Captain's log for entering winter

People who know me the last five years or so know also that I don’t change my shorts to long pants easily. It does take a certain amount of cold to make me switch to winter clothes, especially when it comes to pants.

Every year I promise to myself that I will go into December keeping my knees in public view, but every year either the weather decides to change radically on late November or a social engagement happening right around then dictates to dress formally and my decision is fucked, so I surrender in relief.

This year I said to everyone looking at me funny that I am definitely going into December with bare knees, no matter what, and I also said we have to thank climate change and environmental catastrophes around the world for that. Doing it I didn’t realize at first that, while I originally meant to be provocative with this statement, I also silently was convincing myself with the following argument: since I always fail, if I fail again this year then things are not so bad, the end of the world is not so near and we have some time. My failure signifies my hope, in a way.

But it is the first day of December and it is the first time in my life that I walked into winter wearing shorts. And although this means we are all gonna die soon, I am not that terrified.

Things are changing and I am growing older and calmer, learning to cope even with myself from time to time. Whatever seemed extremely frightening before, when it is finally here and about to be done, does not seem that scary anymore. Every logical or illogical fear I have developed the last 20 months, is instantly resolved when things are taking their places and acts are deployed. I am thinking that going with the flow is more useful than trying to control the flow. Ideally I would like to control everything, even if everything means literally an extraordinary amount of things running hopelessly through my fingers and me freaking out constantly. But now I know I do not hold that much hate for my own person to put me through all that. I can say safely I like existing, and although I’m sad the world is coming to an end, if I am going to walk towards that end I am surely doing it with style and with attitude and I might as well enjoy it while it lasts.

Feeling all these feelings and having this stupid convo with my flock of selves is not about hope, red roses and revolution, but about survival and punk. In order to live to see the end I must navigate cleverly through the suffering, watching for comets and parts of space stones coming my way, and I am starting to find my steering pace with all.

Official Frozen 2 poster (2019)

Walking with Dead

I’ve been doing some visuals for Vassilia Kagka’s performance in Berlin (for a Queeres Verlegen event, taking place @ Sudblock) on the 16th and I’ve been around graveyards for some footage I needed. I always forget how much I enjoy walking around the dead every now and then.

For the visuals I decided I want footage from two very different cemeteries, a fancy one and one at the poor side of the town.

I have already visited the classy one, the 1st Cemetery of Athens. Famous and rich people are buried there and the graveyard is officially named state’s cultural heritage monument because of all the sculptures and the art that is planted around. It’s a nice place, with old trees, bug colonies, singing birds and a pack of cats enjoying the sun. It’s not very quiet though because of the traffic on Ilioupoleos street that surrounds the west part of the cemetery. It’s a busy place in general, there are many people visiting the premises every single day of the week. I go there for a walk sometimes. The only thing I find extremely annoying is the frequency I find myself in the midst of some rich-bitch funeral and its crowd. Always a bummer. Went there on Thursday (or was it Friday), just before sunset to catch the nice light, with Christina and Meni. There was a rich-bitch funeral indeed. The guards didn’t let us shoot cause apparently we didn’t have a written permission doc from the city’s office, but we did a fast guerrilla expedition and I got what I needed.

Today I’m going with Danae at 1st Cemetery of Acharnes, which is at the north of the center of Athens, near the foothills of Mount Parnitha. Menidi, as is another name for Acharnes, is a relatively infamous suburban complex with “high rates of criminal activity due to poverty and uncertain living conditions” which is the code name for “ghetto trash”. Menidi habitats suffered from the big 1999 earthquake that hit Parnitha and since then the area had almost zero help from the state to recover.

In Menidi there are drugs and guns and all the ecosystem varieties that evolve around them. In Menidi there are cops that push people over the edges everyday and citizens of the more “civilized” parts of the town always look down to those who come from there. In Menidi there are almost four thousands Pontians (people descending from the Pontus regions around Black Sea and came to Greece from Turkey with the population exchange in 1922 , like three of my grandparents), Albanian migrants, ex-Soviet Union repatriates whom greeks call Russopontians (ρωσοπόντιοι) in a belittling manner, and people from nine different Rom tribes according to the Greek Rom Co-federation. Just like the West Side districts in Thessaloniki where I am from.

