Friday, September 30, 2005

Fun Harry Potter news

Most Harry Potter fans have been theorizing and waiting to see who they will cast for some of the bigger parts in the movie for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. According to Wizard News, Imelda Staunton (of Vera Drake fame) has been cast as Dorothy Umbridge. I can't think of another British actress more perfect for the part.

Also, it seems the production team has been scouring schools around the UK looking for the perfect Luna Lovegood. Some teenaged Brit is going to be very, very happy!

I'm still wondering if they will bring in a big name to play Bellatrix Lestrange. A rumor was out in August that UK actress Helen McCrory would play her, but nothing has been confirmed as of yet.

What about Tonks? Hopefully her part won't be written out of the screenplay.

Sick and tired

Library Bitch turned me on to a story about a racist comment Dr. Bill Bennett (I had to emphasize the title there, because he seems to want it to be emphasized) made on his radio show the other day. Dr. Bennett responded to the outcry surrounding his remarks on Hannity & Colmes yesterday.

This is the same William Bennett who wrote The Book of Virtues (don't forget the Children's Book of Virtues). The same William Bennett who was Reagan's Secretary of Education. He was Bush Sr.'s drug czar. He is a staunch Republican supporter who has a syndicated radio show. He gets to tell America his opinions, and people listen to him. Hell, back in the day, I didn't think some of his ideas were that far off.

This same person, when on air with a caller, was discussing the relationship between the rising abortion rate and the declining crime rate, stated the following:

BENNETT: Well, I don't think it is either, I don't think it is either, because first of all, there is just too much that you don't know. But I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down. So these far-out, these far-reaching, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky.

OK. So he defended himself in his statement. That they were discussing bad arguments in regard to abortion. The caller said he was against abortion because if there were more babies it would raise GNP, there would be more taxpayers, etc. Bennett had this to say:

I said, arguments in which you take something that's far out, like the GNP and try to connect it up with abortion are tricky. I said make the case of abortion on the basis of life and protecting life. I said abortion is invoked in another way; you could make an argument that if you wanted to lower the crime rate, you saw the quote; you could practice abortion in very large numbers. You could do it in the black community; you could do it in other places. This is, by the way, the subject of a book for economics by a professor at Yale.

I said, however, if you were to practice that, widespread abortion in the black community or any other community, it would be ridiculous, impossible, and I appreciate you putting it on the screen, morally reprehensible. So I think morally reprehensible, when that is included in the quote makes it perfectly clear what my position is. A number of the people whom you have cited as condemning me have not made the inclusion of that remark, and so they make it seem, Alan, as if I am supporting such a monstrous idea, which of course I don't.

Sure, no self-respecting person who has a national radio show would support such an idea. But he didn't say "in the black community or other places", he said "abort every black baby in the country". It doesn't matter that he wouldn't do such a thing, or even suggest that it be done. It doesn't matter that he thinks it would be morally reprehensible. The reality is, he made a statement that shows that he believes, in short, that black people are a direct cause for most of the crime in America. He insinuated, even though he says it would be morally reprehensible, that the lives of black people are dispensible. He can defend the statement all he wants, but it was a racist statement. The Republicans and Democrats will bitch about it for awhile, and the debate will die down. Statistics about blacks and crime will get thrown about. Same old story.

In the end, you know what. I'm fucking tired of it. I'm tired of the racism, of the prejudice. I'm tired of anti-Muslims, anti-Jews, anti-gays, anti-everything. I'm tired of people thinking they are better than someone else just because of their race, nationality, gender, sexuality, religion.
I've been called an elitist before, because of the way I write and things I write about, but I sure don't feel like I am better than anyone else. I would never even pretend such a thing.

What difference does it make what race you are? What difference does it make where you are from? What difference does it make what religion you practice? What difference does your sexuality make? The answer is, genetically, none. There is no genetic proof that any race/religion/nationality/sexuality is actually any better in anything than another. But that is beside the point. How does it help the world, to be a racist? How does it help to judge someone because of their choice in partners? How does it help an individual to be against another religion?

All it does is cause unnecessary strife. The bottom line is, we are all human beings. Good and bad, rich and poor, black and white, Christian and Jewish, homosexual and heterosexual. Everyone in the world has their own story. One person's story may be more exciting than another's, it may be more tragic, more romantic, happier. If you don't understand a person, learn their story. You may find it interesting and you'll have a better understanding of who they are, where they come from, and their culture. And perhaps, just maybe, you might find out you have more in common than you think.

This 'net ain't big enough fer the both of us

And so it has begun. The war of the Internet. I wondered when it might happen, if it would be sooner or later. It seems it is sooner.

The E.U. wants governments and the private sector to share the responsibility of policing the internet. The U.S. wants to retain its authority over the internet. Neither side intends to back down. And negotiators say that a compromise must be reached.

A top U.S. official said the U.S. was "deeply disappointed" with an EU proposal made Wednesday, which appeared to support wresting control of domain names from the U.S.-based Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, and placing it with an intergovernmental group, possibly under the United Nations.

"We will not agree to the U.N. taking over the management of the Internet," said Ambassador David Gross, the U.S. coordinator for international communications and information policy at the State Department. "Some countries want that. We think that's unacceptable."

It will be like the Wild West all over again. Who will win the battle over the virtual frontier? Who will be the last man standing? Will the Internet be left a dusty wasteland in the wake of this war?

Only time will tell.

Along the literary front

I finished reading The Kitchen God's Wife last night. Wow! What an enjoyable book! Well written, well told, interesting social/cultural background, it was really hard putting it down every night to go to sleep. I am embarrassingly ignorant of Chinese (and Asian) culture and history, and this book gave me a good feel for both, if in a small way. I love the way Chinese stories are told, I love the idea of "ghosts", the food, the families, the struggle and the triumph. I'm probably the last woman on earth who hasn't read most of Amy Tan's books, but if you haven't read this one, I highly recommend it. Even my mom has been getting large print versions of Tan's books from the library!

Next on the agenda for my late night fare is The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov. After that, I am all out of new books, again. In a month or so I'll be able to order some more. By then, Roth's The Plot Against America will be out in paperback in the U.K., so I'm looking forward to that.

My husband and I are still wading through Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I'm not entirely sure what chapter we are on, but I know we are getting relatively close to the big finale. We only read a chapter a night, so it is slow going. Maybe, maybe we can get it finished over the weekend. I have a few things to say about it already, some good, some bad, but I'll wait. And I won't be passing out spoilers.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Muppets get stamped

I was happy to see that the Muppets have their very own stamps now, courtesy of the USPS.

Having grown up with the Muppets a staple of my entertainment world, it is nice to see them, and their creator, Jim Henson, honored in stamps. Who is my favorite? I'll never tell.

Now my parents have something else to include in their next care package. This stamp booklet is a keeper.

He has been confirmed

The Judge That Would Be is now the Judge That Is.

We'll see how it goes.

Poor Rudolf!

It seems that Rudolf the reindeer met an untimely end this year. He got spooked by a couple of F-16s flying over his farm, and his heart just couldn't take it.

To be nice, the Danish air force paid Santa $5000 in compensatory damages, but this won't bring back the reindeer that we know guides Santa's sleigh each year in the foggy snow.

Rumor has it that Dubya's nose has turned a bright shade of red thanks to all the drinking he's doing. Maybe he can take over this year, except that the presents would only go to families with an income over $250,000 a year.

Do I even have to ask why anymore?

There is a lot of backlash in Greece right now over the fact that as many as 6,000 police officers spend their time guarding Greek "quasi" celebrities instead of, well, being policemen.

My first thought is, how was this ever allowed to go on in the first place? I mean, you dig this kinda hole and it just keeps getting deeper, and then eventually, oops, you fall in. It should have been illegal for cops to have this kind of "duty" assigned to them. Not to mention, what the hell is up with Greek celebrities that they can't get their own bodyguards? Sorry, but if I was actually a super-duper self-important person I don't think I'd be happy with just a simple policeman watching over me. I would want big giant muscular man-arms and 300lb, 7 ft tall giants by my side. Oh, but wait a minute, the policeman is free. Oh, but wait another minute, he isn't free, he is paid for by the Greek taxpayers!

