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“Tholos” > new dome-shaped virtual reality theatre March 3, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Greece, Stage & Theater, Technology.
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tholos.jpg  The “Tholos” is the Foundation’s new dome-shaped Virtual Reality “Theatre” with a capacity of 130 people. It is a building of exceptional architectural design and with unique technological infrastructure, which hosts FHW’s digital collections. Tholos is the Greek word for Dome.

The “Tholos” resembles a planetarium regarding its natural and morphological characteristics. However, their only common characteristic is the semi-circular shape of the projection surface. The exterior shape of the “Tholos” refers to a whirling celestial body. It a sensation that is rendered through the processing of surfaces and the selection of materials, such as the successive rings that surround the external shell and the special lights that make it stand out during the night. Thus, the “Tholos” becomes a symbol of Hellenism and characterizes Pireos street in Athens.

The shows will be interactive, controlled by the spectator, and not static. It is a unique experience of immersion into the virtual world, which is characterized by immediate response, flexibility, originality and liveliness.

The “Tholos” has been designed as a Virtual Reality Museum, which will host FHW’s digital collections making them accessible to the public. These collections are testimonies of high cultural value, as they are developed and composed based on original and internationally innovative procedure of research, documentation and visualization of the historical and archaeological information.

The peculiarity of the “Tholos” is its ability to project onto the projection surface, with an inclination of 23 degrees, fully interactive content. The content that is projected on the “Tholos”, like FHW’s existent Virtual Reality systems, “Kivotos” and “Magic Screen”, is not “taped” but thanks to its digital infrastructure it possesses flexibility and liveliness. This significant difference is due to the fact that the basic mechanism of creation and projection at the digital “Tholos” is an extremely powerful battery of computers, which creates the projected images in real time, using the visualized information that has already been produced by FHW.

The basic advantage of this method is the ability to “create” a photorealistic reconstruction of sites, buildings, monuments, even people, that exist solely in the imagination of their creators or the researchers architects, historians and archaeologists, who have been trying for decades to describe and reconstruct them with two-dimensional drawings, based on their ruins and sources that still survive.

As a result, infinite alternative scenarios are created, within the same virtual model, which are being developed during the show and the visitor has the opportunity to navigate in real time. In spite of the fact that this medium can be used by creators or producers for numerous other objectives and applications, it also has the ability to incorporate and project into virtual space every kind of digital content: from videos and pre-processed digital projections to Internet web pages.

The superiority of the “Tholos” consists in its increased ability to create the feeling of immersion in virtual space, in other words the feeling that we are really there, but also the interactivity with the virtual space and the objects that compose it. The public is no longer just spectators in the realistic environment, but they can participate actively in the program and even define their experience. Since the images they see are not predetermined or “taped”, but are produced in real time, the public can interact with the space and determine the attitude of the virtual space.

An international innovation of the “Tholos” is the ability to create a full stereoscopic projection on the whole surface of the screen, with the use of 12 projectors and special stereoscopic glasses, increasing thus the feeling of immersion and providing additional opportunities for interaction. Of course, the projection onto a concave semi-circular surface, even without the stereoscopic ability, creates a 3-dimensional sensation. The ability to combine and alternate them combined with the interactive scenarios make “Tholos” a project unique for the whole world.

Another innovation is the ability of the “Tholos” to incorporate in real time the interaction between virtual and real elements, and particularly presenters and performers, with the use of special technologies for the recording and modeling of animation. This ability brings closer Visual Arts and Virtual Reality and increases the public’s feeling of immersion, as well as the educational and expressive uses of the medium.

“Tholos” possesses state-of-the-art sound systems 7.1. of film quality, as well as all the relevant control systems.

The experience > In order for the spectator’s eye to adapt to the dark environment of the main hall, he passes through a semi-lit space, where for 5-10 minutes he watches a multimedia presentation on numerous screens, where he learns about the “Tholos”, the presentation he is about to watch or even about the project itself and the digital representation.

Hellenic Cosmos, the cultural centre of the Foundation of the Hellenic World, is a buildings complex lies on a former industrial ribbon development at Pireos street, on an axis between Athens and Piraeus, where memory of Athens past meets the city’s modern identity.
254 Pireos street, Tavros 177 78, (next to the Athens School of Fine Arts)
Telephone: +30 212 254 0000, Fax: +30 212 254 0123

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George Michael’s European Stadium Tour > Starting May 2007 March 3, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Music Life Live Gigs.
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Following the massive success of Greek-Cypriot George Michael’s sell-out ’25 Live’ European tour in 2006, George announces the dates for a follow-up stadium tour across Europe reaching France, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Russia, Sweden, Holland, Greece and Hungary to name but a few.

