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Melbourne’s Greek Film Festival September 24, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Hellenic Light Oceania, Movies Life.
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Como Cinema, September 20 to October 8

Any film that encourages its audience to “embrace life” is going to be difficult to argue with. Similarly, it seems churlish to rain on the parade of Melbourne’s Greek Film Festival, a long-running community event that, judging from the titles available for preview, offers limited rewards to audiences seeking new and exciting cinema.

Grigoris Karantinakis’ Chariton’s Choir, for example, is the most retrograde kind of feelgood movie imaginable, a 1960s coming-of-age story starring George Corraface as a grizzled but potent headmaster who taunts the village military authorities, charms the pants off the local ladies, and generally acts as a roguish, irrepressible life force.

Seen through the uncritical eyes of a 14-year-old schoolboy (Stefanos Karantinakis), this is essentially Cinema Paradiso (1989) without the cinema, its dramaturgy is as quaint as its nostalgic indulgence of its hero’s chauvinism.

More engaging is Thodoros Marangos’ Black Baaa . . . which looks to the past in a more literal but genuinely open-minded sense. This meandering essay-documentary follows its director from Greece to Italy, where he visits the ruins of Herculaneum and investigates one of the most stunning archaeological discoveries of recent times, the sole library to come to us from the classical era, buried by the eruption of Vesuvius about 2000 years ago, and reconstituted, thanks to new technologies, from lumps of volcanic ash.

Chiefly, the rediscovered works are treatises by the poet and Epicurean philosopher Philodemos, but Marangos is less interested in critical exegesis than in mounting an argument, illustrated by cartoons and anecdotes, against the surprising lack of interest in this material shown by his homeland. In a variant of an old joke, he keeps showing us the cover of a book entitled What Modern Greeks Know About Ancient Greece, and of course, all the pages are blank.

In partial contradiction of this thesis, the retrospective side of the festival offers a trilogy of Euripides adaptations by Michael Cacoyannis, best-known for Zorba the Greek (1964). The Trojan Women (1971), performed in English, is possibly the liveliest of the bunch, with an all-star female cast that includes Vanessa Redgrave, Cacoyannis’ spitfire muse Irene Papas, and Katharine Hepburn in the lead role of Hecuba, standing on her dignity as a quavery grand dame.

Clearly inspired in part by the contemporary significance of Euripides’ despairing pacifist message, Cacoyannis sets the formal declamations and choral laments of his source material on a collision course with breathless, on-the-spot “realism”, such as the brutal killing of a sacred deer in Iphigenia (1977).

Perversely, each movie is conceived as an historical spectacle in which hardly anything happens on screen. Hundreds of Greek soldiers scurry about the beach for the duration of Iphigenia, longing for the winds that will send them to battle; The Trojan Women takes up the other end of the story, with the end of the war leaving the central group of prisoners stranded on a virtually identical coast. As their city burns in the distance, Cacoyannis’ divas continue to battle tooth and nail for supremacy, but essentially it’s all over bar the shouting.

Related Links > www.greekfilmfestival.com.au


Loeb wins Cyprus Rally September 24, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Racing & Motors.
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Sebastien Loeb of France won the Cyprus Rally on Sunday, earning a record 28th win in the World Rally Championship.

Loeb, who has now won eight of the 12 rounds in the series, maintained the lead throughout Sunday’s special stages to prevail by 21.2 seconds.

“It’s my third win in a row in Cyprus. It doesn’t get much better,” Loeb told Eurosport’s Web site.

The Frenchman, who started the third leg 21.8 seconds ahead of Marcus Gronholm of Finland, took the first stage of the day and at the same time extended his lead.

But the Finn dispelled any suggestions that he had given up, winning the rest of the day’s stages.

“I was trying to push a little bit … hoping for something,” Gronholm said. “I was still driving. Even the last stage I was driving.”

Loeb is now a step closer to his third successive world title with four rounds remaining in the championship.

“It was another difficult challenge here in Cyprus and Marcus pushed me very hard for two days,” Loeb said. ”

The Citroen driver came into the race leading the drivers’ standings with 102 points, 33 more than Gronholm.

Mikko Hirvonen, Gronholm’s Ford teammate, finished third.

Books > Pi, the world’s most mysterious number September 24, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Books Life.
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Pi: A Biography of the World’s Most Mysterious Number
By Alfred S. Posamentier and Ingmar Lehmann
Prometheus Books
ISBN 1-59102-200-2
AUD$52.95 324 pages
Good old pi. The ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. According to this book, pi’s been known, in an approximate form, since about 2000bc. And, of course, because the thing is ‘irrational’ (a number which can’t be expressed as a finite decimal number) we will never have anything but approximations. It’s just that nowadays that approximation goes to 1.24 trillion decimal places!

