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World’s Best Sommelier Competition in Greece March 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Shows & Conferences.
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XII Competition for the World’s Best Sommelier in Greece

ASI, the International Association of Sommeliers, Association de la Sommellerie Internationale, organizes the XII Competition for the World’s Best Sommelier, in Greece between 19 and 20 of May 2007.

ASI has chosen to host its competition in the historical island of Rhodes and the majestic Rodos Palace Hotel that represents the ultimate in deluxe resort and convention facilities in Greece.

During this significant event, candidates from 46 countries will take part, while the total number of national representative members and other participants and guests will exceed the 400 people. The event will commence in the evening of Friday, 18 May 2007. The Live Final followed by a Gala Dinner will take place in the afternoon of 20 May 2007. An extensive, optional, sightseeing program is scheduled for the 21st of May.

Related Links > http://www.sommellerie-internationale.com

Greece promotes its tourism in UK March 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Tourism, Transport Air Sea Land.
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The year for Greek National Tourism Organisation in London started with its successful participation in regional trade and consumer travel shows in cities such as Manchester, Glasgow, Bournemouth and Dublin.

Numbers of visitors to the Greek stands and subsequent information and guidance requests addressed to Headquarters in London proved the strong affinity the Greek tourist board shares with both trade and general public.

In this year’s regional exhibitions, there was also a significant increase in participating co-exhibitors such as hoteliers, prefectures and individual operators sharing the stand with GNTO. Specifically, at the International Travel Show in Dublin for the first time three co-exhibitors attended, Prefecture of Attica, Municipality of Alykes in Zakynthos, Star Beach Hotel in Crete.

During Confex 2007, the UK’s leading conferences and events exhibition, Greece made a mark by sponsoring the M&IT awards, the event’s prestigious award gala dinner while making ‘Explore your Senses’ the most visible campaign from the front house reception to across all parts of the vast Earl’s Court hall. Co-exhibitors included Olympic Airlines, the National bodies of HAPCO, HATTA and the Thessaloniki Tourism Organisation, hoteliers like Grecotel-Classical Hotels, Athenaum Intercontinental, Divanis Chain Hotel, Maris Hotel as well as DMCs such as Vista Events, Event Makers and AFEA travel and congress.

With great pleasure and pride was received the announcement that for the first time in the history of M&IT awards, a Greek DMC, Vista Events, had received the Best Destination Management Company Award. Lastly, GNTO London presented the award for Best Food and Beverage Supplier.

The above dynamic presence comes after a year of achievements for the London GNTO office with latest the award for Greece as best cruise destination at the first ever readers’ choice awards from Cruise Magazine. The awards culminated in a five star ceremony held at the Sheraton Park Lane Hotel, London where leading figures from the world of cruising celebrated with the very best, presented by TV and movie star Martin Kemp.

On the air transport front, accessibility from Ireland to Athens and the islands received a boost with Aer Lingus scheduled to start flights to Athens from 5th June to 27th October 2007 and XL Leisure & Airlines launching flights to Skiathos and Santorini during the high season. The above direct connections complement the Malev Hungarian Airlines flights to Athens and Thessaloniki via Budapest from the airports of Cork and Dublin between June and September.

Related Links > www.gnto.gr

Eurofighter unit signs production contract in Greece March 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Business & Economy, Politics.
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The fighter jet unit of aerospace giant European Aeronautic Defence & Space SA, Monday signed a token 4 million euro production contract in Greece in a bid to win a multi-billion euro warplane contract from the Greek government.

“We are working very hard to convince the Greek government to procure the Eurofighter Typhoon as the new fighter for the Hellenic Air Force,” said Johann Heitzmann, Chief Executive of EADS Military Air Systems.

“We are ready to do more. In case of a procurement of the Eurofighter in Greece we will open the door to close industrial cooperation,” Heitzmann added. “Greece is welcome to become an integrated partner in the Eurofighter program.”

In 2003, the previous Socialist government had initialed a preliminary contract with Eurofighter with an eye to acquiring as many as 60 of the aircraft. But following elections in March 2004, the newly-elected New Democracy government put off a decision on the contract due to budget constraints. It now appears likely that the government will launch a new tender for a next generation of fighter, possibly for some 30 to 40 aircraft, next year, following a new round of elections possibly scheduled for 2008.

Apart from the Eurofighter, the Lockheed Martin Corporation, Rafale and the Swedish Gripen fighter are also reportedly contenders. A procurement of 30 aircraft would be worth some 3 billion euro, a senior aerospace official said.

Under the deal signed Monday, government-controlled Hellenic Aerospace Industry will manufacture a part of the air intake system for all Eurofighters through 2013. HAI already has some 38 million euro worth of contracts with Eurofighter to produce other components, such as external fuel tanks, for the aircraft.

