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Greek classic on Astoria stage October 13, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Hellenic Light Americas.
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Euripides’ classic play about the cost of war “Trojan Women” will open tomorrow at 8 p.m. in the Greek Cultural Center Annex, 28-09 Hoyt St., Astoria.

The tragedy carries a powerful message transcending time and place: In war, there are no true winners.

The play will be performed in modern Greek with English supertitles. Performances will take place Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m. through December 17. Admission is $20; $15 for seniors, students and children.


Greeks changing urban development attitude October 13, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Greece.
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On frequent visits to the New York area to visit relatives, Constantinos Manolakis was intrigued by the clean streets and manicured lawns of the Long Island suburbs. “When I first saw the Hamptons, I said, “I wish they would have that some day in Greece,'” he said.

Manolakis’s wish has been answered by Dryades, a new high-end residential development rising in the northern Athens suburb of Ekali. The suburban project, once unimaginable in this crowded city of four million, signals changing attitudes in land development and residential living.

Traditionally, young Greeks inherited land from their parents and built their own homes or, if they worked in Athens, they lived in apartments, as close to the city as possible.

“I go downtown every day,” said Manolakis, an art dealer and historian. “When I come home, I want to have a very quiet and peaceful time.” Though he now rents, Manolakis has made a joint bid of more than €1 million, or $1.26 million, for his home and the adjacent house in the 30-building development, where properties generally sell for about €2,500 to €3,000 a square meter. Each of the multistory homes has 300 to 450 square meters, or 3,230 to 4,845 square feet, of space and often includes a swimming pool. In addition to the size, a full range of services from landscaping to security is available to residents.

This combination of real estate and resident services has developed just in the past couple of years, said Theo Smyrniotis, an analyst at PriceWaterhouseCoopers in Athens, who says extra services ensure “a higher standard of living than the Athens apartment bloc.”

Infrastructure improvements made for the 2004 Olympic Games have opened up swaths of land for residential development that formerly were considered too far for a daily commute. The areas of Pallini and Mesogia, once covered in vineyards, were transformed when the Attiki Odos highway leading to the airport was built, and they have seen a boom in residential development.

Also, a new suburban rail link to Corinth, formerly an enclave of summer homes about 40 minutes from Athens, has increased property prices there and brought the promise of more development, Smyrniotis said.

The Dryades has been attracting young couples and upper-market Greeks, many of whom are familiar with foreign-style residential communities. “People that have gone overseas and studied and worked, they’re used to this sort of residential product,” Smyrniotis said.

“So it’s not so much a leap for them.” George Kamarikos of the Athens based Danos & Associates, which is marketing the Dryades, said, “It’s a nice, secure environment for families.” But that does not mean the project is an easy sell. Kamarikos said the development was “a little different for the Greek mentality,” and added that other companies were only now starting to think about similar developments.

“Greeks like to live close together,” said Manolakis, but the art historian said he is different. His house is at the very edge of the development, with nothing but a road and trees stretching before him. “You have the feeling you are in the country,” he said.

Greeks go to the polls for local elections October 13, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Politics.
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Municipal and prefectural elections are taking place in Greece on Sunday October 15 between 7:00 am and 7:00 pm.

According to data provided by the Interior Ministry as many as nine million Greeks and 8,921 European Union nationals across the country are expected to cast ballots in the upcoming local government elections.

According to EU law, citizens of any EU member state have the right to vote and stand as a candidate in local elections in the member state in which they reside. Non-Greek citizens are from various countries, the two largest groups being Germans and Britons.

The Greek way of entertainment October 13, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Living.
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Entertainment budget revealed

Greeks spend 5 percent of their monthly budget on entertainment expenses, of which about a third is spent on activities such as sports events and gambling, the results of a survey showed yesterday.

The study, prepared by the National Statistics Service (NSS), showed that the average household spends 90 euros per month on expenses which include the theater, cinema, sports events and pet care. The largest chunk (27.9 percent) goes to sports games, music lessons, cinemas and lotteries.

Greece is a European leader in gambling stakes, at least according to statistics for 2004, which show the country’s most popular betting game, Pame Stoichima, boasting higher revenues than the equivalent game in Britain and several other EU countries.

The second most popular choices are pets, toys and sports equipment, to which 21.3 percent of the entertainment budget is allocated.

The percentage of spending allocated to entertainment and culture varies depending on each household’s economic and social class.

