Friday, December 17, 2010
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
|Rioting in Greece|
Monday, November 29, 2010
If you own any one of those three devices, the best you can do is buy a set of earphones with an integrated mic and you are good to go. Skype offers quite a few commercial programs and I find them one of the cheapest solutions on the market. Also fee settlement is pretty straight forward and easy to do by casual users. You can even decide to allow them to add more credit automatically and avoid dropping the call during the most interesting part of the conversation, when you're about to confess to her "Honey, I love you so much, more than anything...", as it usually happens when calls drop... Also with the current iOs 4.2 multitasking available, I leave my Skype app open at all times on any of these devices, and when someone calls me, all active devices ring together in choir like regular phones do. Only problem, the calling party has got no idea that I am responding on an iPhone, iPod Touch or an iPad and before I can blink I can hear them moaning: "Turn on your camera, dude... I can't see yeah... " and more of that. ("Why do you wanna see me anyways, I look like shit and I'm in my pajamas"). You eventually tell them that you're using your phone to talk to them and they're like hit by lightening. "Gee, I didn't know you could do that?!" I just called the spouse from my loft, her being in the dining room on the ground floor on our normal landline, and me on my iPad running Skype. Connectivity was perfect and sound quality even better. I asked her, "do you know that I'm calling you with Skype from my iPad?" She's like, "No way! You must be kidding me! Cool. Continue playin' baby", she said and she hung up... The good news is that it all works smoothly like a charm.
I'm using the free for all of Europe landline program at about ten bucks a month, where I can call landlines in Europe 24x7 for the fix monthly fee I mentioned. Fair use expects subscribers to do no more than 10000 hrs a month, which is pretty descent unless you are a regular business or insanely in love with someone. I'm also sending SMSs with Skype, but the cheapest SMSs I'm doing on an iPad app called GlobalAQ. That app created a phone nr for me on the telephone zone in the country of pinguins at the South pole, and the problem is, if I send an SMS from this number, most operators won't deliver 'reply' messages... For the rest, the cost for international SMS is ridiculously low. Chickenshit really.
It goes without saying that if both parties are on Apple material and linked to internet on either side, FaceTime is your app. My best experience was recently when I was in my room with a veranda by the beach in the Grand Egnatia Hotel in Alex/Polis, Greece and my spouse was at my elder son's studio in Amsterdam. She called me on a Mac with Facetime and the call came in on my iPhone already connected to the hotel's free wifi. We talked for more than an hour, whereby I did to her a sightseeing tour of my room, the veranda and the blue Aegean breaking waves right in front of me, say 30 yards away from my room. All she said was, "why don't you stare into the camera, honey? Don't you like me anymore?". That's how women are spoilin' our gadget fun all the time, especially the married ones.
In conclusion, Facetime is better that Skype in a end-to-end IP exchange for two reasons. The app doesn't have to be activated for Facetime to work (whereas in Skype you need to be first online and then they call you). Second, Facetime offers video conferencing on Apple's iPhones and iPod Touch. Not on iPad yet though. Maybe next year when 2nd gen iPads come out with two cameras. What I'd also expect is that sooner or later Skype for iOs 4 will support video as well. I don't see why not...
Thursday, November 18, 2010
I woke up this morning with a lot of anger in my soul. Real fury. It's not the first time this happened. And it's always been the same issue involved. I was reading this story in a newspaper about this big dick dude who kept abusing his girlfriend, beating her, taking advantage of her and her younger daughter and she was shit scared of him, and she wouldn't dare go complain to the authorities, until the neighbors decided to do something about it. I mean, we often see movies like that on TV, but then we sez, fine, it's bad, but it's all fiction and doesn't actually happen in real. We are all so fucked. It happens sure thing and it does in far worse ways than on TV.
What is this issue with men and their dicks? Being male, they are so to say the stronger species, right? And in many countries of the world today, definitely east of the 20° E meridian in Europe, they are supposed to show off their manhood by appearing cool and dominant over their female partners. Even use quite often rules of primitive religions as a rationale to justify their acts of oppression. Prove they are stronger and better than women. And doing that for tens of thousands of years already, to this day!
In the Da Vinci code Dan Brown devotes an entire chapter on the subject of abuse and oppression of women. In which the Holy Catholic Church had its own lion share. This story of abuse is really old. Before we even started counting the years. From when we were in caves and hunting bears.
