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An explosion of classic Greek anti-war plays in America November 5, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Hellenic Light Americas.
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It’s pure fantasy. Unless you lived in Greece in the fifth century B.C. when Aeschylus, the father of Western drama, wrote “The Persians,” the first known tragedy in the West. As a 35-year-old, Aeschylus fought against the Persians at the Battle of Marathon in 490 B.C.; a decade later, he was at Salamis for the decisive battle that forever changed the destiny of Europe.

Aeschylus believed that humans “suffer into truth” that our greatness emerges from severe tests. Theater scholar Roberto D. Pomo, of California State University Sacramento, asserts that the battle-tested Aeschylus wrote his tragedies to “exorcise his own demons, to understand human frailty. The only way he could do that beyond the battlefield was through his writings on war and suffering. He truly understood suffering.”

Greece and the world failed to learn the lessons of ancient drama.  War still dominates our headlines 2,400 years later. It’s easy enough to find unnerving parallels between our wars and our leaders with those of the ancient world.

All of which may explain the extraordinary resurgence of Greek plays nationally and, especially, locally. Since Desert Storm and through the current world conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, San Diego’s theaters, from the Old Globe to the tiny Sixth @ Penn, have offered as many Greek dramas as any city in the country.

San Diego artists and their audiences repeatedly return to Aeschylus, an admiral, Sophocles, also a warrior, Euripides, the original anti-war protester and Aristophanes, a conservative comedian who despaired at carnage of the Peloponnesian War.

Doug Lay, who has directed several Greek dramas in San Diego and has more in the works, notably Euripides’ “The Bacchae” at Sixth @ Penn later this month, says he “can’t get over how relevant these plays are to our society. So many of the lines seem to be ‘sound bites’ from the evening news. Audiences tell me that.”

The Athenians, who invented democracy, from demos, the free male populace over 18, voted on whether to go to war, every year. Usually, they voted with their pocketbooks, as war was “good business” especially for the lower class or nautikos ochlos “sailor rabble” who made a fair living manning the oars of the great triremes.

Not surprisingly, amid our own wars we look to them for solace and perhaps guidance, however unheeded. Brian Vickers, a Cambridge don who writes extensively about Greek literature, notes that “few works of any language or any period have presented violence, weakness, and destruction either so vividly or with such compassion for the sufferer, hatred for the oppressor” as does Greek drama. Drama is contingent upon conflict, the clash of protagonists and antagonists, and nowhere among human endeavors is conflict more pronounced than in wartime.

“Unfortunately,” says Marianne MacDonald, a UCSD theater professor and prolific translator of Greek drama, “it is not in humanity’s nature to be pacifists. With the rise of personal property, violence has become a way of life.”

She cites such modern films as Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” in which a bone becomes a weapon and the comedy, “The Gods Must Be Crazy” where a coke bottle incites a skirmish, as contemporary works that reflect the Greek masters’ views on humanity’s predilection for self-destruction.

Unlike modern filmmakers, such as Steven Spielberg and Clint Eastwood, who portray battlefield slaughter on Omaha Beach or at Iwo Jima with stomach-turning reality, the Greeks avoided violence on stage. They understood that the imagination is capable of creating even more gruesome visions in our mind’s eyes.

Ultimately, the Greeks were more interested in the carnage of the soul than that on the battlefield. Aeschylus traced humanity’s movement from barbarism to civility in his trilogy, “The Orestia” a future project for Lay. From accounts of the slaughter of Troy in Part I “The Agamemnon”, to the debilitating effects of guilt in Part II “The Libation Bearers”, through the gloriously uplifting conclusion “The Eumenides”, in which man and gods create the courts of justice, Aeschylus shows humans at their very worst and, thankfully, at their best.

Whereas Aeschylus examined the cosmic implications of war, his successor, Sophocles, wrote tragedies focused on the dilemma of the individual trapped by external and internal forces. His Ajax is the prototype of the victim of “post traumatic stress syndrome,” also known as “battle fatigue.”

Sophocles taught us how to speak truth to power. In “Antigone” Oedipus’ defiant daughter mourns the body of her dead brother during Thebe’s civil war. She defies King Creon’s edict that, in the interest of the homeland’s security, the traitorous brother may not be buried. Committed to natural, rather than civil, law, Antigone defies the stubborn Creon, asserting that she was “born for love, not for hate.” Her unflinching resolve leads to her death, even as Creon’s actions precipitate the death of his son and wife.

