Monday, February 28, 2005

fail gloriously

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The worship of success inspires not just extraordinary achievements but also worthwhile failures. That is the unsettling but very American message of Million Dollar Baby.

The Economist, "An Ode to Failure"

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Saturday, February 26, 2005

information void

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(Justin) Faunce’s technique is one of obsessive precision. Using a method of meticulous stenciling and applying layers of paint, the artist begins by assembling and arranging an enormous array of found images, both familiar and obscure. Faunce relates the sifting through this imagery as extracting something meaningful from the information void. Like so many of us, Faunce believes that the magnitude of information that we are bombarded with in contemporary life has become incomprehensible. The sheer force of its volume has made it impossible to form cogent narratives from our aspirations. What we are often left with amounts to a collective attention deficit disorder and personal histories reduced to sound bites.

As for me, I had no choice but to grant my otherwise indispensable colleague a leave of absence for the weekend. He mentioned something about a private audience with the president, but I’m keeping my eyes on the red carpet. Let’s demand a full report upon his return. And while the better half of this operation is away (wait, am I the brains or the beauty here?), the mice will play. Or will they dance? The preferred language around here is usually English, but the idiom is Greek.

So, we’re on our own, and I’ve got the keys to the liquor cabinet. The usual topics are still on the table (along with some leftover fasolada). Hector’s also got some ideas should appetites need further stimulation. If all else fails, we can either ignore each other completely, or we can play spin the bottle και βλέπουμε.

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Friday, February 25, 2005

group hug

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Most Americans know nothing of the location, composition, or purpose of the European Union. There is no shame in such ignorance, for most Europeans are in the same position – rather worse, indeed, given that they are the ones who are meant to be experiencing a pleasant sensation of unity. If anything, the view from the States is more precise: Europe is that Shrek-shaped landmass to the left of the Middle East, and the European Union, or E.U., must therefore be the constitutional equivalent of a group hug, designed to insure that no Finn, say, will ever launch a first-strike attack on a Greek.

Thus begins a commentary by Anthony Lane (in the current issue of the New Yorker) in which he refers to this page on the E.U. Web site, the purpose of which is apparently to set the record straight regarding E.U. regulations and/or positions which may have been misrepresented in the press. As Lane points out, there is ample and express information regarding such burning issues as pigs at play, cucumber curvature, and hardhats for acrobats – but such decisive matters as Europe’s exact geography (Turkey anyone?) and its ultimate goals (superstate perhaps?) remain as ambiguous as its constituents’ understandings of it.

Lane suggests that all the vagueness is intentional, in that it is likely to bore the people into submission. (And to what will they be submitting themselves in their half-asleep, submissive state? The European Constitution! You can’t read it even if you want to, so why not just vote yes?) There may not be any shame in such ignorance, on either side of the Atlantic, but there should be.

Photo (Brussels, Belgium, 1999) by Stephen Hughes, whom the New Yorker calls the “demure poet” of the European aesthetic, “concerning himself less with the ghastly spectacle of modern life than with the monuments of strange beauty.”

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Thursday, February 24, 2005


Problems with the net café. I press my nose to the glass; it’s a cliché, cool to the touch. Daily routine thrown into chaos; semi-structured work week remains intact. That’s the juggernaut of (modern?) existence.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2005


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Mantalina Psoma is a most interesting young Greek artist - and this is of course quite a subjective comment, as it happens I like her paintings very much. Born in 1967, she studied in the Berlin School of Fine Arts (Hochschule der Kuenste), Germany, where she has spent a good part of her life. The exhibition currently underway at the Kapinos Galerie is certain to make your Berlin trip even more worthwhile.

Open till April 9, 2005.

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Well, since we’re all Americans here, and all in this together, I feel Safe and Secure enough to express my Real and True Opinion the current state of EurAmerican diplomacy and related happenings in Brussels. It was originally intended as a comment on my intrepid comrade’s insightful post of 20 Feb., but I put it here instead.

First of all, I think the pictures have rendered everyone equally speechless (has anybody seen anything about them in mainstream media?) but we already know how the Official Explanation will go: these practices do not reflect (“badly” would be an understatement) on our Fearless Leader(s) or the whole of the Armed Forces whose incorruptible and unimputable Duties are ordained by God (i.e. Dubya), but rather a small group of immature, overconfident, and perhaps a little tactless (but essentially good-natured and well-meaning) kids who were just sort of playing around with the Toys they had at hand and got carried away. Isn’t this what we would all like to believe?

