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Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Does Christianity live in a shopping mall?


Christmas is in our religion (by 'our' I mean all the different flavors of Christianity) the day that Jesus was born in a very humble shack, in a stable actually, warmed by the breath of the animals, lighted by the star, and showered by the magicians presents. All in modesty, humbleness, religious ecstasy, family love, quietness, with the bright light of a solitary star intruding the darkness of the night.
Now tell me, where do all these Christmasy symbols find their place in 'our' Christmas? I would think that the Japanese celebrating their fashion-victimness with yet another shopping spree, labeling it 'Christmas shopping' is alright. After all, they are not Christian.
Yet for us, Christians, the period around Christmas holidays, is usually the period where most depression attacks are registered and would not be surprised if it was the time where most suicides are recorded in Norway.
The spirit of Christmas commands from us all to be jolly, happy, surrounded by at least three kids that will open their presents on christmas day, an extended family where there are at least 4-5 couples with 4-5 offsprings each, mothers-in-law are not ball breakers, a chalet up on the mountain with a huge fireplace, a golden retriever that will sit quietly by the fireplace the entire evening (next to it without suffocating) and its sole movement will be to occasionally lick someone or wave the tail (the rest of the time it does not move, does not dirt, does not shed). In addition, there is a huge 4x4 SUV in the chalet garage, everybody is a wonderful skier and nobody gets chopped lips and face from the freaking cold.

I think this type of Christmas exists only in commercials. The depressions hit because we mistake the 'commercial type-Christmas' with 'commercial Christmas'. Unfortunately, most recently we can not have the money to buy the presents. And lately the kids are asking play station III or super nintendos - not just a fire brigade or a doll from Santa.

The problem is that at times like this, where Santa has run out of money, it is depressing to make a kid sad. A present needs to be bought. At all costs. Or the parents need to spill the beans: Santa is not real!!! (I think that revelation alone explains the anger of 15-year old Athenians...)

The conclusion is that on a period of financial crisis, Christmas period is harsh on most people. Harsh because most of us will fail to deliver as our role promises. Or at least the delivery will not be as great as it was previous years. Because there is so deeply routed in our westernized soul that we can get by our wrongdoings all year long as long as we deliver our Santa promise. Hence the real legacy of Christmas is lost and misunderstood.

In order for one to be happy, one must have a 4-member family, a mountain house, an SUV, a six digit bank account, patience in light installation and holiday decoration, shouting wealth, exhibition, festive spirit, hedonism etc. None of these qualities have anything to do with Christmas. On the contrary, Christmas, the birth of Christ, was the promise of a hope that God would liberate humans from all these musts and should dos, all these societal directives that all they serve for is to discriminate against the poor, the single and the different. Jesus was born for all, quietly, in his small shack, warmed by the breath of moving animals and showered by the symbolic gifts of the three magicians that came to pay their respects.

No SUVs, no trees, no golden lights, no santas, no fireplace, no fiestas.

My question now is: Why on earth do all these new shopping malls mushroom up in the period that most people get depressed when passing in front of a shop? Christmas is deprived of the true miracle of Genesis and the hope that His birth represented. The devil is taking over. Unlike what most people think, modern devil is disguised in small square plastic cards, especially active in large, bright, luxurious, plentiful, colorful, christmas decorated, over-advertised, window-lacking shopping malls.


PS: Frankly, thinking about it, X-mas is more a single than a family holiday (single folks flats do not have the sparkle, ribbons, trees, lights, etc of family homes during xmas)

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Die Welle


Absolutely worth seeing especially if you want to understand how strong is the psychology of the masses and how easy some uncomprehensible social phenomena can be explained. Out of nothing a human wave can drown us all, especially those who started it.
The references to Nazi Germany is of course unavoided and necessary to show the heavy historical burden on the otherwise revolutionary, modern, artistic and visionary German youth.
Unlike the French 'Entre les Murs' (see previous posting), Die Welle is telling a story, it is not a dramatized documentary, it is fiction that dramatizes a national nightmare in a classroom. The operative question being: Can we have fascism again?
Brilliant movie, the best I have seen this season so far, a MUST SEE.
Excellent direction and a very promising young cast. The professor is wonderful
Without any hesitation, 5 out of 5

NB: The movie is inspired by a real school experiement in California in 67 and based on a novel by Tod Strasser

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Body of lies



A Ridley Scott movie is always an interesting film to watch. Middle eastern troubles, the remote big brother watching the moves of field agents, people getting killed, the good arabs, the bad arabs and the good americans with their nasty habbits.

Overall a good action movie, deals with the ugliness of the war on terror, how the americans, how the arabs that fight and how the arabs that just happened to be born there see it and try to survive
I really enjoyed the movie. Great casting, great directing, great story. Absolutely worth watching in a theater
What is interesting though is that in all hollywood-produced spy movies, the good arab always looks more european. Funny, ain't it?

