Saturday, 12 December 2009

"Humanity's Silence": The Third Prometheus Installment

Prometheus returns in my third detective story, "Humanity's Silence", the second to be dramatized for radio (the first, if you recall, was "Bloody Carnival"). With narration by Dimitris Poulikakos and direction/production by Adelle Mermiga, the story will air on the Greek 902 FM station (you can also listen online, if you visit the site) on Monday, December 14th 2009, at 21:00 (you may have to allow for some delay), as part of "Cops & Robbers"'s Season 3.

This time, death comes a' calling at a private school and a new character from the standard roster of the investigator's universe is introduced to the public for the very first time.

As always, I hope you can listen and give me your feedback. Also, the standard readers of this blog may notice something familiar inside the story.



Friday, 11 December 2009

Celluloid Vampires and Then Some - Part 2

Ah... It HAS been a while, has it not? The first part of this post was waaaaay back here and even now I am skipping much-needed work hours to complete this but it was about bleedin' time!

Last time, we had left off with an introduction - well, rather a simple mention - to the TV series, "True Blood". In the interim, I have learned a few interesting things about the source material and have had time to digest my initial thoughts. But I digress...

"True Blood"'s first season premiered on September 7th, 2008 in the U.S. and the second on June 14th, 2009 . A third season has been scheduled and shooting is due to begin in early December 2009. The series kicks off by canceling a basic premise of most, if not all Vampire fiction: the element of secrecy. Our story takes place in a world where Vampires have made their presence officially known to humanity, on which they no longer need feed thanks to an artificial blood product created by Japanese scientists. Expectedly, some Vampires have embraced this change, others not, the textbook Catholic Right-Wingers have created the Church of Light in order to oppose acceptance of the Vampire existence, while the Vampires have created their own political party. Meanwhile, the first mixed marriages take place and homosexual weddings rapidly seem so "yesterday".

Interestingly enough, the series obviously takes place some time AFTER the initial global shock, so Vampires are semi-integrated into society, no more outcasts than other fringe minorities (are they one?) were in the 90s or still are today. Ergo, useless drama avoided. However, all that is just background.

Our story actually begins in Bon Temps ("Good Weather" or "Good Times" depending on how you translate), a small fictional Louisiana town, bearing all the distinctive marks of the "beautiful South" of novels of yore: those who stand for segregation, those who are well past concepts of the Civil War, Cajun, creole language, humidity, the bayous, time passing by in slow motion and drawn-out vowels. Incidentally, this most telling linguistic characteristic is one of the cultural strengths and marketing flaws (well, outside the U.S. as far as I know, but still) of the series. Many people have told me how much they hate the Southern American pronunciation and accent, as well as that, English not being their native language, they have to make use of subtitles to understand the characters at all, at times.

Truth be told, it's not really that bad, although even I had to go a bit back at times and replay a dialog scene. However, it doesn't annoy me: although both inside and outside the U.S. it's habitually called "the hillbilly accent", I believe it adds excellent color to the feel of the setting. Of course, that opinion may be biased, seeing as Poppy Z. Brite's "Lost Souls" is one of my favorite Vampire books and the American South one of my favorite settings for horror and/or detective stories ("Call of Cthulhu: Guide to New Orleans" is one of my priceless books).

At any rate, at the beginning and for most of the first season the story revolves around Sookie Stackhouse, played by Anna Paquin (who also portrayed southern belle Rogue, of the X-Men), who is a waitress at Sam Merlotte's (pronounced "mur-low" and played by Sam Trammel) diner and is different from everyone else in only one significant way : she is telepathic and can hear everyone's thoughts in the vicinity, unless she closes her mind with great effort. Things are about to get a lot weirder for her when she falls for Vampire newcomer William Compton (played by Stephen Moyer), whose family had roots in Bon Temps since before the Civil War. As soon as Sookie decides that Bill is the one for her (firstly, because she cannot hear his thoughts, since he has no biological brain activity), she is dragged in a world of supernatural horror, intrigue, romance and lots and lots of sex.

Tara, both naive...

...and sexy!

I do not want to dwell on the story that much, since it is very well plotted and it would be a shame to spoil it, even by accident: season one is centered around a series of murders in and around Bon Temps, as well as Sookie's and the town's relationship with Bill Compton, while the second focuses much more on Tara, Sookie's best friend and one of the most gorgeous black women I have ever seen (portrayed excellently by Rutina Weasley), as well as the intrigues and politics between Vampires themselves and between them and the Church of Light. However, the people who steal the show in the second season are the mysterious Mary-Ann, Godrick who is a Vampire from before the time of Christ, as well as a the whole of Bon Temps having gone a bit wild.

Vampire Sherriff Eric Northman.


Now, there are a number of things that place this series very near the top of my list of Vampire interpretations ever: first off, the Vampire mythos is preserved - silver harms a Vampire and may immobilize them, a stake through the heart and sunlight can kill them, although what exactly happens to their bodies depends on age. Interestingly enough and to my delight, they have also kept the restriction whereby a Vampire has to be welcomed into a domicile before entering, something almost always forgotten in modern portrayals. Many other Vampire legends are shown as being misdirection for the humans.

An element often mentioned in discussions about "True Blood", is the sex: make no mistake, anyone who has seen even 2-3 episodes of the series can testify that there is a lot of sex in it. Not particularly explicit, mind you but still, quite a bit of it, especially for an American series. However, the thing considered peculiarly prevalent only goes to show how audiences have come to perceive the "reality" of series they watch: people have sex. Lovers, even more so. Lovers famished for sexual activity, well, you can guess. The series is being realistic about that, contrary to stupid bubblegum sitcoms that only hint at it, or present it under a comedic light.

