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Lawyer earns rare French honour January 18, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Diaspora.
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Beneath the crystal chandeliers and gilt carvings of an 18th-century Paris salon, the French government granted one of its highest honours to a British lawyer on Tuesday evening.

Prof Sir Basil Markesinis QC was awarded the blue sash and gold insignia of a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Merit, only the sixth Englishman to receive the honour since it was created by de Gaulle in 1963.

He already holds the Légion d’Honneur, though at a slightly lower level. “I’m very chuffed,” he says. This award is only the latest in a mantelpiece-full of academic fellowships and civil honours that Sir Basil has received from throughout Europe, including his knighthood two years ago for services to international legal relations. But, despite his distinction, the subject to which he has devoted his academic career is something of a mystery to non-lawyers.

Born in German-occupied Athens in 1944 to a Greek father of Venetian ancestry, Sir Basil learned English and inherited one of his nationalities from his British-born mother, whose Greek family, from the island of Chios, had escaped to Britain in the 1820s.

After being awarded his first degree in Athens at a precociously early age, Sir Basil took a doctorate in Paris and then another in Cambridge. “The real problem, and the real advantage, is that I had finished law school at the age of 19,” he recalls. “I was unemployable. So I ended up studying at various places, Paris, Munich, Amsterdam.”

That unusual breadth of experience, coupled with the understanding he acquired of European languages and culture, laid the foundations for a career in what is known as comparative law, the study of how different legal systems cope with common problems. It was a career that took him to some of the world’s leading universities, where he actively raised funds and founded institutes to teach the subject he has made his own.

Anyone can learn about a foreign legal system, he believes. But the advantage of his highly complex background is in helping him to appreciate how foreign lawyers think. “Understanding the differences in mentality, understanding linguistic and conceptual differences, is what influenced the way I tried to shape the teaching of foreign law in this country,” he tells me at his home in Oxfordshire.

Sir Basil’s commitment to spreading the word about foreign systems of law is all the more remarkable in the light of his family background. Presenting him with his award on Tuesday at the Assemblée nationale, the lower house of the French parliament, its president, Jean-Louis Debré, recalled that Sir Basil’s parents met during the war and joined the same resistance cell.

He pointed out that the suffering Sir Basil’s parents had endured in occupied Greece did not prevent the young lawyer from enthusiastically embracing German and other continental systems of law after the war.

With that, the Frenchman pinned the badge of the order on Sir Basil’s chest and kissed him on both cheeks.

“I don’t deserve it, except that I think I am one of the few people who have really fought for an open mind towards ideas,” Sir Basil says. “Probe everything and keep the best,” he says, quoting St Paul’s First Epistle to the Thessalonians, in his own pithy translation.

Salonika Imports > Food from the motherland of Greece January 18, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Taste World.
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Add Chris Balouris, a business grad from Carnegie Mellon University, to the list. He is the owner of Salonika Imports in the 3500 block of Smallman Street. He spent almost a dozen years climbing corporate ladders but always had a soft spot for the food business.

“I grew up in my parents’ restaurant in Bellevue. I’ve always loved working with food, but I didn’t want to be in the restaurant business,” says Chris, whose family has a Greek background. “I see Salonika not only as a livelihood, but as an opportunity to teach about my heritage and be a part of the world I love.”

The bulk of Balouris’ operation, which he bought not quite a year ago, is the importing and wholesale nationwide distribution of Greek and other Mediterranean foods. The retail shop out front is almost an afterthought. But that’s where the goodies are. He stocks the tiny shop with Greek feta cheeses, yogurts, jarred spreads and toasts to spread them on, olive oils and imported meats and candies.

“I love to talk with my customers to get the pulse on the street. I’m growing the retail business with a line of gift baskets and an improved Web site.”

Greek Olives platter.  From bottom center clockwise > oil-cured black olives, Kalamata olives, green cracked olives, Chios olives and black Greek olives.