Greeks get upset over all kinds of things: longer store hours, pensions, job stability, the price of produce, the fact that F.Y.R.O.M. wants to call itself Makedonia - but I never see them get mad as hell about the things they should be getting incensed about. Things like the Olympic toilet, the dump situation in Athens, and now this.

Yea, yea, I know. Americans ended up with Dubya in office for a second term. The U.S. is slipping and sliding all over all kinds of government bullshit right now. But come on people, this is Greece! Get mad, take action when it really matters! Do you really want to pay for Annita Panya's bodyguards? She isn't really that interesting, after all.

One thing I love about Greece

Here in Greece, I find it absolutely delightful that seasons change slowly and gradually. Autumn temperatures descend over several weeks with no big extremes. Winter arrives just as easily, and when it warms back up again, you get used to the warmer weather day by day.

In Nashville, seasons don't change well. It can still be 95° on the first day of fall, and then two days later, the high is 60° and lows are in the 40's. Then it is back up to mid-80's again. Back and forth, back and forth, through September and into October, then fall temperatures for a couple of weeks, then, boom! wintertime! One day you need just a sweater, the next day you are freezing to death.
I remember one February when temperatures were freezing one day, then in the 70's the next!

I am grateful that such temperature fluctuations don't occur here that often. My old bones just can't take it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Your kind isn't welcome around here

The other night was just like any other night. I was up reading at 3am while my husband was snoring next to me. One of our cats, Phoebe, had been incessantly noisy off and on all night, as she sometimes does, so the reading wasn't going well, as I had to balance between concentrating and trying to get the damn cat to shut the hell up.

After one such episode, I was hunkering back down to read some more, when I suddenly saw a small spider, about the size of a nickel, on my shoulder. My immediate reaction was, of course, "shit!!!", but then I attempted to just smush the thing on my shoulder, because there was no other recourse at the moment, and I wanted the thing dead. Well, I guess my smack didn't hit it, or hit it hard enough, so it scampered off under my husband's pillow. Great. I had two choices (at least in my mind I only had two): either wake him up so we can search the bed for the spider, or yank the pillow out from under him while he was sleeping in a desperate attempt to catch the little bugger. I definitely thought the former option was the best, since only 3 years into the marriage I don't harbor enough animosity for my husband to be so violent with his pillow.

Well, let's just say he wasn't happy about being awakened, and move on. He picked up his pillow, we pulled down the covers, and did a complete search for the elusive spider. Nothing. The bastard had disappeared into the recesses of the bed and was probably lurking somewhere in the apartment. No problem. We have three cats, one of whom is particularly skilled at bug torture and demise. At this point, I was still trying to justify the need for waking up my husband, when a third option seemed to have made itself perfectly clear: forget about the spider and leave your husband alone. Well, I'm sorry, but this is not possible. I am not aware of the range of spiders local to Greece and if there are poisonous ones. I hadn't gotten a good enough look at this one to determine if it could have been poisonous, and people in America can die in their beds of spider bites, if they are really, really unlucky.

At any rate, my husband went back to sleep, I turned off the reading lamp so he wouldn't grumble and fall asleep faster, and I, of course, had to stay awake and think about the fact that the spider could still be crawling around in our bed. Every itch, every sensation was that damn spider crawling on me. And since I have a cold, it was entirely possible that it might crawl into my mouth while I was sleeping. Egads!

The more I thought about it, the more annoyed I got. We live in the city center, 7 floors above ground level. Why in the HELL are we dealing with a spider in our apartment? Mosquitoes, flies, roaches I can understand, but spiders are most often found in more bucolic locales or suburban areas. Spiders do NOT belong in the city. I can only imagine their existence here is the result of so many people creating urban jungles on their balconies. This is the same reason I end up with leaves to sweep up on the balcony even though we don't have any plants.

It reminded me of a time in Nashville, when my friends and I unwittingly transported a poor squirrel from the paradise of suburbia (also known as Bellevue, snort) to lower Broadway. The squirrel came tearing out of my friend's van like a Christian out of a gay bar, and there was nothing we could do. That squirrel was completely out of its element, and probably died pretty soon thereafter, unless it hitched a ride back to suburbs, or at least made its way back to Vanderbilt or Belmont.

But, spiders are not as cute as squirrels, and I haven't shown that I can weave faster than Athena.

Arachnids beware: we don't want your kind around here anymore.

And a fine mayor she is

Just about everyone in Greece knows about the problems Athens has been having with trash for the last few months. The dumpsite for Athenian trash is a landfill located in Ano Liosia, which is temporarily closed (again) because employees are upset by the sewage that gets dumped there. This issue in itself is bad enough, but what has the fine mayor of Athens requested of its citizens?

In an effort to avoid a repeat of scenes witnessed in Athens in June when mounds of garbage piled up on the city’s streets, the capital’s mayor, Dora Bakoyannis, yesterday pleaded with Athenians to hold onto their trash as workers at the Ano Liosia landfill closed the dump indefinitely.

Yep. Please keep your trash. Let it pile up on your balconies instead. What an amazing mayoral think tank she's got going on here.

As this has been an ongoing problem, more solutions should have been worked out in the last few months. Athens is a city of 4 million people, for god's sake.

I am SO glad I don't live in Athens, for ten million reasons more than just this. Sorry you have to suffer, Athenians.

There are no words

Ok, I'll admit, I'm not terribly fond of Ben Affleck. He seems affable enough but only when in tandem with that good ol' buddy of his, Matt Damon. On his own, he seems a bit, well, buffoon-like. Of course, I don't know him, so who am I to judge, right?

Why am I talking about Ben Affleck all of a sudden? Because it seems the Virginia Democrats are eyeing him for Senator. You heard me.

The Washington Post reported the story yesterday, other newsrags around the world have jumped on board.

If you liked him as Bennifer . . . you'll love him as Benator!

That's the hot new idea being tossed around by Virginia Democrats, who are desperately searching for a big name to challenge the reelection bid of rising GOP star Sen. George Allen next year, now that outgoing Gov. Mark Warner has ducked out.

Ben's spokesman says the rumor ain't true. Ben isn't quite ready for public office, he is too busy making movies.

Affleck spokesman Ken Sunshine said the rumors are baseless, though "he would be a superb candidate for public office in the future. Right now, he's very busy directing his first feature movie for Disney, 'Gone, Baby, Gone.' "

Of course, it seems the Virginia Dems have also been eyeing John Grisham, so it seems any old celebrity will do.

Another name on the wish list: blockbuster legal-thriller writer John Grisham . But the central Virginia farmhouse owner, who gives generously to Democrats and did a stint in the Mississippi legislature, has brushed off past overtures, sources say.

While I don't really know if Mr. Affleck is politician material, he smiles nice, has a pretty wife, and loves his mamma. And hey, if I am going to have to choose, I'd take an idiot Democrat over an idiot Republican any day. But I guess that's just the reality of politics, eh?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Pet rescues from Katrina

Since a few of you from Nashville read my blog, and a few of you know some folks who were uprooted because of Katrina, I thought I'd post this link with pictures and profiles of some pets that were rescued and flown to California.

These pets are being hosted by the East Bay SPCA, a great organization with lots of folks who love animals. If you would like to make a donation to help them in their efforts to care for these misplaced pets you can also follow the link above and pick an animal to sponsor.

A new language

I think I might make a new language out of these word verification words that Blogger comes up with.

Vgginaao totally captures the lost art of storing toenail clippings.

Bad influence

I am what some people might call a crude girl. Not the crudest, by far, but I do have a habit of saying what I feel, without regard for sensibilities, whenever I so desire.

Of course, these doesn't mean that I cannot control my crudeness under certain situations that demand a certain grace and decorum. But here is the thing - I was raised by parents who didn't see gender as a discriminating force or recognize censorship of any type and I had two older brothers who let me listen to their George Carlin and Cheech and Chong albums. So I was free to be whatever I could be, and this, my friends, is where things went horribly wrong.

