BABEL: from the Biblical story to the González Iñárritu film

This is my assignment for my Great Works of Art course in Aarhus. I wrote it last December but just now remembered to share it.

Full text (.PDF)


The biblical story of the Tower of Babel hints at a perfect, common language that humans apparently used to possess which almost allowed them to reach the heavens. Using and analysing Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu’s 2006 film Babel, I shall compare the two Babels and how they deal with miscommunication. I will show that the kind of perfect language that the biblical story details is impossible to exist, because of the inevitable (mis)uses of language such as lying, and I will explain how verbal, as well as nonverbal communication, their short-comings and strengths and their portrayal, make the 2006 film a great work of art.

Danish Diaries #15: Finale (?) and some thoughts on blogging in general

More than a month has passed since I came back from Denmark. I’ve been thinking: “I’ll write a nice big post that sums it all up! I’ll say what I loved and hated about Denmark and its people, what new experiences that place gifted me with” and so on and so forth.

So far, I have had no motivation to write that post whatsoever. I just don’t feel like doing it. My experience from Denmark, as time passes, becomes more and more confused in my head. Details are slipping away. My skills in Danish, after months of understandable, no, welcome unuse, are leaving me like the alcohol leaves a boiling pot of rakomelo. I get more and more tired of talking about Denmark when people ask for the simple reason that I feel as if I have not many interesting things to say. I mean, what: “Yeah, it was kind of boring and mundane most of the time, Denmark and the Danes were a disappointment for the most part, but the Erasmus experience was nice, I met new people and made great friends” blah blah blah. I’m just feeling kind of indifferent towards the past few months of my life abroad. It was generally an uninspiring experience. The most inspiration came from the people I met that became my new international friends, the ones that gave me the great motivation that made me want to learn new languages — I’m hyped to say I’m studying German and Spanish and feeling great about it. But other than that…

A good thing it left me with, no question, is even more of a sense of being a good friend of myself, just doing my own thing and having fun. This kind of independence, welcome as it is, also has left me a little bit scared. Lots of times I prefer staying alone and doing whatever it is I like doing each day than meeting friends or going out. Aarhus had me sharpen my introvert side to a bleeding sheen, made me just accept who I am including probable and improbable manifestations of myself depending on the circumstances and people and all that. But right now, I feel… not exactly not sociable, no. I want to get to know new people, sure. It’s just that I’m in the phase of “but where are all the nice people at? They must not exist at all”. Which is of course a delusion of extraordinary magnitude and unfortunately a very common one among our generation.

Another thing that’s happening the past few weeks is that I don’t really feel like writing or talking about what I’m doing. I’m conscious that, right now, I prefer just living, honing my skills and spending my free time in various ways and just not talking about it at all. Who knows? Maybe it’s because I feel as if I have no-one to talk to? I mean, even my blog. Even if I write here, what’s the point? This, the point: I’m trying to figure it out. Why not just go out and live rather than sit here, essentially boasting? I started off this blog with the idea to “write things worth reading or do things worth writing”. I certainly have done so in the past: myself from four years ago would look at me and beam with satisfaction, proud of the things I have done and maybe written. But, right now, I feel as if what I write is not worth reading and what I do is not worth writing either. That is not to say that I’m not doing things worth doing. No, no! I think I’m now doing very worthwhile things but of questionable narrative worth. With experience comes maturity and now I have greater expectations from what a thing worth writing about might be. I want to write something inspiring; not for you, dear reader, but for me. I hope this day comes soon.

Review: Digital Media Ethics

Digital Media Ethics
Digital Media Ethics by Charles Ess

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Facebook, privacy, video games (I’m writing an assignment of VGs and morality! ^^J), pornography, piracy, copyright, definitions of identity… all parts of the greater discussion on digital media ethics, options, moral frameworks (and consequently ways of tackling them) and institutional approaches showing more or less malevolent understanding of the current cyber-landscape’s true nature. There’s not much else out there on the matter and even if there was, Digital Media Ethics would still probably take the cake as the most comprehensive book on the matter out now.