Furthermore, it has been a staple of Vampire legendry that the Children of the Night are more animalistic than humans, in every aspect, hence blurring the line between blood prey and sexual prey, as well as that a mortal tasting of the Vampire's blood develops a strong attraction and eventual sexual desire for the "donor". All that, coupled with the fact that sexual activity is - well, duh! - something natural, accounts for the multiple such portrayals in the series.

One other thing very carefully planned and played in "True Blood" is not just the portrayal, but the reference to and existence of the supernatural in general. Vampires aren't the only ones around: there' s also Shifters (people able to assume any form they can study thoroughly), frequent mention (although not appearance, as of yet) of Werewolves, Spirits, Voodoon and of course, the small matter of what exactly makes Sookie telepathic. However, all that is not just shoved into the viewer's face, like some bad RPG crossover: instead there' s hints and nuances and things you can second-guess, until appropriate build-up leads to the climax and revelation. Things DO go bump in the night but that does not mean they are too keen to enter the spotlight: they are mysterious and scary and love their privacy... mostly. Coupled with the whole southern atmosphere, that makes for an enticing, shadowy and extremely interesting setting.


Finally, there's the matter of the source material, "The Southern Vampire Mysteries" by Charlaine Harris. I am sorry to say, those are actually pretty bad: apart form the cast of characters (which has also been tinkered as to some characteristics and back-story), it's safe to say that if Alan Ball (of "American Beauty" and "Six Feet Under" fame) had not helmed the production, this series would have sunk like so much junk. Although Charlaine Harris is at the origin of an interesting take on the interaction between Vampires and mortal society, her original character and story development are rather shallow and her writing not up to the ambitious task of all I have described in the previous paragraphs. I do not want to get into detail, because it may have an adverse effect on your watching the series, but if you are indeed that curious, you can always pick the first two novels (on which the last two seasons were based) and make the comparison. I believe you will find the novels lacking appalingly.

Godrick's First Appearance.

That said, "True Blood" as a TV series is the most refreshing experience of the Vampire legend in a loooong time and I believe that there is not much (if anything) that can hold a candle to it in the past 10 years. Possible exceptions include "Let the Right One In" and I am holding my breath for "Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant".

Enjoy the bayous,


Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Literary Section XV - Odd and the Frost Giants

It's time for another book review, since I finally managed to get yet another off the ever-growing pile and man, was it a much needed distraction during the current phase of my life! This book, Neil Gaiman' s "Odd and the Frost Giants" (Bloomsburry) was not part of my oft-described book raids, nor the prize of some literary quest: sometimes, good things just lie in front of you and I noticed the single copy of it on a shelf at the Solaris book store, where I often buy comics.

To begin with, the book is nothing fancy, nor does it need to be: it is a small, almost pocket-size hardbound, the way libraries tend to do old (but not very old) books, when their original paperback covers breathe their last due to wear and tear. The cover and back-cover are essentially stickers. There is however, one major bonus: Brett Helquists's illustrations (of "A Series of Unfortunate Events" fame), which are really top grade and give a great feel to the reading.

The story is rather simple: Odd, a boy who accidentally crushed his leg and remained lame, has to contend both with the fact that his constant smiling face irritates his countrymen, as well as the heavy winter which doesn't seem eager to give way to Spring. The days at the Great Hall draw long, the men get restless and aggressive and Odd has had enough of being a burden to his mother after she remarried when her husband died, enough of being invisible in a village where nothing changes.

Therefore, he takes to the woods and stays at his father's old wood cabin, until a strange fox comes calling: the fox will initially lead him to an eagle and a bear, which meeting will in turn take him to Asgard, home of the Gods, in order to lift the Frost Giant occupation and end the long winter of Midgard. His only weapons: an irritating, unflinching smile, an unfinished wood carving his father left behind and the icy waters of a strange lake...

The book is written much like a traditional fable, where things happen because they are bound to, with a sense of inevitability towards resolution, but also with the unmistakable Gaiman-touch.

It is light reading, pleasant and comforting to the eye, a thing that smells of fireplace and old carpets, where children squat to listen to grandfather's near-hypnotic voice.

Jouni Koponen's first page of
Chapter 2.

On some other interesting notes, Gaiman wrote it for UK's World Comic Book Day (you can read Gaiman's explanation about all that here) and it seems to have sparked a number of artistic interpretations all over the net, such as Hethe Srodawa's designs and Finnish illustrator Jouni Koponen's gradual transfer to comic book form (you MUST check it out: it begins here and she posts updates every now and then, so keep clicking that "Uudempi teksti").



Saturday, 5 December 2009

Good TV...

...there WAS such a thing in Greece you know; once. Anyone who knows me above and beyond a casual greeting, knows I hold the 80s and early 90s close to my heart, because they featured some of the best children programs ever to air in Greece, not least among them foreign cartoons that were subtitled and NOT translated (except "The Smurfs", "Les Mondes Engloutis" and the Japanese stuff). I learned my first English (and quite a bit of it too) from "Blackstar", "He-Man", "She-Ra", the "Thundercats" and "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles".

However, as the 90s wore on, cartoons were moved much earlier in the morning and a number of other shows started appearing, featuring mostly comedy, slapstick or otherwise, lots of parody based on current news, as well as the first Greek sitcoms, executed in the rich theatrical tradition of our country - we did not know otherwise and man... it was actually really, really good!

