Saturday, October 31, 2009

The sly charm of the ordinary

Today nothing happened. Nobody died, no building burnt down, nobody planted a bomb. In fact it was a perfectly normal day and I am so grateful for that. Strange as it may seems I am enjoying the benefits of the banal. Today me and Lydia cooked, chatted and just hung out together, nothing more, nothing less.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Q: And children? A: And children.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

World March for Peace and Non-Violence reaches Greece

The World March which began in New Zealand on October 2, 2009, the anniversary of Gandhi’s birth, entered the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki as part of it's 90 day journey that will eventually include all five continents. Thessaloniki, Greece. 29/10/2009.

The march is scheduled to conclude in Punta de Vacas, Aconcagua, Argentina on January 2, 2010.

The event has been organised by “World Without Wars,” - an international organization launched by the Humanist Movement - that has been working for 15 years in the fields of pacifism and non-violence. The aim of the marchers is to oppose violence in all its forms and promote environmental awareness.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Lydia's first Oxi day parade

Oxi day parade

Today Greece celebrated Oxi day, when the Greek dictator, Ioannis Metaxas refused to allow Italian army free access to the country. As a result the country entered the Second World War on the side of the allies and inflicted a serious defeat on Mussolini's forces. It is a glorious chapter in modern Greek history, one which prompted Winston Churchill to say,

"We will not say thereafter that the Greeks fight like heroes, but heroes fight like the Greeks!"

So why is it that my daughter's participation in today's celebration filled my dread and anger? As you can see from the picture, for her it was a wonderful, if nerve wrecking event, a right of passage that showed that she too was growing up. I kept my doubts to myself as anything else would have been churlish. She was with her classmates, goofing off, having the time of her life. What could I possibly have against that?

I loathe the way in which young children are militarised,taught to march and keep time like soldiers. Such demonstrations go against every single principle of education I believe in ,a negation of all I hold dear. My daughter has been learning songs and poems that dredge up past hatreds, hardly a fitting preparation for a united Europe. It sickens me to hear the rubbish that is being pumped into kid's heads in the name of patriotism.

Then again, if students don't learn who to hate in school what kind of education system are we paying for?

A. A. Gill's Planet of the Apes

It's a sad, sad day when a British upper class twit cannot massacre the animal of his choice without being criticised. I mean what did we have an empire for?

"Animal welfare groups voiced outrage today after the restaurant critic AA Gill said he shot a baboon on safari "to get a sense of what it might be like to kill."

The Olympic flame reaches Thessaloniki, Greece

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Now I know what death tastes like

Where I grew up people didn't die. I was lucky enough to be born and raised in the richer part of northern Europe where people don't die. Instead they pass away, go to a better place, the reality of their situation camouflaged by an army of doctors, nurses and other technicians, well versed in the language of evasion and euphemism. No, we don't die, we're too prosperous, wealthy, busy and successful. Death is not an option.

I have been trying to come to terms with what happened yesterday, when I saw a man die despite every effort I made. I woke up this morning the face of the man looking at me, blue black tongue, eyes staring without focus. I can still smell his breathe, taste his last meal, no matter how many times I brush my teeth, no matter how much I spit. A man who I tried to revive died in a pool of his own piss and vomit next to a set of traffic lights, surrounded by a group of helpless rubber neckers giving hopeless advice.

No, he belonged to the portion of the planet who do die, not cushioned by polite analogies and the like.

Last night I went out to see my friends Orhan and Eleni, I couldn't face this all alone, I decided to go out where there was life, friends, laughter, anything but death. I was OK until I saw a bunch of carrots in Eleni's kitchen. Carrots of all things, death tastes of carrots. At that point I lost it, and all that I had seen just flooded back in a tidal wave of fear, horror, disgust and guilt. It smashed into me like a freight train and slammed me back down into the chair I had just been sitting in. Thankfully I had my friends to support me in this moment of terror and grief.

Demand the impossible before it's too late

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Today a man died in my arms. There was nothing I could do.

Today a man died in my arms. There was nothing I could do. Returning home with Lydia I came across a man lying on the ground, face down on the pavement turning blue. Standing above him some young guy frantically trying to get through to the emergency services, pacing around desperately looking for someone to take charge.