One of the good things I got from it was how it really helped me understand the differences between the frameworks that exist to tackle ethical problems. Chances are each one of us, seldom with us being conscious about it, has a combination of degrees of the following:

Utilitarianism → For the greater good (ethics quantified)
Deontology → But you promised! (positive and negative human rights)
Feminist ethics → Ethics of care and emotion (stop DUALISM cartel! Logic of both/and )
Virtue ethics → Practicing excellence as a human (can’t you use your time any better?)
Confucian ethics → We are our relationships (I’m a different onion layer with everyone)

Meta-ethical frameworks:

Ethical relativism → Oh, you know, this tribe… (Hitler = Mother Teresa)
Ethical absolutism → I hold the end-all be-all truth! (Dogmatism much?)
Ethical pluralism → There must be a single truth out there… (…but all we can see are multiple interpretations of it!)

My explanations derive from Charles Ess’s very clear and easy-to-understand writing.
Another reason I like this book, perhaps the most important, is because he was the teacher for the Digital Media Ethics course I took in Aarhus University as an exchange student last autumn. It was a pleasure to take this course but now I have to have my respective assignment ready within less than two weeks. Wish me inspiration and hard work.

View all my reviews

Danish Diaries #14: Putada

Putada 1: I moved out of my room 4 days ago. The clever thieves called Kollegiekontoret, the people behind the dorms of Århus, have included in the contract that when you pay your rent until a certain day you must leave 7 working days earlier (+ the weekend). So my contract ends on the 15th but I had to leave my room on the 6th. These 9 days are included in the rent, of course! Yes, of course! I’ve paid for something that is impossible to use by contract. Well done, Kollegiekontoret, well done.

Putada 2: Moving out means cleaning your room thoroughly, which makes the whole ”7 days!” even stranger, since at least in theory the room is perfectly ready for its next inhabitant. Anyway, I did clean my room thoroughly, took everything and moved it to Ana’s place (thanks Ana!). So the guy came and inspected the room. He had to use his almost UV flashlight to show me how ”dirty” the tiles and the basin were. Yeah. So, 30 euros deducted from my deposit because of some barely visible scale in the bathroom. Emphasis on the barely: I did clean it. It just wasn’t, you know, perfect.

Putada 3: While cleaning my room I had a big bowl of water for the rags I used to clean the surfaces with. Somehow, I’m not really sure how because I was very careful with it, water from this bowl (it must have been from this bowl! :{ ) somehow trickled on the desk and under my laptop, slowly frying it while it was still on — a little bit like the medieval recipe for goose that has it surrounded with flames and slowly being cooked alive. At first, Firefox just wasn’t responding. All of a sudden, BSOD. And that was the hard drive’s last hurrah. Its contact with water must have killed it instantly, painlessly. The rest of the laptop seems to be working fine; the water reached only the hard drive, conveniently only to destroy the pictures I had taken the past 4 months, all the great stuff I had downloaded (which, unless in the next months the Internet is transformed into the digital counterpart of Oceania, should all be easy to find again) but most importantly, my assignments for my Erasmus courses. And the deadline for one of them was yesterday. Cue RE HALL! My professors’ reaction were mild at best, Charless Ess even said something like: something necessary to convince you to be appropriately religious about backing up. I guess he’s right.

Putada 4: I bought two bottles of mead for gifts. The bottles were made of clay so they were more sensitive to shocks than normal bottles. Sure enough, both were cracked before the end of the day I bought them. Cue another, slightly more astonished RE HALL! I had to get rid of them before they had all of their mead leaked out of them, so one I already drunk with my Erasmus classmates in the farewell Sharing Is Caring dinner (I made some tzatziki, baked potatoes and the wonderful cinnamon spaghetti that got Giulia’s –the group’s token Italian girl– approval. I could have died right there). About the other botte, I don’t know. Maybe I can manage to stuff into a plastic bottle and take it home. But the bottles are so pretty and fitting of an old viking drink recipe that it really is a pity that I can’t use them as parts of the gifts themselves.

