Thursday, 25 December 2008

Holiday - Holy Day

Christmas time again, Christmas Day today. I keep hearing a number of things about this whole affair, some positive, some negative, some indifferent but to tell the truth, I am not sure how many grasp the main point or even know the background.

To begin with, a large number of pre-Christian holy days and festivals were held around the 25th of December, usually some days earlier, on the 21st or 22nd, when it's the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year. A non-exhaustive list includes the Saturnalia (Roman - when slaves were served by their masters for a day), Yuletide (Druidic - when the old Sun died in order for the cycle to begin anew), Mithraic Celebration of Sol Invictus (actually on the 25th, a bull was sacrificed in order for the young Sun god to be born), Shabe-Yalda (Iran - when people gather at home around a korsee (a low square table) all night, to tell stories and read poetry. They eat watermelons, pomegranates and a special dried fruit/nut mix. Their are tons of festivals to be found around the world from Brazil, to Native American Tribes, to India and so on and so forth (you can read more here).

The oldest surviving evidence of Christmas Day as a proper holiday (and celebration of the Birth of Christ), dates back to 336 A.D., in Rome, mentioned in 354 A.D.'s Philocalian Calendar (see here, page 20). Of course, it has been argued and debated ad nauseeum, that the historical figure of Jesus Christ was not in fact born in December, but somewhere closer to April and of course, he was not born in the year "0" but following that numbering, probably around 3-4 A.D. That much is probably true, especially the falsity of the 25th of December, given that, originally, this holiday was created as a "festivity merger" and later on, during the Church's "hostile takeover" of the older religions, as a counterbalance to one of the most important pagan holy days.

Given what I write, one might think that I am making a case against Christianity. Not at all. In fact, I DO believe in the one God and call myself a Christian. That said, it doesn't mean that I agree with the trappings of organized religion such as it is today or such as it was in Byzantium, after Emperor Constantine forced the Synod to create "one proper faith", to unite his people. Faith and religion are two very different and nigh on unrelated things. Hence, I dub myself an Unorthodox Christian (for, surely, most priests would have excommunicated me). Don't even get me started on respecting other religions and believing that, in fact, Science and Faith don't have much to argue about, at their core, because some would be inclined to exorcise me or treat me to a round of psychotherapy sessions.

Besides, I digress: our subject is Christmas and all the other related holidays. As you have seen, there are quite a few queries and more than a few ambiguities on the whole subject matter. However, in almost all the aforementioned celebrations, there are three common axes: hope, kindness towards and fraternity between people, as well as between people and our small blue world, be they Zoroastrian, Wiccan, Druid, or indeed Christian. These things are the only ones to keep at heart, for everything else - and I DO mean EVERYTHING - in the end is ashes and dust and our differences, quarrels, territories and wars, merely smoke and mirrors.

Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday to you all,


Friday, 19 December 2008

Vive La Revolution, Vive La Terreur!

Let me put this plainly, without much flourish: things are getting worse, MUCH worse by the day, with both sides (that of the government and that of anyone and anyone taking part in acts of vandalism, arson and hooliganism in general. Mindless people are talking about the "Revolution of Youth", while in fact we are living through days of Terror in its purest form. I bet most people do not know the two are connected. Let me enlighten you, before moving on to the actual facts...

On July 14th, 1789, the people of Paris invaded Bastille, having reached the breaking point with feudalism and the rich getting richer, while the poor simply died in the streets. On August 27th of the same year, the National Assembly issued the Declaration of the Rights of Man. On October 5th, Parisian women stormed Versailles, the royal family estate and palace. On September of 1792, the National Convention had their first meeting and up to this point, there's every reason imaginable and totally valid for the French people to have brought down their governing system and opted for the power of Democracy, under the motto: "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity". That, in fact, was a revolution, perhaps the greatest in history, in terms of how it affected the country and in time, all of Europe.

