Monthly Archives: January 2011

Were you one of the 50,000?

If you were one of the 50,000 people across the country who signed the online petition (and made comments as well) from the Bold Progressives (Progressive Campaign Change Committee), then here are the names and comments being presented to Senator Harry Reid in Nevada:

I often wonder if all the petitions I sign with progressive groups really get through. I guess they do.

John Barry, Composer, Dies at 77

John Barry at the Royal Albert Hall (2006).

John Barry

John Barry, well known film composer, died yesterday of a heart attack in Glen Cove, N.Y.
Barry, who wrote scores for more than 100 feature films, TV films, and TV series went on to win five Oscars (the scores for “Born Free,” “The Lion in Winter,” “Out of Africa,” and “Dances with Wolves”; and best song for “Born Free”), and he was noted for composing the James Bond films. He also won four Grammys. Maybe Barry’s most memorable non-Bond score was “Midnight Cowboy.” Other credits include “Body Heat,” “The Cotton Club,” and “Chaplin.” Musically, the man was nothing if not eclectic.

Here he is in England being interviewed by Jools Holland in 2001:

Monday Morning and I’m Exhausted…

Damn Turner Classic Movies! Why do they have to show silent films at Midnight on Sunday Nights/Monday Mornings?

Louise Brooks

Last night was G. W. Pabst’s German classic “Pandora’s Box” with Louise Brooks.bThis adaptation of the Wedekind play was made in 1929 and is the film we remember Brooks for. The extreme sex-oriented history of LuLu, from her early life and murder of Dr. Schon, to her final end at the hand of Jack the Ripper in London is one of the most amazing silents and I forced myself to stay awake to watch it all.

Then, as I got ready to drop into bed (Elly and both dogs sleeping away), TCM announces that the next film up is Pabst’s 1931 “Die Dreigroshenoper” (The Threepenny Opera, by Brecht and Weill) with Lottie Lenya (at that time, Mrs. Kurt Weill) in her original role as Jenny. This was in German with English subtitles… and…as it was already 2:30 AM… I just couldn’t stay awake.

Lotte Lenya sings Pirate Jenny from Pabst’s Dreigroshenoper:

Why do they have to schedule the films I love at 2:30 in the morning?!

John Boehner Claims Spending Cuts Will Create Jobs

Here’s the beginning of a wonderful article based on the Sunday pundits in Crooks and Liars.

Give it a look, then go in and read the rest:

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Is anyone else as tired of this latest talking points by Republicans that continually goes unchallenged by the media — spending cuts are going to create jobs. John Boehner claims he’s got hundreds of economists who agree with him after Chris Wallace points out that a lot of economists don’t agree with him, but of course Wallace didn’t bother to ask him what some of their names were.
How about we fix our trade laws and quit rewarding companies for outsourcing American jobs? Heaven forbid that never seems to be part of the conversation from our politicians when the topic of jobs comes up.

Nicole: Anyone wish that Wallace the Lesser would have asked him for just one or two of the names of those “200 economists” that Boehner insisted agree with this ridiculous meme? It’s one that Rep. Robert Hurt (R-VA05) also repeated in a widely-disseminated op-ed this weekend:

As the failed trillion dollar stimulus proved, increased government spending did not create the millions of jobs promised and only added to our record-breaking deficits and over $14 trillion in debt. The new projection that this year’s deficit will reach nearly $1.5 million only reinforces the need to cut up Washington’s credit cards once and for all.

Failed stimulus? Are we in the midst of another Great Depression? No? Wasn’t that the purpose of the stimulus, to pull us back from the brink? The only reason it didn’t do better were all the stupid concessions added to get the Republicans to sign off on it. And as far as jobs are concerned, the unemployment rate is still bleak, but to ignore that the Obama administration — even with all the obstruction placed before them by the Republican Party — managed to create more jobs in 2010 than Bush did in all eight years of his term put together is fundamentally disinforming the public.

But that’s the plan for the GOP.