Let me do a bit of recapping: after a rather long and kind of unpleasant day, my parents and I went to get stuffed, in which endeavor we succeeded and which event chemical letdown and lethargy follow. When we got back home, the net was acting up and I was too drowsy to read, so I resorted to zapping through some TV channels, which I rarely do any more, unless I watch Discovery Channel, National Geographic or FOX Life on the satellite. Don't get me wrong: I watch TV series on the PC, but Greek TV is 95% trash (including many newscasts). However, this time I stumbled on what one of the regular channels (and I believe, the first private one in Greece) calls "Friday All-Nighters".

It's actually reworked footage from a number of old MEGA Channel series and shows, around different themes, for the celebration of 20 years since the channel's founding. Besides still being infinitely entertaining and genuinely funny, the footage made me notice something, mostly because of its lack in today's shows: the people doing them were having fun. It's right there, not just on their faces, but in their liveliness and creativity: pure, truckloads of fun. The reason why these shows still evoke the same feeling, fresh as ever, is because the people making them had put their hearts in there, much unlike pretty much everything (with a few notable exceptions that confirm the rule) produced for Greek TV today.

I haven't much more to say: our current standard TV fare is mostly imported and adapted trash, like reality shows (thank God that trend finally passed), gossip shows "talent" shows and pointless political yammering talk-shows, mostly devoid of meaning. However, it seems TV WAS once fun, as much making it as it was watching it.

Past perfect,


Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Daughters of Fable

Myths, legends, fairy tales, in fact any sort of narration would fall under the "fable category", as the word originates in the Latin "fabula" ("story") and that in turn from "fari" ("to speak"). However, through centuries of mutations, unfathomable linguistic mechanisms and that wild factor known as "the human condition", what we call fable today is a fictional story (whether based on long forgotten facts or not), handed down for centuries through oral tradition until it reached our day, passing through Gutenberg' s era to be, finally, widely recorded on and transmitted through paper.

We like fables: one could even argue that, before we are exposed to the rigors and cynicism of our world, we are genetically predisposed to like them. We like to be put to sleep by a gentle voice recounting tales of kingdoms, oh so far away and be convinced to eat in order to grow strong like those we see as our mythic counterparts. Fables, though they may change form, medium (is it pure coincidence that the game "Fable" has been one of the most successful games to be produced in recent years?) and their apparent popularity may also seem to fluctuate, but at the end of the day, a fable properly prepared and presented will always win our hearts, much like Bill Willingham's "Fables" (in my opinion the only ever worthy rival of Neil Gaiman's "The Sandman").

Yes, we like, we love fables and make no mistake: some love them even to the point of actively trying to preserve the tradition of oral storytelling, reminding us why Aesop and Homer ended up being taught in schools. Three such people are the Daughters of Fable of this post's title, a.k.a. Vassilia Vaxevani, Antonia Velliou and Iphigenia Kakridoni (actually, if I have understood the meaning of their ensemble's name, "Talespinners" may have been a more appropriate translation in the cultural context, but I elected to use the other one all the same, as I am a great fan of puns).

I first met Vassilia as the newest member of, when I returned from one of my prolonged cases of Houdini Syndrome. During the course of several discussions, she mentioned that "she was attending lessons and was working on her thesis", when she had already told me she was a teacher. Turns out, she has been attending the "Narration School" of the Center for Study and Propagation of Myths and Fables! I was dumbstruck. There was such a thing?! Not only is there such a thing, but they are holding a Narration Festival around "Magic and the Supernatural World" in Athens, from the 18th to the 20th of December 2009, at the Traditional Greek Art Museum. Make sure to check it out!

Back to the main subject, Vassilia invited me to one of the Storytelling Nights of the Daughters of Fable, titled "The Wiles of Men and Women" (at Makari Music Scene - 125, Zoodohou Pigis St., Exarheia, Athens), featuring fables from Arabia, Russia, Africa, Spain (I think) and perhaps a couple whose origin I cannot deduce. Not only did the three young women have very different styles (by strictly personal judgment, I have dubbed Antonia the "Dark Spinner", Iphigenia the "Rosy Romantic" and Vassilia the "Daydreamer" - although you must bear in mind that this was after watching them only once), but during the African tale of the Lioness and the Turtle they incorporated members of the audience as the key characters of the story.

All in all, it was a very entertaining and fun 2 hours, which unearthed this warm and fuzzy feeling inside me, reminding me of summers long ago, when we would gather around a beach fire and talk of Todd the Gray, or in a small room with a hookah and tell the tale of Weasel's triumphs and laments...

Keep dreaming,


P.S. I took two pictures of the Daughters that night and although they seemed OK on the camera's miniscule screen, it turned out that in full size they were a blurry mess... Someone's lens needs some serious cleaning, pronto!

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Literary Section - News II: Ahmes, Moonchild

Today is a big day, since my father's second book, "Ahmes, Moonchild" came out (before moving any further, I must stress that this book is in Greek and the aforementioned is my own translation of the original title, "Αχμές, ο Γιός του Φεγγαριού") by Polis Publishing.

It is a purely fictional account of the life of Ahmes, the first Mathematician in history to be known by name, having signed the famous Rhind Scroll (named after the Scottish archaeologist who found it, Henry Rhind), a collection of 84 solved mathematical problems, sometime around 1600 BC.

