Review: Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art

Understanding Comics: The Invisible ArtUnderstanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

First of all, I’d like to share my story about and this book that goes to show how awesome some companies’ customer service can be. I first ordered it together with Waking From Sleep in Novemeber. Waking From Sleep arrived just fine but Understanding Comics never did. I sent them an e-mail asking them about my book’s whereabouts and they admitted that they did not know what had happened to it. As they’ve done before, they sent me a replacement copy.

What I had not predicted was that I wouldn’t be home to receive my replacement copy, because by then I was in Athens for the holidays. Once I was back, I did find an package waiting outside my door. It was soaked from the winter rains and someone who must have been wondering what this strange parcel contained had opened it. Clearly, the contents or the condition thereof must have disappointed them, since the book remained there for me to discover.

I took it inside and began the drying process. It took a few days of devising various methods of using my air-conditioners on heat, my only way to stay warm inside the house, and keep the book spread out so that the pages could properly dry and avoid it catching fungi or worse, plainly disintegrate; the cover of the book was soft, and so was the glue that kept it stuck to the rest of the book.

Thankfully, the book survived with only cosmetic damage. After a few days I began reading it. Meanwhile, I had contacted detailing the situation. One would expect that they would take the blame off themselves, declaring that it was the Greek Post’s fault or my own. But no. The gentlemen at Amazon claimed full responsibility for not being able to guarantee the book’s complete safe journey from their warehouses to my eager hands. So they went ahead and issued a complete refund for me, adding that they would choose their carriers with greater care in the future. Amazon, you have my respect. This is customer service. And this is why I’ll continue shopping from you, you made it.


Anyway! To Understanding Comics itself. It’s a very interesting read indeed. Mr. McCloud clearly knows his Cultural Theory and has great communicative skills. This book is not so much understanding comics, it’s more about decrypting comics, since we’ve all grown up being able to understand the hows, but scarcely if ever have we put our minds to the whys (apart from Abraham Kawa. 😉 )

This book is perfect if you want to see why comics as a narrative medium is important and get to know its strengths and weaknesses compared to film, animation and literature, which are its closest relatives. There are many “aha!” moments hidden within the frames and outside them. Time, space, colour, icons, language and its relationship with imaging… The possibilities are endless and this books shows you why. Understanding Comics goes into depth in all of those, but it does so in a way that transcends its own medium. I was left there imagining the wider implications of all that I had just read about and couldn’t wait to read some more. I like how Scott McCloud used the art he’s theorising about to get the point across all the more effectively.

What’s a bit disappointing but de facto unavoidable is that by now a lot of what the author had been hoping to happen has happened, like comics making it to the mainstream, “serious” markets as mature and effective ways to present a narrative. Consequently, just a little of the information presented, though of course not all, is outdated. The revolution has taken place. Big things have happened to the comics scene since 1993 when Understanding Comics was published, and I wonder what Mr. McCloud would have to say about these developments today. Sandman, Y: The Last Man, The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, Persepolis, Scott Pilgrim, The Invisibles, Logicomix and many more I don’t have the knowledge to list. I believe he’s proud and happy.

Here’s hoping such a creation as Understanding Comics eventually comes out for video games too. Isn’t it time they, too, grew out of their baby shoes?

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Review: The Waste Lands

The Waste Lands (The Dark Tower, #3)The Waste Lands by Stephen King

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Finally! I’m done with Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands after more than 3 months of slow reading. Last night, I lay in my bed for more 2 and a half hours straight to finish it, and then I couldn’t go to sleep for another hour because of my mind having gone into overdrive from all the suspense. I pity everyone who had to wait from 1991, when this was published, till 1997 when the sequel was. Mr. King can be as cruel as Blaine if he’s feeling like it. Hah! With one arm tied behind his back!

There’s a lot going on in this book, it starts off from where The Drawing of the Three left us (duh), and it’s a wild ride from there. In the last book we get a good look at two New Yorks of slightly different time frames. Here we see yet another New York, but mostly we see Mid-World, Roland’s world. What happened to this desolate, perverse, stomach-wrenching dimension is slightly less of a mystery by the book’s end, but a lot remains unanswered. If the question “So what happened?” was of a gently curious nature by the end of Book #2, now it’s a worm, eating at my insides! I must know about this world, what happened to it, what it was like before it all, how it connects to our own world. So similar to our own, yet so exotic, destroyed, hopeless and… well, fantastic!

The final 150 pages of the book or so is where it really shines. Not that the rest is bad; Jake’s arc is interesting and very dream-like. But the characters introduced in the final two chapters of the book are intense, dramatic, brilliant, absolutely disgusting, breath-taking. The dialog is captivating, but I must admit, the descriptions of the scenery and backgrounds are sometimes so dense and poetic I have trouble imagining the grandness of the journey.

So whichun of you cullies gonna lend me the nesswan?

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Review: Το άρωμα

Το άρωμα  Το άρωμα by Patrick Süskind

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I found my copy of The Perfume (Το Άρωμα in greek, I read it in its greek translation, the 1987 edition) in a used bookstore and got it for only €4. It was some of my best spent money of the holidays!

Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is one of the fantasy characters sitting most cozily in what we’d call a moral grey zone. He’s barely human, really, his traits strange indeed, bringing to mind an extreme, sick but interesting result coming right out of an RPG’s character creation menu. His complete lack of charisma is balanced-off (or perhaps, induced) by his survival skills and, most notably, his LEGENDARY sense of smell. This isn’t your ordinary person that can connect memories with scents. Grenouille’s smelling capabilities are so exquisite, his other senses almost reach the point of atrophy.

Throw this character smack bang in the middle of 18th century France, with all its perfumes and the art and science of their creation, flowers, stink, human waste, the almost complete lack of bathing, aristocracy, Enlightenment and pseudo-enlightenment (not claiming I can tell the two apart) rural landscapes, and you’ve got yourself this great book.

I did lose myself in some of the scents described in The Perfume, marveling at the sheer power of the most underused and underestimated of the Five Senses, the one whose true strength seldom ever enters the realm of true human consciousness, instead pulling the metal strings from below, connecting with parts of our brain that have evolved little since the time our reptilian ancestors ruled the Earth. I can relate to a certain scent bringing back powerful memories, but for Grenouille, the scent was the purpose. He isolated it from any and all connotations: that was the only way he could see, excuse me, smell the world, everything else was secondary or irrelevant. It is really hard to describe how striking the smell of a tannery or of Paris’s cesspools (if they even existed) must have been, or, one the other end of the spectrum, what the girls’ perfume or the many different precise recipes as perceived by him might have been. But that’s the good thing about books, that’s where they win over other media. Merely imagining the scents, the odours, the stench, the perfumes, comparing it with one’s own (de facto and comparitively little) experience is enough to set the scene.

The historical background, even if not entirely accurate, is a very pleasant and convincing addition. I really had the chance to imagine a pretty clear picture of life in a small town in 1760s France, and even better, what an effect on this community a man with powers such as Grenouille would have. What I also felt was a prominent theme was of how little importance human life was at the time. Many, many characters just die, almost as an easy way for the writer to not have to mention them again.

That said, the book’s chief focus is (perhaps somewhat disappointingly) not the social effects of the protagonist’s power, even if that scope would have been awesome indeed. No, we, the readers, have a good look at Grenouille’s life and how it must have been for him instead. The look at the one-sidedness of his existence is quite uncanny at times. At the very end, we do not see the full extent of what an influence Grenouille could have on the entire world, which is something I would have liked to read about, how far his gift, malice and unique way of seeing the world could have taken him. But the ending is satisfyingly shocking and apt. No complaints!

I finished The Perfume in just two days. It’s a smell, I mean, small book so you can do much worse than giving it a whiff. It far, far from stinks! Yes, and now there are hints of cheese wafting around. Mmm, cheese…

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Πάσχα στην Αίγινα και άλλες ιστορίες

Είμαι στο καράβι της επιστροφής απο την Αίγινα. Χρόνια είχα να περάσω Πάσχα με τον Dad και την Βάσω στην Αίγινα. Είχα ξεχάσει πόσο μεγάλο χάπενινγκ μπορεί να είναι. Όλοι οι γνωστοί και γείτονες να φέρνουν τα δικά τους φαγητά και τα δικά τους ταψιά, όλοι να τρώνε στην αυλή. Μου άρεσε, αν εξαιρέσεις ότι όλη χτεσινή μέρα, δηλαδή την Κυριακή του Πάσχα, την ξόδεψα να εξηγώ σε ανθρώπους το τι σημαίνει «Πολιτισμική Τεχνολογία και Επικοινωνία», αν έχει λεφτά στο μέλλον, πόσο ωραία είναι η Μυτιλήνη κτλ.

Αλήθεια, όταν οι άνθρωποι σε ρωτάνε τι σπουδάζεις, το κάνουν επειδή νομίζουν ότι δεν υπάρχει τίποτα σπουδαιότερο να σε ρωτήσουν ή επειδή πολύ απλά δεν έχουν τίποτα καλύτερο να πουν; Στις στιγμές αμηχανίας, όταν δύο άνθρωποι δεν γνωρίζονται, είναι κοινό να χρησιμοποιούνται οι «γνωστές», πεπατημένες τακτικές γνωριμίας. “What do you do for a living?”, «Τι σπουδάζεις;», «Από πού είσαι;»… Αξίζει να αναρωτηθούμε πώς ακριβώς έγιναν αποδεκτές αυτού του είδους οι κοινοτυπίες όταν γνωρίζεις κάποιον, και όχι μόνο αυτό, πώς έχουμε αποδεχτεί όλοι ότι όταν γνωρίζεις κάποιον είναι το πιο ενδιαφέρον να μάθεις την ακαδημαϊκή/επαγγελματική καριέρα. Δεν θα ήταν πολύ ομορφότερο αν ήμασταν λίγο πιο δημιουργικοί στις εισαγωγικές μας συζητήσεις; «Τι σας αρέσει να κάνετε στον ελεύθερο σας χρόνο;», «Σας αρέσει η ζωή σας, αν όχι, γιατί;», «Αντιμετωπίζετε κάποιο πρόβλημα τελευταία;» Ειδικά τα δύο τελευταία θα ήταν μάλλον πολύ δύσκολο να χρησιμοποιηθούν σε κοινωνίες όπου στην ερώτηση «τι κάνεις;» η αυτόματη, συχνά ασυνείδητη απάντηση είναι «καλά»… Ο φόβος της παραδοχής της αδυναμίας σε αγνώστους, ή μήπως ένδειξη πως δεν έχουμε μάθει να νοιαζόμαστε για τους άλλους παρα μόνο για την εικόνα μας προς τους άλλους;

