Wednesday, 27 April 2011

₪ Don´t Panic!

  Today was a really stressful day. Early awakening with the baby, driving the family to the other city so my wife could get to give driving license exams, coming back and had to make the printer to work so I would be able to send the papers for the rental car on time, print our tickets, pack our things, clean the house and fly late at night to Greece for our vacation. A lot of stress.
¨Don´t panic!¨ said my wife and tried to relax me a bit.
Panic is an interesting word. It has happened to us all, something that with a perfect universal synchronization happens always on the exact time. The bad one. But where does the word ¨Panic¨ comes from? The word panic comes from the hellenic Πανικός (panikos - pron. panêêkós) and it´s passive form is Πανικοβάλλομαι (pron. Panikovállome - mean. Getting into panic)
 For once more the beauty and magic of words are on the spotlight as this special word owes it´s birth to the ancient Greek god Pan, the ugly, short, goat shaped god of the shepherds and nature. A Faun and a Satyr, Pan was seducing the essential Nymphs in the rivers and mountain-fields of the beautiful bucolic land of Arcadia, playing his flute, eating Nature´s goods and drinking Dionysus´s wine, he was molesting and sodomizing anything that a goat shaped god could possibly sodomize.
  The reason that led the Greeks name the situation with the god´s name was his loud and wild cries towards the ship when he wanted to have some fun. Much latter the word took notorious dimensions after the Battle of Marathon on 490 B.C where the according to the myth, the ugly god would stand on a hill and scream to the Persian soldiers, forcing them to flee and run in madness to all directions. Because of the importance of this battle to the European world, the event took

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

₪ Minus

  The topic was already on the table,
and the conversation about our finances concluded to one word my wife said: ¨mindre¨. 

¨Mindre must be norwegian for less , minor¨ 
 I thought´ and immediately a flashback hit my mind:

   ¨ No matter what you will do, you have to do it perfect. To excel. 
But most important of all, is to do everything as humanly possible you can, never to become a Minus Human ¨
 said he and passed me my sack. 
I looked up, there was a huge sign:
 ¨Ελεύθερον το έμψυχον¨  (eléftheron to émpsihon - Free is the (brave) soul
and suddenly the words of Pericles demolished at once any Marxistic leftovers from my youth rebellions. An explosion of patriotism occurred in my soul and I crossed proudly the gate. Perhaps the peak of a father - son relationship is that exact moment, the moment the boy becomes a man and goes to serve his country, perhaps the highest honor a man can have in his life. Perhaps.

 Since then the phrase ¨Minus Human¨ and my mind developed a lifetime relationship ` and as the best companion a human could have, it has escorted me always everywhere I´ve been reminding to myself the dos and don´ts a man needs to be kept in mental order. The importance of such a special word in my life led me to analyze it and search deep into it. And by that allow me to take the initiative and share it with you.
  The word mindre has done a long trip from Hellas to the Scandinavian countries, but as always, I will develop the analysis backwards, so we will able to understand better it´s journey. The word was introduced to the tribes that later were about to become the Saxons from the tribes that dominated the area south of today´s Denmark. The Lombardic tribe was enjoying the control of the area by that time, and the situation among the ¨barbarians¨ was bloodier than ever before. All against each other and altogether against the arrogant Romans, were exchanging beside blades, cultures as well. And that is how the Lombardic had taken it´s share from the Frankish one.  Until the first half of the fourth century, the Franks, a western germanic tribe were interacting quite... friendly for these times towards the Gaulish people and the Romans. Result to that was the word Minder where the scandinavian Mindre owes it´s root at. 
  Going ever more back in time and currently around 50 B.C , the Gaulish tribes were the key to the word´s trip, because of their geographical disposal on map. The Gauls by that time controlled north Italy up to the Adriatic coast and they were interacting directly with the Romans and the Greeks. In most of the Gaulish tribes, which by that time did not have a common language, the word Minir was used as a de facto word needed for their merchants´s transactions with the Romans, from whose the word actually originates from, before they loan it to the Franks as Minder.
  The original word in Latium was Minus, and comes from the Aeólic Hellenic Minús (el. Μινύς ,

₪ The Demystification of the Norwegian Stereotypes, and the Pleasure of Cursing.