There is also a Perfectly Reasonable Explanation for the translation/interpretation problems our dedicated correspondent mentioned, and it has nothing to do with (perfectly acceptable) dialectical deviations from the Queen’s English. Doesn’t anybody remember the Babel Fish? Here’s the scoop:

The Babel Fish is small, yellow and leech-like, and probably the oddest thing in the Universe… if you stick a Babel Fish in your ear you can instantly understand anything said to you in any form of language. The speech patterns you actually hear decode the brainwave matrix which has been fed into your mind by the Babel Fish. Meanwhile, the poor Babel Fish, by effectively removing all barriers to communication between different races and cultures, has caused more and bloodier wars than anything else in the history of creation.*

See? Dubya’s neither incompetent nor incapable of sustaining an intelligent conversation on Kyoto or other matters. He’s just trying to keep the peace. Can’t we all just get along?

*from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, a rigorously scientific exegesis of, among other worthy subjects, the Great Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything

**Photo by Bruce Gilden/magnum - Reverend Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church, Topeka, Kansas, 1999. See What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America by Thomas Frank, Metropolitan

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Tuesday, February 22, 2005

I am not as incompetent as I look

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Originally posted on Thursday, July 15, 2004, the following assertions were collected from public statements made by George W. Bush and his official spokesmen since 1997. (from Harper's Magazine, May 2004)

The President of the United States is not a fact-checker.
I’m not a statistician.
I’m not a numbers-cruncher.
I’m not one of these bean counters.
I’m not very analytical.
I’m not a precision guy.
The President is not a micromanager.
I’m not a member of the legislative branch.
The President is not a rubber stamp for the Congress.
I’m not a censor-guy.
I’m not a lawyer.
I’m not a doctor.
The President is not an economist.
I’m not a stockbroker or a stock-picker.
I’m not a forecaster.
I’m not a predictor.
I’m not a pollster, a poll-reader guy.
I’m not a very good prognosticator of elections.
I’m not a committee chairman.
I’m not of the Washington scene.
I’m not a lonely person.
I’m not a poet.
I’m not a very good novelist.
I’m not a textbook player.
I’m not an emailer.
I’m not a very long-winded person.
I’m not a very formal guy.
I am not a revengeful person.
I’m not an Iraqi citizen.
I’m not a divider.
I am not a unilateralist.
I’m not a tree, I’m a Bush.

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Sunday, February 20, 2005

We All Are Americans

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I first became aware of Dominic Hilton's article on openDemocracy forum, "Fashionable anti-Americanism," via dogblogger. Having given it ample thought, I decided not to deal with it; I am providing the link so anybody who cares can read it and smile a bitter smile. I can't even bother to laugh. In the meantime, my thinking about writing a paragraph or two against the thesis that George W. can be safely compared to Hitler was intercepted by the discovery (via Loxias) of that awesome site with US soldiers' Iraqi memories: I was speechless for several hours. And the essence of what I was thinking was not the same afterwards.

Today, the President of the Free World, protected by at least 150 special agents flown in from the US, thousands of Belgian police and undercover agents, whole brigades of NATO troops, AWACS, radar stations, satellites, nuclear submarines, countless squadrons of military jets patroling European skies and, last but not least, specially trained police dogs, is visiting His European subjects. The twenty-five "leaders" of the European non-Federation States have been summoned to their quasi-capital, Brussels, to play their part in this Hollywood-inspired and State Department executed multi-million dollar production.

High on the President's agenda(s) are topics such as the Middle East (this is a diplomatic way of saying 'Israel' without saying it), Iran and Ukraine. Kyoto appears to be a word outside the President's vocabulary; already this morning, in a short chat He had with Hotel Brussels' chef (the guy bears the pompous title "Prime Minister of Belgium"), the President dismissed mention of Kyoto and repeated His faith in the cutting-edge US technology which takes care of such matters irrespective and outside international law (well, it's not certain that He used the word 'law' as Gonzalez was not reported among the team of near-500 advisors accompanying the President, not to mention a plane-load of journalists).