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John Case and I are talking about doing a weekly podcast…

…based on the Winners And Losers show we do on Friday mornings. To start with, it will probably only be a half hour presentation which we’ll put up right after the Friday show. We’ll cover our favorite subjects like poetry and theatre and politics…lots of politics… and hopefully have a few guests on and a little music.

We’re looking into the technical stuff now… but this could happen pretty soon. We’ll be promoting it on Facebook and Twitter and iTunes… and, of course, we’ll announce it on WSHC.

In China, you’re probably not going to see what’s going on in Egypt. Know why?

Governments that rule with one heavy hand are going to trickle away in the 21st Century.

Meanwhile, take a look at this piece from BoingBoing:

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At Global Voices Advocacy, Oiwan Lam has a piece up about the censoring of terms and news related to the Egypt uprising, inside China.

As our readers confirmed in comments on a previous BB post, Oiwan reports that that the word “Egypt” has been blocked from search in major social media websites, and Chinese state media outlets have been downplaying the news.
On Xinhua news‘ front page, above, Egypt news is absent but the term “Egypt New Government” (circled in green above) appears as a popular/trending term.

The filtering of search result and the blocking of search term “Egypt” in social media websites is to prevent certain interpretation of the political situation in Egypt. The scenes of Tanks moving into the city center, the confrontation between the people and the soldiers are very likely to recall Chinese people‘s memory of the June 4 incident back in 1989 and the criticism of the authoritarian government in Egypt can easily turn into a political allegory in China.

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Cartoon(s) of the Week – The House is Hard at Work…

Jim Morin in The Miami Herald:

So who are they listening to?

– and –

Steve Benson in the Arizona Republic:

And what are they saving in real dollars?

– and –

Joel Pett in the Lexington Herald-Leader:

…at least they are listening to the President…

– and –

Kevin Siers in the Charlotte Observer:

… and we get the benefits. Don’t we?

Typically American Innovator, Milton M. Levine, Died Last Week At 97…

President Obama, in his State of the Union Message, told America that it had to get back to invention and innovation… the things that made us great and that were now happening in other countries. He was talking about automobiles and machines of industry, but last week one of the true heroes of American innovation, who invented a unique product, raised a family and sent his children to school on the profits, and sold his company shortly before his death for $20 million.

Who was this great man and what was his invention? In 1956 Milton M. Levine co-created the Ant Farm with his brother-in-law, E. J. Cossman, something millions of American children have used to learn about the dynamic activities of Pogonomyrmex californicus — red ants from California — as they tunnel and create “underground” communities.

Originally selling for $1.98, Levine sold mostly through mail order the 6″ x 9″ plastic “farm” with clear plastic sides that revealed the tunneling insects. Demand was so great that a 10″ x 15″ model soon followed.

If you were a fourth grader like me who ordered the ant farm, you waited for it to come in the mail only to discover that it contained no ants. There was a coupon which you sent in led to delivery of a plastic vial with 25 worker ants inside (no Queens, which were illegal to ship over state lines). This meant that, some weeks later you had to order more ants to replace the ones that died. Or, you could dig up your own and hope you got a queen… and were likely to find a completely different breed that “didn’t get along” with the little red guys. That’s what happened to mine.

Levine sold his company, Uncle Milton Industries, in 2010 after 54 years of producing the great American product. The original sized ant farm sells today for $10.95. Commenting on what he had learned from Pogonomyrmex californicus, Levine once said:

“I found out their most amazing feat yet… They put three kids through college.”

We should all remember the way innovation can spring from almost anywhere in America. Farewell, Milton Levine… you helped make us great.

Saturday afternoon laugh…

Stolen from GottaLaff at The Political Carnival:

David Frye, Nixon impersonator, dies at 77…

With a career that shriveled up after Nixon’s resignation, David Frye was an impressionist who triumphed as the Number 1 impersonation of the then President. I loved watching him. Oh, he did other impersonations… Johnson, Bobby Kennedy and later, as he tried to revive his success, Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford.

In an Esquire interview, Frye defined his approach to Nixon:

“I do Nixon not by copying his real actions but by feeling his attitude, which is that he cannot believe that he really is president.”