Besides giving a plausible account of how, why and when Ahmes compiled the scroll containing the sum of mathematical knowledge of his time, the book tells the colorful tale of how he was found by Pianki, one of the Royal Hunters, how he was raised by him and his beautiful wife, Tadinanefer, as well as of his friendship with orphaned Amanthys, a Minoan boy whom the evil whims of merciless pirates, through the merciful winds of fate, landed in Egypt. More than that, it's the account of his journey through life, towards an accomplishment that will seem monumental more than two-score centuries later, preserved by one pale, sickly man.

I would not say more. The book is an adventure on two levels: on one hand, it's the life adventure of two friends who survived and were brought together by providence and on the other, the adventure of learning, discovery and knowledge. Although any reader worth their salt will see the bias of a son writing about his father's book, I still believe that, had I not enjoyed it, I may have not written this post.

Although the book is in Greek, I have faith that it will be successful enough to be translated in English, like his previous one, "Pythagorean Crimes" (English edition by Parmenides Publishing) was. Meanwhile, you can take my word for it or, if you can read Greek, visit my father's blog for a peek.



Friday, 6 November 2009

Thou Shall Not Steal, Terms and Conditions Apply

Hello again: well, this is another post to fill in while waiting for the one being prepared, but I believe no less interesting. It concerns "Fast Forward Magazine" (well, ROMzine actually, since it's in DVD form) and its "Street Art Issue", that is the one before the current "Asta Na Pane Issue".

The DVD is distributed free and I came by it coincidentally, while out shopping for - what else - books and comics. Seeing as most free material of this kind is usually not worth bothering with (and to me, street art is pretty to look at but it also reminds me how badly I suck at drawing anything), I left it lying around my room for quite some time. Then, a few months back, during a routine clean-up of miscellaneous and obsolete stuff, I was checking anything lying on my desk, before deciding whether I should chuck it in the recycle bin or not. Finally, I inserted the DVD in the PC's drive.

It just goes to show that the old adage concerning rules and exceptions still holds true: "Fast Forward" was anything BUT a disappointment and it currently resides safely on my DVD shelf. The funny thing is: its title material was probably the least interesting to me, whereas a fantastic documentary, by Steal This Film Project, conspicuously titled "Steal This Film", completely won me over.

Contrary to what the title might imply, the film does not stick to the matter of piracy, file-sharing etc. alone, but instead it goes on to do an analysis of modern information dissemination, a historical review of the reaction to any new popular medium and/ or method of information sharing and duplication. Furthermore, it generally does a very interesting overview of this whole issue, its origins, the wrong handling which backfired on the related industry and much more.

I watched it in one breath and naturally, I then dug through every corner of the rest of the DVD:
movie and video-game trailers, a paint-ball feature, shotgun comics reviews by Makis Katalifos of Jemma Books and Comics, a short film about last year's Torture Garden at Second Skin and of course, graffiti. I also liked the simple, functional 3D interface very much.

In the end, I believe I will become a loyal reader (or is it watcher, in this case?) of the team's material and try to track down their previous issues (the new one is already out, from what I see on their official site). Furthermore, lots of material from all the issues can be found in the archive, so make sure to check it out.

Unfortunately, I suppose "Steal This Film" was just too huge to put on there but you could always check the project's official website (link a few paragraphs up) and help promote their way of thinking, if you agree with it.



Thursday, 5 November 2009

Cultural Priorities

I have been trying forever to write the second part of Celluloid Vampires and Then Some, and it just keeps getting bigger and bigger, so I thought I would relate an experience I had today, instead, since the Dogtooth post has been on there for a month and a half.

As seems to have become customary, today I spent quite a bit of money compulsively and in rapid succession but I am more than happy with what I got: first I went to the Solaris comic store to buy some bags and boards for my comic issues and then I spotted "The Art of Osamu Tezuka: God of Manga" by Helen McCarthy. Aside from being a huge, beautifully made book also featuring a DVD documentary as an extra, I realized it was much more than just an artbook: actually it's an Osamu Tezuka encyclopedia, featuring a biography, photographic material not just from his manga but also his life, from childhood, and adolescence, his time as mangaka and animator and up to his death and beyond. There's an (I think) exhaustive list of characters and their multiple uses and appearances, his works in chronological order, as well as a ton of analysis on it, positive and negative commentary and lots and lots more! I believe it's worth every cent of the 40 euros I paid for it.

Later on, I met with Kyoshiro and some other friends for coffee (well, chocolate milk-shake for me, for which I was sorely criticized) and Kyoshiro had brought me a little thing of beauty bought from eBay, the complete "Blackstar" from Filmation!!! Just to be clear, "Blackstar" first aired in 1981 and for many, perhaps including the company itself, it was merely the dry run before "He-Man". In comparison to virtually anything created in Japan during the same period, it's more than primitive in every way (imagine that "Captain Harlock" and "Candy Candy" were put into animation before the 80s). However, it has been a piece of nostalgia which has completely eluded my grasp for the better part of a decade (I have never been good with sites such as eBay, so buzz off). Not on the internet as a torrent, not in any local store, not on any of the usual sites for such purchases and when even collections of "He-Man" and "Thundercats" started appearing, and it still remained nowhere in sight, I had lost all hope of ever seeing it again. Yet, I finally have all 13 episodes in my hands and have already watched the first two (geek's guilty pleasures).

Still, I have not yet made it to my actual point. Even later on, I visited a Metropolis (now multi-store) on Panepistimiou Ave. in search of a book by Neocles Galanopoulos (a Greek writer along with whom we were featured among the 14 writers of "Ecocrimes" anthology), titled "Death Out of Nowhere" (Topos Editions). Entering the store, much to my surprise, I was met by the sound of brutal vocals and metal music, rather more loud than any other time I have happened to visit the store (not that I have ever heard black metal played in every floor simultaneously at any of these stores, but regardless).

