Thursday, November 30, 2006

Thank God It's Friday

It looks like downtown Thessaloniki is getting a TGI Fridays, somewhere on Aristotelous Square. There is already one I wasn't aware of at that ginormous mall out in the boonies, but this one is close to home. Yea, I know, I have all this fabulous Greek food available, why would I seek out kitschy U.S. fare?

Because it reminds me of home. It reminds me of late nights at Elliston Square and Exit-In, drunk with the sound of music ringing in my near deaf ears, grabbing a table at TGI Fridays at 1am and having an appetizer or two before heading back out to party til 5am. It reminds me of days when my hair could get a bit spikier, my outfits could get a bit flashier and my tolerance for partying had no limits. It reminds me of Alien in the Land of our Birth, F.U.C.T., Clockhammer, Wishcraft, Anastasia Screamed, Suicide Alley, Apache Underground and some of the other great bands that shone in the Nashville alternative scene in the late 80's/early 90's. It reminds me of my youth, of being carefree, careless, and uninhibited.

Sure, I'll never get any of that back, nor do I want to. Life is different now, and just as good, if not better, in a more responsible, grown-up way. But it will be nice to have a constant reminder of all those good times just a few blocks away on the other side of the world.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Maybe there *is* a God

Frist isn't running for President in 2008. Tennessee can stay an obscure, Southern state that most Greeks don't know about. And maybe the Republicans can get a candidate worth a damn, so that if they do win again, we won't be in for another four to eight years of a living nightmare.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Pope vs. Islam? Or Pope vs. Eastern Orthodoxy?

The world seems to be looking at the whole “Pope visiting Turkey” thing as some sort of potential Christian/Muslim clash, thanks especially to Benedict’s recent bad choice of quotes regarding Islam. While I am sure the Pope and his entourage saw this as a good opportunity to repair ties with Islam, the bigger concern should perhaps be his meeting with his arch enemy and rival, Eastern Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos (Bartholomew I). Come on people, this is the stuff of comic book apocalypse here! Ancient enemies, meeting after a thousand year split, who will come out victorious? Yea, ok, the so-called “schism” was denounced 40 years ago or whatever, and Popes have come and gone, but these two churches can’t really be called buddies.

Honestly, if everyone involved really spoke their mind here, the Pope would have a better shot with the Muslims than the Orthodox. It isn’t that the Orthodox hate Catholicism, it is just that the nicest reply any Orthodox has given to a statement concerning Catholicism has been a sort of growl. I can’t claim to have been around in 1054, but I do know that all the grievances that caused the split seem to have withstood the test of time. Sure, some of it is semantics, but hey, I wouldn’t have liked the Pope claiming supremacy Über Alles either. Both sides consider themselves to be the “One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church”, thus claiming to be the “true” church. Well, they can’t both be right. Personally, I think it would be really funny if Jesus came back just to say they both suck, but I don’t guess that’ll be happening. Hell, I haven’t found myself smack dab in the middle of such historic drama since I moved to the South from the North.

I don’t know what the internal politics are of both churches, but I have a strong feeling that each side still wants what they want. And since what they both want pretty much absorbs the other, I don’t think we’ll get any major agreements out of them anytime soon. But who will win, The Joker or The Riddler? How many ka-pows will it take? As long as they get a good illustrator, I guess it really doesn’t matter, because Batman will always save the day.

The Golden Alexander

The 47th Thessaloniki International Film Festival has come and gone, and unfortunately, due to myriad events that conspired to keep me from attending, I did not get to watch even one film. It is really too bad, because this is my one chance a year to see foreign films, including a plethora of Greek movies, with English subtitles (I’ll hold back about the irony of U.S. movies being considered “foreign films” here, because I find it too hilarious). Maybe next year, I’ll get lucky.

This year offered a variety of interesting films, including a tribute to Wim Wenders (which basically meant they screened most of his more famous films at least once). The festival also featured a host of Greek tributes, along with a special focus on films with teenage angst/lust as the theme. It would have been a good opportunity to see some U.S. films that haven’t yet opened here, including The Fountain and Fast Food Nation.