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Felicitations Martine


On Friday, November 21st, the French socialist party voted for their new first secretary. Martin Aubrey led Segolene Royale by 42 votes. Sego contested the results and there was a second round of votes. Aubrey won. For a second time on Nov 25th, the party's vote to become its leader. Martine Aubrey elue la Premiere Secretaire du Partie Socialiste.
The two women do not get along, not on a personal nor an ideological level, and there have been worries in French left for a party split. (Does that ring a bell???) Segolene appeared on a video to tell her voters that she will come back stronger at the next elections and that she does not plan to quit the left.
Segolene with her ex-partner where the royal couple, the Douglases, of the French left. Things have not turned particularly swell for them since the announcement of their split and the rise of Nicolas.

French socialist voters are split, like their party. Some adore Segolene, some don't even want to see her face on a picture. The truth is that Segolene has a very strong personality - love and hate are the two sides of the same coin. Martine, on the other hand, has an extremely impressive resume, as she is the architect of France's revolutionary 35-hour week, a true solialist. She is also sort of socialist royalty, as she comes from a political family: her father is the architect of Europe 92, Jacques Delors. She is currently the mayor of Lille France's ugliest city, and she is apparently doing a very good job.

Congrats Martine, beating such a worthy opponent makes the win even higher.

France needs to become more competitive without losing its socialist character - mind you France's right is probably far more left than the Democrats. (How right is the Left and how left is the Right, is a different topic alltogether).

The fact that there are for the first time two women candidates to lead France's socialists is also another remarkable progress of our times.

Monday, 24 November 2008

A Parisian monodose


You probably know the cosmetics samples. Now called 'monodose' A single dose. Well, this is exactly how it felt last weekend. A monodose of Paris. With the econonomic crisis and the intense competition of airlines, the trully successful ones have some supreme offers for European cities from Athens, so I took advantage of Aegean's offer to Paris.
It was a very quick visit to Paris, lunch and coffee in 1er arrondisement with Helena, a bit of shopping, and then home to play with Chiara Zeta and relax. Sunday after breakfast and a stroll around the neighborhood, off to the airport!
Chiara is now walking!!!! She is very vocal, but not able to speak yet, although she seems to understand everything and she starts developing her own judgement, at least she has mastered 'no' :-))
Watching a kid grow, one realises how fast time goes by. Besides the joy that a child brings to its parents and rest of family - provided the child is physically and mentally healthy - the child enriches adults lives in so many different ways.
Firstly, a child needs will fill in every inch of leisure time of the parents, leaving very little room to any thoughts about the vanity of life or other similar grand thoughts..

Even though we all know that there is a cycle in life, somehow watching a kid grow, we tend to forget all that and think that life is forever, as we focus on the now and future plans go as far in the future as next weekend.
Life as we knew it bc (before child) changes. FULLSTOP. Now the adult becomes a caretaker of someone else, and thus needs to care about his or her own self in order to make sure that someone will always be there for the child. Hence, the adult matures. What is greater than just watching the kid grow, is watching its parents grow as well. By growing, I mean maturing, become more accepting, finding solutions instead of problems and overall happier. This is the only way to reach equilibrium in life and most probably discover its true meaning as parenting a child means that we discover the world all over again.



On a different note, that trip also reminded me - as if I had forgotten - how beautiful Paris is. With the sun or snow, Paris remains one of the loveliest, most elegant and most indulging places a person can spend a saturday afternoon.

Bobos finds a family




Great news: Bobos, found a new family
He will be taken there this afternoon and hopefully will get along with this new parents and sister (there is a female griffon in the house as well)
It is always great to see them get to new homes. Now we'll just have to rescue the next stray. There are hundreds of them and every day we keep finding a new one
Each one that finds a home is a wonderfully happy event. Each one we lose is a terrible tragedy.
I am happy Bobos belonged to the first category. For such a little creature would not be able to survive without a family. In a few days he will also get rid of his elisabetian outfit..

Friday, 21 November 2008

When you want something very much the universe will make it happen


And so Ducan came back. Now, universe please make Original disappear!!! Thank you

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Bobos


Bobos is a little dog about 7 years old that someone got fed up with and left him on the streets. Bobby has some great manners, he will wait for ever and won't do his business until he goes on a walk, he does not chew shoes, he is very quiet the sleeping hours, he will wait patiently when you are having dinner and he will be greatful for a good cuddle. He gets along with cats very well, he is friendly with humans and other dogs (well..hm perhaps a bit too friendly even if we neutreured him if you know what I mean)
Well, his former owners did not appreciate any of his charms, and Bobos found himself in a hostile environment (Pentelis avenue) and was hit by a car.
We (the filozoiki Vrilission) took him to a doc, operated him and now he is recovering in my house until he gets either a foster home or a permanent home.
He is adorable. If you know of anybody...It will be hard for me to see him go, but three dogs and two cats can be a bit too much. Plus Zizou needs to remain the Alpha male in the house....