Ευτυχώς, η χτεσινή ημέρα δεν περιειχέ μόνο σχεδόν ανούσιους διαλόγους με άτομα τα οποία μετα βίας γνωρίζω. Πήγαμε με τους μοναδικούς άλλους νέους της παρέας στο ΕΚΠΑΖ, δηλαδή του Ελληνικού Κέντρου Περίθαλψης Άγριων Ζώων και Πουλιών (το τελευταίο Π φαντάζομαι παραλείπεται για λόγους ευηχείας). Ακόμα και αν παλιότερα είχαμε αρκετές σχέσεις με τους ανθρώπους που το διαχειρίζονταν – συγκεκριμένα με τον Φίλιππο Δραγούμη και την Μαρία Γανωτή, τους οποίους γνώριζα μέσω της Βάσως – και θυμάμαι ακόμα και το πρώτο κέντρο που είχαν σε ένα σπίτι έξω απο την Αίγινα και αργότερα στις Φυλακές (ήμουν-δεν ήμουν τότε 5 χρονών), η χτεσινή εμπειρία ήταν συγκλονιστική. Υπήρξαμε μάρτυρες του απαγορευμένο έρωτα μεταξύ του Οβελίξ και του Κεφάλα — ενός αγριογούρουνου και ενός πόνι, και τα δύο αρσενικά – Τα δύο ζώα φιλιόντουσαν μέσα απο τα κάγκελα. Το πόνι φαινόταν πολύ… ενθουσιασμένο με την κατάσταση! 😉 Αργότερα, είδαμε έναν αετό ο οποίος ήταν με το κέντρο ήδη σχεδόν 25 χρόνια… Ο αετός αυτός ήταν τυφλός από το ένα μάτι και έτσι ποτέ δεν θα μπορούσε να απελευθερωθεί. Ήταν γεράκος, είχαν αρχίσει να του βγαίνουν λευκά φτερά στην ράχη. Όταν ο υπεύθυνος (γαμάτος τύπος btw, τον θυμάμαι από παλιά με ένα cockatoo στον ώμο) μπήκε μέσα στον χώρο του για να του δώσει έναν μεζέ, ο αετός έκανε φωνούλες σαν κοτοπουλάκι. Τόσο χαρούμενος ήταν που είχε επιστρέψει ο άφτερος γίγαντας παλιόφιλός του… Στην λίμνη με τους πελεκάνους, αυτός που μου έκανε μεγαλύτερη εντύπωση ήταν ένας ο οποίος δεν θα ξαναστόλιζε ποτέ τους υγρότοπους με το μεγαλόπρεπο πέταγμα του, γιατί πολύ απλά του είχαν ακρωτηριάσει το αριστερό φτερό. Είχε πυροβοληθεί, και το φτερό του είχε αρχίσει να σαπίζει, δεν υπήρχε σωτηρία… Ο πελεκάνος αυτός, παρά την αναπηρία, ήταν ο αρχηγός στην λίμνη. Τσαμπουκάς με τα όλα του! Φαινόταν ότι δεν τον πείραζε η αναπηρία του πια. Ή τουλάχιστον, είχε μάθει να ζει και με αυτή.

Γενικά, η δουλειά των ανθρώπων του ΕΚΠΑΖ είναι συγκλονιστική. Χωρίς ουσιαστικούς πόρους, βασιζόμενοι στην εθελοντική εργασία, κάνουν κάτι τόσο σπουδαίο. Για όλα, λένε, φταίει το λαθραίο κυνήγι. Χωρίς αυτό θα είχαν μέχρι και 70% λιγότερα περιστατικά. Τι μπορείς να πεις για μερικούς ανθρώπους που χρησιμοποιούν την καραμπίνα τους σαν προέκταση της «κυριαρχίας τους πάνω στην φύση», του «ανδρισμού» τους…

Επίσης αυτές τις μέρες μου στην Αίγινα ασχολήθηκα και με αυτά τα νέα ιντερνετικά:

Neptune’s Pride

Η αγάπη μου για τα παιχνίδια στρατηγικής γνωστή… Αυτό είναι ένα web-based RTS το οποίο διαδραματίζεται στο διάστημα. Σκοπός είναι η κατάκτηση των μισών τουλάχιστον πλανητικών συστημάτων του χάρτη. Εφόσον το παιχνίδι δεν το παίζω μόνος αλλά online, η διπλωματία, οι συμμαχίες και οι πόλεμοι παίζουν πολύ. Γενικά, είναι πολύ απλό παιχνίδι με εύκολα κατανοητούς κανονές και θα έλεγα πως μοιάζει με ένα μίγμα του Risk, του Diplomacy (του οποίου επίσης βρήκα ένα web-based site για να παίξω και περιμένω να βρω χρόνο για την πρώτη μου παρτίδα) και φυσικά του Galactic Civilizations. Το ιδιαίτερο είναι πως κάθε κίνηση παίρνει πολλές ώρες για να πραγματοποιηθεί, εξομοιώνοντας εν μέρει την μακροσκοπικότητα του όλου εγχειρήματος. Η κίνηση ενός αστροστόλου από το ένα σύστημα στο άλλο, π.χ, μετριέται με δεκάδες ώρες, και το revenue της παραγωγής από κάθε αστέρι έρχεται κάθε 24 ώρες. Το προτείνω ανεπιφύλακτα, μόνο και μόνο για την εμπειρία!


