Archive for January, 2009

Sharat Sardana

Sharat Sardana

Sharat Sardana: a prodigiously gifted comedy writer.

Pioneering comic voice who created many of the characters for Goodness Gracious Me

Sharat Sardana, who has died aged 40 of a streptococcal infection, was a prodigiously gifted comedy writer and producer who helped revolutionise the perception of Asians in Britain. With his writing partner, Richard Pinto, he created some of the most memorable characters and skits in Britain’s first ever Asian sketch show, Goodness Gracious Me, including Going for an English (satirising the British fondness for Indian food after a night at the pub), which was voted the sixth-funniest comedy sketch of all time by Channel 4 viewers in 2005. The show was originally commissioned by BBC Radio 4 in 1996 and transferred to television two years later.

A pioneering comic voice, Sharat was unafraid to plunder personal experiences for comedy gain and based many of his GGM characters on family and friends. “The Coopers” (or Kapoors), Asian anglophiles who steadfastly refuse to acknowledge their ethnicity; “Mr Everything Comes from India”, whose singular catchphrase, “Indian”, applied to everyone and everything, from Superman to the British royal family; and “Check Please”, a misguided Lothario whose serial dinner dates ended with that phrase after the man’s offensive remarks cause his date to walk out, were all drawn from his acute observations of Britain’s multicultural melting pot and the comic possibilities therein.

Sharat, the son of first-generation Indian immigrants (his mother was a GP and gynaecologist), was raised in Wanstead, east London. He attended Forest school, in Snaresbrook, where his anarchic humour did not always find favour with the authorities, but did lead him to Richard, a classmate. Their shared enthusiasm for irreverence bred a partnership determined to turn their passions into a career.

After graduating in English from Queen Mary and Westfield, University of London, Sharat joined a BBC script editing scheme under the patronage of Anil Gupta, a budding comedy producer. Together, they amassed the writing and acting talent for Goodness Gracious Me, which ran first on radio and from 1998 to 2001 on television. Sharat and Richard contributed more than half the total output of sketches for the show before joining the independent production company Hat Trick. Their first solo venture was Small Potatoes for Channel 4. Having worked closely with them on this series and on GGM, I chose them as the natural partners to develop The Kumars at Number 42.

The Sardana/Pinto combo was formidable. Sharat was the dashing, public face of the duo, the gobby one, who paced and prowled, throwing in surreal riffs and killer one-liners while Richard interrupted, shaped and refined and, most importantly, got it all down on paper. Writing with them was exhilarating. Sharat would conduct spectacular tangents and hilarious comic freefalls before Richard or I, our guilty pleasures assuaged, would point out that yet another deadline was looming.

I envied his wit and encyclopaedic knowledge of pop culture but most of all his longstanding friendships. He had a small but perfectly formed group of people whom he had known since his school days that both enjoyed and were unconditionally supportive of his fame.

Sharat was proud of his sartorial elegance and possessed an exuberance for the finer things in life. He would wax lyrical about restaurants, holiday destinations, the latest gadgets and flashy cars, though he was disappointed by those who were merely impressed by it all, wanting people instead to enjoy and share in his good fortune, without judgement. He was warm, compassionate and encouraging, attempting to find work for those who did not have it, but then providing a joyous distraction to those who couldn’t find it.

Sharat and I became friends as soon as we started working together, recognising a shared vocabulary of references and routines akin to siblings. We were holiday companions, amateur musicians and confidants, sharing our highest and lowest moments, and we became part of the fabric of each other’s lives.

In the last two years, his considerable talents could not find expression for the profound grief he felt at losing one of his oldest friends, Mark Denby, to cancer and then just a year ago, his mother, to the same disease.

Sharat died in hospital, surrounded by family and close friends, and would have been genuinely surprised at how many people will feel his loss. He is survived by his father, Om.

• Sharat Sardana, comedy writer, born 20 August 1968; died 27 January 2009

January 31, 2009 at 12:02 pm Leave a comment

Jack Nakano, 75, dies; educator was youth-oriented theater arts guru

Nakano obit

Gilbert A. Smith
Jack Nakano’s long career as a youth-oriented theater arts guru touched the lives of performers such as Jack Black, America Ferrera, Eric Stoltz, Anthony Edwards and Randolph Mantooth. He died of heart failure Jan. 15 at the age of 75.
By Dennis McLellan, Los Angeles Times, January 30, 2009
Jack Nakano, an educator who launched the nonprofit Youth Theatre Productions in Santa Barbara in the early 1960s and later founded and was artistic director of the Hollywood-based California Youth Theatre and YouTHeatre-America!, has died. He was 75.

Nakano, whose long career as a youth-oriented theater arts guru spanned five decades and touched the lives of performers such as Jack Black and America Ferrera, died of heart failure Jan. 15 at the VA Hospital in West Los Angeles, said theatrical producer Joe Gunches, a friend.

“Jack was a tireless educator who loved musical theater and tried to inspire a love of this great American art form in his students,” producer-director Taylor Hackford, who knew Nakano from his junior high and high school days in Santa Barbara, said in an e-mail. “He was a genuine Santa Barbara pioneer educator/producer.”

Nakano was a performing-arts teacher at La Cumbre Junior High School in Santa Barbara in 1962 when he joined other local drama teachers to create the summer theater program that became the long-running Youth Theatre Productions in Santa Barbara.

Eric Stoltz, Anthony Edwards, Randolph Mantooth and the four Bottoms brothers — Timothy, Joseph, Samuel and Benjamin — are among the young students in the program in the 1960s and ’70s who went on to acting careers.

“It really was my foundation for a career as a professional actor,” said Timothy Bottoms, who appeared in his first Youth Theatre Production in the mid-’60s, when he was 13. “It would never have happened without Jack Nakano — and that goes for a whole bunch of actors.”

