Wednesday, November 30, 2005

A night at the movies

So my friend Alex lives on a small island in the Aegean sea. Not much happens there in the winter, so when the municipal cinema opened a few years back, everyone was quite pleased. But this year they were short of one projectionist, and as the cinema risked remaining closed throughout the season, Alex jumped to the rescue and undertook the task of operating the projection equipment twice per week.

He even went as far as shouldering the responsibility of selecting and ordering the movies that would be shown, and distributing a leaflet with the monthly programme.

One night last month, Alex had chosen to show a relatively old and particularly lengthy European black and white movie. During the projection, something went terribly wrong. Alex was stuck in the little projection booth, alone, unable to see or hear what was going on in the theater, but he already knew he was in trouble. As soon as the film ended, he turned everything off and ran to the exit of the cinema, ready to face the rap, apologise and explain. It was an accident, after all...

To his surprise (and dismay), he saw nothing out of the ordinary. People walking out calmly, some couples hand in hand, clearly touched by the movie; one or two small groups of people standing outside the exit, rigorously discussing it, exchanging views and opinions; others alone, still absorbed, taking a few steps, then stopping to ponder on it, then a few more steps...

And now his dilemma: "Do I tell them that the film came in four separate reels, and by mistake I played the third one before the second one?".

Monday, November 28, 2005

accusations flying

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(I don't know these guys)

I was assigned 14C, an aisle seat. I saw row 12, counted two more, and sat down. In the wrong seat. (There is no row 13; some forms of bad luck are just that easy to avert.) I changed seats and settled in… until another passenger came along and asked me to surrender my seat on the aisle to her and all her zillion carry-on and Duty Free bags.

It seemed a good enough idea. I moved over to the center seat, steering clear. The woman directly in front was not so lucky, for it was upon her head that my fellow passenger’s heavy plastic-sided suitcase came gracelessly thudding down, supposedly on its way to safe storage under her seat. The shocked and injured woman groaned loudly, bowing down and, quite pathetically, holding her head. “A thousand sorries!” the perpetrator cried out, “but it’s not my fault there’s no room for my stuff in the overhead bins!” An armada of air hostesses sailed blithely over; there was nothing to be done but smooth things out. The woman had made a scene, and then she made the scene worse, by attracting all the attention she had hoped to deflect with her indignant accusations.

Meanwhile, the woman on the other side of me was admirably keeping to herself, or rather, to her cell phone. This was also taken to extremes. She ignored repeated announcements to turn it off, obsessively checking her call histories, but otherwise not using the phone for any perceptible purpose. At some point, she turned it off and even zipped it inside her bag, only to take it out again a moment later, while taxiing, to make a call. She had to speak really loudly to be heard over the safety announcements, one of which, of course, was to keep all phones deactivated.

I really admire Greek women for their immodesty about these things, their shamelessness at times. I usually resent them for it, but I see how it serves them.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

(don't) walk away

I swapped my innocence for pride
Crushed the end within my stride
Said I'm strong now I know that I'm a leaver
I love the sound of you walking away
Mascara bleeds a blackened tear
And I am cold
Yes, I'm cold
But not as cold as you are
I love the sound of you walking away

Why don't you walk away?

Why don't you walk away?
No buildings will fall down
Why don't you walk away?
No quake will split the ground
Why don't you walk away?
The sun won't swallow the sky
Why don't you walk away?
Statues will not cry

Why don't you walk away?

I cannot turn to see those eyes
As apologies may rise
I must be strong and stay an unbeliever
And love the sound of you walking away
Mascara bleeds into my eye
I'm not cold
I am old
At least
As old as you are

As you walk away?

As you walk away
My headstone crumbles down
As you walk away
The Hollywood wind's a howl
As you walk away
The Kremlin's falling
As you walk away
Radio Four is STATIC

As you walk away

The stab of stiletto
On a silent night
Stalin Smiles
Hitler laughs
Churchill claps
Mao Tse Tung
on the back

-- Walk Away, You Could Have It So Much Better, Franz Ferdinand

I hate cables

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Ouzo & Coffee

Some things never change...

... and thank God for that!

Next Thursday?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

fiction and non

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I was very ambitious in the bookstore. Fearless.

I had to be -- not to buy the Tolstoy, an undertaking in itself, but to go through that narrow unmarked door, trusting that there really would be a public toilet behind it. Facilities intended for public use are usually made public by an arrow or a sign, an open door, at least; this one was completely camouflaged, blended into shelf and wall, sixth floor, password gained with surprising ease, though no access without it. I was one of many to ask; the employees never seemed to tire of having to explain. There was quite an element of humor in it, the needless shroud of mystery, silly secrecy.