Salonika Imports, 412-682-2700 or www.salonika.net 

Yianni’s > A beautiful odyssey January 18, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Taste World.
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I was utterly amazed at the immediate sense of being transported back to warm nights in Piraeus, the port of Athens, from the moment we walked into Yianni’s Greek Cafe in Fort Pierce.

The haunting, sometimes solemn music against the azure blue and white colors that belong to the Aegean Coast made for an inviting, yet simple entrance. Upon watching what came out of the kitchen and opening the menu, I knew we were on to something “real.”

We began with the hummus special and saganaki. The hummus platter arrived with tomatoes, pita bread, and the most delicious fried eggplant and creamy hummus I have had in years. A few moments later, the ouzo flambeed, aromatic, pungent cheese appetizer (saganaki), was delivered by the owner/chef, complete with lemon wedges for dousing that made me want to dance the Zorba.

Had we known the portion sizes were so ample, and I mean generous in quality and quantity, we might have controlled ourselves more, but my dinner guest was not familiar with all the divine dishes from Greece and I wanted us to try as many as possible.

We had four of the most tender, lean, perfectly grilled loin lamb chops, and a souvlaki platter that would have made me swear I was in a seaside cafe in Mykonos or Hydra. The pork loin was perfectly seasoned, the skordalia, pureed garlic potatoes, and tzatziki, cucumber yogurt sauce, and onions with pita triangles were mouth-watering. I could not resist ordering the mousaka for the creamy blend of eggplant, meat, potatoes and tomato sauce smothered with a perfect bechamel sauce, hinted with nutmeg and topped with cheese.

Every entree comes with two sides and in essence we got to try most of them: spinach rice, lemon potatoes, green beans, Greek salad, more of that incredible eggplant and some fries for good measure. We topped off our dinner with warm, fresh galaktoboureko, phyllo dough layered with custard, honey and semolina, and Greek coffee that kept one of us awake half the night even though we were food drunk. 

YIANNI’S GREEK CAFE
Like a local hideaway in Mykonos or Santorini
224 Orange Ave., Fort Pierce. Phone: (772) 462-0625.

Saganaki > Hot-ticket item January 18, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Taste World.
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Saganaki, Blue Dolphin, 502 S. Burdick St., 343-4993

The flaming meal is a retro concept that’s always fun, even for the coolest diner. It imparts entertainment to any dinner and is epitomized by the Blue Dolphin’s Saganaki.

Saganaki is a popular dish among Greek restaurants in which Greek cheese is sauteed, then put on a plate, laced with alcohol and flamed at one’s table. And the Blue Dolphin is one of the few restaurants in the Kalamazoo area that serves Saganaki.

The Blue Dolphin cooks take hard, imported goat cheese rounds, cuts them in wedges, dusts the wedges in flour, then sautes them. The wedges are put on hot plates and treated to a splash of 85-proof rum and then the rum is ignited with the use of a hand-held lighter. The flames are doused by a squeeze of lemon.

The rich, fried cheese tastes both sweet and tart. It can be cut and placed on pita or freshly baked rolls that also are served. The hot plate is key to the preparation of the dish, said Blue Dolphin owner Steve Stamos. The heated plate helps the liquor ignite, Stamos said.

Sixteen years after the restaurant opened, the Saganaki is still the Blue Dolphin’s top appetizer. Most recently, two other flaming dishes, Vegetable Dolmades and Shrimp and Feta, were added.

Analysis of an ancient war in modern times January 18, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Culture History Mythology.
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More than two thousand years ago, 10,000 Greek soldiers found themselves isolated among hundreds of thousands of enemies in Mesopotamia, not far from where American troops are now in Iraq. They had marched from Greece to take sides in a civil war they knew too little about.

Xenophon told his men the truth about their situation and led the 10,000 back to the sea and home to Greece, leaving an example of courage, leadership, skill and honor for generations yet to come.

The American forces in Iraq deserve a Xenophon.

The battle of the saxes January 18, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Music Life Live Gigs.
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It promises to be a meeting of heavyweights at the Half Note Jazz Club (17 Trivonianou Street, Mets, Athens, tel 210 9213310) for a week beginning tomorrow with three long-serving and noteworthy brass players uniting as part of a sextet founded nearly a decade ago to pay homage to the late jazz legend Gerry Mulligan, arguably the field’s finest baritone saxophonist.

