A Film to Make You Stop and Think

Scarlett Johnasson’s most serious film to date is currently running its course in art house cinemas across the country. While some have criticised Under The Skin as being boring or not giving enough answers, I found it kept me on the edge of my seat and caused me to truly think once it was over.

If you already plan on seeing the film, please pause here and continue reading after you’ve seen it, as I do not want to sway your opinion. Also, there is a rape scene in the film, so do consider this your trigger warning. If you don’t plan on seeing it, let me tell you what it’s about, so the next time you’re having coffee with some intellectuals, you can pretend you saw a real horror film. Or maybe you’ll want to see it for yourself. The film is based on the book, by the same title, written by Michael Faber.

In Under The Skin, Johansson plays a strange woman who drives around a Scottish city in a cargo van all day pretending to be lost until she finds a man with few personal relationships, lures him back to her house which her sexuality, and traps him in a black murky pool where he slowly dies, after undressing to have sex with her.

Johansson’s character, who by the way, is unnamed in the film, seems to have an alien perspective of humanity. Throughout the film she is followed by a man on a motor cycle who disposes of evidence that the men Johansson’s character preys on even existed.

One of the men being trapped by Johansson.

One of the men being trapped by Johansson.

The turning point in the film comes when Johansson preys on a disfigured young man who has never even had a girlfriend. After trapping her in the black pool like the other men, a sense of reluctance and reflection overcomes her and she sets him free, only to be killed by the motor cyclist. Johansson, in the meantime, runs away, presumably to avoid being killed by the motor cyclist. Her identity as an alien being is perpetuated to the viewer when she chokes and spits out a bite of chocolate cake at a restaurant. She’s then taken in by a man she meets on a bus, but runs into the forrest after he tries to have sex with her. What follows is an attempted rape of Johansson’s character, who we then discover is not actually human. Or is she?

Johansson in the woods in Scotland

Johansson in the woods in Scotland

In reflecting on the film, I found a great deal of meaning in it; more than any film I’ve seen in several years (and I see about 100 films per year). On surface it’s a weird, if not horrific film, whose soundtrack and plot are almost on par with Kubrick’s The Shining. But dig deep and the film tells us what it means to be human. The first half of the film illustrates, specifically to men, what it’s like to be raped. The second half then shows how women are treated like objects by men in our society. The end, as well as a handful of moments throughout the film, show us how anyone can be made to feel alien and question their own identity.

If you did see the film and are still confused on the plot, Alex Jones actually explains it pretty well (despite seemingly like a Rush Limbaugh style commentator):

iO9’s Charlie Jane Anders blogged about her interview with director Jonathan Glazer. Apparently the public scenes of the film were really shot in public and secretly so that people wouldn’t notice. While the men Johansson did abduct were actors, there were interactions with men she didn’t abduct, and Glazer said those were surprisingly hard to get:

“Scarlett Johansson pulls up, [and] in you get… some were suspicious. Some were wary. Some were frightened. You see a whole range of complexity of how men do respond to that scenario.”

Anna Beddeley blogging for the UK site The Spectator makes a good point about how certain aspects of the film are hard to follow:

“In the film, Scarlett tricks the men back to her house on the promise of sex, and does a striptease while her victim unknowingly wades into a dark pool. It is very stylised and lovely to watch, but you have no idea what the point of it all is, apart from an excuse to see Scarlett’s bum. There is a fine line between ambiguity and laziness.”

I, however, disagree with Beddeley’s assertion that Glazer is being lazy with the ambiguity. As I stated earlier, I think the film is meant to make you think about the role women play in society. It is not meant to make you think about sexy aliens coming to eat you, which is why Glazer takes that detail out of the film.

Europe’s Jihadists

The conflict in Syria is now in its third year. It can be characterized by the heavy influx of foreign fighters – up to 11,000 as of December – as well as the sustained use of social media, particularly Twitter and YouTube, by rebel groups.

To set the stage for readers who are unfamiliar with the Syrian conflict, here is a VERY superficial, and entirely insufficient summary of the situation. Bashar al-Assad has been the president of Syria for 14 years, following his father who ruled for 30 years prior. Assad is the leader of the Ba’ath party, which promotes a pan-Arab state and is ideologically tied to Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath party in Iraq, as well as an Alawite. Alawis are a branch of Shia Islam, generally ideologically opposed to the vast majority of Muslims – Sunnis.

In the general upheaval of the Arab Spring, Syrians protested for better living conditions and political representation and were met with harsh retribution by state forces. Soon, the protests evolved into outright civil war which has devastated most of the country. There have been accusations of chemical weapons and other extrajudicial killings by both the Syrian regime and rebel factions. Both sides receive heavy support from external actors – generally aligned with their respective religious ideologies. For a really good breakdown of these groups, see this series of Reddit posts: One, Two, Three, Four.