Σας αρέσουν τα βιβλία; Κι εμένα! Θεωρείτε πως δεν χρειάζεται να σας ανήκει ένα βιβλίο για να το ευχαριστηθείτε; Κι εγώ! Θέλετε να μοιράζεστε τα βιβλία σας και να παρακαλουθείτε το πού φτάνουν τελικά; …

ΟΚ, ούτε εγώ ήμουν σίγουρος για την ιδέα, όσο ενδιαφέρουσα και στο παγκόσμιο πνεύμα του web που γουστάρω και αν ακούγεται, για τον απλούστατο λόγο του ότι εμείς οι έλληνες γενικότερα δεν κινούμαστε και τόσο πολύ μακριά από την πεπατημένη. Παρ’όλα αυτά, ανακάλυψα πως το Book Crossing έχει δυνατή παρουσία στην Ελλάδα, μάλιστα προετοιμάζεται και το 5ο Συνέδριο Βοοκ Crossing στην Θεσσαλονίκη. Η Νέα Σμύρνη είναι το πιο δυνατό κέντρο Book Crossing στην Αθήνα και το Ethnique ένα από τα Official Crossing Zones! Πού να το φανταζόμουν… Βλέπω πως στην Μυτιλήνη δεν υπάρχει κίνηση ή Crossing Zones, οπότε καλώ όποιον θέλει να φτιάξουμε ένα Crossing Zone και να απελευθερώσουμε την ιδέα και στην Μυτιλήνη. Σίγουρα θα βρούμε υποστηρικτές. Ήδη ο Mordread και η Νένη ψήνονται! ^^D

My shelf:

Post Crossing

Στο πνεύμα του Book Crossing, υπάρχει και το Post Crossing! Φτιάχνεις ένα προφίλ, δίνεις την διεύθυνση σου, και ζητάς να σου δωθεί μια τυχαία διεύθυνση από την βάση δεδομένων του site. Σε αυτή την διεύθυνση καλείσαι να στείλεις μια carte postale! Και όσες carte-postale στείλεις, τόσες φορές θα εμφανιστεί η δική σου διεύθυνση στην τυχαία αναζήτηση κάποιου άλλου… Ήδη περιμένω να στείλω δύο κάρτες που αγόρασα από το ΕΚΠΑΖ σε έναν 54-χρονο Φινλανδό και σε έναν Κινέζο αγνώστου ταυτότητας… Η ιδέα μου αρέσει πάρα πολύ!

Σχετικά με το ΕΚΠΑΖ, ρίξτε και μια ματιά στο Είναι το πρώτο site που έφτιαξα, σχεδόν 8 χρόνια πριν. Είναι η αγγλική μετάφραση του «Ροζ ο Πελεκάνος και άλλες ιστορίες» του Φίλιππου Δραγούμη με ιστορίες από το ΕΚΠΑΖ. Μερικές, όπως η ιστορία του ίδιου του Ροζ, καταπληκτικές. Δείτε το!

Είναι όντως οι μπάτσοι τα γουρούνια;

Το γνωστό σύνθημα (δεν χρειάζεται σε -όνοι να τελειώνει, μπάτσοι-γουρούνια δολοφόνοι) μου φαίνεται εδώ και καιρό κάπως άκυρο. Βασικά, απο τότε που διάβασα την Φάρμα των Ζώων, του George Orwell. Το βιβλίο, όπως μπορεί ή και όχι να ξέρετε, είναι μία ευθύς αλληγορία στην Οκτωβριανή Επανάσταση και στο τι επακολούθησε, μέχρι τον Στάλιν: τα ζώα της φάρμας, καθοδηγούμενα απο τα γουρούνια, πατάσσουν την κακιά εξουσία των ανθρώπων για μία αυτοδιαχειριζόμενη φάρμα, απο τα ζώα για τα ζώα! Μόνο που σύντομα, τα γουρούνια γίνονται χειρότεροι απο τους ανθρώπους…

Τα γουρούνια ΔΕΝ είναι οι μπάτσοι. Τα γουρούνια είναι οι άνθρωποι οι όποιοι ελέγχουν τους μπάτσους σαν μαριονέτες. Και πέρσι, που ένας μπάτσος πυροβόλησε τον Αλέξη Γρηγορόπουλο, αυτό δεν ήταν κίνηση γουρουνιού, αλλά ηλιθιότητα του μπάτσου… Δεν φταίει η δημοκρατία, ή το σύστημα, για τον τυχαίο ανθρώπινο παράγοντα ο οποίος μπορεί να πονοκεφαλιάσει τα γουρούνια και να δώσει ακόμα περισσότερη τροφή σε όσους στρέφουν τα πυρά τους προς αυτούς και ΟΧΙ στα γουρούνια.

