Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Get over yourselves already

Muslims worldwide have taken great offense to some cartoons that were run in a Danish newspaper and then reprinted recently in a Norwegian rag. The cartoons apparently depicted Muhammad in various opprobrious positions, one that had him carrying a bomb in his turban. The big kicker in this whole battle is that, for Muslims, it is forbidden to depict their great and wise Prophet in any manner – and apparently, by Allah, none of the rest of us should be allowed to, either. After increasing pressure by Middle Eastern boycotts of Danish products, the Danish newspaper in question apologized for publishing the cartoons. It seems that the Prime Minister of Denmark, while not apologizing for the newspaper itself, made a statement that he personally “never would have depicted Muhammad, Jesus or any other religious character in a way that could offend other people.” This apology has been met well by the Muslim leaders that started the campaign against the cartoons, so perhaps this ongoing row is finally drawing to a close.

I’ve been following this story for awhile now, to great amusement. While I agree that Muslims have a right to be offended by such cartoons, I don’t believe they have the right to dictate to a non-Muslim (or, frankly, another Muslim who has decided to do so) how they can and cannot portray icons of Islam – and I have the same opinion in regards to any other religion. It is called freedom of speech, a freedom that Muslims and Christians don’t seem to be too fond of - to great ends, sometimes. I don’t think the newspaper should have had to make an apology. I don’t think the person who drew the cartoons should have received death threats (Christians and Muslims – they don’t get what they want, they resort to violence. Nice.). And I think all the boycotting and crying by Muslims is a little more than I am willing to bear in my overall tolerance of religions. Get the fuck over it. We’ve all been dissed a thousand times over. Deal with it. Besides, I think the Muslims have a few more important issues they need to be concerning themselves with at the moment.

My husband doesn’t agree with me on this, of course. He doesn’t think anyone has the right to make a cartoon of Jesus or Muhammad or Allah or God or whoever – not if it hurts and offends people. But that is the danger, I think. How quickly will we all lose our freedom of speech if we have to refrain from doing things that might hurt or offend people? People are hurt and offended by things written, drawn, or depicted every day – some of these people may have reason to be offended, but others overreact. We can all start saying this or that offends us, just to get it stricken. How is that a good thing?

Perhaps it is my lack of faith that dictates my icy stance on this matter, but I just don’t feel it. I was raised a Christian, so there is still some small reverence for the images of Christ or God, but I have never been offended by an off-color cartoon or joke depicting Jesus or whoever. I would think anyone who has a strong enough faith, no matter their religion, would be able to withstand such ribaldry in the face of their beliefs. Besides, if a non-Muslim drew a depiction of Muhammad, calling it Muhammad, does that still make it Muhammad? What if I said this dash – was a depiction of Muhammad? Does that make it Muhammad? What if it was a stick figure? A cloud? Does the mere calling it Muhammad make it Muhammad?

In the end, I’m calling it much ado about nothing. But hey, the Muslims got their apology. Good for them. Now shut up about it.

EDIT: The Danish newspaper is still standing behind their right to publish the cartoons, and stating they are NOT apologizing for the cartoons. Vol Abroad has more. The Danish editor continues by saying:

“There is a lot at stake. It would be very naive to think this is only about Jyllands-Posten and 12 cartoons and apologising or not apologising.

“This is about standing for fundamental values that have been the (foundation) for the development of Western democracies over several hundred years, and we are now in a situation where those values are being challenged,” he said.

“I think some of the Muslims who have reacted very strongly to these cartoons are being driven by totalitarian and authoritarian impulses, and the nature of these impulses is that if you give in once they will just put forward new requirements.”

Well there you go. I think this is an important issue, one that shouldn't be brushed aside so lightly.

Academy Awards 2006

Well, the nominations are out and they are pretty much in keeping with the flow of previous awards nominations. I can safely say that I have yet to see one of the main pictures up for awards, although I have seen some of the films that are up for the crap awards like sound and art direction.

Ok, so they aren't crap awards, and I apologize to all the industry people who work hard to make their films the best in their category.

Not having seen the main movies but obviously having the ability to judge a book by its cover, I think I'd prefer to see Good Night and Good Luck win best picture and Reese Witherspoon win best actress, because McCarthyism sucked and she is a nice Nashville girl, respectively.

Everything else I am kinda meh about. I'm just looking forward to seeing Isaac Mizrahi Live on the Red Carpet again, if the pompous Oscar suits don't ban him.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Yet another reason I miss Tennessee

In Tennessee, you can have young men with venerable names like Jim Bob Cooter who play football.

There are no Jim Bobs in Greece, and certainly no Cooters. Just Niko Stavros' and mouni.

Thanks Aunt B., for pointing this out and making me a little homesick.

La isla bonita

A byproduct of all the Siberian cold that descended upon Greece last week was a massive power outage on the islands of Kefalonia and Ithaca. Parts of the islands were without power for nearly a week, and the travails of the island residents brought back memories of my own trials and tribulations when we lived on the island of Kos.

The reaction most people had when I told them we were moving to a Greek island for a year was one of envy and awe. An island must be paradise, right?

Not exactly.

While there may be many people out there who would be permanently mesmerized by the sand and surf, normal, reasonable people who don’t spend all their days on the beach are really just trying to live their lives, which I daresay in an island environment can be a little bit trickier than on the mainland.

First, let me say that Kos is a beautiful island, very scenic, filled with friendly denizens, good restaurants, and lots to do. I did not hate living there, but I would certainly think twice before moving to an island permanently or for a several year stretch after having had the experience. I would even suggest it for a nice holiday, as there are lots of clean and reasonably priced hotels and beaches all around.

We lived in the village of Pyli, which is situated in the southern mountainous regions of the island. That means if we wanted ANYTHING (aside from a good meal or some overpriced artwork) we had to drive, usually to the main city of the island, aptly called “Kos town”. Now, Kos is a pretty small island, although not the smallest, certainly far from being called large. The island is shaped sort of like a fish, and the length was around 30 miles or so, with the width no more than 5 miles or so at its widest. There was one major road that ran the length of the island, and for the most part it was a two-lane highway, with ample room on both sides for slower vehicles to get over so normal moving vehicles can pass. The speed limit was, I think, 70km/hr, but obviously there were always people going MUCH faster than that. I typically drove between 80-90, depending on the curvy parts of the road, and I always had people on my ass. Seriously guys and gals, you can’t go anywhere that takes more than 30 minutes to get to on that damn island, what’s the friggin’ hurry?

The fun thing about that road always occurred during tourist season. Kos was a popular locale for British tourists, so it was open season on people trying to figure out how to drive on the right side of the road. Even more pleasant were the people who rented motorcycles – people who obviously had never driven such a conveyance before. And lets not forget the people on those weird dune buggy things that couldn’t go more than about 40 km/hour. Traveling mostly in gangs (surely as protection from irate islanders), it was especially pleasant driving behind a group of 4 or 5 of these vehicles trying desperately to get their little buggies from one part of the island to another. Then you have a plethora of tour buses, every once in awhile some local farm machinery, and once there was even a poor old man in a motorized wheelchair. Driving anywhere on Kos was always an experience, you can be sure of that.