Of course, the problem with pouring over schedules for a film festival of this type is lack of knowledge about most of the foreign films. Which one do you decide to see? Do you pick based on country, how well you like the title, what? I guess that might be the fun of it. Unfortunately, my stupid husband knows nothing about Greek cinema so aside from a few popular Greek movies, he isn’t much help when it comes to making choices. Next year, I might just make some executive decisions. Or at least put the schedule on the floor, close my eyes, and throw a coin at it.

For those of you who are always on the lookout for a good foreign film, you might want to check out this year’s winner of the Golden Alexander, GAJOKEUI TANSAENG (Family Ties) by Kim Tae-yong, from South Korea. The Silver Alexander went to ASRE JOMEH (On a Friday Afternoon) by Mona Zandi Haghighi, from Iran. The Best Director award went to SLAWOMIR FABICKI for Z Oszysku (Retrieval), Poland 2006. A full listing of all awards presented can be found at the official film festival site. The thing to note is that most of these movies have been screened at other film festivals throughout the year, so they may available in limited release in some areas in the next couple of years, or at the very least available for rent some day.

I’m preparing ahead for next year. I’ll put some cash away, take my zinc tablets and vitamins, and be ready to head off, perhaps to do some live blogging from the festival. Eh, no, probably not. I'm not that ambitious.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Life's little ironies

I'm still trying to figure out how I can get sick on Thanksgiving in a country that doesn't even celebrate Thanksgiving. Sure, I know why I always got sick on major holidays in the U.S., but really, why here? I guess it is part of that inner conditioning I spoke about, mere mention of a holiday and my throat constricts, my temperature rises, and my nose fills up. Honestly, though, I prefer to blame it on my husband, for bringing all sorts of interesting little microbes home from the hospital.

Four days later, and I am in the "I'm-really-tired-of-this-why-can't-I-stop-coughing-and-blowing-my-nose" phase, which I know means I am near the end. Even though I feel worse during the fever phase, the constant coughing of this final phase seems more terrible, because there is no rest when you are coughing. And coughing. And coughing. Wow, cough is a funny looking word.

On the upside (maybe the downside) I've been able to vegetate on my couch and pray for movies to come on our movie channel that I haven't seen before. So I finally watched Star Wars: Episode III and Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Honestly, of the last three Star Wars movies this was the best, although my general feeling is that none of them should have been made at all. For some reason they kinda ruin the old ones for me.

As for Mr. and Mrs. Smith, what a waste of movie reels. I got so bored by it I actually removed myself from my sanctuary on the couch and browsed websites. Both actors seem to have forgotten how to act (and both of them certainly lean towards being good actors usually), although the script didn't help too much. I didn't expect anything grand out of this movie but I figured it would be an action oriented picture that would at least occupy me for a couple of hours. Nope.

Here's hoping I'm better tomorrow so I can go back to reading and writing without words looking all squiggly and fuzzy. I just can't take another bad movie.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Cuz he's a SCROOGE

My husband won't let me put up the Christmas tree until December 1st.

He's such a tyrant!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

As I Lay Undying

It seems that seven years ago, William Faulkner's daughter found among her father's things a completely finished, unproduced screenplay - about vampires.

I have two diametrically opposed thoughts about this. Firstly, no way, no how. Faulkner only wrote screenplays to make easy money and even then he never seemed entirely pleased about the process. But hey, that's what American writers back then had to do. So anyway, why would he write a complete, feature length screenplay that never got made? Had someone commissioned him to do it, but decided against it in the end? Because that seems to me the only way he would have written such a thing.

But then, when I think about Faulkner's body of work and his relationship with the deep, dark South, I can see how he might be tempted by vampires. Yet his screenplay is set in Eastern Europe, not the South. Would Faulkner really have written something not set in the South? Why a screenplay and not a novel?

It seems as though producer Lee Caplin is moving forward with a movie based on the screenplay, but I still have my doubts about its authenticity. If if was something he wrote for someone else and not a personally inspired work, should we be seeing it on the big screen as a Faulkner work?

I guess this serves as a caution to all writers: be careful what you leave behind.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


Thanksgiving can be a surreal experience when you are living abroad. It is a holiday that takes years of conditioning – frantic, last minute grocery shopping on Wednesday, overeating on Thursday, Christmas shopping on Friday, and swearing you’ll never so much as look at another turkey or pumpkin pie again on Saturday. Over the years this settles into a comfortable, if slightly neurotic, routine. It can’t be an American holiday without an appropriate amount of neurosis, after all.

