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Echo of the Etruscans June 27, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Hellenic Light Asia.
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The World of the Etruscans, currently showing at the Hong Kong Museum of Art.

This is a marvelous exhibition, with many extraordinary pieces from the ninth to the third century BC, drawn from several Museums in Tuscany, the Etruscan heartland.

These include some beautiful examples of large classical painted Attic (Athenian), or at least Attic-style, vases, the canvases of the ancient Greek world, among which is one portraying Hercules fighting the Amazons. Another unforgettable pottery piece is a duck-shaped vessel decorated with a figure of Nike, the deity, not the shoe. The three elongated, not very macho-looking bronze soldiers don’t look like they’d last long if they happened to come up against the Amazons.

Other highlights include a pair of ivory panels carved in elaborate bas-relief and, of perhaps particular interest in Hong Kong, masses of gold jewelry, some of which still looks wearable. Boys and their dads will probably take a fancy to almost perfectly preserved bronze helmets, spear points, horse bridle and bits, and a set of leg armor: if you watched the movie Troy, here is the real thing.

The influence of classical Greece is so strong the exhibition also substitutes as a reminder of how much Greece has influenced, and continues to influence, modern popular culture: this is literally the stuff of TV and movies.

It is not just the quality of individual pieces that makes the exhibition stand out, but also their careful selection and presentation: the exhibition gives a clear and illuminating historical overview of Etruscan culture, how it developed, matured and declined in the eight centuries of its independent existence.

The exhibition traces Etruscan culture from its early beginnings around 900 BC, through a period of “oriental” influence, which here means west Asia and North Africa, thence through a period where the Etruscans, largely contemporaneously with the height of classic Greek civilization in the fifth and sixth centuries BC, appear almost Greek themselves. A defeat at the hands of the Syrcusans in 474 BC signified the beginning of the end of Etruscan dominance in the Italian peninsula and the beginning of a slow decline, which becomes evident a century or so on in the artwork: the exhibit ends, appropriately enough perhaps, with a half-dozen or so sarcophagi and funereal urns from the last couple of centuries of Etruscan independence.

The pieces show wide-ranging influences and commercial relations: from the Baltic to the Caucasus. A couple of pieces, notably a very early funeral object in the shape of a house and a bronze ax, might not look entirely out of place in an exhibition of Chinese artifacts, although this is surely just coincidental.

While it is true that Hong Kong is just one leg, actually, the final leg, of a multi-city tour, everyone, from the Hong Kong Museum of Art and the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, to the Italian organizations who put the exhibition together, deserves kudos for a job very well done.

There is a certain poignancy to the Etruscans and their story. Their origins are steeped in mystery, while there are theories, no one is quite sure whence they came and what language they spoke: it seems not to be related to any Indo-European language. They seem to have been an educated, cultured people at a time when the Romans were living in huts: indeed, some of the Roman kings, in the period before Rome was a Republic, were Etruscan. Much of what we know as Roman culture, that part which derives from the Greeks including the alphabet, passed to Rome via the Etruscans. Even after the Romans had erased Etruria from the maps, they remarked upon the Etruscans’ conspicuous religiosity and relied upon their skills in divination.

The choice to show Etruscan rather than Roman culture in Hong Kong is not without irony. After all, it was in southern China that much of China’s ancient trade relations and much of what we now consider Chinese culture developed; Cantonese appears to be an older language than Putonghua. All it takes is a few bad throws of the historical dice for an old culture to be relegated to a relative political backwater.

The Etruscan civilization lasted for about 50 years for each week the exhibition is on. So hurry and see it before it closes on September 10.

Editor’s Note > Above article is published under licence by The Standard, Hong Kong. Copyright 2006 by The Standard, Hong Kong. All rights reserved.

Sprinters, IAAF strike deal on doping case June 27, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Athletics.
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Track medalists Kenteris and Thanou, banned for 2 years, cleared by international federation in an out-of-court settlement.

Greek sprinters Costas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou and the International Association of Athletics Federations have struck a surprise deal over the infamous doping case stemming from the 2004 Athens Olympics.