Since we lived in a village and not in Kos town, we didn’t have access to public sewage, which meant my first experience with a septic system. Oh boy, was that fun! When we first moved in, our crazy landlady did not tell us it was a septic system, and of course, we proceeded normally with flushing our toilet paper in the toilet. It took a month and a half before the whole shebang overflowed, and we had to be warned not to put the paper in the toilet. I’m sorry, but this is what civilized people normally do with their toilet paper – you gotta tell us city folk these things before we get started! Needless to say it took me a long time to get used to putting used toilet paper in a trash can. I still have nightmares.

When we first arrived on Kos it was still the dead of summer. After about a week, we were in what came to be our favorite taverna in Pyli when the electricity went off. Our waiter told us this was not an uncommon event, especially in the winter. Apparently, I had no concept of what exactly he meant by that – I assumed very frequent short power outages. Oh no. He meant power outages that lasted hours, sometimes into the night. Day long power outages. Power outages in the middle of fixing Thanksgiving dinner, which meant sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner at 1am, only to have the electricity go out again while we were eating. This was the wondrous glory of island life.

We had one big grocery store on the island, a Champion, which is a pretty big Greek chain that was bought out by the French company Carrefour. It was a nice grocery store, very convenient, with a nice variety of products. What we didn’t realize was that on islands in the winter, sometimes the products can’t get there. The store almost ran out of toilet paper (among other things) before they were able to restock again. Sure, there were several smaller mom and pop supermarkets all over, but no doubt they ran out of stock quicker than the Champion. Luckily, some of the major companies had milk bottlers on the island, so we never had to go without fresh milk. I suppose the key here is learn to plan ahead for the winter. If we had had any idea, we would have.

The normal city water was so full of salts and calcium it was undrinkable, and left stains on everything (granted, it is somewhat like that in most of Greece, but on the islands it was especially bad). Occasionally we also had long water outages, sometimes at the same time as the power outages. It is always a blast when you can combine the two. Not to mention the cost of water and electricity is a bit higher than it is on the mainland. I can understand why, but the bills could be a bit shocking, especially if you consider the average Greek income.

Needless to say, I have an awful lot of respect for people who spend their whole lives on the islands. Sure, I suppose they don’t know what life is like anywhere else, and they are used to it. And no doubt there are benefits: good weather most of the year, beaches all around, friendly neighbors, beautiful sunsets. But I’m thinking island life is definitely not for me, not unless I have a LOT of money, and a really good generator.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Those crazy Italians

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has vowed not to have sex until the April 9th general election.

This assumes that he was having sex before.

I don't know why I don't like this guy. Perhaps it is because he is a misogynistic pig. Perhaps it is because he is against gay marriage. Perhaps it is because all the plastic surgery made him look like a freak. All I know is at least he is not my problem. I have a Bush to worry about, instead.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Just a couple of questions

Did the person who started this petition even read To Kill a Mockingbird? And if so, did he/she just lack the reading comprehension skills needed to understand the novel?

It also states "this book contains adult themes such as sexual intercourse, rape, incest …" It contends that the book's use of racial slurs promotes "racial hatred, racial division, racial separation and promotes white supremacy."

Yea, that is what this novel does. If you read it when you are on crack.

Review: The Plot Against America, Philip Roth

I finished reading The Plot Against America last night. First let me say this review will be brief and without spoilers, because my dear husband hasn’t read it yet. It was one of those books that you are sad when it is done – I read it too quickly and endeavored to slow down a bit at the end because I didn’t want the experience to be over.

The basic premise of the book is what might have happened had Charles Lindbergh accepted a Republican nomination and become President in 1940 instead of Roosevelt. I hadn’t known it before, but there is some evidence that Lindbergh was an anti-Semite, based on some things he said and wrote. The Plot Against America takes him on a path that leads him to be a Nazi sympathizer, and, well, if you want to see where Roth is going with all this, read the book. The story is told from the point of view of a young Jewish boy in America – in fact Roth himself – which adds nuances an “adult” narrator might not have had.

Like any good piece of postmodern literature, fiction reads as fact and the final disclosure is murky and without a credible source. An underlying theme of the story – one that resonates with me today – is what it means to be an American, and what happens if the character of America is changed drastically. Roth’s writing can be a bit pedantic at times, but not in a way that distracts from the reading or enjoyment of the novel – in fact it adds to the dazed credibility of the tale. It was a dark and fantastic journey – and one I am sorry is over.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Happy Birthday, Mozart

If we were living in Biblical times, Mozart would be 250 years old today. Unfortunately, we aren't, and so he isn't actually alive to celebrate his birthday.

We are celebrating by taping for our archives the 24 Hour Mozart international broadcast. I'm sure it will be available on DVD, but, ah well. Who knows, I'll probably flub the whole thing up somehow, especially since videotapes will have to be changed in the middle of the night. Still, it should be a delightful mix of music, documentaries, and all things Mozart. And how often do we have days that are all things Mozart?

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Turn that frown upside down

I was having a bit of a down day, until I saw the following headline:

Size of beaver carcass impresses work crew

Well, you can't beat that.


I was one of those kids who was born to read. Always well ahead of the rest of my class, I was often sent to classrooms with older students for my reading lessons. I adored reading, I thought everyone should be reading as much as I was, and so I cajoled all the kids around me into reading. Most of them didn’t appreciate my overbearing nature when it came to reading, a lot of them simply didn’t like to read, or hadn’t yet learned how to read proficiently enough to enjoy it. I looked at classmates who couldn’t read with disdain, and began choosing my friends based on how well they could read. I couldn’t imagine how horrible it would be to not be able to read.

It wasn’t until I got older that I realized there were quite a few people who couldn’t read, including adults, and instead of focusing on the ignominy of such a lack of skill, I began to support programs that taught people how to read. There was still nothing worse to me than not being able to read, but I didn’t blame anyone anymore for their digressions – instead I chose to educate them. I was very secure in my singular, English speaking world – there was no question of my literacy.

Until now.

As I sit with my mother-in-law and struggle over the correct pronunciation of Greek words I remember my early years and wallow in the irony of it all. Sure, in America I am 100% literate. In Greece I am barely functionally literate. When I think of all the languages I don’t know, I start to get a bit depressed. What exactly does literacy mean? How can I be secure in my literacy if I am illiterate in hundreds of languages all over the world? If only I had thought of this as a child, when it would have much easier to absorb and learn new languages. For now, I’ll just have to learn to live with the shame as my battle to learn Greek wages on.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

A centimeter or five doesn't really make a difference

Yep, we got some snow, as evidenced by the photo of the White Tower (photo courtesy ERT online). If you look at the picture, it doesn't seem like all that much snow - yet schools and businesses were shut down, in the ongoing struggle for Greeks to just get an extra day or two off.

Granted, it is bitter cold outside (around 20° F), and any snow that melted no doubt quickly turned to ice (as evidenced by our balcony), so I have no doubt that indeed the national highways were too dangerous for trucks over night (they were forbidden from travelling from 6pm until 6am). Honestly, though, the national highways are too dangerous for trucks or passenger vehicles at any time of day or night, so it seems rather moot. Generally speaking, I think the remote islands and villages are at a much greater risk, as several are virtually cut off from the rest of the world, and many have no power.
As far as Athens and Thessaloniki go it seems like much ado about nothing, but Greece wouldn't be Greece without a bit of overreaction now and then.