The subjects' priorities slightly differ: they plan to touch upon such insignificant topics as the Dollar, the Balkans, China and the arms embargo, and diplomatic initiatives to defuel potential crises, such as in Iran. Some of these topics are highly offensive to the President; one could well doubt the simoultaneous interpreters would bother translate from the French or German as the President clearly couln't care less. Indeed, one could wonder whether anything translated would be comprehensible, as the new rules of American English proper pronunciation have not been mastered by European interpreters yet. Most likely, this will be the reason the Round Tables will resemble the Tower of Babel. At least the American journalists (who are definitely not gay, much less gay-whores) will get the opportunity to network with some nice, fresh Eurocrats from Latvia, Poland or the Czech Republic.

Nonetheless, the historic city of Brussels will provide a beautiful, quiet backdrop to all the ceremonial festivities: it is snowing (how romantic), all EU employees have been given a couple of days off (for security reasons), most of the city is off-limits to traffic (including public means). The President needs all the serenity He can get in order to keep His composition and deliver appropriate speeches to his subjects' representatives. Depending on the audience, He will address them as "allies" or "partners" or "friends from time immemorial". The underlying motto will surely be "We are All in This together" -- 'this' receiving no further elaboration.

Oh, we Europeans love it when our President pays a visit to the old lands.

Illustration "Tweedledum" by naomi pie, without permission (I lost the link) but with thanks!

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Saturday, February 19, 2005

massless among the masses

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In an article called “The Massless Media” (in the January/February issue of The Atlantic ), William Powers argues that what was once indeed “mass” media has slowly been eroded and supplanted by the fragmented “tribalization” evidenced nowadays in the plethora of independent cable channels and “idiosyncratic Web sites” endlessly at our disposal. In this post-mass-media era, he says:

The cultural sameness and conformity that prevailed after WWII – the era of Father Knows Best and Betty Crocker – have been replaced by a popular pursuit of difference and self-expression. In explaining why McDonald’s has shifted a significant portion of its advertising into niches, an executive of the company told BusinessWeek, “From the consumer point of view, we’ve had to change from ‘I want to be normal’ to ‘I want to be special.’” In a mass-media world it’s hard to be special. But in the land of niches it’s easy. What is blogging if not a celebration of the self?

At first, Powers implicitly scorns blogs (like ours) whose readers number in the double and triple digits, as being nothing more than the “ghostly double” of the like-minded people that seek them out in the first place (the ultimate consequence of which being a decline in diverse discourse and social cohesion), but finally he champions our return to the divisive, opinionated, and most importantly, aware political climate of the pre-TV era, when there existed a “wild, cacophonous, emphatically decentralized media culture that mirrored society itself.”

Our self-portrait is not always pretty, and our niche is nebulous, but what’s one more mirror added to the funhouse maze? Sometimes it makes you look fat, but look again. There’s another one to make you look thin.

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Friday, February 18, 2005

Wasn't Tomorrow Wonderful?

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According to an article in Pravda, "Russian President Vladimir Putin wears a $60,000 Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar watch while [American] President Bush sports a $50 Timex Indiglo. What's even more interesting is that Putin's annual salary is only $60,000 while Bush's salary, according to Wikipedia, is $400,000 (like he even needs it). Is Putin trading nukes for watches, and did Bush lose a bet? And most curious of all is the fact that Bush's Timex is apparently engraved with the words "George W. Bush President January 20, 2001". That'll be something to pass down through the generations. I didn't know you could even get a Timex engraved. Maybe it was a gift from one of his daughters."

Commentary from: Watch Report

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Are you a dick, Ted?

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At what price, if any, would you willingly give up your Web access? For 14 days, let’s say, a mere fortnight? Yahoo conducted a (very self-serving) survey which showed that 48% of respondents could not possibly forego this earthly pleasure for any such period. In fact, 750 people had to be approached before just 28 subjects were recruited to actually go through the rigors of it, despite being paid $950 for their participation. Not surprisingly, they uniformly regretted their decision, filling their experiment diaries with the bile and bitterness of frustration and withdrawal, rather than dreams of spending that thousand-buck bonus. Are we addicted to DSL? Are we forging new links (so to speak) or nuancing the negatives of the digital divide?

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Thursday, February 17, 2005

Lessons in Exorcism*

"The writer probably knows what he meant when he wrote a book, but he should immediately forget what he meant when he's written it."
-- William Golding

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From Elvira's Tabacaria: "Lu dans l'International Herald Tribune: officiellement, et d'après le bureau de presse de la Maison Blanche, G.W. aurait sur sa table de chevet une biographie de George Washington et la Bible. En réalité, il est en train de lire I am Charlotte Simmons, un roman de Tom Wolfe qui raconte les aventures, notamment sexuelles, d'une jeune fille issue d'une famille très croyante rentrant à l'Université. Si Bill Clinton pratiquait, G.W. Bush préfère d'abord se renseigner sur la question..."

