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When Islam met Greece January 10, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Culture History Mythology.
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Greek philosophic enquiries have had a two-fold influence upon the Ethics of Islam. With many of the sectaries and mystics, both orthodox and heretic, an ascetic system of Ethics is found, coloured by Pythagorean-Platonic views. The same thing appears with philosophers, whom we shall afterwards meet again. But in orthodox circles, the Aristotelian deliverance, that virtue consists in the just mean, found much acceptance, because something similar stood in the Koran, and because, generally, the overall tendency of Islam was a catholic one.

More attention indeed was given to Politics than to Ethics, in the Muslim empire, and the struggles of political parties were the first thing to occasion difference of opinion. Disputes about the Imâmat, i.e. the headship in the Muslim Church, pervade the entire history of Islam; but the questions discussed have commonly more of a personal and practical than a theoretical importance, and thus a history of philosophy does not need to consider them very fully. Hardly anything of philosophic value emerges in them. Even in the course of the first centuries there was developed a firm body of constitutional law canonically expressed; but this, like the ideal system of duty, was not particularly heeded by strong rulers, who viewed it as mere theological brooding, while, on the other hand, by weak princes it could not be applied at all.

Just as little is it worth our while to examine minutely the numerous ‘mirrors of Princes’, which were such favourites, in Persia especially, and in whose wise moral saws, and maxims of political sagacity, the courtly circles found edification.

The weight of philosophic endeavour in Islam lies on the theoretical and intellectual side. With the actual proceedings of social and political life they are able to make but a scanty compromise. Even the Art of the Muslims, although it exhibits more originality than their Science, does not know how to animate the crude material, but merely sports with ornamental forms.

Source > History of Philosophy in Islam by TJ De Boer.


Greece next on Champ Car list January 10, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Racing & Motors.
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Champ Car officials are reportedly looking at expanding their European base of races for the 2008 season.

According to the Galveston County Daily News, the race chair for the Houston Region of the Sports Car Club of America, Vaso Gizikis, has been in discussions with Champ Car officials about running a race in Greece in June 2008.

“I approached Champ Car and asked them if they were interested in doing a race in Greece,” Gizikis said. “They said they were, so I started doing the work.”

Gizikis says the event will be held at the former Athens airport location, which was transformed into an Olympic facility for the 2004 Summer Olympics. The track is located next to the Aegean Sea, a few miles from downtown Athens and the Pireaus Port.

Recently, the Acropolis Rally held some of its stages at the facility and the local response was huge.

“We’re now in the final stages of the contract with Champ Car,” she says. “It’s really moving along.”

Currenty there is a one month gap in Champ Car’s 2007 schedule, which officials admit they would like to fill with a pair of European events, likely in Germany and Holland.

A winning return for Marcos Baghdatis January 10, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Tennis Squash.
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Preparing for upcoming Australian Open, Cypriot makes Sydney International’s next round

Marcos Baghdatis beat Latvia’s Emests Gulbis 7-6, 6-1 yesterday. It was his first game Down Under since last year’s Australian Open final.

Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis made a winning return to Australia yesterday with a first-round victory at the Sydney International, while former women’s world No 1 Martina Hingis crashed out with a loss against Jelena Jankovic.

Baghdatis crushed Latvia’s Emests Gulbis 7-6, 6-1 in his first appearance Down Under since his fairy-tale run to last year’s Australian Open tennis final, where he lost to world No 1 Roger Federer, 3-1.

Baghdatis, currently ranked 11th in the world, made it to Australian shores having reached the quarterfinals at the Qatar Open, where he went down to Sweden’s Robin Soderling in straight sets, 6-3, 6-2.

The Sydney International is the last stop for Baghdatis ahead of next week’s Australian Open in Melbourne. Baghdatis needed to call for the trainer to massage his hip after the first set of yesterday’s center court clash at Sydney’s Olympic tennis center. Still jet-lagged after flying into Sydney from Doha, the 21-year-old said he was battling the twin problems of soreness and fatigue but being back in Australia had inspired him to fight on.

“After we massaged it, it was getting better,” he said. “I still have a bit of pain, but by treating it, it will go away. Whenever I see the Rebound Ace and the color of the courts, I just want to play. I’m not joking; I’m serious. I don’t know why, the sunshine and all the things, it gives you motivation to play.”

Baghdatis will play Jan Hernych tomorrow for a place in the quarterfinals after the Czech qualifier upset last year’s runner-up, Italian Andreas Seppi, 6-4 6-2.

