Thursday, November 16

BLOG ON BLOGGING ON BLOGGING ON BLOGGING...

Ellas Devil tagged me, ages ago, for the meme about blogging that’s been going round, and thanks to my lengthy absence I’ve only just noticed. But I always say better late than never, so here goes!

Do you like the look and contents of your blog?
Well, given that I've just spent the last two days giving my blog a facelift, yes I like the looks! It was a real pain in the butt to do, too – all these little image bits that had to be downloaded, adjusted, uploaded… and they still didn’t all work out right but I don’t think anyone will notice unless they look real close… I hope. But I like the colours – vibrant and lively, and not quite as pink as the last one (though still too pink for some - you know who you are! What can I say? I like magenta!)
Regarding content - I usually end up thinking everything I’ve written is drivel a day or two after posting it, and I always have the uneasy feeling that I should be posting about some stuff that is, I dunno, a bit more serious and important maybe? But I suppose I have managed to produce some vaguely amusing stuff here and there...

Does your family know about your blog?
I told my mom about it but she didn’t ask to see it so I didn’t volunteer the info. Perhaps she was being ‘sensitive to my needs’ and didn’t want to push me into telling her. Such is our relationship, sigh. My dad doesn’t know a computer from a vacuum cleaner, so he’s out too. I did tell my stepmom about it – I think she’d like it – but she doesn’t have a connection at home and isn't likely to check it out the rare times she heads over to the net cafĂ©. I can’t remember if I told my brothers or not, but they’re self-involved teenagers so what would they care!

Can you tell your friends about your blog? Do you consider it a private thing?
I have done. Most of my friends have blogs, too – check them out in my blogroll! As for private - private shmivate! If I wanted it to be private I'd write it down on paper in a journal and hide it under my bed. As soon as you've posted something on the WORLD WIDE web, your privacy has gone out the window - you never know who'll stumble across your 'carefully guarded' secrets... in fact, SEVERAL old friends of mine that I'd completely lost touch with found me just by chance - which, though it was nice to hear from them again, was kind of freaky. I mean, I immediately started ticking over all the people I have known in my life to make sure there isn't anybody out there that I DON'T want to be found by...

Do you read the blogs of those who comment on your blog? Or do you try and discover new blogs?
I generally read the blogs of the people who've left comments - on other people's blogs, too, not just mine. Especially if it's an interesting comment. There are so many excellent blogs out there though, and so little time to read them all, that mostly I keep it local unless something really catches my fancy. I definitely don't go trawling through random blogs hoping something good will come up.

Did your blog positively affect your mind? Give an example...
Ummmm… in that it has helped me to not entirely lose my ability to speak English within a limited English-speaking environment, and has kept my writing muscles limber, yes. Therapeutically/psychologically speaking? I’m not so sure. I enjoy writing the posts, cause I enjoy writing generally. I enjoy having a 'captive audience' that I can blab away at (my mom always called me a chatterbox)... but I don't enjoy the feeling of guilt I experience when I look up at the clock and realise I've whittled away the entire evening doing it, especially when there is something else I could have/should have been doing (I have time management issues). And I don't think it really helps me get things off my chest or deal with my issues in the way that it seems to for other people. Basically it's just another time-wasting guilty pleasure, like watching Lost every Friday night...

What does the number of visitors to your blog mean? Do you have a traffic counter?
Yes, I have a traffic counter, and yes I check it. My ego is about the size of a peanut so it can use the boost it gets from lots of hits! Everyone likes to think they’re interesting... don't they?

Do you imagine what other bloggers look like?
Not really… I've kind of naturally developed a hazy impression of what all the people whose blogs I frequent look like, taken from their profile pics I think (even if those pics are completely abstract) and from they're writing style. No doubt I'm way off, though.

Do you think blogging has any real benefits?
Of course! For those people who actually write about important stuff, that is... ie, not me. But for those that do, those that care, it’s a great way to disseminate and share ideas. For the rest of us… it sure beats watching Survivor.

Do you think that the blogosphere is a stand alone world community separated from the real world?
Kind of… I mean we’re all real people living in the real world (I hope!) so we all bring real issues and ideas to the table, but somehow the act of writing about them puts us on a separate plane of reality from those who're purely living them - as though writing relieves us of the 'duty' of really participating in and experiencing life; we can choose instead to just intellectualise our reactions or feelings to things. But then again, I had a love hate/relationship with computers from the get-go - read my first post ever to see what I mean - and am uneasy about the implications of digitising so much of ourselves... I guess it's more a philosophical/metaphysical uneasiness than anything based on solid grounds for complaint.

Do some political blogs scare you? Do you avoid them?
Depends on the politics! Some people’s views make me sad, that’s all. And yes, scared I guess for the fate of the world. I do avoid them cause I don’t like feeling that way.