When I was in 6th grade (hmm, 11 years old?) my mother, after giving the book a careful reading herself, let me read Forever by Judy Blume. I, of course, had to take it to school and share it with my friends at lunch. Well, the book was taken away from me, to be given back at the end of the school day. My teacher, who was sweet and apologetic about the incident, handed back the book as I was walking outside to the line of cars waiting to pick students up. At this moment, I decided to rail on her about the evils of censorship, and preceded to belt out a cloud of obscenities that is probably still lying in the air over Brunson Elementary School. Parents, students, even the principal - looked at me in shock and horror, as the words kept flowing out. I was unable to be stopped, nor did anyone try. I was, after all, one of the star students, the top of my class, obedient, kind, and quiet. Where, oh where, did this come from?

Of course, what they should have been thinking is WHAT had pushed me into such an incendiary tirade. Taking the book away from me had been a betrayal - and while I understand fully why they did it now, and why I shouldn't have taken the book to school in the first place, at that time I was a child who had had very little suppressed or taken away from me. It was my very first experience with the idea of censorship, and it makes me just as mad now as it did then.

As I grew older, and ever a student of popular culture, more and more crude language entered my day to day vocabulary. My father, perhaps, found it a bit amusing, my mother was not so thrilled. While she never went so far as to say I couldn't talk like that, she stressed that it wasn't ladylike or appropriate. By the time I hit my 20's fuck was a staple in about every other sentence. I even ventured to use twat and cunt occasionally, and by the time I was in my 30's, my affectionate name for people was bitch.

It isn't just the cursing. Oh no. I can make some of the crudest comments ever to come out of a female's mouth. I'm not exactly proud of the ability of being crude, but I am proud of the fact that I don't feel the need to censor myself, and that I acquired the ability to not feel the need to be so crude in certain situations. In other words, I can behave like a perfect grownup, without even giving my crude side a second thought. However, when I am alone with my husband, or with friends, noone ever knows what things might emerge from my mouth.

My husband was raised in a nice family. Well educated, upper class, but with a great sense of humor. Still, he had never been exposed to my type of crudeness before. Aside from a few Greek curses now and then, he was pretty tame. However, after 3 years of living with me, you'd be surprised the mouth this man has on him now. He says thing I think he never would have dreamed of saying. All because of me. I have turned my well educated, upright, classy husband into a crude American. Sometimes I feel ashamed of what I have done, and sometimes I feel proud. But mostly I am just glad he can appreciate me for who I am, without judging me, and see the humor in all of it.

As long as his mother never finds out, we're golden.

This kid should be busted

I think we have a case of a real life Stewie on our hands. An 18-month-old baby in Poland, left in a car with the keys in the ignition, managed to start the car and back over his mother and 4-year-old sister, pinning his grandfather to the side of the barn. Sounds to me like he was working on an evil plot to destroy his family, and possibly take over the world.

No word on how the family is doing. Hopefully they'll make it through ok and keep the car keys away from the baby for at least 16 years.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Welcome to one year ago!

Which is when news like this should have been happening.

Yes, Athens produced a fine Olympics. But the cost (which somehow manages to keep growing) has been staggering, and Greece is a country that really should be spending money on other things (uh, like making sure half of Athens doesn't flood every rainy season?). So why they didn't have a plan to get those Olympic facilities leased within a year after the Olympics is really, well, mind-boggling.

But hey. At least they have a *cough* plan. Wonder how much the plan will end up costing Greek citizens?

Care package

Today we received one of ten thousand packages my parents have sent us with goods from the good ol' U.S. of A. I then wondered whether or not other ex-pats have packages sent from home from family or friends, with things they just can't (or won't) live without.

Sure, the list could be bigger, if I wanted to impose on my parents more. Our staples happen to be:

  • Tidy Cat litter box liners - I know this seems strange, but there aren't any comparable items here that I have found, and I absolutely MUST line the litter box, and Tidy Cat products are the best in this regard
  • Benadryl - well, this is something I absolutely can't live without, thanks to allergies and those nights when I just can't get to sleep. Safer than sleeping pills, fore sure.
  • McCormick Taco Mix and Sloppy Joe Mix - I doubt these things need to be explained. We can get tortillas here, even salsa, but Mexican food is rare and hard to find (and probably wouldn't be very good if it was). Homemade tacos is the way to go. And yea, I could make Sloppy Joes from scratch but why should I?
  • Lemonade packets - well, you can get ten million kinds of lemon soda here, but ain't nothing like lemonade. Again, I could make it from scratch, but, naaah
  • Lint remover refills - ok, they do have lint remover things here, but I don't find them adequate, and I haven't found any like the Evermore brand ones I already had the stick for. So my parents send the refills.
  • Vanilla flavoring - the vanilla they have here is some weird powdered version that just doesn't work right in my recipes.
  • Canned pumpkin - well, things that are called pumpkins here don't really look like pumpkins to me (they look like what we called gourds) and I don't know how to turn fresh pumpkin into the right pumpkin for pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, and pumpkin cookies. And you can't even have a pretend Thanksgiving dinner without pumpkin pie.
In addition to all these things, they also send the prerequisite mom clippings from the newspaper about various and sundry things, newsletters, and every now and then a videotape they have custom made of their favorite shows. Not to mention various clothing items for birthdays and Christmas.

Before I moved, I never really thought about the fact that there would be things I just couldn't live without. If I had had to make a list prior to moving, I doubt any of these things would have been on it, except for the pumpkin (I actually packed some cans of pumpkin in with the stuff the movers took). It is nice to have parents that take the time to gather the items and send the packages, as much of a pain in the arse it must be. But I have a feeling they don't see it that way.

Oh the humanity!

While I am completely thrilled that Greece won the Eurobasket Championship, why, oh why, did the celebrating until all hours of the morning have to include incessant honking???? I fully appreciate the need to celebrate the championship win. I actually find it pretty great that Greeks all over the world have such unity in times of celebration. But we all know how I feel about honking. And since I live one block over from one of the main streets in Thessaloniki, I got to hear ALL the honking ALL NIGHT LONG.

Thankfully, though, the streets are quiet this afternoon. I guess people are all honked out after last night.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

And Greece wins the Eurobasket championship!

Now lets get the Greek soccer (yes, football) team to the World Cup!

Leaving Nashvegas

I have noticed that some ex-pats seem to have spent the last few months in their home city paying homage in some way – favorite museums, restaurants, parks, etc. – and that they made a conscious effort to say goodbye to their home before leaving.

But not me. I spent the last months working, packing, and stressing about the big move. I spent time with family and friends, but I ignored Nashville. I ignored Centennial Park, I forgot about the Riverfront, I drove through Music Row without a care. I didn’t spend time looking out my windows and remembering my town. I drove around the city streets, oblivious to the fact that I would soon no longer pass these well-travelled routes. These were pictures I’d seen for over 20 years, why did I need to look again?

I’ve said before, I had what you might call a love/hate relationship with Nashville. I spent the most formative years of my life there. It was a city I refused to leave to go to college. It was a city I tried to leave for years, for various reasons. I spent so much of my time thinking I hated it there, I couldn’t appreciate what character Nashville had, in fact, I saw it as a soulless city, part of the music business machine, without any real love for the musicians who fostered its reputation. Nashville couldn’t seem to breed a culture of it’s own, it was a city that simply…existed.

Despite my seething hatred for Nashville, I often enjoyed what the city had to offer: Shakespeare in the Park, Radnor Lake, live music, good restaurants. But these were simply by-products of life in Nashville, these weren’t things that made Nashville a good place to live, or so I thought.

The last week leading up to my departure was extremely busy. There wasn’t enough time to do the things that needed to be done. I slept every night in horror that something, somehow, would be forgotten, lost forever.

Finally, I was on the plane headed for Detroit, it would take three flights to get us to Athens. The cats were safely on board, all our luggage had managed to fit, I breathed a sigh of relief. It was all over, and everything was done.

