Thursday, June 30, 2005

The Spanish Say Yes to Gay Marriage

Spain has now become the fourth country to legalize gay marriage, after the Netherlands, Belgium, and Canada. This is very encouraging news, and I hope the legalization of gay marriage continues throughout the globe in the months to come.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Milate Ellinika?

First, a confession. I've been here in Greece for almost 3 years. I still can't speak Greek. I can translate some Greek (ie. I can watch a movie or TV show and only read Greek subtitles and get a lot of it) but when it comes to understanding what people say in Greek, well, I really, REALLY suck at it (although admittedly there are some Americans I can't understand as well). Part of the problem comes from the fact that I have lived in three different "regions" in Greece since I moved here. People in Kos didn't speak quite the same dialect as people did in Athens and people here in the northern region speak a slightly different dialect than the others. Plus, Greeks speak fast. Now they will say that English speakers speak fast, and we do, to some extent, but when I try to listen to Greeks, I can tell how fast they are speaking from some of the words I can make out, and they speak really fucking fast.

In reverse, my grammar in Greek is terrible, so even if I try to speak myself, I get the gender, number, tense all screwed up. Hell, I can't even pronounce my husband's name correctly! Not to mention the fact that I am pretty shy to start with (even when it comes to speaking English), so it has been harder for me to learn to communicate properly in Greek.

Anyway, one of the guys that owns the supermarket across the street from us lived in America for awhile and speaks quite fluent English. So he always speaks to me in English. Today, when I finished my shopping, he blindsided me with a question in Greek. I didn't expect it, so he had to repeat it. I knew what he said, or the gist of it, but the fucker was testing me! This is something my mother-in-law does all the time, but I expect her to test me. Still, I think he was surprised I understood him, and even answered correctly in Greek (well, it WAS a yes or no question). Still, are Greeks trying to thwart my plan, of learning perfect Greek and pretending not to understand, just so I can spy on them and they think I don't know what they are saying? Sheesh!

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Seriously folks

How could the French have voted "Non" to the Euroconstitution when the campaign produced pictures of this guy:

Pietr the Plumber

Time for me to visit Poland!

In this week's Time there were a plethora of letters regarding the French vote, some disagreeing with them, some saying good for them for having a voice, etc. Now, I am the last person to say "lets not give anyone a voice", and this is what the French decided, wrong or right, noone really knows. Sure, it has thrown the EU into a type of "chicken with its head cut off" syndrome, and in the end no one cared abou the Dutch vote. One of the letters, written by a Frenchman, struck me.

"I've never been so ashamed of being French. Now I know how intelligent, worldly Americans felt when Bush was re-elected."

Ahhh, thank you for that! I was beginning to think no Europeans actually considered the fact that not ALL of us voted for Bush.

But see, thats the thing, this is what happens when you give everyone a voice. Not all of us agree, and some of us are quite upset about the result. Still, in the end, I'd rather have a voice to regret than none at all.

Piglet too?

It seems that the man who was the voice of beloved (but sometimes annoying) Piglet has died as well. John Fielder, 80, passed away June 25th of cancer. Fortunately, the Pooh characters will always live in the hearts and minds of children everywhere.

The Dry Spell Has Been Broken

Well, after 19 days of no rain, a quiet thunderstorm rolled through our village around 4:15 a.m. this morning (yes, I was still awake). And I am sure you are thinking that quiet + thunderstorm is some kind of oxymoron, but it was so soft and gentle, it was as if Zeus himself was trying to blanket the town with a light sheath of rain, enough to keep plant life fertile, but not loud enough to disrupt the hundreds of sleeping denizens of the village. The lightning was close, the thunder should have been loud, but it wasn't. I tell you, the longer I live here, the more I think the ancient 12 do indeed keep watch over Mt. Olympus and its inhabitants.


Ok, it is officially hot* here. Sure, I realize that is hot pretty much everywhere now (well, except the southern half of the globe), although I am sure it is still somewhat temperate in the more northern regions of the world (lets not even talk about the arctic). Obviously, it is still cold on top of Mt. Olympus, because there are still some patches of snow, although they are shrinking daily. I like being cool, but don't misunderstand me, I don't like being cold. I love, love, LOVE air conditioning, ahhh, the artificial cool air in a darkened room when the sun is shining bright on the side of the building. It is a really good cure for migraines, that cool, dark room - and retreating to a cool, dark room is a term I call mushrooming, which I believe is a term invented by the Goddess, a good friend of mine who shall remain nameless (I have shamelessly stolen the usage of nicknames for friends and relatives from Aunt. B of Tiny Cat Pants). Anyway, I like mushrooming from time to time, especially in the summer, because we have one air conditioner in this apartment, and it happens to be in the bedroom.

Now, I wouldn't say Greece is a country with few air conditioners, because I see plenty, but if you rent an apartment, it will almost never have an air conditioner(not to mention you must provide your own stove and fridge). Forget about central air, because it seems that it doesn't really exist here, at least not in the way we know in America. Nor do they have window unit air conditioners, mainly because windows, in and of themselves, are not really common here. Most apartments seem to be built with glass doors that open onto balconies, sometimes in lieu of windows, sometimes you get a small window in a kitchen or bathroom. And I don't mean those cheap ass sliding glass doors that they have in America - these are strong, sturdy, opening and closing doors, which become very inconvenient in the spring and fall because when you want to open up, you have a big door poking out in the middle of the room.

Unfortunately, one thing Greece seems to be lacking is a screen door/window revolution. I don't know about you, but where I come from, you simply don't just open your door, to let all manner of bugs and other animals run inside your house (we actually had a neighborhood cat run in briefly when we first moved here). Whenever we visit the in-laws, we are beseiged by mosquitoes looking for their nightly fix, and always end up with numerous bites by the time we leave. This is not acceptable. Sure, we have three cats, one of whom is quite skilled in bug hunting and torture. But I don't want bugs flying around my house if I can help it, and just having doors open is practically an invitation. So I am quite happy when it becomes air conditioning season, and we can close everything up tight.