Putada 5: My digital camera, my beloved e-510, has been acting strange lately. Buttons not working, lenses malfunctioning… Electronics seem to hate me in general lately. Anyway. For the purposes of this story the putada was magnified by its empty battery. So I decided to whip out my beautiful but mostly not used OM2-n that still had maybe 12 shots left before the B&W film I’d had inside since April was ready for developing. Good shots I did take, especially from the ‘last beer’ goodbye party. I finished the film, wound it up with too much effort apparently… and opened the back of the camera only to find the film wrapped up outside of the cartridge (re hall). Paraphrasing the famous song: Light is like oxygen: you get too much, you burn your pics. As you may be able to imagine, that’s exactly what happened. 100% useless film of 36 images lost forever was subsequently used as party prop.

I’ve been also mostly sleeping in the library. It’s verty convenient cause I have to write all of my assignments again and can work without worrying about moving somewhere else to sleep. The Information & Media Studies library is extremely cool. In which other library do you get hammocks and comfy sofas whose purpose is to provide rest to the people that have worked hard all day and joy to everyone? The Danish library culture will be one of the things I’ll look back to the most fondly…

Danish Diaries #13

Today is the first day of advent. In four weeks time it’s Christmas. One week before that, I’ll be setting my foot on Greek soil for the first time after almost five months. Party’s almost over and it really feels like it’s long past its peak. Two years ago I wrote this particular heartfelt piece. Right now, I’m feeling like I can’t wait for Christmas to come and for me to be with my loved ones again. Everything’s looking as if our lives are going to change dramatically in the next few months and in ways we can’t even predict now, much less a year or two ago… so I feel the need to be with my people right now.  That will necessarily mean leaving my newly-found loved ones behind over here, but my approach to such inevitable small tragedies of life can be best summarised with a “bring on the pain”. I am confident that things will take their course the only way they can…

Now I will detail such an interesting topic as the weather. The weather’s broken its month-long hiatus of just plain meh of cloudy, rainless days with sheets of rain and wind that’s blowing all of the orange leaves that had gathered in piles everywhere, turning them into forced immigrants riding towards the unknown. It’s been definitely a pretty sight. Very happy that the Danish weather finally decided to prove the wilder side of its infamy. I do not think I will see snow before I leave, though — believe it or not, Danish winters are considered ‘mild’.

Jul is coming and hyggelighed is shooting through the roofs. People getting Christmas sweets, doing their Christmas shopping starting from early November *silent sigh* Then, the quaint little Christmas bazaar in the center of Aarhus is closed by 6pm (and it’s been 2 hours of darkness already), making the Christmas wine very eloquently called Gløgg unavailable to the thirsty crowds.  What can I say? This place is boring. The only fun people seem to be having is by mindlessly consuming tons of alcohol to at least make their mind-numbingly boring Fredagsbar entertainment a tiny bit more interesting. Danish people are like a bunch of spoiled children. They’re actually more like a society of sheltered people that avoid to look at the world without some kind of capitalist-socialist rose-tinted glasses (if you’re thinking that it’s a travesty to even think that capitalism and socialism could ever walk hand-in-hand down Utopia Lane, just visit Denmark and all should become crystal clear) Its clockwork social system seems to be breeding generations of people that cannot think for themselves if their life depended on it. Maybe its a common trait between people, that… But definitely, if populations from other corners of the world share this trait with the Danes, at least the Danes are the ones that come off as the ones with the better end of the stick. They are the happiest people in the world after all…

Could Denmark be an example of what would happen to a country and a population if all its problems were magically solved? Would it all come to a grinding halt out of a sheer lack of important stuff to worry about, people being very happy leading perfectly normal, predictable and passionless lives? It does seem to me that one of the common characteristics between people of the ‘First World‘ –pardon my anachronistic geopolitical categorisation, calling rich countries ‘Western’ seems just as uninspiring– is that we all seem to invent our problems, no matter if our existing problems, big or small, are affecting our happiness or not.

That is a confusing thought. I shall leave it aside.

Where was I? Ah, yes. Too afraid of foreigners, too afraid of standing out, they are hiding deep complexes behind their feel-good, relaxed appearances, against even their own larger and frankly much more interesting Nordic relatives.

OK, enough with cultural generalisations. My relativist side is painfully screaming in protest to all the above. I would hate to do what everybody seems to be doing with Greece right now; that is branding millions of people with a single stamp. Oh, oops, hehe.