Though I generally hate brutal vocals and have serious problems with death and / or black metal being labeled as "music", what I was hearing was not in fact so bad (the female back vocals and the occasional somber reciting did help), although of course I did not understand a word of it during the main body of the songs. At any rate, while searching for the book I came across some of the labeled "Ground Floor Offers": among them was a complete series of books from Penguin Editions, reprinting somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 books which gave birth to the great ideas of humanity, from Plato, Seneca, Lao Tzu, Darwin, Henry-David Thoreau, William Shakespeare, to George Orwell, Virginia Woolf, Fyodor Dostoyevski, Thomas More and many, many, inconceivably more for 5 euros each! After a very lengthy deliberation, I ended up choosing "Confessions of an English Opium Eater" by Thomas de Quincy and "Decline of the English Murder" by George Orwell. Believe me, it was a tough choice, made only harder by the fact that each book's appearance is designed to reflect its content, though they are all pocket-size).

The music was still gong strong. When I asked one of the employees a question and realized that he could not hear me, I was certain that something was off - there HAD to be a reason why that sort of music was being played at that volume... and then I saw them, just across the door connecting the two sections of the ground floor: hair uniformly long in both sexes, dyed black in abundance by the women, too much actual metal on all the people and blue-jeans. I could not understand for the life of me, what was all that metal crowd doing in the ground floor (that section is on the 1st floor and then again, you never see so many all at once these days). So I headed there to even find cameras and reporters directed to what I assumed was a metal band and merchandise for PS3 dubbed "Brutal Legends".

Finally, it hit me and a bit of looking around filled in any holes in my understanding: the black metal band from 1987, Rotting Christ, were proudly featured in the new expansion of "Guitar Hero", "Brutal Legends". That's what all the fuss was about...

After purchasing the book I had come for, as well as my other two selections, I still dug through the pile of Penguin's "Great Ideas" series and made probably unrealistic plans for buying all 80 of them sooner or later. The music was still on when I left. Now, I never liked Rotting Christ (although the HAVE gotten better since I last heard them in the late 90s) and I have already expressed my views on the particular sort of music, but that is not the point in and of itself: the point is, I saw all those literary masterpieces, cheap and beautifully printed... in an offers stack, with barely three people (myself included) stooping to dig through the pile, while some Greek black metal band featured in a video-game was suddenly sensational news. Though I have not fully digested what that implies, I can be certain of one thing: at that moment, as I was leaving, I felt ill.

What are your thoughts?


Sunday, 27 September 2009


At the time this is being written, I am still processing the things I saw in George Lanthimos's Movie, "Dogtooth" ("Kynodontas" in Greek). This movie can be watched on many levels: as a darkly humorous take on the traditional Greek family, as a psychological experiment conducted on the big screen "for our eyes only", but which experiment easily draws us in and in fact, experiments on our reactions to the contrasting imagery, or even as a collection of very disturbed and disturbing images which, in fact, show that a small measure of madness and misguided love of ideals, principles and the concept of family, can go a long way towards going down in the annals of human atrocity.

I may be getting ahead of myself here, but I really needed to get the movie's aforementioned analysis - being the ONLY analysis you will get on it from me - out of my head, so that I may leave it behind me and not be tempted to get into specifics, which would only ruin the viewing for you. I was given the opportunity to see this movie during Athens's Premiere Nights thanks to Kyoshiro who, being among the people who worked on it, was sent an invitation and took me along.

Left to right: Chris Passalis, Mary Tsoni, Chris Stergioglou
Angelica Pappoulia, George Lanthimos.

I have not gone to many movie premieres in my life, much less any of Greek movies, but what was taking place at DANAOS cinema was a complete first in my experience: a veritable sea of people were waiting inside and out of the cinema, filling its lobby and the sidewalk outside, to a degree that if you got caught somewhere in the middle, you simply stayed put until other people decided to move. I think the screening was actually delayed around an hour until every name and invitation had been sorted out, but it kind of reminded me of queues in Japan, where you wait leisurely around, talking and laughing, until something budges. I even saw a couple of people from my old schoolbus (!), whom I had not met with for around 10 years (I don't think they recognized me, but oh well...).

The siblings during a family celebration.

At any rate, as any of you who watch international cinema news (or simply, Greek news) know, "Dogtooth" won the award for the category "Un Certain Regard" in Cannes, the Special Jury Award in Sarajevo, and lead actress Angelica Pappoulia the "Heart of Sarajevo" for Best Actress. The reason is very simple: it's a good movie and by Greek standards over the last decade, a phenomenal one. Actors Chris Passlis, Angelica Pappoulia and Mary Tsoni play the role of three siblings, children of the eccentric parents portrayed by Chris Stergioglou and Michelle Valley.

Angelica Pappoulia.

Chris Passalis.

Mary Tsoni.

The father has decided to restrict his children within the boundaries of his estate, home-school them and raise them with the moral principles and linguistic predilections he deems appropriate. Their only contact with the outside world is the periodic visits by a security guard, Christina, portrayed by Anna Kalaitzidou. They are to remain within the boundaries of the estate, cut-off from all external stimuli, "until such time as they are ready to leave". What time is that? Well, suffice to say that it has something to do with the movie's title but this is as far as I am willing to venture...

Michelle Valley as the mother, reposing.