Well, as I said before, we only have the one air conditioner, and we bought it specifically because it is a kind that doesn't need to be installed, since we knew we were going to be moving ten million times and didn't want to end up outfitting numerous Greek apartments with free air conditioners. Alas, the layout of this apartment makes it almost impossible for the single air conditioner to cool the living room, even though it is of sufficient BTUs to do so. So we get hot, especially with two adults sitting side by side with three computers running. So I complain, and my husbands complain (yes, yes, my ONE husband COMPLAINS, sure I made a typo, sue me!), and the cats complain (see picture of what cats do when it is hot, ok, so this is what cats do all the time, but still).

When we move to Thessaloniki, we are installing a separate air conditioner in the living room, because the apartment belongs to my husband's family, and we don't mind outfitting it with free air conditioning. I can't wait.

*Note that my definition of hot means temperatures upwards of 85°

Tigger Lost His Voice

Ah, sad news. I just read that the person behind the voice of Tigger, my favorite character in Winnie the Pooh, passed away on Friday. Paul Winchell was 82 years old, and had quite a fine career in ventriloquism. A lugubrious day for Tiggers everywhere, indeed.

Monday, June 27, 2005

The Greek Diet

Of course one of the major changes I experienced upon coming to Greece was the different diet. Greeks like some weird foods, and remember, I am a Southern girl brought up on cornbread and barbecue (neither of which is to be found here, unless I endeavor to make it myself, uh, yea, right, I'll get right on that!). Ok, maybe I wasn't brought up on that, but those are two foods I miss. You can't even get cornmeal here with which to make cornbread! Other things I miss - Subway, Dr. Pepper/Mr. Pibb, Root Beer, Krispy Kreme and Mexican food. Nashville had a few fine Mexican restaurants, including Las Palmas, SATCO, and a few others (unfortunately, the names have escaped me now). There appear to be no Mexicans in Greece, at least no Mexicans who have decided to open a restaurant.

Add to all this the fact that I am a real picky eater who doesn't like to try new things (yea, I puked alot as a child), and my immersion into the Greek dietary world was not exactly a smooth one. Things I like - spanakopita, tiropita, prasopita (but only if they are done a certain way and not overly salty); meatballs (keftadakia); chicken souvlaki; and of course, gyros (but again, only if they are done a certain way). I have broken my pact not to try new things, and therefore have tried a variety of things (some of which I wish I hadn't).

There are a motley variety of meat choices in Greece. Here on the mountain, just about any kind of meat can obtained in one way or another. Apparently mountains are meat rich areas. I draw a few lines when it comes to what kind of meat I will try, but I ate goat once without realizing it was goat at first (hell, it looked like pork!). Ok, you know, I understand goat milk, maybe goat skins, but really, why eat the meat? It was stringy and pithy (and as far as I'm concerned, meat should NEVER be pithy) and I am sure that wasn't the result of the cook, because my mother-in-law is a spectacular cook.

I'll tell you a story about goat. When we lived on Kos, there was this sweet old couple who lived up on the main road. They were very friendly, always giving us vegetables from their garden, inviting us for coffee, etc. One day they obtained a baby goat. It was the cutest little thing, running through its small pasture and making its little goat boy noises. They fed it every day, til it grew big and strong. Then one day, right after Easter, I realized I didn't see or hear goat boy anymore. The nice, friendly old couple had turned into evil goat slaughtering demons! My husband still swears he heard goat boy noises days after Easter, but I know it isn't true. Goat boy was sacrificed for Easter dinner. Poor little goat boy.

Of course you have chicken and turkey here, but you have the added convenience of obtaining rooster, complete with its toes still attached! I am not really quite sure what started this movement of rooster eating, I mean, its not like I think I need more kinds of fowl in my diet. And why do we need to see its feet?

I don't like seafood, so I don't pay much attention to the seafood choices, which are many. One can't help but noticing that octopus is a staple of the Greek diet. Not gonna try it, don't even wanna be near it.

Greeks have this amazing ability to call condiments salads. Yes, we all love condiments, they are great, but they are NOT salads. Tzatziki, my favorite, is basically onion dip made with yogurt, shredded cucumber, and garlic. It makes a nice dip for fries or potato chips, or a spread on sandwiches or bread. But it is not a salad. Tirosalata, or cheese salad, is just a spread made with cheese! Again, not a salad! And there is also Hungarian salad, which is basically a mayonaissey type mixture of 1000 island with small pieces of ham mixed in it. Good for dipping or spreading, but not a salad! All of these items are CLEARLY condiments. Yet Greeks freely pile them on their plates and eat them like salad. Amazing.

For now, I manage. Not that we have very many Greek meals in this household. I am not much of a cook (of course, our oven is a tiny thing that fits on a table, so it is hardly an oven for cooking), but someday, I have promised my husband, I will try to make some of his Greek favorites. Until then, his mother does a fine job!

The Rocky Top Brigade

I have recently joined the Rocky Top Brigade, a network of weblogs written by current and former Tennesseans. I am honored to join their ranks, and have my words intertwined with those who still live in the state I miss.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Day 18 of Sunny Skies Watch

Yes, it has now been 18 days since we last had rain. Crazy, isn't it?

Strike Out

Greece appears to be the country of strikes. Granted, some strikes may be worthy, but it seems these days if a clerk breaks her fingernail in a public office, they all go on strike. Since I moved here, every facet of business has been on strike at least once, usually more. Transportation, banks, teachers, media - you name it.

