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IAEA conference opens in Athens December 11, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Shows & Conferences.
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An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), sponsored International Conference on the decommissioning of nuclear facilities and the “safe termination” of nuclear activities began here on Monday, bringing together some 350 top scientists from around the world.

The IAEA is represented by Deputy Director General and the Head of its Department of Nuclear Safety and Security, Tomihiro Taniguchi.

On his part, the President of Greece’s Atomic Energy Agency, Prof. Leonidas Camarinopoulos, said the east Mediterranean country’s keen interest in the sector remains focused on a handful of nuclear facilities in neighbouring countries due for closure, in tandem with increased interest in building nuclear power plants in the region.

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Athens to host Euroleague Basketball December 11, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Basketball.
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Europe’s premier basketball competition, Euroleague Basketball, was founded in 2000 under a private organisational model that is considered a breakthrough for European professional team sports. The competition features 24 clubs from 12 or more countries per season and crowns its champion each spring at the Euroleague Final Four, one of the signature events of European sports.

The 2007 Euroleague Final Four will take place 4-6 May 2007 in Athens, Greece.

Basketball in Europe has experienced spectacular growth in recent years, along with the development of Euroleague Basketball. In just six years, Euroleague Basketball has consolidated a competition of the highest sporting level, has introduced the concept of a professional league to Europe and has expanded its television reach beyond Europe, where 100 percent of all Euroleague Basketball games were televised in 2005-06, with coverage reaching all five continents. Euroleague Basketball attendance has increased 82% from the inaugural 2000-01 season.

City of Athens turns festive this week December 11, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Special Features.
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City of Athens into Christmas Spirit  A City of Athens model shows how Syntagma Square will be transformed during the holiday season. The Christmas setup includes a 1886 vintage carousel.

Athens is turning once again into a city of joy and fun as the holiday season nears.

Featuring, among other activities, a vintage carousel, a workshop for gifts made of spices and balloons, music from around the world, storytellers and magic trains, the Greek capital is preparing for the festivities and hopes to welcome an increased number of visitors this year.

All over town > Syntagma Square, the National Gardens, Kotzia Square, along with areas in Kypseli, Pangrati, Thiseion and Ambelokipi, will fill up with Christmas colors and flavors.

At the heart of the city, in Syntagma Square, an antique carousel from 1886 will turn next to the impressive Christmas tree, whose star will be lit up this Thursday.

Kotzia Square will host a special workshop and post office for season’s greetings, where citizens will be able to send their wishes with a holiday stamp, while the area in the National Gardens in front of Zappeion Hall will welcome a city of toys, where children can make their own candles and decorations of spices and balloons. Also at Zappeion, a snow slide, made of real snow, will cater to visitors’ entertainment.

The budget for the entire project has been set at 1.5 million euros. Part of the funding is expected to be raised from the rental of the little wooden commercial stores which will be erected in Syntagma Square for the duration of the festivities.

Related Links > www.christmasinathens.gr (in Greek and English)

Sex, art and pornography in cinema December 11, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Movies Life.
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From ‘Deep Throat’ to ‘Shortbus’

Following John Cameron’s «Shortbus» by just a couple of weeks, there came «Destricted,» a film compilation of seven short stories directed by Marina Abramovic, Matthew Barney, Marco Brambilla, Larry Clark, Gaspar Noe, Richard Prince and Sam Taylor Wood. Both films have been screened in Greek movie theaters. What do they have in common?

Scenes of real sexual activity that make the films themselves border on the pornographic. The first of the two looks at a sex therapist who visits alternative clubs in order to improve her own sex life, and the latter is much like a study on sex and pornography. Films like «Last Tango in Paris,» «Salo» and «9 1/2 Weeks» don’t hold a candle to these newer productions where the sex scenes are real.

In fact, Lars von Trier spearheaded the trend in 1998 with «The Idiots,» a film that included a scene from a real orgy, even though the director later stated that he had used body doubles for the actors. The 1999-2001 period saw three French films in the same vein. Indeed, the first, titled «Romance,» featured Italian porn star Rocco Siffredi. Next came «Baise-Moi,» directed by Valerie Despentes, and Bertrand Bonello’s «Le Pornographe,» which tells the story of a veteran porno producer who tries to marry pornography and art.

If von Trier doubled the actors for his films and the French films used professional porn stars, the 2003-2004 period brought in mainstream actors to perform real sex scenes, such as Chloe Sevigny in «Brown Bunny» or Michael Winterbottom’s «9 Songs» which, without the sex scenes, performed by actors Margo Stilley and Kieran O’Brien, would have very little story line to go on. When asked at a press conference about why he chose to show such graphic sex scenes in the film, director Winterbottom simply replied, «Why not?» An interesting yet hardly original point of view.

