Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Hiatus filled

(or shamelessly marketing a neglected blog)

I have an eventful summer behind me to write about, but no time for it. I promise to make up for that with exercises in graphomania later. Possible topics:

The books that kept me company in July and August
Nudism, freedom and tolerance
Die Ruinen von Athen II
Angels of Heaven II

I'm off to Britain for a business trip, I promise to post pictures. In the meantime, check this out.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

ring out the bells again

In the afternoon's blinding light I am almost overcome with melancholy and regret, surrounded by people I honestly and urgently feel the need to reach out to, but, somehow missing chance after chance to, I end up inert, appearing aloof and distant to them.

Green Day's "Wake me up when September ends" is buzzing inside my head.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Spot on...

...once more.

How can people so different, so far away and on so diverging life paths experience feelings so germane? Feelings are supposed to be very private affairs, after all.

Human nature, perhaps.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Ne mutlu Türküm diyene

(or The Baklava Post)

During my Athens sojourn I witnessed a profound change which can be summarised as follows: these days are the best time to be a Turk in Athens since, let's say, 1820, when the then village and today's metropolis was in Ottoman territory. Come to think about it, even in 1820, Athens would be a good place to be a Turk in only if you were some sort of rich land-owning aga. Anyway.

This is so because Grecoturkish (or Turkogreek) rapport, detente and entente seem to be at last flourishing. Obviously, there are solid (?) political reasons for this, but for everyday folk this new era is heralded by a number of highly successful TV series and films about Greeks falling in love with Turks (and vice versa), about the politics of love and about the consequent over-reacting. There is of course (at least) one more thing: food.

Like most Mediterranean peoples, Greeks and Turks share an insane love of food. So, when a branch of the famous Istanbul-based Güllüoğlu pastry shop opened in Athens, everybody knew that this would only bring the two peoples closer.

While in Athens I only managed to go there twice and practically tried everything on offer. I also bought a sample of their diverse types of baklavas for my parents (well, whatever remained intact after a long and tortuous shipment in an unsecured cardboard box across hundreds and hundreds of meters between Athens Güllüoğlu and, well, them).

Now I know it is true that there is no baklava like Turkish baklava. Although I have tried the Greek, Lebanese and Syrian versions, although Michael Manske (to whom I want to extend all my good wishes and sympathy right now) once extolled the Bosnian version, they all seem to pale in comparison to the unrealistically balanced tastes, the gossamer thin fyllo and the superb baking of Güllüoğlu baklava. If I am to get fat, I would like to get fat on this.

So, "Long Live the Friendship of Peoples" (as the old Soviet motto used to go), a feeling approximated in tone (although not in content) by this post's title: "how happy to be called a Turk". Even in Athens, that is.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Slow progress

A mere eight years after Dolan suggested so, I decided to buy a cheap small tripod for my camera. I tested it and, indeed, the results are remarkable; hence you'll be seeing more (and clear) night pictures in this blog in the near future (starting, say, in, what, seven years' time - hehehe).

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Die Ruinen von Athen

I have been meaning to write about good things in the Outpost. In the meantime I have spent some days in Athens (Greece, of course, not Georgia) where three things struck me:

The powerful rudeness of the people. I have been to Paris many times and I have lived in London; I know that people in big cities tend to be 'unforthcoming' (as my Sensei used to put it), but Athenians can be horrifically rude, callous and arrogant at the same time. Maybe they exhausted all their politeness and respect potential during the magnificent Olympic year 2004 and now they just cannot muster together any shreds of civil behaviour whatsoever. Examples ("always give examples", Sensei used to say) abound, but are all too context-dependent to cite: Athenians are malicious, but (relatively) subtle.

Yes, they are rude: bus passengers, shop assistants, cops, drivers (sweet lord! I must never again complain about Outpost drivers and driving!), (some) waiters, bus drivers -- and so on. Polite individuals in Athens truly stand out as beacons of enlightment and compassion. In this respect, I prefer the passive-aggressive (should I say 'peasant'?) non-confrontational ways of Outposters. At the end of the day, passive aggression (is this the term?) can be effective only if you actually pay some attention to the person exercising it. Whereas straight aggression is all-pervasive and in-your-face...

A second thing, the moaning about heat. Like Romans (reciting the 'fa caldo' mantra on any given occasion during the summer months), Athenians fear only one thing weatherwise, the legendary, but rare, heatwave ('kausonas'); they fear it irrationally intensely and more than god-fearing Americans fear men with beards, white powder in envelopes and teenage sex with gay abortionists. It is irritating. They don't know what heat is. In the summertime they get high temperatures but low humidity and breezes. They don't know what prompt suffocation due to crazy humidity feels like (one of the bad bad things about Boston, quite common in the Outpost, too). Throughout August, there is even a seasonal mistral-like wind blowing, dissipating humidity and clearing the atmosphere from dust -- we should be so lucky in the Outpost. Still, they just whine, whine, whine about the heat, heat, heat.

The third thing: the rudeness of the people... oops.