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Prominent archaeologist to speak March 14, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Cyprus, Hellenic Light Americas.
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Broome Community College host to world renowned archaeologist Albert Ammerman from 11 to 11:50 a.m. tomorrow in room 101, Titchener Hall on the college’s campus.

Ammerman, a professor at Colgate University, will be on hand to discuss his recent discovery about long distance traveling to the island of Cyprus more than 11,000 years ago.

Ammerman and his co-researchers discovered a series of campsites on the coast of Cyprus that have stone tools that date from the last ice age. The find implies that at a time when most navigation was done in sight of land, some voyagers were venturing more than 50 miles from Syria and Turkey to land on Cyprus.

Greece’s first health fast food restaurant March 14, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Taste Local.
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Pass up the cholesterol-rich meats and sauces next time you are in Greece and gorge on the ancient fast food credited with bestowing long life to the islanders of Crete for the last 4,000 years.

A Greek company has delved into Crete’s ancient cuisine to create a menu of dishes it hopes will become the basis for a fast food restaurant chain providing a healthy diet and profits. Dakos, named after the traditional Cretan barley rusk, aims to bring to rushed urbanites some of the tastes of Crete, whose inhabitants are known for their long lives.

“We wanted to capture consumers’ need to eat something wholesome outside home,” Alexandra Plevraki, Marketing Manager of Eurocreta said. “So, we said: Why don’t we set up a restaurant chain which will be based on wholesome eating, such as the Cretan diet?” Eurocreta, an affiliate company of Greek listed processed meat firm Creta Farm, hopes to cash in on consumers’ growing demand for healthy, low-fat fast food, she said.

But what differentiates Dakos from other fast food chains is the low-fat Cretan ingredients most of its dishes are based on. Modeled after Britain’s Pret-a-Manger and Spain’s 100 Montaditos, Dakos offers organic salads and sandwiches and some unusual dishes such as pies filled with Cretan cream cheese or herbs, garnished with honey and walnuts. Beverages include several kinds of Cretan herbal tea.

“In Dakos, the basic raw material is Cretan olive oil. We use nothing but extra-virgin olive oil,” Plevraki said. “Butter is forbidden.”

Plevraki said Dakos has grown very popular since its debut in December and was planning to open a few more stores in the greater Athens area by 2008. Expansion in Britain and the United States could follow.

“When Dakos opened at the end of December, we had about 110 customers per day and by early March the number grew to about 740 per day,” Plevraki said.

A study of 16 populations from seven nations has indicated the Cretan diet, which dates back to the Minoan Age some 4,000 years ago, is responsible for the longevity of its inhabitants. A Greek professor who worked on the project said this was thanks to their consumption of mainly olive oil, bread, herbs and fruit.

“We have been studying the Cretan population since 1985 and the latest results in 2000 show Cretans have the lowest mortality rate from heart attack and cancer compared to all other examined populations,” said Antonis Kafatos, professor of preventive medicine and nutrition at Crete University.

Iranians outraged by ‘300’ movie March 14, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Movies Life.
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The hit American movie ‘300’ has angered Iranians who say the Greeks-vs-Persians action flick insults their ancient culture and provokes animosity against Iran.

300_spartans_movie.jpg

‘Hollywood declares war on Iranians,’ blared a headline in Tuesday’s edition of the independent Ayende-No newspaper.

The movie, which raked in $70 million in its opening weekend, is based on a comic-book fantasy version of the battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C., in which a force of 300 Spartans held off a massive Persian army at a mountain pass in Greece for three days.

Even some American reviewers noted the political overtones of the West-against-Iran story line, and the way Persians are depicted as decadent, sexually flamboyant and evil in contrast to the noble Greeks. In Iran, the movie hasn’t opened and probably never will, given the government’s restrictions on Western films, though one paper said bootleg DVDs were already available.

Still, it touched a sensitive nerve. Javad Shamghadri, cultural adviser to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said the United States tries to ‘humiliate’ Iran in order to reverse historical reality and ‘compensate for its wrongdoings in order to provoke American soldiers and warmongers’ against Iran.

The movie comes at a time of increased tensions between the United States and Iran over the Persian nation’s nuclear program and the Iraq war.

But aside from politics, the film was seen as an attack on Persian history, a source of pride for Iranians across the political spectrum, including critics of the current Islamic regime. State-run television has run several commentaries the past two days calling the film insulting and has brought on Iranian film directors to point out its historical inaccuracies.

‘The film depicts Iranians as demons, without culture, feeling or humanity, who think of nothing except attacking other nations and killing people,’ Ayende-No said in its article Tuesday. ‘It is a new effort to slander the Iranian people and civilization before world public opinion at a time of increasing American threats against Iran,’ it said.

