Esmerelda, Ben Howard

Everyone has that one song they go to for a reflection of their innermost feelings.

Mine is Esmerelda by Ben Howard, the video in particular.

The waves unrolling back in reverse is what gets me every time. It may be for the symbolic value of rolling back time and rediscovering today’s desires by the method of review.

The moving images are taken in the winter, the British winter many complain of. As a surfer, Ben Howard is staring at the swells as he would have done at any other season, reflecting on the conditions, the possibilities. The weather is not a hindrance, but an opportunity for assessment. A million components pulled together; I could ride that wave, I know I can, I can do it this way or that way. Maybe I will come back to it, maybe I will sit it out, watch it and leave it to perform before my very eyes.

The solitary imagery of Howard looking out from the cliff’s edge over the treacherous weather is a message of renewal. In the knowledge, majestic moments happen in the most apparent challenging conditions. Our approach to them is the liberating experience that emerges from the merging what is on offer and the available energy that pulls the surfer to float on the surface or let go and dive into the water. These are not polarised experiences of bad or good, of success or failure, but of a journey of becoming one with nature, embracing it and re-establishing our relationship with it as our home.

Theorists have made the case for connecting with our histories in our pursue of conserving our natural habitat. Mythologies of Homer’s Odysseus seeking his Ithaca, and the realism of Caribbean slaves fishing out in the open waters on Atlantic Ocean’s edge have required an intertwined relationship with nature and its elements. The skill of reading and floating decisions in communication with the elements is a human condition that can not be aborted.

There are thousands of journeys to Ithaca, Caribbean fishermen and surfers connecting with nature in that way. The sea is a pool for everyone to explore their search for a home.

Sensational layouts; a short story of photojournalism in tabloits

Restricted images hide a story. Retelling the story by slicing away the margins is how tabloits make headlines. The most extreme, the better. It may not make sense, but the readers’ shock deters them from revisiting and unpacking the reality.

This introduction of new journalism made it into our every day lives. It trimmed the stories to polarising and accusatory as the norm.

For example, see this image in its entirety.

What information does this image contain that is useful to you? The path, the river, the people in the distance, the dog, the season. Is the dog seeking your attention by waiting on you?

Now, what story does the image below tell?

Consider your first thoughts looking at this image. Is the dog angry, about to react, or playful, is the ground cold and wet?

The second story has dramatised the narrative by removing useful information that would have told the story in all its complexity. It automatically polarised understanding by simplification. The narrative is cut short and the story is left for the viewer to interpret.

Now imagine the text defining the already minimised story.
Dog stares before it runs away, or attacks.
Greying dog lost in the winter.

By doing so we have already disassociated the image from the reality.

Next time you see a close up in the news, ask yourself, what is the purpose of such trimming and what are you missing out in terms of information.

Photography is a gift of storytelling. Butchering details, however insignificant they may appear, is a political decision made by editorial professionals serving singular story telling.

You don’t have to consume what is given and to enrich your understanding ask the questions that can better inform you.

Motivation and commitment in the winter

I read a really succinct article about finding the motivation to your sport during winter in a cyclist’s magazine recently.

It identified the challenge between rationalising between the elements, the reality of enjoying time indoors and maintaining motivation.

We are all humans, and at times of pre Xmas binges, cozy nights in with friends or the SO at the pub or infront of the telly, it is easy to postpone and get distracted. We are not robots or operate in a purely mechanical mindset either.

“The distinction between motivation (the desire to do something) and commitment (a dedication to doing it) is subtle.”

On days we are not motivated we need to accept we are not in the mood however finding a way to meet the commitment to doing it, will pay off by feeling better at the end of it.

Finding a way to committing can be as simple as organising training in a group, or with someone else. You may not need the words of encouragement depending what stage you are in your sport, but knowing someone else is waiting for you, and that your absence will affect their training is the game changer.

The organisation of committing is the process to making it work. Putting the plan, into action, and knowing what is happening, and when.

If you start thinking what’s the point, you’ll miss the opportunity to feel stronger and build on your fitness. Acknowledging why the session is good for you, is often the bedrock of a building on your plan.

Getting together

Ray phoned up three days ago. We realised last time we saw each other was in November last year. A year ago, when I was frantically settling into postgraduate writing, him chatting away as I was writing one of my assignments. Then a brief discussion early in the year about our concerns for a friend.

Two weeks ago, I got an invitation to someone’s retirement drinks. Didn’t know what to expect, some old souls, maybe not. I was going to go anyway. Then Ray’s call meant he also joined in (he also associated with the retiree the same years I did), and to my surprise he went on to the next level dropping emails to some peeps from our then years.

I picked him up from his studio and we headed to the working men’s club in Bethnal Green, not knowing what to expect.

There were lots of familiar faces in there. More than we expected and lots of peeps we were really close to ten years ago or so.

Most of us were more or less the same but some material changes and a comfort you find in your own skin as you grow older.

My good pal complained about someone missing. I dismissed him saying that person would never turn up.

Then catching up with my old girlfriend and rusty soul, I turned around and the double take clicked me into frame. Our pal had turned up and I was so freaking happy to see him, give him a big hug and chat in all his awesomeness and full on honesty about how things around have been making us feel.

Walking back with my girl to the bus stop we reflected on how the night went. Our fears, uncertainty of what to expect after all these years and yet how grounded and sorted things felt.

We did pick a bone with someone, which was funny, and was extended with ‘well we’re all here now’ and a big hug.

That’s my take away from the get together. No words, promises, expectations or plans. We got together, each to our own, and found each other.

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.

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 history presented, a narrative of Oregonian development

Just visited the Oregon Historical Society, where the disappointment turned into contempt and anger.

A state with around 200 years of history.

The first thing that I noticed is how everything was presented as a story of ‘doing’ instead of a series of histories emerging in equal importance on the narrative of what is new America.

The natives, the African Americans, the Asians presented as sharing the same space in an assumptive scenario that puts them in the otherness of America’s existence.

No narrative of their histories, just the acknowledgment they exist.

The pioneers who made this land in the forefront. The dislocations of indigenous people to securitize vast areas of land. The securitization agenda in its earliest form.

Securitise from what? This word serves the interests of those who are pursuing the agenda without equitable considerations for those marginalized in the process.

A history of half-hearted stories, incomplete narratives, equalization said but not existing in any form or story in real life.

The marketization of ideas, becoming ideas in themselves and accepted as currency fueling development, without any fundamental structure for emerging cooperation.

Forcibly changing a world that doesn’t want to change and presenting it as de facto.

I can dig a thousand words to describe the disappointment in American history. Mostly, because whoever took the lead in making this the common reality, had not thought through all they lost in the process of focusing on the small detail of the multiplicity the size of land has offered them.

Agrarian change for who, and to feed who?

The land of the amble, producing less for less.

The establishment of fake stories as a level of understanding of what might have been better imaginable.

 

 

 

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.