Do you think that criticizing your blog is useful?
There’s a difference between criticizing my blog as a whole - as in, "what is this garbage and why do you bother to write it, you waste of space" - which is not constructive, v.s. someone criticizing something I have said – which is. Even if I vehemently disagree with them, at least it gives me a chance to rebut or defend myself. And sometimes I might actually learn something new or come to see things a different way. SOMEtimes…

Have you ever thought about what would happen to your blog if you died?
Upon my death, my spirit will be magically infused into the blogosphere, and will keep my blog updated through the ether. At last, everyone will know what the afterlife is like!
...But seriously, this is exactly the type of question which, when I start to think about it, makes me uneasy about having so much of myself on the net. Because we are communicating directly with each other (unlike publishing a book) yet have never met each other in the flesh, we have essentially created a purely digital, yet (within the medium of the web) very real identity for ourselves - an identity which exists independently of our earthly bodies. To go back to the question of whether we imagine what other bloggers look like, I'm sure we've all formed some impression - given a 'body' so to speak - to the digital entities we are communicating with, because this is what is natural for us - to communicate with concrete presences. So each of you reading this has an impression of who I am, of me as a physical entity, but you don't know me - you know the version of me I choose to present you with. For all you know, I could be a fat middle-aged balding man named Joe living in Alaska, but the entity I have chosen to call Kassandra and the picture of Kassandra that you have formed for yourselves from my writings exists - as a distinct individual - and has little to do with who Joe is. So if Joe dies, does Kassandra necessarily die too? Even if this blog were eventually taken off the net, the digital entity of Kassandra, perhaps entirely fictional, would continue to live on in the minds of all the people who read this blog. And since she never really existed, could she ever really be considered dead??? (Now pause to let the goosbumps settle before reading on. And no, I am not a fat middle-aged balding man named Joe living in Alaska. I am who I say I am. Except that my real name is not Kassandra. Unless 'I' refers to my digital self, not my physical self, in which case it is... :P)

Which blogger has had the greatest impression on you?
Oooh loads. But most notably emilyz because of her beautiful writing, flubberwinkle and melusina because of their humour and quite simply for coming across as lovely people, devious diva because she reminds us of all the serious things we might otherwise choose to ignore, ellas devil for keeping me up to date on what is going on in the country when I can't be bothered to watch the news in Greek, and buruburu for getting me into this mess in the first place (and for, every now and then, writing something so completely level-headed and fairminded on a seemingly complicated issue that it just blows all the dust away - though I still haven't forgiven him for switching to Greek for a while there!). Seawitch used to be on my list, but then she had to go and move to Canada and get all contented and happy with life or something... grumble grumble...

Which blogger do you think is the most similar to you?
EmilyZ. I think we’re both at similar stages in life, and we both like cats and ethnic food, among other things. Though I have the sneaking suspicion that she's ATHLETIC (shudder), which I most certainly am not, and she probably reads a lot more quality books than I do. (Though if anyone wants to send me some quality books, I'll gladly read them!)

Name a song you want to listen too.
At the moment I'm quite happy listening to the sound of silence, thank you. (Or rather, I should say the sound of my computer fan humming.)

Tag some people.
buruburuburu, documentarist, mel… it’s your turn! Also the rather mysterious mr melancholy, I'd be curious to see what you have to say...

Sunday, November 12

So, how's the water?

Well. It's Sunday evening, I've got a pile of laundry waiting to be hung out and a sink full of dishes begging to be washed, so this seems like an excellent opportunity to ignore all that and dip my toes in the water again, so to speak, by attempting to write a new post.
But what to write about? Is blogging like riding a bike, or have I lost the knack of spewing my guts out in the hope that some poor soul will actually find my ramblings interesting?
I suppose I should begin by reporting a truly miraculous occurrence - miraculous to me, at least.
This past weekend my father came to Athens... for the SECOND TIME in as many months.
Wow.
Now this is a man who, it would seem, is bound by a sturdy iron chain - one end of which is strapped round his ankle and the other end to the bottom of the huge gangly olive tree that has sprouted, for at least the last couple hundred years, at the foot of our garden, in the middle of the fields and sheep where our house is situated, on the outskirts of the village of Molivos on the island of Lesvos.
(My my, it seems that my sentences have grown since last I wrote. Bear with me.)
This event, of my father's multiple visits, is miraculous because, as far as I know, and excluding the last couple of months, my father has only ventured away from his beloved garden (which will surely wither and die if deprived of two days of his attention) to come to Athens twice IN THE LAST TEN YEARS. And then for only half a day. But both these times he has actually stayed the whole weekend!
Now, either he's finally figured out (two years down the road) that he has a daughter with a comfortable permanent residence (where he is more than welcome to stay) and the requisite sofa and TV available for his nap time, or it just so happens that two weddings have gone down here in Athens in the last months that actually demanded his attendance.