Having sold-out in mere minutes, ’25 Live’ entertained over 650,000 delighted fans over the course of a 49 date tour, in 11 different countries, receiving unprecedented praise from fans and press alike.

Tour Dates include (more dates to be announced):

Friday 18 May > NRGI Park (Athletic Stadium), Aarhus, Denmark

Wednesday 23 May > Nepstadion, Budapest, Hungary

Friday 25 May > Inter Football Stadium, Bratislava, Slovakia

Monday 28 May > LTU Arena, Dusseldorf

Saturday 2 June > Strahov Football Stadium, Prague, Czech Republic

Friday 22 June > Stade de France, Paris, France

Saturday 23 June > Werchter Open Air Park Belgium

Friday 29 June > Stockholm Stadium, Sweden

Tuesday 17 July > Stadio Euganeo, Padova, Italy

Thursday 19 July > Stadio, Lucca, Italy

Saturday 21 July > Stadio Olimpico, Rome, Italy

For further information on George Michael, the tour or how to purchase tickets, please visit www.georgemichael.com

A taverna in Cairo so much Hellenic March 3, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Taste World.
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One unusual Cairene Greek restaurant will leave you breathtakingly impressed

Lunch lasted a long time. We enjoyed the panoramic views of the majestic River Nile and the feeble winter sun. The faint light streamed through the windows. It was the perfect setting for sampling the simple pleasures of traditional Greek cuisine.

The Greek Taverna is the perfect place for cheery eating, an eatery where it is impossible not to feel alive. Beautiful oil paintings of the cerulean Mediterranean, sun-drenched Greek islands and pretty white-washed houses with bright blue window frames. The idea is to make you feel that you are in Greece.

The proriertress, a Greek national married to tycoon John Zahra, designed the interior décor. Everywhere in the spacious eatery she put a touch of Greece. Traditional Greek painted plates hanged on the off-white walls. Typically Ionian and Peloponnese oil jars and other Greek pottery and handicrafts. Greek pop songs blasted from the huge screen and loudspeakers. The atmosphere was decidedly Hellenic, and cerulean.

Once upon a time, the best Greek restaurants in Egypt were located in Alexandria, the city founded by Alexander the Great. The city that would bear his name down the ages was home to hundreds of thousands of Greeks and Hellenic culture prevailed in certain quarters of the grand Mediterranean port city. Patisseries, like the fabled Pastroudi’s and restaurants like Athineos, were frequented by the likes of the celebrated Alexandrian-Greek poet Constantine Cavafy.

Cairo had far fewer of these Greek eateries. And, these restaurants, like their Alexandrian counterparts, became frozen in time, evoked images of pomp. The Greek Taverna, on the other hand, is refreshingly new. The restaurant opened literally a couple of days before the World Cup in Germany 2006. And, it has been going from strength to strength ever since.

My partner and I dipped into the bowls of hors d’oeuvres and it was a pleasurable affair of the heart. I took my hat off to the ingenious Greek chef, Dimitri, he worked wonders with the delicious dishes. The yemista, stuffed vegetarian tomato and red, yellow and green bell peppers, were absolutely luscious, the salata melitzanes Elliniki, Greek aubergine salad, delectable and the mezelikia heart and kidney stew was the dish of my choice. The tzatziki, yoghurt, mint, garlic and cucumber salad, was quite simply divine.

My partner understood: we share the love of food and spending time together at the table. We took our time sampling the Greek culinary delights. What is so appealing, for me, about Greek cuisine is that it is very similar to Egypt’s own traditional cooking. It is the traditional eastern Mediterranean feasting, the Levantines and the Egyptians.

To enter The Taverna is to walk into a spot full of extraordinary surprises. The place is resplendent with the Greek national colours, baby blue and cream. Add azure and canary yellow. An artist of great conjured the entire up. The colour scheme was enchanting, it was as if an artist tossed them all together.

For us, food is such an integral part of social interaction. We sipped our bottled water and drank in the beauty of our surroundings. Coptic waiters with Greek names sporting little blue crosses tattooed on their wrists handed us the menu. They, too, were resplendent in white and blue tops and black baggy trousers. They were Christened Greek names, Manolis, had a winning smile, and Sotiris, another waiter, was more reticent.

My favourite was the taramosalata, the delectable Greek pink paste made of smoked carp roe blended with spring onion, olive oil and lemon juice. There was the saghanaki, the fried cheese of the Greek peasants, but we stayed away from these cholesterol-laden delicacies. We toyed with the idea of the spanakopita, or spinach pie, and decided to do without.