It is obvious I feel connected to areas that seem to be broken, as myself is born and raised in one of those, but I never thought that this connection will start popping up more frequently while I’m getting older. It’s almost like heritage is patient and quiet enough, knowing she will catch up with you eventually, even if you have dismissed and denounced her long time ago. I presume there is a point in life when you start getting interested in your roots and all? Maybe it’s sufficiently universal to make a sociological mark as canon behaviour or maybe I am just my father’s child and he’s a crazy history nerd who feels extreme feelings in front of old dusty census catalogs from the old country.

V’s performance is based on heritage and trauma. She comes from the island of Lesvos and grew up in Crete, both extremely traditional environments, although quite different from each other. Her poetry is a mix of heartbreaking spoken word full of greek references and hilarious meme puns. The part I’m doing visuals for is called “Dead Mum Card” and I think it’s my favourite of all she has written. I’m going to post a tiny quote here, hoping V will forgive me for doing so:

And then I started partying.

I started partying every weekend when my mum got sick and I flew away.
I started partying every weekend looking for a place to belong, chasing the high, creating illussions of freedom.
I was feeling love or something like it. The dancefloor was my home or at least a self defense mechanism.

And then I collapsed.
I stopped partying every weekend cuz i couldn’t tell anymore if it was the comedown or just depression.
I stopped partying every weekend cuz I think there is no community – just an endless search for daddies or mommies.

Projections.
A circle jerk of incest porn.

I have been reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula these days. I found it in the Central Library when I went to sign up, which was something I want to do for two years now. I did it last week, one day I woke up really sad and hopeless. The plan was to try and emerge from the sadness so the trick I’m doing lately is the epitome of science and I recomend it without hesitating: Eat a banana and go outside. The knowledge was given to me with care and now I give it back to the world with excitment. Bananas are fucking awesome. I may have a banana leaf on my back, for my next tat session.

In the first chapter of Stoker’s Dracula there is a german quote using a verse from Bürger’s Lenore and it is very famous to the gothic lit circles as well as to the supernatural fiction fans like yours truly. It goes like this:

Denn die Todten reiten Schnell

For the Dead travel fast

So I am using it for my visuals and with this I am hopping to remind myself not only that slow burner heritage rush I am going through, but mainly the arbitrary fact (that is also folklore wisdom) which wants your buried skeletons running fast enough to reach you eventually. And then you have to decide if you will honorably kill your deads with a wooden stake right into the heart or if you will have steamy vampire sex with them, blinded by lust, hunger and shame.

Normally I would prefer steamy vampire sex over anything but lately I tend to surprise myself with my impulses.

Tombstone on a family grave in 1st Cemetery of Athens.

Captain’s log for autumntime sadness

It’s a strange season and I am passing through it strangely. Normally, I’d have some autumn blues by now but they’d be easy, cozy and familiar, I’d start smelling autumn things around and feel the need to drink tea and eat up some vitamins. But. No. This time is different somehow.

I have been crawling in my room, nesting anxiously, freaking out because the weather is still hot here. I have been eating uncontrollably and that’s partly because my stupid monthly blood delayed and messed me up, and partly because this is what I do when I am stressed and somewhat afraid. I have been having doubts for everything I named a win the past months and I need people to tell me I do good, but I also don’t at the same time because I know I only did the planning and not the actual work and now it’s time for the work and I don’t like to work. I feel alone and isolated and this moment is the moment I have to be out there and communicative. And I feel exhausted but my body is full of energy so I don’t take good care of it, secretly hoping it will fade slowly so it won’t bother me with its will to live good. Every nice habit I have built the past few months is slowly disappearing and I am almost unbothered by the fact. Disappointing. I just want to sleep all day and make imaginary conversations with famous people or with people I miss. I suddenly feel the need to travel and I suspect it’s not only because I like visiting places but it is also because right now I cannot.