This book has chapters on the history of pi (an exhaustive chronicle of the increasing accuracy of the approximation of pi across many cultures, including Ancient Egyptians, the Babylonians, Ancient Greeks, Chinese and Romans, right up to the present) as well as chapters about the paradoxes, curiosities and the applications of pi. It has proofs and ways of calculating the value of pi. It also touches on some of the greatest mathematical minds because they were fascinated by pi. And to top it all off, Posamentier and Lehmann provide us with a lovely 27 pages filled with nothing more than pi to one hundred thousand decimal places.

This is a book for enthusiasts, trivial pursuit addicts or wannabe nerds. It has too many equations and too much mathematical notation to attract a general lay readership and it’s too basic and flippant to interest professional mathematicians. As well, it doesn’t come anywhere close to approaching the beauty or scope of books such as Mario Livio’s The Golden Ratio, John McLeish’s Number, or John Barrow’s The Book of Nothing.

I suppose you can learn something from almost anything. From this book, I learned that International Pi Day is March 14, not because this is Einstein’s birthday, which it is, but because this date can be written as 3.14, which is pi to two decimal places.

If you like that kind of stuff, you’ll find something to enjoy in this book.

Pi chart
Pi first became known as such in 1706 when mathematician William Jones used it in his own method of relating the circumference of a circle to its diameter. Why did he opt for Π rather than some other symbol? Phonetics: pi sounds like ‘p’ (for ‘perimeter’). The rough numerical value of pi was known as long ago at 1650bc, as demonstrated on a surviving papyrus scroll.

Books > A fresh look at ‘Trojan War’ September 24, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Books Life.
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Homer first wrote of the Trojan war in The Iliad, a story filled with enduring characters: Helen, Paris, Achilles, Hector and Odysseus, to name but a few. And it ends with one of the great misdirection moves in the annals of martial affairs.

How much of this fabled conflict is true and how much is myth?

Author Barry Strauss, who previously impressed the critics with his book Battle of Salamis: The Naval Encounter That Saved Greece and Western Civilization, revisits the classic material in The Trojan War: A New History.

Click here to read more (an Excerpt: ‘The Trojan War A New History’) as well as other books > Strauss Offers Fresh Look at ‘Trojan War’

Minsk girl named Mini Miss Universe in Thessaloniki September 24, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Lifestyle.
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A 14-year-old Minsk girl, Anastasiya Nikiforova, was named Mini Miss Universe 2006 at a pageant whose final stage was held in the Greek city of Thesalonniki from September 15 through 22.

Anastasiya was reportedly selected from among contestants representing 20 countries. She was also awarded the titles of Mini Miss Talent, Mini Miss Perfection and Face of the Year, and was crowned with a diadem of gold and gems.

“Nastya has been participating in international contests since 2004 and has since won several titles and prizes,” Irina Savchenko, public relations manager with the Vodoleya Image Design Studio, which works with the young beauty, said.

A1 Grand Prix expands with Greece September 24, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Racing & Motors.
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The A1 Grand Prix Series kicks off at Zandvoort in Holland on October 1, with a second race planned a week later at Brno in the Czech Republic.

The series has had some changes over the winter with the withdrawal of the Austrian, Japanese, Portuguese and Russian teams but has signed by Greece, Turkey and Singapore as replacements. The Greeks have yet to name its drivers but are expected to use locals Stelios Nousias, Takis Kaitatzis, Vasilis Papafilippou and Nikos Zahos.

There are now 24 countries signed up for the A1 Series this winter.

Fever pitch September 24, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Gay Life.
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Cyprus’ premier gay club recently celebrated its first birthday with balloons, streamers and a good time for all

“I swear, they are a human jigsaw puzzle,” a friend of mine exclaimed unable to take her eyes off the three guys intertwined and rubbing up against each other while hanging on to a pole.

Further down, more action was taking place as two young girls danced their way onto the floor, horizontally, I might add. Definitely something you don’t see everyday. Shirts and t-shirts were off and I found myself unable to look away. It was everywhere and it was fun. This may sound like a normal night of clubbing in a London or New York joint but in fact I was in the gay club, Secrets Freedom, in Larnaca enjoying liberating moments of a kind rarely experienced in Cyprus.

It was girl’s night out and we had decided to attend the Pink Party at Secrets Club, which was celebrating it’s first birthday. Decked in pink underwear, feather boas, tight jeans and hot pink heels, we slowly descended the staircase and found ourselves face to face with a woman behind bars and several muscley security figures who kindly let us in.