Also warming up in Sydney for next week’s Australian Open, Lena Daniilidou, currently ranked 35, and her playing partner, German Jasmin Woehr, lost in the first round of women’s doubles competition against American Corina Morariu and Australian Rena Stabbs. Daniilidou opted to skip singles play at the Sydney International.

The in-form Jankovic followed up her victory in Saturday’s Auckland Classic final with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 win over Hingis, who suffered her second defeat in three days having lost the final of the Australian women’s hard-court championship to Dinara Safina. Safina also made an early exit, losing 4-6, 6-3 6-2 to 33-year-old Australian Nicole Pratt, who is in her 20th and final season on the professional tour.

Maria Farantouri > The ‘high priestess’ sings to remember January 10, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Music Life Greek.
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Maria Farantouri arrives late for the interview, because of holiday traffic and rehearsals with the choir accompanying her at the Byzantine music conference next week; she does not stop apologizing.

This apology, lacking in pretense and ceremony, suffices to convey something about the unconventional woman who enters the room with a heavy gait, the same woman who immediately fills it with her dramatic presence and deep contralto voice. As our lively conversation continues two hours after the time allotted for the interview, it becomes clear why Greek writers, poets and intellectuals, both older than she and of her generation, consider her the ultimate national symbol and hear in her music the warm and painful memories of Greece.

Farantouri is renowned worldwide, and especially in Europe, and her name is indivisibly linked with the music of Mikis Theodorakis, perhaps also to his stormy image, hair flying about and hands waving forcefully while conducting an orchestra.

Farantouri, once a slim girl with long black hair and now a large woman, but always with a rare and almost operatic voice, can often be seen in photos listening attentively to the maestro. In Israel, she will be remembered mainly for a number of appearances in the 1970s, and above all for her mesmerizing performance of Theodorakis’ song cycle “Mauthausen,” to the words of playwright and poet Yakovos Kabanellis. The best known of these is “The Song of Songs,” which opens with the words, “how beautiful my love is in the everyday dress she is wearing.” Farantouri who has perfect pitch and whose voice is as sure and exact today as it was when she started out, does not need an orchestra to remind her of the song. She shuts her eyes and her hand move about all the while. Her rich voice alternately glides and rises, the words reverberate powerfully in the room and then she opens her eyes, smiles and says: “That’s it, that’s how it was.”

The high priestess > Farantouri was a young girl from the poor Athens suburb of Nea Ionia where many immigrants from Turkey resided, from the 1920s wave of immigration in which some million and a half Greeks were effectively exiled from Turkey. Her parents were born in Greece, her father on the island of Cepalonia where, she says, he grew up on Italian songs, but chose to live in this suburb. Throughout her childhood, she listened to rembetiko (urban blues) music or the heavy and distressful music of Stelios Kazantzidis from neighbors’ radios.

Farantouri, who was born in 1946, has been singing for as long as she can remember. She joined the Association of Friends of Greek Music at a young age and appeared with them in various places in Greece. Her mother always went with her, worried about the health and well-being of the slim girl who was afflicted with polio at a young age and had a slight limp.

During one of her performances, in 1963, Theodorakis was in attendance. He had just returned to Greece after being abroad and was mainly involved in classical music. “Already then he had begun his great life’s work, centering on reviving the great modern Greek poetry with music,” she says. “That was his dream; already at the age of 11 or 12, he had written music for poems. He chose all the great poets but also the ‘little’ ones, that is, those who had not been awarded the Nobel Prize but who were wonderful poets,” she says.

“What Mikis Theodorakis did was of the highest artistic and cultural importance, but also of political importance. He wanted to recreate the Greek spiritual identity that had been trapped for 400 years under the Turkish occupation and only at the end of the 19th century gained its independence, and this was followed by the Nazi occupation and then the civil war. We were exhausted, sapped of strength, so much was missing from our cultural and spiritual infrastructure. Education and creativity were lacking. We didn’t have music schools. People like Theodorakis and Manos Hadjidakis, who was a great talent but not a political one, laid the base for new music, but there was a huge lack.”

“And then,” she continues, “Mikis , who was greatly influenced by the plays of Federico Garcia Lorca, especially ‘Blood Wedding,’ and many other influences, but who mainly had a vision that burned in his bones, began to write music for poets Odysseas Elytis and George Seferis, and many others. You cannot believe how much people needed all of this.”

Farantouri gets excited remembering the period during which she became friendly with Theodorakis. “I remember Mikis’ voice when he turned to me, as if it was today. We were with the association on a tour in some small town in the North. En route, we saw the people who were drunk from hunger and they came to hear music.”