I have this thing: when I feel too comfortable somewhere I bail. Having this leaving urge now. I have felt it before. Then something catastrophic begins happening.

Yesterday I wrote music for this new song, the first in english I don’t hate. It’s coming together nicely. Today I discovered this Scottish band called The Spook School. They are very nice and I like their sound but above all I like that they are friends and they do not take themselves too seriously. They are fun, they are weird, they are awkward, they are obviously queer but in an aloof way and I like that. I see myself a lot in that image. And my band. Too bad they broke up.

The Spook School announced a UK Farewell Tour that ended in September. They said they would rather go out with a fanfare than let the band drift quietly away.

A song of fire and brass

I watched Céline Sciamma’s Portait de la Jeune Fille en Feu. And afterwards, when I was able to close my wide open heart and stop hyperventilating, I tried to put some logic onto my emotions. I begun thinking about it. I don’t know if it touches that deeply everyone like it did with me, in any case that film made me feel like Sound! Euphonium did, years ago. They both are powerful and they both come from the same side of art. They are very special, colorful, rhythmic, full of beauty and elegantly honest. Bold.

Horizon Chase Turbo

I think I finished my script. I mean, I have finished other scripts before, all of them made me happy for a couple of days, two weeks in a row even, but none was something I could actually pursue. Wrong, the very first time I sat down to write and finished a script was because someone told me they will help producing it to a film, but that obviously didn’t happen and although I don’t feel it was my fault, I feel I should have known better.

Now I know better and also I am better both in writing and in expecting things to happen.

The first version of my script was written at some point during late spring. I dare to say it was a whole another thing back then for me. I wrote it tactically, having a specific atmosphere in mind, I put in everything and I mean everything I love to see on screen and I gave it a funny but sentimental ending, a peak that was seeming quite epic at the time. Although I had the feeling that something is missing I decided it’s a good start and started passing it around, to friends and family and to potential colleagues. I waited for their feedback, and as I was waiting I started to get anxious and noticing all the things that would never work with that version, calculating how much time will take me to correct and push it to a better direction. The feedback came back it was overall encouraging, some people really helped me to see clearer some of the technical stuff and I am forever grateful for those that took the time to give me back notes, like Gevi Dimi or Pheadra Vokali.

I took in the responses, deciding to work all summer on a second version for the approximately twelve pages I already had.

I never wrote a single word during summer. Nothing at all.

Having all the guilt in the world for being such a lazy sloth and torturing myself with self-punishing patterns led me nowhere, obviously. I started seeing that what I was calling laziness it may have been truly inability. That made me think eventually. In order to write something better than what I already had (which was fine but it didn’t gave me a certain feeling I crave but cannot describe), I needed to know what I want to say, in the specificity of the “right here, right now” concept. Because I was seeing the first version of the script and thinking “omg why I wrote down all those fluffy, bubbly, ethereal stuff, I surely cannot relate at all now, the words are almost generic, once the feeling is gone the edge is gone too, nothing makes sense”.

Fast forward to the beginning of autumn, September is a minefield and it is all ahead of me, who’s got stuck with approximately twelve pages I hate and a writer’s block so gigantic I couldn’t even look at it, let alone try to dissolve it. I don’t dare to open a new blank page for weeks and I am miserable. In order to wake up my mind, my inspiration and my will to live, I fed my brain so much information altogether that I am now confused and disorientated. But, September was a revelation for everyone and towards its end, I had the feeling I was about to be saved, like another Private Ryan. Damaged, confused, unwilling but capable to rebuild.

