Ode to Michael, Andreas and Kostas

I don’t believe in God, not in the traditional way anyway. But I do believe in the power of gratitude and appreciation towards people who have come to your life to reflect a mirror of your self, to ascent and revalue what you hold dearly inside of you.

I will begin with the story of how I met Michael. Some four and some years ago. Through a common acquaintance who knew I was visiting Portland, Oregon.

Michael is a philosopher. One who has jumped the academic ship to share his true passion over the community waves in that beautiful Pacific northwestern part of the world.

Throw Michael a dice and you’ll get the idea back kindly explored twice. His accessible, empathetic yet unafraid to challenge skill says as much about his heart as much as about his mind which is open, loving, honest and growing coffee fuelled day by the day.

I need not to say I feel fortunate to have spent some hours with him and his wife talking through everything and anything, tipping things on their head for the purpose of our own individual truth as much as for those around us.

Next up is Kostas. I met one of his closest mates some 25+ years ago, his wife around 3 years ago, so the journey to him is a little deflected by circumstance.

Kostas is a scientist, with a research project in Svalbard in Arctic Norway, an explorer and a dj by the day.

I will begin my journey with the most recent interaction, coming back from my rowing training to a text from Andreas saying tune in to this radio station, our pal is playing some music.

Kostas is the guy who managed somehow to dig the most beautiful sounding punk rock tunes right uplifting and melodic enough, for a two hour set on a Sunday morning. Towering at 6 feet, this guy curated a set through geography, turned political reflection, turned dedication to his friends. And all with the same passion as he talks about the intricate details of his research lab and in kindness and humour to his team and fellows.

And last but never least, is Andreas. My pal of a lifetime. The person that knows himself so well, that he understands me and is honest as much.

We met in Rebound, the then only dark wave club in Athens, still going with freakishly beautiful human beings rocking to some of the most etheric yet often screetching 80s sounds.

Andreas is kind and generous and has the ability to conversate with anyone whilst maintaining a uniquely unpretentious level. He knows his nuclear physics, no pun intended, and I’ve seen people feeling intimidated by him including my own father who has known him since I was a late teen kid.

For me in many ways I noticed how respectful he is of my partner avoiding to offend by calling or texting, and how subtly he presents he’s there when I’m on my own, not for his benefit, but for an upgrade to a reference point we may have discussed before.

Most importantly, I feel like I can be anyone and everyone around him. After all, I have grown up parallel to his own journey and we have seen each other grow up, change, contract and deconstruct over a fairly long time too.

I am so incredibly lucky to have him in my life.

My dedication post to the three men is made in honour of how I grew up by knowing them, and still grow today. Neither of them became who they are today because of their wives, mothers, other women in their lives. Surely their partners have supported their development, but it’s all down to those boys doing it alone and remaining truthful to themselves.

I know there is a lot of material about loving and protecting men out there, but unless they had looked inwardly, there is no way anyone could have done that for themselves.

Thank you for being you.

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Travel updates

It’s been three months since my last overseas trip and in the past weeks, I’ve been considering where my next escape will take me to.

The options on the list are between a couple of towns in Europe, east and westcoast US, Africa and South-East Asia.

Sorting through the checklist of where to prioritise includes the outdoorsy options for the time of the year, ie hikes, coastal walks, swimming/surfing etc, the people I know there including how important they have been in my life recently (it’s always sweet connecting with loved ones), the local culture, will it enlighten me and challenge me in positive ways?

I no longer use Airbnb, for political reasons as much as having encountered some very troubled individuals whilst hosting and being hosted by. For example in the US, from around 8, but two hosts were recovering from drug addiction, violent breakups and required attention from me that the experience and after taste did not justify the price I paid for (energetically and materially). With all due respect, everyone deserves happiness and to make some extra cash but air BnB is a problematic option for those seeking short term solutions as it distracts from the bigger picture. It only works when everything else is running well ie having a high income anyway, and meaningful interactions with neighbours and society as a whole. And it worked well for me when I was on that vibe, hosting. However, when it is not, either hosts or hostees can end up being dragged into someone else’s story whilst travelling and paying to stay at their home, which is not a price worth it. Symbolically, the best two Airbnb stays were in Portland up on the hill surrounded by greenness, before being dragged into another drama situ afterwards linked to hosts’ troubled present, and on my last stay in Seattle, in a beautiful attic to the sound of, funnily, death metal from my host’s son. Both stays were hosted by people who presented clarity in their intention to stay out of my way, had everything set up and in order for my arrival and appeared to not exhibit controlling or overly self-absorbed behaviours during my staying there. After all, as they say, first impressions matter.