Of particular interest (and concern to some) is the increasing number of foreign fighters coming from Europe and North America. Germany, this blog’s focus, has contributed about 270 jihadists.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rm5CQOUrhYo

One of these Germans, a rapper named Deso Dogg, made headlines inside and out of the social media community after he converted to Islam, moved to Syria as a jihadist and was reportedly killed, then confirmed to be alive. He now goes by the name Abu Talha al-Almani and outspokenly encourages German-Muslims to leave Germany and participate in jihad.

Though Germany is Europe’s most populous country, many European jihadists have come from smaller nations like the Netherlands and Belgium, although that trend seems to be changing. They increasingly use social media to document their lives as jihadists; one Dutch fighter posts regularly on his Tumblr (WARNING MAY BE GRAPHIC), mixing images of dead fighters and children with AK-47s and even posts titled “cats of the mujahideen” (NOT GRAPHIC, JUST KITTIES). He even has an ask.fm account set up to answer questions that his followers might have. While many foreign nationals join existing factions, there is at least one faction that is comprised entirely of foreign fighters, Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar (Army of Emigrants and Supporters) who you can follow on Twitter here.

Opposition groups have always used social media to promote their message; they often post videos of successful missile attacks or hard fighting to improve their image. Just as often they post ultimatums, decrees, or threats towards other groups. The Syrian conflict’s fighting has spread to the internet. Journalists (and regular people) have jumped at the chance to follow every detail of the conflict via primary sources. The entrance of western voices into this mix is a way for Syrian groups to reach out to western audiences who are mostly disinterested and possibly gain support.

For more information on the Syrian conflict, check out http://reddit.com/r/syriancivilwar which is a great example of citizen-journalism, essentially collating the thousands of social media posts into a more coherent picture.

Trees Go Trunk to Trunk in Unique European Competition

The Welsh entry has a long and turbulent past

The Welsh entry has a long and turbulent past

The polls are being flooded with votes for the hottest contest in all of Europe: The Tree of the Year Award. Most of these trees have been growing for hundreds of years, in preparation for this very moment.

Contestants hail from the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia, Ireland, Poland, Scotland, France, Italy and Wales. Each of these trees has a story to tell, some impressive and some heart wrenching.

 

Famous Fiddler Niel Gow once fiddled under this famous tree

Famous Fiddler Niel Gow once fiddled under this famous tree

Scotland’s woody competitor belonged to Neil Gow, the most famous fiddler in all of 18th century Scotland.  That’s right, this behemoth Sessile Oak tree was nothing but a mere seed 300 years ago. Many leaves later, it has proven itself as the best tree in all of Scotland, and hopes to take Europe by storm as well.

On a more melancholy note, Wales’ entry has not lived a life of luxury. This Pedunculate oak has been around over a thousand years, long enough to witness the battle of Crogen, a brutal battle between Welsh and British troops in 1165. This is the first Welsh tree to be entered into the contest, and it plans on making a grand entrance.

The Woodland Trust, an organization who works towards preserving ancient trees in England and Scotland, is heavily backing the Welsh candidate. As of now, it is unclear how their support will effect the polls, although their clear passion for super old trees is certainly undeniable.

 

Bulgaria's entry in the competition stands strong in the middle of town.

Bulgaria’s entry in the competition stands strong in the middle of town.

Every single one of these contestants has something to bring to the table. Bulgaria’s Field Elm is a “centuries-old silent witness of the city’s turbulent and heroic past” Slovakia has also entered a Pedunculate oak, although this one has experienced years of privilege, sitting in the garden that was once doctor and writer, Dr. Zechenter’s.

The competition is fierce. The contest is judged based on popular vote, and does not show these votes in the last week of voting, so at this point, it could be anyone’s game. Anyone of these trees could be awarded the prestigious honor of being European Tree of The Year.

 

 

Every vote counts, so make sure your voice is heard, and vote here. The winner will be announced in Brussels March 19th.

Take a look at all of this years contestants:

Europeans and Trains: A Love Affair

High Speed Train

 

Europeans are all about traveling by trains. If the sheer number of train tracks criss-crossing the continent isn’t enough proof, all one has to do is look at hashtags for any of the major European train lines. Take #Eurostar for example:

 

 

 

That is a lot of train love… and it isn’t just a fling.

Eurostar Patrons are feelin' the love at one of the many Eurostar stations. Photo courtesy of @ppparis.