In fact, quite often, we men consider women as the 'weak' species. By nature, we grow hair everywhere, we are usually taller and more muscled, and we watch ourselves in the mirror and feel kinda like 'You are da man dude, get out there and pluck some pussy'. We can't really be more wrong. For one thing evolution made us muscled and hairy because nature only wanted us to be there for one single purpose. Protect women and children. Fight to defend them from anything that would risk their lives and well being. Because only women are the perfect creatures in nature with a far more complex physical structure and set of systems, able to reproduce. Create life. Give life. Our only contribution to new life as males are the thousands (or is it millions?) of those tiny submicroscopic thingies that move those wee tiny tails of theirs like crazy, and fly into vagina tubes like they run for their life to enter into one relatively huge compared female counterpart (egg) and get the miracle process going. That's it. And we then go around boasting like we just did the eighth miracle of the world! Shit we did.
What kind of 'men' are these who beat their women either physically or emotionally and inflict pain upon them? Taking advantage of male physical overweight to push those perfect creatures to the point of despair and frustration? What right has any male to do that? The law will only punish the most serious of such cases. But the serious abuses are only a tiny percentage of what's really going on. How about the millions of undeclared and invisible incidents then? I'll honestly tell you one thing. I wish I was God for a minute. Just a minute. You know what I'd do? I'd make a law of nature, a new one, that would work like this: Each time a man makes his woman cry, for any reason, any reason at all folks, then his dick gets half an inch shorter. How do you like that dudes? And there would be no remedy with any of them penis enlargement pills you get spammed with on your email inbox daily. The worst of you abusers would have your peckers vanish to nothingness in just four times (do the math to see how 'big' the worst abusers usually are and what their real reason for abuse in fact is).
A woman that you as a man get involved with is a creature of nature worth worshipping. She's probably gonna be the mother of your children and that alone is reason enough for you to be in continuous remorse for every time you made her feel sad. For one thing, women do and are capable doing a hell lot more than you'll ever be able to do. Give birth and raise new lives, who by the way, who knows, might become the new Messiahs, the Nobels in Medicine and Peace, the leaders who will care for a better life for everyone, the architects who will raise new buildings and cities in the world of tomorrow in which living will be better for all. We all have had mothers who made us. Sure, some of us even had fathers too. But we all had moms we loved more than anything. I'm thinking of that everytime I hear about a woman getting hurt, a child starving an ugly death. I'm thinking, who knows what potential we all just lost with this innocent death.
I'm hearing your male brains thinking (yep, you can still do that, unless your brains moved altogether into your testicles). Yeah, but not all women are saints, dude. I know a case about that bitch beating her poor dude unconscious. What 're you sayin' 'bout that, dude? Well, I'm sayin' that exceptions confirm the rule. There may be female people who kinda forgot their God given mission and start behaving like male pigs. But I bet you a year's salary, this is by far an irrelevant minority. And it definitely will never justify any male abuse by any means, "just to show them women their position", right? Even if you are right, or you think you are, give way my friend. Have her get her way, because she'll prove right again and you'll again look like an idiot. Do what Denzel Washington once said: The four words that saved my marriage are : Whatever you say, honey!
I chose the title of this post from a Bryan Adams song. If you really wanna know what this is all about, read his lyrics too... you may grow your brains back again after that. In your skull, where they oughta be.
To really love a woman, to understand her,
you’ve got to know what deep inside
hear every thought, see every dream,
and give her wings when she wants to fly,
and when you find yourself lying helpless in her arms...
You know you really love a woman
When you love a woman, you tell her that she’s really woman
When you love a woman, you tell her that she’s the one
She needs somebody to tell her that it’s gonna last forever
So tell me have you ever really, really, really, ever loved a woman?
To really love a woman, to let her hold you
till you know how she needs to be touched.
You’ve gotta breath her, and really taste her,
until you can feel her in your blood.
When you can see your unborn children in her eyes...
You know you really love a woman
You’ve got to give her some faith, hold her tight...
A little tenderness, you’ve gotta treat her right!
She will be there for you, taking good care of you,
And when you find yourself lying helpless in her arms,
you know you really love a woman...