“A deal was made that puts an end to a complex case,” their lawyer Gregory Ioannidis told Reuters yesterday. “The terms of the agreement are satisfactory to both sides.”

The IAAF yesterday withdrew an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and said the athletes had accepted they violated anti-doping rules by missing three drug tests prior to the 2004 Athens Olympics. In a statement on its website, the IAAF said the pair would be eligible to compete again on December 22 this year. The IAAF provisionally suspended the two Greeks on December 22, 2004, pending a Greek disciplinary investigation. But once they were cleared by the domestic probe in March last year, the IAAF lodged an appeal with CAS.

Matthieu Reeb, CAS secretary-general, told Reuters yesterday: “It was a big surprise to us, totally unexpected. We heard this morning that an agreement had been reached between the parties and the appeal was withdrawn. I can confirm that they have agreed the suspension of two years should end on December 21 so they will be free to compete on December 22. As to whether this is the end of the Kenteris-Thanou case, that is a question to ask the judge in Athens. I don’t know if there are any criminal inquiries still going on but as far as the Court of Arbitration for Sport is concerned, the case is now closed.”

The sprint duo’s coach, also involved in the missed doping case and a subsequent motorcycling accident for which they face charges in a Greek court, was banned from athletics for four years. Kenteris, the 200-meter gold medalist at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and Thanou, who won the women’s 100-meter silver medal, withdrew from the Athens Olympics on the eve of the Games in the biggest doping scandal to hit the Games since the Ben Johnson steroids case of 1988. Greek Athletics Federation chief Vassilis Sevastis said he was relieved. “I am delighted to hear of the IAAF’s withdrawal of the appeal,” he said, adding the two sides had agreed to “loyally follow doping rules and battle against doping.”

Biggest concession road project plan is unveiled June 27, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Infrastructure.
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365-kilometer highway in Peloponnese to be delivered over six years

Environment and Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias unveiled plans for the construction of a 365-kilometer highway, mostly in the Peloponnese, under a concession agreement.

Environment and Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias yesterday unveiled plans for the construction of “the largest-ever project in Greece in real and financial terms,” a 365-kilometer road axis, most of it along the Peloponnese’s northern and western coast.

The project involves the reconstruction and rerouting of many parts of the highway from Elefsina, west of Athens, to Corinth, Patras, Pirgos and Tsakona, north of Kalamata. Most of the project, to be implemented under a concession agreement, will be new highway (283.7 kilometers) and the rest (81 kilometers) improvements to the existing infrastructure. It is to have two or three lanes in each direction, allowing speeds of up to 120 kilometers throughout.

The 120-kilometer stretch from Corinth to Patras will be new construction and will include tunnels totaling 10.3 km, 61 bridges and 13 flyovers.

The total cost is budgeted at 1.8 billion euros, three times that of the 2.3-kilometer Rio-Antirio suspension bridge near Patras, and the government will cover about 25-30 percent of it.

“The proposed highway is part of the intra-European network of modern road axes and its specifications are better than those set by the European Union. The originally planned width of 24.5 meters has been extended to 26.5 meters,” said Souflias.

A contractor is to be picked before the end of the year. The tender for the project was issued in 2001 and four consortia were short-listed a year later: Apion Kleos (Vinci, Hellenic Technodomiki, J&P Avax), Apollon (Athina, Crupo Dragados Hochtief, Lamda Development), Hellenic Autopistas (Citra, ACS, GEK, Terna), and Odopoiisis (Mota, Engil, Acciona, Michaniki, Themeliodomi).

Souflias said the four consortia have been notified to submit final proposals by October so that the winner may be picked before the end of the year. Delivery of the project is to be phased over about six years, but will start about 20 months after the signing of the contract.

Greek Taste > Pie with mixed greens, fresh herbs and feta cheese June 27, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Food Recipes.
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Makes 8 to 10 entree servings, 14 to 16 first-course servings.