Having read Daniel Mendelsohn's review of Tom Wolfe's I am Charlotte Simmons in NYRB Dec. 16, 2004 issue, it never struck me such a novel could end up in the White House's current reading list, much less in the Oval Office. Unless, of course, one reads the novel as a list of to do's. Wolfe has in the recent past (2000) denounced American culture's "feverish emphasis" on sex; his novel attempts to portray the sex-ridden realities of everyday life in a (criticized as largely non-persuasive) setting of an elitist American university and how crushing this can be on the dreams and hopes of an intellectually privileged young female student. In a nutshell, what could a NeoCon President extract from any such read?
a. Boys in College care about Sports, Drugs and Sex (Wolfe's "beta males"). If they can keep their heads clear of filthy evolutionist books, they are bound to succeed. Surely, drugs (along with anything Evil) are all imported, so it's a good idea to start building a 'Wall' and San Diego looks a proper place to test this. Our Israeli friends should know better. If it works, another 32 States with international borders could follow suit. Sex is not intrinsically bad, as long as it occurs within the Church's guidelines. Careful, not within the Church, or we'd end up like the Greeks (but they wear robes all the time, anyway). A new, uncharted strain of the AIDS virus should help things.
b. Some unfortunate boys - the intellectuals - are definitely wimps, no girls could care for them and they will end up as homosexuals anyway. A new, uncharted strain of the AIDS virus should help things.
c. Girls with dreams to become scientists and skip the Sex, Drugs and Super Bowl triangle should better stick to learning to play the piano. They might end up in real high places. Who cares about girls anyway? Could it be these funny Muslims know something we don't?

And, what could a NeoCon President extract from looking at his offspring?

*BBC News reports that "The Vatican University is launching a new course for exorcists - Roman Catholic priests who cast out evil spirits from the possessed. Lessons at the prestigious Athenaeum Pontificium Regina Apostolorum will include the history of Satanism and its context in the Bible. Practical lessons in psychology and the law will also feature. Concern is high in Italy about the influence of Satanic cults - especially among the young and impressionable."

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Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Kyoto Protocol

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BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Kyoto Protocol set to take effect: "The main ceremony to mark the entry of Kyoto will be held in the ancient Japanese capital where the treaty was reached in 1997. Speakers are to include Nobel Peace prize winner Wangari Maathai.

Ms Maathai, an ecologist and Kenya's deputy environment minister, said the Kyoto Protocol would require not just efforts from governments and businesses, but also a change in the way people live.

'One of the reasons why some of the countries don't want to support the Kyoto Protocol is exactly because they don't want to reduce their over-consumptive life pattern,' Ms Maathai, the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, said.

'One way of reducing that over-consumption is by learning to reuse a lot of the resources that we use and just throw away.'"

A baby step in the right direction, as I read. Emphasis added, as it so gently shifts the blame from corporations to individuals. I am sure readers from the US will feel terribly embarassed.

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Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Signed, Sealed, Delivered

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SBS news - World Watch: "Foibe massacres commemorated : 11-02-2005

Italy has marked its first day of remembrance of the north-eastern war-time atrocities known as the Foibe after the pits Yugoslav militia threw victims into. Politicians on the left and right called for an end to attempts to make political capital out of the massacres, long hushed up by the Italian left.

Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini, of the right-wing party National Alliance (AN), praised the 'brave' statements of those 'who had a different view of that page which was torn out of history.' He quoted supreme Roman poet Virgil as saying: 'When the truth comes out of the mouth of your adversary you must not say it is too late but be pleased.'

The so-called Foibe atrocities were massacres of Italian nationals which took place between 1943 and 1945 along the Istrian peninsula, in modern day Slovenia and Croatia. The Foibe are deep gorges in the rocks around the north-eastern city of Trieste.

Up to 5,000 Italians were thrown into the gorges, dead and alive, during the anti-Fascist uprisings in the area in 1943 and then in 1945 when the area was occupied by Communist forces led by Yugoslav strongman, Marshal Josef Tito. Thousands more Italians are believed to have been killed by Tito's troops in Istria, Dalmatia and the surrounding provinces. The exact number of victims of these atrocities is unknown, in part because Tito's forces destroyed local population records to cover up their crimes.