At least we have these frost survival tips to go by.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Snow? What snow?

The big news story tonight in Greece is all the snow and the freezing temperatures coming in from Siberia. I was watching the news on one channel tonight, and they had a reporter who was supposedly in Thessaloniki, showing snow all around. Well, I've been looking outside all damn day and I'll be durned if we have any accumulation here in the Thessaloniki city center (I will assume they had their cameras up on some of the mountainous regions surrounding Thessaloniki). Yea, we had some flurries which you could barely see against the whitewash of the buildings across the street, but that hardly qualified as snow, and it seems to have stopped now.

Being from the American South, I am used to the vagaries of snow forecasts and the resulting widespread panic they can cause. In Nashville whenever snow was in the forecast, you could always find thousands of people flooding to the Green Hills Kroger, buying all the bottled water and milk they can find (as if anyone in Green Hills was ever snowed in more than a couple of days). Sure, I remember the great ice storm of (what the hell year was that??) when we didn't have power for days, even in the Belmont area. But that kind of outage is usually pretty rare in that part of town, and buying up the goods every time snow is forecast is, well, sort of like a Pavlovian dog who doesn't realize it gets shocked every time it reaches for a treat.

Greeks also have this sort of "snow hysteria", which actually isn't limited to snow but inclement weather of any kind. I have a bit of an understanding why this is now, since Greece is traditionally the land of sun and sea, and seriously, they don't experience a whole lot of bad weather. When we lived on the island of Kos, I'd say we had maybe two months of winter that you could actually consider moderately cold (almost never getting to freezing temperatures) and overall I'd say sunny weather at least 300 days of the year. On Mt. Olympus it got cold, and we had a couple of big snows, but you still had predominantly sunny weather there. Nashville summers were always filled with afternoon storms, but here, no matter where you live, a summer rain shower seems fairly rare, which is why, I suppose, the Greek word for summer literally translates to "good weather".

Still, I can't help being a bit disappointed, and hoping perhaps a thin blanket of snow will fall overnight. Practically speaking, I find snow to be a pain in the ass (if there is a millimeter of ice, I will find a way to slip on it), but the child inside me still reacts with awe and wonder at the sight of snow. I suppose when you come from a region of the U.S. that doesn't spend the winter encased in snow, you always feel that way.

There is some hope yet, as the winter is still young, and we all know February can be a snowy month.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Blog for education

I don't think there is anyone who does not aknowledge the efforts and the heroism of women both in everyday life and in their social struggle. There are few who do not consider women equals (at least in the "western" world) and they are declining. However, it is one thing to proclaim equality, to demand a voice, to overturn past inequalities and quite another to call a pregnancy "a woman's choice". What arrogance!

It is unfortunate that not all pregnancies are wanted or harmonious. It is horrible that so many women dread pregnancy with their abusing partner. It is equally horrible - I think - that so many women (and their partners) treat abortion as a contraceptive. All these things - and more - make us cringe but let me say this and say it loudly: A pregnancy involves at least two people. The argument "it's my uterus" is invalid and idiotic. Quite as idiotic as claiming that anything that strays in your yard is yours to do with whatever you wish. It is an insensitive position, an arrogant and one serving ulterior motives. Roe vs Wade became a flag and I understand (trust me) the importance of a flag. Arguments never rally troops, speeches only hold a fleeting sway over dissenting groups. But a flag! A standard! If your colors march ahead by god! You follow.

That having been said, you may surmise that I am "pro life" (another idiotic group with their own standards, rotting fetus corpses, blood and horror) but you would be wrong. I am pro education. I am pro sanity. I think I am a true feminist (I can see your smirks already), one that need not scream, one that need not march naked through the streets supporting some nebulous cause. Women are equals, that does not mean they are the same as men. We have different strengths and weaknesses and - I believe - we are here to complement and not antagonize each other.

So, abortion. What about it? My personal belief is that we should not have them. I do believe the fetus is a complete human being, one that lives and feels and most importantly one that has the right to existence. My quarrel with abortion is the same I have with capital punishment. We, humans, simply do not have the right, in the great scheme of things to remove a life or decide that one should not be lived. That is my personal belief. Does that mean all women who had abortions are sinners who should burn in hell? Of course not. Each case is different, I judge none and I can only hope that I won't have to face the dilemma. It is not an easy one.

Professionally and "socially" if you will, I believe abortions should be legal. Driving women (and doctors) underground, pushing women to questionable "establishments" with unsanitary conditions is not a solution. A woman who needs an abortion should be able to get one in a regular hospital in surgery-clean conditions.

Defining the "should" part though, that is the issue. First of all, I do believe an abortion should have consent from the husband. I understand that in some cases this is impossible or even dangerous - these cases could be turned over to a social worker and why not, the police. Secondly all women who choose abortion should go through a rigorous day of counselling and reflection. Women who choose abortion should be told about the procedure, what it does, what feelings it causes. They should be left to talk to others, volunteers who have had abortions. People who can describe the good and the bad. Finally I do think that women after the second abortion should get a mandatory contraception course and/or "mandatory" visits to a specialist. I am not brilliant, I don't have all the answers, but that's what I believe.

Abortion should be legal, but controlled. It is not contraception, it is not something to be taken lightly. Women (and their partners) should be educated. Let's spend some energy and money on that. But of course, education doesn't make a good banner. Not much to scream about and not much gore to show...

Blog for choice

My husband and have three great topics of debate between us, topics in which we disagree nearly completely. One of these topics is religion, another is capital punishment, and the final one is abortion and the woman’s right to choose. It isn’t that my husband doesn’t see women as equals. It isn’t that he is misogynistic in any way. It is simply that he thinks that since you can’t get pregnant without the sperm, the man should have a choice in things too, supposing he even wants a choice. Not to mention there are men out there who actually care about the fact that a woman is carrying his child. While I think it is unquestioningly immoral for a wife who is in a decent marriage to hide a pregnancy and abortion from her husband, I also think there are a thousand situations we cannot imagine where a woman cannot or should not involve her lover/husband/boyfriend/one night stand in this decision.

As women, we take it for granted that the founding fathers of America didn’t intend to include us in the common language as “citizens” of this fine nation. It was a sign of the times, the way of the world, women were “second class.” In light of this, amendments had to be made to give us our rights – the right to vote, the right to equal pay, the right to an abortion, etc., etc. Should we be offended that we aren’t automatically included in the texts that make America so great? Perhaps a little. But I am long beyond berating a past generation for their mistakes. We weren’t included. Now we are. Move along. The right to choose an abortion has been the top dog in the women’s movement for a couple of generations now. Is it the most important issue? I don’t know about that. What I do know is that I don’t really want to see a day where men get to tell us when we can and can’t be pregnant or have an abortion – and that, I think, is the crux of the issue. Sure, in an ideal world, we plan these types of things with our partners in full agreement. But it can’t always be like that.