Obviously, Greeks don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, considering they are not a country founded by wayward pilgrims who saw the devil in nature and decided that razing, partitioning, and selling land was a good way to settle themselves in their new found freedom. I don’t know for sure, but I am fairly certain that no Greeks shared a thankful feast with aborigines they would systematically exploit and drive away, but that’s a different story altogether. Honestly, I’m not knocking Thanksgiving. I do think there is a lot of goodness in the core of the holiday, and any excuse to eat good food, make merry with friends and family, and be thankful for all you have is a good one.

My conditioned responses set in the Monday before Thanksgiving. I frantically make a grocery list, knowing that I should go to the store before Wednesday to avoid the insane rush of last minute shoppers. When I inevitably end up going to the store on Wednesday anyway (best laid plans, and all that) I stare incredulously at the near empty store.

“But, it’s 4pm on the day before Thanksgiving!!!” I cry out, exasperated.

People look at me curiously. Then it hits me. This is not America. It is not the day before eat-yourself-sick day in Greece. Ironically, it is smack dab in the throes of the Orthodox forty day fasting period before Christmas. It is a good thing America isn’t made up primarily of Orthodox Christians, or fasting might be a thing of the past.

Thankfully, most of the people staring decide that I am just another crazy American and go back to their business. The full realization sinks in. No turkey. No stuffing. No squash casserole. No homemade rolls. No mashed taters. No pumpkin pie. (Well, unless I decide to cook these things for myself, which is a huge mathematical improbability. Improbable, but not impossible.) No holiday cheer. No parade. No football. No Christmas sales. No family imbroglio. Just another day like any other day.

Each year I keep thinking that maybe I’ll forget Thanksgiving, that I’ll wake up one day and realize that Thanksgiving had come and gone and I gave it nary a thought. But somehow that never happens. The Thanksgiving conditioning automatically kicks in as easily as my instinct for survival. Pavlov might be impressed. I figure one of two things can happen. After about thirty years of living abroad, I’ll lose the conditioning, or I’ll start cooking my own Thanksgiving dinners, thus reinforcing it. The improbable might become probable. It might snow in August on a Greek island. Greek politicians might stop being corrupt. America might legalize gay marriage and overturn any constitutional amendments banning it. Fish might grow legs. Pigs might fly. But in the end, it will still be just another day – another day among all the days that I celebrate everything I am thankful for.

To all of you who are celebrating this thankful holiday, Happy Thanksgiving. To all of you who aren’t, perhaps you can take just a moment to think about all the things you are thankful for, and rejoice for a moment.

Thank you very much, Gwen Stefani

Thanks to Mrs. Rossdale's latest release, I can't get the effing goatherd song from The Sound of Music out of my head.

Everywhere I go, everything I try to do, it is in my head. It haunts me even now, as I try to sleep.

Sadly, one of my favorite songs as a child has now been ruined by excessive airplay.

RIP, lonely goatherd
Odl lay ee (odl lay ee)
Odl lay hee hee

Monday, November 20, 2006

You know you are married to a doctor when...

…you open up your sewing box and find sutures

…you can’t watch a medical show without hearing complaints about everything they are doing wrong

…you can’t be in the bathroom when he/she is washing their hands without getting sprayed by the “doctor shake” when they are done

…you tell him/her that they are getting on your last nerve and they draw an accurate picture of a nerve with a little stick person on it

…you find yourself constantly washing scrubs and white coats

…your house is littered with office supplies bearing the names of various pharmaceuticals

…you can’t complain of a scratchy throat without having a tongue depressor shoved in your mouth and your spouse looking at you from behind a tiny light

Friday, November 17, 2006

A very sad day

May she walk peacefully along the oceans of the great unknown.

Goodbye GAC/BJ. I wish I had had the chance to get to know you better.

My thoughts are with AT/Jake, their two young sons, and his family and friends during this terrible time of loss.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Conservative estimate?

This story reports that 1% of web sites indexed by Google and Microsoft contain sexually explicit material. 1%? Are you effing kidding me?