Now, what followed was Louis XVI being sentenced to the guillotine, on January 21st 1793 which still, was "reasonable", given that France was in that mess because of him and the royalists. However, what was beyond all reason, was the infamous "Reign of Terror", which held from September 1793 to July 27, 1794, under Robespierre, who consigned between 20000 and 40000 people to death by guillotine. It was also that period which coined the term "Terrorism". Let us draw a parallel here: I would say, in all fairness, that Athens (and Greece in general), is living through days of terror, especially for the folk working downtown. As further evidence to that, an "anti-government" group attacked the French Institute today, at the corner of Sina and Didotou Sts., mainly defacing the outside wall and only causing some damage to the windows and a nearby ATM, because they were chased away. I would very much like to know what the French Institute had to do with ANYTHING in this sordid case, besides being an easy target for vandals and inconsiderate hooligans (thankfully, no students were inside at the time).

People are saying that Alexander's death was only the spark that struck the fuse of tons of proverbial "gunpowder", due to the government being inconsiderate, passing unacceptable laws and being involved in all sorts of scandals. They say that youths are desperate and looking for a way to vent their desperation and make themselves heard. I could agree, up to a point and if we make a parallel of the youths to the French people of the Revolution and the government to royalists of the same period, it all seems like another necessary outcry from a suppressed populace. However, the people burning Athens, burning Greece, even attacking foreign institutions and thus making any foreign feeling of sympathy obsolete, are rapidly becoming akin to those who started as revolutionaries and ended being terror, even unto their own. The question is, who is the "Robespierre" behind this nigh uncleanable mess.

On another note, there's a very obscure angle to these developments: on Wednesday, the 17th of December, George Palpomatas, son of the Greek Communist Party's and Teaching Association's syndicalist, Constantine Paplomatas, received a .38 caliber (the "Saturday Night Special" of fame - a nickname ridiculously translated in Greek, over the radio) shot in his wrist, while he was discussing with his classmates of the Student Council, at the 2nd Peristeri High School. Thankfully, surgery was successful without further complications, except one: he had his hand in his pocket. Now the pocket is usually thigh-high, meaning that if his wrist had not stopped the bullet , it would have likely hit his femoral artery, among the biggest blood vessels in the human body, usually resulting in fatality, depending on the height of the wound on the thigh (for more information on such wounds, read here). Thankfully, that was not the case.

The event was again fraught with misdirection, discussing the possibility of an air gun (with a projectile of 20mm, right), ricochet or whatnot. In fact, the bullet is very old, the type which still used unjacketed lead and could be around 30 years old. What this means exactly, in relation to everything else, remains to be seen. One thing is for certain: two shots were fired and again, a kid was injured.

As for the special guard, he has started claiming he is delusional, sees demons and generally tries to use a "psychological" fanfare to avoid incarceration. The ballistics testing claims that there's traces of silica dioxide on the bullet, stuff found only in concrete and glass, therefore the bullet that hit Alexander MUST have ricocheted. Again, we must wait and see what this means for the whole case and given circumstances, if, in fact, it is true.

Meanwhile, THIS is how we look to the outside world.

The fires keep burning,


Friday, 12 December 2008

Shameless As Always

Yup, that's what we are people, shameless. Well, to be fair, there is at least one known person who is shameless to the point it would be laughable, were it not so disgusting and many, unknown (to me) people, who are shameless hypocrites. The sad thing is: a large number of them are "concerned and emotional teenagers". Let us recap though.

The well-known shameless person (and the butt of many jokes, thanks in no small way to his being ridiculous), is Alexis Kougias, the attorney who is defending the two police officers. In a statement on TV he said "police ballistics testing shows that the bullet was deformed on one side, therefore it must have ricocheted off something before hitting the boy. It was obviously one of the two warning shots that killed him." There's more but again, let us look at some facts: the police report has not been released to the public, or even officially for the court, so... why does he feel safe enough to say something like that on television? Again, as in the last post, I ask: where is the video, which SHOWS the officer take aim? Where are the witnesses who say so as well? These are not rhetorical questions, because you and I and everyone involved KNOWS that both video and witnesses exist. So, where are they and why is that sleazy lawyer free to make such statements (usually an indication that things will go his way, since he is also a sniveling coward who always covers his ass)?