Farantouri’s voice, which even then was deeper and lower than usual, caught his attention. “He came up to me after the performance. ‘Do you know that you were born to sing my music?’ he asked me. And I, without the slightest hesitation responded, ‘yes’. That was how I felt. I was not trying to be clever or something. I really sang all my life. I very much wanted to be a classical singer, but my parents didn’t have money so they agreed I could sing with the association, and when I heard his music, I knew I’d sing it.”

Theodorakis announced then that she would be the “high priestess” of his songs. Neither of them could imagine that the coming years would provide a heart-rending, but formative, stage for his songs.

The world in her suitcase > In the mid 1960s, Greece was bruised and torn as a result of the Nazi conquest and the civil war that broke out in its wake and ended only in 1949. More than 50,000 citizens had been killed and the country was in political and social upheaval and open to diplomatic intervention on the part of the great powers. The girl with the golden voice would from then on absorb the political exuberance of a distinguished composer, and intertwine her music with the tormented heartbeat of the society in which she was born and bred.

“People were thirsty for something spiritual, cultural,” she says. “They were hungry for three things in this order: freedom, bread and education. These hungry people were roaming around on the streets and Theodorakis wanted to recruit them to create a better Greece.”

The young singer appeared with the maestro in England and Italy and all over Greece. To this very day, it is impossible to separate her voice from Theodorakis’ stormy, unique music and from Elytis’ wonderful nationalistic poetry. Elytis’ poetry speaks to his love of the country and is infused with the imagery of red blood, blue seas and skies and white hilltop houses. Seferis’ lyrics bespeak pangs of longing for Greece and its scenery, and mask a bitter irony and a yearning for love.

When Farantouri was 20, the colonels in the Greek army executed a military coup aimed at “saving Greece from Communism.” A few months later, a dictatorship had taken over Greece, and the government declared a new series of laws. Those on the Left and those opposed to the regime were persecuted.

“Mikis wrote to me from his exile,” she says. “‘Take some musicians and whoever you can and flee quickly to France.’ There were already quite a few exiled artists and politicians there. I quickly packed up and left. One suitcase with my entire world. And we started to perform in Europe.”

Their performances transformed them into the symbol of freedom fighting against the dictatorship that was choking their country. Every word and every note resounded with dust, and most of their earnings were passed on to other exiles. The prestigious concert halls were filled to capacity; the Europeans liked Farantouri’s classical singing style.

“That was a great period,” she admits, “despite the difficulties.” During those years, while in Italy, she met the left-wing activist and poet Telemachus Hitiris, who later became a minister in the Socialist Greek government, and her political awareness sharpened. The two are married and have a son. “I was not born into politics,” she says. “Only for a short period, in 1989, I joined the parliament as a representative of the Socialist party. But I am a free person.”

Over the past few years, Farantouri has performed in small and varied ensembles. She sings world music, blues and songs from Bertolt Brecht plays, and has returned to her favorites, Lorca and Pablo Neruda, sings Ladino lullabies and even two of Ahuva Ozeri’s songs. About two years ago, she recorded a selection of Theodorakis and Hadjidakis’ songs to pianist Janis Vakarelis’ outstanding accompaniment, and performs live with orchestras. This March, she is due to appear in Germany with an international repertoire.

How does she see Greek music integrating into the new European entity? Farantouri is concerned. “It is good that we joined Europe,” she says. “From the cultural point of view, it also had advantages. But it is difficult to ignore the danger of assimilation in this global-industrial erosion.

“Greek culture is visceral, human, hot. It is a culture of singing in the streets and it doesn’t suit it to be stuck opposite a TV, opposite the superficial and shallow globalization. I am neither bitter nor nostalgic, and I don’t yearn for the past indiscriminately, but we must not give up uniqueness and quality. Theodorakis created music so that the Greeks would remember and I sing to remember. Real art has a memory. The beauty of the variety in Europe must be protected in small places, in unique voices. To remember, to remember. For the future.”

Rumour mill puts Evridiki in the lead as Eurovision hopeful January 10, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Cyprus, Music Life.
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Cypriot singer-songwriter Evridiki has been unofficially announced as the island’s representative in the 2007 Eurovision Song Contest, which will be held in Helsinki, Finland this coming May.

Although the news does not yet appear on the CyBC website, the team in charge of maintenance and content of the CyBC Eurovision Song Contest site has verified the rumours on their own website pages.

This will be the sixth time the 37-year-old Limassol-born singer, has taken part in the contest. In 1992 and 1994 she achieved 11th place in the contest and participated as a backing vocalist on three other occasions.

Evridiki has been quoted on her official website as saying: “There is no official proposal. I am a fan of Eurovision, I have already participated both as a vocalist and as a contestant, and I really enjoyed it. I think that with a really good song, I might go again!”