Saturday, November 13, 2010
It felt like a breath of fresh air to know that not all of my classmates picked plain vanilla careers in the globally known approach of middle-class members of the Greek establishment (bend the rules, take advantage of co-citizens, make a lot of dough, evade taxation, and show-off like da man!). Instead, those select few followed their dream and expressed themselves in various forms of artistic and creative endeavors in an attempt to enhance the cultural base and heritage of the fatherland. One of those few gifted persons, from my high school class, is Maria Toloudi (Μαρία Τολούδη). She used to be Mary Sidiropoulou (Μαίρη Σιδηροπούλου) those days, but due to the wonderfully old fashioned Greek laws that deprived women from the right to maintain their own family names after a holy matrimony, Sidiropoulou turned into Toloudi. Good for her. For one thing her acquired surname is two syllables and five letters shorter, therefore much easier to remember and pronounce by Greeks and barbarians (non-Greeks) alike.
Maria is a Civil Servant, currently responsible (προïσταμένη) for the department of Cultural Affairs, the Media, and the Press at the Evros Prefecture. In that position she has been involved in organizing numerous cultural happenings, nationwide congresses for writers and journalists, and various types of get-togethers about all sorts of cultural endeavor. However her own personal focus is upon Greek literature. She's probably read most of the known and unknown contemporary Greek writers, many of whom she's come to be acquainted with personally in the course of the years. Several among them often ask her for her professional opinion and judgement about their own works before they get published. She's often sat in panels as one of the experts in the presentation of new books locally, or in various other cities nationally and internationally. Maria attended classes for two years on the subject of History of Arts in the UK, right after high school. I hadn't met her ever since. The little detail about which I had no clue whatsoever, and I discovered all by accident, is that Maria is a gifted writer of short stories. For many years she's been publishing her stories in a Kavala quality magazine, called simply City Magazine (Περιωδικό της Πόλης). I reckon she must have published more than 50 stories in that magazine to the present day.
Simplistic as they may sound I suspect compelling short stories must be a rather tricky form of prose to create successfully. You are restricted by the available space, the total number of words so to say, but you nevertheless need to create and develop all the elements of a usually lengthy novel. A story, its plot, the characters, the setting, the style, the genre, the moral, the rhythm. All of the elements need to stay compatible with each other and mutually reinforcing. No words or punctuation to waste. I also have the feeling that skilled short story writers, forced by the available space constraints, tend to combine purposes. In other words, they are able to construct sentences with the right choice of words in such a way that they serve multiple prose components all at the same time. Each word, sentence, paragraph embeds more meaning than meets the eye. Everything in the story needs to fit within a coherent and compelling ensemble, like the pieces of a puzzle, to coexist harmoniously with each of their neighboring components. And this harmonious coexistence should eventually lead to expansion of the limits imposed by the story's initial length, making its effect much wider. This is quite common in poetry and especially in song lyrics. Having years long experience with canvas, paper and digital picture painting, I can't help thinking that the crafts of 'painting' and (short) 'storytelling' have much in common. Writers like Maria simply paint with words; language rich words are just like beautiful colors in paintbrush strokes. I didn't quite realize the above before, and have definitely never come to appreciate the effort and the writer talent necessary, until after I read Toloudi's work.
I read four of her stories among a total of more than 70 that she told me she wrote. I don't quite know when she first started doing this, but I reckon it must have been more than 10 years now... definitely sometime in the 90ies.
The stories I read were all written in a different genre. The first was a rather tragicomic 'love' story. The story builds up to a point of an imminent wedding ceremony. To attend to it the bride must cross Evros river on a σάλι -- a sort of primitive river boat -- together with other guests, but halfway she falls off and... drowns. I tragically couldn't hold my laughter thinking about the naivety of her co-passengers watching the incident deploy in front of their frozen eyes but incapable of rescuing her.
The second was almost a detective mystery story about a man who has been sketching in a mysterious notebook figures of the buildings and monuments of the yester-town, that have been slowly vanishing to make room for monstrous new building structures, turning the town into impersonal landscapes of concrete.
A third story is about a horny young wife (married to a much older lame husband) with many extramarital affairs, who suddenly feels terribly attracted to a macho bike rider. She follows him on a sexually arousing ride on his Africa Twin, where the two and the bike eventually become one. Soft, spicy language used, not rude, slowly building to a moment of tranche where the story then terminates almost in slow-mo. Running to stand still, sort of thing. A rather teasing biker story that she told me she wrote responding to the request of a bikers-club, celebrating some event of theirs.