Founded by Ronnie Cuber, a powerful baritone sax player who has been putting out excellent recordings for over two decades, the Three Baritone Saxophone Band also includes Howard Johnson and Scott Robinson, both with extensive backgrounds, as part of the act’s frontline brass section.

Cuber’s collaborations have included work with Slide Hampton, Maynard Ferguson, George Benson, Woody Herman’s Orchestra, Frank Zappa and, more recently, regular performances with the Mingus Big Band.

Rated as one of the leading tuba soloists since the early 60s, Howard Johnson’s versatility has allowed him to figure prominently on baritone sax as well as other reeds and trumpet. He has been linked with all-brass bands in the past, including the four-tuba group Substructure, which has worked with blues great Taj Mahal. Other acts included in Johnson’s extensive list of collaborations include Gil Evans, Charles Mingus, Archie Shepp, Jack DeJohnette and Jimmy Heath.

Besides being a respected player of baritone sax, Scott Robinson, the frontline trio’s other member, has also built a reputation for using various unusual or forgotten types of saxophone, such as the contrabass sax or the C-melody sax. Cuber, Robinson and Johnson are sided by Kelvin Sholar on keyboards, Boris Koslov on bass and Mark Taylor on drums for the Three Baritone Saxophone Band.

The venue’s agenda in coming weeks includes the Kirk Lightsey, Doug Sides Blues Trio (January 26 – February 1), and Mahmoud Fadl and the Drummers (February 2-8). 

Books which are made like art objects January 18, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Books Life Greek.
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Eleni Saroglou’s Cube Editions specializes in artists’ books that strive for originality and care for detail

In the past few years, whenever she visited bookshops or the Museum art shops abroad, publisher Eleni Saroglou found herself spending hours browsing through artists’ books.

This is where she could discover books made with a sense for craftsmanship, originality and uniqueness. Saroglou appreciated the broad aesthetic range of the books and the match between format, layout and contents. Artists’ books were the opposite of standardized, mass-produced publications. Saroglou found that it was the closest a book, not necessarily of a limited edition, could come to a work of art.

Motivated by her fondness for artists’ books, Saroglou decided around six years ago to launch Cube Editions, a publishing house that would specialize in the genre, which until then was poorly represented in Greece.

An ex-painter who had worked for years at the Ileana Tounta Contemporary Art Center, Saroglou had worked with artists before and was used to presenting their work in an original and creative way. In her mind, a book should be a work of art in itself, an object with an aesthetic quality of its own. The texture, color, layout and visual flow of the book had to have a personality and presence irrespective of the contents.

In “Leda Papaconstantinou: Performance, Film, Video 1969-2004,” one of Cube’s recent publications, the care that Saroglou puts into the making of a book comes through. The book was published on the occasion of an exhibition on the artist’s work that was held in late fall at the Benaki Museum. Like the rest of the Cube publications such as a book on the photography of Lia Nalbadidou or the catalog printed for the Greek participation at the recent biennale of Alexandria, it is a sophisticated, discreet book which is the polar opposite of glossy, coffee-table tomes.

It is also a book that presents the work of Leda Papaconstantinou, a pioneer of performance art in Greece, in a lucid, clear way with a narrative, in Greek and English, by the artist describing each performance. Text and images, black-and-white photographs that are grouped together for each performance, are presented side by side against a minimal, black and white background and matte-finish paper. The book also includes a foreword by the artist’s friend Sally Potter and succinct but to-the-point critical essays by Efi Strousa, Eleni Varopoulou and Nikos Xydakis.

Because performances are ephemeral, this book is also vital for documenting this body of work and for reviving something of its directness. Yet, like the rest of the books published by Cube, it does not speak out loud to the reader but requires time and a cultivated eye. Cube is set on making books for a group of select readers and art lovers. At a time when the commercial success of a book has become a priority for most publishing houses, this is a challenge.

Related Links > www.cubearteditions.gr