Iran’s biggest circulation newspaper, Hamshahri, said ‘300’ is ‘serving the policy of the U.S. leadership’ and predicted it will ‘prompt a wave of protest in the world. … Iranians living in the U.S. and Europe will not be indifferent about this obvious insult.’

The film from Warner Bros. earned almost $71 million this weekend, making it the best March movie opening in history. Warner Bros. is a unit of Time Warner Inc.

A Spartan Effort > 300 a joint effort March 14, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Movies Life.
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Spartans kill Persians, Persians kill Spartans. Everybody dies in the coolest bloodiest, slow-motion-iest ways you can think.

Fields of wheat. According to modern film, the topography of Greece was major cities and wheat. If you weren’t in Rome, you were in wheat. Think of “Gladiator,” where even Heaven had wheat in it.

In “300,” a film about the 300 Spartan soldiers that held off the Persian army in Greece, it’s made very clear that this isn’t Rome, this is Sparta.

In Sparta, things are much prettier. Every man has the body of a God and every woman is a size zero, and boy does a city comprised of perfect humans like this make for some gorgeous, almost pornographic, filmmaking. Almost every shot is an artistic palette, set-up specifically for stylistic reasons over any serious logic of how people actually stand around.

This is especially easy to notice in Sparta, since most of Spartan life is in slow motion. In fact, if any actions involve quick movement or killing, you can bet it is slowed down. In the areas of killing this works wonders, especially since director Zack Snyder focuses on one or two fighters but still allows the battle to unfold in the background. As the camera follows King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) slashing his way through soldiers, his men appear in the background, running spears through people’s bodies or chopping off limbs, a lot of limbs. Sparta is also a very bloody place.

Sparta, by the way, is completely digital. Beautifully, beautifully digital. Colors are dulled to those dulcet tans and browns that dominated ancient Greece and reds, capes and blood, pop. Cameras pan and track in ways not possible in actual locations and men move and organize in ways only a digital world could allow them. Sparta looks cool, and looking cool makes the movie.

Although, in Sparta, life is a lot simpler than in Rome, as political intrigue is simplified into making a moving speech in front of grumpy old men and killing turns out to be the right choice 101 percent of the time. Graphic comic creator Frank Miller and Snyder have crafted a plot that, especially when it veers away from the battle, is blatantly lacking.

In Sparta, and this goes hand in hand with over simplification, all Persians are freaks. It’s so much simpler to tell the bad guys from the good guys when the good guys are ruggedly handsome and chiseled men who fight for freedom and honor and the bad guys are either deformed, wear masks or black.

Gerard Butler shouts his way through King Leonidas, which actually works well for a Spartan King while Dominic West is sufficiently creepy as the unneeded political traitor to the Spartans. David Wenham (“Lord of the Rings” trilogy) dons the cap of narrator, speaking in an awkward British accent that takes a while to get use to. But the most important thing is that all of these Spartans look good, real good, and looking good makes this movie good.

That, and the wheat. This might be Sparta, but it’s still Greece.

Government’s support for dance March 14, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Ballet Dance Opera.
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The dance ensemble Kinitiras will present ‘Invisible Clytemnestra’ at the 6th Dance Festival, which takes place in Athens starting on Friday and running to May 31.

Culture Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis has recently expressed the government’s interest in doing more for the country’s dance scene. “We are interested in what is happening with dance and we want to help. Up until now, the state has done the bare minimum,” he said at a recent press conference.

New doors seem to be opening for contemporary Greek dance in view of the 6th Dance Festival, which the Association of Greek Choreographers will organize from March 16 through May 31.

The news that the Embros Theater stage will host Greek dance companies for two months of every year, in what was described as a “step for them to stop being homeless”, was the highlight of the press conference, which then turned into an evaluation of last year’s events.

Those included a review of funds earmarked for the 2005-2006 period to 30 dance companies, of which payments of the second installment have begun, the continuing support of Kalamata’s International Dance Festival, the decision to establish the Hellenic Dance Company which will operate as part of the National Ballet School and the upgrade of the National Opera Ballet School.

According to Voulgarakis, the Ministry’s aim is to “have an overall policy regarding dance, which will apply both to local productions by contemporary dance companies as well as the promotion of their work abroad.” He added that all this will be realized via the National Center of Theater and Dance.

This year’s Dance Festival promises to be a celebration of contemporary Greek dance, with all its various strains. “We will focus on local production and want to establish a field of communication with our audience,” said Petros Gallias, President of the Association of Greek Choreographers. Over 20 dance groups will present their latest productions at the Argo, Thiseion, Roes, Hytirio and Contemporary Athens theaters. The program will also be divided up into sections for New Members, Independent Presences and the celebration of International Dance Day on April 23 at the Benaki Museum, where cartoonist Elli Solomonidou-Balanou will also be honored.