As the plane started moving down the runway, I had a last minute fear that something had been left behind. As the plane started to take off, I looked out the window, and realized, I had left something behind. My city. The place that had been my home for the best and worst years of my life. As I watched the city disappear beneath me in a swirl of clouds, I began to cry. Nashville was gone. I didn’t know when, or if, I would return. As the plane kept going higher, farther away, I finally realized that Nashville was the city I loved. It was home.

The nighttime sniffling sneezing coughing aching stuffy head fever so you can rest medicine

Two things that suck about being sick in Greece:

1) there is no ginger ale
2) there is no Nyquil

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Greece goes to Eurobasket final

Well, not that I am a huge basketball fan. I had my moments of picking the final four in college basketball back in the early 80's, when Michael Jordan still played for UNC.

Still, I can't get over the fact that Greeks play good basketball and that Greeks are fans of basketball. Not that I think there is something wrong with Greeks that would make them not play good basketball, just that basketball doesn't seem very European for some reason. I guess it is because basketball for me was always college basketball.

Still, now that I am in Greece, well, I gotta cheer for the home team. Still, I think I would have rather they qualified for the World Cup than got this far in the Eurobasket championships, but I guess the book hasn't been written on their World Cup potential just yet. Soon, though, just a couple more qualifying games to go.

It was cute, though. I kept hearing a group of guys at a coffee shop nearby shouting and cheering now and then. I told my husband "they must be watching some soccer (oops, football) game". Then we flipped channels and landed on the last score of the Eurobasket semi-final, which marked the win for Greece, and the men outside erupted in loud cheers of happiness and delight. Not soccer (I mean football) for once.

I hope they win the final tomorrow. I figure I'll know what happens by the sounds coming from the coffee shop.

Bits and pieces

I've noticed that women in Greece, at least in individual apartment buildings, tend to form little gossipy cliques.

The great thing about our building is that, above the elevator on each floor is an open mesh grate. You can see the elevator mechanisms moving (and see if the cords are frayed) and you can also see into each floor as you pass. Because of this openness, you can also hear sounds all the way from the ground floor to the top floor, which means when a gaggle of gossipy women has gathered in the hall of one of the floors, you can hear them talking.

These women are almost always middle-aged (not that there is anything wrong with that, I'm almost there myself) and they have a similar inflection for each conversation. You can hear one of them talking, and then at the end of a sentence the voice gets lower, followed usually by "Ahhs" or "tsks" from the other women. I have found this low talking thing to be a rather global phenomenon amongst gossips. It usually means they are stating bad news, as in "Julia got cancer" or "Bob is now unemployed". I find it rather amusing, because it seems that my generation doesn't treat bad news so seriously. Well, we treat it seriously, but it doesn't garner any special reverence or inflection. In fact, sometimes we state the bad news in a higher voice. I am not sure, though, if that is a difference between generations or ages. Maybe when I am 45 I'll say the bad things in a whisper. Who knows.

The other thing I've noticed about these women is if the elevator starts moving, they stop talking, and they all turn their heads to see who is coming up or down the elevator, and commence talking once they hear the elevator door shut below. I am not sure if they realize they can still be heard quite clearly by anyone in the hallway, not just someone on the elevator. I mean, these ARE Greek women after all, they should know by now how loud they are and how well their voices carry. But maybe it is just an excuse to stop and stare. Greek women like to stare a lot. And I don't mean any normal stare, I mean a Medusa-like glare that makes you think perhaps you've spawned three heads and will eventually turn to stone.

On a different note, I think one of cats caught our cold, because he keeps sneezing.

I put too much lemon and not enough honey in my tea. It did NOT taste good.

My husband is doing his own ironing today, in lieu of sending it to his mother. I won't make any pretense of ever intending to do his ironing. I wash the clothes, hang 'em on the line. If he wants them pressed, it is his problem. Somehow, though, I think our relationship is very uneven. He does everything and I do nothing, aside from laundry and housecleaning. Half the time he even does the cooking. I wonder how long before he regrets not choosing a good Greek wife?

Read a banned book this week!

Banned Books Week is getting a lot of blog buzz these days.

Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read is observed during the last week of September each year.
Observed since 1982, the annual event reminds Americans not to take this precious democratic freedom for granted.

What can you do to support Banned Books Week? Why, read a challenged or banned book, of course! Go here for the list of the most challenged books of 2004.

Go here for information about challenged and banned books, as well as listings of the top ten challenged authors from 1990-2004.

And finally, the 100 most frequently challenged books of 1990-2000.

I have read 35 of these books, at least half of those were required reading in high school and/or college. I can't imagine those books ever being removed from the curriculum, either, as some of them are the most powerful American writers of the 20th century. I don't think I would have survived puberty without Judy Blume. And what the hell is wrong with Waldo?

It is long past time that America starts accepting who and what people are, the good and the bad, without thinking that these voices must be censored.

Friday, September 23, 2005

How to get sick: 5 simple steps

1) Marry a doctor
2) Have this doctor, who is currently working in hospital on his specialization, bring home nasty head cold
3) Sympathize while said doctor is sick
4) Avoid contact with doctor, including kissing, eating or drinking after him
5) Wait for the day he feels better

That same day, you realize in the afternoon that you can't stop coughing. Now, you are sick!


Just say No

Next week the Senate will be voting on the nomination of John Roberts to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. During his confirmation hearings by the Senate Judiciary Committee, Roberts came across as someone unwilling or unable to have an opinion of his own. He bobbed and weaved at incoming questions like a true politician. In the end, I'm not sure I'm convinced he ever really answered a question. Yet, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted in their approval 13-5.

Do any of us really want this man serving as Chief Justice for the next 20+ years? Planned Parenthood has an active campaign against his confirmation. If you would like to write to your Senator to ask him or her to consider voting NO for John Roberts, go here.

Also, Sharon Cobb has posted Hillary Clinton's statement on John Roberts. Read why she is voting NO.


Thanks to Egalia of Tennessee Guerilla Women for this post.

Voting is going to the dogs

According to this story, Toby, a Jack Russell terrier, managed to register to vote in New Zealand. Apparently, the dog's owner, irate with government bureaucracy, sent in the registration form, complete with paw signature and occupation "rodent exterminator", as a protest.

Imagine the surprise when Mr. Toby Russell Rhodes received written confirmation of his approval to vote in the New Zealand elections. Now the pet owner is worried how many others are falsely enrolled as voters.

The Authorities, on the other hand, were not really amused and instead of admitting their mistake, they accused Rhodes of committing an offence and he will now have to deal with the police.


A shallow view of American T.V.

The new television season has started in America, and as I salivate as I hear U.S. bloggers tell their tales of wondrous new episodes, I can only think of my narrow view of current American television.

We don’t often get first run American T.V. shows here in Greece. The exception has been LOST and Desperate Housewives, which they started showing prior to the end of last season. The shows we do get (and by I mean get, I mean if you buy a pay channel here called Filmnet, or get NOVA satellite service, which includes Filmnet, which is what we have) are usually at least a year behind in season, if not more.

The Filmnet T.V. season for American series typically runs from October to March, and in March or shortly thereafter they might start recent purchases (which is when they started LOST and Desperate Housewives). Since I’ve lived here, they’ve showed Friends, Sex and the City, Alias, C.S.I., Six Feet Under and a few other shows they’ve introduced and taken away, like Curb Your Enthusiasm, some show starring Joan Cusak, and a couple other unnotables I don’t recall. In the last year they started C.S.I.:Miami, Nip/Tuck, LOST and Desperate Housewives, and just recently they started Las Vegas, The Grid, and LAX on the new channel Filmnet 3. Filmnet will also be premiering Joey at the beginning of October. Aside from this, all American shows that appear on Greek T.V. are re-runs that are two or more years old, ranging from America’s Funniest Home Videos to Monk. One of the public channels, NET, has promised C.S.I.:New York, but I’ll be damned if I have seen it in the schedule as of yet.