Over the past couple of weeks, several sectors have gone one one or two day strikes, but the bank workers have been on strike for almost two weeks now. One of the main reasons for the recent strikes are the government's new plans for social security, along with doing away with "permanent" positions (ie. you work for certain places, your job is permanent, no matter how much you suck at it). Not being Greek, I haven't payed real close attention to what has been going on, and for the most part strikes just offer annoying news stories. But this time, it is getting serious. You can't do any banking at all, and ATMs are running out of cash. This time it has gone past an annoyance - and despite my liberal views, at this point I am on the verge of saying "I don't care if they fucking flog you with wet noodles every goddamn day at the bank, get your lazy asses back to work". I'm sorry, but I feel no sympathy for people who bitch about the potential to lose your job if you suck at it. Gee whiz, but isn't that the way shit is supposed to work? And it is about time the Greek government took such measures, because I am SO tired of Greek public workers who don't know shit about their jobs nor take the effort to do their jobs with any level of competency (I won't go into all my experiences, because that would be a LONG boring rant of things that STILL aren't solved after being here for three years).

I don't really know enough about economics, so I am not sure I understand why Greeks strike so much when Americans don't. Yes, Americans DO strike from time to time, but it is nothing like the frequency of strikes here.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Hell Frozen Over?

Ok, so its not a hardcore embrace of homosexuals and their lifestyle, but it appears Baptists have decided on a new, improved approach to homosexuality. This article in the Tennessean spells it out.

"Members were quick to add that they still think homosexuality is a sin but they know they shouldn't demonize gay people; that they should, instead, offer "the love, the grace, the forgiveness and the healing of God."

As long as it doesn't involve sending their teenagers to camps like the Love in Action Refuge, which has gained widespread attention due to a young man named Zach and his experiences there. The Republic of T. weblog has lots of information and updates about Zach. Gladly, the state is now investigating the goings-on of this camp, so hopefully something will come out of their investigation. I really don't see how the U.S. is going to advance as a society until we stop seeing certain "minorities" as second-class citizens. I don't intend to rant on the whole thing right now, but such backwards views really drive me crazy.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Nice usage of research grants!

Read this

Ah yes! The age old remedy! It actually cures everything, from headaches to cancer. You want to know what it is? Well, it's right there in the article (not the botox, the principle) and it's perhaps best phrased in a greek folk proverb: "Head hurt, cut head". Yep! You have a headache? Transform your head into an immobile facade and you may have a 35% reduction in headache frequency!

I am not against research, even trivial-looking, seemingly unnecessary research. And we should do whatever we can to battle headaches. But somehow I don't think this is it. We know that muscle spasms (from prolonged facial expressions, like wincing to look at a computer screen for example, or cringing in stress, anything like that) can cause headaches, even spark migraines. Is "taking out" the muscles with a toxin the solution though? Why not cut off the whole head? No more headaches!

And consider this: If this "treatment" were approved, how many people would feign headaches (it is really easy, there are very few ways to disprove a headache) and get botox cosmetic procedures courtesy of their insurance - and in the end to the detriment of all?

Money wasted, if you ask me, that research grant. But then you don't ask me =p

Runaway Bride? Next!

This story from Romania just tickles me, especially in light of the last "runaway bride" scandal in America. The bride runs away? Just go down your list of ex-girlfriends until you find one that agrees to marry you. Sounds like a plan to me!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

100 Greatest Movie Quotes of All Time

The American Film Institute, in their tradition of 100 lists, has recently released their picks of the 100 Greatest Movie Quotes of All Time. I don't agree with everything on the list, and some movies get far too many quotes, even some that I don't think are as quotable as some others. Of course, there are far more quotes from movies before 1980 than after - is that because movies just aren't quotable anymore? I think perhaps my favorite is number 54, followed closely by number 64. But there are indeed lots of good ones.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

America the Promised Land?

Well, I hear it and see it everywhere. America is the place everyone wants to escape to (except most Europeans in the EU 25). You'll have a better life there, you might even get rich, dreams are possible in America! Its the American Dream! Every day I hear that damn ad on the Israeli/Turkish advertised MTV we get here: "You too can live and work in the U.S.A.!!!!"

When my friends and I took our European trip in the summer of 2001, we were frequently accosted by those street merchants who sell faux-designer crap and other assorted items. There was one who really put the pressure on us to buy, and when we said we couldn't afford it, he replied, in his thick African accent "But you Americans! You have all the money of the world! You are all rich capitalists!" We all had to laugh. I told him "Buddy, you have a lot to learn about America and capitalism then."

I don't know if immigrants to the U.S. are just kidding themselves, or if it is simply a matter of things are so bad in their own country they have to go somewhere. At this point, I'd suggest Europe. One of the main reasons?

Because America is such a privileged country disabled Tennesseans are having to beg for health care insurance! I made a post a month ago about the healthcare plight of Americans vs. that of Europeans. Over the last two days, Tennessee Guerilla Women has been posting on the latest developments in Tennessee's health care crisis.

This is just one of the realities of life in America. You too can live and work in the U.S.A.! Apply for your green card now!

Finally Guilty

The jury in the murder trial of Edgar Ray Killen found him guilty of all three counts of manslaughter after deliberations today. Earlier, when the judge called the jury to see how they were doing, they were split 6-6, and I had to wonder how it would turn out in the end. I do not know the specific facts of Killen's guilt (unfortunately E! did not provide full reenactment coverage of this trial) aside from what the media has reported.

41 years ago three men, two white and one black, volunteered to visit Mississippi to help register blacks to vote. Unfortunately this mission lead to their brutal murder - we all know the Southern past, the vitriolic attitudes towards integrating black people into society. Ah yes, those revered southern gentlemen, who couldn't possibly expect people with a different skin color to be productive, valuable members of society! I wasn't born a southerner, but I lived in the south for a considerable portion of my life. Sadly, issues of race integration were still in play in Tennessee when I went to junior high in 1982. And I have to wonder how, in a country that was created so people could be free, you could have an entire race of people oppressed for so long. Of course, I shouldn't be naive. It hasn't been all that long, relatively speaking, that women had the right to vote and a valued place in society in America. Why should I expect things to be any different for a so-called "minority group"?

I guess what burns me up about all this is pretense. Yes, the pretense of the United States of America. Pretense that the U.S. is the mother of all, that our values, our democracy, our social system is above and beyond that of, say Iraq, to the point that we have a categorical imperative to intercede, fix them up, make them a happy democracy (I almost typed democrazy, what does THAT say?) just like us! Sure, they may not actually WANT that. But that doesn't matter, because America is better! One of us, one of us, one of us!