Best friends


I found Patty (the cat) when she was 20 days old inside a garbage can with the ambilical cord and her twin brothers dead.
That was two and a half years a go. Junior, my other cat, was about 10 months old and was very jealous that a new baby had arrived. Zizou would protect her all day in my absense from Junior's claws. No wonder Patty thinks of Zizou as her best buddy and perhaps her teddy bear

Quantum of Solace


Daniel Craig is my favorite Bond. Casino Royal is my favorite Bond movie. After watching it last year, and about 35 times on my HD DVD since then, I had quite elevated expectations for the new Bond movie, Quantum of Solace. Although Craig did not disappoint me, and Judi Dench is always a sight for sore (viewer's) eyes, and that the movie was again filmed in HD, the movie kind of let me down. For the following reasons:
a) In Casino Royal James had got rid of the tux and the black tie and wore more casual clothes that behave better when chasing vilans on rooftops. I also thought it was cool for him not to wear the tux outside the casino floor. In quantum of solace James hardly got out of his tux going back into the 60s James charm and forgetting all about the 'coolness' of hiking boots.
b) absense of punchlines. Besides James manly charm, his Brit wit would add on his charisma. This was demonstrated mainly by punchlines. There were a few punchlines but not that strong. The ones that existed where of course delivered with the appropriate Bond style
c) In Casino Royal, one of the reasons that Craig scored aces high, was that he was dynamic, meaning there was a lot of boxing and less shooting, and that James finally opened up to a girl. In Quantum of Solace, he mainly shoots people and the betrayal he felt from Vesper, his lover in the Casino movie, made him cold, colder than usual, and not in the mood for funny encounters
d) The movie was an action movie, with more action and less talking. A bit like an upgraded Steven Seagul movie

However, there were a few things to note:
a) Ladyhair fashion: brunettes are back (με αφέλειες)
b) revenge does not always feel good
c) M is the best bond girl
d) HD is the way forward in the movie industry
e) all London references where a sharp contrast with the rest of the world: pooring with rain - I thought it was funny, especially since everywhere else was colourful, sunny and hot

Of course I will buy the DVD. I will not watch it as often as Casino Royal though.

Second Life ends couple's first marriage


This the title of a small paragraph at the Malta Times that I was reading yesterday on the plane as I was coming back from my trip to Malta.
The story was incomprehensible but unfortunately true. A 28-year old is to divorce her 40-yer old husband whom she met in the game Second Life and their avatars fell in love. Soon after this virtual affair she decided to move in with him in his house in Cornwall, UK and they are living together since May 2003.
Recently she discovered that her husband's avatar had an online affair with a Second Life prostitute (again, the affair was between the avatars) after finding them (the avatars) in compromising position
The woman is devastated and said she experienced the worse possible betrayal.=!!! (her avatar, she meant undoubtably)
Now, where do I begin to comment on this? On the tragedy of the modern self that is so alone that the virtual self is gaining ground? on the fact that Second Life has made its creator, Linden inc a billion dollar company as people not only fall in love but also spend small fortunes - in Linden dollars that can be bought by US dollars (or euros or pesos or...) - to buy house, go to school, or buy the services of a prostitute...actually buy the services of a prostitute avatar!
Help!

Thursday, 13 November 2008

A trully unique experience


On Sunday November 9th, the 26th Athens Marathon was help and with it the parallel races of 5K and 10K. Although I would have loved to have already build the stamina to run the original 42,195m distance, I have not so I decided to run the 10K. The timing was just over one hour, which was good considering the little time I have been training (a couple of months)
The day was fantastic. The experience actually started the previous day when Alex (my friend and running partner) and I went to collect our number and other memorabilia from Zapeion.

Beautiful. I am ashamed to admit that crossing the national gardens from the Parliament to Zapeion was the first time I entered these lovely gardens!! Better late than never.


Sat night was pasta and vitamines day, early night and in the morning huge breakfast with lots of vitamins and off we went.
The day was lovely, warm for November, but not too hot. The Panathinaikon Stadium (Kallimarmaro) stood there all decorated with baloons and sponsors logo, with thousands of people flooding it. Everybody was in a good mood and everyone was just expressing their joy for being there. Thousands of people smiling, of all ages and walks of life came together to run. What a lovely idea! At nine thirty the gun goes off. So do we. The route of the 10K race was from Kallimarmaro all the way to Katehaki bridge (5klm uphill) and then return (5klm downhill).

The uphill part was difficult. But once we turned, then the knowledge that there is only downhill now, gave a huge boost and wings. Unfortunately just before we turned we saw the ambulance carrying the unfortunate runner who died from heart failure. He must have placed enormous strain in his heart as he finished the uphill 5klm in less than 30 min and then collapsed. A bit like Phidipides...
The 5km downhill was now a piece of cake. However, the body did not seem to agree. Twice I had to stop for a few seconds due to acute pains in some areas in the middle body. After the sixth kilometre, feet and lower legs are now almost not felt. New and old blisters start making their presense felt from inside the shoe. Bummer. But not too big of a deal. Blister pain is not that strong. Soon it is completely forgotten.
At a fraction of the time it took to get to Katehaki, it took us to get back to Kallimarmaro.
Alex could run much faster than me (I am jealous of course), but he was sweet enough to wait for me and we finished together.
We had our picture taken at the finishing line and with our commemorative medals.

