Kalo mina. It is September already, isn’t it. I’ve been writing up the following post for almost a month now. Day by day, hour by hour even, more and more stuff is added to this list. I can’t keep up anymore! Originally this was intended to be a complete ++– of my summer highlights… This is quickly becoming overwhelming, what with the summer not being over yet and bits and pieces of my life constanstly becoming potential highlights. I will post what I’d already written weeks now and see how it goes. Oh and I’ll start with the most recent ++, what took most of my time these days actually.
August.The cicadas are chirping, Taurus and Orion have just started to appear a few hours before dawn, summer is depressingly close to its end. Depressingly? This word is up for discussion. Yes, I do agree that summer is almost over and that that is generally considered a bad thing but no bad thing has ever come with no benefit; autumn is right around the corner and along with it comes everything that symbolises our hopes, plans and process of renewal. Everything flows, said Iraklitos (and the Book of Change).
Enough with this little introduction. What I want to share with this post is the good, the bad, the attrocious and the fantastic of this year’s summer, which (for good or bad, you decide in the end!) is over in a few weeks, at least theoretically (cause really, who knows till when the weather’s going to be happy this time around?) In short, I’m giving you another Plus*2/Minus*2. And this one is going to be loooong!
Flash, Grafistiki and September Exams
This year the comeback to Mytilini has come earlier than usual. I had long decided that this time I would stand 100% ready for the upcoming exams. I would study a lot, do all my projects in time etc. August 21st was the day we returned to the island. Happy Rock Band 2, Mordread’s birthday and Alex’s nameday aside, it hasn’t been all that fun for me! First thing I wanted to do was complete my Flash/Grafistiki project. A couple of bucketfuls of tears of *insert feeling here* later (including joy, frustration, achievement and despair) and stinking my chair from sitting in it for tens of hours, I can proudly say that today, just in time too, I presented my work to Myrsini. And it was good! It has got to be one of my most advanced works to date. It being in Flash makes it even more impressive of course. I invite you all to have a look and tell me what you think:
This, of course, is only a sign of things to come. I can stand proud, can’t I??
Today was special in another way as well. I sat for another two subjects, namely Java and Image Editing. Too much effort put into the Flash Project, of course I didn’t have the time to study them properly. Yet I didn’t do all that badly. I think it’s been a successful day… But I REALLY WANNA PLAY SOME GAMES! I MISS THEM. And even though Alexandra is around and has helped me considerably with housework, cooking, cleaning, relaxing, keeping in touch with the real world etc… I do not think we’re spending our time together as we should be. I mean…
…nah, this is another highlight in its own right.
Salonica: City of Ghosts, by Mark Mazower
I finished reading this book in June. I must have mentioned it before, or maybe it was Mazower’s “The Balkans”, a short introduction to the regional history, especially during Ottoman times. “Salonica” is similar. It takes you from the creation of the city in ancient times to what it is today, focusing on its multicultural identity during Ottoman rule (1430-1912) and until the Second World War and the jewish holocaust which killed a significant part of the population.
Did you know that Thessaloniki was only founded after the death of Alexander the Great? Kassandros, the guy who got in charge of the province of Macedonia after Alexander’s death, named this newly founded town after his wife Thessaloniki, daughter of Philip II and thus Alexander’s sister. So why the statue of Alexander in the centre of the city? Why has the city been so closely connected to Macedonia and indeed Alexander?
Did you know that in the 16th century thousands of sephardites, jews that were pursued out of Spain, emigrated into Salonica? They remained the majority (!) of the city, with muslims coming second and christians (greek and slav speaking) third. These jews really considered Salonica their home, they spoke a strange dialect of spanish changed throughout the years from their contact with turkish and greek. During the Second World War most were killed by Nazi Germany and their plan to eradicate the world’s jews (along with other unwanted elements).