Στην Φάρμα των Ζώων, τα σκυλιά είναι αυτά τα οποία προστατεύουν τα γουρούνια, θα μπορούσαμε να πούμε ότι οι μπάτσοι είναι τα σκυλιά. Τα ίδια όμως είναι εκπαιδεύμενα για να κάνουν ακριβώς αυτό. Ποιό είναι το παράπτωμα τους; Απο την άλλη, ποιός είναι ο καλύτερος τρόπος να στοχεύσεις τα πραγματικά γουρούνια, τα οποία πλέον δεν ήταν όσο εμφανή όσο ήταν ο Στάλιν; Είναι οι μεγαλοεπιχειρηματίες, οι μεγαλομέτοχοι, οι άνθρωποι που ελέγχουν τα μέσα… Άνθρωποι αφανείς, οι οποίοι κάνουν ακόμα και τους τάχα πολιτικούς “ηγέτες” ό,τι θέλουν πίσω απο τα παρασκήνια.

Οι μπάτσοι δεν είναι παρα το χέρι, το εκτελεστικό όργανο της εξουσίας… Είναι εκεί για να μισούμε αυτούς και όχι την πραγματική εξουσία. Ποιά όμως είναι, εν τέλει, η πραγματική εξουσία;


Plus*2/Minus*2 Summer Edition! Part 1


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?


June Exams ++

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!

Gytheio ++

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.

Deutsch ++

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!

Cultural Aspects of Today vol. 1

Cultural Aspects of Today, CATs for short, is my new way to present and discuss what I read, play, watch, listen to and generally enjoy these days. We are now in the era of Postmodernism according to which, very roughly, anything goes. At the same time the word “culture” can be used to describe a very broad selection of productive human activity just as well as the word “art”: cinema, video games, books, paintings, music, local traditions, Pop Art, High Culture… What falls under which category is not as apparent as it once may have been and the older norms, along with this fact, have all merged into Postmodernism, the movement of blending seams… I’m going to use this to present many different aspects of life, art (controversially or not), knowledge, products and ideas as parts of the Cultural Aspects of Today.



I watched Wall-E and Ratatouille 2 weeks apart. I first saw Wall-E, which was already hyped by pretty much everybody on IMDB along with a super user rating and a super review from Athinorama (an impressive 4 stars if I remember correctly). I could not help but be intrigued by the futuristic looks and alleged environmentalistic themes. My impressions?

The postapocalyptic backdrop for the first half of the movie was just spectacular. All the different items that Wall-E (the little robot) collects that represent parts of humanity’s cultural heritage were both emotionally powerful and conceptually brilliant. The feeling of solitude this half of the film gives off is noteworthy. The mega-corporation depicted in the movie which is the evolution of the capitalist tendencies of today is wonderfully and poetically pepresented, both by its name and its significance. BNL, Buy N Large.

The second half is not as good. The very subtle comedy of the first half is compromised and the film reverts to a style more similar to other Pixar films. The whole veil of mystery over the supposed future of humanity is lifted and, despite the unexpected plot twist (two words: steering wheel), the ending is very disappointing, destroying any kind of environmentalist tone the rest of the film had. (SPOILERS! READ FURTHER AT OWN RISK: Very “it’s-ok-guys, pollute-as-much-as-you-want-it’s-going-to-be-ok-even-if-it-takes-us-700-years!” Didn’t like that part… Overall, I think it wasn’t as good as hyped although it was enjoyable and had very sweet moments. Wall-E and EVA are perhaps the best robotic couple in the history of animation!

Ratatouille on the other hand… I had heard it was very good from different people but it managed to surpass my already high expectations. It was very funny and the characters were brilliant. Me and Alexandra especially liked the restaurant critic, Anton Ego (word goes around the internet that this guy was actually homosexual. I find that strange but whatever) I personally also liked Emile, Remy’s brother. I felt Ratatouille was very down to earth and appreciative to love for the simple things in life. Made me want to cook and eat the best meal in the world! The ending was very very satisfying and it left us with a very cheery feeling.

I cannot compare the two films. I don’t have the skills necessary and it would be pointless anyway as they are different films with a different goal and a different touch. What I can say though is that Wall-E promised a lot and underdelivered in a memorable and affectionate way while Ratatouille overdelivered in every possible way. Both films remain however as good examples to why Pixar is the leading mainstream 3D animation studio; they still haven’t made a film that I didn’t enjoy.

PS: Pixar are also well known for their shorts and we all love them. “Presto”, “Your Friend The Rat”, “Lifted” are all great recent examples, I recommend you watch them if you haven’t along with the feature films.

Braid/Castle Crashers

Braid and Castle Crashers were the summer’s greatest hits for the now-favourite Xbox Live Arcade service. Two distinct games with different gameplay styles and approaches that however have three things in common: 1) They are 2D. 2) They developed a cult fanbase even before they were released. High levels of anticipation then. 3) They are pricey games indeed.

I had the luck to be able to buy them both close to a month ago. First, Braid. Braid was a novel idea based on the platformer teaching of ye olde. That is, it was like playing a Mario game with some new mechanics. These mechanics took the “platformer” out of its name and turned it into something that’s closer to “puzzle”. Tim, the hero, must collect jigsaw pieces through various levels controlling time and various items and behaviours that manipulate time on their own as well in order to save the “princess”. The result is some very difficult puzzles but a genuine sense of accomplishment. What made the game stand out even more was the very open-to-debate story. What the “princess” is in the end is a very good question, but I won’t spoil it for you! I can’t not mention the jaw-dropping ending, one of the most fitting endings Jonathan Blow could think of! Oh yes, Jonathan Blow is the designer of this game. People call Braid “indie”, cause apart from the game’s art, Blow made the rest of the game all on his own. What is less well known is that it cost him approximately $180,000, production values quite higher than what people would call “indie”. Still, Braid has its own distinct feel and it was well worth the 1200MS Points if only to get to experience such a, how should I put it, classy and rounded game experience.