Pornographers themselves were the first to express a desire to see their genre presented in a more artistic light. This started in 1972 with the boom in pornography and has continued until today with films such as the excellent documentary «Inside Deep Throat,» in which the director of the original «Deep Throat,» Gerard Damiano, states that his dream was to make films that combine sex with the art of cinema. Damiano was echoed by Burt Reynolds when he played the role of the porn director in Paul Thomas Anderson’s «Boogie Nights,» which realistically portrays the boom in the porno industry in the 1970s and its ensuing demise in the 1980s with the advent of video technology.

The comfortable coexistence of pornography and art has been a dream for some time now that has never really become reality for a number of different reasons. The involvement of the Mafia in the production of pornographic films and the rise of the Religious Right in the USA, the 1980s not only brought video technology but the Ronald Reagan administration and the onslaught of AIDS, pushed sex into the background in Hollywood: that is, the San Fernando Valley in California, the heart of the American pornography industry, aptly located directly behind the hill with the Hollywood sign.

Up until the time of «Deep Throat,» pornographic films were made of so-called loops, industry vernacular for short pornographic films, often without sound, that appeared sporadically in the 1950s and in much greater numbers in the 60s. The tragic star of «Deep Throat,» Linda Lovelace, made her first appearances in loops, but when «Deep Throat» premiered in the then seedy neighborhood of Times Square in New York, artists and socialites from all over Manhattan flocked en masse to see her.

The year «Deep Throat» was launched, 1972, also saw another two seminal pornographic films: «Behind the Green Door» and «The Devil in Miss Jones,» both also directed by Damiano and both displaying decidedly more artistic qualities than their predecessor. The use of filters and psychedelic music created an atmosphere and aesthetic very rarely seen in the genre then or ever since.

Despite the fact that Damiano never really succeeded in making an «artistic pornographic film,» the trend by modern-day directors to incorporate pornography into their films, in an age of sexual freedom if not sexual liberation, does Damiano some justice and gives rise to several questions: If this really is a trend, will it continue and how far will it go? And can it be attributed to purely artistic experimentation or is it a direct result of social and political developments today?

For some critics, films like the American «Shortbus» are a reflex reaction to religious neo-conservatism. In contrast, the experimentations by Europeans such as von Trier and Winterbottom are just that: experiments that are judged by no other standard than their result. Whatever the intentions of the «pornographer» Damiano and the «artist» Winterbottom, the end result is always what counts.

The English novelist Martin Amis wrote in the March 17, 2001 issue of The Guardian: «Prostitution is the oldest profession. And porno is the newest profession.» As far as the performer is concerned, Amis says the star is «like a gladiator: a contemporary gladiator. Of course, the gladiators were slaves, but some of them won their freedom.» Amis also wrote: «Whatever porno is, whatever porno does, you may regret it but you cannot reject it. To paraphrase Falstaff: ‘Banish porno, and you banish all the world.’»

Guided by the music, not style December 11, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Music Life Live Gigs.
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Appealing genre-defying Swedes EST in Athens for one show tonight at the Pallas Theater

Critics tend to disagree on whether EST, or the Esbjorn Svensson Trio, are a jazz band. Regardless of style, the Swedish trio has found an innovative musical path.

EST, the Esbjorn Svensson Trio, are described as a jazz trio, but their songs make the pop charts. The Swedish act’s video clips get aired on Scandinavian MTV. Away from home, their work appeals to an array of listeners, including jazz, rock and hip-hop fans.

EST play big stages that are livened up by rock-circuit antics like light shows and smoke machines. Whether it’s jazz or not, EST have found an innovative musical path. The talented trio, comprising pianist Esbjorn Svensson, Dan Berglund on double bass and Magnus Ostrom on drums, perform in Athens tonight, at the Pallas Theater.

European jazz act the Esbjorn Svensson Trio will present its atmospheric melodies with highlights of rock and electronica, at the Pallas Theater tonight. For ticket information, contact Virgin Megastores and Ticket Net, tel 210 8840600.

Pallas Theater, 3 Voukourestiou Street, Athens, tel 210 3213100.