Every time I turn around I see some link inviting me to peruse some salacious web site. Now, maybe these are false links without pornographic content, but honestly, can I really believe that only 1% of web sites out there have pornographic content? The internet, after all, was created for the free exchange of ideas and information porn, so let's be realistic.

Maybe the proliferation of bloggers has crunched the numbers down some, but if I was going to make a conservative guess myself I might have said 5%, with a personal belief that the true number is around 10%.

The study the story was reporting on focuses on numbers to try to breathe new life into the 1998 Child Online Protection Act, which would require a credit card or some other kind of "proof" of age before you can view pornographic material online. As if a child can't get his parent's credit card/driver's license/ID card info. The Supreme Court shot down this law in 2004, citing a breach in an adult's right to look at and buy what they want on the internet.

While I'm not thrilled with the idea of children ending up gazing open-mouthed at lascivious web sites, I'm equally unenthused about someone having to share their identity and/or credit card information to look at porn. The ACLU claims filters work well, and I'm sure they work reasonably well. The thing is, you can be searching for some perfectly innocent things and end up staring point blank at some full frontal. I don't have any particular objection to porn in general, it serves a need I suppose, but I'm certainly not a big fan. Despite my lukewarm sentiments, I do think adult people should have the right to look at porn if they wanna. When it comes to children, well, I don't think they should be exposed to porn, but I also don't think they should be brought up to be ashamed or disgusted at the human body. But there is a big difference in a teenage boy hiding a stack of Playboys and the same boy crawling into a site that would put the Marquis de Sade to shame.

Obviously, the European point of view regarding porn is a wee bit different. Porn is hanging in plain sight at kiosks everywhere. Naked breasts can be found on network TV without being blurred, and movie channels show a porn movie every night after midnight. To be honest, I much prefer living in a society where it is all out in the open, but I might feel a bit differently if I had children. Still, if my child saw a picture of a naked woman, I wouldn't start screaming and shield his or her eyes. That just makes them more curious.

Alas, I digress. My point is, I don't believe that porn makes up only 1% of web sites. Of course, I could be wrong. It has been known to happen, on rare occasions when pigs fly and it rains blood.

The great elevator shakedown of 2006

After three months of nonstop apartment building drama, we are finally getting our new elevator installed. The downside of this is that it means schlepping up six flights of stairs for three weeks, but that is a small price to pay for an elevator that doesn't constantly make you wonder if you would survive a drop from the second floor. We all know that the third floor+ is certain death, but a second floor fall is a grey area.

The original plan was for the elevator installation to start sometime in September. The bills were passed around in late July, so there was plenty of time for folks to come up with their share. But of course, there was a problem. The people on the first floor claimed they never used the elevator and thus had no intention of paying their paltry share of the bill. While it is true that on occasion I witnessed first floor folks using the stairs, it was always when the elevator was in use and people were waiting, so I reckon it was faster for them to just walk up a flight of stairs. However, there were plenty of times that I called the elevator to find it was "parked" on the first floor, or waited for the elevator to come down from the first floor, or found the elevator door wide open (thus halting all use of the elevator) on the first floor, therefore, it was utilized quite a bit by the first floor residents. So in addition to being cheap and whiney bitches, they are also big fat liars.

When September came and went and still no elevator, we got wind of some of the internal drama that was going on in the building. The first floor folks were outright refusing to pay for the elevator - and what would the solution be? There was some discussion of the rest of us making up for their share and just cementing over the elevator shaft on the first floor. Instead, the building manager decided to go with the shame and ridicule approach, posting a notice about paying for the elevator and a list showing who had not yet paid. None of the owners of first floor apartments were paying, along with their old woman toady on the seventh floor. This was an outright conspiracy!

In the end, it came down to "well, if he pays, I'll pay", and somehow it all worked out. I don't know for sure if the first floor has completely paid up, but I assume they did. If they didn't, I'm sure we'll be in for more drama after the elevator is completed. Maybe they'll even hire some Kostas from Crete to break some fingers. Anything to liven up the place.