Frye died on Monday in Las Vegas of a heart attack.

Following Egypt…


The protests are still going on. I’ve been looking at the Tweets coming in to Democracy Now and other places from people who are in Cairo.

It looks like there are no significant leaders in the protesters… nobody that they can build any kind of revolution on. Plus, the protestors are breaking down into two major factions: The Muslim Brotherhood and everyone else.

This from Twitter frpm an hour ago:

@sharifkouddous: Muslim Brotherhood chanting Allah Akbar. Crowd stopped them chanting louder: Muslim, Christian, we’re all Egyptian

Perhaps someone will rise out of the second group… I don’t know, but I’ll keep looking.

Just picked this up by PZ Myers at his great Pharyngula blog…

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Holy crap, Texas, how can you stand your governor?

Governor Rick Perry has been talking about education.

Well, there is a lot of fat to cut from our public schools, especially those in our biggest urban areas like Houston and Dallas. I am

Texas Governor Rick Perry
Texas Governor Rick Perry

concerned that some of the highly diverse Magnet public schools in this city are becoming hotbeds for liberalism. Do we really need free school bus service, Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Asian-Pacific Heritage Month, ESL, special needs and enrichment programs like music, art or math Olympiad? I think we should get back to the basics of the three Rs, reading writing and arithmetic. I mean when is the last time a 6th grade science fair project yielded a cure for a disease?

There are strange, wild, guttural sounds spilling from my lips right now; I dare not transcribe them here lest innocents repeat them, summoning vindictive elder gods to rend their sanity. I’m a trained professional in coping with madness, others may not be.

In this same talk, he also babbles about making private Christian schools more affordable. Kill public education, promote religion instead. That’s his position.When’s the insurrection? Or at least the repeal? Don’t Texans have any self-respect?

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And I thought Rick Santorum was the Stupidest Governor in America.
Now I see it is a Republican disease that infects both of them.

Charlie Callas has died at 83

One of my favorite 60s and 70s comedians, Charlie Callas has died in Las Vegas at 83. A regular television guest on Carson, Merv Griffen, Ed Sullivan and Gleason, Charlie had a face that could be twisted into rubbery responses to any concept.

Callas made movies for Mel Brooks, was roasted by Dean Martin and did a little of everything in the comedy field.

According to Tony Belmont, executive director of the National Comedy Hall of Fame in St. Petersburg, Fla.:

“There were two things he could do that made his career. He could think very fast on his feet, and he had an unbelievable number of sounds that he made with his voice.”

New White House Press Secretary Announced.

Jay Carney, who is currently Vice President Biden’s Communications Director, has just been appointed to the White House Press Secretary Position, replacing Robert Gibbs.

What makes Sam Brownback the Stupidest Governor in America…

Why, eliminating its State Arts Commission in his proposed budget… and, at the same time, eliminating countless jobs and over a million dollars in matching grants from outside of his state.

This article on “Artless Sam” from HuffPo:

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"Artless Sam" Brownback

Kansans suffered a painful embarrassment several years ago when a ruthlessly conservative school board rewrote its definition of science, paving the way for “intelligent design” to be taught alongside evolution in public schools. The decision since has been reversed, and sensible Kansans’ facial muscles only recently recovered from their collective cringe.

Now, though, they wince at a different sort of political horror: Newly elected governor Sam Brownback plans to issue executive orders eliminating the Kansas Arts Commission. (Brownback’s budget report for Fiscal Year 2012 is sub-titled, “Happy New Year, Art Fags.”)

The move, the commission states, would result in a monetary loss of nearly three-fold for the state: $778,300 in funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, plus $437,767 in partnership money from the Mid-America Arts Alliance. Not to mention countless jobs in the public and private sectors. Ripple effect, indeed.But maybe it’s not the state budget that drives the new governor. Perhaps Brownback, who threw his hat into the 2008 presidential election and likely has designs on the next one, views this move as draconian means of pleasing deep-pocketed fans among his fellow ideologues. “Want to keep government out of, well, everything?” he seems to be saying. “Then I’m your man.”