Greens are full of water, so they need to be salted or wilted before you bake them in a pie. Greek women wash and shred the greens coarsely, then blanch them briefly, or “knead” them thoroughly with salt to reduce their mass. I use the first technique.

The Greeks make a pie crust using olive oil and the local spirit raki, but I find frozen puff pastry makes a nice crust that’s very convenient.

3 pounds mixed mild greens (swiss chard, spinach, pea shoots)
1 pound mixed sharp greens (arugula, sorrel, dandelion greens, mustard greens, endive, watercress)
1/2 cup olive oil (divided)
2 bunches green onions, white and light green parts, chopped
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and chopped
1 cup lightly packed, coarsely chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
1 cup lightly packed, coarsely chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons shredded fresh mint
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 cups crumbled feta cheese, or shredded mozzarella with some goat cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 egg yolk, beaten with a little milk
3 tablespoons sesame seeds (optional)

Wash greens well, drain briefly and remove thick stems. If using swiss chard, cut the thick stems crosswise into fine slices. Place the greens in a large pot and cook them over high heat, tossing, until wilted. Drain and cool. Squeeze as much excess liquid from the wilted greens as you can with your hands, then coarsely chop them.

Heat 1/4 cup oil in a large skillet and saute green onions over medium heat for 2 minutes until soft. Add fennel and saute, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add remaining 1/4 cup oil to the skillet, add the greens and cook, uncovered, until the oil has been absorbed. Transfer to a mixing bowl to cool. Add parsley, dill, mint, sugar, cheese, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix thoroughly.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Oil the bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one sheet of puff pastry into a rectangular sheet large enough to cover the bottom and sides of the dish with a 1/2-inch overhang. Fit the pastry into the dish and add the greens mixture.

Roll out the remaining pastry sheet into a rectangle just a little larger than the dish and place it over the filling. Fold the overhanging bottom sheet inward and pinch the two edges together, turn them inward and press to seal, making a cord around the edge of the pan. Flatten the cord with the tines of a fork. With a sharp knife, score the pastry with a few parallel lines, being careful not to cut all the way through the pastry. Brush pastry with the egg mixture and sprinkle with sesame seeds, if using. Bake for 1 hour, or until the crust pulls away from the pan and is deep golden brown. Let the pie rest at least 30 minutes; serve warm or at room temperature.

Bon Apetite!

Music > Concert highlights for July’s peak June 27, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Music Life Live Gigs.
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Some old as well as new acts set for shows in the capital

Devendra Banhart plays July 4.

Now heading for July, the local concert circuit’s customary peak before August’s exodus, the summer’s closing batch of shows features some of this season’s most promising acts.

The veteran circuit brings in two evergreens that continue to command respect: Iggy Pop and the Stooges as well as Roxy Music. Both have been booked to perform on the same night, July 12, which could pose a dilemma for a considerable number of interested concertgoers.

Roxy Music, who last performed in Athens back in 1982, about a year before the art-rock group split, will be at the Karaiskaki Stadium in Neo Faliron, southern Athens. Fronted by Bryan Ferry, the act which emerged from the art-rock scene in the late 1960s re-formed recently with its original members on board, including Brian Eno, one of contemporary music’s most innovative figures, to work on new material. Eno, however, is not touring with the band.

Iggy Pop, a regular visitor since his first set of performances in Athens back in the early 90s, will be returning as frontman of the Stooges, the group he fronted for a short but striking period between the late 60s and early 70s, for one performance at the Vrachon Theater in Athens. The Stooges played a summer show in Athens two years ago, which went down as living proof of an aging rock ’n’ roll’s band’s unwaning power on stage.

Hailed by the mid-80s as one of the first punk rock bands, the Stooges were eventually recognized as a pivotal act in rock history. Frontman Pop surprised many by organizing a Stooges reunion in 2003, recruiting Ron Asheton and Scott Asheton to perform four songs on his album “Skull Ring” as well as ensuing concert dates that have carried on.

Manchester pop-rock band Puressence will fill the evening’s opening slot.