The third of Athens’ tragic playwrights, Euripides, is the most modern of the Greek dramatists. His plays are cynical, ironic, bitter, more Brecht than Sophocles, who in Aristotle’s words “shows men better than they are.” Euripides’ tragicomedies showed men and gods “as they are”: venal, petty, vengeful, folly-bound.

Currently, McDonald is refining her translation of Euripides’ “The Bacchae” perhaps the most violent play in the Greek canon, for the Sixth @ Penn production. “It’s a play about religious intolerance in which the god Dionysus wages a religious war to wreak vengeance for a slight to his reputation,” she said. The vengeful god drives a mother, Agave, and her frenzied companions to dismember her son, Pentheus.

McDonald sees parallels between the destructive Dionysus and modern political and military leaders who “sway their people to vote for war to save face.” Nothing is sweeter for the aggressor, she says, “than holding your hand over the dead body of your enemy.”

Euripides’ most somber play, “The Trojan Women” was a response to a massacre at Melos during the Peloponnesian War. There, men, women, and children “fell before the spears of Greece.” The tragedy remains Euripides’ indictment of Athenian brutality. Perhaps more than any Greek play, “The Trojan Women” most reflects our concern with modern atrocities and remains central to any discussion of the Geneva Conventions.

Another Melos-inspired play rivals “The Trojan Women” as our most-produced anti-war play. It is not a tragedy, but the finest example of Athenian comedy: Aristophanes’s “Lysistrata”. It’s that famously ribald play in which the women of Athens and Sparta join forces for a sex strike to force their men to end the 30-year war between their cities. In their democracy, the Greeks could laugh at the absurdity of war, as well as tremble at its horror.

A wealthy landowner or “knight”, Aristophanes was conservative in his political views, yet the war against Sparta so disillusioned him that he wrote two other anti-war comedies. “The Acharnians” shows the consequences of one man’s decision to declare personal peace with Sparta; he’s tormented by his peers because he tries to “cut and run.” In “Peace” the goddess of peace is incarcerated by warmongers.

Each of Aristophanes’ anti-war comedies ends with a joyful celebration, song, dance, feasting, sexual ecstasy, to celebrate the return of peace. Alas, such triumphs occurred only on stage at the Theatre of Dionysus in the shadow of the Acropolis. History wrote quite another ending for the Athenians.

The tragedies also usually ended on a note of hope. “We’ve come through the worst,” the plays seemed to say, “and we’ll learn from this; we’ll be better for having endured the suffering in our midst.” In theory, the plays provided a catharsis, or “spiritual cleansing,” for audiences. But in practice . . . ?

If the Greek plays are truly tragic, their collective tragedy is that the lessons they teach were simultaneously so well known, and so little heeded, in ancient Athens. And today.

Fixated on the classics > The procession of Greek and Roman classics continues, with these productions and readings recently scheduled:

“The Bacchae” by Euripides, translated by Marianne McDonald, directed by Douglas Lay. Opens at Sixth @ Penn Theatre in Hillcrest November 24, runs through December 17; (619) 688-9210 or http://www.sixthatpenn.com/

“Phaedra” by Seneca, a reading by Dakin Matthews’ Antaeus Theatre, for three performances November 17 and 18. At the Getty Villa Auditorium, Malibu; (310) 440-7300 or www.getty.edu.

“Peace” by Arisophanes, a reading directed by Celeste Innocenti, with a “multicultural company of local actors, dancers and musicians,” December 18 at New World Stage, 917 Ninth Ave., downtown; (619) 374-6894.

“The Oresteia” by Aeschylus, translated by Marianne McDonald and J. Michael Walton and compressed into one full-evening play, directed by Douglas Lay. At Sixth @ Penn Theatre, May-June 2007.


Paphos > A busy place November 5, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus Paphos.
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To the world it is an archaeological treasure chest. It is the historic heart of the city of Paphos, a busy port and resort on the west coast of Cyprus.

In Greek mythology, the goddess Aphrodite was born near Paphos. The city derives its very name from the mythological daughter of Pygmalion, a king of Cyprus, and a woman, Galatea, who was brought to life by Aphrodite from a statue that Pygmalion had carved and subsequently fallen in love with.

Once the capital of Cyprus and for seven centuries its largest city, Paphos (Cypriot spelling: Pafos) has been named a World Heritage Site by the United Nations. It earned that distinction because of its extensive and endangered antiquities that intertwine with Greek, Roman, Byzantine, pagan and early Christian influences.