I cannot consider myself a tried and true feminist, as I am not as familiar and well-versed with feminist issues as a true feminist would be, so forgive me for the following bit of assumption. Does anyone really think that if men were the ones who got pregnant and faced the same decisions, that the issue would come under legislation in the same way it does with women? Or do you think it would be understood that men have the choice to do whatever they want in regards to the pregnancy? Sure, there are the religious arguments against abortion, the whole debate about murder – but would it be the same if men were the ones getting pregnant and choosing abortions? I tend to think it wouldn’t be the same, but then again, perhaps I am a bit jaded by the fact that women weren’t always considered equals. Despite all this – it is a woman’s problem in our reality, and it should be a woman’s choice.

I am repeating my own words, but when it comes to women’s rights, I’m afraid we can’t give an inch, a millimeter, in our fight. It wasn’t until 85 years ago that women had the right to vote in America. 85 years – a relatively short time. Four generations may have come in that time, but there are some from that first generation who are still alive. As recently as the 1950’s, women were still regulated to the position of wife and mother, housekeeper, servant. Women were taught to respect and obey their fathers and their husbands. Even educated women were on the fast track to marriage and home life. It was such an irony, how women kept America running during World War II, only to be sent home again. I can’t entirely blame the men, it seems there was a great lack of communication. Men either didn’t think about what their wives wanted, or they assumed they had what they wanted. Women themselves probably didn’t even realize that they were allowed to want something other than the role of housewife. I am the first to accept that some women really did want this life. But others didn’t. And so by the 60’s, women’s voices started to get louder, and louder, and today, we have some rights, some assurances. We are allowed to make our own choices and do what we want. But we cannot go backwards. We cannot take a misstep. The foot may be poised to take a step backwards, but we cannot let it hit the ground, lest it take us back too far.

So yes, I suppose to some extent I am a feminist. I believe that women are smart, beautiful, and capable of whatever they want. I believe a woman’s choices are difficult, heartbreaking, but they must be their own. I believe we must protect women’s choices and women’s rights. We cannot let that foot go down.

ADDENDUM: If you want to read my husband's counter-argument, go here.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Luna Lovegood?

It is getting down to the wire for the casting of Luna Lovegood for the upcoming movie Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Luna happens to be one of my favorite characters in the HP books, so I am hoping they choose the right girl.

This girl would make a good Luna. This girl is too glam to make a good Luna. But it seems they are both in the running.

Links courtesy Wizard News, my favorite source for HP info.


One thing that makes me want to take an Oedipal plunge into the darkness of never, ever seeing anything, anywhere, ever again is the whole combining names of celebrities dating each other thing. Brangelina. Bennifer. Spederline. I'll stop listing examples here, lest I start to vomit profusely from the excoriating feeling in my brain.

Someone, somewhere, got clever and stupid mixed up in their head. I do realize that celebrities often don't have enough of a personality to muster the strength of character for one person, but really people, lets stop doing that.

I won't even go into the horrifying word that would be created from combining mine and my husband's first or last names into one, suffice it to say it would have the power of summoning the hounds from hell and killing every last pixie and fairy in a 300 mile radius. And that is a LOT of pixies and fairies, my friends.

Friday, January 20, 2006

To cook, or not to cook

I used to enjoy cooking and baking. My co-workers at one former employ were often the recipients of my frequent baking, and I took pleasure in the fact that people enjoyed my cookies, cupcakes, breads, you name it. A dinner invitation was always well-met, especially if I was cooking my famous stromboli.

Every since I got married, however, I haven't been much of a cook. I wondered why, for awhile, because despite the fact that we had an oven so small it could barely hold a fly with it's wings cut off, you could still cook with it. Today I cooked my famous stromboli for dinner, and I came to a realization: my desire to cook is directly proportional with the size of my kitchen and the amount of counter space my kitchen has. Our current kitchen has the counter space equivalent to a large cookie sheet, which really isn't enough for hog butchering, entrail twisting or any type of alchemistic torture. We did buy a nice piece of furniture to expand the amount of counter space, but the damn thing is on wheels and if you try to do any vigorous stirring or even breathe near it, it sends the whole kit and caboodle barrelling down the apartment hallway at a speed consistent with major league pitchers. It sure makes a fine place to store stuff, though.

This will be a temporary relapse. Our house, which is finished being built, painted, tiled, and all that jazz, is a blank slate as far as the kitchen cabinetry is concerned. I don't ask my husband for much, I don't fancy jewelry, I don't go clothes or makeup shopping very often, and honestly, flowers are pretty but they immediately die in my care, as if my breath is the kiss of death. But my husband is going to sell a few organs and walk the streets in red lipstick and high heels for the kind of cabinetry and counter space I have in mind for our kitchen. He'll reap the benefits, though, as long as he has enough organs left to survive.

For now, he'll have to survive on sloppy joes, chili, and an occasional stromboli dinner. Someday I might make a pie or some cookies, but such projects are particularly tenuous without counter space. It is always good for a challenge, though.


Does anyone else find it interesting that now that Republicans are in a veritable quagmire of dung, suddenly Bin Laden has a new message for America?

Could mean nothing. But some of us do have to wonder...

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Catholicism, revisited

I've never been particularly fond of the Catholic church, especially after having spent a year in Catholic school. Pope John Paul II was amiable enough, a likable character who was a presence as "the Pope" through most of my life. But with the latest Pope looking like death warmed over and bearing a remarkable resemblance to an evil Star Wars character, I just can't find myself wanting to keep from being snarky about Catholicism in general.

Wait a minute...

Can it be that the Vatican disagrees with American holy man Pat Robertson and approves of the Pennsylvanian court decision that called teaching intelligent design unconstitutional?

Although not presented as an official church position, the Vatican newspaper published an article this week labeling as "correct" the decision by a judge in Pennsylvania last month that the concept of intelligent design could not be taught as a scientific alternative to evolution.

Although the case more specifically stated that teaching intelligent design would be unconstitutional mainly because it veered towards one particular Christian viewpoint, it seems that the Vatican maintains that the scientific concept of evolution does have a place beside traditional Catholic creationism - just not in the same course of study.

Many Catholic scientists have criticized intelligent design, notably the Reverend George Coyne, director of the Vatican Observatory. "Intelligent design isn't science, even though it pretends to be," he said in November, according to the Italian press service ANSA. "Intelligent design should be taught when religion or cultural history is taught, not science."

This is actually a reasonable way of looking at things. My god - the Catholic church a voice of reason? Surely this is a sign of the apocalypse.

In October, Schönborn sought to clarify his remarks, saying that he meant to question not the science of evolution but what he called "evolutionism," or an attempt to use the theory to rule out the hand of God in creation.

"I see no difficulty in joining belief in the creator with the theory of evolution, but under the prerequisite that the borders of scientific theory are maintained," the cardinal said in a speech in Vienna.

In the Osservatore article, Facchini similarly wrote that scientists could not rule out a divine "superior design" to creation and the history of mankind. But he said that Catholic thought did not rule out that that design could take place through an evolutionary process.

"God's project of creation can be carried out through secondary causes in the natural course of events, without having to think of miraculous interventions that point in this or that direction," he wrote.

I don't know, but in the end, I think it is a really good day when Catholicism admits such things, especially at the expense of Pat Robertson. Go smite yourself, Pat.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

My extreme hatred for telelphones

Today is my husband's name day, which means that the godforsaken phone (both cell and landline) have not stopped ringing all damn day. We are one phone call away from me flinging the damn thing off the balcony.