The fourth story, the most masterful of all four IMHO, is a deeply touching human narrative about an immigrant woman. Incidentally, the 'angels' title of my blogpost is the title of that story. The story starts with a sadistically cold atmosphere in a Public Service Office landscape, where everything smells impersonal bureaucracy and daily dull routine. A sudden cry wakes up the living dead. The cry came from a young woman, an immigrant from Sofia, Bulgaria, who learns on the phone about the sudden death of her father. She left him alone back home to come to Greece, in search of a better fortune. Nonetheless, the human drama develops, in just a matter of a few sentences mind you, into the sweetest and most humane and personal scene, when one female colleague approaches the mourning woman and tries to ease her pain with empathy, caress and love. The sobbing mourner eventually finds the courage to recall better days with her father, when as a young girl imagined her butterfly toy would fly away and take her with in its heavenly voyage. The dead father was personated as the young girl's guardian angel. At a crucial and emotional moment the deeply affected mourner asks "Indeed. Who cares for the Angels?".
This last story is Toloudi at her best. Each time I get impressed by a piece of prose, I typically dig with patience as deep as possible in the structure of the textual blocks the author created (words, sentences and paragraphs). I try to point my finger to the core substituent elements, to discover in other words what it is that special something(s) that does paint the pictures so visually, the setting so clearly, the characters so lively and human, the emotions so pure. In her AfroTwin story for instance she has been carefully mixing inside her sentences everyday spoken Greek ('flat' demotiki) with 'katharevousa' fine Greek (reminiscent of Ancient Greek). By doing this she actually illustrates how the story characters think and act. The reader trips inside the characters' heads and 'sees' their thoughts take shape. The entire experience is profoundly hilarious and very entertaining. It is true that people from the Greek street low society, often uneducated, typically aim to sound 'upper class', and therefore use most unexpectedly katharevousa phrases when they talk, but they often don't even understand the meaning of their own phrases... To die for!
|Scan of part of the 'Angels' manuscript. The|
peculiar (scrutinizing) notes are my own...
The stories are purely fiction but they have been always triggered by real life events, she told me once. For instance, she imagined the entire bike story following a moment while she's been waiting at a red traffic light when suddenly an AfroTwin stopped by and she turned in amazement to look at bike and biker. For the story of the drowning bride, she's been crossing the river on one of these σάλι boats when she suddenly had that vision of someone falling overboard and drowning. The story of the sketcher vagabond, pushing his bicycle thru the city streets, is based on a real person, but I doubt he ever held a sketching pad in his hands. Finally, the story about the immigrant woman is based on a real person at the office as well, but the rest of the story about metal toy butterflies flying away is the creation of her mind. I believe it is often like this. Writers like painters pick up their inspiration from observing what is happening around them. And they all have a real knack for observation. They see details you and I wouldn't see even if they told us to pay attention to. That's part of their talent. The rest become a task for their phantasies and creative imagination.
I wonder how much of that craft is sheer talent (an unconscious gift of nature to the creative person) and how much it is the result of skillful and thought-thru design and hard work (Malcolm 'Outliers' Gladwell). I have personally never rejected the idea about the existence of creative talent, but I thoroughly believe that the biggest part of the process is hard work... The writer must come up with a new idea, envision the setting, the characters and active emotions, and then define the best strategy to put all these together efficiently into the short story. Thorough knowledge of the language in which texts are written is also a must, probably one of the most important. I suddenly can't help thinking about Cohen's Hallelujah story. His startup lyrics: "It goes like this: the fourth, the fifth, the minor chord, the major lift." Visualize young Leonard Cohen in his underwear at the Royalton Hotel in New York. Trying to complete the lyrics of Hallelujah. Banging his head against the floor, filling notebooks, starting all over again. In his own words, "To find that song, that urgent song, takes a lot of versions and a lot of work and a lot of sweat". Like we used to say in business about the composition of management work: 5% inspiration and 95 % perspiration.
Writers will never tell you how much design and hard work, and how much talent and inspiration goes into their lives. Some of it happens unconsciously but most is conscious, I think. However, by their nature creative people are instinctive and authentic, not terribly organized. Structure often kills creativity. Structure is good for non-fiction. Fiction should be based on gut-feel. And deep emotions. Writers and artists are imperfect like the rest of us. Key difference though, they know it... we don't! That's the whole beauty. There's a crack in everything, as Cohen claims in his Anthem. Toloudi is one of these hard working, hypersensitive, deeply emotional creative people.