So moving on, since I returned to London in August, I have hiked a couple of times in the South East of England, went to the forest, for walks through the parks, by the river, long cycles and with a fare treat burning in my pocket, I am laying out my options for the new upcoming routes.

I believe the best way to do travel is combining the freedom to roam new places for some of the trips and seeing friends and loved ones in combination for other, and of course as a route to self-evaluating where you are at in relation to your home and your views on the workings of society. This should provide you with a baseline of choices on your next steps and aspirations.

So maybe this winter will see me in warmer places, and the early spring somewhere with lots of snow. I have been going to the Arctic for two years now early in the year and craving the purity of the landscape, the escapism of the feeling of being at the end of the earth. I will be returning to the US too to visit friends that now live there for hikes, cafes and coastal walks. My other plans include culture-rich towns and cities, with art being central to the scene.

I think the fundamental aspect of travelling, is living every day’s moment, today. To find the time to make space for solitude, a place where you meet yourself, re-evaluate, focus so you can recharge before you rejoin the updated version of your world again.

More reviews and experiences coming up in the next few months.

Love,

Athina

 

Masters degree as a mature student, a review

I’m writing this blog to help you understand what to expect from studying a masters degree later in life. Did I find it useful? I met some really interesting people that I hope to keep in my life in the future. Would I recommend it? Only if you’re super bored with your life and work but expect no easy ride. If you want a break from life, you’ll be better off spending that money travelling and taking up surfing lessons.

I have to admit I was super excited to have secured a place in one of the top universities in the world. As a senior management professional, I knew others that had tried but didn’t get in. The only thing I hadn’t realised was the amount of work it required.

On a weekly basis, I’d have four to five classes to attend in lectures, read 100 plus pages for each to discuss in small group tutorials as well as hold in-class presentations twice per term and write 2,000 – 3,000 word assignments per module/class twice a term.

Another thing I was not prepared for was academic writing. The way arguments are framed, in perspective of other arguments and how limited your own poetic license is. This is predominantly a British education system approach to teaching which hints to post colonial education, drawing out what has been laid out before.

At the university I went to, I also realised each module had its own parameters for good framing and presentation, largely set out by the lead tutor. Irrespective of how many additional classes I took for example on how to write a book review, how to write a critique etc the central student learning and development was misaligned to the individual module requirements. That left me frustrated and as a paying student, annoyed at the power game academia has over the students, and leaving its huge weaknesses unacknowledged.

This last point was a point of discussion throughout my studies. Academics thinking they got it all worked out whilst they lack real-life experience in the field of their expertise. More dangerously, they advise and often participate in political life based on what they read by someone who written something fifty years ago. Academia is a dangerous ground to walk on when seeing right through its weaknesses yet having to abide by its rules.

That transcribed to loving some classes, those mainly taught by open-minded people who not only loved their craft but they loved teaching and interacting with their student debates too. In too many cases, the majority of the academics failed to do that. They focused too much on point scoring, coming across like some sort of activists despite being solely research based, and pushing arrogance in their game.

Lastly but not least, consider and ask what practical skills a masters will provide you with. I got stuck into a situation where the theory was central to most discussions but excluded current affairs unless it was Trump or neoliberalism bashing or glorifying Marxism.

This is how anachronistic academia can be, and yet it is expected we build a future through it.

In all truth, it’s not more than another subscription service, that will get you more views and remove the ads.

It’s good for visibility, but it can also make you feel invisible at the same time.

The variety of food and things for the inquisitive souls in Portland

For all the free souls out there, the surfers, the boarders, the under-trendies, past 9-5 jobbers and dreamers out there are some spots in town that will meet you half way to your soul. Here are my top suggestions:

The Fresh Pot, easy-going vibes, wicked design on mugs, great for people watching in either of the two locations (Central and Mississippi) that I’ve been to.

http://www.thefreshpot.com/

freshpot logo

Ecliptic Brewery, intriguing brew menu, food tastes really good too. Soundtrack expectations of spacey Pink Floyd kind of tunes, or rock. What else would you expect?