Name days seems to be more important than birthdays here, which I find weird, because really, is the saint's day that much more important than the day you drew your first breath? Besides, at my age, birthdays mean that I survived a long ass time in this crazy world. Now THAT is something to celebrate.

Most people will say I am just bitter because my name is too heathen-like to share it with a saint, and thus, I have no name day. Well, it doesn't mean much, except that I don't have to answer the telephone all day. That is bad enough on my birthday.

Still, Χρόνια Πολλά to all the Athanasios' and Athanasia's out there.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Will they listen?

From Al Gore's speech yesterday:

I call upon Democratic and Republican members of Congress today to uphold your oath of office and defend the Constitution. Stop going along to get along. Start acting like the independent and co-equal branch of government you're supposed to be.

But there is yet another Constitutional player whose pulse must be taken and whose role must be examined in order to understand the dangerous imbalance that has emerged with the efforts by the Executive Branch to dominate our constitutional system.

We the people are-collectively-still the key to the survival of America's democracy. We-as Lincoln put it, "[e]ven we here"-must examine our own role as citizens in allowing and not preventing the shocking decay and degradation of our democracy.

Thomas Jefferson said: "An informed citizenry is the only true repository of the public will."

Read the rest here. I could expound further, and I suppose I did, to some extent, in my Flag burning post. But Gore said everything I could say, and more. It certainly makes one wonder how different the world would be right now if Gore had been sworn into office in January 2001.


Well, Sarcastro tagged me for the Five Meme, which is basically the same as the Four Meme I did a few days ago, just one higher.

So I will shamefully link to my post on the Four Meme, and tell you that my fifth answer to each question would in fact be 42.

No need for applause for this brilliant cop-out. As you were, good people!

Confessions on the sixth floor

I confess I have spent WAY too much time over the last 24 hours watching E! Entertainment Television's "Live from the Red Carpet".

It makes me feel dirty and superficial. Oh wait...

Monday, January 16, 2006

Flag burning

When I was a child, my father very proudly displayed our American flag for national holidays like Independence Day, Memorial Day, Washington and Lincoln’s birthdays (back when they were still two separate days), etc. It wasn’t an optional chore for him – the flag always went up on these days, he never forgot or was lazy about it. As a little girl I didn’t think much about the real meaning of the flag – all I knew was that it was a proud symbol of my country, something to be revered. I pledged allegiance to the flag every day in school without question, without ever really knowing what the act meant.

When I became an adult and lived in an apartment of my own, I didn’t bother to buy a flag for display. My meager income could be used for better things, and besides, displaying the flag was a mainstay of quiet, quaint neighborhoods with Cape Cod style houses, cul-de-sacs, and block parties every summer. It wasn’t for single girls.

I didn’t really give the flag – or the idea of the flag – much thought over the years until I moved to Greece. Of course, Greeks have the same general standard of flag displaying – on national holidays, mostly – although some people have been known to display the flag after Greece wins an international sporting event. Nothing in my arrival to Greece made me more aware of the fact that I was no longer on “home” territory than seeing a host of blue and white flags flying everywhere, with no Stars and Stripes to be found. My husband and I have had some discussion about purchasing a flag and displaying it – yet somehow, somewhere in the back of my mind, I feel like I can’t be in a household that displays only a Greek flag, the American flag should be displayed too.

That is when the whole notion of what the flag really means got my attention. A flag used to be a symbol of honor, yes, but it was also an identifying marker of a lord, a king, an army, what have you. If someone saw a flag, they would say “oh, you are with the Baron of Nottinghamshireton, what a fine fellow he is” and think very little of general politics, and more along the lines of improving contacts with fellows of the Baron persuasion. Yet if I were to display the American flag here in Greece, and perhaps to some extent, in America as well, it sends a rather large, even if erroneous political message – the message that maybe I support Dubya and the Iraqi war and spying on Americans without warrants, that Alito will make a fine Supreme Court Justice and that the Constitution is just a goddamn piece of paper. And, well, I am not on board with any of those things, as it so happens. But I am on board with America – the ideals upon which it was founded, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and all that jazz. So it seems that the idea of the flag, the meaning of the flag, has gotten skewed in some way – it grows and evolves (and devolves) into the politics of each passing President.

Is this only an issue with the American flag? If I saw a Greek flag in America, I wouldn’t think it was in support of corruption and weak politics, I would think of it as identifying Greece. Of course, Greece is far from being a major world power. Very few people outside of Greece know what is going on here. But the world knows what America is doing, and judgment runs fast and deep. It is a bit sad, I suppose, that I live in a time when the American flag can stand for so little of what it should really stand for – in a time when even I can question the merit of displaying an American flag, and what message it sends to the world. Does this make me un-American? I hope not. At least, I don’t think it does in the larger scope of things. Yet I can’t help wishing that things could go back to the way they were when I was a little girl. When I could see the flag and only see the good things, the proud things. Maybe some day, I will again. Until then, I think I'll stay away from flag displays of any kind. At least until I find a good Baron.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Plastic surgery: the boon of civilization?

Plastic surgery seems to be gaining ground in Greece, at the rate of some 10,000 operations a year. Sure, the number seems small, but in a country of 10 million people with a median income that is pretty damned low, it is a high number.

Yiannis Litras, the president of the European Academy of Plastic Surgery, told a conference in Athens yesterday that most operations in Greece are done to the nose, followed by changes made to the breasts. The third most popular area is the gluteus muscles.

I can understand, to some extent, "getting your nose done" if it is really out of control. But I highly doubt most of the people who had rhinoplasty had really horrible noses. I can understand breast implants if you had a mastectomy, but not for any other reason. And honestly, I'm not really sure I want to know what is being to the gluteus muscles.

There is a well known male (the guy on the right) in the entertainment business here who supposedly had a great deal of plastic surgery done. Like everyone else in the world who has had tons of plastic surgery done, he looks weird, not attractive, or young, or whatever the end goal was. I honestly can't believe he looks in the mirror and thinks he looks normal. But then again, our minds can do strange things to convince us that we are right.

I don't like plastic surgery, except where it improves deformities caused by birth defects, injuries, illnesses, what have you. I think it is a really wonderful thing in those cases. But I am not sure it is meant to be a cure for our vanity ills - and yes, I have discussed all this before, so I will step down from the soap box.

Ironically, Greece is also seeing a boost in patients seeking psychiatric help (good thing my husband picked psychiatry as his speciality!). Maybe somehow all this head shrinking can convince people they don't need plastic surgery. I doubt it though, as it seems people all over the world have been forever seeking a fountain of youth. Too bad they haven't found it yet.

Quote of the day (year?)

Courtesy Tennessee Guerilla Women:

"Impeachment is a tortuous process, but now that President Bush has thrown down the gauntlet and virtually dared Congress to stop him from violating the law, nothing less is necessary to protect our constitutional system and preserve our democracy."

The Impeachment of George W. Bush,
The Nation, January 30, 2006 issue


Friday, January 13, 2006

Are you freakin' kidding me?