Given that publishing enterprises in Greece are a tricky business as in the rest of the world, the thing we all need to hope, for the sake of her Greek audience, is her decision to eventually put her stories together in a number of dedicated bundles in book form (print and electronic formats like Kindle or iBook for my reading comfort, that is). Indeed, in the cases I described above, I had the rare privilege to read two of the four stories in her own manuscript version. Old fashioned? Maybe... From another long lost and forgotten epoch? By all means! But, at the same time, warm and charming, and incredibly personal...
Sunday, November 7, 2010
|Probably not as easy at is sounds, innit?|
- Ideas are expressed in sentences with the necessary amount of words to avoid ambiguity in comprehension.
- The words used should be easily understood by the gross average of the target audience.
Another element that I haven't touched upon is that often fiction writers do extended research before putting a word on paper. Brown for instance stayed for more than a year in Paris to learn every detail necessary about the Paris geography and then describe the action in his Da Vinci Code 'setting' properly. The more research, the more real and non-fiction, and therefore convincing the story sounds. Modern readers tend to look for reality books like they are looking for reality TV. Bestsellers often become movies and the story needs to sound and look plausible. The age of dreamer and romantic audiences who read books like in Victorian England, waiting for white horse riding Princes simply vanished. Commercial literature takes simply over...
Saturday, October 30, 2010
|At the beach... looking south. On the horizon|
a trace of the island of Samothrace.
Understandably, streets became much smaller, as people are parking their cars on both sides. Underground parking areas or dedicated buildings for parking usage alone are an unfamiliar concept altogether, and most streets look as chaotic as the rug markets in Istanbul. That's what my fellow Greek citizens call progress. An interesting development nonetheless: They started building pavements for bikes along main streets, which renders the space for car traffic even smaller. Town authorities should be courageous enough to abandon car traffic from the city center altogether. Like it's happening more and more in any given Central European city. And build parking spaces. And get their cabling underground. It's so depressing. Oh, well... Let's talk about some other stuff next...
I also visited the cemetery, the new one. I managed to find the grave of my mother, with the help of a dear friend (Takis) who was kind enough to be my guide and guardian angel almost 24x7 in the few days that I stayed in town. I am ashamed to admit that it's been 18 years ever since she passed away and that was my first time visiting her grave. Yes sir... Shame on me and let the world know!!! With nobody stopping by, the grave was in an appalling state of dirt and wild plant growth. This made me feel like shit even more about myself. Takis volunteered to fix the problem and make the grave look a lot more descent. I was obviously grateful.
The best that happened to this town since I left was the completion of the Egnatia Highway north of the city. And a huge Hospital that is also used for classes and training of MD students attending the local Medical University. That's right. Alex/polis has got a university these days. Good for them! They also have frequent flights to Athens, meaning they shouldn't have many excuses for not building some local industrial activity. However, I haven't seen much of that anywhere. If there was any at all they have certainly hidden it from me... Or is it because Takis only wanted to bring me to places I knew from the past? Like the old French railways station. The Gare Militaire as we used to call it. When I was young I thought Gare Militaire, pronounced by locals as Karmilitar, originated from Turkish. True story! It's only in my recent trip that I found out what the correct name was. So much I knew about the tongue of Molière those days...
They also build a relatively large port but I saw no cranes. Not a single one. I mean, compared to the crane forests of the ports of Antwerp and Rotterdam, Alex/polis port looks like a huge Lego for 7 year olds. I didn't see any commercial ships docked either. Only a ferryboat to Samothrace (remember its headless Victoire statue at the Louvre?) , an island 30 km off the coast to the south, and a few retired ships from other origins, docked here to avoid excessive port taxation (as Takis mentioned). Oh yes before I forget: Outside the cemetery I also saw a large cotton field. I didn't know we grew cotton in town before?! Takis said the field will stay like this, unexploited. Nobody plucks the cotton anymore, he said. They just planted it because they received state subsidies (probably from the Eurocrats). After they put up Dodge City this way, and pocketed the subsidy they left it to its destiny, to accompany with its millions of white cotton flowers the dead resting on the other side of the street. A great subsidy plan Mr. Baroso. That's exactly the way Europe will end up in Chinese pockets altogether in less than one generation. But you'll be dead by then. Why bother?