Having arrived a bit too early (23:30), we seated ourselves at the bar, ordered a drink and took in the surroundings. Obviously, being a Pink Party, the club was decorated in pink bows and pink balloons but that was the least distracting part; this club has style, it has character. Cubicles with couches lined one of the walls, separated by railings wrapped in climbing plants, small round tables scattered around the dance floor opposite the DJ box and the stage. Oh yes, there’s a stage and that could only mean one thing: performances!

Nick and Bill, the owners of Secrets Freedom and in addition to being partners for 41 years are the backbone of this sanctuary for many gays around the island. Having been thrown in prison six times and threatened with a gun at least once, Nick is proud of what they have achieved. “We fought really hard,” he said. “The first Secrets Club opened three years ago and we even had a license but as soon as the authorities found out it was a gay club, problems started. We would be raided every night and police would pick at small things and put me behind bars. We tried to get the license renewed but we couldn’t, we were having trouble coming from a lot of people.” Nick and Bill finally decided to take the matter and the police to the high court. The result? “We won, moved the club to another location and have been clear from trouble for a year now. That’s why we are celebrating the club’s first birthday.”

Three Smirnoff Ice and a free shot of Zambuca later, I found myself dancing, swinging my glow sticks around (they were giving them out) and striking up conversations with various people. Unlike your average Cyprus club, this was a place where everyone was there for a good time, kisses were exchanged throughout the night and vital questions such as “Are you gay?” replaced the usual “Have you got a boyfriend/girlfriend?” When a young girl walked straight up to me, tapped me on the shoulder and asked me point blank if I was gay or straight, I found myself laughing, unable to restrain the shock of actually being hit on by a girl in Cyprus. It’s happened to me before but I was in London. I drunkenly explained that I am straight, which was followed by another question: “Are you sure?” She was cute and extremely polite but yes, I’m sure. Moving on, other topics of conversation include the best way to get rid of chest hairs. This can be carried between a female and a male, “who loves taking his clothes off but is somewhat embarrassed by the amount of hairs on his chest.” Demonstration was required and advice was given. I was glad to be of assistance.

Performances by a male exotic dancer sporting only an orange, satin g-string, towering white wings, body glitter and a mask were on the menu while Caroline, a member of the all-new UK pop group Intrigue, made an appearance which was more than welcomed by the few ladies in the house. Unfortunately, we missed the male strippers, who usually perform on Wednesdays and Fridays but were ecstatic when three amateurs took to the stage. Hips were swinging away to Joe Cocker’s You can leave your hat on and clothes were tossed around the club. I pushed my way through the crowd and to my astonishment everything was off (including the hat) and the boys earned themselves a shot each.

But it wasn’t the performances that made that night a night to remember. As my friend put it: “Cyprus isn’t quite ready for this yet!” It was the whole package that made this club a breathtaking experience. Even if you’ve heard of a gay club in Cyprus, you could never imagine that it actually exists, g-strings, male strippers and all! And indeed, entering Secrets Freedom club, you are suddenly taken away by how much fun everyone is having through interaction. It wasn’t about what you were wearing or not wearing or even if you could dance or not; it just didn’t matter, it was all about leaving inhibitions at the door and being able to enjoy. After all, that is exactly what everyone else was doing. “But that’s the whole point,” exclaimed Nick. “We are proud that we are able to give gay and straight people an outlet where they can be free.”

Nick and Bill receive letters from homosexuals all over the island explaining their situation and how difficult it is to ‘come out’ in a country like Cyprus, sometimes considering ending their lives. “But despite all this, I can safely say that Cypriots are becoming more open-minded about homosexuality. It’s not something that surprises them anymore but we’ve still got a long way to go.” I would disagree, as it seemed to me that we are definitely on the right track and getting there a lot more quicker than anyone would have thought. Most of the people in the club were Cypriot and some had travelled a long way to be there. “I’m from Limassol and simply can’t resist driving down here to have a great night out,” said one topless clubber. Another had travelled a bit further. “It’s my first time here. I live in New York,” said a dark-haired American-Cypriot, who is bisexual. “I had heard of this place and decided to check it out. They’ve done a really good job.”

After five hours of non-stop chatting, dancing, drinking, laughing and just having a good time, we grabbed our glow sticks and bags and headed towards the cars. We weren’t ready to leave but dancing in heels isn’t easy. “Not to fret though,” one of my friends remarked, “we’ll be back!”

Secrets Freedom Club
Tel: 99-557433 www.secretsfreedomclub.com