OK, so maybe I'm going a bit overboard here. Back to the subject at hand, we have three young men - on their way to better America and make a difference, who were struck down, viciously, without a thought, in the prime of their lives. All because some southern men didn't like black people. And those three young men lost all the years of the lives, their families lost them, their potential was removed from the world forever (who knows what more they could have done?) and people like Edgar Ray Killen have lived their lives free as birds, doing whatever they wanted, probably never giving a thought to the horrible acts they committed. Why did these men end up going free? Because the 1967 jury deadlocked 11-1, because one juror "could not convict a preacher." And we ALL know preachers are above the law, and of course they could NEVER do anything wrong. They are preachers, right?

I just think that before we start extolling all the virtues America has, we need to think about our dark past. We aren't without fault. We have made mistakes, and we will probably continue to make them. In the end I think we should all take a moment to mourn once again these three lost lives, and be grateful that justice, albeit late, has finally been served.

No Relief for Darfur

I've been keeping up with the news from Darfur rather frequently over the last year. The situation is harrowing, and it just doesn't seem like there is an end in sight. The U.N. has been trying desperately to keep up with needs for food, medicine, and clean water for the 3.5 million people who have been displaced, but they keep falling short. This editorial in the Washington Post is poignant and gets to the heart of the matter:

"Humanitarian relief is not going to solve Darfur's crisis; it's a way of keeping people alive until the genocidal policies of the Sudanese government are changed."

I don't know why, but somehow I have a sinking feeling that a year from now this situation still won't be under control. I realize that Saddam Hussein was a tyrant who terrorized his people, but I think that Darfur would have better deserved U.S. military intervention. I mean, if it is U.S. policy to "fix" all these countries that have problems, why aren't we doing more all over the world, instead of just Iraq? I guess there is no oil in Darfur.

Time Out

All weekend I had that age old feeling where you think its a different day than it actually is. Well, maybe it isn't an age old feeling, somehow I can't see Socrates going around saying "I know its Thursday, but all day long I felt like it was Wednesday". Sunday felt like Saturday and today felt like Sunday.

I assume that my time illusions, this time at least, were caused by the fact that today was a holiday in Greece. Greeks are very good about holidays, they are fairly evenly spaced throughout the year, although I do feel like there is a big gap in the summer. Of course, Greeks typically take a two week vacation (or longer) at some point in the summer, so I guess that would cover it. Today was a religious holiday associated somehow with Easter - my husband said he thought it was the Ascension, at least to Orthodox religions. I always thought the Ascension occurred very soon after Christ was resurrected (at least in Biblical history) but I am not certain of it. I could be waaay off, if there is one thing I can't produce any knowledge about, its religion.

At any rate, it was a long weekend, and long weekends are always nice because my husband and I still cherish having time together. Sure, we are basically just lazy when he is off, but it is nice being lazy together. And there is the added bonus of him making my coffee in the morning, well, afternoon, when I wake up. We rented a couple of movies, bought spanakopita from Achilles (that is the name of my favorite spanakopita/bougatsa place), and went through the fourth season of Seinfeld which we recently purchased on DVD. So yes, we were couch potatoes.

The weather can't decide if it wants to be really hot yet - it has gotten to the upper 80s a couple of times, but the weekend was pleasant. Unfortunately it has been a bit humid, moreso at night than during the day. Of course, I can't really complain about humidity, I experienced plenty of it in Nashville, after all. It seems as if most of the snow has melted from Olympus, but it was hard to tell, the clouds were obscuring the topmost peak. And of course our little village is in FULL tourist mode. Buses and people with cameras everywhere. To their credit, it is a very scenic locale, quite picture worthy. I'd heartily recommend any foreign visitor make a stop in Litochoro even before booking time on a Greek island. You can hike the mountain or sun on the beach, or both. Good food, scenic views, and friendly people. What more could you ask for?

From Russia With Love

This story has much to say about the Russian army.

They parade their female soldiers about for a beauty contest, but this year they won't let them don bikinis. How ultra modern and forward thinking of them! According to the Major-General:

"I agree with the decision that female officers should not get undressed. I'd rather keep their bodies a military secret."

What exactly does THAT imply?

Sunday, June 19, 2005

If Blue States Secede

Tennessee Guerilla Women has posted a great speech about what would happen if the blue states secede.

It was found on a progressive Yahoo group, and these people know how to say it, apparently!

Levels of Evil

There has been lots of activity in the blog world lately about words thrown around regarding Senator Dick Durbin's (D-Ill.) remarks about the treatment of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay.

"If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners."

Nashville Scene blog Pith in the Wind has highlighted some of the fallout comments from this remark, including Dick Cheney's remarks on a morning radio show and Fox News' Chris Wallace's remarks on yet another radio show.

Ah yes, lets all get sententious and holier than thou attitudes about Durbin's comparison. And in reply to Wallace's comments, I believe the concentration camps actually had toilets, so they wouldn't have had to defecate on themselves. But see, that is not the point. It is as if these people are simply weighing levels of evil, as if there is some sort of "human rights barometer" that tells us as long as we don't treat people as bad as these others did, we are ok. Unfortunately, thats not the case. America should be the beacon of human rights, of justice, of all that is good and right with the world. The treatment of the prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo shows the world just how evil Americans can be. And even if one should deem that this level of treatment isn't as bad as a gulag or a concentration camp, it is still wrong.

One of the main characters in Atlas Shrugged (ok, I know its Ayn Rand, but don't judge me on this, its a valid point here) says:

"If you violate the rights of one man, you have violated the rights of all."

I think U.S. politicians need to give some serious thought to that statement, and how it applies both to Americans and prisoners.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Birth... but of what?

Well, I take to pen and paper (or I/O gates and photons as it may be) after a long time to write - of all things - a movie review! I'm not in the habit of writing those, but we ("we" being my wife and I, my friends and I, my family and I) discuss movies all the time, as do most people I would think, so it's not that strange I suppose.