Many would say that there are always similarities between neighbouring countries -and this is true, at least most of it- but when it comes to Norway and its people, then we can really tell that it is a genuinely unique country in every aspect. One of the things that I find most interesting is that Norwegians are amazingly similar to each other when it comes to character, culture, and etiquette; like if they were genetically programmed during pregnancy. Starting a conversation with a Norwegian is definitely going to trigger three questions from their behalf. 
First, they shall ask you with a friendly curiosity and with a tone that indicates actual interest: "How long have you been in Norway?". 
Then, their whole body language and facial expression changes into a combination of scepticism and a small hint of self-deprecation, they'll pierce your soul with the most solid eye contact you have ever experienced, and shoot: "Why did you came to Norway?". 
Finally, with a conclusive stance, they'll ask: "Well, how (good) do you do here?".  
Be extremely careful with the above dialogue, for it shall happen to you for sure, and yes; it's a trap. This is the point that you will make a friend or an enemy forever. 

It's been almost a decade since I first moved to Norway, and that would be about a fourth of my life thus far; yet, I really struggle to understand how to interact with them adequately, and fully fit in their society. And I am not the only one; very few outlanders have actually made it there. 

For most northwestern Europeans the challenge is a big one, and as a Greek, the struggle is even greater; our cultures are so different, that a person with difficulties in adapting to a new environment has literally zero chances in a successful cultural amalgamation. The first time that I noticed that cultural gap, was many years ago when some lads invited me to a garden party. Hellenic hospitality had taught me never to go somewhere with empty hands, and in the same spirit I did the calculus; a case of cold beers and three frozen Cuervos should do fine for fifteen people, and when I arrived everyone was looking at me like if I was an alien. Awkwardness was in the air and eventually someone asked me straight out if I was an alcoholic. Soon I understood that when invited in Norway, you bring the food and drinks that you will be having during the party.

Social interaction in Norway is so weird for a foreigner that for the first months you'll be asking yourself what did you do wrong. In Greece for example, when some companies of friends or acquaintances go out to have some drinks, they will eventually merge with neighbouring companies from other tables. They will all meet, talk, drink and dance with each other. In Norway, on the other hand; if a couple of friends go out for a coffee and happens one of them to fall upon a good friend of his in another company, they shall just say the basics and sit separately.
For Norwegians, it is perfectly normal to go out, sit in a big company and after the typical introductions, to completely ignore everyone they just met and keep chatting with the one person they knew when they came. In addition to that, they seem to have a kind of unspoken rule about alcohol and anything that happened during its effect. In a matter of fact; nothing happened. That's right. If Ole Petter took off his pants and underwear during the Christmass party and jumped into the pool while screaming "fuck you all", is not to be mentioned next Monday. Likewise, did a night-game amongst friends ended up with enough material for the best porn production of the year? It never happened. The weekend in Norway is a parallel dimension of your other self; from Monday to Friday, Norwegians follow a socially strict persona. Work, family, and other aspects of Norwegian life are exemplary on how to be a dedicated parent or employee, and when the weekend comes, the same person is his eighteen years old self that was drinking mazut in Ibiza.
Seriously; drinking twenty beers and ten shots of Jägermeister at Saturday night is totally fine, but a glass of wine with your food during workweek makes you an alcoholic.

The weirdest social feature of all is casual greetings. If for any reason a Norwegian runs into a friend or colleague, they will do anything withing their power to pretend they never saw each other. Never, ever, ever, make eye contact with a fellow in the supermarket, and for the love of God; don't even think to address them. A question like "how are you" in Norway is not a I just saw you, so I am being polite by smiling to you and this is how I say hi. Such a question will be taken seriously and you'll put both of you in the very awkward situation of having to listen to Ole Petter explaining that he is going through a divorce, that his father has cancer, and that just he lost his job.

Moving to the well-known stereotype about their politeness and rudeness, Norwegians are treated unfairly on the matter. Yes, they very seldomly say "excuse me", "I am sorry", "please" and "thank you", and they don't hold on doors indeed, neither do they apply moral politeness like giving their turn in the line or their seat to an elder person. They shan't remove their hats when in a restaurant, nor they shall stand up to greet someone properly either, and from this point of view, all this is very impolite indeed. Personally, I've seen worse. My hometown in Greece could undoubtedly be used as a grand theme park for Neandertals; it's a miracle that Arcadians can actually stand in two and pronounce sounds from their mouth's cavity.