For now, I'm just trying to get used to climbing six flights of stairs. I'm a bit worried that, should the neighbors hear me coming, they'll think I'm the big bad wolf coming to huff and puff and blow their apartment down. Here's hoping that by the end of this three weeks I'll be in better shape.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Nashville/Thessaloniki, same difference

I was gazing at my time and temp. gizmos just now and I realized that Nashville and Thessaloniki are at this moment the exact same temperature. Of course, it is 3am here and 7pm there, but so what - these little things tie both cities together for me, and make me feel closer to home. Wherever that is.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Deck the halls

Behold, the people of Greece were forlorn as they had no Thanksgiving to mark the beginning of the Christmas season. What light would guide them to start celebrating the holy joy of Christ’s birth? And lo, the Lord heard their sorrow and presented unto them the giant Coca-Cola, who each year would bring joy to the hearts and minds of the Greeks by presenting them with festively decorated drink cans denoting the official commencement of the holiday season. And the people rejoiced, despite the fact that the holiday seemed to start earlier and earlier each year.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Defining faith

Most people that know me, and some who read this blog frequently, know that I don’t do religion. I can’t do religion. Apparently, part of what I lack is faith, but a big part of it also involves not wanting to be a hypocrite by saying I believe in something in its entirety when I have issues with some parts of the whole. Over the past few months I’ve been trying to grow a little bit, to understand more about religion, and see if maybe somehow, some way, I can find faith in something beyond the temporal, physical, logical plane.

My husband has been translating the New Testament for me, because I wanted a simple translation that is as close to the original as possible. As poetic as translations into English are, it seems that some things are changed, in small ways, when trying to translate it into something that sounds beatific and wise in English. Sure, the gist is still the same, but language is important. I’m not doing well with the Bible just the same, there are so many things I find contentious – things that bother me, but maybe with a better understanding and good discussions with people that have faith I’ll work through it all. We’ll see. Of course I still fast with my husband on Wednesdays and Fridays – I support him wholeheartedly in his faith, although I don’t go to church with him on Sundays. Realistically speaking, even if I had faith, I don’t see myself getting up at 8am on Sundays. I guess I’m just not ready to sacrifice in that way. He understands that we are not at the same place – and may never be.

Yet recently, the devastatingly real struggle for life, health, and happiness that is going on right now for GAC and her family has led me down an unusual path. I want her to be ok, to be the same person she was before this ordeal began. I want her to live a long, happy life of health and well-being. I have faith that this can be accomplished by the hope, thoughts and prayers of people that love her, know her, and strangers like me from around the globe (although I don’t entirely think of myself as a stranger to AT and GAC, as I wrote before). Am I saying that I believe in prayer? Am I saying that I have faith?

Today was the second time I attended vespers this week – really the second time ever I’ve participated in an evening prayer (although there is a time that this may have occurred at a Methodist camp in Beersheba when I was a teenager – the details are sketchy and a bit dubious). I went each time for the sole purpose of lighting candles for GAC, and ended up staying for the prayer. I haven’t actually been fond of the Greek Orthodox Churches I’ve been in, they’ve been overly resplendent with gilded ornamentation in a such a way as to be distracting. In our neighborhood alone, there are three churches within very close proximity, and probably another dozen or so more in easy walking distance. My husband has been of late attending Acheiropoeitos, one of the older churches in our neighborhood, and so that is where we went.

I like this church, surprisingly. The interior is very unassuming, with a modest amount of shine and ornaments, along with some very austere iconic artwork. It is all stone, marble and wood - very dark, gothic, ethereal. As I was sitting there, ensconced within the warm smell of incense, surrounded by candlelight, with the soothing chants of the priest echoing in my ears, I felt a sense of peace – a peace I have never felt anywhere else but there, at that moment, in that church. I was sitting in a passageway where there was a marble step that had been so worn down by centuries of worshippers it could no longer be called a step, but a spillway – and suddenly I felt as if the faith of all those who passed there before me had gushed forth, flowing in and around me. It was a comfort, an odd feeling for me. I don’t understand what it meant, but somehow I feel as if I am a step closer to something I can’t describe or imagine. Maybe I am finding my faith, or maybe not. I suppose it doesn’t really matter. What matters is the honest search, the continuing journey.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Keep hope alive

Things are looking better for AT's wife GAC, but she isn't out of the woods yet. This is just a reminder to keep her in your prayers, thoughts, and hopes. If the Democrats can gain control of Congress, we can bring a 29-year-old mother home healthy, happy, and safe to her husband and children.