Anyway, we just watched Birth, as the title might suggest. And at this point let me note in bold script:


I cannot say I got the point. Those of you who did, pray enlighten me. Let me start with the good things about the movie! For one, it was 90 minutes in length and not the customary 120 - thank god. And for another the photography was good - partially the direction too. As Melusina pointed out, the shots were framed perfectly, use of color, contour, texture was superb.

The script was probably written on a napkin - it would certainly fit. No plot to speak of, forced, sparse dialogue here and there, stiff acting. The director persisted on long (and I mean long) close-ups mainly of Nicole Kidman, but also of the other actors. I suppose the latter were supposed to convey some tension, some flowing procession of emotions. Well, they didn't. And at the end, the bride-in-the-water-lamenting-her-lost-love-as-well-as-her-new-life-full-
of-convention, I suppose it was meant to be strong and tragic, but it made me laugh. It seemed contrived, shallow and silly. The ocean looked great though!

Ok, what about content though? Ideas? Philosophy? Here's my take: The writers tried I suppose to touch upon many subjects and come up with a mix of metaphysical thriller and social drama.

First of all, resurrection. One might argue that resurrection has been done to death (forgive the pun) and one might be right. It could have been an interesting point, except we are given no hint (and of course no clear explanation) about what's going on. The boy is and is not. It was a fluke, a possession, a transmigration, psychic disease, a little bit of everything - take your pick.

Second, pedophilia. An interesting subject (doubly so, because here it would be the rarer type - a woman and a small boy) but again, it is hardly scraped. Quite the contrary, actually, there is no exploration of the issue, no statement, no research, no soul searching. Rather, there is some glint of the writer(s)' alarming inner pedophilic urges surfacing in "staged" and awkward situations, for which - again - no explanation is given, no hint, no innuendo. As a sidenote, I don't think it's proper to put a ten year old in a bathtub together with a naked woman, so I 'm hoping this was somehow bluescreened and tailored. This could be a discussion for a different post perhaps.

Third, relationships of "Anna's" class - but also any other social class. The woman, the dead husband, the "terrible secret" (the lover), the lover's husband. Tired triangles, repeated patterns with no depth at all. Nothing.

In the end, I could go so far as to classify this as one of the worst movies I've ever seen, right up there with "Crash" (the David Cronenberg one) and a couple of others. A pity, because it looked promising. A pity, because it could have touched upon issues with more courage. A pity, because the ensemble was good - there could have been some good acting in a different movie. A pity, because the writers could have used the perfectly good napkin to wipe instead and not wasted it...

Got Milk?

My husband and I just ran to the local "big" grocery store in the village (and by big I mean Comptons on 21st avenue before it became a Harris-Teeter, which isn't really big but for this village, it is) for the Saturday afternoon "crap the stores are about to close and its Saturday and they won't be open tomorrow so lets go get some stuff" shopping. We wanted to get some ground beef so we could utilize either the taco seasoning mix or sloppy joe mix my parents recently sent (my husband has decided on sloppy joes) and some other various and sundry items, including milk.

For some reason, Greeks have some kind of huge issues with their milk choices. Granted, there are a variety of Greek milk choices, from ultra high pasteurized lasts for 6 weeks to fresh to some kinda crap I have no idea what it is, but these choices are really no different from American milk choices. Sure, you don't have your handy "gallon" packaging here (which would be a real accomplishment, considering Europeans don't have a freakin' clue what a gallon is), but milk is milk. You have whole milk, light milk, and 0% milk (which is just now starting to catch on here). There are a variety of brands here in Greece, we typically like to buy the local brand which is made here in the Pieria region. Of course, I don't begrudge anyone the need to check the dates on milk - but people act like its some kind of choice akin to choosing a new Pope (or in this case, a new Archbishop). They spend precious minutes (my minutes) trying to decide the perfect milk to put in their carts, despite knowing that there are people behind them waiting to get to the milk. Christ, people, pick your fucking milk and move on! I mean really, they don't seem to have the same problems with other food products, although occasionally there is a family that acts as if they have never been to a grocery store before.

Of course, this seems to go along with the general Greek attitude of impoliteness. Not that Americans are the kings of polite, but coming from the South, where people are polite even if they hate your guts, its a bit of a shock. Sure, there are considerate Greeks out there, and I don't think the intention is really to be impolite, its just the way people are here. I am a fan of the "my grocery cart is full, but you only have a couple of things in your basket, please go ahead of me" camp, and that seems to be a very uncommon thing here. People here will actually PUSH one another in a line to kiss some icon of the Virgin Mary that travelled all the way from Chuckukamucka Land. Every Greek seems to think that it is their God-given right to go first, even if they are the last ones to arrive.

Being the patient person that I am, I can sit back in wide-eyed bemusement, and leave it for fodder for this blog.


Well, amidst the failed French and Dutch votes on the Euroconstitution, and the disastrous budget talks at the recent EU summit (mostly thanks to the British this time), I am not sure the EU will be able to withstand its EU-ness much longer.

Personally, I think now would be a particularly disastrous time for the EU to fall apart, but perhaps, in the end, it really doesn't matter. The EU has to get its shit together a lot better than it has to really BE something.

I love the EU, they are choc-full of humanitarian, human rights loving pacifists. But they can't make a decision for anything when they all come together.

Hard Lessons

A story in the Washington Post yesterday covers Paul Rusesabagina's visit to a Falls Church elementary school in Fairfax County, Virginia (you may have to log in/register to view the article, my apologies if so). In case you didn't know, or don't recognize the name (I wouldn't have), Rusesabagina is the man portrayed in the movie Hotel Rwanda, a man who saved more than 1200 lives in Rwanda in 1994.

"As the school prepared for Rusesabagina's visit, teachers and administrators talked over the best way to introduce children to the Rwandan genocide, 100 days of killing that left about 800,000 people dead in 1994, Principal Craig Rowland said.