The reason Norwegians are misunderstood and considered rude is, in my opinion, a combination of a higher sense of sensibility and awkwardness. Only some hours ago, a thirty-something years old woman walked straight to my bar, while holding an empty glass. When she arrived, she held the glass pretty close to my face, and said: "(I) must have water", took the new glass and left. Of course, I got very bothered; surely she could have said something better than that, but here is that sense of sensibility that I mentioned before, that takes place.
The common Norwegian doesn't think "how should I act within a society and politely ask for water", but their logic is very simple and reasonable: "I am here, in a restaurant, therefore; you (the bartender) should assume the obvious, I am here to eat or drink or both. The fact that I leave my table to come to your bar means I want something, and I hold an empty water glass, ergo; I want more water". Here the awkwardness comes into the game as well; Norwegians are awkward on their individual routines and interactions; one shall have a working persona within which he behaves in a standard way, most characteristically the one at his work. Then there is another persona within his family circle, and another in social micro-interactions like shopping in the food store etc. But if someone stops a Norwegian while he walks and asks him something, it becomes apparent they get unsettled and stressed, and this is very clear on the way they'll speak; the way he'll talk as a personality, is nothing to any of the personalities that this person applies with his circles, and this awkwardness is the catalyst factor for not saying a word more than the necessary on their interactions, thus getting framed as rude.

Norwegians are far from rude. Not being what the mainstream world defines as polite, does not mean that they are impolite. They are a people with tremendous respect to any other's religious beliefs, political ideas, and opinions; they pay great attention not to do or say anything that offends or insults another person and always mind not to intrude the personal space of others. They have an amazing sense of tact and truly care what happens to humans around the globe. If anything happens to someone and that person needs help, they will rally altogether, and take action to help. They are peaceful and know no harm. They always keep calm, handle situations with composure, they don't shout, they are not violent, they don't break the law in any way, and how they treat the environment should be taught to all schools all around the world.

They don't necessarily need material luxuries to have a good time; a Norwegian is more than happy to go to his cabin, take his skies and go all the way up to the mountain and sit there to have a cocoa from his thermos is his backpack while he enjoys the view in silence. They are happy when they come home from work, and lit five trillion candles just to have a cozy atmosphere where they just sit and read a book or even knit. And in all this, everyone is welcome; they shall share their home, food and drink with you.
Norwegians are genuinely happy as human beings just by becoming one with their nature, and a person with this level and sense of freedom, kindness, and minimal materialism can not be impolite, rather the opposite and an illustrious example of how life should be taken, and how to treat fellow humans within a society.

Monday, 25 April 2011

₪ What Malaka means?

Warning: This article might contain strong, coarse, and foul language among other profanities and politically incorrect remarks. 
If you are easily offended, you should drink some vinegar and bite your thumb click away on the Bright Side of the Internet.

"Cupid the Honey Thief"
Albrecht Dürer
One of the things that always attracted me the most in past cultures and civilizations is their Cosmogony; the mythological story of how the cosmos began, and how people first came to inhabit it. The cosmology of each great civilization is very indicative of how these people saw the world around them; how their societies were structured, their cults and customs, and what moved their thoughts and actions. I've always been attracted to mythology and it was imperative for me to put things down, start creating family trees and hierarchise deities; in order to see who was the "first", by whom it all began.

₪ Deus Vult: The murder of Zeus and Abraham's Dark Ages.

Warning: This article might contain strong, coarse, and foul language among other profanities and politically incorrect remarks. 
If you are easily offended, you should drink some vinegar and bite your thumb better click away on the Bright Side of the Internet.

Diogenes' search for a Human
Jules Bastien-Lepage
One of my favourite comic artists; the ingenious and cunning Arkas, once quoted that "It is a great bless to be born a Greek, and it is a great bless to die as one. The in-between though might be a bit of a problem".
Indeed, the above is painfully real; we Greeks cope with a vast plethora of issues, yet; we come with some perks too. What I've personally savoured the most is our instinctive drive to challenge and question everything that is served to us. Perhaps an inherited characteristic since the first Sophists and Empiricists, we have this natural inclination to seek for a deeper and more sensible explanation for the answers that are so readily given. This trait is what we have inherited today as the science of logic and reason.

I can distinctly recollect the moment that changed everything about the way I saw the Human as a being and his creation; and therefore, our role in a universe that was created by superior powers. Most children back in the late eighties used to watch television, do sports, or simply play outside. For me, though; all the fun was in swimming in an ocean of books. History volumes, dictionaries and encyclopaedias were my best treat, and Greek mythology was the most exciting of them all. It was when I first read about the Olympian Gods when I asked myself for the first time; what happened to those Gods, where did they go and why did they disappear. Most important of all; I questioned how is it possible to change the way that the world was created, and by whom; therefore having suddenly another God, who is so astoundingly different from the previous ones.
To my youthful eyes, each civilisation had their own deities, and that was perfectly reasonable. Nevertheless; an event in which a culture abruptly changed radically the way of how they saw the world; was utterly nonsensical and contradictive as to who we really are thenceforth. If we change what we believe in, then we are not the same as who we were when we did so.

