted from ienimerosi.gr

“Adios, bro”: That resignation message in full

Punk’d again!

kinito

We reveal the truth behind those oligarch texts.

During yesterday’s debate on the new media bill in the Greek Parliament, Defence Minister, leader of junior government coalition party ANEL (Independent Greeks) and weekend warrior Panos Kammenos read out the text messages presented in translation below, purporting to be from Dimitrios Giannakopoulos, scion of the family behind Greek pharmaceuticals company Vianex, and proprietor of Panathinaikos basketball team and internet “news” site newsbomb.gr. The texts were intended to demonstrate the political pressure the government was receiving from “wannabe oligarchs” in the media.

“Good morning. Will our man George get into Health as an extra-parliamentary appointment? Please make sure they don’t reappoint [Deputy Minister for Sport] Kontonis anywhere.”

“Congratulations. I hope this time you make it a full four years without any obstacles and can fix all the atrocities of the last forty years. Good strength. Newsbomb elects a government”

“Good morning. George should be appointed as an extra-parliamentary. Do not let Kontonis be appointed.”

“Kontonis not only did nothing, he won’t even give us an appointment.”

“If I don’t topple you by Christmas, my name isn’t Giannakopoulos.”


We are now able to bring you the background to this exchange. Exclusive to Dateline: Atlantis.

Monday 21st September, 6:30 am, the morning after the Syriza/ANEL re-election:

Alexis Tsipras, PM (AT): Malaka, malaka*, check this out!

Nikos Pappas, Minister of State (NP): What’s up man, I’m hungover…

AT: I know, you were out with fatty, right?

NP: Malaka, it was unreal. He insisted on opening the place up and doing the whole thing with the flowers and the plates and sh*t. You know I hate that stupid skyladiko stuff but I couldn’t say no. I took one for the team, malaka, remember that.

AT: I know, malaka, I appreciate it… You know how Betty is about me staying out late.

NP: You are so pussy-whipped, man… Anyway, wazzup?

AT: Listen, malaka, you’re gonna love this. We’re gonna get back at fatty. Remember when we sent him that spoof with the kids’ essays on politics?

NP: Yeah… The idiot only went and read it out on live TV, like it was for real…

AT: I know, right?! I only sent it as a joke, as in, “check this joke out, from a clearly satirical site, isn’t it funny?” Who would have thought he’d take it seriously. And he was getting all wound up reading it out as well. It was unreal. Anyway, that gave me an idea.

NP: Go on…

AT: You know how he loves to puff out his chest and feel important right? And you know how he likes to hang out with all the oligarch douchebag kids, right? [snigger] No offence, mate, right? So, here’s what I’m going to text him…

[beep]

NP: Very funny. Hey, his wife gave my missus her number earlier. How about texting her too? That’ll really mess with him!

AT: I knew you’d love it! Keep it in the family. Just like the old days. Hook, line and sinker! Boom! Hey, malaka, double dare! If he mentions it, we have to get him to read it out in parliament. You know when, when you do the media bill!

NP: No fair, malaka. I won’t be able to keep a straight face!

AT: That’s ma boy. You know that’s going to be a slog, why not have some fun?! Malaka, take a couple of painkillers and see you at the office in a couple of hours! We got a country to run!

*For those unfamiliar with the Greek vernacular, lit., masturbator, but used habitually among friends as an affectionate interjection along the lines of “dude”, “man” or “mate”.

Stories, tweets and Facebook posts linked to or reproduced are genuine. Everything in between is a fabrication.

Image from spirospero.gr

Punk’d again!

Aunt Cassandra’s tough love: How not to pitch for business

tsipras_clinton_web-thumb-large

Dear Alexander,

I hope you don’t mind that I drop the “Che” nonsense now that you’re a grown man with responsibilities. I know you didn’t come to me for advice, but I feel the need to tell you a few unvarnished truths. Your aunt Gianna came and told me she pulled some strings with her friend Mr Clinton at the Lions Club and arranged for you to pitch to him and his friends for business, and I understand it wasn’t the greatest success*. There I go, being diplomatic again! She is so embarrassed, she doesn’t know if she’ll have the nerve to attend their fundraiser tonight.

First of all, let me tell you, I’m amazed he gave you the time of day, especially given your friends’ tradition of having a loud party outside his house in Athens on an annual basis and calling his friends imperialist murderers (if he was a few eggs at Halloween he would understand, but mid-November?). It must say something about your aunt’s skills of persuasion, or maybe Mr Clinton remembers he was once a charming young rascal himself, who knows? What matters is, he didn’t owe you an invitation, you didn’t earn it, and yet by the sounds of it you managed to squander it. Not saying you should tug your forelock, but opportunities like this don’t grow on trees.

Let’s start from the basics. I know you are going to say that English isn’t your first language. You’re very good at excuses but that is not a real one. Your Italian friend Matteo is also deficient in his language skills, but somehow he manages to make it sound charming because he actually has something to say. He doesn’t just sit there fidgeting with his notes, looking shifty. He gives them a run for their money.

Did anyone tell you you were there to pitch for an investment? I’m sure your auntie will have mentioned this, she’s no fool. More to the point, do you actually know the difference between an investment and a loan, or (heaven forbid) a handout? Doesn’t sound like it, to hear your aunt describe it. Now I may just be a housewife but I watched your uncle Aristos build his used car dealership from scratch, so I think I can say I have more experience in business than you do. When the customer looks you in the eye and asks you “will this car still be running in a year?” you don’t giggle nervously and look at your shifty associates. You don’t say “that is a good question” to buy time to think up an answer, oh no. If you can’t answer that question straigthaway you have lost the customer.

Now, to the more advanced stuff. When an investor asks you if your business is sound, you don’t into a long spiel about how your cousins are crooks and layabouts and left the books in a mess, or how the bank manager is on your back for a bad loan. The man gave you an out, he said he knew the business had seen better days, he even gave a wink that the previous management (your cousins) weren’t to be trusted. Now he wants to hear what you are going to do about it. He wants you to look him in they eye and give him a straight story. So, when he asks you what the business is good at, you don’t say “this and that”, you don’t say your employees are talented and deserving. Do you even know what a business plan is? Mr Clinton sounds like he knows the business better than you do, because he actually did his homework. And he’s a proper grown-up. Imagine. I know you were able to wing it at school, but this is for real. Read my lips. He knows it’s a mess, he doesn’t want to hear excuses, he is giving you a chance to redeem yourself.

By the way, I don’t know if you realised what you were saying, but Mr Clinton got you to commit in front of his friends to put some of your own money in the business**. They don’t call him Slick Willy for nothing.

What can I say, my boy? The only blessing is there weren’t more people there to see. You are young, you will have more opportunities, that’s why I’m giving you the tough love. But I would hate to see your father’s business go under because you weren’t man enough to face up to your responsibilities.

One last thing, Alexander. I understand that these days not wearing a tie is OK (Koula says her son who has a fancy job at JP Morgan is allowed to unbutton his shirt on Fridays) but for goodness’ sake remember your upbringing and please don’t slouch!

Much love,

Your aunt Cassandra.


* On the 27th September 2015 Greek PM Alexis Tsipras participated in a Q&A with former President Bill Clinton as part of the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative in New York. The full 30 minute video is available here and is recommended viewing as a companion to this post.

** In the course of the Q&A, Clinton prompted Tsipras to commit to creating a public investment fund for startup businesses. This did not get widely reported, but was clearly intended to be on record.

More synoptic reports can be found here and here.

Image from ekathimerini.com

Aunt Cassandra’s tough love: How not to pitch for business