Menu

I also love the Ecliptic Brewing branding and some of the tins you buy from the shops are fluorescent.

 

Peets Coffee

It’s the mellowness – if you weren’t keen on drinking coffee because of the ground bean bitterness, this one will surprise you.  A must-try!

https://www.peets.com/shop

 

Sizzle Pie, hmm soul-warming, heartwarming filling vegan food. It makes me hungry thinking of it every time. vegan, tasty, filling. end

https://www.sizzlepie.com/

 

Ground Kontrol

To all the 80s souls out there, Goonies and Stranger Things fans. You are in Portland and there is a wicked retro gaming arcade. It’s between downtown and the Pearl and you can’t miss it, the music will mesmerize you to enter. It’s like why bother questioning the 1+1 equation. You know the answer, jump right in!

Home

 

Jezebel’s Last Standing Merrygoround Cafe, 502 NE 42nd Ave, Portland, OR 97218

https://www.instagram.com/laststandingmerrygoround/

Gently themed like a traveling carnival of the depression times era, aka Carnivale, this place is comfortable and understated yet smart cool for those who prefer to head out a few streets east from trendy Alberta and the tourist drag.

 

Psychic Bar

https://www.psychicbarpdx.com/

psychic bar
Psychic Bar exterior

Old house turned into a house styled bar. Cool cocktails, healthy and tasty fast food, happy hours, and a friendly non-goth -but slightly goth-like feel, for everyone. The patio sitting area is pretty continental too.

 

Article guarantee: spending a couple of hours in each of the places above, will considerably improve your Pacific NorthWestern experience.

Reno International Dance Expo 2019

Tim Weinzirl, June 2019


The Reno International Dance Expo made its inaugural debut at 
the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno, Nevada, USA over May 10-12.  
The event was hosted by the world-famous Rodney "Rodchata" 
Acquino (http://www.rodchata.com/).  
This was primarily a bachata festival, though salsa, kizomba, 
and zouk were also featured.

rdxposter

The weekend opened with a preparty on May 9.  
Early arrivals were able to mingle with each other and 
the instructors.

From Friday to Sunday, there were daily workshops taught 
by 40+ instructors from four continents. 
Attendees of the preparty met the instructors early and 
could better navigate the multiple parallel workshop tracks.

My favorite instructor was Marcela Cardenas of Sweden.  
Her Saturday class was about how to be a better leader in bachata.  
She likened the hand-hold connection between the leader and 
follower to a joystick in a video game; the position of 
the arm tells the follower what to do.  
This is useful for steering the follower forward or backward, 
as shown in the figure below.

marcela-forward-backmarcela-forward-back

Marcela also emphasized the importance of the leader's 
firm connection with the follower's shoulder blade, 
such as in circular movements.

marcela-around

One of the most popular classes was the Saturday bachata session 
by Alex and Desiree. Below is a photo from the class.

classes-alex-des

The pool party happened on Saturday afternoon at the Grand Sierra's 
large outdoor pool. Below are some pool party photos.

pool-montage

On Friday and Saturday night were performances by amateur 
and world-renowned professionals. 
Below are snapshots from my favorite performances.

perf-montage

Photo above: In clockwise order, the performers are Anthony & Carla of Spain(dancing bachata), Alex & Desiree of New York (dancing bachata), Alejandro & Erica of Los Angeles (dancing bachata), Marcela Cardenas of Sweden (dancing bachata), Alex & Kim of San Francisco (dancing salsa).

Finally, and most importantly, social dancing took place in
four separate rooms (salsa, bachata, kizomba, zouk) until 6am.
The guest instructors did a great job dancing and interacting
the social dancers throughout the night. social-montage

Photo above: A sample of the social dancing.
Bottom left: Alex and Desiree leading a late night line dance.
Bottom middle: Alejandro and Erica dancing.
Bottom right: Marcela Cardenas is dancing with a lucky guy.

 

Based on crowd reaction, this event was a huge success.
The party resumes next year, May 15-18, 2020.
Passes are already on sale at http://www.RenoDanceExpo.com.
Within 48 hours of passes for next year going on sale,
over 20% of the attendees rebooked for next year.

Get hyped. Pennywise is on his way back!

The sequel to Stephen King’s It, remade two years ago, will be hitting the cinemas this September.