Meanwhile, it’s the people of Kansas — most pointedly, its children — who will suffer, as myriad organizations and programs fostering creativity and artistic expression go the way of the dinosaur (and other now-fossilized life forms that vex folks like Brownback, who raise their hands against the idea of evolution).

If Brownback is successful in abolishing this state agency, Kansas would be the only state in the nation — including the territories of Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands — without a state-funded arts commission.
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In my opinion, a state that can produce…and elect… a Sam Brownback desperately needs the intelligence and educational merits of more arts funding. What a terrible thing to bequeath to Kansas’ children. And this from a state that gave America Frederick Remington, Gordon Parks and Bruce Connor among many other well-known artists, photographers, writers and musicians.

Here’s some good news about Gabrielle Giffords…

Gabrielle Giffords, Democratic nominee and gen...

Gabrielle Giffords

It looks like her recovery therapy is going quite well and Gabbie Giffords may have a near-complete recovery. 




This from HuffPo:

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HOUSTON — Rep. Gabrielle Giffords on Wednesday left intensive care for the first time since she was shot in the head in Arizona more than two weeks ago, the latest big step in the long road to recovery.

With her progress moving at “lightning speed,” doctors had the Arizona lawmaker moved to TIRR Memorial Hermann hospital, where she immediately began therapy that could last several months.

Doctors said she will have a valve inserted into her breathing tube to help her talk.
When asked if the congresswoman was able to speak, neurosurgeon Dr. Dong Kim said, “we can say that her speech function, along with everything else, is improving” but declined to elaborate.
Doctors had previously reported that Giffords was having difficulty moving the right side of her body. On Wednesday, they described that as “weakness” and said her ability to move had improved.
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Looks like we got about 6″ of snow overnight…

Looking out the window, I’m dreading walking the dogs. Yesterday, I slipped and fell on an icy patch in the road in front of our townhouse and, remarkably, I didn’t let go of the dogs’ leashes, but I also couldn’t get up given my useless knees… my first devastating sign of old age.

Fortunately, someone was out shoveling their walk and came to my assistance with a large football player (a Shepherd student of course) who helped me tom my feet… but it left me worried about getting around all day. Now Elly is taking my car (I have All Wheel Drive) and heading off to work (HCC is starting 2 hours late this morning) and I am contemplating the terror of walking the dogs in this mess.

We have a rehearsal for “Claudie Hukill” tonite at Full Circle Theater, and I hope the streets in town get plowed out so there is parking. As I recall this time last year when I was directing “The Hunting of the Snark“, the opera for kids that I wrote in the seventies with composer Edwin Roberts, we had this kind of a snowfall which was followed by even more snow and we had to delay the production by two weeks. This could easily happen again.

We don’t get a lot of snow around here (the weather bureau says we get 20.9″ annually, but that is just a tiny percentage of what we got when we lived in Connecticut… they’ve had over seven feet already this year… and most of it comes in February. Just have to grit my teeth and get through this.

Republicans Plan to Shutter NEA and NEH

Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci, Galleria d...

Da Vinci didn't have Republicans to contend with.

This is a disturbing piece for all of us in the arts that was published this week by Stage Directions Magazine. I listened to the President last night inspiring us to be first in science and math and engineering… of course he said nothing about our being first in the arts which provides millions of jobs at minimal cost for highly talented people. They may not be creating new automobiles or filling our food plants with dangerous chemistry (like Monsanto), but they create the world view in which our scientists and mathematicians can function.

Once the engineer and the artist were in the same shell… think about Leonardo Da Vinci. Today the arts are considered an easy victim by Republicans out to destroy the things that make life good over the things that make life dangerous.