Castle Crashers is a lot different. Developed by The Behemoth (by creator Tom Fulp and flash artist Dan Paladin) and a lot more of course hit the gaming scene as a tribute to old 16-bit beat-em-ups set in fantasty settings, complete with knights, dragons, princesses, magic etc. I hear it’s very similar to Golden Axe but I haven’t personally played the game. Castle Crashers has excellent 2-D graphics (which just like the developer’s previous game, Alien Hominid, want to give off the Flash game feeling), cheery and sometimes hilarious humour and some addictive hack & slash gameplay, especially multiplayer. I’ve lost count of just how many people have come to my place, played a bit of Castle Crashers and then played the night away (with me or without me…) Not a huge game by any standards but I can see how me and 3 more friends will sometime come back to live the complete 4-player experience.


Just a few days ago me and Alex had the chance to at last play Go together. It was just as good a game as I remembered it, having only played it once before. Thank you again Cies for introducing me to a game that takes one go (pun intended) to learn and two lifetimes to master.

Go is apparently the oldest known board game, much older than chess or even backgammon. Its roots are oriental and more specifically Chinese. From there it has spread over the centuries to Japan and other asian countries where it’s now possibly the most widespread game, played in tournaments, special clubs and between friends. Oddly, it’s not that well known in Europe, especially not in Greece. I’ve only seen it twice and under totally random circumstances. Since Chess is king over here I doubt we’ll be seeing people play it more but you never know, chinese expansion could also mean cultural expansion? Hmm…

The board is empty once players start off. The players take turns placing one stone on the intersections of the board, forming groups. If the other player surrounds the entire group with her own stones then the surrounded stones are captured and removed from the game. And… that’s basically it. Every other rule derives from this simple principle. The winner is the player who controls the largest part of the board with her stones at the end of the game, point which is declared by both players passing consecutively.

These simple rules define a game of strategy, deception, intrigue, loss, amazement, fulfilment and active rivalry between the players. Never before have I seen a game so noble: one rule suggests that players say “atari” when a move of theirs will capture enemy stones in the next move so that they can react accordingly. Thus the point automatically becomes cornering the opponent and making her not be able to do anything to save herself as opposed to taking advantage of a miscalculation or a careless move which is a norm in chess. Indeed, never before have I seen a game so fair: two players of extremely different skill can fruitfully play together by having a handicap for the stronger player: the weaker one starts off with as many stones already on the board as the difference of skill indicates.

Alexandra has beat me every time we’ve played together save 2. I will strive to get better and one day, as the mighty yet harmonious Go spirit commands, I just might achieve the perfect balance of spirit and wit, become one with the universe… *floats*

Deception Point, by Dan Brown

I first got to know of Dan Brown through his most famous work, that is none other than “The Da Vinci Code”. It’s his latest work out of a total of 4 books he has written within the past 12 or so years. I read Angels and Demons, The Da Vinci Code and Digital Fortress all roughly 2 years ago and Deception Point just now and I’m genuinely impressed by his consistency in showing the world how skillful he is in grabbing his readers by the balls. However, The Da Vinci Code is surely Brown’s most overestimated work, another proof of why the best-seller isn’t always the best-in-general (the rest of his books it turn became best-sellers after the success of The Da Vinci Code). Angels and Demons, which was very similar in its religious and “secret cults” themes to the former, I enjoyed much more. “Deception Point” has a plotline that has more to do with politics, scandals, secret government agencies, NASA, a huge conpiracy… A lot more like Digital Fortress.

This book didn’t just have twists. Its twists were the evolution of the twists of the original twists that I thought were good twists. Yes, it was twisty. The characters felt alive if a bit contived (like the nerd astrophysicist or the always sexy front couple), the action never stopped, the good guys turned bad and then good again within a matter of pages (before they turn out bad at the end of the b… oh, another twist. They’re good), the little pieces of actual real-world scientific aspects, like the fossils and meteorite and the futuristic gadgets (always part of Brown’s stories) also gave it a nice tw… edge. Yes, I liked this book. Seemingly complex but ultimately quite easy to grasp and FUN! You just can’t help but smile when the bad guys fire bullets made of ice. Recommended.

PS: I regret to say I’ve read all of the books mentioned above in greek. They may be even better in english.

Astronomy in games: does a realistic sky make a difference?

Originally posted as a cblog.

Wouldn’t you like just sitting back and enjoying the night sky in a game, knowing that what you see is a perfect represenation of the actual night sky? It is true, a pretty night sky captures the eye (as most WoW players can testify) and there is no prettier sky than the only one we earthlings have had the chance to see, give or take a few planets, moons and nebulae.