Although I believe that it's a movie really worth watching (when it premieres, around the last week of October), I must warn you that it is not for the faint of heart. No - and let me stress this - it is NOT a splatter movie, but the things it depicts and the way it depicts them will gut the soft underbelly of your sensitivity (unless of course you are clinically insane) and that WILL hurt. It's not a one-rail psychological abuse either: it is also funny at the most opportune moment, with the mood alternating until the climax is reached. That way it manages to draw you in and devour you, all but defenseless. In the end, above and beyond all the things this movie is and does, it demands that you think, that you process and digest it, rather than just consume it as is.

The Unknown beyond the hedge.

If you prefer more conventional terms, the movie has great acting in extremely difficult roles, great direction and alluring photography. It is a treat for the thinking person and poison to the mindless movie-goer. That is not to say that you are not allowed to not like it, but that the verdict is not to be issued lightly.

I hope you enjoy it,


P.S. I am being intentionally vague as to any details and have posted no links to reviews and such for a good reason, so I advise you to go and see the movie without having watched even a single trailer or teaser. Trust me, small as they are, they DO spoil important things that should take you by surprise.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Humanity's Deafening Silence




The looks are sideways, the eyes never meet and when they do, the constant sensation of physical pain in the bowels that clench is only replaced by panicked heartbeat, labored breathing, even asthma. The jaws hurt, the teeth grind and lips turn white from pressuring anything and everything to stay bottled inside, not daring to let it escape even by a breath and when that breath is finally taken, it seems as though you have been underwater forever; and the cycle recommences.

Welcome to the new humanity, which silences itself to death and failing that, at the very least ulcers, depression and psychological derangement galore. The scene described above is typical of today's human relationships and before we take even the least step forward, let me clarify that I mean any and all relationships, those of a romantic or sexual nature being the least of our problems.

People do not talk, but you do not need me to tell you that: even the most forward of people must sometimes weigh the consequences of their actions before speaking their mind and that could even be called extremely healthy: most of you, most of us rather, for I am no exception, do not speak our minds nearly as often as we would like to, until we forget that we would like to and leave everything squeezed inside, building pressure and as any physicist worth their salt will tell you, eventually something' s gotta give. Time was when that was the deafening silence, which burst and ripped, leaving behind a bloody mess of raw emotion, revealed secrets and all manner of wet, sticky things we keep inside our shells - and which things, then visible, could be, in time, tidied, mopped up and eventually, when required, thrown away as so much waste. Now we harden our shells so much, foolishly thinking to protect ourselves and perhaps even others, which foolishness results in our insides festering, our psychology being imbalanced, our very bodies failing or working erratically.

Then, researchers, statisticians and simple people, usually of the older generations wonder: has youth gone crazy? Why do people kill themselves all the more often? Why is there so much depression and why are therapists (shrinks, for the TV minded) among the most lucrative of professions? Why are stable relationships so rare, marriages even rarer (in comparison to what it should be, given the Earth's current population) and casual, mindless sex on the rise? Hold on, no, even sex itself is not so widespread anymore, since people can wank off in front of their screens, be Don Juans and Marquises de Saad on MySpace, Facebook, MSN, or what-have-you.

Make no mistake: we live in fear. It is a fear of ourselves, engendered by a fear of others, of how we will seem, how we will be judged and we in turn judge others, either in offense or defense and so it all goes round and round. I assure you, it is a potentially mortal fear... I would know, for it nearly killed me once: I let myself be dragged into deceit, then join in a stagnant madness which was perceived as charming by all involved and in the end I could not stand being inside my own head, let alone my skin. For 9 months, all those years ago, I was a collection of psychological conditions, all masked under a big blanket of depression. You can run, but you absolutely CANNOT hide from yourself and in such cases you end up cloistered with yourself in a room without exit, for a very long time (time is not linear in thoughts and amazingly enough, something to that effect has been proven scientifically).

Thankfully, I am not self-destructive by nature, but there is a reason why we say: "run from one's problems". So I ran and ran... for miles each night, with cold, rain, even snow and at the same time I was not eating. True, it made for a very lean and muscled body, but my constitution started failing: I ended up with something very akin to pneumonia (I do not think it was actually that, since I never had to go to the hospital) and was bedridden for weeks. However, even that did not open my eyes. Sometimes, all we see is smoke and mirrors, endlessly, seemingly infinitely. Oddly enough, people were so afraid for me and so alienated by my behavior in general, that they started talking and by that time, they were quite blunt about how fucked up I was. I, on the other hand, am not one to share my burden with others: you could even say I am extremely possessive of it, so my response was, again, silence... I did not hear their words and had none of mine to offer.

However... as I said earlier, something' s gotta give and thankfully, once every now and then one is equipped with the tools to make a chink on the outer shell, before the insides melt. That was Ergo Proxy, who did not in fact try to contradict or convince me of anything: he simply shifted my focus and with such a minute change, suddenly all was clear. It was to be expected, not so much because he probably knew me better than anyone, but because he had been fucked up in much the same way a few years earlier.

The reason I am purposefully vague as to the details of WHAT drove me to such a state, is that I am trying to make a point concerning the internal processes and external results of human imbalance, rather than entertain you with colorful literature such as would make the story itself: the point is that, after that ordeal, I spent a year at the other end, as overly extrovert, even to the point of being callous and rude. I spoke my mind without a second though, I kept nothing inside and as a result the festering wound slowly sealed itself shut and left a prominent scar. The thing is, the boundaries of my freedom started overstepping the ones of those around me and they were usually too afraid to tell me so: on the rare occasions they did tell me, the answer was instantaneous.