Greek scientists > Sleep for better health December 11, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Health & Fitness.
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A low metabolism and weight gain for those who don’t get enough

Two Greek scientists have found that a systematic lack of sleep is related to obesity and harms health by stressing the body. But these effects can be eased by taking a two-hour nap in the afternoon, a common habit in Athens three decades ago, before lifestyles sped up to today’s frenzied pace.

Professors Alexandros Vgontzas (of the Sleep and Research Treatment Center at Penn State University’s College of Medicine) and George Chrousos (of the US National Institute of Child Health and Human Development), in an article in the American Journal of Physiology, studied for five years the effects of sleeplessness on the metabolism and discovered it can be hazardous to one’s health.

«We should get as much sleep as our bodies need,» said Chrousos, who is also professor of pediatrics at Athens University. «When someone is sleepy, their minds do not work properly, and they are not alert. They are more likely to cause a road accident and cannot work efficiently. If we don’t get enough sleep over a long period of time, our metabolism changes and we age faster,» he explained. «Sleep has restorative and corrective properties. It corrects minor damage before it can accumulate and cause serious problems.»

Not all people have the same needs, so normal sleeping patterns can range from six to eight hours, depending on the individual.

«First of all we deprived healthy people of sleep for one night and the next day subjected them to laboratory and other tests,» said Chrousos, describing the experiments. «We saw that levels of interleukin-6, which is a cytokine [a proteinaceous signaling compound used extensively for inter-cell communication] produced by the immune system, had increased. This hormone creates a resistance to insulin and a tendency to obesity. Every time the levels of insulin in the blood rise, this causes very slight damage, but over a long period of time causes visceral obesity and this can undermine our health as a major cause of cardiovascular disease.»

The next experiment was also on healthy people who were deprived of two hours of sleep a day for a week.

«We wanted to see if this slight sleep deprivation, which is very common these days, can affect metabolism,» Chrousos said. «In fact, a week later we saw that the participants were sleepy, tired, had increased levels of cytokines and metabolic anomalies. We tested their levels of mental clarity, alertness, and above all their effectiveness in carrying out tasks and found that these levels had all dropped. That is, just a small reduction in the number of hours’ sleep over a week had a number of negative effects.»

A two-hour afternoon nap can rejuvenate you after a late night > A nap every afternoon helps us get through the rest of the day much more effectively than a strong cup of coffee, the study says. A two-hour siesta, in fact, is enough to rejuvenate us after a really late night.

«Afternoon naps are really beneficial,» Chrousos said. Laboratory tests show that hormone levels return to normal after a two-hour nap, and participants said in response to a questionnaire that they no longer felt sleepy or tired.

Further tests showed that people made fewer mistakes and worked more efficiently. The levels of cortisol in the blood (a hormone that is considered harmful if it remains at high levels over long periods of time) fell after a late night, but after a short afternoon nap, they rise just enough to make us feel better. Getting enough sleep contributes to a proper balance of hormones and is necessary for good health. This particularly applies to young schoolchildren and students who often do not get as much sleep as much as they should.

Greece into Uefa Cup December 11, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Football.
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Anderlecht – AEK Athens > 2 – 2

AEK Athens had to settle for a UEFA Cup spot following a 2-2 draw at Anderlecht in their final Champions League Group H match on Wednesday.

Lille’s surprise 2-0 win at AC Milan was enough to see the French side sneak past the Greeks into second place in the group and a place in the next phase of Europe’s top club competition.

‘It’s heartbreaking, but I am proud of the way my players fought back and kept going until the end,’ AEK coach Lorenzo Serra Ferrer told reporters. ‘But it could have been worse considering the way we went behind. We could have missed the UEFA Cup.’

Milan finished top of the group on 10 points with Lille a point behind and AEK one point further back. Anderlecht finished bottom on four points.

‘Tonight was the story of our Champions League campaign. We have given away a lot of late and silly goals,’ said Anderlecht goalkeeper Daniel Zitka. ‘We are still learning at this level and our biggest lesson is that the game is 90 minutes, not 75.’

Anthony Vanden Borre put Anderlecht in front after 38 minutes when he toe-poked home his first Champions League goal following a goalmouth scramble.

Nicolas Frutos doubled the home team’s lead in the 63rd with a powerful strike after AEK keeper Stefano Sorrentino parried away a Mohamed Tchite shot.

The Belgian champions looked on course for their first Group H victory until the visitors struck back 15 minutes from the end with a header from substitute Vassilios Lakis.

Bruno Cirillo grabbed a dramatic equaliser with a volley in the 81st to set up a pulsating finish, but the Greek team were unable to grab a vital winner and must settle for a place in Europe’s second-tier competition.