Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Not a bad hair day after all!

In spite of a gloomy start with lots rain and a cranky cat, some good news after all!

1. Digital troubles have been solved (lesson: apart from rebooting, another magic trick is downloading updates and patches).

2. Our binoculars in space, the Hubble Space Telescope will also be updated and consequently stay with us a while longer, to provide us with these amazing pictures of deep space-time!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Water and Fisheries Dept.?

Dear readership, a request: please write your comments in the COMMENTS sector instead of hitting the little envelop next to COMMENTS which results in an email. I like your emails toooo much, but the idea is to get a public conversation going, so please follow these guidelines. It is all a bit confusing, but there you go...

Today's a quiet day as Mondays go, regretfully again with digital troubles (you solve one set of problems, which just a day later appears to have been swapped by another set ...ohhh, give me strength!).
The Lighthouse concept will be built on professionally in the copywriting department. Presently working on a new website called Lighthouse #11. I found a beautiful logo from U.S. Water and Fisheries Dept. which is copyright free, probably because it stems from 1920 or thereabouts. Here it is:

The AELAS (Athens English Language Assistance and Services) as a continuance to the tuition project I'll have to let go on account I suddenly remembered the communist resistance during WWII was called ELAS, and some people might have some nasty associations. (Ellas is the Greek word for Greece, so this acronym looked like a too good coincidence to pass up, until the communists once again put their foot in it!)

I'll keep opinions and facts to myself for one day, you'll be glad to note. Sleep well and God bless!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Oh, oh ... forgot National Holiday...

It is terribly amiss of me, but I actually forgot to make an entry into the blog yesterday, 28th of October, for National Holiday. In defense, I wanted to make photos of the new addition to our household, the Greek national flag draped festively over the balcony, and upload those - which I also forgot, so there's no excuse whatsoever. Mea maxima culpa ...
Greece, to my knowledge is the only country on the face of the earth to celebrate the start of a war. I have given enough history lectures for today, so those genuinely interested in something else but pain or pleasure, I herewith invite to find out for themselves what the background is of Oxi Day, No Day. I don't even intend to supply a weblink. Come on, show some initiative! The prize: The Real McCoy, a tin of Papadopoulosses ... First come, first served. Contest closes midnight tonight!

Patriotism without political correctness: it still exists!

Today won an hour due European bureaucracy insisting on maintaining summer time, which ends end October when the lost hour is finally reimbursed. This gave me the opportunity to revisit the Greek National Historical Museum (here is the link to the site, but it suffers from a lamentable lack of good pics: http://www.culture.gr/4/42/421/42103/42103e/e42103e1.html).

It is housed in the first parliament building and cohabits the Historical and Ethnological Society of Greece. The latter is of no consequence here, but to offer a great opportunity to point to a peculiar Greek habit of transcribing Greek words literally to English without actually translating them. I think it is rather charming and saves you the trouble of having to learn the word in Greek.

Apart from the quite unashamed patriotism (a lurking irritant to the E.U., which is genetically allergic in all sorts of ways for what they term nationalism with a capital N,) especially touching are the cloth and textile artifacts: ragged flags from wind-torn battle-fields, with the words "freedom or death" or "unity or death" like a solemn prayer or pledge in calligraphic letters stitched on them by tiny women's fingers; the gold embroidering loosened and worn, the once fiery crimsons faded to a shaded pink, bearing crosses, laurel wreaths, palms, crowns and swords as promises of the nation restored, that all will be well.

What also stands out are these huge paintings of the national heroes, Kolokotroni, Mavromichalis, Katsonis, Botsaris and Makrigiannis, the fighting men of the War of Independence (1821-1827) and the making of the Greek nation state, when the ships were of wood and the men made of steel. Compare these towering and impressively mustached figures in their armor and weaponry to the costumes still in tact from that time and the contrast couldn't be bigger: tiny shoes and booties, sweet little shirts and beautifully embroidered coats and vests: these towering giants were in fact very small people, the size of children! You tend to think they'd have some dwarvish characteristics, but this is all wrong: all proportions are quite common, just a whole lot smaller! The effect is that a fairytale-like alienation creeps up upon the onlooker.

Guess whom I met there, a bit out of place and in a glorified broom cupboard? A statue of the last Byzantine emperor, Constantinos Palaiologos, a relative of Manuel II Palaiologos of Pope Benedict XVI fame! (For those who enjoyed a modern education, Byzanthium was the seat of the Eastern Roman Empire and was situated in Greece and the Near East; the capital was Constantinople, present day Istanbul; it flourished roughly from A.D. (= Anno Domini = the year of our Lord) 324 until 1453 when it was finally disastrously overrun by the Ottoman Turks, who originate much further east, probably present day Kazachstan or even further afield Mongolia - but enough historical perspective for one day, which one should never overdo).

I leave you this Sunday with a picture of the old charmer, philhelene Lord Byron, who made the Greek struggle for independence something of a fad in Europe. Here's a link to the site: http://www.englishhistory.net/byron.html

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Stop the presses: the Danish cartoon lawsuit has been thrown out!