Stoltz said at least half of the 35 plays and musicals he appeared in as a teenager in Santa Barbara in the 1970s before going to college were with Nakano’s Youth Theatre Productions.

“I’m one of the many people who will be forever grateful for the love and respect of theater that he engendered in so many,” Stoltz said. “He was very passionate about the theater, and it affected a lot of people.”

As a theater arts instructor at Santa Barbara High School from 1964 to 1978, Nakano took a new approach to student productions that captured the attention of Dan Sullivan, then The Times’ drama critic.

Although Equity actors had been appearing in college productions for several seasons, Sullivan reported in 1970, “the Santa Barbara experiment marks the first time they have performed with high school actors.”

It began in 1968 with a Santa Barbara High School production of “Life With Father,” starring Leon Ames and Lurene Tuttle and supported by student actors. A later on-campus production of “Winesburg, Ohio” featured a mix of students, with Eva Marie Saint under the direction of her husband, Jeffrey Hayden.

After spending a year in England on a Fulbright teaching grant in 1973, Nakano created Gazebo Theater One, his first off-campus venture into production. He also headed a company of young mimes known as Les Masques Blancs.

In 1980, a year after the curtain fell on Youth Theatre Productions in Santa Barbara, Nakano moved south.

From 1984 to 1988, he was chairman of the drama department and taught theater at Crossroads School for Arts & Sciences in Santa Monica.

He also focused on his second nonprofit theater arts program for young people, California Youth Theatre, which he once described as “a grass-roots effort for the arts, covering all aspects of performing.”

After operating in various venues, California Youth Theatre moved into a permanent home in the Ivar Theatre in Hollywood in 2000.

In a 1986 interview with The Times, Nakano discussed the importance of exposing young people to the creative arts.

“I think we should accept the fact that we’re no longer pioneers,” he said. “We’ve reached the Pacific Ocean. It’s time we develop the character of our young people. They must have a sense of the arts. They must have sensitivity.”

In 2004, Nakano left California Youth Theatre, which closed about two years later.

But in 2006, he launched YouTHeatre-America!, a nonprofit national theater arts program for young people.

Nakano, whose father was Japanese and mother was French, was born in London on Oct. 28, 1933.

During World War II, he witnessed German bombing raids on London. After his father, who managed a Japanese bank, was called back to his homeland, Nakano also experienced the war while living in Japan.

Nakano, who later served a stint in the U.S. Army as an entertainment specialist for USO shows, earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UC Santa Barbara and began teaching in Santa Barbara in 1959.

Nakano, whose YouTHeatre-America! is expected to continue operating, had no immediate surviving family members. But as his friend Gunches recalled this week, Nakano didn’t view it that way.

When Gunches visited Nakano in the hospital for what was to be the last time he saw him, a nurse asked Gunches if he was one of Nakano’s children.

“I replied, ‘No, he has no children,’ ” Gunches recalled. “To which Jack chimed in, ‘I have 50,000 children.’ “

Details of a memorial service at the Ricardo Montalban Theatre in Hollywood are pending.

January 31, 2009 at 11:37 am Leave a comment

Ingemar Johansson, 76, dies; Swedish boxer stunned world by knocking out Floyd Patterson

Ingemar Johansson, Floyd Patterson

Associated Press
Ingemar Johansson stands over the fallen Floyd Patterson in their 1959 heavyweight title fight. at Yankee Stadium in New York. Johansson, from Sweden, became only the fifth heavyweight champion born outside the United States.
By associated press, Los Angrles Times, January 31, 2009

Reporting from Stockholm — Ingemar Johansson, the Swede who stunned the boxing world by knocking out Floyd Patterson to win the heavyweight title in 1959, has died, a longtime friend said today. Johansson was 76. Johansson died at a nursing home in Kungsbacka on Sweden’s west coast, said Stig Caldeborn, a close friend who sparred with Johansson when they were in their teens.Caldeborn said he didn’t know the cause of death but told the Associated Press that Johansson had recently returned to the nursing home after being hospitalized with pneumonia.

Johansson’s daughter, Maria Gregner, told the Swedish news agency TT that the former champion died just before midnight Friday. Johansson was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and dementia more than 10 years ago, when he lived in Stockholm. He spent the rest of his life in Kungsbacka, only a few miles from the house where he grew up. On June 26, 1959, Johansson knocked out Patterson in the third round at Yankee Stadium to win the heavyweight title. He floored the American seven times in the third round before referee Ruby Goldstein stopped the fight 2:03 into it. Back home, hundreds of thousands of Swedes listened to the live radio broadcast at 3 a.m. as Johansson became only the fifth heavyweight champion born outside the United States. His feat earned him the Associated Press’ Male Athlete of the Year in 1959, the second Swede to win the award.

Ingemar Johansson

Ingemar Johansson stunned the boxing world by knocking out Floyd Patterson on June 26, 1959.
(Associated Press)

Patterson avenged the upset loss a year later in the rematch in New York, knocking Johansson out in the fifth round. In March 1961, the Swede floored Patterson twice in Miami before being knocked out in the sixth round of the rubber match. Johansson had four more fights — all wins, one of them a knockout of England’s Dick Richardson for the European title in 1962 — before retiring the following year. Johansson was married and divorced twice, and is also survived by five children.

January 31, 2009 at 11:33 am Leave a comment

Billy Powell dies at 56; Lynyrd Skynyrd keyboard player

Billy Powell dies

Chuck Jones
Billy Powell, second from right, was a roadie for Lynyrd Skynyrd until about 1972, when the band’s lead singer, Ronnie Van Zant, hired him as keyboardist after hearing him play.

Florida police say they found Powell at his home after he called for assistance. The cause of death is unknown, but authorities say he had heart problems.