For my sins that person turned out to be me. I frantically tried to recall my school first aid lessons, as flashbacks from ER crossed my mind. He wasn't breathing, I couldn't find a pulse and his eyes were open. I will never forget those eyes, an empty promise that this was just a dream, a bad dose of unwanted reality. I gave him the kiss of life while pounding on his chest from time to time. The eyes never closed.

Then the ambulance arrived and the crew went about their job, administering artificial respiration, electric shocks , IV's to no avail. He died there for no apparent reason, his shopping strewn around him.

Stop terrorism - Stop the war in Afghanistan

"Soldiers and military families will be among those joining a Stop the War Coalition march in London later against UK military operations in Afghanistan.

Organisers say they hope thousands of people will take part in the march - the first since the war began in 2001.

It will be led by L/Cpl Joe Glenton, who is facing a court martial for refusing to return to Afghanistan.

The government said Afghanistan must become "stable and secure" before Nato forces could pull out. "


Friday, October 23, 2009

Thessaloniki sunset

Thessaloniki sunset, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Greek law and order minister says police out of control

Greek police have been accused of heavy handedness and over - reaction after a raid on a bookshop in central Athens following a book reading by the author Dimitris Papachristos. Shortly after the reading approximately 50 masked riot police surrounded the Floral bookshop in the Exarchia district and arrested two teenagers inside prompting protests by members of the audience, including the author and journalists, Sotiris Damatapoulos, reporter with the Greek state broadcaster ERT and Stelios Elliniadis, radio presenter who demanded to know why the officers were masked and had covered their ID numbers. As a result all three were also arrested.

On hearing of the event head of the newly formed Ministry for the Protection of the Citizen, Michalis Chrysohoidis demanded that the release of those being held in the central Athens police station and according to the TVXS independent news service said that the officers were out of control.

Last night's raid followed clashes between police and local youths in the area in which stones and bottles were thrown. However, many left wing groups have accused the police of acting as an army of occupation with mass sweeps and arrests of local residents and visitors to the area.

Questions still remain over how much oversight the newly elected PASOK government can exercise upon the nation's police force which has repeatedly been condemned by the UNHCR, Amnesty International and many other European humans rights groups over its violent treatment of immigrants and supporters of opposition groups. Universities in Athens and Thessaloniki, Greece's second city were occupied this week by students protesting the death of Pakistani national, Mohammed, Kameran Atif following his detention by police in the Nikia district of Attiki.

Despite sparking off nationwide riots which cost the country billions of euros in damage and brought Athens and many other Greek cities to a halt for days on end the Greek police force seems to have learnt little from the violent December protests which followed the death of a 15 year old shot by an officer in the Exarchia.


Minister for the Protection of the Citizen, Michalis Chrysohoidis sought and received the resignation of the head of Greek police force EL. AS, Vasilis Tsiatouras this evening.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Would you buy a used car from this man?

During the recent election campaign the centre right New Democracy ran the slogan "Apofasi Eythynis" - "The Responsible Choice" and made much of the fact that they alone could be trusted with guiding the country's economy through the rough days ahead. Indeed this was virtually the only slogan to grace the thousands of billboards featuring a heavily photoshoped portrait of prime minster Costas Karamanlis that sprung up in the weeks leading up to the October 4th vote.

It seems now that the promise was made in bad faith. Despite swearing blind to Greek voters, the parliament, European Union, Eurostat, lenders and anyone else who'd listen that the country's public borrowing for 2009 wouldn't exceed 3.7% of GNP figures presented by the new PASOK administration seem to show that the figure is likely to be between 10 and 12% of GNP. A discrepancy which has prompted the EU's economy commissioner, Joaquin Almunia to order an inquiry into how the New Democracy government cooked the books on this particular deal.

The money markets less restrained by political and diplomatic considerations were not fooled by the previous government's creative accounting and so downgraded the country's credit rating to the lowest in the Eurozone, making the cost of further public borrowing even more expensive.

No wonder Karamanlis decided on a quick election despite intense opposition from within his own party. Unlike everyone else the country's leadership knew that the lid was about to blow on this financial mess and that if they didn't take the money and run soon the electoral consequences would be even more dire. The policy seems to have been lose the elections, let the opposition deal with the mess and take the blame for the austerity measures that will be imposed on Greece in return for further lending. Then when the electorate starts to lose patience present yourself as a more reasonable alternative.

A fitting tactic for an administration that managed to get itself mixed up in over 50 scandals in just two years.

Monday, October 19, 2009

King Nicolas II (the commoner formally known as Jean Sarkozy) - A chip off the old block

"L'état c'est moi - et ma famille."