Now, all this falls into the realm of speculation and is "to be continued". What he said next, however, is plainly infuriating and I believe that if some people out there REALLY need to break something, they should take a shot at his head. Thing is, this is not hearsay: I saw it on the freaking news! "Whether this boy had to be killed or not, will be decided by the judicial system." Take a breather, let the blood flow away from your eyes.

All better? Well, here it is then: the big-shot, prominent and overpaid lawyer states that it is possible for justice to decide: "yes, it was all well and good for this man to kill an unarmed kid". Forget everything else and let us take this a step further: according to the Laws and Customs of War on Land (it's kinda long but very enlightening on MANY THINGS), established at the International Court in Hague, even during wartime, armed forces are prohibited from killing civilians as such. Are we at war? No, not even close, thank God and yet: an officer killed an unarmed 15-year-old kid, as civilian as it gets. Now explain to me, under what preposterous circumstances could justice rule that as a "necessity"?

Moving on now, to the unknown multitude of shameless hypocrites, joined by a faction of idiots. School "psychologists" (yes, I have known quite a few - socially, not as their patient - and no, they are NOT eligible for that title) were heard saying about the whole riot/burning/chaos thing: "the children are shocked, so we must let them blow some steam off". If we are talking specifically about his classmates and friends, I could plausibly understand that. Only, these "psychologists" had absolutely nothing to do with Alexander's school. For an encore, students in several schools (where the "psychologists" worked) argued that they should not have midterm exams because "they are very shocked by all this". Again, should these kids be in any way related or acquainted to Alexander, I can understand. If not, they are just trying to take an idiotic advantage of a host of tragic events and a faction of idiots' "expert opinion". This is how much they actually care: a teenage kid died and all they can think of is how use his death to avoid their midterm exams. Amazing...

I will not go as far as saying that some of these selfsame kids are among the vandals and hooligans burning Athens, but they DO have one thing in common: all this is just an excuse to them. Thankfully, even the weather is sick and tired of everything, so it started raining furiously. Any punk who is out for some burning fun, will have to reschedule.


Tuesday, 9 December 2008

The Burning Times

The Burning Times, else known as the era of the Witch Hunt, is the historical time between 1550 and 1675, when the Church and Inquisition burned somewhere around 150000 - 200000 "witches". Worldwide paranoia had gripped almost every corner of the Earth, in an effort to cleanse the evil "responsible" for every possible mishap, from failed crops to the neighbor's dog dying. In many cases, the paranoia was used to further many people's and/or organizations' personal goals and ambition.

I don't know about you, but it certainly rings a bell to me. Oh, yes: a 15-year-old boy was shot by a policeman and a surprising number of people do not actually care about the fact itself, but focus on using it as some kind of leverage or generally, a means to be exploited. Some recent examples:

(1) Journalist A, says over the radio: "...the officer in question, a father of two...". We don't care if he is a father or not and this is a token phrase used to evoke public sympathy. For what reason? Besides even the reason, that is not journalism: journalism is the cold, hard facts, given in a way that they represent the truth and not used to alter their essence.

(2) Journalist B says over the radio: "...the brave young lad, killed by...". We've been through this: yes, a boy was killed, yes by a police officer, yes it's horrible and tragic and in my opinion there's nothing that would plausibly exonerate the guilty party. However, where exactly does the "brave" part come in? Did the journalist know the boy? Does he have any indication of the boy's bravery in the face of the policemen? Does he have any clues he should share with the public? NO, he just tries to evoke public sympathy and while I can understand it in the case of the victim, still, not journalism.

(3) Journalist C says over the radio and Journalist D says on TV: "...the boy, executed by the police...". Whoa there! Hold your horses! Do these people even know what execution actually is or what it implies? In one case, a direct order by the government to kill that specific kid OR, a direct order from some unknown authority (legal or not), to kill the kid. Think about it and think what that actually means, both in the case it could be true and more probably, in the case where it is not true but a "journalistic" hyperbole.