Eurostar Patrons are feelin’ the love at one of the many Eurostar stations

Contrary to popular belief, trains were not solely popularized by their role in the Harry Potter series. Locomotives choo-chooed into the scene roughly 171 years before Harry met Ron on that fateful September day. The first mechanized railways appeared in England in the 1820s, and kick-started the industrial revolution across the world.

 

While the metropolitan rail system was being developed rapidly in London, continental Europe began to expand their rail services, starting in Belgium. For many countries, the development of the railways was a tool used to improve their economic and social systems. The French hoped that their rail system would bring about social modernization in some of the more rural areas. Germany’s aims were to strengthen the nation as well as promote industrialization.

 

Although the industrial revolution has come and gone, trains continue to rule the tracks. With the advent of high-speed trains, one minute you can be French kissing a stranger under the Eiffel Tower, and ogling Prince Harry at a polo match only two hours later. All this, without ever having to leave the ground. In fact, 81% of travelers prefer to ride the rails rather than take to the air when going from Paris to London. Millions of Europeans take advantage of this and journey billions of kilometers every year. France alone carries 54.72 billion passenger miles per year.

 

By choosing to take the train, passengers can choose when and where they want to depart from, similar to air travel. Although unlike air travel, passengers do not have to deal with as many rigid restrictions and can enjoy amenities like sleeping cabins and dining areas. Yet neither planes nor trains have developed an effective system for ejecting crying babies from the vehicle, a problem that consistently plagues both types of transportation.

 

There are a lot of miles of high speed rails in Europe... and the number is only growing.

The number of high-speed rails zooming across Europe continues to grow faster and faster, just like the trains that ride them.

Despite the fact that the last time many Americans rode a train it was in the mall, 10 or 20 Christmases ago, the United States is actually ranked first in the world in railroad miles. In the United States, trains are most commonly used for cargo transport, rather than human moving.

 

The widespread nature of the US  just doesn’t operate the same way that it does in condensed Europe. Its not surprising that most people would rather take a two-hour train ride from Paris to London than bear the 37-hour journey from Minneapolis to Seattle. Having cities closer together and numerous high-speed trains that connect them make travel seem a little less daunting and a lot more doable.

 

 

Throughout the years and numerous technological innovations, trains have stood the test of time. They have successfully connected a continent and its people, and will continue to do so, with over 11,000 miles of high-speed rails in the works. Trains have made it clear that they are to stay in Europe, and not only because the tracks are made of steel and are very difficult to erode, but because the continental pastime is one that Europeans can’t, and have no desire to shake.

 

Golden Dawn Sees No Rainbows

Homosexuality, a common thing in ancient Greece, is starting to see a rise in homophobia in present day Greece. This is partially due to the Golden Dawn Party (a topic covered by Erin Gregory, one of EuroKulture’s writers. Articles on the party can  be found here and here), though homosexuality has never been fully accepted. In the early 2000’s a television station in Greece was fined 100,000 Euros for displaying two men kissing. The party, recently elected into the Greek parliament, has been feeding off the fears of Greeks to further their political power.

“Over the last year there is a clear increase in antigay attacks. The perpetrators now act in seeming impunity and although we are not always able to name them as members of the Golden Dawn, their attacks follow the same patterns of the Golden Dawn’s attacks against migrants. These people hate migrants, gays, foreigners, women. They hate everyone” – Andrea Gilber, Spokesperson of Athens Pride.

The attacks, mirroring early Nazi attacks on the ‘socially undesirable’ in Germany, are stating to creep into the areas that gay community members used to feel safe. One of these events happened as recently as November when 12 men dressed in all black, claiming to represent the Golden Dawn party, attacked people distribution anti-hate fliers.  This took place in an area of Gazi, known for it’s gay friendly atmosphere.

Greek supporter of homosexuality waves a rainbow flag

As member of the homosexual community, these events are terrifying. Driving people to have zero display of public affection, I can only imagine the constant cloud of fear covering daily life. While LGBTQ laws occupy employment policies, not helpful with a 25% unemployment rate, no laws protecting civilians from hate crimes and attacks exist. I think this lack of law plays a part in the ‘we represent the Golden Dawn party’ attacks.

Attacks climbed to an average of two per month, but this fact comes from reported attacks only. Most go unreported out of fear of further discrimination and hate. In a recent EU survey, 46% have said that gays, lesbians, and bisexuals face discrimination, at the same time, 46% said that they never do. Disclaimer: this was the same as the last time the survey was conducted 3 years ago.

Above: Reactions to recent rise of Greek homophobia

One attack, made on Stefanos Agelastos, happened while walking a friend to the bus stop. Two men on motorcycles pulled up and asked if they were gay, Stefanos replied that he was, his friend was not, but both were attacked. Stefanos managed to get his phone and call the cops, though the incident was just reported and the attackers were never caught. “People just ignored what was happening. Only a shop keeper from Pakistan and a drug user who was wandering in the street came to help”. Was it the fear of association with the ‘undesirable’ that drove people to not help or were they in support of the attack?