The style of this year’s entry is said to be purely new wave pop and is hoped to make a special impact on the audience. The composer is Evridiki’s fiance Demetris Korgialas.

In a poll by London Greek Radio, Evridiki was the choice of more than 50 per cent of respondents to represent Cyprus in the Contest. Cypriot singer Michalis Hadjiyiannis was nominated by most voters to represent Greece. Last year Cypriot Anna Vissi competed for the Greeks.

Perhaps the biggest revelation regarding the as yet unnamed song is a rumour that parts of it will be sung in French. Some have linked the language swap to a voting strategy, in which Cyprus is hoping to gain a further 12 points from France, to go alongside the maximum points that are already anticipated from Greece, in tactical voting seen every year.

Evridiki says she’s not counting her chickens yet and will have to safely get through the semi-final stage of the local contest, which will be held on May 10, where she will compete against another 27 contestants.

Cyprus, along with the likes of Albania and the Netherlands must first negotiate their way through the semi-finals as a result of having failed to qualify in 2006. Annette Artani, who represented the island last year, was unsuccessful in making it to the final. If our singer fails to make it through, it will be the second consecutive year that Cyprus will not feature in the grand final.

Rather than conducting a nationwide competition as in other years, CyBC has this time around chosen to select the artist internally due to time restrictions and certain alterations made to the administrative board of the national broadcaster. According to a CyBC spokeswoman, official particulars will be released within the next few days.

Almost gone for a spell, indie rockers carrying on January 10, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Music Life Live Gigs.
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Ex-Galaxie 500’s Damon & Naomi play their first Greek show this Saturday
Damon & Naomi, who originally surfaced as part of the pivotal Boston-based trio Galaxie 500 in the late 80s, needed convincing to return to music after their first band’s leader split.

Following the bitter demise of their previous project, the seminal indie-pop trio Galaxie 500, in the early 1990s, band members Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang had apparently thought seriously about giving up on their craft. Yet the Boston-based band has managed to sustain its effort as Damon & Naomi with a steady stream of worthy releases. The duo’s activities brings them to Greece for their first-ever show here this Saturday at the recently launched Planet Music club in Athens.

As two-thirds of Galaxie 500, Krukowski and Yang experienced mixed fortunes. The material produced by the band, led by Dean Wareham, a transplanted New Zealander long in the USA, was unjustly overlooked during the band’s short lifetime. Their work, dreamy, enigmatic and minimalist pop tunes, eventually did get the wider recognition it deserved, but not before the trio fell apart. Wareham, who met the band’s other two members while they were all studying at Harvard University, pulled the band’s plug with a phone call saying that he was quitting.

It was a testing time for Krukowski and Yang, who contemplated a complete withdrawal from music. About a year later, the New Zealand expatriate went on to form a new band, Luna, the long-running and popular alternative pop act whose lineup included for several years compatriot bassist Justin Harewood, one of many musicians who passed through Martin Phillips’s eerie-pop band the Chills, an 80s underground gem from New Zealand.

While Wareham was quickly back on track, Galaxie 500’s other two members were left wondering about a next move. Their uncertainty was further shattered by the financial collapse of the disbanded act’s record label, Rough Trade. Galaxie 500’s three albums could no longer be marketed and claims to any royalties also vanished. But, not long afterward, Krukowski purchased the master tapes for all three albums at an auction of Rough Trade’s assets and the material was rereleased five years later as a box set of Galaxie 500’s complete recordings.

With all this going on, Krukowski and Yang had temporarily retreated from music to focus on running Exact Change, a small surrealist publishing house they established in 1990. Following insistent pressure from their producer of the Galaxie 500 albums, the pair resurfaced briefly, in 1992, as Damon & Naomi, with a debut album titled “More Sad Hits.” Krukowski, who drummed with Galaxie 500, moved to vocal and guitar duties for the new project, while Yang remained on bass.

The new work continued to feature the ghostly ambience of their previous band’s work, but the backdrop was more ambitious and expansive. Despite the effort, the pair withdrew soon after but resurfaced four years later, in 1995, around the time Galaxie 500’s work was successfully remarketed, with “The Wondrous World of Damon and Naomi.” Intriguing albums have since come at a pace of every two to three years.

Saturday, Planet Music, 44 Ardittou Street, Mets, Athens tel 210 9237109. Doors open at 9 p.m.

“Swan Lake” to open new venue January 10, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Ballet Dance Opera.
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State-of-the-art theater complex, hailed as city’s biggest, to host classic show on January 31 > The former Badminton venue’s new stage is 18 meters high, 30 meters wide and 18 meters deep.