The organization of the event was superb. I was given a free siatsu massage from a very skilled lady after at the special beds that were provided by the organizing committee.

Soon after my massaged ended, we saw the first runners - all Kenyans - enter. I had not seen the first runner to enter the stadium, I heard the crowd cheer. Just as I was getting out (after my siatsu massage), I saw the second Kenyan, a very slim guy with unrealistic thin lower legs to enter the stadium. It was Paul Lekuraa, a Kenyan from the Masai Mara, who fought fatigue and sprint the last 500 meters as if he was just starting the race. He won.

He made a game record at 2hours12min. He is 36 years old, this is his second marathon ever, he only arrived in Athens the day before due to visa problems, and he made a new record in one of the world's toughest marathon routes!! Chapeau!
Then there was the Japanese lady, Mai Tagami, then the Greek guy and so on. All of them in my eyes looked as if they were sprinting. After 42klm, they could sprint!!!! The feeling of finishing the 10k at the fastest possible time the feet can run and the lungs can pump oxygen and only half an hour later, the first marathon runners to finish show up at stamina, strength and speed that I have never had is honnestly the best motivator to keep pushing yourself.

The start

The finish

Marathon runners - and ultra runners (for them I shall devote a separate posting) - prove one thing: there is no such thing as a human limit.





PS1: Race details at http://www.athensclassicmarathon.gr

PS2: Of course there are those who are just there for the fun of it:



PS3: We reached a record number of regisrration for 10000 runners for all races. This is quite an achievement considering that Greeks don't run. In respective events in northern countries, say Holland for instance, the average number of registrations is 20-30K

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Why W stayed in the White House 2 terms.

W is not stupid. He addresses people that are. Miss South Carolina won the teen Miss USA title believe it or not...



W being the President and all, is doing much better in difficult questions:



Ahhh.....how can ever Obama live up to W.'s legacy???

Oldie but goodie

With all his shortcomings, W. was an incredibly bottomless source of hilarious mistakes.
Enjoy

Friday, 7 November 2008

Athens classical marathon


There is no marathon route more famous than the original marathon distance that Phidippides run in 490BC to spread the victorious news and then collapsed and died. Back then, no aerosoles, no water stations on the way, so probably the poor guy was sunstroke as it was hot in Athens back then as well :-)
Well, this Sunday, two and a half millenia after Phidippides historic run, the 26th Athens Marathon will take place. Many world reknown runners are expected to show up with Kenyans traditionally winning the race. I doubt if his highness, Gerbelassie, will come as he has just a month or so ago set a 2hours 4min new world record at the Berlin Marathon. The Athens marathon is not a fast one, as it is one of the hardest distances, not so much due to the heat, November is not a hot month, but due to its hilly route. I believe it is with the San Francisco marathon among the hardests in the world. Yet, it is the one that with the Berlin, Boston and New York receive the majority of world attention. Not every runner reaches the end line at Kallimarmaro, and not every runner cares to finish within a particular time. The feeling of achievement after completing a 42klm race must be wonderful. A feeling that I desperately want to experience at least once in my life. At 30, 50 or 80, it does not matter, marathon runners will always run.
This time I shall go for the 10k - there is a parallel race. 42klm seems too high a stake at this moment - remember there has only been 2 months that I quit smoking, still need to build lung stamina. However, it is not only the lungs that will suffer; the legs, especially the knee joints, the lower legs and the feet/ankles are seriously abused while running 42K. Yet, like everything in life, it takes practice and determination. Yiannis Kouros, one of the greatest ultra runners in the world (they run the marathon distance for breakfast) claims that running is predominantly a mental sport. I tend to agree.
Hope to see a lot of people running in the streets of Athens on Sunday.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Martin's dream is becoming awaken consciousness

Obama's historic victory makes me wanna move my dancing feet


All over the US the last weeks there was a 89-character text that spread faster than the actual news. It read "Rosa sat so Martin could walk. Martin walked so Barack could run. Barack is running so our children can fly". History was made. Differently than before. Historians, political scientists, pshychologists, sociologists, philosophers, anthropologists will have a great topic for a paper, a book or even a dissertation. An African-American (half white though) is President of the USA. African Americans felt for once that the sun shone at them. So did the Spaniards and every minority that can make the US this wonderful melting pot that it can be.
Personally I am extremely happy that Obama won. I feel he can much better address US domestic economic woes and put some order in the US's insane imperialistic international policy. Whether he will actually succeed in addressing the state of crisis that the US finds itself in - and the rest of the world - remains to be seen. The good news is that he will be playing at home - in whichever country he might be. Obama will be welcome everywhere - or at least almost everywhere
But last night a history much more important than the future of US politics was made, or the feeling of justice that spread like the 89-character text among African Americans - most of whom burst into tears of joy and exhilaration.