Related Links > www.eurofighter.com

Music bill gives bar owners sore heads March 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece News.
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Organizations that collect royalty fees on the behalf of musicians and singers are taking advantage of a legal loophole to demand up to 5 million euros a year from bar and nightclub owners in Athens, owners of these establishments claim.

The head of the Attica Union of Entertainment Professionals (EEDEA), Dimitris Arvanitis, said that representatives of these organizations are demanding up to 10 percent of each bar’s turnover.

“If this situation does not change, then they might as well take over our establishments and let us have 10 percent of their turnover,” said Arvanitis.

The law currently states that store owners should pay a “reasonable” amount in royalty fees if they play music in their establishments. The legislation does not specify exactly what this amount should be.

Growing up in a harsh world March 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Movies Life Greek.
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The 9th Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival focuses on ‘Troubled Innocence’

Ruby Yang’s ‘The Blood of Yingzhou District,’ a joint Chinese/US production, was awarded an Oscar earlier this month. The short documentary bears witness to the fear on the faces of children orphaned or threatened by AIDS in the province.

When a newborn child’s cry rings out in «Children of Men,» the fighting stops and the woman carrying the only infant in the world passes by a mass of awestruck faces. Everyone falls back to allow her to pass. Their gunpowder-blasted, emaciated faces take on a glow. One reason Alfonso Cuaron’s film has stood out among recent productions was its subject: A world without children, a landscape that is desolate, hopeless, ruthless. Must we really travel to the world of fiction in order to fully understand the extent to which childhood is under threat today?

The 9th Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival, March 16-25, has titled its main section «Troubled Innocence,» opening the window on 12 films about children growing up, if they ever succeed in reaching maturity, in harsh reality. These are documentaries that record children’s grief, society’s callousness, children’s maturity and adult inertness. The directors who created these films have traveled around the globe to tell the stories of child AIDS victims in China, American children enlisted in Evangelical orders, underaged gangs in Ukraine, boys maimed by land mines in Cambodia, and much, much more.

It is not the first time the Thessaloniki Festival has chosen to focus on children. «This is a huge web of issues that organized societies prefer to ignore. They take no action on these issues. But children are the future of the planet, the future of life,» comments Dimitris Eipidis, the Documentary Festival’s Director.

Director Ruby Yang’s short documentary «The Blood of Yingzhou District», a joint Chinese/US production which went on to win an Oscar earlier this month, bears witness to the fear on the faces of children orphaned or threatened by AIDS in this border province. «In the winter of 2002, I began a production on the AIDS orphans of China. In these peaceful and beautiful villages, people who didn’t even have the essentials have now have lost everything because of AIDS,» says Yang. The residents of many agricultural areas of the country became «professional» blood donors in the 1980s and 90s in order to supplement their meager incomes and today about 20 percent of the population is HIV positive. The director focuses her lens on a young boy who has lost both his parents to AIDS and who lives ostracized by his community in a society that lacks information and is too weak to voice its concerns, subdued by a guilty silence.

Julia Reichart, a leader in American independent film and a strong presence on the documentary scene with two Oscar nominations, teamed up with Steven Bognar for «A Lion in the House.» For five years, the filmmakers observed up close the battle five children and their families waged against cancer. When you witness such scenes, say the filmmakers in a written comment, «you wonder how prepared you are for this job. We have been asked whether we had to freeze our emotions just to cope. No. You have to keep your humanity open to the pain of the situation you are filming.»

Shira Pinson shot her first feature-length documentary film on the streets of Kiev. «Flowers Don’t Grow Here» paints an unusual portrait of child gangs in modern-day Ukraine.

«The Boy in the Bubble,» the subject of a beautiful song penned by Paul Simon, lived in a sterilized plastic bubble for all 12 years of his young life. When his parents decided to put an end to his painful suffering, they just took David Vetter out of the bubble. Documentarists Barak Goodman and John Maggio recorded this case with their cameras, at the same time posing the scientific and ethical questions it raises.

For the young fanatics of the Evangelical Church in the USA, there are two types of people: those who love Jesus and those who don’t. At age 10, they state they can change the world and rebuild America. Levi, Rachel and Toriare are just three of of the children observed by filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady in «Jesus Camp,» a summer camp located in North Dakota. It is basic training in fun, with the children singing songs in praise of Jesus, playing games, staging small skits, dancing and attending lectures and sermons. In prayers, the children kneel down, turn their eyes to the heavens and weep, their bodies wracked by sobbing. They are taught how to bring America back to the Christians. The two American filmmakers, who received two Oscar nominations, have made an emotive documentary with almost thriller-like qualities, which they didn’t have to work hard to find.

Next year, the Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival will be celebrating its 10th birthday. Director Dimitris Eipidis has been tending to it as if it were his baby: He keeps feeding it new things, enriching its development. His intention is to «sensitize, inform and mobilize the viewer.» The aim is to «help create a better society, a better world.»