Once inside, I thought I was trapped. This was also funny, in a frantic sort of way. The space was very small; the lock I had turned wouldn't turn back. I was about to solicit help from the other side, when, just like that, one small door, and then another, opened, and I was on the other side too.

Friday, November 18, 2005

rain check

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The rain seemed especially loud this year. I wondered what had changed -- my sensitivity or the drops themselves. It hasn’t rained much, but when it does, it rains heavily, each drop sounding inexplicably individual, dense and fat, its impact more solid on surfaces, more dramatic, than ever before. Even a light rain is a heavy rain, this year.

Here, and everywhere, there is continuous talk of global warming, how this rock will turn into a desert; in fifty years, they say, we’ll be more Africa than Europe, climatologically speaking. Already, it’s curious to me that Greeks consider my island green. In any case, Crete’s been moving southward for centuries, slowly but surely. Could these factors account for the change in the rain?

At some point I realized that the pattering was concentrated on one end of the balcony. I looked up, and there it was, the explanation I had been searching for inside me and everywhere else, entirely self-evident: the wooden enclosure that the upstairs neighbors had spent most of the summer constructing on their balcony, its corner jutting out in just such a way as to gather the rain and send it plummeting and percussing down onto a hollow plastic gutter very near my flat.

It looks like rain again this weekend. It may be soft this time; it may be hard. I mean that literally. You can go looking for metaphors, but you won’t always find them.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

contradictory desires

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prostrate priests

I have a friend who wants to take on Rome.

In short, she wants to become a priest, a particularly Catholic priest. This came to her recently, when her life of mild but fervent conviction was spectacularly consummated by a revelation in light one Sunday, Jesus himself in the Eucharist. Catholics take these things literally; betraying that revelation in order to serve God in another church, under the banner of another faith, would be contradictory, she says, because that revelation is what sealed the deal between her and God. It’s a Catholic thing.

But there are other deals that have to be worked out first, because God made her a woman, and a wife, and a mother. She imagines a day when the popes will change, women will be ordained, her husband will die (he is significantly older than she is) or failing that, celibacy among priests will be made optional. By then, her son will be in college, and she will be free to obey God’s calling and become a priest. He wants it of her.

Meanwhile, she spends more time with her priest than her husband, a man closer to her in age and (obviously) theological disposition -- so much more time that he, her priest, her counselor, her friend (her best friend, she says), was involuntarily transferred to a distant parish, in order to dispel some of the rumors that still encircle them. There are phone calls, though, lengthy, secret ones that her husband is not aware of. There must be lies as well.

She admits that what God wants, the direction that God is urging her to go, doesn’t match her life on the whole. She lives in a contradictory world, appreciative of what she’s got, but unfulfilled.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Happy Birthday!!!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Dr. R. Krugener's Extra-Rapid Apianat

There's this big box full of photos, letters, recipes, stamps and other stuff, all dating from at least 100 years ago. It lies in a closet in my room, and from time to time I browse through it. Mainly it is photos of or shot by my grandpa. From his days as a student at the Geneva medical school, or from the war front in Asia Minor.

Inside that box there always lay another smaller, black box:

I was not sure what it was, although I had an idea. It is all rusty and stuck, and I have been fighting my curiosity and avoided opening it for a long time. But this morning I decided to take a look at it. So, as carefully as possible, I opened its cover:

... and unfolded its content:

It's the actual camera responsible for most of the photos I've been looking at. A genuine pocket cam, dating from the very early 1900's.

Hats off to Dr R. Krugener and his Extra-Rapid Apianat!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


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“All through history writers while writing have felt more or less the same. They have entered a common state which it is convenient to call inspiration, and, having regard to that state, we may say that History develops, Art stands still.”

E.M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

a walk on the walls

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If you get high enough, my town is really something to be proud of. It helps if you know where the stairs are: they are unmarked; they don’t look like much; they are a secret well and rightly kept. Of course, there’s more than one access point to the walls. Some are popular with tourists, others with athletes.

One afternoon last week, I encountered all walks of life up there: an old woman with a very excitable dog (in whose mouth I found my entire forearm), a group of pre-teen boys smoking cigarettes and engaging in a mediated dialog with some pre-teen girls on a nearby bench (“Wanker!” The girl in the white go-go boots called out, the language of flirtation differing from the language of contempt only in tone of voice), a young man walking alone, hands clasped in a prayer known only to him and God, couples fighting, couples kissing, one couple interrupted by a dad on a cell phone.

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I walked from one heart-shaped bastion to the next (they have great names like the Bastion of Sabbionara and the Bastion of Martinego), til I arrived at the sea. There was nowhere to go from there, but back.