Some historians insist the killings were a form of ethnic cleansing carried out only by Tito's forces, and partly in reaction to Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini's preceding brutal bid to Italianise the region.
Source: RAI ROME Broadcast on SBS TV in Italian Mon to Sat 7:25 - 8:00am"

I thought Tito was Croatian. Looks like he was a Yugoslav as fas as atrocities are concerned, even before Yugoslavia existed. Must have been all these Serbian butchers in Tito's "Communist forces".

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Carnival Of The Godless

Carnival Of The Godless #3 Is Up!

This should be particularly suitable reading for all our Greek visitors -- who are in a religion-related mindframe anyway, thanks to recent not-so-local developments. More on this in a forthcoming post.

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Thanks to Kukla, I revisited, a website linking and rating a good number of excellent photoblogs. Most photoblogs' entries are a thousand words worth. Yes, one can leave comments if they feel like it.

Dimitri Chrysanthopoulos' photoblog brought back memories of Philadelphia: 30th Street Station, St. George's Greek Orthodox Church (thumb above), Chestnut Street, the run to catch the last train to Media.

Recollections of the Golden Triangle.

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Monday, February 14, 2005

safe sex

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The 'missing' pic. Read post in the comments section.

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Sunday, February 13, 2005

Greek Valentines

It appears a malevolent St. Valentine's agent managed to feed forbidden code into sissoula's (previous) post. The blog reacted and control was lost, hopefully temporarily. An added symptom: commentary was denied to all those who attempted. In an effort towards glasnost and democratization, here's a repeat post. -- dys.

It's not just a pop song, ladies and gents. According to an online study (rigorously and scientifically conducted, no doubt) by Durex, Greek lovers get busy 133 times a year, and thus rank second among the world's nations for frequency of sex, outdone only by the French (those Frenchies have a word for everything; how sexy is that?!), who apparently do it 137 times a year, well above the world's average of 103. (The US ties with Israel, at 111 times a year, to rank 9th.)

But what is quantity without quality? Not to worry. Greece also performed quite well in the time spent in foreplay category. The average time is 19.7 minutes, but Greeks give it a full 20. So, who, you ask, are the world's most attentive lovers, spending 22.5 minutes kindling those pre-coital fires? The Brits, apparently. Beans for breakfast, Barbie?

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Thursday, February 10, 2005

43 things

Maybe it's time for each of us to set some goals in our life and be brave enough to follow them through. It's one of those "open" secrets (speaking of secrets) that this site is funded by amazon, but I don't think that necessarily means that a conspiracy is afoot.

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Blog Disorder Resolved

Almost as soon as sissoula commented on our harmonious team, chronoos informed us he wishes to no longer be associated with Dystropoppygus, the Blog. Obliged.

Although the reasons behind this divorce are nobody's business but his optician's (his claim that his "eyes hurt from all the music" could be valid, after all), I felt the following Personality Disorders Results table illustrates the man's condition. Reproduced here with his permission (he supplied the code, what else can I say).

Personality Disorder Test Results
Paranoid |||||||||||| 50%
Schizoid |||||||||||||||||||| 82%
Schizotypal |||||||||||||||| 70%
Antisocial |||||||||||| 50%
Borderline |||||||||||||| 58%
Histrionic |||||||||| 34%
Narcissistic |||||||||||||||| 62%
Avoidant |||||||||||||| 58%
Dependent |||||| 26%
Obsessive-Compulsive |||||||||||||| 54%
Take Free Personality Disorder Test
personality tests by

He mentioned plans but I dare not repeat them here. Good luck, fug-head.

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Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Less is mor(e)

"There are two kinds of secrets: Those we keep from others and those we keep from ourselves."
- F. Maryland

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Looks like mor stumbled upon a good one after all. This blog by Frank Warren, PostSecret, is making art in the blogosfera, using volunteered confessions in the form of 6x4 inch postcards.

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Mail Your Secret Today

You are invited to anonymously contribute a secret to the PostSecret project. Your secret can be a regret, belief, experience, fear, betrayal, desire, feeling, confession, or childhood humiliation. Reveal anything - as long as it is true and you have never shared it with anyone before.

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Warren is actively requesting 'secrets' from anyone who might be interested in getting anything off their chests. Besides his blog calls, he distributed 3,000 addressed cards in an arts festival in Washington, DC and saw a load of completed postcards filling his mailbox during "Artomatic".