My parents often send me videotapes with highlights of their favorite shows (as our tastes have often been the same), which have included House, Medium, Numb3rs, Two and a Half Men, and of course, the quintessential parent show, Sunday Morning. All this does, usually, is cause me to lament my lack of viewing options – and trust me, even if I did have a working understanding of spoken Greek, I am certain I would not watch any Greek shows.

So now I am out – I am a confirmed T.V. addict. I love T.V. shows that are done well, hold my interest, make me laugh or cry, keep me wanting more. I miss the Monday night lineup of Murphy Brown and Northern Exposure. I miss Twin Peaks, X-Files, Friends, and Seinfeld. Luckily, all of these can be purchased on DVD so I don’t have to miss them much, aside from the appeal of new episodes, which dies by the end of any show anyway. But if only the good shows could keep their appeal, and stay fresh.

I enjoy C.S.I, I have always liked the cop/solving a mystery type show. It can be annoying watching such a show with a doctor, but I think he has learned to pretty much keep his trap shut by now. Still, with two versions of C.S.I. on, that doesn’t leave much variety. Alias I tolerate, it has some good action and I can get into the plot, but I probably wouldn’t watch it if I had a plethora of other choices (there, I said it). Six Feet Under I enjoy, although I think it has been slipping some of late (and it looks like they aren’t going to give us the last season here, either). I wish they had kept up with Curb Your Enthusiasm, but I can also understand how a show like that might not work well with a foreign audience. I didn’t find Nip/Tuck appealing at all, not even as “something to watch.” I began watching LOST when it first aired here. After the first episode I didn’t really have an opinion, so I thought I’d watch another. After the second I was even more apathetic about it, but thought I’d give it another try, since it was THE hit show in America. After the fifth episode I gave up on it, for a couple of simple reasons. For one, they had done absolutely nothing to make me care about any of the characters at all. I felt they were all flat, uninteresting people. I didn’t care about their plight. For another, I was not immersed in the storyline at all. I didn’t care what they would discover. I didn’t care what the weird monster thing was. I just didn’t care. But perhaps it was more that the genre is lost on me (pun intended) instead of the show being crappy. I don’t like survival/adventure type shows. I really, really liked Desperate Housewives, it was so NOT what I expected. It had a nice Twin Peaks-like atmosphere. I am hoping they can hold up the show for a second season, but we’ll see. It is difficult to maintain such a show.

Still, I am feeling kinda left out at all the discussion on American blogs about the new T.V. season. I miss having all those shows to choose from, the new and the old, always the potential for something truly groundbreaking. I’d love to get a gander at My Name is Earl, and everyone keeps talking about some show with Mark Harmon. Has he aged well? If so, raaaaow!

Even our satellite channels don't get the same shows as their U.S. counterparts. VH1 here has a dismal schedule that included hours upon hours of Bands Reunited but never The Surreal Life. E! manages to get around to all their U.S. programming, but usually a couple months behind. The Discovery channel here is a non-stop Hitler-fest, and even the episodes of American Chopper we see are well behind. Will there be new episodes of Air Crash Investigation on National Geographic? Who knows?

I guess I will have to learn to live with what I can get, and watch vicariously through other people's blogs.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Well, there ya go

It seems that the Greek basketball team is going to the Final Four of the Eurobasket Championships. Who knew Greeks could play basketball? I sure didn't.


Three cheers for the international media

Tonight I went to the store unaccompanied, which isn't so unusual in itself, except that our normal check-out lady decided she would ask me a couple of questions. Sure, I understand some Greek, but I am so accustomed to being with someone who speaks Greek to verify what someone is saying/asking, when I am questioned alone my brain melts down and I am certain that smoke pours forth from every orifice in my head.

So the nice lady asks me if I am staying in Greece. I stare at her blankly and wait for my defunct brain to begin the bootup process. She repeats herself. I say yes (wow, progress!). I tell her, in my best Frankenstein-meets-the-undead voice, Ameriki. She figures out that I am trying to say I am from America. She asks me where from in America. I tell her Tennessee, Nashville. Now it is her turn to give me a blank stare. So I tell her, based on what immediate knowledge Greeks might have of U.S. geography, near Louisiana. She understood and nodded her head and said "Ah, Louisiana!".

I forgot, though, the best way to help Greeks understand Tennessee. The home of Jack Daniels. Works every time.

This, that, and the other

My husband is sick. I mean sick. He didn't even go into the hospital today. I am not sick, even though I've had a slightly elevated temperature for the past few days. Even so, I will probably remain not sick until my husband is perfectly well, and then plunge into the depths of horrid illness which will last for a month. When I get sick, it lasts forever. Blech.

Irony of ironies, the guy that yelled at us the other night for reading Harry Potter too loud had a knockdown dragout with his wife/girlfriend/whatever at 1:30am that lasted more than a half hour. And this was no normal fight, no, I heard screaming, yelling, crying, running through the apartment (they are above us), dishes breaking, furniture being thrown about, you name it. While the brunt of it subsided around 2am, the door slamming continued all...night...long. I got NO sleep, thank god my husband slept like a baby. Then today the Yellingtons were at it again, I assume after one (or both) of them returned from work, at 1:30 pm. Maybe they are on a 12 hour fight cycle.

I finished Microserfs last night. I really enjoyed it. I like Coupland's writing, I guess it identifies with my generation. I think he does a brilliant job of combining the soullessness of the consumer society with the metaphysical angst of Generation X. Next on the nightstand is The Kitchen God's Wife, which promises to be a good read.

Ordered two new DVD's: Curb Your Enthusiasm, Season 4 and Twin Peaks, Season 1. We ended up going with instead, because they always end up a bit cheaper than Amazon. Its all about the free shipping.

Fall seems to be descending here in Northern Greece. It was cold and rainy yesterday. Sunny today, warmer, but still cool enough to leave the A/C off. Let the allergies begin!

Fall is here!

Happy Autumnal Equinox to those of you in the Northern Hemisphere! The sun enters the sign of Libra at 22:23 pm GMT tonight, bringing the official beginning of Autumn, which just so happens to be my favorite season.

Image courtesy of crazy weekend at the cabin, October 2002, Beersheba Springs, Tennessee. Photo by Shot Baker.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Time wasters unite!

We all know the internet became, for most of us who like surfing the web, the biggest time sink ever. Sure you learn interesting things, you meet interesting people, you read about interesting lives, but in the end, well, it has become one of my biggest tools for procrastination ever.

So I was reading this article on the BBC News site about a guy who was looking up his house on Google Earth and discovered the remains of an ancient Roman villa. "Wow!" I thought to myself, and proceeded to finally download Google Earth as I remembered we now had an ADSL connection and could actually run it. So I spent the next hour and a half looking up my old apartment in Nashville, my parent's house in Lynchburg, VA, our apartment in Thessaloniki, our old apartment in Athens, our village on Kos, and our village on Mt. Olympus. We saw all the planes parked at the Athens airport. I was a bit bummed, though, that some areas get better resolution close up than others. But really, what more can I ask for in free satellite search technology? Beggars can't be choosers!

Still, I didn't unearth any ancient remains. I'll probably keep looking, though.

International Day of Peace

September 21st is the U.N. declared International Day of Peace, expecting all countries at war to cease-fire for today.

In his message, Kofi Annan declared, "It is time enough for combatants and political leaders to consider the destruction they are visiting on their people, and on their lands. And it is long enough to look over the barricades, or through the barbed wire, to see if there is another path."

It is a nice sentiment, but war exists simply to serve agendas these days. I wonder if there ever could be a situation where the world was at peace. Perhaps if women ruled all the major superpowers...

I don't think we needed a study to tell us that

Men lose weight easier and faster than women. Duh! Why don't you rub it in just a little bit more?

Husbands may surprise you

Last night, while my husband was reading Harry Potter aloud, he paused after an episode between Ron and Ginny Weasley and said "Jesus Christ man, she's a real bitch!"

I never knew my husband had it in him.

EDIT: My husband says he said she was a serious bitch, not a real bitch. Whatevah!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Strange days

They have started reruns of America's Funniest Home Videos, and guess what? Bob Saget does not get funnier with time.