"The term banana republic has been used by a couple of French friends in reaction to the news from Paris this week. They were referring to the high-handed way that France's ruler and his caste have been behaving in two or three current matters.The latest involves an astonishing act of nepotism by Nicolas Sarkozy. His barons are about to elevate Jean Sarkozy, the President's 23-year-old, undergraduate son, to a powerful and prized executive post."

Greek high school students to receive free computers

Just before the last elections the Greek government announced that it was going to pay for every student entering the first year of junior high school (gymnasio) to have a laptop. Many, including myself, dismissed the move as yet another empty election promise made by a ruling party rapidly losing popular support. It seems that I was wrong about that as the first computers make their way into the hands of students I teach.

Despite this good news I think that the move is still little more than a publicity stunt and that in order for the country to drag it's antiquated education system out of the 19th century a lot more has to be done than dump a load of cheap netbooks onto the market. While providing students with PCs is an admirable thing, the policy, like so many educational polices before it is based on garnering good publicity rather than improving fundamentals. Greece's educational system is beset by a series of deeply rooted problems which are according to international organisations such as OECD seriously affecting the country's economic performance.

While Greek academics make much of the fact that the current system is based on humanist principles rather than market forces the reality of the situation is that it is a deeply unequal process whereby the the children of the poor are systematically weeded out due to the ever increasing need for pupils to undergo expensive extra tuition. A process which can start as young as seven years old and continue up to postgraduate level. The outcome is that huge amounts of talent are being ignored and wasted.

Μάθε καλά τα SOS για τις εξετάσεις. Here are your crib notes for the test.

The resulting educational system is one in which only those with well off parents are able to bear the financial burden of combating the deficiencies of the state system with it's lack of funding and dispirited teachers. If this was not indictment enough the ridiculously swollen curriculum means that students in the final classes of high school have to put in 100 hour weeks for years on end, desperately trying to cram for exams which reward those who can most accurately reproduce the content of substandard text books, often decades out of date.

Even pupils as young as 11 are expected to plough through 25-30 text books in the course of their 30 week school year. Of course only a small proportion of this can be effectively assimilated in terms of real knowledge and hence students, parents and teacher collaborate in an expensive, time consuming charade in which good grades and cramming are substituted for learning and comprehension. It is a culture which promotes learning by heart, shortcuts (SOS as they are known in Greek) and crib notes (skonakia). All of which are rational reactions to the irrational demands of an overblown curriculum.

Of course in such a system creativity, self-expressions and comprehension are just luxuries which are quickly discarded by student and teacher alike in favour of getting better grades in yet more tests.

It would be nice to think that such huge outlays of times, money and effort were producing a generation of young Greeks who have a sound grasp of the basics, who were able to hold their own against anyone in the world in terms of educational prowess. Unfortunately, according to the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) organisation which measures the educational attainment of 15 year olds around the world this is not the case. In most indicators Greek students fare far worse than their European counterparts in terms of their linguistic, mathematical and scientific knowledge.

In such a sclerotic system I'm not sure how the presence of computers is going to help. Has any provision been made for the inclusion of material other than that in the coursebooks? Have teachers been trained in the use of PCs? What about internet connections? Has provision been made for wi-fi access? Are there even enough plugs to charge 20 to 30 netbooks?

The answer to all these questions is a deathly silence which just about sums what will happen in terms of actual classroom practice. For the main part teachers unfamiliar with computers will ignore them, the curriculum will continue to assess only that which is book based and the kids will stop lugging around their laptops knowing that their chances of using them are next to nil.

So am I dispirited by this? Strangely enough no. The fact that a whole generation of kids are going to be using this technology gives me hope as they will become familiar with it whatever the schools say or do. In addition for me as a language teacher it means that more and more of what I do in my English lessons can use the possibilities of the web.

In a sense this is hidden hope upon which OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) project is based on, not that the presence of laptops will be widely utilised by our current hyper conservative educational systems but rather that by showing young learners that there are other sources of knowledge, other ways of leaning apart from the traditional academic routes a demand will be created for another kind of education in which text, teacher and tests do not dominate. One in which the often medieval understanding of what a classroom is will be gradually eroded and learning techniques based on unlimited access to knowledge replace those based on dealing with scarcity.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Kicking back over the weekend - Well not quite.