I was doing some online shopping today to spend some Christmas money, and decided to buy a few
DVDs. I've been wanting Blade Runner for a looooong time, and was going to add it to my purchase. Lo and behold, Blade Runner is not available in Region 2 DVD!?

What the hell...

Thursday, January 12, 2006

That time of year

The winter doldrums may be getting to us after the joyous holiday season, but at least in America you always have Girl Scout Cookie season to help cheer you up and keep you nice and fat for the long, cold winter. It has been years since I bought Girl Scout Cookies. Well, obviously since I've been in Greece for the past 4 winters - but even before that I'm not sure I purchased any my last couple of years in Nashville.

I was a Girl Scout myself many, many moons ago. Back then, I dreaded Girl Scout Cookie season. I was never one for customer interaction in person, even as a child, so the thought of trudging door to door trying to sell cookies was quite dreadful. My salesmanship must have come across something akin to a zombie going door to door trying to eat brains, because I never sold many cookies, and I never tried to sell them. I sort of appeared at doors and said "well, here is an order form for Girl Scout Cookies if you want some". Most people balked at the price (which I always thought was kinda high myself) and either said no or felt sorry for me and ordered way more than any normal household could consume, unless it contained a pot-smoking teenager.

Today's Girl Scouts have it much easier. They simply have to get with a couple of their Scout friends and a parent or two and park a table out in front of a Kroger, where the children follow you with their sad Girl Scout faces until you buy a couple of boxes of cookies from them. No order forms, no waiting. Cookies on demand. WAY too easy.

Still, I could go for a couple of boxes of Thin Mints right about now, since Greece is a country that is seemingly devoid of the notion of putting chocolate and mint together. So if you are in a position to buy some Girl Scout cookies this year, buy an extra box of Thin Mints, and think of me as you enjoy them.


A sunset over my new hometown of Thessaloniki, courtesy Kathimerini.

Babies, space travel, and humanitarian efforts, oh my!

So it has been strongly alleged that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are expecting a baby. Grats to them for providing the seed for what will be most likely the most beautiful and most superficial baby ever. Yea, yea, I know Angelina adopts babies from ravaged, poor, war-torn countries and she helps earthquake victims and is like, humanitarian of the year or something. But she seems to really suck at personal interactions, is really good at stealing men who are in committed relationships, and hasn’t spoken to her father in years because well, let’s face it, she’s a bitch.

Sure, I know. I’d do her, and I’m not even a lesbian. And I probably shouldn’t even be commenting on people I don’t know, because she might actually be a nice person, or something. But isn’t that what celebrities are for? To judge them based on what the tabloids and gossip rags tell us?

Anyway, I am sure their new baby will appreciate the couple’s foray into space in 2010. Isn’t it a little bold to presume they’ll still be together in 2010? I mean, Brad Pitt will be all old and Angelina will surely find a new hot, young stud.

A source told the Daily Star: “Angelina and Brad are fascinated by outer space.”

Yes, of course they are. Because that is where they come from.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Hell's bells and supermarket stallers

We live in the Thessaloniki city center, which means, ostensibly, that it is the hippest, happeningist part of the city, where lots of crap is going down all the time and lots and lots of people are running around. So I am trying to figure out why our grocery store (ie. the grocery store across the street from us instead of the one three blocks over and 4 blocks down and 5 blocks behind us) cannot restock items more frequently than every six months. It isn’t like it is some sad little mom and pop grocery store that is a front for some baby selling racket, this is a grocery store that is part of a rather large national chain of supermarkets. Not only that, but it is located on one of the busiest main streets in Thessaloniki. Yet somehow, their policy on restocking non-staple items when they run out seems to be something along the lines of “when we bloody well want to” and that doesn’t really work for me. They manage to have a metric fekton of crap that no one ever wants in unlimited supplies, but if I want a particular brand of frozen pizza or a bag of shredded mozzarella, I have to wait. And wait. And wait. I could understand when this happened in the middle of winter on a Greek island, but in the Thessaloniki city center? I.don’t.think.so.

Sure, I could schlep my way to another grocery store, but why should I have to? This is the big city, forchrissakes. I can do without. Still, on any given day, when the skies are cloudy and my mind starts to wander, I reminisce sadly about the Green Hills Kroger, and how they always had everything I ever wanted, and more. Oh dear Masoutis, you will never be a Kroger!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

In which I tell the world a most embarrassing fact about myself

My attempts to learn Greek are more along the lines of an epic struggle between good and evil than a regular language lesson. It seems that after 36 years of life speaking good ol’ American English I am a bit set in my ways when it comes to pronouncing things, even things that bear no resemblance to my beloved Latin alphabet. Sure, I hear bonafide Greek all the time. Yes, I do know how certain letters are supposed to be pronounced. Yet when I find myself pronouncing a new word for the first time, I always resort to the regular old way of pronouncing things.

For example, the Greek epsilon (ε), which greatly resembles a nice Latin e, is pronounced more like eh, not eee. This is a fact I have known for at least 2 years now. And even though my brain knows this, understands it, and would tell someone learning Greek for the very first time this, I cannot seem to transfer this fact to my vocal chords. No doubt if my ass could talk it would pronounce it right, but alas, it is not to be. You can literally see blood vessels burst in my husband’s head, steam pour out of his ears and tiny goblins painting his hair gray every time I mispronounce an epsilon. This fact is well known amongst family, and every time I do it in front of my mother-in-law, she simply dies laughing.

But this is not the only thing. I don’t spit enough when I say chi (χ), I keep getting delta (δ) and theta (θ) mixed up (or rather, I pronounce my thetas like my deltas, which is incorrect, another fact I am quite well aware of) and for the love of all that is good and holy I cannot seem to grasp the concept of accents. I try, really I do, but something that should be as simple as telling time seems to be as complicated as rocket science in my pea-sized nugget of a brain. No matter what, whenever I try to enunciate the accent correctly, I get it ass backwards. This is not amusing to my poor husband, who, after running around the apartment in circles with tinfoil on his head and thwapping at the cats with his underwear in frustration, pauses for a minute, surely contemplating how many times I was dropped on my head as an infant that I can’t figure out how to goddamn enunciate my accents properly. Our cats probably speak better Greek than I do.

With a series of repetitive blows to the head, perhaps I can reset my brain to normal functionality somehow. I honestly don’t know how I am ever going to learn Greek well enough to feel comfortable speaking to people without them looking at me like I just swallowed a cow pie, but my reading ability is coming along nicely. In time, perhaps, I’ll be able to eh and spit with the best of them. Probably not before my husband’s hair turns entirely gray, though.

Holy meme

DeviousDiva over at This is Not My Country tagged me for this Meme of Four:


Public relations whore

Dispatcher for campus security

Assistant to a violin maker

Scorer of state issued standardized tests




My Name is Earl

The West Wing



Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Annie Hall

Saving Grace


Wilmington, DE

Winston-Salem, N.C.