(4) Greece's "Burning Times" so far, have a toll of 1000 waste-bins, several businesses and buildings, an unknown number of stolen merchandise, as well as cars, public property, etc. etc. and will still have economical, societal and exterior political repercussions. Do the people, currently destroying Athens, act in such a way in the memory of Alex Gregoropoulos? No, they were looking for an excuse; they are ALWAYS looking for an excuse. They are exactly the same as those oh-so-brave punks who viciously beat up a photographer doing a piece on the nightly face of Athens, believing he was working for the police; without a gun. Now, in fact, a policeman has shot someone dead. Are they outside said police station trying to beat the cops up? No, they are instead breaking, entering and stealing from shops all over Stournari St., Ermou St., Kolonaki, in Salonika, in Giannena, in Komotini, all over this poor, pathetic country we call home.

(5) What about politicians? Sure, the average person, with an average IQ rating above a turnip's knows the government (Nea Dimocratia - right wing) is trying to pick up the pieces and cover its ass. For instance, they made the day of the boy's killing, a holiday in his honor (well, in fact it's tomorrow and not the day itself but you get the point). Right, as if that would console his parents - bollocks! As for the opposing parties (PASOK - socialist, KKE, Syrriza - leftist), they are using all this situation to garner favor to the detriment of the government and accuse each other. Mr. George Papandreou holers useless speeches as always, against "the evil of the right wing" (because his beliefs are so leftist, right - pun intended), Mr. Alavanos wants elections and calls "the fighting, vibrant youth to say a loud 'NO' to today's government, by peaceful protest and vote", Ms. Papariga accuses Syrriza of being in league with the hooligans, Mr. Alavanos says that KKE and Ms. Papariga shamelessly try to undermine his party, Alexis Tsipras (note, Syrriza's current head) has not shown his motorcycle-riding mug and all around, people are doing their best to garner impressions.

(6) As for the police, hah, around half an hour ago, a motorcycle Team Z member shot his gun several times in the air, to "scare off protesters", in a densely populated neigboorhood, with people watching the streets from their balconies. Thankfully, no one was hurt - this time.

(7) Meanwhile, every foreign agency of any sort, from here to Timbuktu, advises that people avoid Greece for a while and paint us as we show: as incompetent savages.

By the by: two of my close friends were acquainted with the boy - it's a very small world, countries are even smaller, ours miniscule by comparison and we satisfy ourselves with burning it, either for estate gain or pure hormone/stress/frustration release. I say: get laid more and stop burning stuff. Your dicks won't get any bigger.


P.S. Oh, by the way, some people thought it was a very good and revolutionary idea to blow up a bank's (Citibank) ATM, 2 blocks away from my house. I am SURE it was all done in the name of the kid's death - nowhere near where all this is actually taking place.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

For Queen and Country (Except, We Have No Queen)...

It is a fact that I love many countries around the world, in some of which I should like to live and others where I should like to spend a great deal of time. However, I have often stated, following these musings, that Greece is the only place I will ever truly feel at home. However, events such as transpired tonight, are valid reasons why I would maybe abandon this place once and for all... someday.

Tonight, at 20:50, a 15 (or, according to some reports, 16)-year-old boy was shot to death in Exarchia District, at the corner of Koletti and Mesologgiou St., by an armed Special Unit Officer, triggering massive riots in downtown Athens, Salonika, Komotini, Ioannina and Herakleion (Crete). According to the police report and official statement, the shooting was a result of the two officers, passing through the neighborhood in a police car, being assaulted by a group of thirty anarchist/leftist young men. One officer responded with a flash (again, according to others, smoke) grenade and the other delivered three shots, resulting in the killing of the boy. "They have been suspended, along with the Chief of Exarcheia Police Dpt. and are facing inquiry as we speak, with the presence of the D.A.'s office". We'll just have to wait and see what will come out of it (if anything). Interior Minister and administratively liable, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, delivered his resignation to the Prime Minister, Kostas Karamanlis, a resignation which was not accepted.