The picture of her helps direct the prayers, but if AT wants me to take it down, I will.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The people have spoken

7 states elected to pass constitutional amendments that, among other things, ban same-sex marriage. Arizona said hell no to a ban on same-sex marriage.

South Dakota did not pass a near-total abortion ban. Thank goodness.

Democrats are in control of the House. The Senate is still a bit up in the air, but it seems to be neck and neck.

People must be tired of Republicans. For the sake of all Americans, I hope the Democrats do better.

Yes, I am disappointed about the same-sex marriage decisions, but I didn't expect much better. I did have a bit of hope, though. This is, after all, what voting is all about.

May God, Allah, Buddah, Zeus, and any other politically correct deities bless America.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A view from abroad

From Kathimerini

In more upbeat news...

This headline reports that "Greek Economy is on Good Truck", which is certainly a good thing, because we wouldn't want it on one of those bad trucks with bad tires and poor suspension spinning out of control all the time.

EDIT: Bah, they fixed it now. Ok, next time, ERT can make fun of my poor Greek translations

Monday, November 06, 2006

A midterm night's dream

Well, tomorrow is midterm election day, and to some extent, it seems rather trivial discussing politics when people in the world are struggling for life and dying. Then I remember that the reason some people are struggling for life and dying is because of politics and I realize that perhaps it isn’t so trivial after all.

My absentee ballot has long since been mailed, although generally speaking I wasn’t thrilled with the choices in the good ol’ state of Tennessee. Ostensibly, the big thing about this election is whether or not Republicans will lose control of Congress. While I consider myself a Democrat, if you ask me to answer honestly if I think Democratic control of Congress would make a difference I’d say probably not. Still, a different approach can’t hurt, can it? I certainly hope not. At any rate, the races are close and it is possible that the GOP will still have control after tomorrow, even though I think Republican control of the three facets of government really sort of defeats the purpose of the whole “checks and balances” idea. Whatever.

For me, the most important aspect of this particular election is the marriage amendment. I think something like eight states total are presenting marriage amendments to their constitutions in this election. Tennessee’s amendment basically states that marriage will be defined as that between one man and one woman, and it also acknowledges that any legal marriages outside the state of Tennessee that do not fall under the same guidelines will not be recognized. I know some Europeans find the idea of such an amendment offensive, especially the latter part – they see it as just another example of American superciliousness and defiance in the face of the world, and I suppose I see their point.

Obviously, this amendment would limit marriage of many kinds, but most tragically it would disallow forever any same-sex marriages in Tennessee. Sure, one reason I disapprove of this amendment is because I believe that it is morally wrong to have an amendment restricting same-sex marriage. But I feel that despite one’s like or dislike of homosexuality, the real reason to vote no on this amendment is because the constitution is meant to protect the rights of the people, not take them away. I’ve seen some conservatives lament that this amendment must be passed because god forbid, if it doesn’t, then polygamy will be rampant, farmers will marry their cows, dogs will marry cats and pigs will lose their curly little tails. Well, let me present you with some hyperbole from the other side. If we start messing with constitutional amendments that restrict rights, what is to keep more particular amendments from rearing their ugly little conservative heads? What happens if the next amendment restricts marriage to that between one white woman and one white man? Or between one American woman and one American man? Sure, I can see the answer to that – it would never happen. But I never thought an amendment like this one would happen either. It doesn’t matter if you are gay or straight, married or single, this amendment actually does restrict your rights – whether it affects you or not. Next time around, it might be an amendment that actually impedes on your happiness. Do we really want to start pulling at that thread, only to have the fabric of American rights unravel before us?

I realize that for some people the need to “protect” the world from homosexuality is too strong to think rationally about this amendment. But for those of you who are really unsure, perhaps take a moment to think about it before you cast your vote.