In a county where legalization of gay marriage and acceptance of homosexuals is on the rise, ‘difficult’ does not begin to describe how it feels for me to read this and not feel a surge of anger. <Insert VERY long rant about how homosexuality should be accepted here. You don’t want to read a rant.>.

Two questions come from this post for me, what does this mean for homosexuality in the surrounding countries and Europe as a whole? Does this ‘feeding off fear’ have enough of a foot hold in Greek society to give the Golden Dawn party enough power to start a new Nazi era?

Links:

http://greece.greekreporter.com/2012/11/26/after-all-homophobia-is-a-greek-word/

http://greekleftreview.wordpress.com/2012/11/15/the-financial-crisis-in-greece-has-seen-the-fortunes-of-the-far-right-golden-dawn-party-soar-along-with-homophobia/

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/11/26/hate-crimes-greece-lgbt-ethnic-recession-_n_2192046.html?ncid=GEP

http://itsapoliticalworld.wordpress.com/2012/11/02/blasphemy-laws-institutions-and-faith-the-fascist-assault-on-corpus-christi/

Greek Students Shine in Worldwide Hackathon

Greek Hackathon 2012

Greek Students participating in WOWZAPP Hackathon 2012. Image from Forbes and courtesy of Microsoft.

On November 9th Microsoft launched its first ever WOWZAPP 2012: Worldwide Hackathon for Windows. It was a 48-hour global hackathon for students, startups and professionals all over the world. There were over 100 locations and more than 17,000 people registered for the event.

While the student registration ended up around 14,000, the European country with the most students invovled was Greece with more than 550 participants. Other countries with a great student turn out were Ireland with 200, Poland with 350 and Russia with 200.

“With more than 14,000 students registered to participate, WOWZAPP 2012 will be the largest simultaneous hackathon of student developers ever, acting as a catalyst to bring a wealth of new, exciting and quality apps to the Windows Store,” said Moorthy Uppaluri, general manager of Worldwide Academic Programs at Microsoft. “Microsoft is committed to empowering students with the tools and resources they need to showcase their creativity and make money through app development.” –Yahoo! Finance, Microsoft Corporation press release.

WOWZAPP 2012 Bing World Map

WOWZAPP 2012 participation World Map. Image courtesy of Microsoft Bing.

The WOWZAPP hackathon was a great way for people to come together and create Windows Store apps for the recent Windows 8 product launches. For Greece the turnout was spectacular despite transport strikes being held on the opening day of the hackathon. It shows that these young people are looking for ways better themselves and find employment. It is wonderful that despite all the hardship and frustration, they channeled their skills and knowledge to be apart of something that can only help their future.

“But being a developer has many advantages,” she adds, “and in Greece it’s one of the few job opportunities. I can work for people in a different country. Every developer can speak the same language, no matter the place.” –Lia Kampantai, a 24-year-old developer. Forbes, Parmy Olson 2012.

This event was also a way for them to make connections and become part of a global community that is looking for the younger generations help especially in the field of technology. Check out what people had to say about WOWZAPP 2012 on Twitter at #WOWZAPP.  Also visit the WOWZAPP alumni Facebook page.

And for now I leave you with this….

“I think a simple rule of business is, if you do the things that are easier first, then you can actually make a lot of progress.” – Mark Zuckerberg

Essay Competition for Youth Unemployment Solutions puts Money on the Line

Jobs Vanish

Image featured on the Henry Jackson Initiative website for the national competition in Britain to solve youth unemployment.

As youth unemployment is stretched far and wide across Europe, countries like Greece and Spain are currently taking the hardest hit. Britain has also taken notice to this trend and despite the number of jobs increasing; about 1 in 5 young people in the UK is unemployed.

According to an online article by The Telegraph,

“Globally, an estimated 75m under-25s are looking for work, with Greece and Spain suffering high levels of youth joblessness at above 50pc.”

In an effort to generate some creative and innovative ideas to decrease youth unemployment the Henry Jackson Initiative has joined forces with The Telegraph Media Group Limited to form a national competition in Britain, which is being sponsored by Sir Alec Reed, founder of Reed Specialist Recruitment.

What better way to spark a little friendly competition than to throw in a prize? £10,000 pounds to be exact, which equals out to be about $16,000 US dollars! That is certainly a lot of money at stake to complete an essay which is similar to a basic college assignment. There is also the possibility to gain some publicity by being published by The Daily/Sunday Telegraph and online at telegraph.co.uk.