I started thinking what I want for this script and besides of me complaining all the time, I had some helpful convos with people about it. Then, when I was almost desperate and very sad for not seeing light in the tunnel, I asked someone very specific what to do with the stupid trap I made for myself now that I fell into. And, with all the naturalness of the world, she said “bitch you just trying too much to make every hipster happy, you just need to make yourself happy, write about a talking car and some hot chick action”. I bet it was not exactly these words she used but that’s what I got from it and I thank god for doing so. Now I have five pages I adore like they are a cute happy playful puppy I want to hug and feed and take it outside to see the world. Am I scared? I am terrified. But I think this is also a good sign because I think that it is the first time after so long that I am going into something so fucking personal. And that’s when the nice things start to become great. It doesn’t matter if people don’t get it, it’s not my job to explain, my job is to transfer the enthusiasm. If it’s gonna be with fundamental cinema tricks, like talking machines, then let it be that way. It gets me every single time, and anyway I am a fan of the basics, I don’t see any fucking reason for not using something like that. I know I sound defensive and possibly agitated about this decision, but you have to know this impression of me occurs from wild joy and raw excitement. It’s like this wise person I referred to, took from me all the responsibility of being so serious and academic with what I want to do and cleared space for creativity and fun. And when that happened, things were written all by themselves in my previously scary blank pages.

I feel so confident I have something solid that I am about to have another round of passing it around; this time asking for funding too. I also made my choice about who’s playing the one character, it’s Danae. I have already talked to her. She is not an actor but she can be one and I can be a director with her. I have been a director with her a thousand years ago, when we were students. Both back then and now, she wants what I am offering and I am glad to give it to her. It is going to be a rough ride and I must be relentless but she says she can take it and, to be honest, I believe her. She endured a stupider, more harmful version of me and not only survived but never lost her faith to what I can do, never judged me for what I’ve done, so now I am here and I want to do this with her. Let’s see how it will go.

Charina is next to me playing Horizon Chase Turbo on the PS4 and it’s an amazingly built game, the graphics are the finest post internet art I have ever seen, the mechanics are fascinating, the 90’s arcade race vibe is so fucking generously provided I get tears and Barry Leitch’s Nindendocore score is elevating the whole thing to another level. I like both to play and to watch others playing it game. Seeing the juicy butt of a Lambo or the boxy bottom of a GTI swinging around and drifting into right turns, chasing whatever monumental it is in the horizon, but in reality chasing the thrill of being stronger, faster, better, learning from mistakes, adapting, mastering through practicing, all those drive me in certain allegorical comparisons and I admit I really enjoy comparing myself to such a fine-ass vision.

Scary mountain with an Inca Empire vibe, I guess?
Nice Miami sunset/boulevard combo.
Chinese country side, over-road bridges looking like a repeated mandarin logogram decorated with lanterns, farm hills and fields full of beautiful colors. Very autumn-like setting.
Either this is Golden Gate in San Fran or Brooklyn bridge in NY, in both cases it makes me want to eat apple pie and drink a large iced coffee.
“Here is the Taj Mahal and please kindly receive your everyday reminder of things you lack”
Some blossoming desert night sky for the mescaline lovers.
And some desert early afternoon delight for the Natural Born Killers fan base.
Last but never least, I think this is the final level of the game (2018 version – they didn’t launch an upgrade yet). I get almost spacey vibes with that fierce rock storm. Just look at those clouds, they make it a very Mad-Maxian environment, racing under blood-red sun, around scarlet soil mountains. Very fulfilling and inspiring.

Stressed, depressed and occasionally well-dressed

Yo.

I’ve been avoiding to write the past weeks, firstly because September had me running like a headless chicken and secondly because I don’t really know where to start. So many things happened, I am honest if I’m saying I’m feeling overwhelmed, but I will try to make a narration happen here cause I need it and I want it and I think it’ll help eventually.

Adult businesses first.