The best part of my trip was my encounter with so many people from my past, all grown up, grayed or bald. Hugs and kisses everywhere I went. I was actually moved by the positive feelings I received from all these people, who would be entirely justified to hate my guts and spit on the ground in contempt at my approach. On the contrary. They almost stayed in row to hug me, kiss me and shake my hand. This is Greece too. A country of emotion and affection. I did my best to hold my tears. Only thing that bothered me though is their obsession for smoking cigarettes at all times, over dinner and lunch too. I stopped smoking long ago, but I believe I must have 'passively' smoked more than a pack during these four days.
I was impressed by the women from my high school classes. With one or two exceptions (that I was told about but didn't see, so I can't really confirm) most looked like they stopped adding years to their age in their thirties. Mary, Efy, Tety, Anta, Kaity all looked stunning! I guess it's the water they drink and the good life. On the contrary, some of their husbands looked like shit... more like their fathers, so to say. I felt really bad for one of those women in the company of her dad (sorry... husband, I meant). I also came across an old flame of mine. She looked gorgeous. As like the galloping years left her untouched. As beautiful as ever. Or, at least I thought so. I got to clarify here. She had never known then that I was insanely infatuated with her as a teenager. I was a nerd you see, and too shy to even look her in the eyes. Or any girl for that matter. I almost fainted once when she looked back and smiled. Seeing her again after all these years, still looking as beautiful, gave me a strange feeling. This time I was courageous enough to talk to her though. What could possibly go wrong, eh? Like my old boss used to tell intimidated salesmen, who didn't dare ask customers for the order. "Why worry lads? The worst that can happen is the customer sez 'no'. He ain't gonna eat yah!"That's right! She didn't eat me. She looked like she enjoyed the conversation too. We talked about our families and what our kids did for living, you know, the usual.
|Lefteris and Nikos enjoying Belgian goodies...|
Last, the one thing that hit me like a a lightning was their indisputable lack of any PC and Internet literacy, true for almost all my peers (baby boomers). They made me feel like I was at the same age as their 20 year old kids, who obviously know PCs inside-out, and even prefer Linux to Windows. Some of my peers wouldn't know a laptop even if it hit them in the face. I thought of coming back to organize free PC courses for 50+ for them buggers. Sad story. I mean, I never asked them to built any Java servlets for crying out loud... just simply power on a PC box, log in their email, or surf and read a (my) blog... it's not much to ask, innit! No wonder they keep gossiping all day long. They got plenty of time talking to each other, whereas their kids are staring at computer monitors. They'd better surf a bit for a change. Poor bastards. Yep, I forgot. Some know how to Skype. Talking over IP, that is. No keyboard typing (the Antichrist!). I must say, I've been typing Greek the last few weeks, on a software adapted AZERTY keyboard and I can tell you, accenting Greek words is a bitch. Especially if you are trying to figure out what is what on an AZERTY. Oh, well... it's a matter of habit at the end. Where there's a will there's a way...
Would I go back? I think so. Under pressing 'advice' by my daughter I might even buy a small place to go back more often than I ever thought possible.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
I have never thought he ever existed outside Kazantzakis' imagination. Even Anthony Quinn was nothing more than an impersonator. Zorba had to be Greek by birth. Quinn was anything but Greek. My Zorba is an ex-football legend, of PAOK first and Panathinaïkos later. After he stopped active football, he maintained a restaurant at the famous (infamous to some) Omonia Square in Athens, where he made himself a fortune serving 'patsas'. "We used to earn money by the buckets" he said. The menu contained only a single item: Patsas! Most Westerners wouldn't go anywhere near but Greeks eat that for breakfast, lunch and supper too, especially during cold winter days. My dad used to breakfast like this as well, I remember. Not me though. Mother hated it...
Achilleas (not Alexis) is the name of my Zorba. He simply acted naturally like everything Nikos Kazantzakis described. Sing, dance, talk like an Olympian God for hours. He dominated the whole scene. My Zorba is bigger than life. Sure thing! I was speechless for most of the time I was in his company. We were both scheduled to pitch about the book on the following day's ceremony, you see. It would be him first and then I'd follow. At a given moment during supper the night before, he started talking with unseen energy and in much manlier vocabulary than I could ever use, and repeat in his own special manner about the same that I had planned as my closing statements. I leaned over to Lefteris and said: "I believe he has hijacked an entire chapter of my pitch". Zorba overheard me and said. "Don't you worry Professor. I won't pitch. I'll sing! I always sing in events like those". I thought he was joking, but the day after the singing happened indeed. Without music. Just like Zorba would do it! Never ever have I seen a man like this. He actually gave meaning to the concept of 'man'. If manges were like him, I can now understand why rebetika became so popular. I was trying to absorb every single word he said. He turns sixty this year but I imagined every woman who'd listen to him for more than a quarter would dream of getting in bed with this alpha male!
