Sunday, July 8, 2012

Incompetence is the name!

On a rainy and reasonably chilly Sunday afternoon, during an all typical Flemish July, far away from a vacationing South Europe, where the sun still shines too bloody hot for my taste, I found nothing better to do than surf around on 'Frequency'. This is a fabulous aggregator of video clips from various sources (Youtube being basically the prime one). Frequency is also an app available on iOS devices, and I suppose Android too. It's a better way to waste your time instead of watching regular TV. I have a (free) registered account that I have populated with channels of interest, and, depending on my mood, I might watch one thing one day and an entirely different thing another.
This afternoon it was my 'cultural' vibes that were at 'work', and having been at the Cinquantenaire Museum in Brussels recently, in their Greek-Roman section among other, I decided to watch the Youtube video embedded above, that was produced last May at the Metropolitan Museum of New York (a.k.a. the Met).
The subject was very Greek. It was called : Greek Islands Off the Beaten Track: An Archaeological Journey to the Greek Islands of Kastellorizo, Symi, Halki, Tilos, and Nisyros. It was obviously a Lecture on Cycladic and Ancient Greek Art. They prepared the viewer in their video YT description by calling it an experience of an archaeological journey to the islands of Greece. The keynote speaker was to be Nicholas Stampolidis, Professor of Archaeology, University of Crete, and Director of the Museum of Cycladic Art. This is a museum founded and supported by the Goulandris family, known for their shipping fortunes, among the likes of Niarchos, Onassis, Lemos, and so many more that I neither know, nor I wanted to.
This is actually mentioned at the end of their short YT description: "This lecture is generously endowed by the Museum of Cycladic and Ancient Greek Art, Athens, Greece, in fondest memory of its founder, Dolly Goulandris." That sums it up. It was a bit of a usual Goulandris 'culture' related PR. Greek riches love to appear as generally 'cultural' and donate their dough to famous venues like the Met, and so on. As another example, there are two large salles at the MOMA, funded by the Niarchos family. Instead of helping out a tormented country from the crisis in which they are definitely accomplices too as notorious tax evaders (operating their commercial fleets under Liberian flags, remember?), they elect to spend their dough pretending they understand and promote abroad our famous ancient cultural heritage. What they eventually did in that lecture was to show to us all how culturally amateuristic and nepotist the ruling class in Greece is these days.
It's been quite rare that I was so embarrassed  and felt ashamed about my own origins, ten minutes into the 'show'. I stopped the clip and moved to something else to forget. If I was in that lectures' room, I would have walked away with a lot of noise to express my fury! Bunch of incompetent amateurs!
Let me explain.
The lecture clip starts by showing a small theater salle with participants still entering and rushing to their seats. Soon after, a gentleman, allegedly the Director of the Greek and Roman department at the Met, as he promptly announced himself under the name of Carlos Picon, took the stage to introduce the speakers and the subjects of the session. He spent some time describing Prof. Stampolidis's accomplishments and CV, adding that he would be 'assisted' in his presentation by Sandra Marinopoulos, a niece of Dolly Goulandris (the founder of the Museum of Cycladic Arts and presumably a benefactor to the Met), who was now the President of the Goulandris foundation and the President of the Cycladic Museum, and a 'renowned expert in Cycladic Arts'. Not by training mind you, but by being born into the Goulandris family ranks... Being rich in Greece makes you an expert on anything you put an eye on, right? I reckoned the woman must have been Prof Stampolidis's boss as far as his museum directorship was concerned. Poor sod! I feel with you...
I was quite puzzled when Carlos Picon mentioned Miss Marinopoulos's role in the lecture, wondering, how the heck are they gonna run this? As a double act? Why? Is Mr. Stampo physically disabled of some sort, and needed someone to page thru his slides? I guess, for Stampo, a big shot Academic and an authority, the last thing he needed in this special moment of fame was Miss Marinopoulos pretending to be an expert. But she happens to be his boss, by her natal origins too. What could the guy do? Refuse to appear? Sent her away? Risk losing his glorious and well paying job at the Cycladic Arts Museum back home? He'd have to swallow it all in one go, I say, and get on with life! Money and status made his entire spine and pride simply disappear. It was getting interesting... Let's wait and see. Quite curious indeed...
Anyways, long story short, Carlos went off the stage and the two 'experts' came up next. Time for their pitch! Expectations were still high!
The show started with an amateur film, one of the worst and cheapest tourist clips I came across, for sure. It was meant as an introduction to the beauties and goodies that were to follow. Simply bad. Anti-tourist for sure. Anyways.