If I was eligible to participate and interested in writing an essay (no more than 1,000 words) to help my country and win money I would say, sign me up! It’s like a civil duty not only to Britain, but to everyone affected by the Eurozone crisis and youth unemployment. Think about a serious issue, create an opinion and offer some solutions.

The general Terms and conditions are as follows according to HJI website:

 “This competition is open to residents of the UK, Channel Islands, Isle of Man and Republic of Ireland aged 18 years or over, except for employees of Telegraph Media Group Limited and the Henry Jackson Initiative, their agents or anyone else professionally associated with the competition.”

Submissions are due by midnight on Friday, December 14, 2012 and the winner is to be notified by January 25, 2013. For more terms and conditions visit the Henry Jackson Initiative website.

Leading up to the announcement of the competition the Henry Jackson Initiative posted great links to their Facebook page about overall youth unemployment awareness. (Click the images to check out their Facebook Page.)

The Telegraph Facebook Post

The Telegraph Facebook Post

The Telegraph Facebook Post

The Telegraph Facebook Post

It would be great to see this competition successfully executed in Britain and for countries like Greece and Spain to take notice. It might not be possible to offer the same kind of incentive, but it would be great for other people to also take part in generating ideas to better their home countries.

 

And for now I leave you with this…

“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” – Albert Einstein

Soccer: Balls and Brothels

In times of trouble I turn to my parents, that is when I run into trouble. But what would I do if my work or club needed quick cash to keep going on? Probably not turn to brothels, but it happens.

Amateur soccer teams in Greece faced a hard time after budget cuts drastically reduced the money received; this is yet another side-effect of the Greek Euro Crisis. In an attempt to keep playing the sport, they turned to sponsors for a cash flow. The new money comes from a range of vastly different places. From kebab shops to funeral homes, feta cheese to a jam factory, variety really is the spice of life. But a small team, Voukefalas club, from the city of Larissa in central Greece, turned to two brothels, Villa Erotica and Soula’s House of History. Just an FYI, prostitution is legal in Greece.

Pictured Right: Brothel owner attends  soccer match with two workers

The deal, initially a joke between the team manager and the owner of the brothel, also known as a bordello, came to reality one remark about getting sponsorship and “other benefits” later. I guess it wasn’t the mutual idea of “play” that made the deal seem natural.

The newly sponsored team now sports pink jerseys that display “Villa Erotica” on their backs, though they are not allowed to play any real matches in them. I can only imagine what effect this has on the players and other teams going against them. Let’s hope it isn’t making the sport too hard.

When the chairman/travel-agency owner/backup goal keeper of the team received question on this action, he responded that “It is a question of survival”. Villa Erotica has already supplied the practice jerseys and 1000 euros ($1312), only a tenth of the 10,000 euros needed for a year of play.

(Pictured Left: Voukefalas Soccer team poses with new jerseys)

Most people in social media have linked to several articles over and over again, but a few have found a way to capture the humor of the situation. Some are using witty sayings,  most people seem to hold a neutral ground. Personally, I think it’s fine. Though I would like to see more “ball play” puns.

I think the teams should look a merger. The Voukefalas club stated that they still lack a midfield, something you would have no trouble patching up with a combination of two teams that are only two-thirds full. But then it becomes a question of there being enough teams to play each other.

Pictured Right: Tweets about the news of Voukefalas Sponsorship  

Does the community see this as a troubling thing? Should the team be aloud to keep their sponsorships? My theory is, if you can legally have brothels, then you can have them sponsor your team. They are a company just like the rest of the sponsors and should not be prohibited from sponsoring due to their type of business. What about your thoughts?

http://soccernet.espn.go.com/news/story/_/id/1193095/brothels-rescue-cash-strapped-greek-soccer-team?cc=5901

http://news.yahoo.com/brothel-funeral-home-bail-greek-soccer-clubs-160930111–sow.html

http://brittneyinla.com/2012/10/19/brought-to-you-by-brothels/

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2012/soccer/10/17/greece-brothels-voukefalas.ap/index.html

http://frontierfooty.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/sex-trade-saves-greek-amateur-football-club/

@GreeceUnemployment is breaking records! #InABadWay

According to a leaked government email, covered in my last post, the general public in Greece became aware that officials were considering implementing a 6-day workweek. I picked up the story while on my laptop reading about the Eurocrisis on CNN. This blog post topic was actually easier to find, because it presented itself with only the swipe of my finger.

I came across this tweet, which is very unfortunate news but great for me to talk about in my blog, while browsing through my twitter feed on my phone. This specific article also appeared on my Google alerts and I am sure it was covered by other news related twitter accounts. To keep my post narrow I am going to discuss the Huffington Post tweet as it pertains to the original source in which I gained my information.