"This is who I am, take it or leave me and no hard feelings. I will NOT apologize about who I am, but at least you know what you are getting."

Funny, isn't it? I did not purposefully hurt anyone around me, although when provoked I retaliated without restrain and in equal measure. Brutal candor, no mercy, no second thoughts. However, that savage freedom alienated people, as though Lovecraft's proverbial unknown had stepped into the light and had become known. It was reactionary you see: if the psyche can be perceived as an organism, mine had to get rid of all the poison and as fundamentally nothing is lost in the Universe, that poison had to go somewhere...

In the end, that too passed (thankfully, without any serious aberrations on my part) and I returned to a middle state, balanced, a bit numb, having to learn anew the steps of human interaction, without being guided by sorrow or rage. If anything is like a bicycle, which you never forget how to ride, it's this. So what did I get for my pains? Well, a handful of scars and hard lessons, but those I took to heart and the second time around they protected me very efficiently.

It all leads to this: we come into the world bloodied and screaming and a terrifying percentage of our greatest achievements were birthed by war, strife and death. We only learn through adversity, we get stronger through getting hurt, we learn how better to fight by being defeated... as many times as it takes. However, we also learn by listening and one cannot listen unless they are willing to reciprocate the act of directed speech. You should consider yourselves nothing short of blind, with your hands tied behind your back, your ears plugged, your mouth gagged, stumbling in the darkness and thus, in the unknown void your mind fills the emptiness with monsters. However, find another in the same situation and you might help each other undo your bonds, you might be shown another's image of fear and realize you are not alone. Realization leads to knowledge and knowledge, at some point, helps you find dry wood and stones, in order to make a fire, illuminate the fading terrors and ultimately, find an exit.

In the name of absolutely anything you hold to higher authority (if anything), speak, engage in dialog, let the demons of your mind out and have them dissipate instead of gestating them to the point that they torture you. If not, we have no hope: we are condemned to be autistic, petty, to feel disillusioned where our illusions were idiotic to begin with, to remain neurotic adolescents or deranged adults unto our deaths. The first step is to be honest with oneself for if not, there is no chance in Hell anyone could be honest with those around them. Take a long, hard look into the metaphorical (or even actual, although that is not mainly the point) mirror and don't shirk from the blemishes or the imperfections: you may not like them, but they are yours, they are the balance to your good side and I assure you, balance has been, is and will ALWAYS be served somehow: it's not philosophy, or religion - it's science, proven over and over again.

The whole of our existence (of our Universe's existence in fact), is balanced on the edge of a cosmic razorblade, a thing that seems so vastly absurd to be a coincidence, that scientists ruled it a necessity. Nor is it a coincidence that my favorite Tarot card is that of Temperance (14th of the Major Arcana, although I usually get the Hierophant or the Magician): we are no different than the Universe, only vastly smaller and we should remember to act like we are, as did our ancestors. It is time to break the silence with words.

Speak up,


Sunday, 6 September 2009

The Cat's Predilection [#1]

Anyone who has been reading this blog long enough will know that I have at least two very prevalent character flaws, although one tends to manifest discreetly and the other rather blatantly: the first one is pride, one of the 7 Deadly Sins and the second is curiosity, the cat's proverbial predilection, for which the feline species has been suitably equipped with 9 lives (or 7, as is the norm in Greek oral tradition).

At any rate, my curiosity usually gets me in more or less trouble (from tasting something disgusting, to getting beat up until I am blue), although there are times when I am rewarded with a new and interesting experience: mind you, that is usually something small, very rarely life-altering and often gotten over easily.

However, again as oral wisdom informs us, happiness is in the small things and the Devil is in the details, so I decided to periodically post over here something that I have tried and has left me with an impression, good or bad. Furthermore, everything I will post can be found over here in Greece, so the local readership will not have to go abroad in order to satisfy their curiosity, if so inclined. The vast majority of these things can most certainly be found abroad, so those of you not in Greece will probably have a good time laughing at what impresses the inhabitant of a country as small (and often quite backwards) as mine.

Here goes then: today's curiosity is a health soft drink by Whole Earth, which, according to the self-explaining can, is sparkling organic ginger. For those of you with a taste for Japanese food, ginger is that pink to orange (or even white) stuff that comes in very thin slices with your sushi and gives an intense feeling of eating cologne (come to think of it, this could have been another entry but oh well). This particular drink was offered to me back in March of 2008, by the owner of Jemma Press Publications, after a work meeting.

Although he was kind enough to warn me that it was rather spicy, I could not have been prepared for what I sloshed down my throat! Spicy was something of an understatement: you know how when something has too much carbonic acid (like some versions of Cola drinks) seems to burn your throat and give you hiccups? Well, this was like drinking flavored pepper extract, although it did not have so much carbonic acid as to give me hiccups (believe me, I do get them easily). The funny thing? I loved the stuff! Every time I went by the office and he had some around, I would unfailingly help myself to it. He informed me that it, along with some other counterparts from the same company, could be found at most Health Food stores.

The added bonus? It freshens your breath like you wouldn't believe. So, if you are around a Health Food Store, look it up: it might burn you but if you like spicy things, chances are you are going to love it.

Till next time,


Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Our Hearts Know No Restrain... [#2]

I do not know if you remember the first post thus titled, since it has been a long time since... At any rate, the nights out with friends have grown increasingly fun over the months, even though their frequency may not be that high.