Nashville, TN



Italy (Camucia-Cortona, Florence, Pisa)

The Netherlands (Utrecht and Amsterdam)

Panama City, Florida

Los Angeles, California


Nashville Is Talking


Rex L. Camino’s Blog of Doom

Every blog on my expats links


Pizza (yes, so sad)





I’m actually happy right where I am, but as long as my husband comes with me, I’d choose:

The Netherlands



An America that doesn’t have Bush as President


Into the Labyrinth – Dead Can Dance

PrimroseMors Syphilitica

Rubber Soul – The Beatles

Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy – Elton John



1987 Toyota Corolla SR5, which I had until 2002, when I moved to Greece

2003 Hyundai Accent

In my head I’ve owned a Rolls-Royce and a Dodge Viper, does that count???


Hmm, you over there by the window, that guy in the blue jeans and red sweater in the back, the cat with the grey stripes, and the woman who makes the best pies.

For quick, convenient sacrifices, just go to an ATM

Many said it would never happen - the sinking of Islam to Western conveniences. But it seems in Indonesia Islam has sunk to a new low - with approval from Muslim leaders no less - and Indonesians are able to make their Eid-al-Adha sacrifices via an ATM machine.

Eid-al-Adha is the Islamic day of sacrifice, where those who are wealthy enough are supposed to sacrifice an animal and give the meat to the poor. Generally, those who aim to donate a sacrifice comb the streets looking for the right cow, or pig, or whatever, oversee the slaughter, and give the meat away themselves. But in this day and age it seems to be a tiring process, and so a newspaper, a TV station, and a local bank joined together to provide easy sacrifical service with the push of a few buttons on an ATM machine.

A senior Muslim leader contacted by the BBC said he thought it was in accordance with Islam, but he added that unless you witnessed the slaughter first-hand and donated the meat personally, the religious experience would never be the same.

I take a small bit of offense at this statement. Is he saying that those of us who make monetary donations to rescue efforts around the world don't get the same satisfaction as if we travelled to the disaster areas ourselves and provided physical help? Ok, no, I guess it isn't the same, but most of us really aren't in a position to do that. So why not make sacrifices as easy as the push of a button? I'm all for making religious requirements easier, after all, I don't officially take part in any religions myself, but why shouldn't it be easier for people that do? Hell, I might make a sacrifice if I could do it via ATM! Why not?

Just as long as the radical Muslims don't blame the West for it, we're all right.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Yet something else I don't understand

So an award-winning pastry chef decides to leave America and open a business in France. Already, the plan is a bit risky, but doable. It turns out, however, that the new venture she started in Paris happens to be a pastry shop, of sorts, for dogs.

Don't get me wrong. I love animals of all kinds. I spoil our three cats with love and affection, and occasionally a VERY SMALL crumb of hamburger or a speck of whipped cream. As far as their diet is concerned, however, I spend about 5 euros every two weeks for a bag of Whiskas in their favorite flavor. Sure, if one of those fancy low-ash, "science" diet type cat foods were available readily here I might spend a little more on their food, but I sure as hell am not going to some hoity toity place where a treat for one animal probably costs more than one bag of food for my beloved felines (not that this place caters to cats anyway).

I understand a reasonable amount of spending on your pet. A comfortable place to sleep, a scratching post, some toys. A bag of treats now and then. When I want things really crazy, I'll spring for a bag of catnip. But buying an expensive treat for an animal who will just as happily eat shit is not something that seems acceptable, and certainly not on a regular basis. Yea, we think we are doing them a favor. We think they really care. But as long as they are fed, loved, warm, and have a sufficient place to use the bathroom, they couldn't care less whether they have a specialty treat from Mon Bon Chien or a Snausage.

Even worse are the celebrity pets. Yea, I know they have money. But do you really think little Tinkerbelle wants to wear an outfit that makes her look like a doofus? Are animals really meant to wear clothes? It is considered cruel and disabling to dress a chimpanzee, I'd assume the same applies for a dog or a cat. Watch someone try to put fancy little shoes on a dog. It might be hilarious at first, but then it is just a little sad.

Maybe this sort of opinion makes me a bad cat mommie, but I don't care. In at least some things in my life, common sense must prevail. Besides, our cats seem pretty damned content.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Strong earthquake in Greece

A 6.4 Richter earthquake centered in the Aegean sea near Crete and the Peloponnese hit about a half hour ago (13:35 local time). I haven't heard anything about damages or injuries yet, hoping and praying that everyone is safe and sound in that part of the country.

UPDATE: Centers in Thessaloniki and Patras are reporting it was a 6.9 Richter quake, while Athens says 6.4. Greek consistency wins again! Some news agencies are going ahead and reporting it at the higher scale. The quake was felt throughout much of Greece, and was even felt in Cairo, Egypt, apparently. We didn't feel it in Thessaloniki, although our cats were going crazy apeshit about that time.

UPDATE #2: Full story can be found here. Let's hope it doesn't start a chain reaction in the area.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Finally! A Jesus I can get on board with

There has been some suggestion, thanks to the oh-so-reliable source High Times magazine, that cannabis extract was in the anointing oils Jesus used.

"There can be little doubt about a role for cannabis in Judaic religion," Carl Ruck, professor of classical mythology at Boston University said.

Referring to the existence of cannabis in anointing oils used in ceremonies, he added: "Obviously the easy availability and long-established tradition of cannabis in early Judaism _ would inevitably have included it in the [Christian] mixtures."

Now, while I think it is certainly plausible that cannabis was used then, especially for its healing properties, I'm not sure this article really gives definitive proof of anything.

"If cannabis was one of the main ingredients of the ancient anointing oil _ and receiving this oil is what made Jesus the Christ and his followers Christians, then persecuting those who use cannabis could be considered anti-Christ," Mr Bennett concludes.

Don't get me wrong here. I am not lambasting High Times. I only read it for the articles, though. And I certainly wouldn't stand in the way of legalization talks worldwide. But this kind of crazy talk isn't going to help the cause. Use some sense, people!

Friday, January 06, 2006

Jam packed

I could make a great deal of fuss over Pat Robertson saying God smote Sharon but I think ol' Pat's behavior is getting just a bit too predictable these days. I think Mr. Robertson has a bit of a smite fetish, in fact. He should get that looked at.

Mooning is disgusting but not illegal in Maryland (requires login, so take my word for it if you don't want to register). Well, thank god for that. No one wants to deprive the lovely Marylanders from viewing a nice hairy white ass when the occasion fits.

Finally, an Oscar host I can get on board with! But will they let Jon be Jon, or will he be Oscar Jon? (too bad his name isn't Meyer)

Meh to the SAG awards nominees. I've no beef with the movie nominations, although I haven't seen any of them. But T.V.? I am all for Hugh Laurie and Mary-Louise Parker, and hell yea for My Name is Earl and Curb Your Enthusiasm, but I really don't get the allure of Grey's Anatomy OR Lost.

A Chinese company prefers to hire people born in the Year of the Dog. Anyone born in 1922 who wants a job just may have a chance!

It is always fun to play with a Lite-Brite!

The holidays are over

Today marks Theophany in Greece, which Orthodox Christians observe as Jesus' baptism. It is yet another in a string of religious holidays here in Greece, and seems to officially end the holiday season here. Kids are back to school next week, and you know that when the kids are back in school, the holidays are over.