We are about to have a company. Yes, me, your friend who is certainly a child, yet of age, have already been converted into doing taxes and business plans and budgeting and whatever. The thought is to have a job that I don’t hate so I can have some money, insurance (which I pay myself, lol), with a partner I trust and love and some creative thinking to put in my everyday life. And of course the main goal is to have the flexibility to work on my art stuff. And the resources, cause this is important too. I won’t bore you with the details, it’s me and Charina, we are opening a small creative studio in Athens, doing mostly graphic design gigs, some web, some copywriting packages and whatever comes in our way and seems fun or expensive to be honest. We said we will keep our day jobs for a while, that means Charina will be keeping her dayjob and I will continue pretending I am looking for one. But it’s fine, we have a balance, it’s a private matter, don’t ask.

On Monday I said to K. that we are about to open the shit and we both realised I haven’t mention it before. I was shocked. I wonder why I didn’t.

Teen businesses second.

Fucking HYPED not only had it’s premiere FINALLY, but also got a fucking award at AIFF! HYPED was the first film I ever worked on. Areti Papaioannou had this idea for her bachelor thesis (she’s a DOP) and Alkis Papastathopoulos directed a short out of it. I got to be 1st AD and eventually I co-produced. I learned a lot about my self and about my trade from this film. And it was then when I decided officially that I can’t or won’t do anything else if I don’t try my hardest to be a director first. Later I retracted on that promise because I am a coward but I got my spine back and renewed my vows to myself.

This is us while shooting HYPED back in 2015. Back row: Ahmet Kehaya, Eva Vlachou, me, Maria Dimitra-Vetta, Alkis Papastathopoulos. Front row: Areti Papaioanou (hugging a Black Magic if I remember correctly) and our stars Artemis Tzortzoglou and Anna Papageorgiou.

So, yeah. Since we filmed HYPED I have been anxious, disgusted, mad, offended, jealous, desperate and who knows what else. I pressured people and myself much back then, then I was disappointed none could deliver, then I stopped caring whatsoever while secretly I was obsessed and as time went by I didn’t feel much about anyone or anything that had to do with the film. When I say I don’t feel anything about anyone I lie, because these are my friends we are talking about now. I just didn’t want to feel things relevant to them AND the movie. I just focused on being a mediocre friend when I had the chance. Or a good one when it really mattered.

But then, last week, Alkis sent a message saying we are having a premiere and everything I was feeling or thought I was feeling up to that point changed.

The premiere was on the 21st of September. That was a very awkward coincidence for all of us. Because on the same date, a year ago, Zak was murdered. And a year passed and no one knows what to say or what to feel. Like, we know we had to do things, we tried to organize something radical to go along with the other mainstream-er parties of the expected crowd but after a couple of assemblies we found out we couldn’t actually keep up with our goals or desires. Not enough rage to capitalize into work, and into radical-ness no less; only tiredness, a typical sadness and anxiety. But we said “fine, we should do at least the minimum” and then we did it. We pressured ourselves, some of us more than others, we arranged things, made a banner, called people to join our queer block, threw some flyers we printed with slogans we had from last year’s demo and we tagged some rad words on every wall the march passed by. I was on de-escalation duty which I like doing very much, despite of looking so angry all the time. I think I broke my personal record, erasing photos showing our faces in more than seven phones of tourists or walkers and prevented people taking videos more than twenty times. The outcome was very good, we had many join us and I heard that we have been seen as the most organised group of people in the whole march. I know it’s not a competition but it was a surprise. I believe it though cause the bar wasn’t set very high, at least if you are someone who has been political in the streets, doing such things.

Anyway, finishing the march we had to rush to the cinema where HYPED was to be screened, to meet the others. Thank god it was right around the corner so I and my usual ladies of honor went to a near-by cafe for me to change clothes and be less dirty. I think I took up this challenge and brought it home very nicely. It was a classic Superman-like enstantane, only in reverse. I took off my super uniform in Maigret’s bathroom and put on my sophisticated look and red lipstick to go see my name projected on screen.