With three major museums, two castles, and three noteworthy churches among many others, Paphos is one of the most important crossroads of culture in the Mediterranean Sea. Especially interesting there are the 4th-century B.C. “Tombs of the Kings” the 2nd-century A.D. Odeon, and the broad expanse of mosaic floors at the houses of 3rd-century A.D. noblemen Dionysos, Theseus and Aion. The mosaics depict scenes from Greek mythology and have been meticulously cleaned, preserved and presented.

For all its history, Paphos is not a stodgy town known only for its ruins. Its lively harbor is filled with marinas, open air seafood markets and restaurants, night clubs and shops. Beachfront resort hotels line nearby shores, and traditional Cypriot tavernas may be found all over the picturesque city.

Paphos is also the base for tours of the ecologically sensitive and geologically spectacular Akama Peninsula and of the scenic Troodos Mountains of western Cyprus.

More information > www.kypros.org/cyprus/paphos.html 

Brain waves November 5, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Exhibitions Cyprus.
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There is more to Uri Geller than bending spoons as a new exhibition in Nicosia demonstrates

He can read peoples minds, bend metal without touching it, fix broken watches by looking at them and erase computer tapes and disks through brain waves. It can only be Uri Geller. As an internationally-acclaimed phenomenon, renowned for his paranormal and psychic powers, Geller has been stunning crowds with his special abilities for decades. Famed as the ‘spoon bender’ he has given fascinating demonstrations of softening and bending various objects through the sheer power of the mind. Some remain amazed and in awe at this marvel, others are rather sceptical about the whole thing. Whatever way you choose to perceive Geller, he has certainly managed to gain the attention of millions around the world. You now have the chance to watch this man perform before your eyes as he gives live shows in Nicosia today and Limassol tomorrow.

How did this man discover the powers that have left the world stunned? Geller was born in Israel in 1946 to parents of Hungarian and Austrian origin and they named him Uri, after Uriel the Archangel of salvation. At the age of four he had a mysterious encounter with a sphere of light while playing in a friend’s garden and soon after became aware of his special power. One day during a meal at home, his spoon curled up in his hand and broke although he hadn’t applied any physical pressure to it. His parents were somewhat shocked but didn’t look into the matter further. Geller himself then developed his powers alone by showing them to other children at school, and his mother thought he must have inherited his abilities from their distant relative, Sigmund Freud. At the age of eleven, Geller came to live here in Cyprus.

When he returned to Israel to serve in the army at the end of the 1970s he became a household name throughout the country thanks to numerous stage appearances. He soon left Israel and travelled around Europe and the US, where his abilities caused a great scientific and public stir. In Germany, he stopped a cable car in mid-air using only the power of his mind. All this was witnessed by photographers and reporters, and the world’s media turned their attention towards Uri as leading newspapers and magazines carried prominent articles about his powers.

In the early 1990s he agreed to host his own programme for an American TV network and in the mid 90s a major motion picture inspired by Geller’s life was made, named Mindbender. This was the first film in history which allows the audience to ‘interact’ with the screen action. Now based in the UK, he continues to demonstrate his abilities around the world and has written many books that give an insight into his life and achievements. What’s more, he’s worked with the FBI and CIA using mind power to erase computer files and track serial killers.

But Geller has another talent that’s not so well known, he’s also a great artist.

Drawing and painting has absorbed him since early childhood and these hobbies developed into a passion during the 1970s, when he met Salvador Dali. This infamous artist became his mentor and teacher, exercising a powerful influence on his style. In 1992 Geller created a unique masterpiece called the ‘Geller effect’ by riveting thousands of pieces of bent cutlery to his old Cadillac. Over a million people saw the work as it caused a rage at the International Car Show in England. Since then he has been exhibiting his art works in major galleries and museums around the world. The good news for us is that he is now exhibiting the same at Gallery K in Nicosia until December. This will mark his second solo exhibition in Cyprus and will feature objects designed in aluminium, bronze, porcelain, glass and crystal.

If you’re tempted to go and see this intriguing man perform, don’t forget to take old broken watches and a spoon with you. Its bound to be an amazing evening, just take care, your watches may start moving anti-clockwise!