Just days ago, Di-Di Music, the organizer of this summer’s annual Rockwave Festival, added a third date to the event for July 10 with Guns ’n’ Roses as the headline act. The former supergroup, which exploded onto the international circuit in the late 80s before fading from the forefront not long after, had been booked for a performance at the Olympic Stadium in Athens at the beginning of their demise. Presumably reacting to that event’s outrageous ticket price, which was more than double regular levels of the time, as well as a mediocre follow-up to the band’s hit album “Appetite for Destruction” only a few thousand fans turned up to the faltering supergroup’s Olympic Stadium show. Time, though, may have worked up the appetites of nostalgic fans for this return visit by the band. An opening act, yet to be announced, will also perform on the festival’s opening day. Day 2, on July 11, will feature the extremely popular pop-rock band Franz Ferdinand as the main act. They will be preceded by the Dandy Warhols, the Editors, Green on Red (the 80s country-rock band from LA whose original lineup has regrouped about a decade after falling apart) Mecano and the Sunday Drivers. The festival’s third and final day, on June 12, will focus on hard rock and heavy metal, with Twisted Sister as the main attraction. Also on the bill are WASP, Celtic Frost, Crimson Glory and Moonspell.

Visiting Greece just two days apart, Antony and the Johnsons and Devendra Banhart, performing July 2 and 4 respectively, rate as two of the summer’s most promising shows by newer talent.

Antony and the Johnsons, who play at the Vrachon Theater, and Banhart, booked for an indoor show at the (air-conditioned) Gagarin 205 club, rank as two of the contemporary international scene’s more fascinating musical figures of recent times. Antony and the Johnsons, a Mercury Prize winner in the UK last year, are fronted by Antony, whose beguiling songs and visceral vibrato vocal delivery have drawn numerous fans and eminent colleagues, among them Lou Reed, David Bowie, Philip Glass, Banhart, and many others.

Banhart, an American with an extensive past in Venezuela, has fascinated a growing number of listeners with several roughly recorded folk-latin-psychedelia albums, all released within a short span over the past four years or so.

Music > Hot On The Press > Live in Athens June 27, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Music Life Live Gigs.
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Live in Greece next July + August (they’re gonna be really hot + cool months for all the music lovers 🙂 >

Ian Anderson (call me The Jethro Tull) > July 7, The Roman Odeum, Patras  

Franz Ferdinand (yes, proud to be Greek), The Dandy Warhols, Green On Red + more > July 11, The Rockwave Festival, Athens

Archive > July 12, Mylos, Thessaloniki

Roxy Music > July 12, Karaiskaki Stadium, Athens

Twisted Sister, WASP, Celtic Frost, Crimson Glory + more > July 12, The Rockwave Festival, Athens

Toto > July 12, Softball Olympic Stadium, Helliniko, Athens

The Scorpions & The Whitesnake > July 19, Karaiskaki Stadium, July 21, Kaftanzogleio Stadium, Thessaloniki

Deep Purple > July 24, Theater Vrachon “Melina Merkouri”, Athens

Isaac Hayes > July 27, Theater Vrachon “Melina Merkouri”, Athens

Depeche Mode > August 1, Terra Vibe, Malakasa, Athens

And in September >

Simply Red, Nick Cave, Pearl Jam, + more!!!

Bank founder and father of political candidate dies in Greece June 27, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Diaspora.
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Alexis Giannoulias, founder and chairman of Chicago-based Broadway Bank, died suddenly while traveling in his native Greece over the weekend.

Mr. Giannoulias, 69, suffered an apparent heart attack, according to a spokesman for his son, Alexi Giannoulias, who is the Democratic nominee for state treasurer.

In 1978 Mr. Giannoulias founded Broadway Bank in the Edgewater neighborhood after a career as a food salesman, begun after he emigrated to the U.S. in 1962.

The bank began as a lender to Greek business owners in Chicago and evolved into an aggressive lender to commercial real estate developers around the country. For the last four years, Crain’s Chicago Business has ranked Broadway Bank No. 1 in the Chicago area based on return on assets.

Read more here > Founder of Broadway Bank dies suddenly