They chose to avoid the word "genocide," a concept teachers thought was too disturbing for grade-schoolers, and instead turned the visit into a lesson about heroes. Rowland said he decided that Rusesabagina's story was too distressing and complex for kindergartners and first-graders, who stayed in their classrooms."

As the children learned of the fighting people ethnic groups in Rwanda, and how Rusesabagina saved many lives, they also learned about people like George Washington, Susan B. Anthony, and the people who came to the aid of the tsunami victims in Asia. These are tough lessons for children so young, but I do think it is noble that the teachers at this school had a commitment to teach their students the truth.

Of the whole article, however, the thing that stood out to me the most was one statement made by a 10-year-old girl.

"It's hard to believe this could happen," Nadia said. "You don't want to be mean to people."

If only we could ALL think like that, all the time, maybe we could avoid these conflicts entirely. It is naive, perhaps, but poignant, and very, very true.

Friday, June 17, 2005

If there is a God, please don't let Frist run for President...

Ok, I am not a political genius of any kind, I consider myself to know very little about politics. Sure, I have opinions on issues that become hot topics for politicos, but I don't consider myself a political person. I vote based on very sincere judgment of the candidates, and that is the extent of my political reality.

My biggest reality, being an American in Europe, is how Europeans react to America and the state I come from, Tennessee. Ok, so the America part isn't going too well right now - Bush and Iraq and every other big mess that is contrary to European belief - but the Tennessee part is still good. The southern drawl has its own personality, a nuance all its own, but first and foremost, you tell someone you are from Tennessee, and the response "ah yes, Jack!" I am perfectly happy to come from the state that is known for Jack Daniels. I'm relatively ok coming from the city known as Music City, but I DO NOT WANT to be known as the girl from the same state as Frist.

This post on Nashville blog Pith in the Wind gives one of the reasons, and I'd rather not think of the many more reasons that will rear their ugly little heads between now and 2008.

Clear Skies Ahead

It seems we have entered the period, blissfully, where it rarely rains. The temperature is ever so slowly creeping upward, the nights are pleasant, and the snow is almost completely gone from the peaks of Mt. Olympus. It is relatively common here, at least from my experience over the past 3 years, for it to not rain for long periods of time, starting sometime in the summer (yes, ok, I know its not officially summer yet, but humor me). When we lived on Kos, we moved there at the end of July, and the first rain we experienced there was sometime in mid to late October.

The last time it rained on our mountain village was last Wednesday, June 8th, which will start the official countdown between rains. It seems very strange, I guess, I mean, in America, if we didn't have rain for very long periods in the summer people started to panic. Here in Greece, despite the lack of rain, things remain lush and fecund and there is no fear of drought. To me it is still very strange not to have frequent summer thunderstorms, as that seemed to be a staple of life in Nashville. You would think in the land of Zeus he would flash his lightning bolts as frequently as possible.

Of course, as soon as I post this, I just know we are going to have one of those fast moving downpours that come out of nowhere and last 5 minutes, which will be great, considering I'm about to put a huge load of laundry on the line.

Thursday, June 16, 2005


The Maryland Weather Blog (don't even ask me how I ended up there) had a link to pictures of a Martian sunset, courtesy NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit. Fantastic.

You Are So Nashville If...

About 10 years ago or so my friends and I began the lugubrious lament of how much we hated Nashville. I had been living in Nashville about 15 or so years at the time and had experienced the most formative years of my life there, including an awesome high school experience at the newly created magnet school, Hume-Fogg Academic. Yet, come 1994, life in Nashville had gotten mundane, even depressing. Several of my friends had gotten beaten up after the alternative music boom of the late 80s/early 90s, and had moved elsewhere to make music. Nashville seemed to be a dead city - full of depressed artists, musicians, and writers (well, at least the ones that I knew). It was a city that had killed a blossoming alternative scene repeatedly, lost its symphony once, had no real museum to speak of (I am sorry, but the museum in TPAC really didn't count), and had a mediocre library. Nashville lacked character - it had no spirit and no culture, unless you wanted to call country music, Opryland, and a few historic sites culture (I didn't).

So we all had our dreams of moving away, to real cities, with museums and libraries and symphonies that would never lose funding. For a long time I had my eye set on Baltimore. But here's the thing - I could never manage to go. I had even come across a couple of job opportunites, good ones, in Baltimore. I had family in and around the Baltimore area. Yet I couldn't manage to get my shit together enough to make that leap, to move on. My friends that did manage to escape only ended up returning a few years later, as if some long, bony hand had reached out from the depths of the city and pulled them back in. We called it the Nashville Curse, and had become resigned to our fates, building comfortable little lives for ourselves in this City That We Hated. I learned nonchalance when it came to the city. I cared nothing about its news or its life. I lived in Nashville, but I ignored its existence.

So time went on. The Nashville Symphony grew strong under the direction of Kenneth Schermerhorn, who even managed to win a few Grammy awards. The Frist Center for the Visual Arts opened in place of the old Nashville post office downtown. The downtown library got a new location and a fancy new architectural design. The Tennessee Titans moved to town. Old neighborhoods got makeovers and became hotspots. I've even heard that the alternative music scene has picked up life again.

In the middle of this phoenix of a city rising from the ashes, my opportunity came. I married a Greek man and moved to Greece. Soon after I moved to Greece, something happened. I began checking the Tennessean online every day for news from Music City. Then I started reading the Nashville Scene. Finally, I discovered a world of Nashville bloggers I never knew had existed before, like Brittney, Aunt B., Busymom, and the Saucy Librarian. Now I could watch the City I Had Once Hated like a hawk, watching the changes, the successes, the failures. And then I realized something. I still consider myself a Nashvillian. Not just because the government of the United States of America still considers me a Nashvillian for voting purposes, but because in my heart I am still a Nashvillian. I wear it proudly now, the good and the bad. And I still have the accent to prove it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

It's official: Christina Aguilera's music is torture

In a recent article about Guantanamo posted on the Greek Public Television (ERT) website, they mention a Time magazine publication that follows the 50-day interrogation of a Saudi Arabian prisoner.