To all of you, vote well, vote with your minds and not just your hearts. But most of all, revel in your right to vote, and GO VOTE!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

All is not lost

You know how it is when you are watching a good movie – one of those movies that really sucks you in, with characters you can identify with, or at the very least grow attached to because they are good people, real people, people you want to be happy and have good lives with everything working out great for them in the end. If something happens to one of these characters you hope beyond hope that somehow, some way, it will all work out ok in the end, that they will survive, persevere, and overcome everything that ails them. You feel it so strongly, that if the movie takes a turn for the worse, if something bad happens, it is as if it has happened to someone you love and care about. It is crushing, horrible defeat – and with every movie like that there is the same hope, the same strength, the same unbeatable will growing inside you to help the character survive. The same thing happens with novels too, although more often than not the spirit gets defeated in ways you can’t even imagine, but you live and breathe hope through this character until the final outcome, whatever that may be.

In this wide world connected so intangibly by the internet, we meet people, we know people, but these are people we only see on the screen, like a movie or a book. You read their thoughts and feelings every day on blogs and through their websites, and it is a weird connection – you feel attached in an odd way – they’ve become a sort of extended family, even though technically speaking you don’t know them. Yet when something happens to them, whether they are trying to get a new job, or buying a house, or having a baby, or become seriously ill – you feel that connection even stronger – you want them to succeed, to get what they want, to be healthy and happy and strong.

In the last few days a fellow blogger has become seriously ill, deathly ill, and through the pained and beautiful posts of her husband we are kept aware of how she is doing, how he is doing, how a man faces the potential loss of the woman he loves. And it is devastating. And I feel that old familiar feeling, that hope beyond hope, that if anything can happen in life, can we just somehow make sure she comes out of this ok, so she can continue being a friend, a daughter, a wife, a mother - a human being who walks this earth, full of life and hope and even sadness and regret, because everything we experience includes all the good and the bad, and just to be alive is to be grateful for both.

This post is dedicated to the struggle for life that is going on at this moment halfway around the world from me, in a hospital in East Tennessee. For GAC, for her husband AT, and for her family, I pray for her recovery.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Telemarketing is pure evil

When I left Nashville, telemarketing had become a major nuisance. I could count on at least one call a night, if not more, usually at the most inopportune times. It got to the point where I stopped being polite and attempted to use whatever powers I could muster to smite said caller back to the netherworld where he/she came from. They are tough lil' buggers, though.

Greece was a refreshing change. We could go for months without the phone ringing unnecessarily. Telemarketing had not yet cast its evil eye on the Greek market and it was a very good thing. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and slowly but surely telemarketing has picked up here. It isn't anywhere near as bad it was in the U.S., but we can guarantee that telemarketing call is going to come at a time when it really isn't convenient, not that such calls are ever convenient.

My husband is a bit of a pushover. While he won't buy anything, he is quite polite, listens to their pitch and responds amiably. I, on the other hand, have discovered the perfect device for offputting telemarkers in Greece. Whenever we get a call that shows up as "private caller" on caller ID (which could, of course, be family members so we just have to answer, don't we), I pick up and answer with the loudest, most obnoxious Southern belle hello I can muster. This is usually met with a few seconds of fumbling and muttering - obviously the caller has momentarily lost the ability to speak in their own language - and then I hear "Signomi, lathos". Not even sorry, wrong number, just sorry, wrong. Well yes, you are wrong. Quite wrong. Just to ruffle their feathers a bit more, I answer with "endaksi" and hang up. Let them mull that over a bit. Maybe she did speak Greek? But she sounded!

Look, I know that for some people telemarketing pays the bills. It has opened the doors to thousands, perhaps millions of jobs worldwide. But that doesn't diminish the fact that telemarketing is pure evil, and email spam is its hellish little spawn. I honestly think I would rather starve to death, and let my family starve to death, than work as a telemarketer. That's just me.

At least now I know the perfect trick to use with telemarkets should we ever return to the U.S. I can answer the phone with a hearty Greek greeting and see what happens. I might get lucky, or I might end up on the line with one of the millions of Greeks who have immigrated to the U.S. I guess you can't win them all.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


My husband watched five minutes of Ta Koritsia Gilmore* and his head didn't explode. There is hope for him yet.

*I am just now watching the second season and I realize the show is in its seventh season, so please don't tell me what happens, like my sister-in-law started to do before I put my hands over my ears and started singing "John, Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt" at the top of my lungs.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

You know you are getting old when... select your birth year from a scroll down menu that starts at 2006 and get carpal tunnel from scrolling down so far.