Authentic Zorba the Greek
Achilleas was proud to publicly admit that he wasn't fortunate enough to go to school but he felt he could often see the truth more clearly than many so called educated men. On the day of Lefteris book ceremony our timing clashed with a pitch by Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou who unexpectedly came to town. As the PM, after his pitch, was shaking hands in the hotel lobby where everyone had assembled, Zorba approached the PM and said. "It's the first time I am in the neighborhood of a PASOK (ruling party) PM and I feel sad!" "Your father, Andreas" he said, "never missed a penalty. But, you keep shooting penalty shots to the tribunes" Zorba meant that the current government, instead of getting their arms around various well known capitalist sharks with undeclared billions in questionable income, is only exercising pressure upon common citizens with empty pockets. His words and ideas were so much Zorba's. If I had Kazantzakis' talent I could have written volumes about the man. I hope Lefteris, obviously with a writing talent comparable to other great Greek writers, will one day publish a book about Achilleas. I'll stand in the row to get one.
In the clip above that I shot with my iPhone at the Restaurant Spitambelo, where we were all invited at the end of Lefteris official ceremony at the Grecotel (launch of his third book in a Rebetika trilogy), a middle-aged Pontian virtuoso plays the Lyra and sings. In the second half of the clip, Achilleas sings along, with a heavy voice like the Pontian singing God Kazantzidis, and is telling me that he himself originated from the area where that song came from. He then confirms to his neighbor, Neurosurgeon Dr. Antoniadis (another legendary Pontian with track record in writing lyrics for contemporary Pontian songs) that these were indeed the best Pontian songs ever written. I wouldn't know. To me they all sounded the same. Until a moment came that I felt I was part of them Pontians too. There's something electric about the people and their music. In a very rare and unusual moment, all quite unexpectedly, I suddenly felt very humble. I felt like being in the company of mythical giants... and I was just a hobbit...
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
(Click bottom right for full screen viewing...). I shot the pictures last week when in my birthplace Alexandroupolis for the launch of Lefteris Hapsiadis 3rd book, "13+1 why?". Had the time of my life. Saw loads of people I haven't seen in almost 40 years. I even shook PM G. Papandreou's hand while he's been campaigning in town. Not that I was looking forward to... Everybody was sitting down in big sofas at the Egnatia hotel lobby when somebody shouted, "the President!" Most of us stood up and I saw them shaking his hand. I was still sitting down minding my own business (had a nasty back ache and preferred the sofa instead), as he leaned towards me to shake my hand, so I kinda stood up and shook back... I feel so fortunate I did that... noooot?
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
So, learn to transmit these funny buggers properly. Here's the way.
- First, you decide you wanna forward this further and to whom.
- Next, you hit forward on the mail you just received.
- Third, you put your target recipient addresses in the BCC field. That's extremely important. The Blind BCC field is the only one you have to consider. Neither the TO, nor the CC fields.
- Fourth, you clean any headers from the email contents that you are forwarding: These appear just in front of your useful content and are put there automatically each time you forward any received email to someone else. The headers contain email adresses of other recipients that have got the item as part of its cyber bounce from desktop to desktop that it started ever since it left the first originator's computer.
- Also, don't forget to scroll to the end of the message as there's a lot of garbage there too, automatically added by (mainly) company mail servers, about how to save trees by not printing the message, or some legal lingo about confidentiality rights and BS like this...
- Only thing you can now see is your recipients in the BCC field, and your 'funny' content.
- Hit Send!
Another thing I do, is keep separate email groups where I keep my recipients' email adresses organized. Mine are like this:
- Soft: normal jokes and content, not obscene, minimum nudity (if at all), soft anecdotes.
- Hard: spicy (sometimes XXX) stuff, that I get from time to time from dudes in my inner circle (four or five blokes located in Europe, UK and the US)
- Kids: a bunch of young adults, many of them students, and my own siblings and some of their friends, between 20 and 30 yrs of age, that is.