A maximalist, romantic dream one might say. Eipidis answers with experience: «Over the nine-year course of the festival, I have observed the development of its audience. At first they were bashful, skeptical, uncertain. They wouldn’t participate in the discussions and lectures; they wouldn’t raise their hand to speak. Now hands shoot up all around the room. Their arguments, judgments and comments are a constant source of surprise. I see an audience that is well informed, active, that takes an avid interest in the subjects addressed by the films. It has entered into a dialogue. The festival thus achieves one of its goals: to open a dialogue with the audience, which makes it a living, breathing organism that is connected to its environment.»

Tap Dogs to perform in Athens March 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Ballet Dance Opera, Stage & Theater.
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Tap Dogs infuse a delicate dance with beefy grace > Founded by steelworker-turned-choreographer Dein Perry, the hit group performs in Athens next week

tap_dogs.jpg  The Tap Dogs, took part in the Opening Ceremony of the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, with 1,000 tap dancers from around the world.

Forget Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire. Forget glitzy scenery, smooth costumes, polished patent-leather shoes, slicked-back hair and a flower in the lapel. The only thing in common between these stars of tap dancing and Dein Perry’s Tap Dogs, an act that is set to visit Greece soon, is the little metallic disc on the bottom of their shoes.

They are not elegant or charming; one or two of them could actually be described as having two left feet. The six Australian dancers in blue jeans and shorts, sleeveless T-shirts and work boots present a different style of tap based solely on sheer power, making their show all the more impressive. There are no hidden meanings or profound philosophies hidden behind the spectacle. It is an unrefined expression, attractive in its primordial form, a display of manly stamina, elbow grease and skill.

The industrial set, comprising wooden and steel ramps, scaffolding, buzz saws and steel chains, oozes testosterone. For an hour-and-a-half, the six dancers go at full tilt, blending the manic sound of tapping with percussion-based music to create a grunge-rock atmosphere. Frenetic games between men that require few words but a lot of power, energy and a peak physical condition, absolute synchronization and precision, bring tap dancing back to its Irish roots, when it was performed in wooden clogs.

The story of the Tap Dogs is also interesting in itself. It all began with Perry, who worked in a steel mill in Newcastle, a town north of Sydney. Perry made a leap of faith and decided to give up his job so he could try his luck with his true passion, tap dancing, taking his art to the big city. There, he succeeded in landing a few small parts in Australian stage musicals before participating in a successful production of “42nd Street.” When the musical’s run ended, Perry had already decided to create a contemporary spectacle of his own, inspired by his experiences in the industrial sector. “Thankfully,” Perry said in a recent press conference, “tap dancing is extremely popular in Australia, perhaps even more than anywhere else, and this is why I got a small state sponsorship at the time. After that it was all quite easy, because I knew which people to ask to take part in the show and I was certain that whatever we did would have our passion and love for tap dancing.”

The Tap Dogs went on stage for the first time in 1995. The act has since won 11 International Theater prizes, including a Pegasus from Italy’s Spoleto Festival and an Obie in New York. During the 1998-2000 period, the ensemble toured Europe, the USA and Asia, while the summer of 2000 saw them back in Sydney, where they participated in the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games with 1,000 tap dancers from all around the world.

“It was a success that came from a lot of hard work,” said Perry. “It takes a great deal of stamina, perseverance and persistence as well as many hours of training to stage an entire tap-dancing production. All the dancers participating in the show have spent years studying, have appeared on Broadway or the West End and are among the best at what they do. When you watch the show, there is no way not to recognize the hard work that has gone into it. But I think that the show’s success is also due to the fact that the characters are everyday folk, workers. It’s a show for anyone who loves dance and a spirit of collaboration. At all our shows we have men and women and children in the audience; a mixed audience that feels the rhythm and comes away happy with what it’s seen.”

The Tap Dogs also have plenty of humor and a sense of the ridiculous. Imagine a man, 2 meters in height and built like a ton of bricks, pretending to be a ballerina. The dancer, Nigel Long, one of the leading dancers of the Tap Dogs, explained the reason for this scene: “I had a passion for ballet and began dancing at a very young age. Unfortunately, my body suddenly betrayed me. I shot up and my dream of a career in ballet became a distant one. Thank God for tap dancing; a style of dance that can offer a lot.”

The Tap Dogs will be performing at the Athens’s Badminton Theater from March 20-25. Information and ticket reservations are available on tel 210 8840600.

Sparta? No. This is madness March 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Movies Life.
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An expert assesses the gruesome new epic
The battle of Thermopylae was real, but how real is 300? Ephraim Lytle, Assistant Professor of Hellenistic History at the University of Toronto, has seen the movie and offers his view.