Households that are close to the poverty line spend just 0.80 percent or an average of 15 euros a month on entertainment. Wealthier residents, on the other hand, allocate 15 percent, or 109 euros per month, to such leisure activities.

Spending on musical instruments, boats and billiard tables ranked low on the priority list, taking up only 1 percent of the recreation budget.

The differences between economic groups also emerge when considering reading habits. Low-income households use 12.5 percent of entertainment money for books and newspapers. The average figure for all households was 28.9 percent.

The study showed that, during the survey period, spending on lotteries and sports events remained steady even among lower-income groups.

The study was held from February 2004 to January 2005 and surveyed 6,555 households across Greece.

Athens exhibition on German architecture October 13, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Exhibitions.
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Athens exhibition on the architecture of East and West Germany from 1949 to 1989

Town planning and architecture with strong Stalinist influences are evident in the Municipal Hall and the Kongress Hotel in Chemnitz, formerly Karl Marx Stadt, in East Germany. Many traces of the former Democratic Republic of Germany are now disappearing.

In no other country in the world is architecture identified with history to such a degree as in Germany. At very few architectural exhibitions is the weight of history so strongly felt as at an exhibition of German architecture.

An exhibition on the architecture of East and West Germany from 1949-1989 opened at the Athens Concert Hall yesterday in cooperation with the Goethe Institute and the Greek Architecture Institute. It will run until November 12.

Fifteen years after the reunification of Germany, the clock is turned back to the Cold War years when each side was building its ideological identity in many sectors, including architecture. The exhibits comprise photographs, drawings and designs, architectural models and structures especially constructed for the exhibition, divided into five sections: official architecture, culture and religion, private life and free time, education, industry and transport.

The exhibition, held by the Institut fur Auslandsbeziehungen (IFA) in Stuttgart, has an experimental nature. Architectural historians Simone Hain and Hartmut Frank, representing two different experiences of life in Germany, the former grew up in the East, the latter in the West, along with coordinator Katrin Peter and their students assumed something that was almost unheard of, that the Federal and Democratic Republics of Germany coexisted for precisely 40 years as absolutely equal states.

“We had to either confirm the stereotypes or else re-evaluate what we accept today,” said Hain, her voice betraying a hint of anger. Not because Hain and other East Germans themselves feel less German, but because many of their compatriots and millions of foreigners around the world still treat them as survivors of history’s whim.

Inequalities, whether real, as in wages and buying power, or symbolic, are represented in architecture through the mass demolitions of buildings that went up in East Germany during the Cold War. Simone Hain said these demolitions ignored history.

For example, the proposed demolition of the Palast der Republik in Berlin, symbol of the East German regime in the heart of the capital, is fraught with complex political and ideological issues. The exhibition neither confirms prejudices nor proposes radical solutions, but allows the visitor to observe similarities and differences over a 40-year history which was, and yet was not, a common history.

What is shown is how two different architectural vocabularies developed and yet managed to converge so that what we have now are two versions of a common “disciplined” German model.

In a smaller hall, art critics Efi Andreadi and architect Memos Philippidis have curated a series of projections (on DVD) that present the modern face of architecture in united Germany. Buildings designed for a variety of purposes, including industry, mixed use, sporting venues, train stations, by some of the world’s best architects such as Zaha Hadid, J. Mayer, Delugan-Meissl, Ingenhoven Architekten, provide examples of the pluralism that prevails in the very attractive Germany of 2006.

Greece lags in new EU road rules October 13, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Transport Air Sea Land.
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The European Commission said yesterday that Greece will face legal action in the EU high court if it does not introduce technology in the next two months to help make the country’s roads safer.

On May 1, Greece and the rest of the EU member states were required to fit trucks and buses with digital tachographs, which monitor how long drivers have been on the road.

“Every state member is responsible to fulfill European targets regarding the improvement of road safety and the enforcement of time limits on drivers and rest periods,” said EU Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot, also referring to Cyprus, which has not applied the measure either. “Digital tachograph systems will contribute significantly to the achievement of this goal.”

Greece’s roads are among the EU’s most dangerous. In 2005, 1,614 people were killed on Greek roads.

By requiring technology such as the digital tachograph, the European Commission aims to slash the death toll by about half in 2010.

Hidden fashion constructions revealed October 13, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Fashion & Style.
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Designer Marios Schwab talks about his spring/summer 2007 collection

My Greek side… has to do with an aesthetic of women, the way I see fashion, my environment, the white and black. The colors. The textures. I don’t like to represent something raw. I like it when there’s something mystical and that has to do with Greek mentality,’ Greek-Austrian designer Marios Schwab said.