- Family: Spouse and own family members.
The golden rule about sending something to someone: If in doubt, DON'T DO IT!
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
For those moaning that my average is not that spectacular, OK dudes... you win: I only had the 100Mb (optical fiber) line for just a few months. I was on 25Mb before that, so my average very much reflects the low value, right?
Monday, September 27, 2010
However, I am still sane and just, I think. Meaning, if fairness proves otherwise, I'll choose fairness. So, I recently had my own share of anti-Apple feelings. After all these honeymoon years. Actually, for the first time ever. Listen to this:
A good personal friend of mine, whom I also converted into Apple for phones, routers, iPods, iPads and (in the meantime) MacBooks, ordered on the net a few protective cases for the iPhones of her siblings. The order was placed via eBay in the Netherlands. Apparently, the selling company is shipping its goods from Hong Kong but trades via eBay... The cases cost only a few euros each, my friend told me. There's nothing in this internet transaction that would suggest there is a problem with the supplier. On the contrary, the perception in Europe is, since Ebay sits on top of it, all would definitely be legit. I also heard that quite a few buyers purchased products from the same supplier and received them in Belgium without any hassle. So, how on earth can you know that something's wrong with them?
Days later, instead of receiving the cases, my dear lady comrade received a fancy letter by a lawyer Firm -- Bird & Bird... I'm not kidding, their email domain is twobirds.com (sic) -- threatening her with legal action unless she did something about this particular internet order. Distantiate herself from it, that is to say...
They said the Hong Kong company infringes Trademarks (n° 2593663 and 6387203 - anybody got a clue what these are?) with its products and designs, the trademarks belonging to Apple. That's fair enough... but, how could any of us possibly know this when shopping anything on the net?
They said that the Belgian Customs stopped the further shipment of the goods and informed the 2 Birds... To this day, the recipient of the delivery has not received any notification from Belgian Customs that something was not right with the transaction.
The Birds also threatened her with legal actions unless she wrote to them in registered mail or fax (registered mail would probably cost in postage stamps more than the two protective cases, mind you).
I am not aware how she'll eventually react to this incident. I told her to take legal advice and push the case in viral fashion thru Apple forums, blogs, and alike. The Birds obviously went beyond their way to scare an innocent citizen. In all honesty, I don't understand the Belgian Customs authority either. In the worst of cases, they should at least inform their own law abiding citizen, who is one of the millions among us in a silent crowd, who pay the bleedin' taxes that pay their fat civil servant salaries.
It sounds to me like a scene from "1984"! In the name of trademark infringement, Big Brother Apple, its Bird lawyers, and our beloved and most respected Belgian Customs Authority, all three joining force together to prohibit a simple citizen's reception of her ordered goods. They also asked her to make additional costs (mailing/faxing) for rejecting her ownership rights of the goods. I won't be surprised at all if she gets so pissed about Apple altogether, and never spend a penny on any of their products in the future, and also make sure others (like family and friends) don't do this either... Also lose her scarcely remaining confidence in her own government and its practices... However, these days the latter would be no news to any of us living in this brilliant country.
In my own mental image of Apple, I'd have imagined this particular supplier-to-customer dialog to have gone the following way:
"Dear customer... we have been notified by the Belgian Customs that illegal products were about to be shipped to your address... we regret to inform you that we are in legal actions against your Hong Kong supplier for infringement and malpractices ... unfortunately your ordered products need to be destroyed at the Belgian Customs site... we are very sorry for that... as a token of appreciation for your loyalty to Apple we'll offer you an amount discount to cover your loss should you decide to buy any Apple product of your choice...We thank you for your business and loyalty to Apple... Sincerely..."
That's the Jobs Apple that I'd understand and support. Not the one who resorts into actions like this by a bunch of lawyers with... feathers.
I bet the two Birds have no idea how to tackle Apple customers at all... other than play Big Brother macho big dog game! I wonder whether Jobs is aware of his external lawyer practices vis-a-vis innocent end customers. I despise lawyers! Always did!
I only wish my friend was living in the US, and that Apple tried that trick over there. As a low key low noise obedient Belgian she'll probably give in to that arrogant threat and they'll get away with it the cheapest possible way, they think! In the US she'd simply sue back. I mean, there are shiploads of class actions running against Apple at any given moment, mostly for ridiculous and non-existent causes (like the antenna-gate, among others), right?