The first wedding was my second-cousin's (the big sister of the cousin/parter in crime often referred to in these pages) and was a lovely event - everyone, besides the stressed-out bride, enjoyed themselves thoroughly and, to digress a moment, I can truly say it was the best wedding I've ever attended. It took place in a small church somewhere near Peania or Kanza (on the outskirts of Athens - and we nearly died driving there in the rain thanks to bad signage which led to us driving ONTO an off ramp of the Attiki Odos - but that's another story). Thankfully the rain stopped just in time for the ceremony, the setting was lovely, the priest genial (he even cracked jokes throughout the ceremony), the dress simple and elegant, and the guests for the most part dressed with a modicum of taste - a first for me at any Greek social event! And actually a disappointment as I was deprived of my usual favourite pastime at such boring social drags: mocking the elaborate bespangled costumes of the other guests.
However this was more than made up for by the reception, held in the Italianate courtyard of a winery (if that's what they're called) with excellent booze, gourmet food, and the amusing pastime of running around with my cousin and other assorted relatives, watching as they tried to sneak cigarettes away from their parents' eyes. It was like being 16 all over again! One girl actually announced she was going to the bathroom, then waited expectantly until it dawned on me that I was supposed to follow her. Good grief.
Mind you, the ceaseless 'kai sta dika sas' (and to yours) got a bit tiresome, not to mention being told about 6 times in a row that 'did you know so-and-so is your third cousin' (I hadn't known at the beginning of the night, but by the end I was starting to wish that the family connection between me and the girl, a rather insipid creature in a neon-green bouffant mini-dress, could be severed immediately) but despite these mild annoyances, my father and I had a very good time.
So that was visit number one; a nice wedding, followed, the next day, by a relaxing meal of mezedes where my boyfriend and father proceeded to bond over army stories and football. Typical. (Here in Greece, before men can be friends or talk about anything interesting, they have to get a few things out of the way: namely, where were you in the army and what interesting/terrible things happened to you there; what football team do you support, and finally, what are your politics. If they agree on at least 2 out of these 3 things they can, in my experience, take the relationship 'to the next level'. If, however, a common ground cannot be found within these three critical parametres, that's it. No bond will ever grow between them. And though my father and Panos had met before, they had never talked at length so, needless to say, I was relieved to have that out of the way between them.)
One last thing of note regarding the first visit: my father had arrived early Friday morning, before I left for work, and I simply had not had time to go shopping or cook anything before he came (as usual, he had left it to literally the last minute to tell me he was actually coming) so, feeling rather guilty, I had left him with a hunk of thawing mincemeat, a can of tomatoes and a packet of pasta, and had told him to fix his own lunch. I returned, however, to the sight of him be-aproned, spoon in hand, preparing his famous (really weird-sounding if I were to tell you the recipe, but excellent nonetheless) pasta sauce, having explored all the shops in the neighbourhood to procure the necessary ingredients. Moreover, I have the sneaking suspicion that, had the house been a mess as well as the pantry bare, he would have scrubbed it top to bottom like a proper Greek mama - this man who, in his own home, cannot even be bothered to throw out used tins of cat food. Humph!
I tell you this because it ties in to visit number two. This weekend my father arrived to attend the wedding of the daughter of a family friend, a local Molivos girl and fellow dentist whom he helped set up in practice here in Athens. And this time he came prepared!(I won't bore anyone with the details of this wedding - let's just say that for every good thing I said about my cousin's wedding, in this case you could say the opposite.)
Yesterday morning, (earlier than I would have liked to be woken up on a Saturday but never mind) my father arrived at my door wearing his oversized coat and raggedy colourful sweater, grey hair and moustache blowing wild (looking, as a friend of his later commented, like a compatriot of Toulouse Lautrec's) and clutching a faded green duffel bag. He gave me a hurried hug then, with rushed pride, wrenched the bag open and pulled out two enormous bags of fresh-picked wild mushrooms. Before any 'Hi, how are you's' could be exchanged, I was required to quickly transfer these to the fridge before they could sweat any more in their plastic prisons.
Now, I guess, would be a good time to mention that my father is a huge wild mushroom aficionado. He is actually considered something of an expert on the island, often helping others determine whether something is edible or will impart an instant and horrible death, and has a shelf of books on the subject and a lifetime spent tramping the fields of Lesvos in search of the succulent treasures. And though his long, rambling eulogies to the mushroom often get boring, and my stepmother must cope with a veritable carpet of mushrooms covering the sizeable dining table end to end each winter, we don't complain because the end result is just so very delicious.
If you've never had fresh-picked wild mushrooms, or (heaven forbid, like my freak of a boyfriend, don't like mushrooms at all) my rapture at the sight of those two bags will no doubt be lost on you. If you do, however, enjoy the velvety texture and the rich, heavenly taste, it won't, and you will no doubt start salivating as I now describe to you how, on Saturday, my dad whipped up a simple but exquisite field mushroom and cep's soup for us to feast on, and today a dish of pork chops which had been marinated in wine overnight, then slowly braised with a spoonful of capers and heaps and heaps of no less than 5 varieties of mushroom, for just about the tastiest resulting dish I have ever had the pleasure of savouring. And I've still got a portion of it sitting in my fridge for tomorrow's lunch! Oh joy!
So, to end this lengthy gastronomical post, here's hoping my father will be making many more trips to the ends of the earth that we call Athens, bringing with him more mushrooms (or, if they're out of season, wild asparagus, or in fact any of the other goodies he likes to collect). And now I suppose I had really better get on with doing those dishes! So farewell, dear readers, if you have gotten this far, and till next time - whenever that may be!