I saw my name projected on screen and it was amazing. And I had such a blast with all my friends and all the people I had worked with that I felt immortal again. And then there was a rumor we got an award. And then our actors, Artemis Tzortzoglou and Anna Papageorgiou, got the award. And we went to the ceremony event and to the party that followed, all in afterglow, shiny and vulnerable, having proved something but not knowing exactly what or to whom. We were there and happy and that lighted not only our faces but the whole night. Alkis was happy, with fake diamonds on his cheeks, going from here to there to be showered with compliments and congratulations and I was there to witness all of it; I wasn’t aware I can be that happy for another person, it was like being happy for me! Areti was sitting down, antisocial as always, but I could tell she was happy too because she was smiling too much; like a stoned koala. Little Artemis was still in shock because of the award and because people were telling her she is “at the beginning of a great career as an actor”, and she had just returned from fucking Iceland where she was picking up potatoes or something for a month, for fucking money! I mean, this is our reality. We are having shitty lives, living at the punkest and then we put on our make up and the nice yet cheap clothes we have probably stolen from H&M, and we go shine bright for those pricks in the rare case they want us as trophies and are willing to spare a dime so we can make films. It would be devastating if it wasn’t hilarious.

From left to right: Areti Papaioannou, Alkis Papastathopoulos, Artemis Tzortzoglou, yours truly and last but not least, our art director, set designer and huge production brain, Maria Dimitra-Vetta

So this is life for us now. We do things like opening businesses and getting awards and people think we are going somewhere. But, seriously, lol. We are more lost than ever! The only thing we gain every once in a while is some good times together and I think this is making the difference. Because as life proceeds and we grow older, we choose to give our time to things that matter or are useful and needed. Even if it’s drinking rotten alcohol until we become blind at BeQueer and ask someone’s instagram because we thought she would look good in a movie, five o’ clock in the morning on a Sunday that was a Saturday when we went out.

The Butterfly Effect

I have been in extremely good mood this week. I didn’t know those many days in a row full of serotonin was an option anymore. Now, that’s a great surprise that made me feel kind of proud and content.

I’m doing much work, glad that I’m still able to do so from home. I don’t pressure myself much. For example today, although I had writing stuff to do, after completing some tiring errands in the morning I decided to stop for the day and have a rest. Having planned to go out and socialize again later, I needed to chill inbetween. Very well thought, I believe. But I did it also without guilt or remorse! Another surprise, who would tell.

I’m back to helping people that need my help but I’m still struggling with their manner of asking. I would like to be appreciated, acknowledged and not manipulated or patronized into helping. But I also understand now that this is not at all personal, at least not when coming from those I hold close. I am thinking how difficult is for me to ask for things and how I only recently managed to go towards that direction.

So yeah, this friend with whom I have a pasionate relationship full of drama, envy and competition (with all of these to take place mostly in my head though), asked for help and although I became furious with the way they approached and with everything they said to me in order to convince me to help, I realised they just can’t find it in them to say “yo please can you save me, I’m drowning and I need you to help me”. Probably not because they do not want to seem weak but because they really do not know how to actually feel okay about being that. Mindblowing.

When I arrived onto that thought I noticed I wasn’t mad anymore. Neither at them nor at myself. And then I went and did the thing to help because I love that person and because I could easily make the move that forces the chocking hands of anxiety to release your throat and you can breathe again. Because I wanted my friend to be able to breathe. I didn’t do it in order for them to like me or love me back. I did it for the sake of breathing cause I know how much I need to be helped into breathing every once in a while. Mental breathing is essential and it’s not a reflex as is the physical breathing. It needs training and help and guidance. I can’t guide but I can help. At least those for whom I care.

My therapist was absolutely right and I can now write things to process my feelings. I just did it and cried a bit like a nerd, haha!

In my bedroom right now there are five tiny butterflies, from the kind that is blunt, brownish and ugly. They are not moths though, I keep my clothes with lavender. At first there was one or two of them but now they are five. Still, I like them being up on my walls and ceiling, despite of knowing they came to die. I can’t shake the feeling they want to die here, over my bed, because here is a place of transition, of transformation, a passage even and that also makes me somehow proud. So I am going to keep it that way in my head and I won’t be sad when they are gone. 🦋