Here’s the promo trailer:

IT: Chapter Two trailer

In the trailer, Pennywise’s daughter, an old woman now, appears to be sweating excessively. Many fans expected Pennywise to burst out of her chest.

Old family photos of Pennywise and his children have his sunny disposition of undertones in his character.

This time, he is not hooking into fears. The adults mastered how to manage them.

He is after broken hearts, going much deeper into the psychological impact of trauma in adults.

Even if the movie was released in the middle of the summer, I would still surely escape to the darkness for a couple of hours for what appears will be an indescribable dark viewing.

Climate change and security

 

This presentation was produced by Athina Fokidou for the MSc Security class (combined) at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 2018.

The Case study is the destruction of the Dawlish seafront railway in the South West coast of the United Kingdom by climatic events and the consequent political battlefield of unmet promises.

The objective of the presentation is to raise awareness of the players in responses to climate, their intentions and unknown coercive strategies in the nexus of the state and individual contractual exchange.

 

Trump and Brexit off the cliff edge

The past few weeks have seen historical levels of political unwill in the US and UK.

Despite the repetitive votes in the parliament on Brexit options, across the pond, considerations over at which level the business interests of the President are conflicting with responsibilities in the public office, have been held back by senior Democrats.

Not very unlike the Labour leader’s opposition to the EU, and dislike the Tories are in the driving seat of the negotiations, with Theresa May being traditionally pro-EU – a clarity of parliamentarian’s will, is anything but a clear cut between for and anti-Brexit voices.

The confusion in UK and US is the re-divergence of the drivers behind people’s voting preferences. Traditional politics, that of the left and the right, have hegemonized to the extent of other areas of connectivity between political preferences has emerged.

Some may think the opinion Brexit will never happen and that Trump will not see through a second term, is premature today. Rightly the politics are still shedding old skin and testing new voices. Traditional far rightism may see some rise or tv coverage however in temporality, people seek new ideas, often held by the young.

Unquestionably it is a unique time in history to live and experience the shifts, twists, and stretches. Yet the presence of Extinction Rebellion and Young People’s Climate Strikes over the past few weeks have an 80’s tone, the global problems are ours and they are ignored by politicians continuing the pursuit of fast results and short term solutions. In the background, seals are dropping off to their death from cliffs in the Arctic they have not had to climb before when the ice area was 40% larger than it is today.

The tide is certainly changing, and we are running out of those in ye olde politics – inevitably will need to work together, for their own survival.

 

Sources:

  • No Brexit more likely than a disorderly one, say economists

https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-britain-eu-poll/no-brexit-more-likely-than-a-disorderly-one-say-economists-idUKKCN1RU01J

  • Landmark moment for Trump as Mueller report on Russia looms

https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-usa-trump-russia/landmark-moment-for-trump-as-mueller-report-on-russia-looms-idUKKCN1RU0EJ

  • UK should ‘cool down’, drop Brexit – Socialist candidate to head EU Commission

https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-britain-eu-timmermans/uk-should-cool-down-drop-brexit-socialist-candidate-to-head-eu-commission-idUKKCN1RT26W?il=0

 

 

London Art Fair review

The London Art Fair is a unique opportunity to summarise what is happening in the high end gallery led art scene around the globe in that one year.

The collective in London hosted most of the main brand galleries representing mainly visual arts, with some sculpture and three dimensional work for sale, in the case where 3d was the only medium the artist worked in.

This year there were surprisingly a lot of trees, and in similar shapes. This made me wonder if there was a synchronicity between the artists but then again most of the works were made at different time frames. Yet the shape of the tree was prevailing over and over again.

Another repetitive feature was the cut out Victorian style book illustrations turned mini 3d landscapes. Is there a return to the kind of darkness that books enlighten through the imagination?

The artists that stood out are:

Elle Davies for the greenness of the forest shots. Did she go for the exotication of green spaces?

https://elliedavies.co.uk

Michael Ormerod for his American urban. landscapes washing out the impact of capitalism.

https://www.cranekalmanbrighton.com/photographer-category/20th-century-photographers/michael-ormerod/

Nicholas Feldmeyer for his stunning post apocalyptic digitally produced black and white landscapes.

http://www.feldmeyer.ch/index.php?page=290

Ian Berry’s jeans made 3d frame of Roosevelt Hotel.

http://www.ianberry.org