Uri Geller Performances
November 5 Theatro Ena, Nicosia. 5pm.
November 6 Municipal Market B, Limassol. 8.30pm
£20. Tel: 22-348203/22-439838

Uri Geller Exhibition
Solo exhibition with artwork designed in aluminium, bronze, porcelain, glass and crystal. Until December 4. Gallery K, 14 Evrou Street, Strovolos, Nicosia. Tel: 22-341123.

Annual FIFPro soccer awards cancelled November 5, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Football.
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Greece has cancelled the annual FIFPro World Player of the Year award gala, less than a week before it was to be held in Athens, officials said on Thursday.

The awards, inaugurated last year and organised annually by FIFPro, which represents professional players worldwide, were initially to be held on November 6.

But doubts over whether the winning players and other guest stars would be present at the ceremony forced Greece’s Sports General Secretariat to scrap it.

“The gala will not take place,” a senior secretariat official told Reuters. “There was a lack of guarantees that the players winning the awards, presenters and guest appearances would actually be there,” the source said. “A gala without the players is not a gala,” he said. “So instead of risking having them show up on a video wall, we cancelled the gala after consultation with FIFPro.”

Among those planned to appear in Athens were last year’s FIFPro award winner Ronaldinho, Brazilian triple World Cup winner Pele and Italian defender Paolo Maldini.

Kenya’s Henry Tarus wins Athens Classic Marathon November 5, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Athletics.
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About 3,000 athletes from 66 countries ran in the 24th edition

The race traces the legendary course taken in 490 B.C by the messenger Pheidippides, who ran from Marathon to Athens to announce the victory of the Athenians over an invading Persian army at the plain of Marathon before dropping dead from exhaustion. The incident was immortalized by the ancient Greek historian Herodotus. The race was first established when the modern Olympiad was revived in 1896 in Athens.

Under a sunny sky but in cool weather temperatures today, Kenya’s Henry Tarus (2:17:45) and Japan’s Chikako Ogushi (2:40:45) respectively became the winners of the men’s and women’s competitions at the 24th Athens Classic Marathon. As usual the difficulties of the extremely tough course suppressed the final finishing times of the winners.

The victors received not only the traditional crowns of wild olive but also a prize of 6000 euros each, awarded by the President of the Hellenic Republic, Karolos Papoulias, who attended the race this year.

MEN – Kenyans dominate > Henry Tarus became the winner of the men’s race exhibiting not just more strength than his opponents in the latter part of the race, but also a lot more patience. This combination meant that Paul Lomol Lopio and Ben Chebet, the runners who led the race almost from the gun to the 39th kilometre, were eventually out manoeuvred by Tarus, 27, who has a personal best of 2:10:10 (2001).

In the final kilometres of the race with this leading duo looking like they would carry on to a certain one, two finish in the Panathinaikon Stadium, Tarus made what ultimately would be the decisive surge taking advantage of the leaders’ tiredness and the downhill section of the course at this point of the race. In this assault Tarus, a former winner of the Prague and Madrid marathons, managed to break down the lead of about 300 metres which they held on him, and crossed the line the victor in 2:17:45.

Paul Lomol Lopio was next across in 2:18:07, with Ethiopia’s Habtamu Bekele coming through late to take third place with 2:20:04, while last year’s winner Kenya’s James Saina was 6th with 2:20:18. Ben Chebet who was on the top for the greatest part of the race finally came home a tired 9th with 2:25:08.

A Greek runner, Ioannis Kanellopoulos, was 7th overall and so secured the Greek national title in what was his marathon debut. The just 25-year-old runner (birthday on 13 October) first became known in 2003 when he won the 10,000m at the European U23 Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland. Another Greek debutant, the former athlete of rowing Dimitrios Theorikakos, was 8th overall and second in national championships classification.

Women – Ogushi wins with last sprint > The women’s race was decided less than 100 metres to go before the entrance of the Stadium, as three runners, Japan’s Chikako Ogushi, and two Ethiopians Hatish Letay and Zinash Alemu were until then together neck and neck. The 27-year-old Japanese runner proved to be the stronger at the end, taking the win in 2:40:45. Letay placed second with 2:40:53, leaving third position to her teammate Alemu with 2:42:02.

It was Ogushi’s fourth marathon race of her career and the second in 2006, as she was sixth in Nagano, Japan, last April in her PB of 2:40:00.
The Greek runner Eleni Donta clocked 2:44:43 to take 5th place and the national title, putting an end to Georgia Ambatzidou’s dominance. Ambatzidou had won 5 national titles in a row from 2001 to 2005 by winning the Athens Classic Marathon.