By Michael Muskal, Los Angeles Times, January 29, 2009

Billy Powell, the former roadie who became a rock star for his keyboard work with the band Lynyrd Skynyrd, died early Wednesday morning apparently of heart problems at his home in Orange Park, Fla., police said. He was 56. Police received a telephone call at 12:55 a.m. from Powell, who complained that he was feeling dizzy and was having a hard time breathing, Orange Park Police Chief James H. Boivin said by phone.

When police and rescue workers arrived, they found Powell in his bedroom with the phone nearby, Boivin said. Powell did not respond to CPR and was pronounced dead at 1:52 a.m., the chief said. The cause of death has yet to be determined, but police believe it was heart-related, Boivin said. “He was supposed to have a meeting with his heart specialist” earlier this week but failed to show up, the chief said. “The doctor said he had heart problems.”

Lynyrd Skynyrd was one of the major voices of hard-driving, bluesy Southern rock ‘n’ roll in the early 1970s and became a global attraction by 1977 when three band members, including lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, and three others died in a plane crash in Mississippi. Powell was seriously injured.

Lynyrd Skynyrd was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.

Born in Corpus Christi, Texas, in 1952, Powell grew up in a traveling military family and went to Bishop Kenny High School in Jacksonville, Fla., where he became friends with Leon Wilkeson, future bassist for Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Powell, who took music lessons as a youth, became a roadie for the band until about 1972, when he helped set up the band’s equipment at a school prom. There, he sat down at a piano and began to play a version of “Free Bird.” Van Zant hired him as keyboardist. The song featured a keyboard introduction that helped turn the piece into a rock ‘n’ roll anthem and made Powell a star.

By the band’s second album, featuring “Sweet Home Alabama,” Lynyrd Skynyrd was a popular fixture. After the death of key members, the remaining group formed the core of the Rossington-Collins Band and later reunited as a new Lynyrd Skynyrd, with Van Zant’s brother Johnny on vocals. Powell also had a stint performing with a Christian rock band. Powell’s survivors include his wife and four children. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Αφησε την τελευταία του αναπνοή στη Φλόριντα. Ο λόγος για τον οργανίστα του «νότιου» χαρντ ροκ συγκροτήματος Λίναρντ – Σκίναρντ, Μπίλι Πάουελ. Αιτία η καρδιακή ανακοπή. Η καριέρα του στο ροκ ήταν «τίμια» πλούσια. Ο Πάουελ μπήκε στους Σκίναρντ το 1972. Ηταν ένας από τους επιζήσαντες του αεροπορικού δυστυχήματος που είχε η μπάντα το 1977 όπου σκοτώθηκαν τρία από τα έξι μέλη της μπάντας.

January 31, 2009 at 11:23 am Leave a comment

«Εφυγε» ο Βλάσης Σωκρατείδης

«Εφυγε» από τη ζωή ο πρόεδρος της Ένωσης Δημοσιογράφων Ιδιοκτητών Περιοδικού Τύπου Βλάσης Σωκρατείδης. Τα συλλυπητήριά τους εξέφρασαν, μεταξύ άλλων, ο κυβερνητικός εκπρόσωπος Ευάγγελος Αντώναρος, ο υφυπουργός Εσωτερικών Κωνσταντίνος Γκιουλέκας και ο εκπρόσωπος Τύπου του ΠΑΣΟΚ Γιώργος Παπακωνσταντίνου.

«Ο Βλάσης Σωκρατείδης, σ’ ολόκληρη τη ζωή του, αγωνίστηκε για αρχές και αξίες που αναδεικνύουν τη δημοσιογραφία σε λειτούργημα» αναφέρει σε δήλωσή του ο κ. Αντώναρος. «Το ήθος του, το ανήσυχο πνεύμα του, οι εύστοχες παρεμβάσεις του, η προσφορά του στον Περιοδικό Τύπο τον ανέδειξαν σε ηγετική φυσιογνωμία του χώρου, που απολάμβανε το σεβασμό και την εκτίμηση των συναδέλφων του».

«Ο Βλάσης Σωκρατείδης ανήκε σε μια γενιά δημοσιογράφων που τάχθηκαν να υπηρετούν με ήθος και ευσυνειδησία το λειτούργημά τους» σημειώνει ο κ. Γκιουλέκας. «Ο εκλιπών διακρίθηκε για τους αγώνες του και ως μάχιμος δημοσιογράφος, αλλά και ως Πρόεδρος της Ένωσης Δημοσιογράφων Ιδιοκτητών Περιοδικού Τύπου» πρόσθεσε.

Δήλωση Γ. Παπακωνσταντίνου [ΠΑΣΟΚ]

«Ο Βλάσης Σωκρατείδης υπήρξε συνεπής δημοσιογράφος και μαχητικός εκπρόσωπος των λειτουργών του περιοδικού Τύπου. Οι συνάδελφοί του αναγνωρίζοντας την προσφορά του και την αδιάκοπη ενεργό παρουσία του στις εξελίξεις που διαμόρφωσαν την πορεία της Ένωσης των Δημοσιογράφων Ιδιοκτητών Περιοδικού Τύπου, τον ανέδειξαν επί πολλά έτη πρόεδρό της. Στους οικείους του εκφράζω τα θερμά μου συλληπητήρια».

January 31, 2009 at 8:07 am Leave a comment

Πέθανε ο τραγουδιστής και τραγουδοποιός Τζον Μάρτιν

Ο Βρετανός τραγουδιστής και τραγουδοποιός Τζον Μάρτιν, που είχε συνοδεύσει με την κιθάρα του τον Φιλ Κόλινς και τον Ντέηβιντ Γκίλμορ των Πινκ Φλόιντ, πέθανε σε ηλικία 60 χρόνων, ανακοίνωσε σήμερα ο υπεύθυνος των δημοσίων σχέσεων.