My cats seem to be going through some sort of mid-life crisis. They have taken to only sleeping about 50% of the time (as opposed to 90% of the time) and they chase each other through the apartment like maniacs on crack several times a day. Now this does provide us with no end of amusement, especially since we don't have carpet. Watching a 20lb cat trying to round a corner at breakneck speeds is a hoot. Inertia+fat ass+wood floor+turning=fat ass slamming into wall. Poor thing, he just picks right back up and sets off running the other direction. Still, these cats are almost 10 years old. What is up with this behavior?

These pre-autumn days have made our weather quite capricious. From hot and achingly humid, to cool and rainy, then back again. Yesterday I went out to the store. I hadn't looked out the window for about 10 minutes prior to heading downstairs, and when I was waiting in the elevator the hallway was nearly pitch black despite the window in the stairwell and the fact that it was supposed to still be daylight out. I heard this insane whooshing noise which I at first worried was coming from the elevator. When I got downstairs, and went outside, I was temporarily confused. It was completely dark outside, and the wind was sweeping up debris (read: trash) with near tornadic force. I double checked the time, wondering if maybe it was getting dark this early these days, but knew it was impossible. Then I looked at the sky and realized a storm was brewing, and brewing quickly. It had been a long time since I'd experienced this sort of weather disruption - it was relatively common in Nashville, but here you don't often get that ominous tone before a storm, where the sky is blackened by the coming clouds and the wind is stirring frantically, waiting for the clouds to release. I took a minute to take it all in, and then proceeded to the store. I was disappointed, briefly, by the fact that I hadn't made it outside just before the darkness fell, when the world is so still and quiet it is as if time has halted for a moment, before all hell breaks loose.

My husband has been snoring to beat the band these last few days, even sleeping on his side doesn't seem to help. To get an idea of how loud his snoring is: the other day he was napping, and I had to vacuum. His snoring actually drowned out the din of the vacuum. That is some LOUD snoring!

Last night, we had the windows opened up because (for once) it was relatively cool out. We closed the bedroom window when we got into bed so we could read some Harry Potter. Well, one of the neighbors yelled at us from his window, asking us to keep it down! You can hear so well through the damn window? Christ! Now I'm all freaked out about what people can hear.

Strange days indeed.

It'll end in tears

Well, it looks like Iran isn't going to give up its right to nuclear energy. Not that I think they should, hey, I honestly thought any problems the world had with Iran were over a long time ago. Then again, I am endlessly naive about such things. Still, acting like a stubborn fool isn't going to help matters much, and I mean that in a nice way.

Iran may stop allowing snap inspections of its nuclear facilities if it is referred to the UN Security Council, says the country's top negotiator.

Ali Larijani said Tehran would review its stance on a treaty protocol that permits inspections at short notice.

I don't see the point in denying inspections, really, except to be pig-headed. Of course, I can't blame anyone for being pig-headed, because I can be horribly pig-headed sometimes. Still, my pig-headedness doesn't lead to potential war on a global scale.

US ambassador to the IAEA, Greg Schulte, said on Monday that Iran was pursuing a course of confrontation by continuing its conversion of uranium.

It is statements like this that really worry me, especially in light of recent news about the possibility of allowing nuclear pre-emptive strikes. Sheesh, you know, this is all getting a bit too serious.

Unless the ultimate plan is for there to be reason to nuke the entire world, while Dubya and his family and friends live radiation-free in an underground city, creating an unter race of imbeciles to repopulate the Earth. Although I can see how that will end. They will think it safe to return to the surface, open the air-lock door, and then all die of radiation poisoning, thus ending all human life on the planet. Not a very promising future.

A positive step

Greece is unfortunately a country which receives a large amount of human trafficking, especially from Eastern Europe and Balkan countries. Unfortunately, many victims who did not have legal status have been improperly arrested and deported, only to have the cycle begin again. Greece has remained on the U.S. Department of State's Tier 2 Trafficking Watch List, as it remains a desirable place for these criminals to bring their victims.

There is a small amount of good news, however, as in the next year, Thessaloniki will open a hostel for victims of human trafficking.

Thessaloniki will open a hostel as of next year for victims of human trafficking, said Prefect Panayiotis Psomiadis yesterday. The center will house the victims, who are mostly women, rather than having them sent to a prison. They will receive support services, participate in a Greek language course and receive professional training in order to be inducted into the community, officials said.

Maybe it is a small step, but at least it is a positive one. Hopefully the Greek government will be committed to making more positive changes when it comes to the fight against human trafficking, which is a terrible blight to all civilized society.

It's too early for porn!

I will admit, when I first moved here and then when we first got satellite the porn was a bit of a novelty. Yes, I'd spend a few minutes here and there watching some, just because it was, you know, there. Our movie channels show a variety of porn, from all over the world, and sometimes the titles are more titillating than the porn itself.

But really, midnight is too early to have porn on. I am usually still up watching T.V. at midnight, and I really don't like flipping through and finding Whoriental Sex Academy 7 on one of the main movie channels. I suppose I've hit my porn threshold, and sometimes you just don't want to be flipping channels and seeing that.

Yea, I know, I know, the guys will say "but its NEVER too early for porn!" Hey, if you had it available all the time who knows how you would feel. I remember that episode of Friends where Chandler and Joey had free porn and they actually got tired of it. So there you go.

Monday, September 19, 2005

How Canadians view intelligent design

How do our neighbors to the north view the American debate on intelligent design? With a bit of humor, and a quiz.

Thanks to L-girl at we move to canada for posting the story.

Great for science fiction, dubious for reality

This story on BBC News has all the fodder of good horror/science fiction. Doctors performing ground-breaking surgery on corpses, looking for living victims to test their art. People willing to shed their damaged visage in order to get a new face - a dead man's face.

Apparently, doctors have been working on the viability of face transplants for awhile, performing the surgeries on bodies donated for medical study. It seems they are now ready to test their theories on a live patient volunteer - whom they will pick from a group of 5 men and 7 women, all who suffer severe disfigurement due to accident or disease. The chances for success are 50%, and the patient will have endure not only the physical effects of the transplant, but the psychological effects of having a new face - one that will neither look like the patient or the donor, apparently.

Computer modelling suggests the new face would neither resemble the donor nor recipient's pre-injury self.

The face should take on more of the characteristics of the skeleton of the recipient than the soft tissues of the donor.

I have to admit when I first read this story, it made my skin crawl a bit. There is something that has always bothered me about removing the skin from the face, and the idea of a face transplant is just, well, something you'd expect to find in a movie, but not real life. And some scientists claim that there just hasn't been enough research to go forward with a living transplant.

The working party said it was not against facial transplants in theory, saying they could offer a major breakthrough in restoration of quality of life to those whose faces have been destroyed by accidents or disease.

But it cautioned: "Until there is further research and the prospect of better control of these complications, it would be unwise to proceed with human facial transplantation."

While I agree that, in the end, being able to do something like this will undoubtedly be beneficial to patients who have suffered severe disfigurement, it seems like the chances of success are too low, and the potential problems too high to be ready for real life testing of the surgery right now. And what are the potential applications? High stakes plastic surgery for the hopelessly vain? Identity theft?

Regardless, I hope that the surgery does go well and that it is a success for both the researchers and the patient. Still, I have the feeling I'd rather keep my science fiction as fiction, at least for now.


I hate cellphones. I loathe them. I resent the fact that someone had to invent a way to reach people no matter where they are or what they are doing. Then again, I am one of those people who won't answer the landline if I am busy doing something. I despise the interruption of a ringing phone, in any situation. I do, however, acknowledge the convenience of having a cell phone. I carry one out of sheer paranoia, in case I get into an accident or something happens to me. But for the most part I keep it shut off or I ignore it. It is also a good way to get in touch with my husband while he is at work, since he is usually doing rounds in the hospital and not situated in a nice little office.