Today I was having a conversation with two friends of mine (Mario and Housemaster, if you’re reading you know that unlike the guys from d-toid!), one of them also a user of Destructoid. The kick-off for the conversation and the inspiration for this blog post was me complaining that Fallout 3 had a completely messed up night sky. I recalled my first experience with this upon exiting the elementary school close to the beginning of the game. The stars were all tiny grey dots of the same brightness. No constellations of course, nothing. It didn’t even have any significantly brighter stars that could form any shapes. Of course, that’s totally different than anything anyone can see if they look up at night in the real world. To top it off, at some point I had a look at the moon. Its position in the sky was totally wrong compared to its phase, a relationship which can normally be defined with two basic rules: A new moon is close to the sun so it sets a bit after the sun and rises a bit after the sun as well and the full moon rises when the sun sets and sets when the sun rises anew. This was completey screwed up as far as I observed in Fallout 3. As if that wasn’t enough, upon closer inspection the starry sky did not move at all. Instead, the moon was moving against the backdrop of a frozen sky, setting south-east. That is wrong in so many levels I cannot begin to describe. Surely the nukes didn’t stop the earth from rotating? Even if they did, there’s still night and day!

My friends told me that I had not grasped the feeling of the game, that I was looking at the sky when the game was NOT about looking at the sky (which in turn means that anything not directly related to the main focus of the game is perfectly OK to be made with minimal attention paid to it but whatever) and that since Fallout 3 takes place in an imaginary, alternative universe, the creators do not have to realistically depict the sky as it is today in the real world. But… Even though Washington D.C. features in the game complete with existing roads (correct me if I’m wrong) isn’t it safe to assume that the sky is the same as it was hundreds of years ago in-game? We’re not talking about a completely different universe, say Oblivion’s or WoW’s universe, but one pretty close to our own experience and one that derives from it and uses it to make said universe hit us harder emotionally, make us feel that we’re actually on Earth as it would be centuries after a nuclear war. Is creative freedom this powerful when talking about the imaginary based on reality? Why be realistic when it comes to sun movement but not care about the movement of the moon or the sky in general? Would a sun rising at 6PM be OK because it’s Bethesda making a game about something NOT real? At the end of the day, “who cares?” or “Hang on, I’ll call the care police”. That’s what my friends were saying and no doubt many of you.

Truth is I can see where they’re coming from. In this day and age observation of the sky is trivial at best. Erroneous night skies make their apperance everywhere from movies to novels to games… People don’t know better so they don’t really care (developers in turn don’t care either).The sky we see today is fundamentally the same sky people of ancient times wondered at and worshiped and the same sky Copernicus observed and realised that the earth rotates around the sun and it’s not the other way around. Till the 20th century, the sky was an excellent guidepost, the stars always pointing towards the right direction. Even the first foundations of time-keeping were based on the movements of the sky and moon (let alone the sun) and when during the night certain constellations appear. See Orion rise right after sunset and it’s winter alright, follow the direction of Polaris, the current pole star and you’ll be visiting the polar bears. And so forth. Today of course these observations aren’t at all useful for everyday life so the sky remains up there enchanting everyone with its beauty but giving little useful incentive for further exploration of tis workings and secrets.

I won’t lie, less than 2 years ago I was one of many, thinking that the night sky is pretty but difficult to get to know. The movements of the planets, the moon, why the sun rises and sets when it does and what the equinoxes mean eluded me. At least, though, I knew from a very early age that the earth rotates around itself anti-clockwise and that this is what actually makes the starry sky move, as well as the sun and moon, from east to west. And finding out how the rest of this stuff works wasn’t that hard at all. Since then I have been able to spot mistakes almost everywhere.

The final question is: Does it all matter? If both people making the game and playing the game can’t tell the difference, does it matter? I’ll compare the whole thing with having a game take place during a specific time period, say the Middle Ages in England. The game is superb in every way but the buildings aren’t correct or something else isn’t right, say the language spoken or a piece of armour. Few people will notice, but those which are fascinated by history and historical accuracy will promptly spot the mistake and instantly lose a bit of interest/immersion for the game. Maybe it’s not a great analogy because portraying an accurate sky is much easier than certifying the historical accuracy of a certain piece of armour and historical accuracy is much more important sometimes than having a correct decorative backdrop for a game’s universe. Because it is true. In the end, it’s all decoration with few gameplay implications, just like the building or the armour. But can we really justify these “astro-errors that were willingly introduced and indicate a profound lack of attention to easily checkable detail” (sic), using only the argument that nobody cares enough? Well, I care! And I’m certain that especially Fallout 3 must have attracted quite a number of people that will have spotted the same thing. Not to say that other games sport a richer nightly display; I’ve yet to encounter a game that has it right (with the exception of Wii’s Weather Channel — no, it’s not a game, I know).

Even if we break this down to pure aesthetics, which one of these would you prefer?


Or this:

Creating a perfect recreation of the sky isn’t all that hard. It may be harder than creating a dark background with lighter dots and leaving it at that but I believe the coding required for the former would be easy. The skies would be realistic, pretty and keep all the astronomy buffs like me quiet and agreeable.

Further reading:

Death By Black Hole and Other Cosmic Quandaries by Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Norton, 2007
especially Chapter 39: Hollywood Nights

If interested in astronomy and digital observation of the real night sky (and a model game programmers could use), try Celestia or Stellarium, both excellent open-source programs with slightly different focus each.

Update if you May!