 The article, Greece Unemployment Rises Above 25 Percent, was posted to Huffington Post’s website in the World section on October 11th. It was first tweeted by @HuffPostWorld and later tweeted by @HuffingtonPost, which is where I picked it up. The article explains that as of July unemployment has hit an overall record high of 25.1% with youth unemployment increasing well past 50%.

          I could continue on with the rather depressing figures and facts on the current economic crisis in Greece, however, I am going to touch on the reach (people who saw the tweet) for these two tweets and the reactions received after they were posted on twitter.

           When you combine these numbers there was a chance 2,168,750 people saw either tweet posted by Huffington Post. Keep in mind that excludes other news sources tweets, people who retweeted and their followers who had some kind of interacted with the tweet.

          Phew, I’ll let you digest that and move on to a variety of opinions people shared with their followers.

Proud

(Personal reaction from Greece Unemployment tweet.)

Satire

(Personal reaction from Greece Unemployment tweet.)

(Personal reaction from Greece Unemployment tweet.)

Related to American Government/Politics

(Personal reaction from Greece Unemployment tweet.)

(Personal reaction from Greece Unemployment tweet.)

Austerity: In economics terms – “A policy of deficit-cutting by lowering spending via a reduction in the amount of benefits and public services provided,” (Wikipedia).

(Personal reaction from Greece Unemployment tweet.)

(Personal reaction from Greece Unemployment tweet.)

Other

(2 part personal reaction from Greece Unemployment tweet.)

(Personal reaction from Greece Unemployment tweet.)

(Personal reaction from Greece Unemployment tweet.)

(Personal reaction from Greece Unemployment tweet.)

 

I have to admit when I came across the tweet my only interaction was:
(1.) Seeing it
(2.) Taking a screen shot so I could find it later to write this post.

          I didn’t retweet, quote the tweet or even favorite it because I use twitter more as a source to gain information rather than share it. That is why I was able to come across the tweet because you can pick and choose what you want to be reading about. It also goes to show that twitter is the top dog for getting the word out in real time with the ability to reach millions of people.

         Think about your online presence, especially on twitter, and the way you interact and share its content. Don’t have a twitter? You should get one. Coming from a former skeptic at least check it out and learn about how it works.

And for now I leave you with this…

“Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

…..Now go try twitter.

Across Borders: A Parkour Generation

MontrealPK-Oct02-2005033

Human motion need not be delimited by carefully-set sidewalks nor inhibited by obstacles. Leap over walls, swing from the rafters to get to your next destination via le method naturelle. The spectacle often leaves average pedestrians awestruck in the dust. Parkour enthusiasts, called traceurs, draw unique lines of approach to this sport of urban free-running and develop their philosophies from the spirit of it. The movements evoke practitioners’ primitive sides while the discipline places them vis-à-vis with moments of fear and truth about the psychological and physical limits. The conceptualization of parkour breaks down ideas of spatial and social confinement, which have restricted our harmony with our environment. As one enthusiast put it, “The idea that the only way to get to the second floor is from the inside of a building is preposterous.”

Nicola

The community’s consensus is that this adrenaline-pumped martial art was born in Lisses, France, where modern legends-in-the-making like Sébastien Foucan and Jérôme Ben Aoues expressed their free-flow style by jumping, flipping, scaling, leaping along their own paths with exceptionally acrobatic, and distinctly defiant, French flair since the 1990s. Here, skateboarding was not allowed and public playgrounds had rules against this type of play. They developed a sport that complemented surrounding architecture in creating alternate, and often impressive, routes of transit for the nonconformist traveler. The style quickly spread throughout the United Kingdom, Europe, and the Americas. Parkour Generations America started in 2005 with a runabout rendezvous – here is their showreel: http://youtu.be/lD3_Fn0erPw

 

The most spectacular stunts are done among rooftops, but fundamentals should be learned at ground level. Today, online organizations like ParkourGenerations.com and Monkeyspirit.org seek to inspire young French traceurs by providing tips, tricks, and testimonials from those who have become proficient in the art of creative movement. The masters teach use of fundamental and natural motions, mental rehearsal, and hard work to become fluid in the art of manipulating your horizon, because after all, “the art of moving is about hard training.” Exercise regimes challenge cardiovascular systems, build core strength and improve muscular endurance. The essence is in the footwork, the hand placement, the unique flow of the individual in their route and how they assess obstacles. Uncontested sensei Sébastien Foucan explains that, in his experience, “practice is best done alone…to be focused in yourself. When you are alone you’re a little bit afraid and you need to find why and the solution.” And Monkeyspirit.org urges hopefuls in its introduction not to put the cart before the horse. “The flow comes from years of hard work. Even apes and monkeys practice all the day long during their childhood learning from their parents.”
IMG_9454

 

Groups like UrbanFreeFlow and Freemouv display skill at international competitions, most recently this July in the French Alps and in August in Wisconsin, USA. Their talents have also been displayed in such recent films as 007 James Bond: Casino Royale and Jump Britain. Foucan recently helped K-Swiss develop the Ariake, the first freerunning and parkour shoe. Nikon and GoPro have contests to sponsor amateurs in creating parkour videos for the web.