Maybe I’m just sour cause I have no Danish friends to invite me over for a hyggelig board game evening… :’e

Most of my days consist of learning Spanish, enjoying hygge alone or with my predominantly Spanish-speaking friends in various altered states (yes, natural endorphins and caffeine counts! Does caffeine withdrawal onset also count as an altered state?), obsessing with Skyward Sword like a well-behaved Pavlov’s human (the highly behaviourist principle in work here is: “we want what we can’t have”. Beware of your hardware flaws and you can probably do much better than most of us out there), writing my final assignments for Digital Media Ethics and Great Works of Art or trying to at least find a good subject for both that will balance between “I already know a lot about this, I can write this stuff down!”,  “I want to learn something new, research, research!” and “I like this topic enough I will actually choose it over all the other possibilities and give it the honour of being my subject of preference for this course”. I’m listening to Grace For Drowning a lot, watching many good films the past few days and just finished Peep Show. What a great britcom it is!

Yet, I realise that once all here is said and done, I will regret not being able to use my last days here in a more creative or… Danish way. I wish I had ideas, I really do. But the spirit of Denmark has engulfed me entirely. Now excuse me: I must continue procrastinating and not doing my in Skjoldhøj Autumn cleaning, hoping that if Ι pretend it’s not there it will magically go away οr I will vacate the room before needing to do the general cleaning, having the perfect excuse… Urgh…


Danish Diaries #12 + Quotes ~ Αποφθέγματα IX

Τι κάνεις όταν οι συγκάτοικοι σου είναι τόσο βλάκες που πετάνε τις παγίδες που έχεις φτιάξει για τα μυγάκια επειδή βλέπουν πολλά μυγάκια μαζεμένα κοντά της και νομίζουν ότι αυτή είναι η αιτία του προβλήματος; Τι κάνεις όταν οι συγκάτοικοι σου είναι τόσο μυγιάγκιχτοι (έπρεπε να την γκουγκλάρω αυτή την λέξη για την ορθογραφία) που πετάνε στα σκουπίδια τις επιφάνειες που κόβεις τα λαχανικά επειδή «είναι βρώμικες» αλλά δεν μπαίνουν καν στον κόπο να βρουν καινούργιες; Τι κάνεις όταν το κτίριο έχει δύο κούπες  για δώδεκα ανθρώπους, όλες κι όλες, και εξαφανίζονται και οι δύο, μαζί τελικά με όλα τα μαχαιροπήρουνα, τα πιάτα κτλ (και πίνεις τον καφέ σου στο μονόλιτρο ποτήρι μπύρας που καβάτζωσες από το Οktoberfsest); Α ναι μωρέέέ, αφού όλοι έχουν τα δικά τους, γιατί να υπάρχουν τα κοινόχρηστα; Αν όλοι είχαν τα δικά τους, δεν θα καρπωνόταν κάποιος τα μαχαιροπήρουνα αποκλειστικά για την παρτάρα του! Καταλήγω όλο και περισσότερο ότι οι Δανοί είναι ένα έθνος κακομαθημένων. Αλλά συνέβη κάτι που με έκανε να αναρωτηθώ…

Η Αμελί είναι η μισο-Γερμανιδα μισο-Ελληνίδα κοπέλα με την οποία κάνω μαθήματα Γερμανικών εδώ. Ως αντάλλαγμα της μαθαίνω τα Ελληνικά που ποτέ δεν έμαθε. Καταλαβαίνετε, έχουμε περίπου τις ίδιες δικαιολογίες που δεν ξέρουμε την γλώσσα που όλοι μας τα πρήζουν ότι θα έπρεπε να ξέρουμε εδώ και χρόνια. Μια μέρα, η Αμελί με το μπόιφρεντ με κάλεσαν να πάω μαζί τους για μπάνιο στην θάλασσα και στην σάουνα μετά. Είναι μια αγαπημένη τους συνήθεια, κλασική Δανέζικη-βικινγκ κατάσταση: λίγα δευτερόλεπτα στα παγωμένα νερά, τροχάδειν μέχρι την σάουνα, σούπερ-ίδρωμα μέσα στην σάουνα, βουτιά στα παγωμένα νερά για να δροσιστεί το κοκκαλάκι μας, τρέξιμο ξανά μέχρι την σάουνα για να ζεσταθεί το κοκκαλάκι μας κοκ. Και όλα αυτά γυμνοί, τσιτσίδι, άντρες και γυναίκες μαζί.