Last night, the values of democracy won. This election had a historic outcome. For the first time a President with African American origin. For the first time a President that is supported by the world. For the first time a US President supported by Africans, African Americans, Caucasians, WASPs, educated, uneducated, Spaniards, muslims, Greeks, environmentalists, foreign PMs, the list is long. Not supported by Texans perhaps, but that has proved not to be a big issue, not this time. The US in a night turned from a nation of fear to a nation of hope. Yet, the most important victory is that of participation in state affairs. For the first time since perhaps the early 20th century the majority of Americans cared and actually voted. Obama cashed on US citizens' hope for real change. Whether it was out of dissatisfaction and the depression in America caused by the dominance of neo-liberalism in Washington and of course its failed promise, or whether it was hope as the dawn of a new era will bring is at this moment irrelevant. What is important is that the percentage of people who actually read the papers, watched the debades, thought about the future of their country, believed their opinion counted and went actually to vote, it was the largest victory. Estimations of voter percentage comes close to 70%! Traditional percentage of voter population was 40%. That was in itself a phenomenal historical event. And the majority is almost always right. This is what democracy is all about!
Obama's sweet victory reminds me of Bob Marley's song: 'The sun is shining, the weather is sweet, makes you wanna move your dancing feet. To the rescue...here I come'

Friday, 31 October 2008

Buenos Aires: The necropolis of Ricoletta

Casa Rosa (the pink house - BA's city hall)




Without any doubt in my mind, the best trip I have ever been part of was in Buenos Aires in March 07. The entire family plus about 10 friends from Athens and Salonika went for Manos' wedding. It was my first encounter with Latin America which I can tell you that immediately climbed on top of my favorite destinations. Now I am dreaming of going back to Argentina, doing BA again, as well as Patagonia, gaucho land and some road trips. But I also want to go to Peru, Brasil, Venezuela, Chile, Mexico, you get the idea.
The ten days I have spent in Buenos Aires were the most memorable of my life. Very emotional as well. I kept crying throughout Manos' civil wedding and dancing at the reception of the religious one. In Argentina people get married twice, to the same person usually the same week. Not a bad habbit. Two parties :-)
There are several things that are different in Latin America. Different in a better way than we do it here. The most important thing that i liked the most, people are friendlier. They have a better mood, they love to dance, and they have a much more relaxed attitude than the rest of the world, at least the world that I have been to
Another thing that stroke me as extremely unusual was the fact that in the heart of the city, where Kolonaki would be in Athens, lies the Necropolis of Ricoletta. Necropolis, as the name implies from Greek, is the city of the dead. The Dead are extremely important in Catholic religion, but I think in LATAM they place more emphasis than, say in France, a catholic overall country. The Dead are so important in the religion, that there is early November the day of the Dead, a bank holiday, where people parade with lit candles in memory of loved ones who are now gone
Yet, never would I have imagined, that a cemetary, or cemetaries, would be so celebrated.

Necropolis of Ricoletta

The Necropolis of Ricoletta, is a famous cemetary where a family grave would cost more than a 5-room house in an upscale residential area!!! In the Necropolis Evita is burried, but Peron himself, was burried in a cheaper cemetary!!!

Evita Peron's grave (family name Duarte)


Argentinians consider Evita as their national heroine, they still love her and miss her and her grave is still full of flowers. Fresh flowers delivered every day by her people. There are tourist tours conducted in Ricoletta. My hotel was facing the necropolis and was considered one of the most priviledged spots in the city. In a way it is strange. In another way, it makes people suffer less for the ones that are gone. It somehow keeps them part of our lives.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Family moments

Most week nights after work, stroll in the park, and the exercise regime, I am dreaming of the sofa for reading or watching a movie. Friday night, which is the most important cocooning night - you see the fatigue load of the entire week is released - some other guys had the same idea...
This is what I saw once I was out of my shower, into my PJs and with my book in the hand. We ended up watching a movie. Impossible to read a book with Klelia licking my hand all the time.

Impossible is nothing!


I have very often quoted Adidas' slogan. I find it extremely powerful. Watching Gerbelassie break another world record a month ago in Berlin - in marathon this time - does turn this slogan into a mantra. More so four years ago when the Greek national team won the Euro. In that sense, impossible is nothing.
The same would be true on its negative - or mirror -image. It is not impossible to lose when a team is winning 3-0!!! Milan lost to Liverpool a few years ago in the CL final in Istanbul. But this is because Liverpool played an amazing second half. Not because, like AEK yesterday, they decided that the football matches should last 45minutes and not 90!!
Yesterday, I did not watch the game between Thrasyvoulos and AEK. After having watched the Barca game the previous night where they were winning 5-0 at the 30th minute playing artistic football, I did not want to have a bitter aftertaste so I did not watch any superleague game. Instead, during the game yesterday I did my daily jogging routine - on the treadmill this time, watching 'le diner des cons' a superb movie on which I shall elaborate on a later posting.
This season I have only been in the pitch once. Just one time. I don't even have my season ticket. I gave it to my brother to take any friends along that wished to go and watch what is left of a once great team. Olympiakos lost, but at least they were playing with Aris, not Thrasy-who????. Panathinaikos got a draw at last moment. It is not, unfortunately so, that the smaller greek teams got better and the league more competitive. It is that the bigger teams are becoming smaller and smaller.
After 2004 Greek football is becoming worse. How is that possible???