I stamped my dirty little secret postcard already; start tracking that blog in a couple of weeks...

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Rapid Cognition

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"Blink is about the first two seconds of looking--the decisive glance that knows in an instant. Gladwell, the best-selling author of The Tipping Point, campaigns for snap judgments and mind reading with a gift for translating research into splendid storytelling. Building his case with scenes from a marriage, heart attack triage, speed dating, choking on the golf course, selling cars, and military maneuvers, he persuades readers to think small and focus on the meaning of "thin slices" of behavior. The key is to rely on our "adaptive unconscious"--a 24/7 mental valet--that provides us with instant and sophisticated information to warn of danger, read a stranger, or react to a new idea.

Gladwell includes caveats about leaping to conclusions: marketers can manipulate our first impressions, high arousal moments make us "mind blind," focusing on the wrong cue leaves us vulnerable to "the Warren Harding Effect" (i.e., voting for a handsome but hapless president). In a provocative chapter that exposes the "dark side of blink," he illuminates the failure of rapid cognition in the tragic stakeout and murder of Amadou Diallo in the Bronx. He underlines studies about autism, facial reading and cardio uptick to urge training that enhances high-stakes decision-making. In this brilliant, cage-rattling book, one can only wish for a thicker slice of Gladwell's ideas about what Blink Camp might look like." -- Barbara Mackoff

How about the first two seconds of looking at any web page? Works fine for me.

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Monday, February 07, 2005

Happy Chinese New Year! ( 一年又一年 )

How you behave toward cats here below determines your place in heaven.
- Robert A. Heinlein

Thanks 4 the rooster, sis!

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Sunday, February 06, 2005

"heady and abstract"

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sissoula sent me an email. Included was a mysterious quote by someone who described this blog as "the most heady and abstract thing" s/he's ever seen. Huh. I admit I couldn't get the meaning at first. I thought I'd consult a dictionary, but I had to drive the family to a fine lamb-chops place through a fake snowstorm, so I figured there'd be plenty of time to investigate this later. Could it be an insult? Could it be that innocent passers-by were outraged by the content of this blog, never to return again? Well, later arrived and immediately turned into just and then recently and I was still trying to determine which dictionary to employ. Then I thought I'd ask sissoula and replied to her email with brief questions, despite knowing her net-cafe was closed on Sundays. Finally, I grabbed my secret weapon, Collins Gem 1967 edition, a pocket dix which can actually fit in one's pocket (mine, to be precise) and looked everything up. A-ha.

This is damn serious. As suspected, 'heady' is marked as both 'impetuous' (>vehement) and 'apt to intoxicate'. I thought, hell, this should come out clearly if I could see the comment in context. No such chance: sissoula is on leave until she returns. I felt I could possibly relate to 'heady' either way it was meant but 'abstract' just sounded too much. Way too much. 'Abstract' as opposed to what? 'Concrete'? I'd surely not want to end up in the bottom of the lake. There's no lake? Wrong. There is a lake. There's always been a lake. Darn, I just had to find a way to rephrase this whole blog business. To make things worse, I pasted the quote on the masthead. Then I added some more gryphs. Right.

Having slept on it, everything comes out much more clearly now. There's a number of things we should do to make sure this intellectually intoxicating blog manages to transcend the abstractedness brought about by the inability of three great minds to focus on points along a certain curve. Did I mention I personally like curves? I should have. There's nothing quite as boring as a straight line. So. Keep your eyes on the next few posts. It's going to be like a SOTB in installments. Sorta.

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family values

Although Bush seems to be cooling his heels for the time being on what the conservatives so convincingly called "the defense of marriage," the question of what constitutes a marriage or a family nowadays persists. Irish photographer Trish Morrissey (whose first US exhibition is showing in NY til the end of the month) effectively "deconstructs the trope of family photography by meticulously mimicking it." She's 37 years old, but she and her elder sister reinvent themselves as all the characters in a typical family drama. I find that her quirky contrasts between austerity and humor, artifact and artifice, are exactly the stuff that most families are made of.

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Friday, February 04, 2005

El libro infierno

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"I felt no surprise whatsoever when I realized Hell is a Library. Permitting one access to words, but not their meaning, is surely the finest version of Tantalus' punishment."