The 300 workmen at the Badminton venue in Goudi were relieved over the holidays to hear that they would finally be spending some time with their families. The pace of work at the court-turned-theater, hailed as the biggest theater in Athens, has been feverish, with three round-the-clock shifts, seven days a week. The construction company that has undertaken the complete renovation of the Olympic Badminton Arena had nine months to turn the venue into a state-of-the-art theater for mixed events that is poised to open its doors on January 31 with Matthew Bourne’s groundbreaking production of “Swan Lake.”

The Badminton arena was the first Olympics venue to be put to good use after an international tender by Olympics Properties SA. The space, which measures 2.5 hectares, along with the open space surrounding it, was leased out for a period of 20 years to a business group comprising Giorgos and Panayiotis Georga of the Half Note Jazz Club, Dimitris Kontoyiannis an entrepreneur behind the Allou Fun Park and Michail Adam of Adam productions, the company that brought “Cats,” among other musicals, to Greece.

Initially, the badminton arena was seen as a temporary venue in which to stage new types of shows that no other venue in Athens was able to host. But when the government saw the scale of the building, it reconsidered. Local community groups at first resisted the construction of an expansive theater park in the area, arguing that it would compromise the green space. Nevertheless, a theater need not necessarily block the development of a metropolitan park; at least in theory. Where the problem really lies is in the government’s procrastination, the longer it takes to set out the boundaries of the park, the more risk there is of the woods in the area being gradually whittled away to nothing as construction spreads.

The original investor’s plan hopes to utilize the arena’s existing buildings. “After an investment of over 10 million euros and construction work that lasted for nine months, the only parts left of the old building are the roof and outer metallic shell,” explained Adam. “Everything is new: the foyer, reception areas, dressing rooms, everything.” The biggest stage in the country was built from scratch in the east end of the building. The stage is 18 meters high, 30 meters wide and 18 meters deep. The amphitheater seats 2,400 spectators. The theater complex can be reached via two entrances, one on Katehaki Avenue and another on Mesogeion and while there is enough parking space built into the area, the theater is also serviced by the Katehaki metro station and its adjacent car park.

The pace of construction picked up in light of the “Swan Lake” production, for which tickets are already on sale. “We wanted the first production to bear our signature,” said Adam. “This particular spectacle combines artistic value with a high commercial cachet in the sense that it is a high-quality artistic event that has wide public appeal.”

Starting at the Sadler’s Wells Theater in London in 1995, the show went on for hugely successful performances throughout Europe, the United States and Japan, receiving 30 awards and distinctions on the way. In Matthew Bourne’s version of the classic tale, the cast is all male, including the role of Odette/Odile.

After “Swan Lake,” which will run to February 11, the theater will close for approximately one month for additional work to be carried out on it. The theater complex is expected to be fully ready in the summer of 2008 with the construction of an outdoor concert venue with a capacity of 700 people. A restaurant is expected to be ready before 2008, which will operate outside theater hours as well. “We want the complex to be alive with people all year round,” noted Adam.

Shows on the agenda include a new production by the Tiger Lillies in June based on “The Little Match Girl,” an industrial dance show by the Tap Dogs, and “Jesus Christ Superstar,” a tribute production to Andrew Lloyd Webber. Another popular West End musical, “Mamma Mia!” is in the works for May of next year.

The theater scene in Greece seems to be getting the same facelift as the country’s cinema scene did in the 1990s, and not just in terms of the venues themselves, but in the types of performances as well.

Many of the capital’s old theaters have been renovated, Kappa, Vrettania, Ilissia, Moussouri, Dandoulaki, Gloria, etc, while others have even added a second stage, Aplo and Ilissia, among others. Theaters have also cropped up in many different neighborhoods, following the trends of urban redevelopment in areas such as Psyrri, Gazi, Metaxourgeio and Kerameikos.

The newly renovated Pallas, Aliki and Mikro Pallas in downtown Athens have improved the quality of the productions they stage along with their appearance and equipment, thus raising the bar for other theaters as well.

It is worth noting that in most cases, except for City Link, the renovations were funded by the companies or directors themselves. Sizable investments, such as those made for the Pallas, cannot easily be met by simple ticket sales, which is why the Pallas, for example, will also be leased out as a conference venue. It is also a fact that the capital invested in each venue will also to some extent determine the type of performances the venues will host. The best, most comfortable and well-equipped theaters also tend to host the most commercial spectacles. What the city is trying to achieve is what has already begun with the Pallas: high-quality shows of commercial success.