Leading results

1 Henry Tarus KEN 2:17:45
2 Paul Lomol Lopio KEN 2:18:07
3 Habtamu Bekele ETH 2:20:04
4 Marc Saina KEN 2:20:18
5 Fujimoto Daikuse JPN 2:20:41
6 James Saina KEN 2:21:18
7 Ioannis Kanellopoulos GRE 2:24:21
8 Dimitrios Theodorakakos GRE 2:24:39

1 Chikako Ogushi JPN 2:40:45
2 Letay Hadish ETH 2:40:53
3 Zinash Alemu ETH 2:42:02
4 Salomie Jetnet Kassa ETH 2:42:59
5 Eleni Donta GRE 2:44:43
6 Tatyana Mironova RUS 2:44:49

Related Links >

Cyprus Church elected its new Archbishop November 5, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Religion & Faith.
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The Church of Cyprus on Sunday finaly elected its first new leader in 29 years.

Paphos Metropolitan Chrysostomos, 65, was elected Archbishop after winning a runoff vote against Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol.

Chrysostomos said he felt the burden of his position and asked for everyone’s help. “I will be everyone’s father, brother and friend,” he said. “Our doors will be open and we will be glad to see our people.”

The long and complex process to replace former Archbishop Chrysostomos started on September 24. Chrysostomos, 79, is reportedly suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and had not been able to carry out his duties on the Mediterranean island for several years.

In May, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world’s 250 million Orthodox Christians, chaired a broader meeting of church elders which called for Chrysostomos’ “honorary removal.”

Chrysostomos held the church’s senior position since 1977, when he succeeded Archbishop Makarios, the first post-independence President of Cyprus.

Cyprus’ Orthodox Church maintains a powerful influence among the 750,000 Greek Cypriots and plays a strong role in political issues. St. Barnabas is regarded its founder, almost 2,000 years ago. It is the biggest landowner on the island and has investments in banking, hotels and even wine and beer production.

Tiropita Triangles and Layered November 5, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Food Recipes.
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Tiropita Triangles

1 pound feta cheese (drained and crumbled)
1 pound small-curd cottage cheese (drained)
8 ounces cream cheese (at room temperature)
4 tablespoons cornstarch
1 handful Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon white pepper
4 eggs
1 pound phyllo dough
1/2 to 1 pound butter (clarified)

For the filling, mix first seven ingredients, adding eggs one at a time. Refrigerate overnight.

Take frozen phyllo dough out of the freezer, and refrigerate the night before preparing tiropita. Take phyllo dough out of refrigerator for about an hour, unopened, while reheating clarified butter and having pastry brushes and filling ready.

Unfold phyllo. With a sharp knife, cut through stacked phyllo lengthwise into three equal portions. Work with one-third of the phyllo at a time. Cover the remaining two-thirds with plastic wrap. Lay out one strip of phyllo; brush with melted butter. Fold in half lengthwise to make a strip about 3 inches wide; butter again.

Place a teaspoon of filling at the bottom of strip, about 1 inch from edge. Fold one corner to form a triangle; continue folding over the triangle to the end of the phyllo strip. This is similar to folding a flag or making a paper football. Brush triangle with butter. Repeat until phyllo, butter and filling are all used.

Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet at 375° for 20 minutes or until golden. Makes about 60 triangles. Refrigerate leftovers.

Layered Tiropita

Take frozen phyllo dough out of the freezer, and refrigerate overnight. Take phyllo out of refrigerator, unopened, for about an hour while reheating clarified butter and getting pastry brushes and filling ready. Remove from plastic bag as little phyllo as necessary. It dries out fast, so work quickly without interruption. A damp dish towel will help keep the phyllo from drying out.

Butter a 9- by 13-inch baking pan. (The size of the pan may need to vary with the length of the phyllo dough.) Take phyllo out of plastic bag and carefully unfold. Place 10 sheets of phyllo in the pan, brushing each sheet generously with butter before adding the next (a new, small paint brush works well).

Spread filling evenly over phyllo. Top with 10 more sheets of phyllo, buttering each layer. Tuck the edges of the top layers of phyllo down the sides of the pan and brush to seal. Sprinkle a few drops of water over the top of the pita to keep phyllo from curling during baking. Bake at 350° 50-60 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let stand for 15 minutes before cutting into squares. Makes about 35 pieces. Refrigerate leftovers.