One fascinating aspect of The Greek Taverna is that its clientele appear to be well-heeled society ladies and ambitious young couples on the make. There are no grouchy 20-somethings debating the future or making fashion statements. It is an eatery for more mature and level-headed couples.

Cairo still has resonance today of the glory days of the ancient Greeks of Egypt. If you must indulge in Greek delicacies, then look out for The Greek Taverna which is a veritable showcase of Greek desires.

“I feel like I am in Greece,” my partner remarked. She commended the sheer culinary pleasure of the Greek eatery. I cannot wait to return.

Greek Taverna, Le Pacha River Boat, Zamalek, Tel: 02 7355734, 027350174.

The 300 Spartans who illustrate Greek epic battle March 3, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Movies Life.
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Opening next week > “300”

Starring > Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, David Wenham, Dominic West, Vincent Regan, Rodrigo Santoro

Genre > Action drama

Rating > R for graphic battle sequences throughout, some sexuality and nudity

The story > Three hundred Spartans face King Xerxes and his army of as many as 2 million Persians in this retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae, which took place in 480 B.C. Though a suicide mission for the Spartans, the battle bought time for Greece to unite against Persia and usher in an era of democracy. Based on the Frank Miller graphic novel. Tons of CGI effects, which will be a big draw for some. Or even many.

Outlook > Director Zack Snyder has directed just one other major release, the 1994 remake of “Dawn of the Dead,” so he has no track record to speak of. Still, the movie’s presumed box-office clout is such that no other wide-release movie is opening against it. 

Something very real did happen 25 centuries ago in a narrow pass on Greece’s northern coast called Thermopylae, the name means “the hot gates.” In August of 480 B.C., a force of about 7,000 Greek soldiers assembled there, including 300 Spartans under the leadership of their king, Leonidas. The Spartans were sick, scary fighters, brutally trained from childhood, the ancient equivalent of special forces. They were there to meet an army of more than 250,000 Persians under the command of King Xerxes.

The odds were ludicrously bad, the outcome a foregone conclusion. Most of the Greeks retreated, but the 300 Spartans, the hard core of the Greek army, chose to fight on, using the natural strategic advantage of the pass. They lasted three days, beyond all hope, beyond what should have been militarily possible, and then they died. Their refusal to surrender their freedom to the Persians inspired the rest of the Greeks, who ultimately rose up as a nation and beat back the invaders.

But that was then. On March 8 in Greece and on March 9 in the USA, a movie about the Battle of Thermopylae, called 300, will hit theaters. It was made by a young director, stars nobody in particular, and it looks like nothing you’ve ever seen. Very little in 300 is real except the actors. Sets, locations, armies, blood, they’re all computer generated. It’s beautiful, and it might well be the future of filmmaking. But should it be?

In 1962 a boy named Frank Miller went to the movies with his parents. The movie was Rudolph Maté’s The 300 Spartans. Miller was 5. “It had a deep, deep effect on me,” Miller says. “I actually snuck across the theater in order to confer with my dad and make sure the heroes really were dying. I stopped thinking of heroes as being the people who got medals at the end or the key to the city and started thinking of them more as the people who did the right thing and damn the consequences.” When Miller grew up, he created a comic book about the Battle of Thermopylae called simply 300. Miller’s account of the battle, now doubly refracted through two media, was read by a movie director named Zack Snyder.

Snyder, 40, cut his teeth on high-concept, effects-heavy TV commercials. He made his feature debut in 2004 with a feather-light, razor-sharp remake of the zombie classic Dawn of the Dead. Rent it just for the opening credits, where zombies rip various cities to pieces as Johnny Cash sings When the Man Comes Around. Snyder is something of a dork. Only a dork, the finest, most discriminating of dorks, would have read 300 in the first place. When Maté made The 300 Spartans, he packed up his cameras and his actors and his caterers and went to Greece. When Snyder made 300, he did what dorks do: he locked himself in a room with a bunch of fancy computers.

Snyder is one of a small, hypertechnical fringe of directors who are exploring a new way to make movies by discarding props, sets, extras and real-life locations and replacing them with their computer-generated equivalents. Cinema has always had a tenuous connection to reality; they’re severing it almost completely. It’s a technique loosely known as “digital back lot.” George Lucas was a pioneer, as was Kerry Conran, the lonely genius responsible for the much praised, little-seen Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. In Robert Rodriguez’s cult hit Sin City, also based on a Miller graphic novel, practically nothing is real but the people. It’s not so much cinema as synema. And it’s creeping into more mainstream movies: in Blood Diamond, a tear was digitally added to Jennifer Connelly’s flawless cheek, after the fact, to put the exclamation point on a crucial scene.