About ten days ago a book found its way into my shopping basket at Ex Libris: Carlo Frabetti's El libro infierno (translated into Greek by Achilleas Kyriakidis). I admit buying it for its title echoeing Borges and Eco. It's a thin book, less than 100 pages of story-text, but surely a rewarding one. While the theme apparent is Literature and the 'plot' is firmly based on Dante's Divine Comedy, the literary questions implied demand mathematical answers (or is it vice versa). It would be extremely premature of me to attempt any sort of critical introduction: besides re-reading it a good many more times, this would require venturing into Wittgenstein (whom I can glimpse at between the lines). The book forces one to ponder on Religion, Language and Ethics as synecdoche's of one another. So, I am merely presenting it here so that I may get an offer to write a paid review or perhaps even get a job as a translator.

Alas, I am not the only one to present Frabetti in unpaid, amateurishly translated English in our
blogosfera. This very morning I discovered another Greek blogger, Anatomy of Melancholy, has been preoccupied with Frabetti's Los jardines cifrados. Since this (Italian-born but Spanish-writing) author is now doubly blessed with blogofame, I should hope a proper English translation of his books is to be expected soon.

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Thursday, February 03, 2005

10 sneezes

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OK - all of you know where it is, but how many of you (especially women) know the precise details about its shape, size, noises (yes, noises), slipperiness, elasticity or flora? If you don't, there is hope. This is an extremely down-to-earth, quasi-encyclopaedic website (with a very friendly embedded blog), covering virtually all aspects pertaining to the vagina. Besides the expected anatomical and medical issues covered, a lot of material relating to sexual arousal, the clitoris, masturbation and orgasms is included. Sarah, the site's administrator, has been looking after and enriching this site since March 2000. And there's a shop as well, so anyone can practically show their support.

Oh, the post's topic. Well, according to a friend of Sarah's, "10 sneezes is the same as an orgasm, on the basis of some questionable scientific data relating to endorphins released during each process". Catch a cold and start counting.

I think some link on Sadie's blog led me to this, but unfortunately lost it. Ah well.

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Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Coffee and cigs

This post was originally supposed to refer to Crooked Timber's post pointing at "Tony Judt illustrating the centrality of coffee as a metaphor (or maybe synecdoche) for civilisation," but. Having just prepared one more double-espresso (and it's not 3AM just yet), I came upon who'd just answered an interesting musical pass-around poll. Thought I'd ditto, even though I wasn't officially asked either.

1) What is the total amount of music files on your computer?
Just checked my desktop and it's got a little over 15 gigs of music. The laptop's only got 4 gigs.

2) The CD you last bought was:
Long time since I last bought a CD. Must have been the DJ Tiesto Parade of the Athletes Music for the Athens 2004 Olympics. I got many CD gifts in the meantime, but I guess these don't count.

3) What is the song you last listened to before reading this message?
James' The Shining from their "Pleased to Meet You" album.

4) Write down five songs you often listen to or that mean a lot to you:
Took me a few moments to compile this -- well, frankly, it took me more than a few moments as I had to squeeze only the ones with a presentable rationale in da list.
- Steely Dan's Deacon Blues: I was studying in the States when I first listened to this and I still do and it feels as great
- Martha and the Muffins' Echo Beach: epitomizes my youthful summers, sleeping under stars
- Depeche Mode's It's No Good: wakes me up by summoning any wrath there's inside me
- Cowboy Junkies' Misguided Angel: for That dawn(s) with That girl(s)
- Dot Allison's Close your Eyes: cause that's what I'm doing, while nobody takes me anywhere.

5) To whom (three people) are you going to pass this stick? And why?
First pass goes to Loxias because I'd like to see whether his choices are in any way predictable by me. Looks like we got many common legacies.
Another one for vague tourist because the pro's list I'm sure will be the wildest.
Finally, one for lessisapossibility - if Steph ever gets to read this (or Love could tell him), because I like the funny-sounding names from Finnland.

6) What are the Top 25 Most Played songs in your iTunes?
Helena Noguerra Minimum
Morcheeba Slowdown
Steely Dan Things I Miss the Most
4 Non Blondes Pleasant Blue
Ace of Base All that She Wants
Brad Mehldau Angst
The Cars Touch and Go
Dot Allison Close your Eyes
Dido My Lover's Gone
Garbage Crush
Belladona Matumbana
George Michael Kissing a Fool
Konstantinos B The Martlet's Tale
Mikro E-Mail
Ottmar Liebert Barcelona Nights
Prefab Sprout Jesse James Bolero
The Rolling Stones Anyway you Look at It
James Getting Away with It
Lou Reed This Magic Moment
Nawal el Zughbi Al Layali
The Nits Vah Hollanda Seni Seni
Spooks Things I've Seen
Shivaree Goodnite Moon
Van Morrison I'll be your Lover, Too
Counting Crows Round Here

Well. This was long. Worth it?