The actual news of the killing reached me while in a friend's house at Pagrati and when I finally took the road home in a cab, around 05:30, downtown was closed off, the streets were near empty and no public transportation could be seen anywhere. Earlier that night, a friend invited at the same house was late because of a pickpocket, caught red-handed by his would-be victim, having to wait for the Metro officers to take him away.

This second incident mentioned here, is of course insignificant by comparison to the killing, which, beyond riots by protesters and wanton violence (car and store arson at Sygrou Ave. and in and around Exarcheia mainly) by people who do not really care anything about the actual events, will have enormous repercussions, as the already disliked government will have to face the consequences of the police's actions and neighborhoods infested with violent and criminal elements professing to be "anarchists" (for some of them, believe me, I know first-hand that it's just a feeble excuse) will become even more dangerous and wanton destruction more common.

Events have been covered all over the Greek blogosphere and newspaper sites, as well as BBC, where you can see a video segment of the now ongoing events.

"For Queen and Country", "To Serve and Protect", "A License to Kill". think I see a pattern there. Don't you?

Saturday Bloody Saturday and Now It's Dawning Sunday


Friday, 5 December 2008

Literary Section XI

2 Fools and 300 Sins
Act I: Carnival of Fools
Part I: Invitation...

September 6th, 2028, 18:30

Blast this verdammt weather! I had hoped that the summertime would hold a little longer but it's just my luck: the humidity just had to go up, two days before the opening and the old wound has been acting up like a real bitch. Ah, to hell with it, I will just pop two of the pills that Lisa ever so kindly (and illegaly) provided me with, grind my teeth and bear it. To be honest, I could very well use the weather as an excuse not to show up; maybe it's even for the best. There was good reason I vanished the first time around and even better reasons for my remaining out of anyone's touch. What the Hell was she thinking--...

Still, I gotta hand it to the ol' girl, first for finding me and second for being persistent enough for me to give her a "yah, I'll come by". I used to take pride in my not being surprised, barring exceptional circumstances and she just had to go and become an extraordinary circumstance. I don't much care for the occult but if there was one time I felt a cold, ghostly hand grab me by the balls, it was when she called. Another was when... Well, not getting into that, I'll veer off subject. Twas two weeks ago and I was loitering around the office, not doing much of anything: it was another day I was feeling too old to go after any small or big-time scandal, be it straight, gay, trans, politician, unfaithful blue-collar or whatever. Anna May was gone early (this whole month's been full of dance rehearsals for the play - must make a note not to miss the premiere) and it was the first day that humidity started setting in. I was in pain, therefore miserable and foul and had disconnected the phone as a result, complementing my misery with the company of a bottle of liquor from the old country. Bless my forefathers for being the most determined drunkards in the Mediterranean.

After it became clear that old case-files and long-since-forgotten "glories" would not help my typically unsettling sleep, I left the mess as was (except for hiding the liquor), put the phone back online and went to get my leather coat (older than me and somehow not the worse for it). After I put on my hat and got my walking cane, I was at the door. Phone rings... The vast majority of myself has been cursing me, no holds barred, for picking it up, but that old curiosity that has fucked me over more than once, demanded I did.

"Yah? D&T Investigations. Whoever you are, we are--"

"Grav?" I froze. This voice only had a mild resemblance to someone whom I had known a very long time ago, someone who had been a good afriend and to whom I had not been as good a friend as I might have. Still, it was not so much the resemblance, but more the familiar tone, almost carefree, almost as if 20 years had never gone by; as if betrayal and death had not come between friends and lovers and--. I broke off from my reverie and to my astonishment, I answered...

"Stormy...?" What the hell was the matter with me? Why did something like that come to the fore of my skull after being in the graveyard of my mind for 20 years?

"Yeah, it's me. Oh, I am so glad you recognized me!"