There are some judges with common sense left in them, after all.

But in reference to John Allen's article yesterday (In Regensburg's wake, is anyone worried about Christian outrage?), can somebody please explain, why anybody in his right mind could possibly come to the conclusion that The Prophet is "belligerent, oppressing women, criminal, crazy and unintelligent, and a connection is made between the Prophet and war and terror"?* Why then so much heart-felt outrage over a few stupid comics, created by some degenerate infidels?

Cheers, everyone!

*P.S. Just for sake of good order and so as not to upset my insurance agent: these marks (") indicate the words of another person; they are called quotation marks. So, any chunk of text between these ("...") marks, are words expressed by another person. They are used in literature so as to facilitate commenting on such pieces of text. So, in this case these are not my words, but the text in the lawsuit; I am just quoting them so I can talk about them (hmmm, sincerely hope I'm being clear enough ...)

How'zat for psychology?

How should one form one's opinion? I'd refer to my post on how the Scholastics did that in the Middle Ages (so dark!), but because you are a lazy lot (don't take it personally: it's a fine human characteristic which keeps us out of some troubles at times (but alas into others as well), but here's the gist again: 1. pose (formulate) the question, 2. list the arguments from both sides (for and against), 3. weigh both sides for the outcome, 4. are there any possible objections to the outcome which must taken into consideration (or maybe re-think steps 2. and 3.).
So here's how people of Reason do it. But most of us, being (increasingly) unreasonable, sit for the box at night and let things "come over us", as it were. Seeing for example bleeding, crying children and hysterical women we conclude something terrible must have been done to them. We just made an opinion. We skipped however steps 1., 2. and 3. We reacted spontaneously, on basis of the emotions of seeing those women and children. We didn't formulate the question (what is going on here?) and we didn't list or weigh the arguments; it could for example very well be that they were indeed a bunch (or is it a flock) of angels, OR that a day earlier they did the same to another group of people, OR they stoned an innocent woman to death who had the misfortune of having dishonoured her family by getting raped by the Dutch uncle, OR they even might have been plotting to throw a bomb on YOU. Now that would make a difference, wouldn't it?
Let's face it, most of us form our opinions in the latter way and pick up a few arguments here and there when we have to defend our position in the unlikely event we meet someone with an opinion of his own. Let's try do it more like St. Thomas in future, and the world will become a better place. Trust me ...

On quite another note (I'll not even try to pretend there is a bridge), here's for the interior decorators amongst us (twins, pay attention!): aware of the organization 1stdibs.com? They carry a line of lovely antiques which is sold over the Internet, but they do have physical locations allover: Paris, New York, Miami, etc. There's a free monthly (?) newsletter available to keep you updated. Here's the link: http://www.1stdibs.com/search.php

Don't want to let you go without the flour of this morning's news items:
- Cleric 'meat' remarks spark fury ... Gist: if you're not wearing a bag over your head, you're asking for it!): http://edition.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/asiapcf/10/26/australia.cleric.ap/index.html

I told you (or didn't I) that the world is in reverse! But in the midst of all that, there are also sparks of hope, of people swimming against the tide of political correctness, that bane of our time (just after relativism, which is an absolute curse):
- Argentine prosecutors: Arrest former Iranian president: http://edition.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/americas/10/25/argentina.iran.ap/index.html

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

On a lighter note ....

I am a great admirer of Greek technology, which is often of great practical simplicity and of the type that makes you wonder why you haven't thought about it earlier yourself. I must however admit that the copper cable telephone wire system over which the Internet is also running, is not one of them! The system is still plagued by crossed wires, for example. The number of times I have been called by grannies asking for Georgaki, or anxious mothers enquiring after the health of Soula are meantime unmeasurable.

Greek TV programs (and especially schedules!) are also not my favourite, so I decided to go 3rd millennium on that and see what I can get through the Internet. Well, the more technologically advanced among the readership can already guess what I'm driving at: IF I manage to get something on my screen it is usually a slide show basically, as my speed won't go over something like 220 something or other, while speeds upto a 1000 thingies are more likely nowadays. But tonight I am saved: we're going satellite! To be continued ...

Monday, October 23, 2006

Jan Pronk is at it, again ...

Our national Charles Chaplin of high diplomacy has put his foot in it again.
Kofi Annan's special envoy to Sudan has 72 hours to get packing. The government lot in Sudan, being under heavy pressure internationally to accept a real U.N. peacekeeping force for Darfur instead of the toothless ragtag A.U. army which is presently in place (7.000 men for an area the size of France, more the government won't tolerate), has for some time now been looking for an excuse to suspend negotiations. Well, thanks Jan, you have just given it to them on a gold platter! Still cannot keep you emotions in check, eh? Still too much in touch with your Dolle Miena* side?
* Dolle Miena, lit. Insane Ida, the name of the activist group of women who in the sixties (and seventies? anyway the time of the Socio-Cultural Revolution of blessed memory) were on the barricades pro choice, pro pre-school for three year olds, pro D.D.R. (very good pre-schools for three year olds!), against 'Nam, nukes and cruise missiles even if they might have saved civilization as we know it; anti anyting American in general and any U.S. president in particular - and above all, against common decency (most still shudder with the very thought of it; some have even supernatural, extrasensorial experiences accompanying these terrible reminisces (for instance a sudden inexplicable smell of brussels sprouts! Yak ...).