I won't go into detail about the practices at Guantanamo or what has been uncovered lately - suffice it to say that the whole prisoner abuse/torture thing embarrasses me as an American. However, one thing in the article did catch my eye:

"As the magazine reports, Katani was subject to long interrogations. When he was about to fall asleep, US military officers threw water on his head or forced him to listen to a Christina Aguilera pop album."


Those Kookie Greeks

Lately it seems my recognition of written Greek has become sufficient enough to detect some errors in the Greek subtitles when I watch American movies or TV shows. My favorite error occurred during "Desperate Housewives", which they are showing on the pay TV channel we get through our satellite service here. I don't remember exactly what was going on during the scene, but one of the actors said to another "For God's sake!" and the Greek translation amounted to "Forget sex!". To the translator's credit, the expressions do sound the same, but such a translation was SO out of context, you just have to wonder if they are really paying attention to the show or just typing out what they hear.

In shops around Greece you often find things misspelled in Latin characters. Of course, it is hard to blame them, we do have completely different alphabets. My favorites were: doughnuts misspelled donats (which for some reason makes my husband think of gonads, don't ask me why), and the variations on the spelling of cookie, including coocie and, my absolute favorite, kookie. Although I will maintain that we all need a little kookie in our life now and then.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Not Guilty!!

Well, the Michael Jackson trial verdict is in, and the jury has found him not guilty on all counts. The verdict got lots of nice coverage here thanks to satellite TV. There was live coverage on CNN International, BBC World, and Euronews (and of course E!). It was headline news on Deutsche Welle. It was missing from all the local Greek stations and, of course, Al Jazeera.

I have to say, as someone who watched the E! channel's reenactments and discussion of the trial these past couple of months, I think that is the fair verdict. Sure, maybe I didn't see all the testimony, maybe there were some things left out of the reenactments, but my view of the testimony presented left me with plenty of reasonable doubt. It seemed to me that the prosecution had a rather weak case, along with witnesses who weren't credible and charges that bordered on the ridiculous considering the nature of the case. The length of time the jurors were out, and the fact that they asked to see the accusers testimony again sure makes it seem they gave the charges quite a bit of thought, and this was what they came up with.

For the record, I am glad they found him innocent. Not that I find MJ's behavior entirely appropriate. Sure, I think he needs to curb the habit of sleeping with boys, maybe even the habit of befriending them. But I really don't think he is a predator (as the prosecution referred to him in their closing statement). I think he is someone with a lost childhood, who never emotionally grew up, and perhaps feels he has more in common with younger boys than anyone his age. I think he is simply trying to live the childhood he never really had. Who knows, I guess he could be fooling us all. I can't seem to take anyone at face value anymore.

On more important criminal court news, the "Mississippi Burning" trial has begun the jury selection process. This has been a long time coming, and hopefully the victims' families will get some vindication this time around. Some say 41 years is a long time. To me, it is remarkably short. Not even 50 years ago race relations in America were so volatile. I guess the problem still hasn't worked itself out completely, but at least it isn't as bad as it was then. Or at least I like to convince myself that it isn't.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Ah, I'm glad I'm in Greece

Reports are in that the temperatures in Nashville are hovering at 90° and above. The temperature has barely gotten to 80° here the past few days. The sun has been shining, the view has been clear from the mountains all the way across the bay to Chalkidiki - a.m.a.z.i.n.g. I need a good digital camera to take pictures.

The end of an era

Ok, so not an era, but its been a damn long trial. The verdict is in on the Michael Jackson trial, we'll hear it in 30 minutes! Woo!

Lupus REACH Amendments Act

To briefly stand on the soapbox, if any Americans reading this are willing to write to your Senators to Co-Sponsor S.756, Lupus REACH Amendments Act of 2005, which is aimed at improving Lupus research and promoting awareness, please go here.

For more information on Lupus, visit the Lupus Foundation of America website.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Freaks and Geeks

Well, it seems a reunion movie for Sixteen Candles is in the works. Now, I am not sure what my feelings are on this. Sure, John Hughes' movies were a staple of my teenage years, but do I really want to be reminded of my impending middle age by seeing these actors in their middle aged selves, reminiscing about experiences that happened 20 years ago?

Perhaps I take the aging process too seriously. When I see stars today who were teenagers when I was a teenager, looking all old and parent-like, I freak out a little. Sure, I am not naive, I do realize I am getting older, but I don't feel like I am any older. I still feel as young and irresponsible as I did back then. I guess I just don't want to be reminded that I shouldn't still feel that way.

I think what would be interesting would be to see a remake of these movies with the Modern Teenager(tm). The Modern Teenager(tm) seems so different from teenagers of my day. Sure, we had the bullies and teen pregnancy and cliques and geeks and all that jazz - but it just all seems so much more intense these days. American Pie is a vastly different type of movie than Sixteen Candles or Ferris Bueller's Day Off or Pretty in Pink. But I guess, realistically, you couldn't remake these movies with the Modern Teenager(tm) because they wouldn't react the same in any of these circumstances. You couldn't even place them in these circumstances, probably.

Still, I'm not sure Sixteen Candles is the one I'd want to see now. I preferred The Breakfast Club.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Smoking Gun

Not to constantly go over things that annoy me about my adopted home country, but this article sums up one of my biggest problems with Greece. Smoking here is beyond out of hand. They are finally starting to get around to banning it from government offices, but most private businesses are still fair game. Everywhere you go, there is a man, woman, AND child with a cigarette in their hand (by child I mean teenager, but still). I cannot bear to eat in a restaurant in the wintertime because of the overabundance of cigarette smoke (in the summer you ALWAYS eat outside). Thank god all buildings are made out of concrete, otherwise our apartment would be filled with the smell all the time. Unfortunately, sometimes the odor does sneak through, when someone can't wait to get in their apartment to smoke, thus smoking up the hallways, or when everyone has their windows open in nice weather. I couldn't even keep the cigarette stench away at my own wedding, because half of the invited guests smoke!