When I left America, cell phones had not quite infiltrated the market. I'd say maybe 20% of people had cell phones at the time. I think I only had one friend who had a cell phone, and he had it in lieu of a landline. Imagine then, my utter amazement when I arrived in Athens and realized that everyone had a cell phone, from the ages of 8 to 80. When I travelled to Thessaloniki to visit the family for the first time, there were often times when I saw 4 or 5 cell phones on the coffee table at one time (and of course, the men of the family were always playing with them). There are times at holidays when I suspect there to be upwards of 16 cell phones in the apartment at one time. This can't be healthy.

It is particularly enjoyable going to a coffeehouse only to find that everyone around you is either talking on their cellphone or sending text messages. I'll see tables of 4 or 5 teenagers, ostensibly there to hang out together, all of them fixated on their cellphones and not paying one lick of attention to one another. Oh the irony - this technology meant to bring us together, seems to be pushing us apart, condoning anti-social behavior in normally social settings.

Particularly annoying about this cellphone culture is having to hear everyone's conversations all around me all the time, every day. It seems that some predominant psychology causes people to speak abnormally loudly when they talk on a cellphone, and we are talking about Greek people here, so it can be like there is shouting all around you. Trust me, I don't want to hear your conversation. I don't care about the inane things people waste their precious cell minutes jabbering about. The only saving grace is the fact that I don't understand spoken Greek as readily as written Greek, so for the most part I can't pick up the details of their sordid little lives. It is easier to ignore what you can't understand. But it is really hard to ignore the guy who speaks so loudly you can hear him with the doors closed, six stories up. Especially when he is shouting akous? (can you hear me?) into the phone at 150 decibels. Yes, as a matter of fact, I can hear you. So hang up and call back when you have better reception.

The only time I would have actually encouraged the use of a cellphone was the other day, when a guy was outside shouting hello to a neighbor a couple floors up. A simple wave and hello is fine, but these two proceeded to have a conversation! I guess he forgot his cellphone. Imagine that.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Ode to the Nashville girl

Like many, I am really looking forward to Walk the Line, the Johnny Cash biopic coming out in November (well, I don't really know when it will be released in Greece, but you Americans will get it in November).

I admit I've always liked Reese Witherspoon, partially because she is a good actress, and partially because she is a Nashville girl. Once a relative (perhaps her mother?) was in my doctor's office waiting room, telling a friend about Reese's unhappiness while away filming A Far Off Place. A friend of mine allegedly almost got beaten up by her brother for stealing the brother's girlfriend. Whether or not that is true, I don't know. What I do know is that Nashville is home and Nashvillians are family. So there you go.

The New York Times has a great article about Ms. Witherspoon and her new movie, including the ways she charmed our governor. It does require registration to read, but who doesn't want to read articles in the New York Times?

WHEN "Walk the Line," the film dramatization of the life of Johnny Cash, was in pre-production in 2004, budget concerns dictated that it be shot in Louisiana - which was offering financial incentives - rather than Tennessee, where Cash forged his sound, recorded his earliest hits and made his home. But Reese Witherspoon, set to portray his wife June Carter Cash (opposite Joaquin Phoenix), beseeched Gov. Phil Bredesen to make Tennessee more financially attractive to the producers. When he asked why Ms. Witherspoon was campaigning so hard, her response had nothing to do with the fact that she is a $15 million-a-movie Hollywood star. Sitting in an overstuffed striped chair at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel, Ms. Witherspoon smoothed the hem of her gauzy Alberta Ferretti dress and acted out her response, narrowing her eyes, pursing her lips and letting her high voice slip into its natural Dixie rhythms. "I told him, 'Because ah am a Nashville girl.' " It worked.

So there you have it. Southern girl charm can go a long way. And she does her own singing!

Of course, no matter what, she will always have her newfound autoharp skills - even if only played in a closet somewhere, since she put the instrument away after the film wrapped and hasn't looked at it since. "It was a hard movie to make and a hard film to end," she explained. "Sad. Challenging. It wasn't a light experience, a lot of deep emotions. It's hard to listen to any Johnny Cash. It still haunts me a little." Does that mean she has given up crooning, too? Ms. Witherspoon shook her head no. "I'm still belting out 'Wicked' tunes right and left," she said. "When I'm with my children in the car I think, I'm a fantastic singer."

You can't beat that.

Mother's milk

As I mentioned before, we get thousands of flyers for various take-out places under our door. Recently, we got one that has a picture of a mother breastfeeding her baby, with the word MANOULA! (mommy) across the front. A closer inspection of the flyer shows the word manoula to be part of a sentence, that says, translated, "the best food that reminds you of mommy".

Something just ain't right about it. I'm not exactly sure I want to eat food that tastes like mother's milk.

Of course, we just ordered food from them anyway, as living dangerously is part of our protocol. I'll let ya know.

UPDATE: The food was actually pretty damn good, and I don't think it tasted like mother's milk.


My husband wants to be lazy today, should I let him?

We still have 3 boxes of crap (if he says the word bricabrac one more time I'm going to kill him) to unpack. I ain't doing it alone, either.

I don't know. I may have to extend the whip and put him to work.

Let's not forget Judith Miller

Thanks to Sharon Cobb for posting this.

Judith Miller is now in her 11th week in prison because she wouldn't reveal a confidential source. There have been a lot of events to draw attention away from this whole issue, but we shouldn't forget. Where have all our rights gone? What about the rights of the press to protect a confidential source?

As the Bill of Rights is slowly chipped away (I don't remember ever seeing an asterisk denoting that terms and conditions were subject to change...) I have to wonder what will be next. Right to privacy is shot thanks to the Patriot Act. If the gummint thinks you are a terrorist, you can be held without charges indefinitely. If you were in New Orleans, you couldn't have a gun.

Are Americans really willing to let these things go in the name of safety? Does it really, in the end, protect us?

With leftists like these, who needs any enemies?

It is always the same old thing here in Greece. If any type of organization gathers for a rally of any kind, a handful of anarchists arrive with molotov cocktails in hand, poised and ready to create the violence of the evening. They always refer to these so-called anarchists as leftists, but it seems the American idea of a leftist is completely different from the Greek idea of a leftist. What we consider "left" in America is generally "socialist" here. And I don't mean socialist in a Marxist sense, either. I mean socialist as in a "provide for your citizens" kind of way.

I may be misunderstanding the nuances of Greek (and possibly European) politics, but things here don't work quite the same way they do in the U.S. You don't have two party system (yes, I understand there are other parties in America, but they generally don't win seats in Congress, except for an Independent here and there, which isn't really a party now, is it?), you have multiple parties in Parliament that cover every possible shade of conservatism and liberalism possible. You don't elect Parliamentary members separately like Americans do their Congress, you vote for a party, and whichever party wins is the one whose leader gets to be Prime Minister. Parliament is filled by members of each party according the percentages won in the vote, I believe (someone correct me if I am wrong here, my husband is sleeping so I can't verify). At first I found the system strange, but it seems to make a bit of sense. EDIT: Ok, I got this a bit wrong. Greeks don't vote for their Prime Minister by name, but by party (so I got that right). Each prefecture has a certain number of seats in Parliament so they vote in their Parliamentary members separately. Or something. It is confusing me a little bit now. At any rate, it doesn't work entirely like it does in the U.S.

Now, as one would expect, there is constant fighting amongst the parties, just like in the good ol' U.S. of A. It seems that second place party is always mudslinging the party that is in power (gee, imagine that) and that smaller parties get on board with the second place party. In the end, it is all a bunch of bullshit, just like anything else, but it is occasionally fun to watch, and listen to the heated exchanges that ensue. I've said before, Greeks are loud talkers in their normal tone, so just imagine the decibel level of political invective.

I digress. In light of all this, you can imagine that there is always some group that is dissatisfied with the government or its policies in some way, and so they stage rallies. These rallies are almost always planned and announced ahead of time, and they are almost always infiltrated by these anarchists/leftists who have nothing better to do than throw cheap bombs, beat up cars and destroy neighborhoods.