Ο μουσικός με έντονες επιρροές από τη μουσική τζαζ και φολκ ήταν γνωστός για τον εξαιρετικό τρόπο που έπαιζε κιθάρα και την ευκολία που έγραφε στίχους.

Δεν υπάρχουν προς το παρών λεπτομέρειες για τις συνθήκες του θανάτου του.

Ο Μάρτιν είχε κυκλοφορήσει ορισμένα εξαιρετικά άλμπουμ αλλά προτιμούσε να μένει στο περιθώριο της μουσικής σκηνής.

«Δεν νομίζω τίποτα για τον εαυτό μου, απλά περιπλανιέμαι από το ένα στο άλλο», είχε δηλώσει σε συνέντευξη στο πρακτορείο Ρόιτερ ρο 1993.

Ο Μάρτιν είχε γεννηθεί στο Σάρεϊ και είχε μεγαλώσει στη Σκωτία όπου και έμαθε να παίζει κιθάρα και να ερμηνεύει. Μεταξύ των πιο γνωστών άλμπουμ του είναι το «Solid Air» και το «One World», που ηχογραφήθηκαν στο τέλος της δεκαετίας του ’70.

Ο Κόλινς και ο Γκίλμορ έπαιξαν μαζί το 1993 στην ανθολογία « No Little Boy», ενώ στο τραγούδι του «May You Never», συμμετείχε και ο Ερικ Κλάπτον.

Ο Μάρτιν είχε γίνει Μέλος του Τάγματος της Βρετανικής Αυτοκρατορίας (ΟΒΕ) για τις υπηρεσίες που είχε προσφέρει στη Μουσική στην τιμητική εκδήλωση του Νέου Έτους που διοργάνωσε η Βασίλισσα στα Ανάκτορα στις αρχές του μήνα.

John Martyn,In Session At The BBC,UK,CD ALBUM,367230

John Martyn

Hellraising folk musician and creator of the seminal album Solid Air

Ain’t No Saint was the title of the four-CD restrospective of John Martyn’s career, released to mark his 60th birthday last September. The name could hardly have been more apt, since Martyn, who died yesterday, became renowned for a career that lurched between triumph and disaster, both personal and musical. Drugs, drunken brawls and marital breakdown littered his CV, but then so did several of the most enduring and idiosyncratic albums made by a British artist in the last 40 years.

Martyn was born Iain David McGeachy in New Malden, Surrey. His parents, Betty and Tommy, were professional light-operatic singers who worked the postwar variety circuit, singing Gilbert and Sullivan in period costume. They divorced when their son was five, and Tommy took the boy back to his native Scotland, where he proved academically gifted. However, he became fascinated by the music he heard in the Glasgow folk clubs, and felt galvanised towards a musical career by the likes of Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and British guitarist Davey Graham.

By 1967 he had moved back to London, living like a hobo and carrying only whatever he could cram into his guitar case. He changed his name to John Martyn on the advice of a booking agent and was snapped up by Island Records. His debut album, London Conversation, recorded in a few hours, had a somewhat conventional approach that did not reflect the true Martyn, who was soon introducing elements of jazz and experimental electronics into his music. “I didn’t like that finger-in-the-ear stuff,” he said later. “I’ve never been the morris dancing type. I’m a funky, not a folkie.”

His 1970 album Stormbringer! found him collaborating with his new wife, Beverley Kutner, and taking an innovative approach using phase-shifting and Echoplex devices with which he could create a one-man wall of sound.

The Road to Ruin (1970) and Bless the Weather (1971) marked the start of Martyn’s long musical relationship with jazz bassist Danny Thompson, and he was beginning to perfect a slurring, impressionistic vocal style that complemented the rich ambiguities of his music. He often cited the avant-garde saxophonist Pharoah Sanders as an inspiration. He hit a creative peak with 1973’s Solid Air, which included May You Never – covered by Eric Clapton on Slowhand in 1977, earning Martyn the largest royalty cheque of his career.

Happy to play the poet-ruffian, Martyn threw himself into American tours with Free and Traffic, where groupies and drug abuse were integral. He gave full vent to his vagabond ways while touring his Sunday’s Child album in 1975, accompanied by Thompson and former Free guitarist Paul Kossoff. The atmosphere grew fraught when Kossoff broke a bottle over his head, and a Melody Maker journalist, Allan Jones, described seeing Martyn backstage “looking like he’d been drinking since the dawn of time”.

Dabblings with heroin and an American tour with Clapton took Martyn to the brink. He split up with Beverley and made the infamously bleak break-up album Grace and Danger (1980) with help from Phil Collins. He married his second wife, Annie Furlong, in 1983 but they later separated.

Collins produced Martyn’s next album, Glorious Fool (1981), but further plans were scuppered when a drunken Martyn broke several ribs by impaling himself on a fence. By now he had left Island for WEA, but their plans to expose him to a wider audience were doomed. By 1984 he was back with Island and recorded Sapphire and Piece by Piece, but Island dropped him again in 1988.

The Apprentice (1990) and Cooltide (1991) appeared on Permanent Records. In 1996 he released And, on Go! Discs, also home to Portishead. Perhaps influenced by the latter, he explored the use of samples and triphop beats, and a Talvin Singh remix of the album track Sunshine’s Better won plenty of radio play. Glasgow Walker (2000) featured more triphop adventures, and Martyn modified his approach further by writing on keyboard rather than guitar. In 2001 he featured on DJ/musician Sister Bliss’s electronica track, Deliver Me.

In 2006 the BBC screened the documentary Johnny Too Bad, which followed Martyn as he wrote and recorded the album On the Cobbles, and also covered the amputation of his right leg, made necessary by a burst cyst. He remained stoical, but his weight ballooned to 20 stone. He retreated to his farmhouse in Thomastown, Kilkenny, with his partner Theresa to recuperate.