Η ιδέα μου φαινόταν καλή, αν εξαιρέσετε το γεγονός ότι δεν θυμάμαι ποτέ να είχα βουτήξει στην θάλασσα εκτός καλοκαιριού, πόσο μάλλον στην Βαλτική τον Νοέμβριο. Ένα αυτό. Το άλλο ήταν ότι η ιδέα του να είμαι τσιτσίδι με αρκετά άλλα άτομα, μερικα εξ αυτών φιλικά, ήταν μεν ενδιαφέρουσα αλλά ασυνήθιστη και λίγο τρομακτική. Στην μέση έμπαιναν ντροπές κτλ, από τα συναισθήματα που δεν συμφωνείς λογικά μαζί τους αλλά βασίζονται σε κάτι άλλο, όχι τόσο βασικό όσο το ερπετικό ένστικτο αλλά ούτε και στο ίδιο επίπεδο με τα πιστεύω σου, κάτι άλλο που βρίσκεται κάπου ανάμεσα τους, ίσως οι ίδιες κοινωνικές επιταγές που μας αναγκάζουν στα κρυφά να μας ενδιαφέρει τι θα πουν για μας οι άλλοι, που στα μουλωχτά και χωρίς να τις ρωτήσει κανείς, γίνονται από την μικρή τρυφερή μας ηλικία μέρος της υποσυνείδητης προσωπικότητας μας.

Τελικά η μέρα ήρθε, η Αμελί με κάλεσε να πάω μαζί της και με τον Πάτρικ (όχι τον γνωστό) στην «οργανωμένη παραλία» του Århus, Den Permanente. Η μέρα φαινόταν περίφημη: τα ίδια σύννεφα και κρύο που δεν έχουν φύγει από την πόλη το τελευταίο δεκαήμερο και οι ντροπές να παραμένουν ανέγγιχτες (γιατί πάντα νομίζουμε ότι σε έναν μήνα ξαφνικά θα θέλουμε να κάνουμε κάτι το οποίο τώρα δεν θέλουμε; Ποτέ δεν δουλεύει έτσι δυστυχώς, αλλά με αυτή την λογική δουλεύει το σύστημα των 60 άτοκων δόσεων φαντάζομαι) Ήρθε και η Άνα μαζί γιατί μου είχε πει από καιρό ότι ήθελε να κάνει μπάνιο στην κρύα θάλασσα — αν και σίγουρα είχε παγώσει πολύ περισσότερο από μένα στην ιδέα ότι θα έπρεπε να αποχωριστεί τα ρούχα της μπροστά σε κόσμο (και σε μένα).