Back to the article in Stage Directions. Here’s part of it, but please go in and read it all:

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Mike Boehm, reporting on the L.A. Times Culture Monster arts blog, says that 165 GOP members in the House of Representatives announced a budget-cutting plan on Thursday, Jan 20, that calls for “the elimination of the nation’s two leading makers of government arts grants: the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Also on the chopping block is the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.”
Boehm does a good job of laying out the history of the Republicans vendetta against arts funding, and its fallout: 

“The arts and humanities endowments each get $167.5 million a year; the broadcasting agency, which supports public radio and television, gets $445 million.

“The NEA last had to fight for its survival in 1995, when Republicans gained control of the House and Senate and sought to get rid of the endowment. It had outraged some conservatives with grants that in certain highly publicized cases had supported performances or exhibitions they deemed offensive.

“While the NEA survived, It took a 39% budget cut and saw the elimination of nearly all grants to individual artists.”

None of this is a done deal, of course. Presumably some of the 242 Republican and 193 Democrats representatives in Congress support the arts, and advocacy groups for the arts are out there, too.

Full article here

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A quick note on the SOTU Address…

Pretty much what I expected. Glad to see Obama brought up returning to the higher income taxes for the top 2% of the country. He made a point that the Corporations were now OK and the stock market is going great guns… and this is supposed to make us 99ers happy.

Got very interested in who stood up, who applauded, who sat in mixed seats (I was happy to see the Arizona Delegation all sitting together surrounding an empty seat for Gabbie Giffords (which Obama commented on). About 30% of the few jokes fell flat. Thought he made good points of why the Health Care plan should not be repealed, but opened the door for significant changes (although the Republican House members sat stone faced through this.)

It was not a great speech, but it was good enough. His put down of the oil industry, which you could feel Congress gnashing their teeth over, was welcoming to some of us… even though I don’t believe there is such a thing as “clean Coal” and I fear the pollution caused by natural gas “fracking”.

I wasn’t held by it… certainly not enough to keep me from watching White Collar at 10 PM.

I reviewed the Republican response and the, hmph hmph, Tea Party response and was impressed by neither. Don’t think they really listened to Obama’s speech… these were obviously put together a couple of days ago.

In Case You are Gearing Yourself Up for Michelle Bachmann’s Personal Response to Obama’s State of the Union Message, Maybe you should take a look at her grasp on history…

We started learning about the Civil War and the ending of slavery around the fourth grade or so, and certainly we knew about Lincoln freeing the slaves by the time we entered high school. I thank Anderson Cooper for presenting this astounding look at Bachmann’s understanding of our history on CNN last night:

Are there conservatives out there who still support this dindong for the Presidency? She claims to be a leader of the Tea Party Movement and, frankly, I believe her.

Things you run into when shopping for Valentine’s Day…

Stay away from Archie McPhee…

(I apologize… couldn’t resist.)

If only the Rich will have the Best Advantages in our Society, then I want to be Rich…

I should have decided this long ago, and I’m not sure why I didn’t.  I tell myself I was concerned with creating things for middle class design workers (my fonts) or hiring young people and giving them health insurance (U-Design, Inc and Hybrid Communications the two companies I owned in the 80s and early 90s) or just promoting good, ethical, Progressive and liberal causes in this blog.

Apparently I was wrong all these years.

So I am now thinking about raising the price of my picture and display fonts (which you can find at UTF Type Foundry or here on this blog where I give away one of these products for any contribution above $5.00) from $29.95 a set to $125,000.00. Then, if I sell the same amount I’m doing now, I’ll be Rich in a very short time and have all the tax breaks and government favors…and be able to hire my own lobbyists… and spend the remaining years of my dwindling life in Conservative Happiness.

Of course, there may be other, even easier ways to get Rich. So many of those on the top scales of our society did it by committing some form of white collar crime… it goes all the way back to Joe Kennedy during the Depression… and I could spend time researching the possibilities now (or what else is the web for?). This solution means I don’t have to go through the e-mail chore of sending fonts and keyboard charts out to buyers, saving me ten or fifteen minutes on each sale. I could sleep longer in the morning!

It’s time for me to walk the dogs and do the dishes, so I’ll have to get back to my exit from the Middle Class later on.