My last post was pretty sad and uncertain. Almost a whole month later, a lot of things have happened. First of all, Easter holidays have come and gone. 15 days that felt like 5. Seriously, time went by so fast. Back in January, the Christmas holidays, really did feel like 23 days. Now… I barely had any time at all to do anything, or so I felt. Alex, close friends and meetings (lots and lots of those two categories), a bit of Aegina and a bit of rural Larissa for the otherwise festive days… It was definitely the most unorthodox (pun intended) Easter I’ve had. I think it’s because I spent the really FESTIVE YEAH WE’RE GONNA EAT TILL WE GO NUCLEAR days away from my parents and close to my love.

Highlights of stuff in no particular order:

1. Improbable, by Adam Fawer. A mystery novel/action thriller/scientific manifesto/philosophical exploration that tells the tale of David Caine, an epileptic gambler that becomes Laplace’s Demon. It goes through various theories about probability, determinism, the idea of multiple dimensions (my favourite!) and the like, all the while maintaining a very tight plot and working on very interesting, distinct and memorable characters. Its scientific insight on mostly philosophical matters is great food for thought… A well-written but surprisingly unknown book, I recommend it to anyone who likes their science as well as their nail-biting suspense in one tight package.


2. Catan. My interest in unusual but exciting board-games sparked just a few months ago. The Settlers of Catan is a perfect example of the kind of board games I want to try and enjoy. I downloaded a demo of the Xbox Live Arcade version and liked it, so I looked out for it and spotted the greek version of Catan in Public (Athens). I think the 35 euros I gave for it were justified thus far, but my hopes of friends suddenly becoming just as excited as I am for board games are quickly being pissed on. I’ve only had one session of Catan since I bought it, and we didn’t finish it either. 🙁

3. Cats. During the Easter holidays I came across many a kitten. I even witnessed the birth of a kitten at Alex’s cousin’s house in the countryside. It was a beautiful moment, and I knew that since then, I’d never look at cats the same way. It wasn’t long before the first opportunity since then appeared; Oliva, everybody’s favourite Italian artistic spirit, whom I met at the street first day I was in Mytilini after Easter, was holding a beautiful kitten. Long story short, I’m now a proud parent of a little kitten. Her name is Yuki, and she’s snow white! I love her and I’m sure that my cat love is only just surfacing — I know we’re going to spend many happy times together… UNLESS SHE CONTINUES PESTERING ME WHEN I’M TRYING TO GO TO SLEEP AND HAVING DIARROEA ANYWHERE BUT IN HER SANDBOX!

YUKIYuki auf dem Regal.Yuki 3Me and yukiYuki tongue

Use new tabs to view enlarged images.

And here’s a pic from my secret Nazionalist Kätzchen Trainingsprogramm. Oops shouldn’t have shown that!

Sieg Heil!

4. Life of Pi, by Yann Martel. I read more than 3/4 of this book on my way back to Mytilini (the same trip I finished Improbable. I feel like a bookworm now! ^^). I couldn’t put it down. Simple as that. It certainly struck a chord with my animal lover part. “This story will make you believe in God” is a phrase often repeated within it and I heartily agree. Tender, brutal, religious and exotic at the same time, I can’t decide which shock was greater: the on that derived from my initial impression that the book was retelling a true story or my subsequent realisation that in fact it didn’t. Amelie director Jean-Pierre Jeunet was chosen for the creation of the silver screen rendition and he eagerly accepted. That alone speaks wonders. Read Life of Pi.

Life of Pi

5. Projects. Yes my University projects are going very well. Kthxbi.

6. Planning Eurotrip. So this is the plan: Me and Alex are leaving on July 9th to go to Finland, where we’ll work at Koli National Park, shepherding sheep and preserving the habitat. We’re volunteering to enjoy Finland’s natural beauty and relax. After that, though (somewhere around July 20th-25th) our as-of-yet unbought InterRail ticket will be valid. And then, our month-long train journey will commence! We’ll take the train from Finland back to Greece, going from Helsinki to Copenhagen, traversing Scandinavia and from there just about anywhere in Central Europe. We’ll be going to Holland, Belgium, Germany, Czech, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Slovenia… But out schedule is wide-open and changes can of course be made. I want to stress this part: we DON’T plan on doing this just the two of us. Any participation from anyone that wants to travel with us is ENCOURAGED. We WANT company, we WANT to share the experience. Anyone that would like to join us can meet us anywhere along our trip. We’ve been stressing this for a few months now but nobody has been eager enough so now might be a bit too late. It won’t be a cheap ride, but we’re planning on making it cheaper by CouchSurfing and minimizing costs. If you are interested at all, please tell me and start making money. It’ll be either the two of us or >=4 of us, for obvious reasons. Anyway. WHILE THERE’S STILL TIME! HURRY! IT’S A UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY!

Interrail Map

7. GTA IV. It’s been a long time since ANY game received this much praise. Mordread and George bought it and I had the chance to play it and watch it — it’s one of the few games that’s actually fun to watch — at the former’s place several times. Well… It’s a great game, no doubt. The part of it that deserves 10/10 is not the actual gameplay though. The sandbox, go around shooting everyone, stealing cars, having fun with stupid (on purpose?) AI and laughing out loud many many times is notably better than GTA III & Co. but still not perfect. It’s more of the setting, story and atmosphere that are much more elaborate than previous renditions of the game. Since I’ve only played but a small part of the story, I can’t comment on how it unfolds. I can definitely say thought that if I had the €70 required to get my dirty hands on it, I’d gladly pay.