Λοιπόν, το δοκιμάσαμε. Η θερμοκρασία της θάλασσας ήταν γύρω στους 10 βαθμούς, πολύς αέρας και κύματα, στο βάθος το λιμάνι της πόλης να φωτίζει τα σύννεφα του ουρανού του νότου πορτοκαλί (ναι ήταν νύχτα). Ένας-ένας πέσαμε στην θάλασσα για 7-8 δευτερόλεπτα το πολύ, και μετά γραμμή για την σάουνα. Δεν ήταν όσο φοβερό όσο περίμενα, κρύα ντους με έχουν τρομάξει πολύ περισσότερο στο παρελθόν. Μόλις έβγαλα και το τελευταίο ίχνος υφάσματος από πάνω μου, όλα ήταν τόσο… ΟΚ. Μπαίνοντας στην σάουνα και βλέποντας άλλα 15 άτομα με κάθε είδος σώματος να ιδρώνουν κάθοντας στις πετσέτες τους, μου φάνηκε τόσο συναρπαστική βλακεία η ιδέα του να ντρέπεσαι το σώμα σου… Υπήρχε ένα πολύ ευχάριστο κλίμα μεταξύ όλων. Μικροί και μεγάλοι, άντρες και γυναίκες κουβέντιαζαν με τους διπλανούς τους περί θερμών ανέμων και ψυχρών υδάτων. Η θερμοκρασία έφτασε τους 93 βαθμούς αφού έριξα λίγο νερό στα κάρβουνα που έχουν για να κάνουν την σάουνα… σάουνα. Όταν η ζέστη έγινε αβάσταχτη για την παρέα, πέσαμε όλοι πίσω στην θάλασσα όπου αυτή την φορά ήταν λίγο καλύτερα τα πράγματα –η ζέστη είχε φτάσει στα κόκκαλα, όπως είπε η Αμελί– και αμέσως πήγαμε σε άλλη σάουνα αυτή την φορά, μια λίγο λιγότερο καυτή και μικρότερη, μόνο με έναν τυπά πενηντάρη να αράζει, και σκοτεινή, την φώτιζαν μόνο 3-4 χαμηλές λάμπες. Αυτό το μέρος ήταν ο ορισμός του hyggelig (αυτό το μέρος και το άλλο με τον χαμηλό φωτισμό στην είσοδο της λέσχης, όπου μπορείς να κάτσεις, να φτιάξεις τσάι και να μαγειρέψεις πριν ή μετά το… μπάνιο σου).

Το μόνο κακό της ιστορίας ήταν ότι όταν γυρίσαμε στα ρούχα μας, ανακάλυψα την τσάντα μου με το πορτοφόλι μου στην λάθος θέση. Κάποιος με έκλεψε όσο λείπαμε. Διάλεξε μόνο την δική μου τσάντα και πήρε από το πορτοφόλι μου τα χρήματα (25 ευρώ, 100 Δανέζικες κορώνες περίπου, ένα τσέχικο και ένα σκωτσέζικο χαρτονόμισμα, νομίσματα κυρίως από την Σουηδία και την Νορβηγία — ναι ρε μου αρέσει να κουβαλάω ξένο συνάλλαγμα, πρόβλημα;!) Με έχουν κλέψει τρεις φορές ήδη στην Δανία μέσα σε 4 μήνες. Αυτή την φορά δεν έφταιγα εγώ βέβαια… Εκτός από τα χρήματα, δεν έλειπε τίποτα άλλο από το πορτοφόλι. Δεν με στενοχώρησε ιδιαίτερα, φοβόμουν ότι θα υπερσκίαζε την εμπειρία της βραδιάς αλλά δεν τα κατάφερε. Ακόμα και τώρα μου φαίνεται ονειρική, σουρεαλιστική η αίσθηση. Το σπάσιμο της «μαζικής συναινετικής ψευδαίσθησης» που αποκαλούμε πραγματικότητα είναι πάντα ισχυρότατο για μένα… Μπορεί οι Δανοί να έχουν τις ντροπές τους και τις περίεργες συνήθειες τους αλλά όταν έχουν στην κουλτούρα τους κάτι τέτοιο μπορώ μόνο να βγάλω το καπέλο. Γενικά οι Δανοί στα θέματα σώμα/σεξουαλικότητα είναι πολύ, ΠΟΛΥ χαλαροί…

Vikingekluben Jomsborg

If we all stood up, took off our clothes and confessed our sins, everybody would laugh at the lack of originality on both accounts.

Αν όλοι σηκωνόμασταν, βγάζαμε τα ρούχα μας και εξομολογούμασταν τις αμαρτίες μας, θα βάζαμε όλοι τα γέλια με την έλλειψη πρωτοτυπίας και στις δύο περιπτώσεις.


Highlights of Great Works of Art student presentations

What colleagues have presented so far in this course that I have loved:

Michael Kvium:



Alfons Maria Mucha (yes, this is the guy that made the Four Seasons hung on the walls of To Ναυάγιο in Mytilini)

Poul Anker Bech (surreal realism)

Randers Kunstmuseum by Liselotte Randers Kunstmuseum by Liselotte

Ron Mueck

Boy (this one’s in ARoS museum in Århus)                 Α Girl

From 2008 Latvian Song and Dance Festival. I expect two of the people who might be reading this to remember this sacred moment…