At least the government is starting to target smoking, as well as the EU in general. Even so, Greece is a LONG way from cutting back their cigarette consumption. Yuck.

Book Review

I just finished reading Mitch Albom's The Five People You Meet in Heaven and thoroughly enjoyed it. My father had recommended it, and knowing him I figured it would be something I would like.

In a nutshell, it covers the experiences of newly deceased Eddie, as he travels through heaven and meets the five people who help him come to an understanding about his life and death. It manages to weave the stories together beautifully, and presents the reader with a unique view of heaven.

I suppose some people might find this book a bit maudlin, and it gets that way at times, but such a thing can't really be avoided in this type of story. It gets over these hurdles easily and lures the reader with thoughtful passages.

It is a very quick and easy read, and I think profound reading for anyone 12 years old or over, especially in a family discussion setting.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Signs of the Apocalypse

This story was linked by Wizard News today.

Shots fired over stolen Harry Potter books? Definitely a SOTA.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Greek drivers

For the most part I guess I don't do much driving in Greece. We live in a small village, there is a decent grocery store nearby, but occasionally we drive to a big supermarket about 10 miles away, and now and then we drive to Thessaloniki to visit my husband's family, which takes about an hour. We didn't have a car yet when we lived in Athens (thank god), but when we moved to the island of Kos, my in-laws presented us with a brand new Hyundai Accent.

Of all the places to get used to driving again (it had been about a year since I left Nashville) I suppose Kos was good. It was an island, only about 25 miles long and 3 miles across, so there wasn't much in the way of major driving. There was a main road that took you from Kos town across the entire island, and that was the busiest thoroughfare. It was your basic two-lane road, with wide lanes so people could pass easily, but the speed limit was around 70 km/h, so not very fast. The one thing I noticed here was even if I was pushing 90 km/h, there was still some jackass who just HAD to pass, going some really crazy speed on a road that wasn't exactly a straight line. Now in normal, everyday life, I suppose I understand these jackasses somewhat. You are on the interstate, some people don't want to spend their lives driving, so they go as fast as they possibly can. But this was an island, for god's sake. A small island, at that. At normal speed it couldn't take you more than 20 or 30 minutes to get from any one place to another, which I suppose is a luxury to Americans like me. But I swear, people rushed, pushed, honked, and otherwise were driving assholes on this little island, almost as bad as people were in Athens.

Now, there was a time when I thought no drivers could ever be as bad as Nashville drivers, especially the Green Hills soccer moms in their SUVs. I went to Birmingham once and met their match. Then I came to Greece. Litochoro is a TINY village. Its all uphill. The main road leading from the interstate is 80 km/h until you get to town, where it changes to 30 km/h. People are such assholes if you don't go up that road fast enough, and by god, if you slow down upon entering town, they go crazy. And of course, the asshole in me just wants to slow down even more, because goddamn, this is a small place, there are children here, people crossing the street, and in town you really shouldn't go that fast.

We get the added pleasure, in Litochoro, of the young men on their motorcycles and pimped out cars trying to cool. We happen to live right next to the lower roundabout of Litochoro, which apparently is the most popular place for these young men to do their crazy stunt driving. Now, I understand there is no mall here, or other nice parking lot to get your crazy man thing going, but seriously, the number of times one of them has nearly wiped out because they can't control their car/motorcycle is really so not cool. Not that I give a damn, really, and of course I secretly hope for them to wipe out, just a little bit, to learn their lesson, but this is one aspect of male behavior I have never understood. I have never known another woman who finds this cool or attractive either, for that matter.

Do I need to talk about the number of tractors/farm equipment/ill-loaded trucks that run around on the roads and interstates in Greece? What the hell is up with that? Suddenly I feel like I'm back in redneck country, U.S.A.

I'll have to admit, for the most part, drivers in Thessaloniki seem pretty mellow. I mean sure, there are people who like to rush, but they seem to have much more patience than drivers elsewhere in Greece. The big problem I have with Thessaloniki is it has a lot of weird dual diagonal turns, and on one stretch of the main road that leads from the interstate to the city center, the lines on the road are gone. Completely. And not even locals seem to have a friggin' clue where the hell you are supposed to be driving. I just pick a car to stay behind, for the most part, but there is a lot of weird cutting-in and such that goes on. Of course, I can't blame anyone for that. The lack of lines on the road, and the hereditary inability Greeks have to form straight lines makes it difficult for them.

I just had to get that off my chest.

Books = Harmful?

The Atomic Books blog turned me onto a link of the Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th centuries. The list was compiled by "a panel of 15 conservative scholars and public policy leaders", from the likes of well-known, prestigious colleges like Hillsdale College, Florida-Atlantic University, and Randolph-Macon College. Ok, maybe I'm not being entirely fair, as there were also representatives from Princeton and Northwestern, but still, if I want to see a list of harmful books, I'd like a plethora of opinions from more than just 15 conservatives, but I guess that would be difficult. And considering this is a conservative website, what do I expect?

All the same, I guess I can agree with their choices of 1, 2 and 3. Numbers 4 and 7 I am not sure I agree with (on the terms of being harmful, I mean come on - they were important, but I don't think they affected society in any adverse way). Numbers 5, 8 and 10 I am not familiar with, so no comment there. Number 9 is a hot topic in our household, I guess overall it became harmful because of how the Nazis chose to interpret and use it, but I have a hard time seeing it that way. A book becomes harmful because it gets misinterpreted? That seems like a slippery slope to me.
Then again, we ARE dealing with conservatives. I guess I shouldn't be so naive.

But in the end, what are they saying by making this list? Should these books have never been written? Do we have to be more careful with our opinions, beliefs, convictions?

Personally, I am glad these books were written. Not because of anything they say (I certainly don't agree with all of them), but because these writers felt they had something to say, and chose to write it down. Whether it is good or bad, has a negative impact or a positive one - where do you draw the line?

We certainly shouldn't let conservatives draw the line, that's all I know.