Entre les Murs


In 'Entre les Murs' (between the walls), François Bégaudeau, a French highschool teacher plays himself in a movie based on a book that he wrote about a year of teaching a racially mixed class of 14-year olds in a rough neibhborhood of northern Paris. The students can be clever, lazy, abnoxious, hopeful, in short entertaining. But they can be tiring if a job is not paid well, student attitude can be demotivating, and parents don't usually work with the teachers as their life priorities stem from a completely different set of values.
Begaudeau is not trying to provide a formula to fix France's social problems of its economically challenged class. Instead, he is attempting - with great success I would say - to portray modern Paris which is a bit further away from La Seine, Champs Elysee, La Tour Eiffel, les bistrots dans le Marais, les philosophes du Sorbonne et les coquilles St. Jacques, but still want to be close to Galleries Lafayette...
Besides the focus on Paris' racial, hence cultural, richness, there is a lot of emphasis placed between the relationships of the teacher and his students and the students themselves. Whoever has been a teenager (and can remember that:-) or has a teenage child will definitely find a lot of familiarities with that. What however I find beautiful in this movie is the way that the teacher/author/protagonists mix and matches street French with subjonctif du passe...Superb mastery of the so demanding French language is required and undoubtably Begaudeau has it
The film received le Palm d'Or at Cannes Film Festival. Besides François Bégaudeau who plays himself, so do the students..Everyone in this movie is a real figure. A most interesting project and a must see film

DVD review

Michael Clayton

A great movie, disclosing the lunacy required to keep a cool facade in the board room. A superb cast performing under the direction of a great master. George Clooney is portraying the role of the laywer with broken dreams turned fixer superbly and Tilda Swinton proves once again what a great actress she is (I first saw her in the Beach and she is the main reason why I finished watching that movie). After Syrianna, Clooney is involved in a project that brings to the surface some of our deepest nightmares regarding the society around us. Things we fear but try to avoid believing they are true. In Syriana, US conglomerates were responsible for keeping an entire nation under a siege of an uncompetent rich man, killing the only hope. In Michael Clayton, an american legal firm - in our nightmares second in command in evilness after oil companies - wants to hush a carcinegous practice of a manufacturing company by killing the lawyers that are fighting to get the truth out.
I must say that I have developed a strong respect for George Clooney as an actor, director, and generally as a thinker for choosing to participate in meaningful projects. In many ways his work reminds me of Robert Redfort in charisma, talent and anticomformity.

In the valley of Elah

Tommy Lee Jones, in my mind one of the best actors ever, stars in this tragic movie about a war veteran who has already lost his eldest son in the airforce and his youngest son gone missing after return from Iraq. Jones belongs to this school of actors where they tell the most with their face without talking. A most powerful performing technique without the noise. The absurdity of war and its dreadful consequences are portrayed magnificently. Jones' son was perished because war veterans come home and are expected to function in our society as they were before the war. But wars kill far away from the warzone and this poor soldier was killed by his mates, the very people that would die for him, and him for them, at the war front. Men are deprived from their humanity and operate by insticts. Unfortunately the war front has turned human survival insticts to paranoia, hence the death of Jones second son. A story that was not underlined as much as it should have been is the relationship of the soldiers' parents. Susan Saranton, the mother, kisses her husdband when he drops her off at the airport after seen the remains of her dead, burned and chopped son. This kiss alone for me is formidable. Any mother would loathe her husband; why is he still alive? her sons are dead. Both of them. Following his tracks. But she kissed him goodbye. Relationships like that are extremely rare. A very sad movie with a powerful anti-war message. Tommy Lee Jones is superb. The entire cast is. The predominant color of the movie is black. It sets the stage appropriately. The valley of Elah was where David beat Goliath. Still not sure who is David here though

Friday, 24 October 2008

Beach autumn



Greece is great most times of the year because of many reasons, but the top two for me is that you can go to the beach almost throughout the year and you can almost always find at least one friend who can come along - or who is already there and drags you along.
Monday last, I left work earlish and went to Erotospilia beach, near Porto Rafti. A bit too cold for me to swim - it seemed, but there were a few people swimming and they were not cold. The sea looked lovely. The problem with Erotospilia is that the sun sets behind some rocks and it gets shadowy early. Yet, the dogs loved it. I took both Zizou and Klelia with me. When Zizou understood we were at the sea he went wild, extremely happy running around like a mad dog and stopped only when his breathing got into trouble. Klelia, on the other hand, who had never before seen the sea, opened her eyes completely wide, smelled everything, curious, hypnotized by the new smells and the big blue, and like Zizou the first time, started barking at the waves. She was too scared to go in, but they both enjoyed the beach.
So, only 30min away from home, end of october, the sea is as inviting as ever, if no more, as there were only 6-7 people there and 5 of them were taking diving lessons. That was probably the highest point I had all week if not month. Having one of the largest coastlines in the world is something we should take advantage of. I strongly recommend it.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Justice not for all