The nice thing about living in a country where church and state have no separation is the plethora of holidays, both religious and secular. However, days like today are altogether confusing, as January 6th means different things to different religions. To Catholics, apparently, it is the visit of the three Wise Men, to others it is Epiphany, and while I know what the word means, I have no idea what the religious connotation of it is. My family always referred to it as Twelfth Night, but had no particular religious association carried with it. I think there is some sort of pagan holiday associated with the 6th or 7th as well (but of course there must be, because there seems to be a pagan holiday that preceeded every Christian holiday because the Christians just had to steal everything).

At any rate, I'll simply enjoy my husband being home for a long weekend, make a good lasagna, and have a relaxing day. Happy TheoEpiTwelfthphany everyone.

Greek children learn strange things

As part of my study of the Greek language, my mother-in-law and I thought it would be a good idea to start from the Greek books the children use in schools here, mainly for vocabulary absorption. Each page has some new words in a silly little story, and the other day I got to read about an old man who gets drunk and his wife gets angry with him. I know these things happen in reality, but do first graders really need to learn the concept of getting drunk? It hardly seems appropriate, but then again, this is a different culture.

I heard that in the second grade book you learn the words for penis envy, oral fixation, and fetish, along with two very important words all Greek children should learn - bribery and corruption.

I guess it could have been worse, after the wife got angry at the old man, he could have beat the crap out and told the bitch to shut up. Alas, not all stories have happy endings.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Judges have medical degrees?

A man accused of growing marijuana in his home in Australia was sentenced by the judge to 12 months probation, 50 hours of community service and he has to write a 3,000 word essay on the links between cannabis and schizophrenia.

In the Supreme Court in Brisbane, Justice George Fryberg said smoking cannabis increased chances of mental illness and, in particular, schizophrenia.

He said unlike moderate use of alcohol, use of cannabis could have long-term effects on users.

Um, ok. As my husband says, what exactly is this judge smoking? There has been very little medical proof (that wasn't otherwise tainted by propaganda) that smoking pot increases the chances of mental illness. And really, has the judge done all the scientific studies? Where does he get his information? Not to mention, how can a non-medical person write an essay that requires medical knowledge?

Honestly, I don't discount the idea of making a perpetrator write an essay related to his/her crime. But it would be better served to have him write about why he thinks smoking and growing marijuana is wrong, or a similar thesis - rather than something that requires a certain amount of in depth scientific research that has not been definitively proven as of yet.

Perhaps we should sentence this judge to read Steal this Urine Test.

You know you are homesick when...

...you feel sad you can't get a new Tennessee license plate.

Horrible fairy tales

As part of my study of the Greek language, my mother-in-law is having me read and memorize the famous Little Red Riding Hood in Greek. When we started going over it the other day, my mother-in-law exclaimed "you know, I don't know what kind of fairy tale this is. It is horrible. What kind of mother would send her small child out in the woods with a wolf? I loved the story as a child, but as I grew, I started to realize how terrible it is."

I had to laugh, and she did too. I, of course, had never thought about it that way. But it is rather questionable now, isn't it?

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Is that really necessary?

A British woman has married a dolphin. Yep, you heard right. And while I know that it is getting much harder for women to find good men these days, especially once you pass the age of 40, I'm still not certain this woman should have given up just yet. If she did marry a bonafide human being, would that then be considered bigamy? Or are we all allowed one marriage with a member of the animal kingdom and one with a human?

I'm the last one to push for prohibitive measures of such marriages, in fact, obviously I get a great deal of entertainment from such crazy human activities. But in a world where homosexuals can only get married in a few places, is this really appropriate? Not to mention, I hardly see the point of such a marriage. Was the dolphin even of sound mind enough to give consent? Or did we just whore him off to the first crazy lady that came his way?

Well, even if she did ever have a hope of marrying a man, I think that is pretty much shot now. Too bad for her. I heard that dolphins can be really selfish lovers.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Where have all the babies gone?

It used to be that there were babies all over any given city battling it out for first baby of the New Year. Yet in 2006, the first baby born in the hospital in Nashville wasn’t born until 6:54 a.m. Now, I realize Nashville isn’t anywhere near being called a “big city”, but with over 500,000 people you’d think it would be likely that there would have been a baby born before 7am on January 1st.

Is this evidence of the growing depopulation of countries around the world? While statistics seem to indicate that America is keeping an even birth rate, many other countries are suffering small rates of decline – the world is not repopulating itself. Is this intentional? Is it instinctual in some way – a means of protecting our young from some great catastrophe in the world to come? Or is it the natural process by which humans will die out, replaced in the future by another form, or none at all?

Many people argue that the lack of population replacement is due to selfishness on the part of people who choose not to have children. Well, excuse me, but whether or not someone else does or doesn’t have children really isn’t my business, or anyone else’s. If the species meets its demise, so be it, but I don’t really think propagation of the species is a good reason to just keep breeding anymore. Can you imagine a law that would force every physically able couple to have children? Can you imagine how miserable some of these children might be? If people don’t want to have children, they really shouldn’t have children. Sure, the possibility exists that once the child is born, they might change their minds about it, but it is also possible that the parents could end up forever resenting the child, and we all know that doesn’t make for a healthy adult. Is it selfish? Perhaps. But you can’t change the way someone feels. If someone is really dead set on repopulating the world, they can have all the kids they can squeeze out. But forcing the situation – having kids for the sake of having kids, is not a healthy or responsible decision.

I figure one of two things will happen: the birth rates in most countries will end up balancing out again in several years and meet an upsurge in births or (duh) they won’t. And if they don’t, then maybe it is what is supposed to happen. Humans have free will for a reason, and if it dictates that the species will expire, well there you go.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

What? No coin in the Vassilopita???

Last night I had the pleasure of experiencing my first "traditional" New Year's Eve with my in-laws. The last three years we had either lived too far away, or my husband had to work, so we couldn't be here to celebrate with the family.

The family tradition is to have a celebratory evening at my mother-in-law's brother's house, which is a real treat, because Uncle George and Aunt Sophie are delightful people. The dinner was grand, the company was entertaining, and the excitement of the coming New Year was palpable. At the stroke of midnight I had the pleasure of double cheek kissing twenty people, which, quite frankly, can be a bit exhausting, despite the fact that they are all well-loved family members. We had the added bonus of the electricity going out right as the clock struck, so we were all tripping over furniture and one another trying to make sure we kissed everyone. We whiled away the minutes without power by singing songs I don't yet know the words to as my brother-in-law played guitar.

The electricity never came back on, so we had to cut the Vassilopita by candlelight, which added a nice nuance to the festivities. As we all anxiously sifted through our pieces of the bread to see who was lucky enough to have the coin, we began to get an odd feeling that perhaps a coin had not been baked into the bread. Yiayia Louli kept swearing she put the coin in, but its absence was evident as George and Sophie sifted through the crumbled remains. The holiday bread lay there like road-kill, a tangled carcass of crumbs, as we all laughed about the missing coin.

As we made our way home we passed scores of holiday revellers on the way out to the many parties and nightclubs that continued into the night. My poor husband and I had to return home, as he had to get up early this morning to work a 24 hour shift at the hospital. Not that we could have partied all night anyway, I feel pretty sure that my party all night days are over.

Am I ready for 2006? Not bloody likely. But it seems to have arrived anyway, despite my best efforts to stop time. Maybe this is the year I'll actually start feeling like an adult.