Did you know that Salonica became a greek city in 1912? The greek revolution may have happened in 1821 but before 1912 the modern greek state’s borders had not yet changed into the form we know them today. Salonica, along with most of the Eastern Aegean islands and later Thrace, were conquered in the First and Second Balkan Wars by the Greek Army. Salonica wasn’t a particularly greek city before that. As I said, greeks were the minority. However, within 10 short years and after the Population Exchange that made all the muslims leave the city, Greece used the poor immigrants from Asia Minor, some of which did not even speak greek, to effectively “hellenize” its newly conquered territories with christians. Descendants of Macedonians? I don’t think so.
The rest is, as they say, history. Leaving 400 years of (mostly) peaceful and tolerant coexistance behind, the greeks swiftly destroyed everything that would remind them of “the dark ages”. A lot of the historical city centre was burnt in the Great Fire of 1917, however most buildings that had survived did not make it into contemporary, metropolitan Salonica. The “neogreeks” of course have dug up any roman or byzantine (to be fair, Thessaloniki was an important byzantine town, with Ayios Dimitrios and everything…) building that is possible to find, at the same time trying to hush-hush, forget and destroy history, situations and buildings much more relevant to the Greece of today and not the Greece we would like to once have existed.
“Salonica: City of Ghosts” tells a story you’re not likely to hear. It tells of Salonica’s cosmopolitan days, of when it was a crossroads of cultures. A true multi-culti gem. It was a book that gave me a brand new perspective on matters with superb research and excellent, gripping writing. It made me want to visit Thessaloniki, even if the Thessaloniki it desribes is long part of the past…I recommend it to anyone who might want to study revisionist greek history but also the history of the Balkans or the Ottoman Empire.
Did you know that the White Tower was an Ottoman prison?
I can say that I was quite satisfied with my exam results. I did not sit for many subjects. In fact, 2 of them I sacrificed in order to have time to go to Rodos in mid-June. For those I did sit for, however, I could not have gone better! Stefanos and me, together with the –let’s face it– minor contribution of Anna and Vasilis, worked on a Flash application during May and June that represents the various kinds of relationships students have with Ermou St. in Mytilini. This was for Cultural Representation II. It gave us a straight 10, for all its misgivings (I’ll make sure to upload it in the main site as soon as possible!) This project’s design along with some personal graphic designs scored me another 10 in the respective subject.
Last but not least, I got another 10 at perhaps my favourite subject last term: Cutural Industries and Digital Culture. Despina Catapoti was our mentor, a great person and teacher! She turned the subject I failed one year ago into a fresh, postmodern-counterculture-philosophical experience! I got a 10 for my answers to the inspired, open-ended test. But I give her a 10 as well for her very interesting, knowledgeable lectures and her special way with the students. I can only say that I cannot wait to learn beside her once more come Spring.
I got a 2.5 at Montage and that thanks to the… interesting video Garret and me made one day at the lighthouse. 😛 Otherwise I would have got a 0. I’ll be quietly sitting for this one soon.
Counting Sheep, by Paul Martin
Picking up books on random, fascinating subjects as I sometimes do, this summer I got a book on sleep called “Counting Sheep”. Alexandra used to mistakenly call it “Science of Sleep”, like the movie. I thought it was funny mixing the two names up! On a side note, we still haven’t watched “Science of Sleep” in its entirety.
“Counting Sheep” is the ultimate book on this 1/3 of our lives when we “go comatose while hallucinating vividly”. REM sleep, which is the scientific term for dreams, actually occurs for just 25% of sleep in adults. The rest is NREM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep. This is the wiki on NREM, pretty interesting. NREM is vastly different from REM in many aspects, in fact brainwaves during this state are much more characteristic than the respective REM ones (which are, unsurprisingly, similar to our waking state ones). Our sleep can thus be divided into two distinct states which leads to the conclusion that we go through three unique cycles, not just two: waking state, NREM and REM. Each cycle of sleep roughly comprises 90 minutes, going through the 4 stages of NREM sleep and finishing with REM. A typical night’s sleep will consist of 5-6 cycles…
…I can’t stop! Here I am typing scientific stuff about sleep from the top of my head. I could go on. But “Counting Sheep” is not just excellent explaining how sleep works. It goes through all kinds of culture that has been created around sleep, beds, caffeine, dreams, lucidity, sleep disorders, it tells tales of horrible sleep-deprivation and resulting torture, it outlines how sleep works in animals (every single living being, even bacteria, display some kind of low-activity cycle — dolphins sleep one brain hemisphere at a time!) and perhaps most important of all, it definitely proves that sleep is not only important, it is also a luxury and a pleasure unsung for – nevermind the ridiculous numbers of relevant William Shakespeare quotes.