And so again, it has happened, and this time they interfered with the neo-Nazi rally I mentioned a couple of days ago. It is one thing when this happens to a simple protest, but when the protest is about peace, or combatting Nazi-ism, this kind of behavior really ruins things, and the real cause loses all credibility. Devious Diva made a good post about this tonight.

It is really a shame, I think, but I am not sure any of these battles will ever be won. Then again, I'm a pessimist. Perhaps I should spend my time posting about funny things, and just stop paying attention to anything political. But god forbid a mouthy American ever manages to keep quiet about anything. Hell just might freeze over.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

How rude!

Seawitch made a post on her blog yesterday that made me ponder the rudeness that seems to simmer and boil over amongst the Greek people. This rudeness, at times, seems to completely contradict the normal house and home behavior of the average Greek.

I've mentioned before how clean Greek women tend to keep their homes. These women are always cleaning, I see them on balconies with their mops and buckets daily. Yet why is it that these same women feel free to litter the streets with the same dirt they are sweeping out of their home? Why do they think it is ok to dump their mop water off the balcony? Why do they think it is ok to dump their dustpan off the balcony (and stupid too, if it is at all windy and it blows back up in their face)? Really, if you are going to dump your dirt and crap off the balcony, you could at least use the back balcony, since usually noone is walking underneath back there.

If Greeks are so clean at home, how come they can't seem to figure out the rocket science that is opening the trash can and putting their trash in it? No, it would seem Greeks would rather throw random trash all along the street, and let their bags of trash sit in the road so stray animals can pull it apart and spread trash along the sidewalk and streets. Americans really hate to have trash littering the front of their house/apartment building, why don't Greeks care? How can a Greek who is so fastidious about how their home is kept (and judgemental about how others keep their homes) pick up a pile of mail in the entrance of their building, pull out whatever mail is theirs then drop the rest on the floor?

In America, we had a name for people who did such things. These same people usually also had cars on cement blocks on their front yards and husbands who wore wifebeaters exclusively. It just astounds me daily how adults can be so inconsiderate of their environment and the people around them. Certainly, not ALL Greeks are like this, but enough are so that the problem is prevalent throughout much of Greece, even the smaller villages. Honestly, I don't understand the psychology behind this behavior. Greeks have an enormous amount of national pride, yet they don't work hard enough to keep their cities and buildings presentable. Is the extra effort to put the trash in a bin, to put down the pile of mail where you got it, that difficult?

Maybe it is just me. Maybe I grew up in sterile neighborhoods in America where people picked up their trash and were conscientious about making messes. Downtown Nashville had its moments of vileness, but in the end it was a fairly clean city. Perhaps the bigger the city, the trashier the streets.

I guess it is just too much to ask for. Still, it would be nice to walk outside and not see a pile of trash beside the empty trash can. It would be nice to walk unfettered by the fear of dirt bombs along the sidewalks of the city. It would be nice to walk into my building and not see mail all over the floor. But who am I kidding? If Greeks were perfect, I wouldn't have anything to write about! So there you go. Litter at will.

Hitchhiker's Guide to buying more books

Well, I finished Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and now, as was predicted, I will have to buy the others. I really enjoyed it - I hadn't really come across sci-fi humor before. At first I wasn't sure I would like it, but then I settled into the flow of it and it worked well. Unfortunately, I'll have to wait a month or two before I can order the others. I think I can wait. Next on the nightstand is Microserfs. I really enjoyed Generation X, and I've heard good things about Microserfs, so I expect to be pleased.

My husband and I are slowly making our way through Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince - I believe we are on Chapter 9 (which my husband fell asleep in the middle of reading - he is the only man who can actually fall asleep while he is reading aloud, I think). Sometimes I really regret this "reading it together the first time" thing, but I love to hear my husband read, and most of the books we like to read don't really lend themselves to being read aloud. Still, I just want to find out what happens! It is all I can do to steal the book while he is at work and read ahead. But that would ruin the fun of reading it together, wouldn't it? One thing I have noticed is that while the story is sound and exciting (of course), her writing style seems to be a bit sloppier in places. But, you know, its Harry Potter, I'm not going to complain.

I am going to have to start going back over The Iliad, The Aeneid, Antigone, The Oresteia, Beowulf, Hamlet, and the Henry trilogy so I can finish my thesis outline and get the ball rolling.

So many books, so little life to read them all.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Web searches are fun!

Wow, getting a lot of hits today of people looking up "Renee+Zellweger+Kenny+Chesney+fraud". Guess people are trying to figure out what the fraud was. How about their marriage?

I also get a ton of searchs for "mels diner TV show". I've answered this before, maybe I should make a perma-link to the side. The show was Alice, not Mel's Diner. The diner IN the show was Mel's Diner. On a related note, I also get searches looking for "diner curtains" on a semi-daily basis.

I have gotten more of those "vagena" searches. Maybe it isn't that these people are misspelling vagina. Maybe it is some sort of vegetable found in the Middle East.

I really don't understand the searches that are for my entire URL. Ok, if you are looking up, why don't you just come directly to the site?

Once I got a hit from a search for "autoerotic asphyxiation". My apologies to that person, on both counts.

"Ashes+sent+into+space+Carl+Sagan" is my favorite search hit lately. Although I don't recall mentioning Carl Sagan on the blog. Well, now I have!


So my husband is in the big living room/dining room area of the apartment right now, packing up his grandmother's china and glassware and pulling other assorted things from boxes we still haven't unpacked (yep, its been a month and a half since we moved, and we still haven't unpacked everything).

And all the while, here I am, tucked in our audio-visual room of wonder, perusing my favorite blogs.

Too good to be true

I should have known the positive vibe of the Orange Revolution(tm - property of Viktor Yushchencko) would wear off. The story broke last week when Yushchenko disbanded his government, including PM "Ms. Braids" Yuliya Tymoshenko, for corruption. This in and of itself was ironic, as the whole point of the Orange Revolution(tm) was to get rid of corruption and bad practices in Ukrainian government. Perhaps this is an impossible task, as, according to the latest Time International, Yushchencko's son is driving around in a pricey BMW that was imported in violation of customs laws, and the Yushchencko family has trademarked the symbols of the orange revolution, estimated to have a worth of $100 million a year.

People power makes good business, it seems.

Stormy weather

What is it about any type of weather that isn't sunny that seems to throw Greeks in an uproar? Sure, the sunny weather is nice, and Greece happens to have an awful lot of it. But rain is, well rain. Rain happens. Thunderstorms happen, especially in the summer. At least they did in Nashville.

Still, Greek news makes it out like some major blizzard/hurricane/deadly storm system is incoming if we are due rainy days in the summer. They call it "fall weather". Fall weather? Yea, so the majority of rain here occurs in the fall and winter, but downpours are not "fall weather". I can remember summers in Nashville where it stormed every single night.

I guess people get so panicked because, wonder of all wonders, major parts of Athens are built on dried up riverbeds and flood plains. Ohhh, so smart. But I guess you build where you can build, and such a thing isn't limited to Greece.

By the way, I'm pretty sure I felt another small earthquake last night. Bed shook slightly, no sound of traffic, cats all asleep, husband not snoring or having jimmy-legs. Now I'm going to be plagued by feeling earthquakes, I'm sure.

File this under "what were they thinking?"

Yea, I've been commenting on celebrity news alot lately (ok, so this is my second post about celebrities) but really, what was the point of Renee Zellweger and Kenny Chesney's marriage anyway? Apparently, Ms. No-longer-Chesney listed "fraud" as the reason for the break-up. This opens the imagination to all sorts of things that could be fraudulent about Mr. Chesney. Luckily, they can get an annulment, so it was like they were never really married anyway.


Thursday, September 15, 2005

Exercise for elephants

Well, I am glad the Alaska Zoo is finding a way to keep their 23-year old elephant fit during the harsh Alaskan winters. But I have to wonder about the effectiveness of a treadmill. Is the elephant going to know what is supposed to happen? Will she figure it out, or will just wonder why the hell the ground is moving under her feet? What if she doesn't, and she gets sucked into the mechanism?

All of these questions trouble me.