This particular one should normally go last, seeing as it is the most recent but really, I wanted to post it while it is still relatively fresh in the memories of all involved. While working on the "Science of Love" theatrical show, IndieAnn and I had noticed, on our way from a late-night rehearsal to the metro station of Kerameikos, a bar/club named the Eccentric Fox (which I have recently seen mentioned as Intrepid Fox): it seemed incredibly interesting, part semi-underground garage, part wire-fence cage and 100% cool feeling, its walls filled with posters of Iggy Pop, Black Sabbath, The Doors, The Beatles and even the 1922 "Nosferatu" film poster, among many many others. There were those of us among the SciCo troupe who had been talking about going for a wild night out drinking for ages, but had never got around to it. Seeing that place, IndieAnn and I thought it would be perfect.

That was sometime around March: even though we played the "Science of Love", prepared the "Science of Ecology", played it at the EcoLife Festival, we still hadn't managed to arrange the fabled night out, until the 18th of June, when we played "Science of Ecology" as part of the Fringe Festival. I have to tell you, playing for a very limited audience may have its perks (less fear of making mistakes, less noise, pressure, etc.) but oh, the vertiginous feeling of having tried so hard to put up a decent, quite complex theatrical show within 15-20 days and then facing the deafening echo of a near-empty hall... Let's face it: not very pleasant for most involved. For myself, besides the incredible advantage of being an insensitive bastard, I believe that the very first events of Ordre de Ciel at KABATZA were very instructing: 7 people, 2 of them the members of the (then) team, another 2 the barwoman and the manager and a grand audience of 3, myself included. Until we drew in the anime crowd (that is, for the span of around 4 months), that number never went over 15, so rather empty spaces do not really depress me. The presence of Mai-chan and Flexxy among the audience was quite enough for me, although there are very few things like the rush of a full house.

At any rate, the troupe was not really in the mood, it was our last show for the season and some had other plans. Thankfully, Nickolas (a member of the troupe who had to remain at the sidelines for "Science of Ecology" due to day-job demands - i.e. working on finishing his Ph.D.) was also there and one of our newest members, Julie, had friends waiting for her... at the Eccentric Fox! Therefore, absolutely refusing to listen to IndieAnn's excuses, finally a company consisting of Mai-chan, Flexxy, Nickolas, IndieAnn, Julie and her two friends, Tina and Eva, as well as yours truly, found itself at the much-discussed destination.

Interestingly enough, the DJ pair of the night was all set for 80s and 90s (and a bit of 70s) retro-action (well, for most of the night anyway, until they had gotten bored or tired and started the mixes from Hell) and we had Mai and Flexxy with us. Well, you will get the idea...

Nickolas, displaying his ticket for
"Science of Ecology"... with IndieAnn and Julie.

Indie has serious issues with staying put for a
decent photo (I kill you!).

I mean, come on! Even I stayed put, although
I am probably the least photographed individual,
both for the practical reason of being behind
the camera, as well as the aesthetic one.

And we're not even drinking yet...

"Not for long...!"

Tina, who was very fond of my cane
and hat (that hat is insanely popular -
I could never beat it, even with a stick).
Did I mentioned I went there wearing
more or less my Hercule Poirot outfit
from the show (with the exception of the shirt)?

Mai-chan and Flexxy...

...who danced so hard that people
cleared some space to watch them!

Flexxy and myself, with Indie laughing her ass of
in the background. Right, brilliant...

Given that we were there to drink, I
simply HAD to acquaint some people
with the legendary "Bears"!
(A "Submarine" variation with
Beer, Tequila and Ursus - Ursus
goes first and the rest follow).

First one went to Flexxy...

...and the second, well... let's just say
that if Mai is a crazed dance-machine
when sober...

Three Crazed Belles: Julie, Eva
and Tina (Eva simply would not
stay put for another photo...).

"I am entitled to trying on all
of Speedo's hats" (yessiree
and no lie dear readers).

The "Bear" and Mai effect:
Stage 1 - Shy Diva.

Stage 2 - Dance Mayhem.

Stage 3 -Ourg!
(Temporary bear persona).

...aaaand Stage 4 - *ahem*.

Tina turned out to be an...

...amazingly fun person...

...and quite the party animal!

As for Flexxy, as per usual, he did not stop at all...

...whether dancing with Mai or Tina, until he reached
his first limit, but we left before he had the chance
to do his Limit (and skull) Breaker.

Julie, also sporting the notorious hat,
although it gives her a rather different air.

You know, I have realized that though I do not
dance in general (and when I do, I do it badly),
maybe alcohol is not the key to it, but rather
a type of music I cannot really place but originating
in my childhood, along with excellent company...

...which was exactly what the
people in ours constituted...

...alcohol consumption and...

...inherent craziness notwithstanding
(I really like this photo).

As one amongst us put it, our company was "super" without trying to be anything other than people with genuine desire to have fun and relax after a taxing day. Of course, my continued restricted mobility over the past 6 months (i.e. I have become a slothful furry animal) meant that the next day I felt pain in places of my body whose existence I keep forgetting, but it was a welcome pain, a muscle memory of having a good time.

Of course, since everything is connected, one of my common courtesies of the night resulted, indirectly, in a string of peculiar and not entirely pleasant experiences for one of us. However, I have come to understand that a certain level of entropy is unavoidable around me or perhaps around any sort of good intention and those strings of seemingly randomly interconnected events is nothing more than the definition of life. As I said before, so far as the good outweigh the bad, even slightly, be grateful. I know I am.

Here's to your health,


P.S. I have seen a number of disturbing things in my life, but Flexxy doing the "Macarena" is in a league all his own. Cheers!