Now that Osama and his entourage have been kicked out of Afghanistan they are apparently looking for another country to turn into a hell-hole and he'll be jumping up and down with joy that this one is once again becoming vacant. Hey, perhaps we can even open up a new front there in the war on terror!

Jan, Jan, in the past I've said so more than once when you'd yet again were given ministerial opportunity to unleash Keynesian economics on our poor country, but I bet right now even at the U.N. in New York City they'd wish you remained in Scheveningen, and had followed a blissful vocation aboard herring kotter m/s "Cornelia II", on the high seas, instead....

Eurika! The Trouble with Europe ...

For months now I have been trying to find a proper analysis of the problems facing us in Europe today. And last night at an unearthly hour (as usual) I found 'it'.
'It' is an article by George Weigel, a senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., an adj. fellow of Discovery Institute and author of most recently God's Choice (HarperCollins) (review on this blog at a later date). The article on Discovery Institute DBase is dated 1st May and I am just wondering why I missed it, as it might have prevented me from feeling so totally alienated and confused all summer. But then, I might have taken better notice of a co-production written by Marcello Pera, an agnostic Italian academic turned politician and former president of the Italian Senate and Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith as Pope Benedict XVI was known before he was elected. Their exchange of views about relativism, Christianity and Western culture has been laid down in a book under the title "Without Roots" (review again later on).

The basic gist of the analysis is known in Holland under the paradigm Weg met Ons! (Down With Us!), a deep feeling of self-loathing which underlines all our actions and attitudes towards culture and religion. It comes forth from the Leftist conclusion how bad we have behaved in the past (slavery, colonialism, (commercially) exploiting noble savages and making them sick with our germs, spreading the faith through the sword, witch hunts, fighting endless Twenty Days' and Eighty Years' Wars and the unspeakable events of the Crusades, that absolute pit of medieval Christian "expansionism" commonly referred to as "colonialism" (see time-line issues). This is evidently only a preliminary shortlist: the actual list of Western civilization's crimes against other worthy and noble peoples (not to mention the animal kingdom) is of course much larger! This is the essence of the problem and it permeates all we do and all our views and reactions.

So it's time for a comprehensive culture shift ("the times, they are a-changing", remember that one?), but first let's read the books before passing judgment, eh? ... to be continued.

In the news today: the Sons of Peace are celebrating the end of the fasting period (to multi-culturalists also known as Ramadan) in their usual way, namely drenched in blood.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Which pea wit of all?

Although I am not going to bring up the recent fuss about the Pope Benedict's deliberately misinterpreted sideline in his speech in Regensburg (enough has been said and written about that ludicrous allegation), doing the laundry this morning (what would we be without domestic chores?) I suddenly with nauseating reality remembered some comment by a Dutch pea wit by the name of Willeke Alberti (those who are blissfully unaware are advised not to bother finding out). This person, who has been pestering the public scene in Holland for the past 150 years (after her father did so since 1780 A.D.) refuses to go away. She saw fit to comment that "he" (being the Pope) "was a little dumb" ... (I am not going to stress, this is like Gary Glitter calling Bach prone to errors.) This fine example of Dutch pond-life didn't even have the originality to think of a quote herself, this one-liner hailing from some noteworthy comments by the country's First Daughter-in-Law, Maxima Media Magic ("hei waas in bitje tom").
I just didn't want this memorable contribution to the public discourse move into oblivion without mentioning it. Like that other recent comment by a Portuguese journalist on BBC World Television, that we owe human rights to the U.N. (that worthy talking shop for present black dictators and past diplomats whose national sell-by date has come and gone at the taxpayer's expense). Whatever happened to education I'll discuss in a future post ...
I intend in the near future to spend as little time as possible commenting on the situation in the fatherland. I do watch some TV programs via the Greek copper cable Internet connection of maximum speed of 225 kbt (or something or other technical term) and they are as nauseating as usual. News items are of the sort only countries can afford that aren't plagued by endless government formations, natural or other disasters, gross corruption, sharia law, endemic poverty or any other real problem: "Snowfall of as much as 10cm overnight has caused widespread disruption of the morning rush hour!!!!!" But we're close to new elections and I am at heart an incurable political animal. Even if it makes me at times feel sick in the stomach area, I am still being drawn to any sort of election (a bit like Christmas, actually). Even to the American one in November, that summit of shameless P.C. opportunism. I'll comment all right in the near future, help it or not ...