Quite the weekend. Yesterday me and Lydia followed a plume of smoke which dominated the east side of the city and found its source, a blazing apartment in the Ambelokopi district of Thessaloniki. Later on while shopping I saw a screaming child being rushed to an ambulance outside the supermarket where I had stopped. Today as we were eating an earthquake rattled the apartment but caused no damage. Turns out it was just a 3.4 one a few kilometres west of the city.

Home fire in Ambelokopi, Thessaloniki

Home fire in Ambelokopi, Thessaloniki

Saturday, October 17, 2009

50th anniversary of the official end of the Greek civil war

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the official end of the Greek civil war. As the Second World War came to an end other conflicts started to erupt across the Balkans including the simmering disagreements between the different factions who had fought against Nazi occupation of the country. Greece quickly turned out to be the first hot spot in what was later to be called the Cold War and and so endured four more years of bitter fighting which pitted neighbour against neighbour, brother against brother.

The effects of that war still reverberate through Greek society influencing its politics, views on the world and much of how people see themselves and their position in society, albeit on a subliminal level.

Greek director Pantelis Voulgourakis's movie, Psychi Vathia comes out in the cinemas here in Greece this week.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Philip Tsiaris - photographer

"Philip Tsiaras is an international artist of Greek origin who lives and works in New York City. He has had more than 75 one-person exhibitions. He has been the recipient of many national prizes including: The American Academy Award for Poetry, the Thomas Watson Fellowship, two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and nomination for the Blickle Stiftung Photography Prize, Germany. His works are widely collected in prominent museums and private collections, including the Metropolitan Museum, New York. Fifteen books and catalogues are attributed to his work."

A retrospective of his work is currently on display in the Thessaloniki Museum of Photography.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Trafigura / Carter - Ruck enter the Oxford English Dictionary

The next few months will prove to be an interesting time as far as oil trading company Trifigura and the law firm Carter-Ruck are concerned. After their failed attempt to gag the Guardian from reporting the proceedings of the British parliament, a legal action unprecedented in modern UK legal history, it seems that the Oxford English Dictionary is likely to have a number of new entries to next year's edition. Let me humbly suggest a couple of examples;

Main Entry: 1 Cluster - ruck
Pronunciation: \ˈkləs-tər - ˈrək\
Function: noun
Usage: often attributive
Etymology: derived from legal firm of Peter Cluster - Ruck
Date: 2009

1 : a collision of several unfortunate incidents happening all at once

2 : awful legal advice leading to public ridicule.

RUBAR , adj

Main Entry: 1Ru-bar
Pronunciation: \"ru-bər\
Function: adjective
Usage: often attributive
Etymology: Rucked Up Beyond All Recognition. Prob derivative FUBAR.
Date: 2009

1 : a situation caused by excessive use of legal measures in order to obtain a dubious result which reflects badly on those involved.

2 : lack of judgement leading to PR disaster.

Trafigurated, adj

Main Entry: 1 tra-fi-gu-rat-ed
Pronunciation: \ˈtra - fi - grə - atəd\
Function: adjective
Usage: derogatory
Etymology: derived from oil trading company Trifigura
Date: 2009

1 : to be publicly held to ridicule due to overweening arrogance

2 : to be in dire straits as a result of previous choices.

Carter - Ruck gag Guardian

Trafigura is proud to sponser the All New Guardian

"Today's published Commons order papers contain a question to be answered by a minister later this week. The Guardian is prevented from identifying the MP who has asked the question, what the question is, which minister might answer it, or where the question is to be found.

The Guardian is also forbidden from telling its readers why the paper is prevented – for the first time in memory – from reporting parliament. Legal obstacles, which cannot be identified, involve proceedings, which cannot be mentioned, on behalf of a client who must remain secret.

The only fact the Guardian can report is that the case involves the London solicitors Carter-Ruck, who specialise in suing the media for clients, who include individuals or global corporations."

Check out Twitter which is doing brisk business on the #trafigura trend.

Guardian gagging order backfires on Trafigura

The Streisand effect is when in trying to ban something you, in fact amplify it and bring it, inadvertently to a wider audience. Named after singer Barbra Streisand it is of course is not a new tactic as record companies from the 70's knew. Getting a record banned on radio or TV was great for business and often guaranteed top 10 sales.