Martyn was greatly touched to be given a lifetime achievement award at the Radio 2 folk awards last year. Collins made the presentation, and Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones accompanied him on mandolin as he performed May You Never and Over the Hill. Speaking at the award ceremony, Martyn said: “I didn’t set out to achieve anything. I was driven. I’m still driven. It wasn’t like a great mission to save folk music.”

He was appointed OBE in the latest new year honours. He is survived by Theresa.

• John Martyn (Iain David McGeachy), musician, born 11 September 1948; died 29 January 2009

January 30, 2009 at 6:09 am Leave a comment

«Έφυγε» σε ηλικία 72 ετών ο εκδότης Βίκτωρ Παπαζήσης

Ο Β.Παπαζήσης σε παλαιότερη φωτογραφία

Πέθανε σε ηλικία 72 ετών ο εκδότης Βίκτωρ Παπαζήσης. Βαθύς γνώστης του χώρου του βιβλίου και της ακαδημαϊκής σκέψης, ανέλαβε εκδοτικές πρωτοβουλίες που σημάδεψαν ολόκληρες δεκαετίες. Οι επιλογές του σε βιβλία γύρω από την οικονομία, την κοινωνία, την πολιτική και τις επιστήμες του Ανθρώπου πρόσφεραν στο ελληνικό αναγνωστικό κοινό μια άλλη διάσταση της γνώσης

Γεννήθηκε το 1937 στην Αθήνα. Σπούδασε Οικονομικά και από το 1956 ασχολήθηκε με το ομώνυμο εκδοτικό οίκο που ίδρυσε, το 1929, ο πατέρας του Αργύρης Παπαζήσης.

Το 1969 συνελήφθη από τη Χούντα, βασανίστηκε και δικάστηκε για τη συμμετοχή του στη «Δημοκρατική Άμυνα». Παρέμεινε έγκλειστος μέχρι το καλοκαίρι του 1973.

Την περίοδο αυτή ο εκδοτικός οίκος, αγνοώντας τη λογοκρισία και τις απειλές της δικτατορίας, συνέχισε την έκδοση πολιτικών βιβλίων, υπό τη διεύθυνση της αείμνηστης συζύγου του Ισαβέλλας Παπαζήση και του Δήμου Μαυρομμάτη.

Από τη μεταπολίτευση μέχρι τη μοιραία περιπέτεια της υγείας του ασχολήθηκε και με τον επαγγελματικό συνδικαλισμό (διετέλεσε πρόεδρος του Συλλόγου Εκδοτών Επιστημονικού Βιβλίου).

Διετέλεσε, επίσης, πρόεδρος και μέλος ΔΣ πολλών Κινήσεων Πολιτών και αρθρογράφησε σε εφημερίδες και περιοδικά. Σήμερα, το εκδοτικό του έργο συνεχίζει ο γιος του, Αλέξανδρος Παπαζήσης.

Η κηδεία του θα γίνει το Σάββατο στο Α΄Νεκροταφείο Αθηνών στις 12.30.

Η υπουργός Εξωτερικών, Ντόρα Μπακογιάννη, σημείωσε, μεταξύ άλλων: «Ο Βίκτωρ Παπαζήσης ήταν ένας αγωνιστής για τη δημοκρατία, την ελευθερία, τις ιδέες, τη γνώση. Άνθρωπος με ελεύθερο φρόνημα, δημιούργησε μια νέα κουλτούρα στο χώρο των γραμμάτων και άνοιξε καινούργιους ορίζοντες στις εκδόσεις.»

Ο εκπρόσωπος Τύπου του ΠΑΣΟΚ, Γιώργος Παπακωνσταντίνου, δήλωσε: «Ο Βίκτωρας Παπαζήσης υπήρξε ένας εκδότης που άνοιξε νέους δρόμους στο πολιτικό και επιστημονικό βιβλίο στη χώρα μας. Ήταν ένας αντιστασιακός που φυλακίστηκε και βασανίστηκε στη δικτατορία, αλλά διατήρησε πάντα τις απόψεις του, το πνεύμα του, ακόμα και το χιούμορ του.»

Ο δήμαρχος Αθηναίων Νικήτας Κακλαμάνης έκανε την ακόλουθη δήλωση: «Πέρα από κλειδί στον κόσμο του πνεύματος, το βιβλίο ήταν για το Βίκτωρα Παπαζήση όχημα αντίστασης και σύμβολο ορθολογισμού ενάντια σε κάθε είδους τυραννία.

» Η φυλάκιση και οι βασανισμοί που υπέστη την περίοδο της Δικτατορίας δεν έκαμψαν τη μαχητική του προσωπικότητα, το ελεύθερο πνεύμα του και την ενεργητική του στάση προς υπεράσπιση της ελευθερογνωμίας και ελευθεροτυπίας. Όλα αυτά, μαζί με τους τίτλους των βιβλίων που εξέδωσε, αποτελούν την πνευματική του παρακαταθήκη και καθιστούν το πέρασμά του απ’ την ζωή, έμπνευση για τις επόμενες γενιές. Αντίο Βίκτωρα.»

January 29, 2009 at 8:32 pm Leave a comment

Obituary: John Updike, 1932-2009

Acclaimed writer with an unerring feel for the poetry of ordinary American life

John Updike

John Updike in 2004. Photograph: Eamonn McCabe/Guardian

“My subject,” remarked the American novelist John Updike, who has died at the age of 76, “is the American Protestant small-town middle class.” In a society of extremes, where violence, verbal and otherwise, was a familiar cultural routine, Updike remained a believer in the possibilities of ordinary life in America. “When I write, I aim in my mind not toward New York but toward a vague spot a little to the east of Kansas. I think of the books on library shelves, without their jackets, years old, and a countryish teenaged boy finding them, and having them speak to him.”