To date, the writer has personally adopted many movements of Animal Planet in conquest of free-running basics. Visualize me at 25, meditating at dawn and practicing throughout Missouri’s karst landscape during my frequent hiking trips. I still get the urge to climb to the top of the playground tower and every other imposing structure I come across. As a novice, I hurt my ankle while leaping between platforms last month and haven’t been as spry since. I should have been wary of encouraging instructions that included the phrase, “various opportunities to jump off the roof.”

 

Ultimately, parkour is for hard-chargers, fast runners, young kung fu masters, trapeze artists, and those kids who grew up having the most fun on the school playground. It continues to be rapidly embraced by a generation of unprecedented physicality and philosophy: a parkour generation.

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Hooliganism: A Destructive Stigma for Young Greeks

As I am researching Greek blogs for my first post I sit within the comfort of a nice quite study room scrolling through images of beaten immigrants, smashed cars, rioting, reports of severe unemployment, race hate and a government in crisis. I see Greek life, in many aspects, has spiraled out of control.

On June 8, 2012 Nick Malkoutzis blogged on the topic of fear saying, “Fear is a sentiment that Greeks have learned to live with over the past couple of years. As the thread by which the country hangs grows ever thinner, fear has begun to pervade all aspects of life.”

If fear has ‘pervaded all aspects of life’ in Greece then I wonder what is one subject in particular that they fear the most? Well for young Greek people it’s the fear of leaving home to find employment. That plays a part in the reason the Internet is flooded with videos of riots. There are no jobs. Life for some is basically at a stand still until they decide to take matters into their own hands. This action has created quite an outburst of hooliganism.

Hooliganism is a term that describes a collective group of people as malicious, unruly and committing violent acts of destruction. In the U.S. we sometimes use the term hooligan to describe when one or a few young people are acting out in society, but this label has been branded to the foreheads of young people of Greece in the current turmoil of the Eurozone crisis.

The media blast Greece youth as destructive and out of control, but their side of the story is seriously lacking in the headlines. With 50% unemployment for educated young people under the age of 25 the odds are extremely lacking in the favor. As if unemployment wasn’t enough the current political and debt crisis is taking a toll on the country as well. Greece has seen a spike in poverty, suicide and crime rates along with unemployment and emigration in order to find work outside of the country.

This makes me wonder if I ended up in a similar situation how would I handle my emotions? Would I take action with drastic behavior or just wait until the day things finally turned around?

Despite the anger, hopelessness and anxiety that consumes peoples’ lives there are still those who are holding out for better times. Within the blog Occupied London: From The Greek Streets I found a bit of hopeful happiness that occurred in Athens where a bus traveled around to fill their streets with “colourful forms of art”. The video encourages the people to “be optimistic, they will hold the hands of the person sitting next to them and they will do something about the situation,” said Georgios Neris who was featured in Take back the Greek streets, with art a film by Ross Domoney on Vimeo.

That is just a sneak peak into my explorations of how young Greeks are handling the problems that overwhelm their lives and homeland. I want to express my thoughts on the situation in a critical and comparative voice between what is covered in hard news reporting and what the people have to say about it within personal online blogs.

And for now I leave you with this…

“As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” –Marianne Williamson

Greek Art; Arriving, Departing or Delayed?

Constantly shifting and adapting to the environment, the art world takes from the old and creates the new. . As of recent in Greece, artists have been pushed aside by the Euro crisis devastation. One side of the art community says that art struggles from this financial meltdown. Lack of funding closes galleries and removes the much needed support. The other side of the community says that this crisis gave and gives a boost to the artist’s creative sides, hopefully one day creating a payoff.

In May of 2007 a small art gallery, Harma Gallery in Athens, opened its artistic doors. With promising sales and a steady flow of visitors, the people didn’t expect anything to happen when the Euro Crisis started to take its toll. But the gallery, along with many others, has been shut down due to lack of customers, visitors, and interest. “Most are prepared for worse times” (http://sxchristopher.wordpress.com) The Euro Crisis is seen, by some, as a crippling effect on the art industry in Greece, hindering it from growing with the rest of the world.