Imagine you’re in a black room. Now go to the window and look outside. Do you see a bed of flowers right in front of you?

You will, provided you’re wearing one of Marios Schwab’s fresh new garments, part of his latest collection for spring/summer 2007, shown during London Fashion Week last month. Living in a world of antitheses, from fabric to cut, Schwab takes a close and curvy look at the body.

“In my story, there’s this red rose which just fades and fades. It becomes a little pale, but it remains beautiful. It’s something which gets older, but remains sleek,” he said.

Hailed by The Face as the next bright young thing, the half-Greek, half-Austrian, London-based Schwab belongs to a tiny and select group of designers the fashion industry is watching closely.

His own feeling for clothes has a little bit to do with his parents. His Austrian father, a production manager for Europe’s leading Triumph International underwear and lingerie brand offered him a view of the technical side, while his mother became an inspiration through her beauty and personal style.

“I could be as creative as I wanted; my parents were very open-minded,” said Schwab. “My Austrian heritage perhaps has to do with me being focused. I’m a control freak, very anal in the way that fabrics need to be treated. I’m always determined to finish an idea and I do have a particular passion for craftsmanship.

“My Greek side, on the other hand, has to do with an aesthetic of women, the way I see fashion, my environment, the white and black. The colors. The textures. I don’t like to represent something raw. I like it when there’s something mystical and that has to do with Greek mentality.” “In my mind I see a woman who is very Greek. She has curly hair and black eyebrows. She is romantic, but she also has an intellectual side.”

And she is about to be clad in a contradiction of sexy and avant-garde, where a penchant for extreme opposites includes mixing harsh elements with softer ones.

In the spring-summer 2007 collection, Schwab’s signature vision turned into sharp corners and geometric shapes revealing a hidden construction. And it was, mostly, all about the dress.

“Dresses are very much what people want to see from me right now. Young designers sell dresses, not coats,” said Schwab, whose designs have so far been picked up by Kate Moss, Hilary Duff and Kylie Minogue, among others.

In the collection, Schwab worked meticulously on the idea of 3-D, by restructuring curves and making them graphic, ultimately manipulating them by just a few millimeters. On the catwalk a girl looks like she’s wearing a simple black dress. On closer inspection, she reveals concealed corners.

Born in Athens in 1977, Schwab grew up in the neighborhood of Vyronas before moving to Salzburg at the age of 15. In Austria, he attended a specialized high school, where courses included tailoring, pattern cutting and textile development. Then it was time for Berlin and the ESMOD International fashion college. His next destination was London, where the aspiring designer incorporated the team of fashion duo Clements Ribeiro. Soon, however, he was following a friend’s sound advice by enrolling at Central Saint Martins. With an MA in hand, Schwab then collaborated with menswear designer Kim Jones in the development of a womenswear line.

The spring/summer 2007 collection was Schwab’s first solo presentation, following two smaller-scale shows with the Topshop-sponsored Fashion East group in previous seasons. It was also the result of hard labor in the studio, where the designer assures his production.

“London has been my favorite city. It’s a very difficult city, you have to work very, very hard,” said Schwab, though he could not imagine showing his work in any other place.

“I love the creative side, but when you first start developing the business side you feel alienated and shocked by how much you have to do and how little time you have for actual creativity,” he said. “It’s hard to grow, but you have to stay positive.”

Being positive is the way to go for the designer, who, so far, has done well on the commercial level with collections currently available at Browns and the Shop at Bluebird in London, Maria Luisa in Paris, Opening Ceremony in New York as well as various outlets in Japan. Meanwhile, in his spare time, Schwab turns into a teacher as a part-time lecturer in fashion design, styling and promotion at Middlesex University.

“My history in fashion has to do with respecting fabrics, the tradition of making,” said Schwab. “I love people who understand the clothes and they can sell them the way I conceive them.”

Like his fellow up-and-coming designers, Schwab is working hard on developing his friendships. On the one hand are the buyers, while on the other is the hungry fashion press, where reviews can make or break a name.

For now, Schwab will continue playing the fashion game in London, focusing his gifts and efforts in developing his brand, while Greece will remain a great place for reflection and developing ideas.

“Although I dislike fashion in that you have to work with money and be quite materialistic, I love doing it because I see a garment as a timeless piece to be passed from woman to woman,” said the designer. “Clothes are the first encounter with someone’s personality. It has this kind of power.”