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the nature of genius

While we're on the subject of film... I recently saw Scorsese’s latest, The Aviator. It probably will win best picture, because, as I read somewhere, Holllywood will love the fact that it’s about one of its own. Besides that, it’s A Beautiful Mind all over again. We know the formula already, but it’s still a chicken or the egg proposition: is madness a prerequisite for genius or does genius inexorably lead to madness? I liked the film (Leo has grown up a bit, but it was really Cate’s Kate that won me over) but I came away (again) with that uncomfortable feeling that in our day and age, it’s cute to be crazy. Anyone who’s ever dealt first hand with these issues knows, genius/originality/insight aside, it’s not.

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Le Blog Noir

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Feisty Repartee has recently announced the beginning of a collaborative novel-writing effort - with a vengeance. Christina feels this will be the natural evolution of the Neo-Noir, which was itself an evolution of the original Film Noir.

"Film Noir (literally 'black film or cinema') was coined by French film critics (first by Frank Nino in 1946) who noticed the trend of how 'dark' and black the looks and themes were of many American crime and detective films released in France following the war. It was a style of black and white American films that first evolved in the 1940s, became prominent in the post-war era, and lasted in a classic "Golden Age" period until about 1960...

Very often, a film noir story was developed around a cynical, hard-hearted, disillusioned male character who encountered a beautiful but promiscuous, amoral, double-dealing and seductive femme fatale who used her feminine wiles and come-hither sexuality to manipulate him into becoming the fall guy - often following a murder. After a betrayal or double-cross, she was frequently destroyed as well, often at the cost of the hero's life."

So far, the line up and schedule includes:

Jim at Parkway Rest Stop - February 4, 2005

Key at Key Issues - February 11, 2005

Michele at Divine InnerBitchin' - February 18, 2005

Liv at Not a Shrinking Violet - February 25, 2005

Christina at Feisty Repartee - March 4, 2005

Sadie at Fistful of Fortnights - March 11, 2005

Interested parties may still apply.(Illustration by Jacques de Loustal.)

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Blogging Vertigogo

"It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see."
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862); US essayist, poet and philosopher.'s David Berlind reports that Wall Street thinks "Blogs [are] insignificant". Berlind disagrees:

"[W]hy is almost every major media organization running RSS feeds? Because RSS is the new killer app of the Web. It is a major content consumption channel and, as with the Web, those media organizations know they can't beat it, so they joined it. Blogs are stealing the time of their audience members. Every minute I spend reading Sun COO Jonathan Schwartz's blog is one less minute I spend looking at, some other site, or my television."

Wall Street is not alone looking down on blogging. Some academics appear to have attempted to banish mere mentioning of the word Blog from everyday campus reality:
Blog, a fusing of "Web" and "log" that refers to online diaries, made Lake Superior State University's annual list of words that should be banished, according to the Associated Press. The list's authors noted that "many who nominated it were unsure of the meaning." Kinda like criticizing a movie before you see it.

Well. They should know better. At least a (blogger) reader replying to Berlind's post was more coherent: "Other than techies and geeks, very few even know what blogs are. Even fewer know what RSS is. And even fewer have ever heard of podcasting. You need to venture out into the real world once in awhile."

Of course, you can now view the AFOE 1st European Weblog Award results (the Satin Pajamas) and point any non-believers to any of these exquisite blogs. You are bound to get some fresh converts to blogging.

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Tuesday, February 01, 2005

The caffeine quiz

You are a double espresso at 3 AM.
You are a double espresso at three AM.

You are the tortured, nail-biting essence of
coffee. You see visions. You could change the
world if only you were up at the same time as
everyone else. You have created a programming
language that throws errors if the code is not
written in iambic pentameter, and you are
infuriated by the typos in the new edition of
Ulysses. You practice sarcasm as a
form of tantric sex, and your cats have
doctorates. You believe in virgin sacrifice in
a good cause.

What kind of coffee are you? brought to you by Quizilla

Thanks, Loxias, for the eye-opener.

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