The clip terminates and Stampo utters his first few words. At that instant Miss Marinopoulos grabs the mic from in front of his mouth and asks the audience to switch off their cellphones because there was a noise coming thru. An embarrassed Stampo reaches in his pocket and picks his own mobile which was the cause of the problem. Hilarious. Simply hilarious! And sad. There you had a big shot Professor, crawling under the weight of his degrees, egos and academic achievements, be told by his interfering and bossy supervisor that he had to turn off his mobile at the very first ten seconds of his HIGH PROFILE (I keep reminding you that) lecture at the freakin' MET of New York, right?
You might think I am exaggerating to make such a point of this detail, but I am not. Two reasons:
a) First impressions. It's the first few secs that count. Like in job interviews. Opinions are formed during the first few seconds of someone's appearance and talk. If a negative feeling is created during that time, it's almost impossible to recover. I know it from personal experience as a speaker and a listener dozens of times. You just don't fuck-up the first millisecs of any appearance. No way. No freakin' way. Those two did exactly that. Screwed up the first few secs and made a mess of themselves. OMG. What was to come next?
b) Greeks and their bleeding cellphones. You might wonder. How come someone who is a full time professor from 1994 (that makes 18 years in total) and has lectured in front of thousands of students for so long can be so clumsy. He did appear well dressed to the lecture room, right? He didn't show-up in jeans or something. Elementary, my dear Watson. How come he had an 'on' cellphone with him though? Didn't he learn that yet? We are in 2012 after all! Who turns on as a keynote speaker at an event like this with his cellphone on, please tell me. What was he thinking? That something else might be more urgent to attend to during his Met lecture? Did he expect a call from God perhaps? Or was it so to pick a call from his wife suspecting 'different' tasks. 'Yes honey, I'm here in front of an audience of a hundred at the MET in NYC, dear, talking about Cycladic art. Remember? That's what I do for living, remember?! Oh yes my love, my dear Boss Sandra is standing next to me. No dear, she's not holding my hand, don't be silly dear...'
Gimme a break folks! Unforgivable. Mind you, if somebody told me right now that Mr. Stampo made a habit of answering his cellphone even during his lectures, I wouldn't be surprised. It's true. Hard to believe, but this country is really bad as far as cellphones are concerned. Makes you wonder what they did before cellphones were invented.
Then, Stampo goes on with his lecture... reading from a stack of typed pages. Not using them as a cue and reminders or lectures notes, but actually reading them! Word by word. I was told Greeks often do that. In other words, charismatic Greek speakers is an oxymoron. I wouldn't know. But Stampo was a reader. Even worse than that though, he embarked into an English sounding monologue, that looked more like a bad translation in English of Ancient Greek texts rather than something written to be grasped by mere mortals. It wasn't meant to be understood. It was meant to 'impress' the audience, presumed agnostic, by the use of sophisticated and weirdly sounding terms. Fog index PhD level! This is the moment a keynote speaker fucks it up altogether and loses contact with his audience for good. It shows arrogance, ignorance, lack of teaching skill and sheer incompetence. Even if you paid me big bucks I wouldn't want to go thru such an experience again. It was at that moment that I felt ashamed and furious about the guy and about my Greek origins. No wonder Greek Universities are nowhere near in the ranking of the first several hundred best universities of the world. If you got teachers like Stampo, go figure.
Then, the double act ignited for good. Like kids in a theater class during grammar school, those two went on and on. There was no real reason for the double act. Other than showing-off the Marinopoulos woman, that is. What they presented was quite elementary and almost hilariously simple. Like 'the islands were long ago connected to the continent and that explains baby elephant skeleton bones found in excavations there!' Wow! I am impressed! It was like pre-school stuff, at times. After Stampo's post doc lecture in his solo first part, they fell into kindergarden talk.
While dear Sandra was reading her sentences, Stampo was flipping thru her slides. As he seemed to pay no attention to her and have no idea about what she said, presumably he had never read her texts, he did the slide flipping so fast back and forth that he soon confused the audience. Somebody got so frustrated and complained loudly to the speakers about the mess. Bossy Boss Sandra 'commanded' the Professor to be more careful with the slide flipping; he excused himself blaming the equipment (what else, Greeks love blaming others all the time) and went on flipping back and forth again like an amateur. Maybe he did that on purpose. To piss off spoiled Goulandris descendant Sandra who hijacked his five minutes of glory at the Met. We shall never know.
The thing is, at that particular moment I decided to quit watching. And forget all I saw for good. Then, I decided to blog about it, and make as many people as possible hear my story. Then, I said, what's the use? But then again, if nobody decides to ridicule such idiots, and we never start doing this massively over and over again, via the net or any other media, then, those f*ckers will never learn. And will keep getting away with murder. That's why I blogged this, kids!

No comments: