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Τετάρτη 28 Δεκεμβρίου 2016

«Huffington Post»


 Like most people, I always had a plan.

Yet it wasn't long before minor blips started upsetting what I considered to be a blueprint for a happy, fulfilled life. At 15, I sank into anorexia nervosa.

A narrow escape from death due to this mental condition inspired me to precipitously switch my college major from abstract math to law (I needed the discipline of a "rulebook"), cognitive psychology and psychoanalysis. Becoming a lawyer, though, was not for me; and in those times in Greece, a woman becoming a shrink was the stuff of lewd jokes.

That is probably why, still at college, I accidentally floated into journalism. A week-long furlough from my "regular life" to pursue life as a writer in my country's equivalent of the NYTimes somehow turned into my life. Fifteen years later, everything had changed and everything remained the same. Yet I was profoundly unhappy, teetering on the brink of anorexia yet again, ashamed of my strange hollowness and yearning for an incohate "meaning" to ignite my life.

In 2010, my country went bust. My friends started leaving for other European countries. I could not conceive of leaving my homeland and my mother -- the two interchangeable in my mind -- for a new life. A single mother, she worked 18 hours a day to raise me, her only child. Every Saturday we picked cyclamines and anemones in the forest north of Athens. She tried to draw me out of my insular, solipsistic existence by reciting Emily Dickinson: "I am nobody. Who are you? Are you -- nobody -- too? Then there's a pair of us!"

Then some ancient pagan gods must have decided to intervene. During a short sojourn in New York (researching a book I was writing while covering a conference on the future of digital journalism) one of the very important people I was interviewing expressed interest in me and my book, offering me a job that seemed perfect.

The elation of that night evoked the unadulterated sunniness of my infancy. My mom who was in Greece, and I, pulled an all-nighter on videochat. "Spread your wings," she said, pushing me to pursue my dreams like she had not, sacrificing herself for others. 

So I stayed, in America. Greece went -- is still going -- through meltdown. Alone, I watched the derailment, from New York. I no longer had a past to return to if I needed to. There was only one way for me: forward. In America.

That did not make things easier, though. Red Riding Hood meets the Wolf was an appropriate metaphor for the job and book deal I had been offered. Even more importantly, neither covered the requirements of immigration law.

Soon my situation became Kafkaesque. Although working full-time, I was not getting paid. My meager savings were running out, and practical problems like Hurricane Sandy, Arctic Vortexes, bad plumbing and heating, and even the roof collapsing over my head twice, were child's play compared to my immigration woes. I floundered in a murky wasteland of immigration lawyers. One tried to blackmail me; another vanished; a third lost my papers; a fourth refused to hand me my passport unless I met him at an underground storage facility in Clinton, at 3 a.m. Initially I could not stay on in the U.S., then I could not leave, even to visit my mother back in Greece. The few people I had hoped would help commiserated, dissembled, vanished. Quite spectacularly, I managed to contract pneumonia twice. One morning, a deranged biker threw me to the ground, pummeled me, but did not mug me. 

In the spirit of Murphy's Law, one day I slipped on black ice and injured my knee, badly. With no health insurance or money, hobbling and constant pain became my new constant. The grief of my isolation and severance from my homeland and mother did nothing to diminish my nightmares of suddenly finding myself outside the U.S. and not being allowed to re-enter. When I started obsessing each night, about ways to end my life, I realized I was losing my mind.

To find it, I hit the streets. 

I walked myself through days of bitter cold and snow; through angry summer nights where you could not breathe for the humidity, the city's forsaken and mad(dened) crawling out of the woodwork, while the more fortunate passed them by without ostensibly registering their presence. My tenuous existence, oscillating between the two conditions, made feel like a ghost. 

Then I cooked. On my half-broken microwave (no stove or oven) I learned to transmogrify my purchases of discounted produce into tasty stews and curries that nursed my body and spirit to health. 

One afternoon, on the West Harlem bus, I sat between a gorgeous Viola Davis doppelgänger, and two guys so deeply in love they evoked everyone's first golden love. Another night, I watched a horde of cheery Lithuanian Haredim, storming out of Magnolia Bakery, help a bedazzling transgender multiracial woman carry a velvet couch someone had thrown out on the street. The sickness inside me abated.

People from all walks of life started telling me their stories. In these encounters -- always random and fleeting -- whole lives were contained and shared: pieces of the daily fabric of so many people existing in different orbits, around the same sun. This...

Τρίτη 15 Νοεμβρίου 2016


Παρασκευή 25 Μαρτίου 2016


Παρασκευή 26 Φεβρουαρίου 2016

Παρασκευή 1 Ιανουαρίου 2016

Τετάρτη 7 Οκτωβρίου 2015

Σάββατο 26 Σεπτεμβρίου 2015

Σάββατο 19 Σεπτεμβρίου 2015

Τετάρτη 16 Σεπτεμβρίου 2015

The Alpha and Omega


Power equals money, and vice versa, used to be a straightforward equation. No longer. The new digital cosmos has made this a very relative concept, transforming what were once purely mercantile products and services, or exclusively cultural creations, into a harmony of content and experience.

The great (and largely false) Platonic divide between spirit and corpus, money and values, is obsolete. Evolution is the name of the new game. 

Evolution that encompasses ecommerce and emotion, ideals as timeless and vital as knowledge, freedom, access, communication, adventure, discovery; and as bold as limitlessness in life (artificial intelligence, deathlessness, genetics, space exploration.)

Yet, like all living creatures, people and companies cannot live on love and knowledge alone. The mind requires a physical host; besides, as recent neurological and neuroscience discoveries have proven, the body influences the mind in unknown ways (Oliver Sacks has written at length about this.) Think iPhone: an interdependent union of software and hardware. This is the way all people and companies who belong to the future rather than the past, are headed: feed the body, feed the soul.

Google (or rather, its new iteration, Alphabet) with its Google-X lab, Calico, health labs (it recently created an eye contact that can measure glucose in blood levels) Google Cultural Institute, and dedication to unfettered freedom and free access for all is the quintessential example. If its Google Books settlement had been 

allowed to go through, it would have been as important to education and culture, as Google Search is to everything human.

Its new shake-up (after the hiring of a former financial executive in COO role) allows for greater freedom and focus in pursuing ideals: by to cultivating their more commercial ventures (ads, analytics, GooglePlay, the internet of things, etc) they can reach for the moon—and stars. This is manifested by its recent acquisition of Dr. Thomas R. Insel, the director of the National Institute of Mental Health, one of the world’s leading scientists in behavioral-health research, to head Google Life Sciences, which seeks to develop technologies for early detection and treatment of health problems. According to the NYT “In his new job, Dr. Insel will do an about-face of sorts, turning back to the psychosocial realm, only this time with a new set of tools. One project he has thought about is detecting psychosis early, using language analytics — algorithms that show promise in picking up the semantic signature of the disorganized thinking characteristic of psychosis.”.

Moment-to-moment mental tracking has also become a commercial reality, and the idea is for further evolution, to employing the power of data analytics to make behavioral studies much more objective than they have been before, and to make mood and language tracking an easily and universally accessible tool in order to identify and treat mental health conditions in situations where it would be left unnoticed until it was too late—for the patient, and everyone else.

Facebook is also following a similar path, in a different way. What originated as an e-connection, then e-commerce tool, has now also become a major media force (see original content agreement it reached with the New York Times, National Geographic, Buzzfeed), financial tool (money transfer), A.I. (Occulus) developer, phone text (Messenger platform), and is now branching out into “good for the world, good for the poor, good for the soul” activities. Providing wifi access to third world countries, creating health foundations, blocking and banning hate speech are all concrete examples. 

In this new wondrous world, new coalitions are forming, and old companies take on new iterations. FOX partners with National Geographic; Hulu and Netflix resist buy-outs and have started creating original content already starting to trump that of the dinosaurs (networks), something cable companies are already losing money over.

In the meantime Jeff Bezos of Amazon wants to rule over space (as well), something he will seemingly have to battle over with the car and battery innovator, Elon Musk. Star Wars, the new beta version.

And the beating heart and mind of the universal consciousness and subconscious, Twitter, is, slowly becoming the main venue for thoughtful information, for communication, for knowledge (for those who seek it of course.) Its allowing unrestricted length for direct messages (in contrast to the 140 character rule of tweets), and the new “commentary” option on retweeted or quoted tweets are already transforming it into a new, valuable educational tool.

At the same time, education is fast becoming a value and commodity, financially and digitally accessible for most of humanity. From the vast archives of free digital libraries, to scientific fora (such as elifesciences.org) and…Google, the world is now a place where knowledge, culture, education, is just a tap away. Companies such as Whispersync (now part of Amazon), Prime Lending Library and Oyster, help drive people to read and learn more. 

Apple is handing out iPads and Macbooks as part of the White House ConnectEd initiative, where Google also plays an integral role; IBM is pioneering a STEM school model called P-Tech, which it, Microsoft, SAP and others are implementing in public high schools; and last week Facebook said it would expand its partnership with Summit Public Schools, which runs K-12 schools in California and Washington state.

Elon Musk of Tesla has already started a montessori elementary school, originally for his kids; and a for-profit start-up school, Altschool, is backed by Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, as well as venture capital firms Andreessen Horowitz and Founders Fund. 

At the same time, established education companies, such as Weld North, are becoming leaders and pioneers in digital learning (especially for the more vulnerable, those who need help to do it) as well as provide school improvement services. At the heart of these services lies the ideal, the vision of providing the new generation with easy access to intellectual, cultural, and value-based education of quality that can elevate human existence to a whole other dimension.

After all, in the beginning there was the Word. The Alpha and Omega.

Πέμπτη 6 Αυγούστου 2015



Αγαπημένε μου τρομοκράτη
Εκδόσεις: ΛΙΒΑΝΗΣ
Έτος: 2001
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Ελληνιστές: Η Ελλάδα δεν τους πληγώνει
Εκδόσεις: ΛΙΒΑΝΗΣ
Έτος: 1999
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