Undeniably white, heterosexual and a Protestant, during his lifetime Updike carried the burden of being a writer who was not black, not female, not gay, not Jewish – decidedly not multicultural. He had a gift for being on the “wrong” side of issues about which there was a liberal consensus. Updike supported the American intervention in Vietnam, and doubted the wisdom of government support for the arts. He wrote with passionate grace about the love of women, but found even elegant depictions of homosexuality not to his taste. Gay writers queued up to express their annoyance. With so much about him of the upperclass Wasp, the reality of Updike’s modest origins was forgotten.

He was born in Shillington, a small town in eastern Pennsylvania near the larger city of Reading. Updike’s father Wesley, after periods of unemployment in the 1930s, found work as a poorly paid maths teacher in the local junior high school. A lifelong Republican, he switched parties to vote for Roosevelt and never switched back. “His memory of being abandoned by society and big business never left him,” Updike wrote in 2007. Wesley’s preference for the party that offered “the forgotten man” a break, a new deal, became the lifelong sentiment of his son. Updike’s mother, Linda Hoyer, a woman of larger cultural interests and fierce small-town aspirations, worked as a saleswoman in a local store. Linda had a masters’ degree in English from Cornell, and wanted to be a writer. (She later published two collections of stories, Enchantment, 1971, and The Predator, 1990.) Her son John carried the burden of her ambition. The boyhood memory of the sound of her typing gave their house “a secret, questing life”. When asked in later years about her son’s great fame, she coolly remarked: “I’d rather it had been me.”

Updike’s family steadily voted Democratic. (Updike staunchly supported Obama in 2008, and described Sarah Palin as a “bird-brain”. He was quite perplexed to learn that both Obama and McCain included his books among their favourites.) He attended the local Lutheran church in Shillington, where his father was a deacon. In 1945, when John was 13, the Updikes bought the Hoyer family farm and moved to Plowville, Pennsylvania. John Updike, the most urbane of American writers, spent his adolescent years on an 83-acre farm.

Shillington remained his Dublin, his Paris, his Lower East Side. “Shillington was my here… I loved Shillington not as one loves Capri or New York, because they are special, but as one loves one’s own body and consciousness, because they are synonymous with being.” That sense of belonging, of coming from a place where your family’s name (particularly his mother’s family name, Hoyer) had a resonance, gave the young writer a quite different sense of America as a subject for the writer. He never lost a feel for the poetry of ordinary life, of the average, public-school, supermarket America. “It was there I felt comfortable; it was there that I felt the real news was.”

A tall, shy, priggish, mamma’s boy as a teenager, with a bold Roman nose, Updike found his greatest pleasure in drawing and writing. He was an accomplished cartoonist and hoped to work as an animator for Walt Disney. He wrote regularly for the Chatterbox, the Shillington high school paper, and won a scholarship to read English at Harvard.

While at Harvard he was a roommate of the social critic Christopher Lasch. He stayed away from the university’s leading literary magazine, the Advocate, staffed by ambitious cut-throats, and instead joined the Lampoon, a venerable undergraduate club for dilettante bluebloods. He was a prolific contributor and then was elected president of the Harvard Lampoon, a magazine of satire and parody.

Updike was turned down twice by Archibald MacLeish for admission to the top-level creative writing course at Harvard, and escaped notice by talent-spotters of the Harvard-Boston literary establishment. In his junior year he married Mary Pennington, a fine arts major at Radcliffe College, and graduated summa cum laude the following year.

Updike studied at the Ruskin School of Drawing in Oxford, where the couple’s first child, Elizabeth, was born in 1955. He returned to America that year to join the staff of William Shawn’s New Yorker. Katherine White, wife of the fabled New Yorker writer EB White, offered Updike a staff job writing the Talk of the Town column. The magazine had been a major influence on Updike. At 12 he was given a subscription and he fell in love with its understated typography and cosmopolitan wit. At his mother’s suggestion, he had been submitting contributions to the New Yorker for years before a poem and a story were accepted in June 1954, the month he graduated from Harvard.

After returning from England, Updike was summoned by the Selective Service System to be examined for the draft. Psoriasis, a condition which persisted throughout his life, resulted in a 4-F classification and medical exemption from military service. He watched the escalating war in Vietnam on television.

Shawn soon promoted him from a Talk reporter to a Talk writer at a salary of $120 a week. The promotion meant his contributions – interviews, “fact” pieces or “visits” – were no longer automatically submitted to the magazine’s notorious process of rewriting. The Updikes rented a small fifth-floor apartment on Riverside Drive on the Upper West Wide of Manhattan. It was a time of thrilling literary discoveries. Updike first read Nabokov at Oxford; he encountered Joyce, Proust and Kierkegaard in New York. He admired the way JD Salinger showed how the short story could accommodate “a more expansive post-war sense of American reality”. When not working for the magazine, he worked on a long manuscript entitled “Home”, about his life to the age of 16. It was plundered for short stories, but abandoned as a suitable first novel. That a literary career might be built on a reading of Hemingway, Steinbeck or Dos Passos never occurred to him. The era of American literature which was shaped by the experience of the first world war and expatriate Paris in the 1920s ended in John Updike’s apartment in New York in the second term of President Dwight D Eisenhower.

The New Yorker enhanced Updike’s loving respect for facticity, the gravity of things. His loyalty was to the sense of what and how, of things which could be smelled and touched. He was frankly uninterested as a novelist in “opinions.” The critic John Carey’s comment that “intellectually” the first three of his Rabbit novels were a desert would have been accepted with no small pride by Updike. He stayed 20 months at the New Yorker, but felt that the city itself was too distracting and might even threaten his creativity. Updike wrote in 2003 that “New York, in my 20 months of residence, had felt full of other writers and of cultural hassle, and the word game overrun with agents and wisenheimers. The real America seemed to me ‘out there’… Out there was where I belonged.” He gave up the job (though he continued to write for the Talk column, and supported his family on the sale of short stories to the New Yorker) and in 1957 moved his family to Ipswich, Massachusetts.