Heraclitus weeping over the World 
Johannes Paulus Moreelse
This hard slap on my six years old face crashed into pieces the adamant values that I was brought up with; Hellenism and Christianity. It was the first time that I consciously saw myself as an Agnostic and decidedly doubted of what is it to be a Greek. A religious struggle would begin between my sense of logic and the horrible guilt that society judgementally burdened me, and this was a terrible, terrible offence that they had me endure. They intimidated me, then threatened me with eternal damnation, and eventually ostracised me as a leper pariah in a public school that was not ready to have little shits questioning the Lord in public.

Many today define Greece as the cradle of Orthodox Christianity and its people as spiritually and religiously devout. The historical truth though is completely antithetical; the cultural and theological identity of Hellenism's relation to Christianity is exactly what the concept of democracy was to Mao Zedong; nonexistent.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

₪ Iskander's Yunanistan

Warning: This article might contain strong, coarse, and foul language among other profanities and politically incorrect remarks. 
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Constantinus XI Palaeologus by Theophilus Cephaleus Chatzemichael
"Constantinus XI Palaeologus"
Theophilus Cephaleus Chatzemichael
One of the things I always liked about my relationship with Salih is that we've ever been brutally honest with each other about the way we see things. We never hesitate to talk about culture, history, and politics, and unlike any other friendship between a Turk and a Greek; we have never been reluctant to play with the hot potato of our in-between history and politics. If my good friend stops by my work or vice-versa, we'll often greet one another in our mother tongues since we both speak a wee bit of each other's language. This confuses people from time to time, but what gives them a real

₪ A Horn, some juicy Cherries and a Croissant

Warning: This article might contain strong, coarse, and foul language among other profanities and politically incorrect remarks. 
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Minoan Rhyton
Since antiquity, mankind always worshipped gold in a religious, sociopolitical and artistic way. The reason for this is that gold has truly amazing characteristics. It is the most malleable of all metals, a single gram could be beaten into a whole square meter of a golden sheet. It is the best natural conductor of electricity and heat found on earth, a most rare metal; all the gold in the world would barely fill three swimming pools, it glows a shining glittering colour that mesmerises all eyes, and most important of all; it doesn't corrode; it's forever. These abilities connected all ancient societies with men's greatest weaknesses; vanity and mortality. Thus, gold became a symbol of power, gravitas, divinity and immortality, that would penetrate all human societies through rulership, religion, and arts. Gold was the measure of everything and all, and it was around 7th century BCE, that the Greeks of Asia Minor would stroke the first golden coins in history. 

Golden Myrtle Wreath
  There was though a problem; how would they measure it? They would need a common unit of mass that could apply to all transactions, domestic and international and the solution to that challenge was a tasty one; carobs. The carob tree (also known as Saint John's bread/Johannisbrotbaum) could be found in most of the Mediterranean world, and specifically, in the Greek region could be found a unique type that its seeds had a particular pear shape and exclusive characteristic; they were all of the same size and weight, making those sweet little snacks, an indisputable unit of measuring gold, silver, and other precious metals and stones, establishing the carats as the first de facto unit.

Friday, 22 April 2011

₪ Odysseus' Lisbon and the Lotus Eaters

Warning: This article might contain strong, coarse, and foul language among other profanities and politically incorrect remarks. 
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"Ulysses Deriding Polyphemus"
J. M. W. Turner
One of the most amazing things that I was always impressed by; is the phenomenal capabilities of the human brain. I always believed that what we understand as intelligence, is a result of our initial potential and how much we train our mind, how far we press its limits to receive more information and process it.
The question is what do we remember or not, and why?

   It was on a Christmas party from work, where some colleagues of mine initiated a conversation game of telling what do we remember for all our lives. A friend answered that he could write down the lyrics of John Lennon's "Imagine", and another colleague could draw his country's borders out of memory. When asked, I hesitated to answer as I was afraid I wouldn't be taken seriously, or even worse; become the subject of mockery, but eventually said it; The Odyssey. Everybody smiled and laughed until they realised I was serious.
I did remember almost all twelve thousand lines in one of the biggest epics