“Counting Sheep” makes you want to rush to your bed, hug your pillow, rub your feet under the quilt, hang a hammock from the trees outside your door or in case you have no trees plant a couple for this very purpose. It makes you cherish your only pure and unfiltered existence and not feel guilty about that couple of extra hours under the blanket. This book proves that the world would be a much, much better place if only politicians, drivers and nuclear reactor operators took their40 winks more seriously. If you, like all too many of us these days, think that sleep is nothing but wasted time, you ought to make yourself a favour and read this!
Urk. Gytheio is supposedly the correct way of writing the greek town name in English. But you pronounce it “Yithio”!
Anyway, I went for 3 days and 2 nights to Gytheio to find Fanis and a couple of his friends who were camping there and stay with them. It was fantastic! I had only ever camped once in my life before (Bouka Beach Club! Savi, Tousis!) and it was great, not to mention 3 years ago. So I had a great, fantastic time camping again.
The beer was cheap, the friends’ friends I met there were pretty interesting and unique people (a 15-year-old bassoon-player rocker anime lover? A 17-year-old who was exactly like Garret in almost every way, except he liked One Piece and played the clarinet and was thus also musically inclined), everyone was relaxed but also cheerful and funny. I was at peace.
On the first night it was full moon. We made a fire on the beach, just like the second night. On the first one though we also went for a swimin the sea right in front of the fire. The moonlight was so bright and the sea so calm I could literally see the sandy bottom. But it wasn’t like looking at it under daylight. It was different, it was magic. I felt the sea different in spacial kind of way, as if I could really feel how deep it was or that I was actually floating in it at that point. It was truly something else.
Alina, another member of our charming little party, showed me her father’s camera. It was a Nikon F301 he’d had for almost 25 years! The sound of the shutter, the complete lack of electronics, the large viewfinder, the sturdy lens… It certainly didn’t take me a lot of messing around with it for me to realise that I NEEDED ONE OF THESE! So, oh what surprise, ever since I got back from Gytheio and that’s 11 days already, I’ve been hunting…
Camping is probably the best type of holiday. Not a care in the world, total relaxation, socialising, enjoying nature. Sleeping in a boiling tent just might be the highlight. I’m already looking forward to doing some more.
Dieser Sommer ich habe gedacht:”Ich hatte genug!” Danach habe ich mehr Deutsch studieren. Ich will das Zertifikat in Januar bekommen. Ehrlich gesagt hoffe ich, dass ich nicht zu faul bin… Mama ist aber eine gute Lehrerin!
Buses have become, or have always been, I’m not really sure, the main means of transportation for those who want to go from one greek city to another. But they are so bad. The stations are dirty, the drivers are rude, the schedule is seriously strange, and the bastards have made it so that you can’t find out when your bus is leaving unless you call a high-cost helpline! They’ve even removed lists and schedules from the internet, at least from what I’ve seen.
Even more worrisome is the fact that there are no plans of expanding the train lines in any part of Greece. Actually, OSE announced during the summer that they are changing their routes so that only connections between the main cities are properly serviced. Where is the environmental planning? Where is ANY kind of planning at all? If you could go anywhere, anywhere at all, just by hopping on a bus, things would be different. If they weren’t so polluting or if the drivers were a bit more considerate about their clients music tastes, things would be different. But they aren’t. And as it is, people like me that object to owning a car have little choice. It’s depressing…
At least the tickets are relatively cheap. For now…
To be continued… with more amazing ‘s and even juicier ‘s!