In 1994, I was living in San Francisco, going through my first MBA year. I loved the city and the liberty and openess of its residence and appreciated a city with crime rate close to zero. Also with some of the country's top universities nearby, no wonder the intellect in San Francisco is above US average and most people I talked to knew about the then ongoing Balcan war and who Milosevic was. Needless to say that the propaganda against the Serbs was extravagant, long before any war crimes were even mentioned. The jury - that is the press - has condemned the Serbs. I think back then the main reason is that they were supported by the Russians as atrocities were taking place from both sides.
Just at the same time as the Kosovo war - in my opinion the closer we ever got to WWIII - was in its peak, all the 50 TV channels have stopped showing their normal program to broadcast a car chase. Not a hollywood car chase, a real one, but with hollywood flair. OJ Simpson who was accused of murdering his wife Nicole and her lover in their flat fled and a car chase begun that ended up being more famous than Steve McQuinn's in Bullitt. The weeks/months that followed Simpson's case was frontline on newspapers and great money earner for TV stations as it monopolized the news. Jay Leno would frequently start his show with jokes about Simpson's innosence. Credits for these of course were given to Simpson's top laywer team rather than in reality and the american juridicial system. The people's jury though - that is the press again - even though talked a lot about the evidence that was so much against him, focused a lot on racial issues. That simply sold more. Racial discrimination? Please. If anyone suffered discimination back then, it was Nichole for being blonde!

Now, thirteen years later, Simpson is back in court. Guilty this time he was found, on all counts of robbery and kidnapping that could put him to jail for life. Yet, another team of brilliant lawyers are now taking their shot at spotlight fame trying to get the trial annuled based on juridicial mechanics. A little bit like the first time. Circumstantial insufficient evidence, jury's misconduct, etc. Of course there is one element missing since the first time: Nicole Simpson was a blond white model and OJ was black. Too sensitive issue to put in jail for life a black football hero for killing a white girl. Now, there is no racial issue. But everybody is thinking that he should have been guitly the first time. I would really love to hear the new jokes about Simpson.
He will probably be announced innoscent again. What does this mean? That anyone who has fame and a lot of money can kill/rob/kidnap? Or should we not mention past crimes? Or are we to believe that it is possible that he did not kill Nichole? I think it is more likely to believe that he suffers from acute OCD uncontrollable at times. It is convenient for him that he is rich enough to afford the best laywer team. I think the court should impose on him psychiatrical treatment; the best, obviously he can afford it.

Milosevic was killed in his cell. I would bet anything that Simpson will never in his life see a cell from the inside. Sadam's killing was televised. And some other war criminals - mainly americans - will never pass trial. Although the severity of war crimes is googol times greater than killing one person, the judicial system should be fair to all trials. Once again it is proven that it is not. Of course we have to wait and see what the final decision for OJ will be. I bet $10 he will be freed. I also bet $100 that W will never stand trial.

PS: Not many people outside San Francisco, New York and other mega-urban US centers have ever heard of Milosevic, Yugoslavia, Kosovo, Serbs and Croats. They have all watched OJ's car chase back in '94. Majority of them voted for W.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Thievery Corporation

I had no idea who these guys were. Nor did I care much to find out, except that too many people I know to ignore the fact, were too excited and were organizing to go to their Saturday night concert at Theatro Vrahon. So when my friend Mike - friends since primary school!!! - called to ask me if I would like Ioanna, another childhood friend!! - to get a ticket for me I immediately said yes. So, five childhood friends - a bit older now - set off. Everybody knows the songs, the lyrics, the band, except myself. Stefanos who came along, had a CD with him so we played on the way. Nice, lounge music, a bit of reggae-ish, some funk, the type of music I would expect to listen on a beach bar and did not believe that it would be appropriate for a concert.
When we arrived, the place was packed. Actually the venue was the worst part of the concert. No toilets, and only one exit, and no parking nor metro nearby made it a bit hard to get there and even harder to leave.
But the concert was very good. Not sure how many people were there, but the theater was packed and everybody was jumping and singing along. Thievery corporation are a big band. They have five or six musicians that are constantly on stage and then the singers change in every song. The group is Washington-DC based but there are band members from Jamaica, Brasil, Argentina, Africa, and of course other american states.
Singers sang in their native language their country's songs (probably a bit alternated though to fit the Thievery sound)
What was cool, was that the group themselves were too glad to be in Athens. Apparently their first two international gigs ever - that is outside the US - where in Athens and in Salonica a few years back, so they got very emotional and the crowd with them
The highlight of the concert I think was that there was a technical problem right when a belly dancer was performing on a oriental tune. The sound went dead, but she kept on dancing and the crowd kept on cheering for her.
Also, when the lead singer (a rastaman from Washington DC) dedicated a song to the bankers in the US
And at the end when the people in the crowd from the first rows (girls mostly) got onstage and were dancing and singing along.
Despite the horror of trying to find a toilet and being stuck before the exit for half an hour, it was a very good night. I don't think I will ever be a huge fan of Thievery Corporation, but I wouldn't mind getting their album as it is great chilling music with influences from across the globe.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Vicky Cristina Barcelona




