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...