For Snyder it was simply the only way to get the look of Miller’s 300 off the page and onto the big screen. “One of the early versions of the movie I wanted to do was a Lemony Snicket kind of method,” he says, “where you build a giant environment in a giant hangar, and it’s an actual 3-D world, but it’s just done with painted backgrounds. But it’s incredibly expensive, and you need the space. When I saw Sin City I said, ‘You know what? I could do that.'” He could and did. Snyder shot 300 almost entirely in a warehouse in Montreal. He filmed exactly one scene outside, and that was just because it’s hard to do galloping horses in a warehouse.

Strange things happened in that warehouse. The digital back lot approach places an immense burden on the director. “Zack would go, ‘Come and see this stage!'” says Lena Headey, who plays Leonidas’ wife. “And we’d go, and there’d be, like, a rock. And we’d be like, ‘Has he taken acid this morning? Or what’s he looking at?'” Snyder had to make his actors see what he saw, and he saw things that weren’t there yet. “Every now and then I’d stop and go, ‘This is crazy!'” he says. “‘What are we doing?’ And then we’d shake that off and get back to work.”

Ironically, acting on the digital back lot is a lot like plain old nondigital stage acting. It’s just lights and bare floorboards. “You don’t have any boundaries,” Headey says. “You don’t have any emotional props. You can’t do this thing of, ‘Oooh, I’m going to sit on this chair because I feel sad now,’ or ‘I’m going to hit this!’ You don’t have any of that.” With so much computer-generated make-believe going on, the actors’ physicality is the movie’s only link to the real world. To turn Hollywood pretty boys into Spartans took eight weeks of intense dieting, exercise and martial-arts training. Onscreen their ripped abs look as if they’re trying to bulge their way out of their stomachs. The buff, largely unclad Spartans are also the producers’ main hope of getting anyone other than straight men to see 300.

Shooting took a brisk 60 days; post-production took a full year and 10 special-effects companies. Every frame was manipulated and color-shifted to create an intense, thunderstorm palette. Creatures and landscapes and entire armies were created from scratch. With the kind of computing power directors have at their disposal, editing becomes more like painting than moviemaking. Time speeds up for dramatic effect, then slows down to capture a balletic spear thrust. Computer-generated elephants rear up and plummet off computer-generated cliffs. The Persian King Xerxes becomes 9 ft. tall. In one scene a nubile oracle dances in a trance, her hair and her flowy, filmy wrap swirling surreally around her otherwise nude body, 300 earns every inch of its R rating. There’s something odd about the image that you can’t put your finger on, until Snyder explains that the dancer was actually performing in a tank of water and was then digitally placed in the scene: “She looks like she’s in pain, but she’s really just holding her breath. Which works for the scene.”

The result is a gorgeous, dreamlike movie that’s almost too perfect. Every frame is neat and composed, like an oil painting, not a hair or a grain of sand out of place. All noise and dissonance have been digitally eliminated. It’s beautiful, but it’s more beautiful than it is real. Movies are invigorated by the tension between the director and reality, the struggle of the artist to tame the reluctant, intractable world, and that tension is missing from 300. If you’ve ever seen Hearts of Darkness, the documentary of the disastrous campaign to make a very different war movie, Apocalypse Now, you’ve heard Francis Ford Coppola say: “My movie is not about Vietnam. My movie is Vietnam.” Coppola’s protracted, Pyrrhic struggle against the jungle stokes the movie’s crazy energy. In 300 there’s not really much of a struggle. If 300 is the Battle of Thermopylae, then Snyder is the digital god-king Xerxes, and not the Spartans.

In Snyder’s defense, 300 isn’t really a movie about a battle at all. It’s a movie about a graphic novel about a movie about a battle. “It’s not trying to be reality,” Snyder says. “The blood is treated like paint, like paint on a canvas. It’s not Saving Private Ryan. It’s something else.” Maybe that’s the only way to make a war movie right now, or at least, the only way to make a war movie that’s not an antiwar movie. 300 turns the ugliest human spectacle imaginable into something beautiful, and it’s to the movie’s credit that it doesn’t confuse what it’s doing with anything real. Onscreen, death actually has meaning that it often lacks in life. Conflict isn’t complicated. Motivation is clear. “With 300, the why is obvious,” Snyder says, “and that’s a thing that maybe doesn’t even exist in real life. Maybe when it happened it wasn’t even that clear. That’s why it’s a piece of mythology. It’s what we would hope for.” 300 is a vision of war as ennobling and morally unambiguous and spectacularly good-looking. That’s one hell of a special effect.