In Massachusetts, the Updikes had three more children, and entered into the life of a small town on the fringe of the Boston commuter belt. They attended the local Congregational church (Updike wrote and performed in an historical pageant for the church’s anniversary), were members of a recorder group and were registered as Democrats. Mary, more liberal and much more a feminist than her husband, drew them into the city’s Fair Housing debates.

Updike’s debut novel, The Poorhouse Fair (1959), was a masterful observation of the inhabitants of the Diamond County Home for the Aged, who were engaged in a struggle of values between a Christian inmate and the poorhouse master, a believer in the perfectibility of man. Updike’s verbal brilliance was greeted with tempered appreciation in 1959. “It is all very well done,” wrote Orville Prescott, lead reviewer for the New York Times, “but it is fuzzy and formless, too, easy to lay down and easy to forget.”

With the publication of two collections of short stories, The Same Door (1959) and Pigeon Feathers (1962), Chekhovian studies of the awkward cadences and narrow horizons of eastern Pennsylvania, Updike’s reputation for clever craftsmanship was confirmed. It was something of a poisoned chalice for a young writer. What might be forgiven or even admired in a Borges or a Nabokov (two writers whom Updike championed in his critical essays) was regarded with suspicion in a young American. With increasing asperity, reviewers and contemporaries like Norman Mailer wondered whether he was just an empty stylist.

Updike provided many different kinds of answers to that hurtful criticism. Rabbit, Run (1960) began a four-decade-long encounter with the ex-high school basketball star Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom. The four novels (Rabbit, Run, followed by Rabbit Redux, Rabbit is Rich, Rabbit at Rest) – reissued in a lightly revised omnibus edition in 1999 as Rabbit Angstrom – appeared at decade-long intervals, and provide a precise, nuanced picture of the changing fortunes of a thoroughly ordinary man, and of a small Pennsylvania town, Brewer. A sequel, Rabbit Remembered appeared in Licks of Love in 2000. The Rabbit novels had a greater ambition than simply recording American mores. They provided Updike with a way to make sense of the waning American male, the American woman (his endless subject as a writer), infidelity (no less inexhaustible), and the American child (the sullen, cynical Nelson, Rabbit’s son, is portrayed with uncomfortable accuracy).

The Rabbit novels were showered with awards and twice won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. In 1982 he appeared for a second time on the cover of Time. “I like middles,” Updike remarked. “It is in middles that extremes clash, where ambiguity restlessly runs.” Few novels have had a surer grasp on ordinary small-town life and its travails.

The Centaur (1963) was a bid for literary seriousness which worked; he won the National Book Award for Fiction. But as an act of homage to his father, the rich load of psychological interest in the relationship of a humble man and an intensely ambitious son was all but swallowed up by pretentious mythological parallels which swaddled the story.

The 1960s was a pretty good time in America to be a young, hotshot novelist. Updike rented a study above a restaurant in downtown Ipswich, and wrote, by longhand, six mornings a week. (He first used a computer in 1983.) Vietnam was a long way from Ipswich, Massachusetts, and there were excellent local golf courses. (Updike wrote for golfing magazines, and collected his essays and stories in Golf Dreams, 1996.) He made regular visits to the Museum of Modern Art when he was in New York (Just Looking, his art criticism, was collected in 1989), and there was always a steady flow of books to review for the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books. (Assorted Prose, 1965, followed by several further substantial collections of criticism). None the less, the doubt remained that Updike was just too comfortable in America’s suburbia, that he had no big subject, nothing really to say.

The social excitements of the 1960s had an immense impact on the hard-working writer in his garret. There was a sexual revolution taking place in the lives of the young, upwardly mobile couples around them. “We smoked pot, wore dashikis and love beads and frugged ourselves into a lather while the Beatles and Janis Joplin sang away on the hi-fi set.”

When his fifth novel, Couples, was published in 1968, Updike hit the bestseller lists and stayed there. He made the cover of Time magazine. Despite its smalltown setting, Couples was an ambitious portrayal of the first post-Puritan American generation, where money and the pill shaped the lives of 10 couples, all “swingers” (a new usage in American culture) whose marriages were in varying degrees of disintegration, and for whom sex was a matter of cocktail party chit-chat. He described a suburban world far less touched by politics than readers today might expect. The assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, Vietnam and the struggle over civil rights are noises off which scarcely disturb the sexual buzz of Couples.

Updike was not by temperament a Bad Boy like Philip Roth or Henry Miller, but he scorned “good taste” (“I think ‘taste’ is a social concept and not an artistic one,” he told an interviewer) and wrote of women, their sex, skin, orifices, hair and scent with good humour and unabashed pleasure. (The New York Times declined to publish an Updike poem containing the line “with love of my country, of cunt, and of sleep”.) Worried commentators who linked Couples with Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint as examples of the degradation of American morality missed the point. Updike did not make a moral endorsement of the couples’ infidelities, or even seek to judge them. He observed, and described, as Flaubert or Joyce had done, as a novelist should. When that formula broke down, as it badly did in Terrorist (2006), it was a reminder that with so many things well-seen and well-understood, there were limits to his understanding, and not just his own, when confronting a devout 18-year-old Muslim boy in New Jersey in the aftermath of 9/11.