My mum who is having guests over the last few days, called me yesterday and asked my opinion on which movie should should go and see with her friend. Her only requirement was that it should be a good movie and not something stupid. I have not taken any time lately, I am ashamed to say, to check the movies, so I quickly entered the internet and checked this week's movies. When I saw Woody Allen's movie released, I looked no further. I was sure it would be good and not stupid. Plus, it was shown in the theater really close to her house. So I advised her. And I also asked her to buy a third ticket for me so I could join them - I think the last time I went to see a movie with my mum was...ET. That alone was a huge reason for her to decide to go.
So, so far, the experience is great. The critics said that it was his best comedy ever. The viewers at Athinorama gave it 4.5stars. High expectations set. I also need to tell you that I absolutely worship Woody. I think he is a genius. The story is about two young American girls, Vicky and Cristina, who are best friends and are finding themselves in Barcelona for the summer as Vicky is finishing her masters in Catalan culture and Cristina is...well looking to find herself and I guess happiness. (Aren't we all??) Vicky's life is certain to include Hampton summer house weekends, and for Christina anything is possible. They are both very beautiful but completely different. So it seems. Javier Bardem is a very attractive painter that asks them -without knowing them - to go for a weekend away. Of course soon to be married and structured Vicky rebels but Cristina manages to convince her to go. I need not say more because the story starts getting interesting, and it gets even more so, when Maria-Elena, Bardem's film ex-wife shows up. Penelope Cruz is absolutely amazing in Maria-Elena's role. The entire cast is, but Penelope is worth at least an Oscar nomination for her role. The comedy is not in what is happening, although that is funny too. But it is of course in the script. Vicky calls Christna (Scarlett Johanson) neurotic, but she is really the calmest character. In Cristina's thinking and way of talking, one can easily recognize a New Yorker as seen by Woody. Vicky and Cristina could be the same person in all of us, one is structured, the other displaces any iota of responsibility for a moment of passion. But..don't we all sometimes, even the most structured of us? And if it comes in our life, can we handle it? Even Maria Elena needs a break.
Also, besides the acting, the directing, the script, the other element that makes this movie absolutely worth seeing it is the photography and the scenery. Beautiful.
OK, I should not have imagined that I might have liked a Woody movie better than his Manhattan stories or his Annie Hall, I didn't, but this one was one of his best. I will also give it 4.5 out of 5 stars. And I wish Cruz will get her Oscar. It should - for once - go to a comedy role and this one is billingual!! Not to mention she is absolutely gorgeous

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Put that ciggie out

Glenn, a friend from Cisco USA, has quit smoking. He is coming next week to Athens, he read on my blog that I quit (he is reading my blog daily but never leaves a message :-(
AND HE DECIDED TO QUIT!!!
So we had a deal for him to have quit by the time he comes over. Another incentive for me to keep going despite my occasional cravings (occasional but very strong) so that I can be a good role model for Glenn.
Thanks Glenn for making me feel slightly important in this world.

:-))))

Palin had a bad week.


One of my favorite persons in the world, Brigitte Bardot, she wrote Palin a letter wishing that she loses the election since, as she put it, the world would win! Good for BB. Great looks can go with high intellect, she can prove that.

"I hope you lose these elections because that would be a victory for the world," her exact words were. "By denying the responsibility of man in global warming, by advocating gun rights and making statements that are disconcertingly stupid, you are a disgrace to women and you alone represent a terrible threat, a true environmental catastrophe," wrote Bardot.
The main reason for why the 60s screen icon attacked Palin is her support of Arctic oil exploration that could jeopardize delicate animal habitats and for dismissing measures to protect polar bears.
"This shows your total lack of responsibility, your inability to protect or simply respect animal life," Bardot wrote. In a final salvo against Palin, the 74-year-old ex-star picked up on Palin's depiction of herself as a pitbull wearing lipstick and said she "implored" her not to compare herself to dogs.
"I know them well and I can assure you that no pitbull, no dog, nor any other animal for that matter is as dangerous as you are," Bardot wrote.
...And paraphrasing Madonna..."GIVE IT TO HER. YEAH!!!'

Speaking of Madge, she also asked in her Madisson square garden concert to 'kick f((*&ng Palin out of her show as she freaks her out'. Luvly.

She also compared McCain to Hitler on Get Stupid, but she did that in all her shows. And what an amazing song it is.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Following a fitness tip can be most fun


Yesterday on my blog, the fitness tip of the day said: 'Engage in physical activity with friends'. So I did. Yesterday, a group of four, Ioanna, Vicky, Stamatia and myself, got enrolled in a health club in our hometown and had our first group tennis lesson. The coach was very good and patient and even though the first lesson was mainly consumed on learning how to hold the racket, we had so much fun. Being friends with these girls since we were 10 or 11, it is fantastic that we find ways to continue to have fun and keep fit. I can tell you that if you can do something with friends, don't hesitate.
Of course I do more exercise the other days of the week, but learning how to play tennis with my best friends is so much more enjoyable.
Just do it :-)

Pugs are the superior creatures in any planet

Don't you wish you were hot like Frankie (the Pug)???
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Pugs talk!

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