Top Academy Award Nominees Are Out…

Here’s biggies list:

Best Picture
“Black Swan”
“The Fighter”
“The Kids Are All Right ”
“The King’s Speech”
127 Hours
The Social Network
“Toy Story 3″
True Grit
“Winter’s Bone”

Best Direction
Darren Aronofsky for “Black Swan”
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen for “True Grit”
David Fincher for “The Social Network”
Tom Hooper for “The King’s Speech”
David O. Russell for “The Fighter”

Actor in a Leading Role
Javier Bardem in “Biutiful”
Jeff Bridges in “True Grit”
Jesse Eisenberg in “The Social Network”
James Franco in “127 Hours”
Colin Firth in “The King’s Speech”

Actress in a Leading Role
Annette Bening in “The Kids Are All Right”
Nicole Kidman in “Rabbit Hole”
Jennifer Lawrence in “Winter’s Bone”
Natalie Portman in “Black Swan”
Michelle Williams in “Blue Valentine”

Actor in a Supporting Role
Christian Bale in “The Fighter”
John Hawkes in “Winter’s Bone”
Jeremy Renner in “The Town”
Mark Ruffalo in “The Kids Are All Right”
Geoffrey Rush in “The King’s Speech”

Actress in a Supporting Role
Amy Adams in “The Fighter”
Helena Bonham Carter in “The King’s Speech”
Melissa Leo in “The Fighter”
Hailee Steinfeld in “True Grit”
Jacki Weaver in “Animal Kingdom”

Animated Feature
“How to Train Your Dragon”
“The Illusionist”
“Toy Story 3″

This idea started last year of having ten competitors for Best Picture is one that I continue to disagree with. Surely we can elevate the best 4 or 5 pictures and have a rel competition. This just spreads the voters’ picks around and caters to commercial needs for ticket sales.

And, btw, my favorite across the board, is still The King’s Speech and it’s performers (and Director).

Loughner Pleads Not Guilty…

Surprise? No issue of insanity raised at this point.
Here’s a bit from the HuffPo article this morning:
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The suspect in the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords smiled and nodded but didn’t speak as he appeared in court Monday and his lawyer provided the 22-year-old’s first response to the charges: a plea of not guilty.

Loughner faces federal charges of trying to assassinate Giffords and kill two of her aides. More charges are expected.

Investigators have said Loughner was mentally disturbed and acting increasingly erratic in the weeks leading up to the attack on Jan. 8 that wounded 13. If Loughner’s attorney uses mental competency questions as a defense and is successful, Loughner could be sent to a mental health facility instead of being sentenced to prison or death.

But his attorney, Judy Clarke, said she wasn’t raising issues of competency “at this time” after U.S. District Judge Larry Burns of San Diego asked whether there was any question about her client’s ability to understand the case against him.
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Theoni V. Aldredge, one of the greatest Costume Designers of the 20th Century, Dies at 88

It is always a landmark for me when a theatre great passes on, and reading in this morning’s NY Times that costume designer Theoni V. Aldredge had died in Connecticut three days ago. struck me as one such landmark.

Aldredge won three Tony Awards for Costuming: Annie in 1977,  Barnum in 1980 and La Cage aux Folles in 1987. She was nominated for Tonys 12 other times, most recently in 2006 for the revival of Follies.

Aldredge was born Theoni Athanasiou Vashlioti in 1932 in Salonika, Greece (which, oddly enough, is where my relatives on my Father’s side come from). She acquired her last name in 1953 when she married actor Tom Aldredge, who she remained with for the rest of her life.

She often worked for Joe Papp at the Public Theater and, when Papp brought his big pieces to Broadway, like Two Gentlemen Of Verona in the 1970s, it was Theoni Aldredge who costumed the huge cast. Aldredge was known for beautiful designs that took large budgets to create… surprising since she did so much non-profit work for Papp.

In films, she won three Oscars and had five other nominations. Her films included Ghostbusters, Network, Moonstruck and Addams Family Values – indicative of the range of styles she commanded.

In 1985 she designed both costumes and environment for Akyvernites politeis, a television series in Greece.