In the latest example of the phenomenon is brought to us by Trafigura, an oil trading company based in London which has been trying to gag media coverage worldwide of illegal toxic waste dumping in the Ivory Coast. Despite repeated claims by the company that the waste was completely harmless Trafigura agreed to pay $100 million to 31,000 victims affected by exposure to toxic oil residues dumped just outside the country's capital, Abidjan. Since then Trafigura through it's legal representatives, Carter-Ruck has been waging a campaign across the globe to stop exposure of the incident. This has included law to gag media outlets in the UK, US, Norway and Holland. The latest round has included action against the Guardian newspaper which as it says in today's edition,

"Today's published Commons order papers contain a question to be answered by a minister later this week. The Guardian is prevented from identifying the MP who has asked the question, what the question is, which minister might answer it, or where the question is to be found.

The Guardian is also forbidden from telling its readers why the paper is prevented – for the first time in memory – from reporting parliament. Legal obstacles, which cannot be identified, involve proceedings, which cannot be mentioned, on behalf of a client who must remain secret.

The only fact the Guardian can report is that the case involves the London solicitors Carter-Ruck, who specialise in suing the media for clients, who include individuals or global corporations."

If Trafigura and Carter-Ruck hope to keep the lid on this story then I think they have sadly underestimated the new media landscape that the internet is in the process of creating. Such attempts to bury a story now produce exactly the opposite results as Trafigure already knows, finding itself at the centre of a web based maelstrom. Whatever happens in courts today the deaths and injuries caused by the toxic waste in landfills in Abidjan is likely to fill front pages for days to come.

In the time it took to write this artilce over 5000 new tweets tagged #trafigura have appeared on Twitter and has become one of the top trending topics on the micro-blogging service.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Lydia playing

Lydia playing, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

Friday, October 09, 2009


Thessaloniki, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

My friend is dead

Just after midnight on Sunday my friend, Chris finally succumb to the effects of a failing liver. After slipping into a coma last week he died without gaining consciousness while in hospital in London. I know this because I heard the words from a friend on the phone, saw the SMS he'd been sent and read the messages on Facebook.

Of course, none of this is true, it can't be true. I spent most of yesterday deciding that all this was just an electronic illusion, a meta - data mix up. I was sure that he was not in a coma but rather had his nose in a Penguin classic, preferably something from one of the classical ancient Roman writers, or perhaps he had decided to wade through the third volume of Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. He can't be dead, he's no older than me. It's just a mix up, somebody's idea of a prank.

Denial has its charms, it allows you to operate even in the face of the most terrible of news, to function even when your heart wants to break. So my friend isn't entombed in frozen vault in an antiseptic, lifeless room, he's flirting with some nurse, chatting away to her in that easy, charming way that women found so endearing, which I so envied him for.

While I am angry that such a rich life has been cut short I am trying to give meaning to what has happened and remember the person I was proud to call a friend for almost two decades, who packed more into his time on the planet than a dozen men who measure their lives in coffee spoons. I am sure he'd recognise the literary reference, just as I''m sure he'd find some witty way to dismiss its source.

Monday, October 05, 2009

New Greek PM continues family tradition

Γιώργος Παπανδρέου - Giorgos Papandreou

With just half the vote counted US president, Barack Obama became the first world leader to congratulate Giorgos Papandreou on his landslide victory in Greece's national elections yesterday.

In many respects the two have much in common, as much in terms of their their political outlook as their personal background. Both were born outside the mother country to parents of mixed heritage and grew up in foreign cultures. However, whereas Obama was the very epitome of a political outsider, Giorgos Papandreou's family background meant that he was, from the beginning given insider status as the son and grandson of previous Greek prime ministers, Andreas and Giorgos Papandreou.

Born in Minnesota in 1952 to socialist firebrand Andreas Papandreou and his American born wife Margaret Chant, Greece's newest prime minister followed his father's career as it took the family from America to Sweden and subsequently Greece. Like his American counterpart, Papandreou's international outlook and childhood has garnered both admiration and criticism at home where right wing critics are quick to point out any deficiencies in his Greek language skills as evidence that Papandreou is not 100% Greek.

As leader of the left of centre PASOK party which now has a comfortable majority in parliament Papandreou has announced a 100 day action plan to drag Greece's ailing economy out of recession by increasing public spending.

Critics, however, claim the country's massive public debt and crippling interest payment mean that money for such a strategy does not exist and the government will be forced to implement an austerity package to bring down public borrowing to 3% of GNP from its present 8% high.