"Yah, sure... Um... How did you--"

"And how have you been my erudite detective?" Christ, this was rapidly turning into a Nightmare Through the Rabbit Hole. 'Erudite detective'? I had not been called that by anyone in years - well, except Anna-May and then I only react tersely to the poor girl.

"Well, I... uh.. good, good I guess. Well, as good as I can after-- You know..." Right, at 46, it is evident I am turning senile. Why did I have and bring up something that all involved would have most likely preferred forgotten?! "I'm sorry, I mean--"

"Hey, no harm done sweetie. That's all in the past now; do not hit yourself over the head about it." Was she cheerful? It sure sounded that way; tired perhaps, but cheerful. This was becoming more surreal by the second.

"So, um, how's tricks? I mean no, I wanted to ask ye how did you--"

"All that can wait until we meet up close." Here we go. Veering off into madness again.

"Look, Stormy. I appreciate the call and all but I really--"

"Please. Hear me out. I won't even try to dig into that thick skull of yours to find the myriad reasons and excuses you want to give me to avoid getting together with the past. I simply called to give you an invitation to the opening of my nightclub. Your name will be given at the entrance, I will give you a date and address and then do as you like - it's not as if anyone could convince you differently, even back then." Ouch, OK, that got my attention all right.

*sigh* "OK, I'm all ears."

"In two weeks hence, at 21:00 sharp, the '302' will open its doors to the public. It is located--"

"OK, wait a fucking second there! This is not even funny Storm. Is that why you called me? To mess with an old man? You know what? I remember, real clear, if that is what you called for - the leg wound reminds me keenly in this weather. So you can just--" I felt something black and sickening at the pit of my stomach. The '302'?!

"Grav, just for moment, shut up. To begin with, I am older than you. Secondly, it saddens me that you have indeed become a paranoid old fart! Do you remember me this cruel? I KNOW who was real cruel, as well as you do. Do you really want to go there?"

"Ah, entschuldigung Stormy. I just... Well.."

"I know what YOU are thinking for once. That's an odd feeling - YOU were the one who always knew too much. However, don't make this something it is not. I am not an Erinye, Grav and God knows you have enough of your own, even though it was not your fault. At any rate, we got into a discussion that I did not want to have over the phone after 20 years. The club is located where Villa Amalias stood. Did you write down the date and time?"

"No, uh... gimme a sec-- wait, THAT huge thing is yours?"

"You' 've seen it?"

"Well, I have seen the 'KEEP OUT' signs and some of the workers. Some of my... less aware informants used to hang out there and there was this whole upheaval about their having to relocate or face incarceration. Well, as much of an upheaval as people who are in perpetual stupor can cause."

"Well, at any rate, that's where it is. Come early, say around... 19:00. There won't be anyone there yet and we can do some catching up; if you want. Besides, I have one of the best places reserved for you, so you can see the opening. It's gonna be something!" Well, I am not really sure what kind of 'something' it's gonna be but I cannot argue there, for a number of reasons.

"Yah, I'll come by. But I won't stay too late. Leg's killing me."

"As you like. Oh, and Grav? You might see some familiar faces there - I wanna be straight with you but please, it won't matter, so do not let that keep you from coming over."

"Right. Yeah... Look, I gotta go now so..."

"I understand. I won't call again. If you come by, all will be as I told you. If you don't, well, have a good life. such as it may be".

"Right. Thanks... I think."

"Bye, sweetie." She hung up and left me there, numb, apprehensive. I guess 20 years did change her some. She was not chewing words, nor was she calling for support. She was doing me a courtesy, that was all. A courtesy I did not feel I deserved and much less, wanted to deal with. Still, if ever there was one thing that got me into trouble and I could not fight against, that was curiosity.

While, a week a go, I suddenly resolved not to go, another visit (this one an equal mix of threat and friendship) made it quite clear that I had only little choice in the matter. Still, I think it's a bloody stupid idea; but then again, most of my life has been a series of stupid ideas.

[To be Continued]