Updike separated from his wife in 1974 and they divorced amicably two years later. He married Martha Bernhard in 1977. The ending of his first marriage furnished an abundance of material for an autobiographical cycle of stories about Richard and Joan Maples, whose marriage was also on the rocks (Too Far to Go: The Maples Stories, 1979). He had become a public figure in the 1970s, serving as an honorary consultant to the Library of Congress, touring Africa on a Fulbright. The Coup, published 1978, was Updike’s attempt to make sense of what he had seen in Africa. BBC film crews accompanied him on nostalgic journeys back to Shillington. One major project, a novel about James Buchanan, the only American president to come from Pennsylvania, stubbornly resisted his interest. His lone attempt as a playwright, Buchanan Dying (1974), came out of his forlorn attempt to resurrect one of the most unsuccessful of 19th-century politicians. It was terrain best left to Gore Vidal.

Updike produced an autobiography, Self-Consciousness, and four substantial novels in the 1980s, one of which, The Witches of Eastwick, Updike’s take on the trend of 1980s feminism, was made into a notably successful movie. (He resurrected his characters in The Widows of Eastwick in 2008.) Five novels, a collection of stories (The Afterlife, 1994), the book on golf, a substantial Collected Poems, and several further collections of literary essays, followed. Memories of the Ford Administration (1992), with an academic deconstructionist as seducer and villain, and Brazil (1994), retelling the story of Tristan and Iseult in contemporary Brazil, showed Updike at the full flourish of his stylistic brilliance and inventiveness. A volume of more than 800 pages collected Updike’s Early Stories (1953-1975) to much acclaim in 2003. It received the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction in 2004.

He was a lead reviewer for The New Yorker for three decades. The range of Updike’s interests, from a learned discussion of a theological treatise by Karl Barth to a review of the autobiography of Doris Day, made comparisons with Edmund Wilson appropriate. By temperament he was inclined to celebrate the distinctive good in writing of any and every kind. His rare negative reviews of novels by Philip Roth and Tom Wolfe had a disturbing impact on both writers. They were a sign that his judgment, never aggressively delivered, was being read with increasing respect.

The quality of Updike’s prose was an ever more supple and rewarding medium, freshly minted decade after decade. He described Piet Hanema in Couples as “a man who was by profession a builder, in love with snug right-angled things”. It was a fitting self-description. Peter Conrad concluded an interview with Updike in late 2008 in these emphatic terms: “He has done more to enrich us than all of Wall Street’s bankers and brokers, and his books, unlike the papery profits of the Stock Exchange, will not lose their value.” So productive, so good a writer; he was an adornment to American letters.

He is survived by his wife and the two sons and two daughters from his first marriage.

John Hoyer Updike, writer, born 18 March 1932; died 27 January 2009

January 29, 2009 at 9:20 am 2 comments

Απεβίωσε ο Πάνος Τζαβέλας

Έφυγε από την ζωή ο Πάνος Τζαβέλας. Ο Πάνος Τζαβέλας γεννήθηκε το 1925 στην Κοζάνη. Μαθητή του γυμνασίου τον βρίσκει ο B’ παγκόσμιος πόλεμος και εντάσσεται στην ΕΠΟΝ. Τον επόμενο χρόνο βγαίνει στο βουνό με τον ΕΛΑΣ. Ξαναβγαίνει στο βουνό με το Δημοκρατικό στρατό, όπου τραυματίζεται, συλλαμβάνεται και ακρωτηριάζεται στο δεξί του πόδι.

Από εκεί αρχίζει ο δρόμος για τις φυλακές. Δικασμένος τρεις φορές σε θάνατο, αρρωσταίνει βαριά το 1959 από τη νόσο του Burgen και πηγαίνει στη Σοβιετική ¨Ένωση για θεραπεία. Έμεινε μέχρι το 1965. Αφού θεραπεύτηκε, του δόθηκε η ευκαιρία να σπουδάσει μουσική. Εκεί γνωρίζει και το μεγάλο Δημήτρη Σοστακόβιτς.

Γυρνά στην Ελλάδα το 1965, αλλά το 1968 φυλακίζεται πάλι, από το καθεστώς των συνταγματαρχών αυτή τη φορά, για παράνομη δράση ενάντια στη χούντα.

Αποφυλακίζεται το 1971 με «ανήκεστο βλάβη» και ξεκινά ως μουσικός να παίζει στις μπουάτ της Πλάκας.

Εκεί τον βρίσκει η μεταπολίτευση, όπου πλέον ελεύθερα τραγουδά τα τραγούδια της εθνικής αντίστασης.

Χιλιάδες νέοι αλλά και μεγαλύτεροι άνθρωποι κατακλύζουν το μαγαζί της οδού Κυδαθηναίων όπου τραγουδά, επτά μέρες τη βδομάδα. Πολλές φορές κάνει τρεις παραστάσεις τη νύχτα ώστε να χωρέσουν όλοι όσοι ήθελαν να παρακολουθήσουν το πρόγραμμα.

Ήταν ο άνθρωπος που γνώρισε στους νεότερους το μουσικό, αλλά και ιστορικό έπος της εθνικής αντίστασης.

Η κηδεία του θα γίνει την Παρασκευή 30 Ιανουαρίου, στις 14.00 στο Νεκροταφείο Σχιστού. με πληροφορίες από ΑΠΕ-ΜΠΕ

January 27, 2009 at 7:44 pm Leave a comment

Πέθανε ο συγγραφέας Τζον Αμπντάικ

Απεβίωσε ο συγγραφέας, Τζον Απντάικ, στην ηλικία των 76 ετών, χάνοντας τη μάχη με τον καρκίνο στα πνευμόνια. Στα βιβλία και τις νουβέλες που έγραψε αποτυπώνεται η αμερικάνικη ζωή στις μικρές πόλεις. Ανάμεσα στις δεκάδες νουβέλες που έγραψε είναι και οι περίφημες ιστορίες του «Λαγού», όπως το «Rabbit, run».


January 27, 2009 at 7:42 pm Leave a comment

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