In addition a widespread culture of corruption, lack of transparency in the state's dealings with big business, a chronically underfunded education and health system and a pension scheme on the verge of collapse means that Papandreou will not be short of difficult choices for the foreseeable future.

For more pictures check out my Demotix page.

PASOK victory rally

PASOK victory rally, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

With just over half the vote counted Greece's ruling conservatives, New Democracy seem to have suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the opposition socialist, PASOK party which has won the majority of the 300 seats in the country's parliament.

Prime minister Costas Karamanlis announced his decision to stand down as the leader of New Democracy in the wake of the elections results.

It appears that the Greek electorate have decided to lost faith in the present government whoσε re-election in 2007 was quickly followed by a series of dozens of corruption and influence peddling scandals, many involving top government officials. In addition the riots which rocked Athens and many other cities following the death of a 15 year old at the hands the police also damaged Karamanlis's public image.

However, the death knell for New Democracy was sounded by the recent forest fires which destroyed much of the area around Athens, almost two years to the day after the previous round of fires which cost the lives of 84 Greeks.

US president Barack Obama was the first foreign leader to congratulate head of PASOK, Giorgos Papandreou on his election as the country's next prime minister.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Οικολογόγοι Πράσινοι - Greece's Ecogreens party rally in Thessaloniki

Taken during the Ecogreens' party parliamentary campaign rally in Thessaloniki last night.

New Democracy election rally - Thessaloniki 2009

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Greek neo nazis given prime time TV slot

As I speak ET1 the Greek equivalent of BBC1 is showing a speech by members of the neo - nazi Crysi Aygi (Golden Dawn) party. So far the speaker as announced an economic program that comes right out of Mein Kampf, celled for the ethnic cleansing of the northern province of Thrace and claimed that the only people who can call themselves Greek are those who have a direct blood line. How on Earth is this nazi filth being broadcast on prime time TV by a state run television channel?

Chysi Aygi supporters have a rich history of violent attacks on immigrants, political opponents and anyone they suspect of opposing their twisted views. Yesterday singer, Sofia Papazoglou was attacked by their thugs for throwing away a leaflet she had been handed while at an Athens tube station. Last november American film maker, Ray Pride was beaten by Chysi Aygi members in the centre of Thessaloniki during a party rally.

As you can see this is not a group that can be trusted with even the slightest form of power. The more they get the more violent they become.

Recently the Greek government testified to the United Nations Human Rights Commission that no such groups exist in the country. Now they are promoting their sick program.

I'm a Mac, I'm a PC - Some EFL/ESL teaching ideas

Over the last few days I've been watching the series of ads Apple has put out to show the difference between Macs and PC's running Windows. The clips are short, witty and visually straight forward which got me thinking abut how I could use them in lessons.

One idea would be to compare the ads from US and UK and ask students what would need to be changed to make the spots more suitable for their own countries.

Another idea which I am currently trying out is students making their own videos using the same format but instead of talking about other pairs such football teams, sports, fashion brands etc. The format, however, would be the same i.e. 30 second clip using two people against a neutral background. Video cameras, digital cameras, mobile phones or webcams could all be used to create this. The editing could be done with Windows Movie Maker which comes as standard with every copies of Windows.

The benefits of doing this include students trying to write a script which sounds like natural spoken English, practicing speaking skills and getting instant feedback on their performance. And it's fun, by the way.

Κώστας Καραμανλής - Costas Karamanlis

New Democracy rally in Thessalonik

Last night I attended the party rally held by the ruling conservative New Democracy party in the centre of Thessaloniki. With just days to go before the national elections on Sunday Prime minister Costas Karamanlis tried to fire up the troops and claw back some of the party's crumbling support. However, even traditional safe seats such as A Thessaloniki seem to slipping from New Democracy's grasp as voters sick of the government's handling of the economy and tired of their constant stream of scandals and cock ups turn their back on them.

Karamanlis went on about the opposition PASOK party's lack of responsibility, strange for a guy who turned up over an hour late for his own gig.

Although Greek law now says that I am not allowed to publish the results of the most recent opinion polls (a piece of legislation quickly cooked up by New Democracy when its polling figures started heading south) those outlaws at the Wall Street Journal appear to have no such qualms. But you didn't hear there here, did you?

Yo! Dude. Is that you?

Yo! Dude. Is that you?, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

Greek prime minister Costas Karamanlis greets Teacher Dude after a party rally in Thessaloniki.