300film2.jpg  History is altered all the time. What matters is how and why. Thus I see no reason to quibble over the absence in 300 of breastplates or modest thigh-length tunics. I can see the graphic necessity of sculpted stomachs and three hundred Spartan-sized packages bulging in spandex thongs. On the other hand, the ways in which 300 selectively idealizes Spartan society are problematic, even disturbing.

We know little of King Leonidas, so creating a fictitious backstory for him is understandable. Spartan children were, indeed, taken from their mothers and given a martial education called the agoge. They were indeed toughened by beatings and dispatched into the countryside, forced to walk shoeless in winter and sleep uncovered on the ground. But future Kings were exempt.

And had Leonidas undergone the agoge, he would have come of age not by slaying a wolf, but by murdering unarmed helots in a rite known as the Crypteia. These helots were the Greeks indigenous to Lakonia and Messenia, reduced to slavery by the tiny fraction of the population enjoying Spartan “freedom.” By living off estates worked by helots, the Spartans could afford to be professional soldiers, although really they had no choice: securing a brutal apartheid state is a full-time job, to which end the Ephors were required to ritually declare war on the helots.

Elected annually, the five Ephors were Sparta’s highest officials, their powers checking those of the dual Kings. There is no evidence they opposed Leonidas’ campaign, despite 300’s subplot of Leonidas pursuing an illegal war to serve a higher good. For adolescents ready to graduate from the graphic novel to Ayn Rand, or vice-versa, the historical Leonidas would never suffice. They require a superman. And in the interests of portentous contrasts between good and evil, 300’s Ephors are not only lecherous and corrupt, but also geriatric lepers.

300film3.jpg  Ephialtes, who betrays the Greeks, is likewise changed from a local Malian of sound body into a Spartan outcast, a grotesquely disfigured troll who by Spartan custom should have been left exposed as an infant to die. Leonidas points out that his hunched back means Ephialtes cannot lift his shield high enough to fight in the phalanx. This is a transparent defence of Spartan eugenics, and laughably convenient given that infanticide could as easily have been precipitated by an ill-omened birthmark.

300’s Persians are ahistorical monsters and freaks. Xerxes is eight feet tall, clad chiefly in body piercings and garishly made up, but not disfigured. No need, it is strongly implied Xerxes is homosexual which, in the moral universe of 300, qualifies him for special freakhood. This is ironic given that pederasty was an obligatory part of a Spartan’s education. This was a frequent target of Athenian comedy, wherein the verb “to Spartanize” meant “to bugger.” In 300, Greek pederasty is, naturally, Athenian.

This touches on 300’s most noteworthy abuse of history: the Persians are turned into monsters, but the non-Spartan Greeks are simply all too human. According to Herodotus, Leonidas led an army of perhaps 7,000 Greeks. These Greeks took turns rotating to the front of the phalanx stationed at Thermoplyae where, fighting in disciplined hoplite fashion, they held the narrow pass for two days. All told, some 4,000 Greeks perished there. In 300 the fighting is not in the hoplite fashion, and the Spartans do all of it, except for a brief interlude in which Leonidas allows a handful of untrained Greeks to taste the action, and they make a hash of it. When it becomes apparent they are surrounded, this contingent flees. In Herodotus’ time there were various accounts of what transpired, but we know 700 hoplites from Thespiae remained, fighting beside the Spartans, they, too, dying to the last man.

No mention is made in 300 of the fact that at the same time a vastly outnumbered fleet led by Athenians was holding off the Persians in the straits adjacent to Thermopylae, or that Athenians would soon save all of Greece by destroying the Persian fleet at Salamis. This would wreck 300’s vision, in which Greek ideals are selectively embodied in their only worthy champions, the Spartans.

This moral universe would have appeared as bizarre to ancient Greeks as it does to modern historians. Most Greeks would have traded their homes in Athens for hovels in Sparta about as willingly as I would trade my apartment in Toronto for a condo in Pyongyang.

EDITOR’S COMMENTS > Everyone, since we are living in a Democratic State, is entitled to his or hers opinion. As such, all opinions are welcomed and encouraged to be heard. This is a basic principle in Democracy and one should not forget the fact that Greece is the craddle of Democracy and of the Western Civilization.

However, our dear assistant professor, seems that he has forgotten one vital detail. 300 is a movie, a film based on a comic book. And as I have stated in one of my previous related posts, movies are a form of art. In fact, cinema in general, is the 7th Art. Every director is entitled to his/her opinion as how his/her movie will finally present his/her opinion.

Movies, do not necessarily, have to follow or be based on actual historical facts. History is one thing and Fiction is simply another.

With that said, and no matter if I personally like or dislike the 300 as a movie or if I find Greek History altered, 300 is a fictional movie and is a form of art. I encourage everyone of you, our readers, to go and see the movie and post your comments here!