On the streets of Greece, small art distributors are feeling the struggle as well, but they are seeing it as a time for growth. “This crisis, can also be creative in a way. It can make us, ALL of us, bolder than we used to be because we don’t have much to lose, Right?” (http://djacademe.wordpress.com) They are looking back to the time when Greece fell back into a state of democracy and left their military dictatorship behind. Lack of support at that time didn’t stop the artists from banning together and making that art that was determined to happen, which is what people are expecting to happen to Greece artists today.

I side with the opinion that says that art will flourish from this, becoming a time that people can look back and see the influences that it had on the creative community, similar to the way we look at any –ism or art movement and how it was a comment on the social times. To say a world can exist without art is ridiculous. This will be, and has been, a hard time for artists, but it isn’t the end.

Let’s start things earlier, in Europe.


Photo Credit: Timebooth

Every year we are changing our clocks, either “springing forward” or “falling back” into time.  We synchronize our clocks either to save some daylight (Daylight Saving) or to return back to our standard time.

For this year, in the United States, Daylight Saving began on Sunday, March 13, 2011 and will end shortly on November 6, 2011. This change occurs each year in order to save one hour of daylight in the afternoon and have one less hour in the morning. But why does this happen, and since when?

George Vernon Hudson, a well known astronomer and entomologist, thought of this concept in 1895.  Since World War I, it has been used by most European countries and the United States. Germany and Austria started this in “an effort to conserve fuel needed to produce electric power.” Other countries started adapting this immediately.

The United States actually passed a law in 1918, known as “An Act to preserve daylight and provide standard time for the United States.” If one wants to read more about the law, click here.

Adding an extra hour of daylight adds a lot time for various activities.  This is beneficial for individuals who partake in outdoor activities, as in George Hudson’s case. Not everyone is in favor of this change because it does cause problems for individuals where daylight is a part of their occupation, like farmers, for example.  Other problems and challenges also arise when it disrupts our sleep schedule, cause changes in flights and meetings, and it can also effect our record keeping.  However, drawbacks and benefits vary from person to person.

Photo Credit: Tuftsjournal

As I was sitting in my living room talking to my dad about how the time change is approaching, he informed me that the time has already changed in Europe.

Europe has an EU-Rule, which has to be followed by all countries in the Union, that tells individuals when the time change occurs.  Other countries in Europe, that are not part of the Union, have simply adapted to this rule for their own benefit. The United States, however, has not been as consistent as Europe in the past.  In the “early 1960s, observance of Daylight Saving Time was quite inconsistent, with a hodgepodge of time observances, and no agreement about when to change clocks.” Now, the entire country changes the time consistently and accordingly.

In Europe, the time change begins at 1:00 am on the last Sunday of March and ends at 1:00 am on the last Sunday of October.  In the United States, the time change begins at 2:00 am on the Second Sunday in March and ends at 2:00 am on the First Sunday of November.

Time changes vary according to the continent, country, and state.  Europe countries change their time before the United States, but Hawaii and Arizona, for instance, never change to daylight savings.  Other territories like Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands also keep their time as is.

How do you feel about the time change? Is it beneficial for you, or does it affect you in a negative way?

Cheaper Plane Tickets, Everyone’s Dream…

If you think plane tickets in America are bad, maybe you should move to Europe. Recently in Europe there has been a decline in Airline prices. This is due to the large number of charter companies.

Recently I read an article in Der Spiegel, in which a reporter for Der Spiegel interviewed the CEO of Lufthansa, Christoph Franz. In the article Franz explained why the prices for the large airline company will be falling.  Due to the increase in charter companies and the cheap tickets they can offer, the large Airline Company will have to change their entire business model and entire price structure. Franz also went on to say, “The Budget airlines actually grew less in 2010 than we (Lufthansa) did.”

After reading this article, I did some digging around and found out that ever since the introduction of charter airlines here in America, most charter companies flopped and went bankrupt. However, the market of charter companies in Europe exploded. This is due to the fact that Europeans love to travel. In Europe it is far cheaper to take a charter flight from Point A to Point B. One of the largest charter companies is GermanWings. Who ironically is a subsidiary of Lufthansa.

While reading around on the internet I found a post on Eddy’s Blog.  In the post he talks about how the large airline companies are having to downsize due to the sudden influx of charter companies, which can out price and out sell the larger companies. He then goes on to say that because there are so many charter companies that, unlike the larger companies, can fly to the smaller cities as well as the larger cities. This will eventually drive the prices of the larger companies down to what the charter companies charge for plane tickets. Which after all wouldn’t be a bad thing if you think about it, right?