Greek National Opera stages 20th century version of Tosca March 14, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Ballet Dance Opera.
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Tosca, a femme fatale, stirs up a film-noir Rome > The new production reinforces the suspense of ‘Tosca.’

The high-voltage characters of Tosca, Cavaradossi and Scarpia reunite at the Greek National Opera for what promises to be a cinematic approach of Giacomo Puccini’s celebrated “Tosca.”

The well-known work opens at the Olympia Theater on Sunday with additional performances scheduled for March 20, 22, 24, 28 and 30 and April 1. Directed by Nikos Petropoulos, who also designed the upcoming production’s costumes and sets, the opera’s action unfolds in 1944 Rome, in a film-noir mood.

Deceit and betrayal lie at the heart of “Tosca” in the libretto written by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica. An artist with a passion for democracy, Mario Cavaradossi is the lover of Tosca, an opera diva. When Cavaradossi is arrested by chief of police Baron Scarpia, on account of his political actions and beliefs, Tosca leads Scarpia to believe that she will sleep with him in exchange for her lover’s freedom.

The story behind the development of “Tosca” carries enough drama itself. In search of a subject matter for a new opera in 1889, the 30-year-old Puccini turned to French texts such as Maurice Maeterlinck’s “Pelleas et Melisande,” Emile Zola’s “La faute de l’abbe Mouret” and Victorien Sardou’s “La Tosca,” among others. A year later, the composer saw a production of Sardou’s play in Milan, and though unable to follow the French text was taken by the play’s leading actress, Sarah Bernhardt. He decided to compose an opera based on the Sardou play, but was promptly told by a Sardou representative that the playwright was not willing to entrust Puccini with his work, labeling the Italian “an unknown composer.”

Despite his great disappointment, Puccini decided to work on “Tosca” on his own. Meanwhile the rights had been given to Alberto Franchetti in 1893, who, at one point, admitted that he was unable to compose the music. Puccini was back in the picture and the opera was finalized in 1899. The opera features well-known arias such as “Recondita armonia,” “Vissi d’arte” and “E lucevan le stelle.”

At the National Opera the cast includes Kristine Opolais as Tosca, Misha Didyk as Cavaradossi and Peter Sidhom as Scarpia.

At the Greek National Opera, Olympia Theater, 59-61 Academias Street, Athens, tel 210 3612461 and 210 3643725.

Benaki’s tribute to a composer March 14, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Exhibitions Greece, Music Life Greek.
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Yorgos Sicilianos was part of ‘the avant-garde of contemporary music.’ The Benaki exhibition helps make his work better known to the public.

In the late 1980s, composer Yorgos Sicilianos (1920-2005) spoke of how good, high-quality, “entechno” music in this country had been victimized by a poor music education, insufficient media coverage and the commercial interests of record companies. Sicilianos himself can be said to have been a victim of that situation. He believed that art should not be elitist, yet his music did not really became known to the broader public. Even today, it is mostly appreciated among specialists.

“Yorgos Sicilianos (1920-2005): In the Avant-Garde of Contemporary Music” an exhibition at the Benaki Museum, helps to amend that situation by drawing attention to the innovative music of this esteemed artist through the visual documentation of his life and work.

Music scores, photographs of the artist and of his performances, letters, the covers of records or brochures from concerts and all sorts of memorabilia have been gathered in sections that follow the different periods in the artist’s work.

One of the first composers to have introduced the modern techniques of the craft to Greece, Sicilianos was a contemporary of some of the most renowned Greek composers of the second half of the 20th century, including Manos Hadjidakis, Mikis Theodorakis and Iannis Xenakis.

Specialists describe his music as a blend of elements of different styles and traditions, classical music, ancient Greek, demotic and Byzantine as well as modern music, into an idiom that does not directly fall into any specific category. Raised in artistic, well-off bourgeois surroundings, Sicilianos studied music, first in Athens and then in Rome. Byzantine church chants and Greek folk songs were the inspiration in the early work of the artist. Bella Bartok’s music was another major influence.

Curious about modern developments in music, Sicilianos studied at some of the most important music academies of the USA, including the Juilliard School in New York City, where his acquaintance with Dimitris Mitropoulos was to play another major role in his work.

Sicilianos settled in Greece in the mid-1950s and at first composed music for performances of ancient drama. Besides his work as a composer, he also worked systematically toward improving the infrastructure of music and education in the field.

Roughly around the late 1960s, the music of Sicilianos, which was heavily based on the use of the 12-tone system and serialism, became embellished with elements taken from electronic music. In his late works, Sicilianos is said to have moved back to a more classical idiom and to have based many of his compositions on literature and poetry.

An innovator of music that balanced Greek elements with the classical in his work, Sicilianos appreciated tradition but also introduced modern elements into it. In many ways he was a classic modernist, an artist who enriched the music history of this country.

At the Benaki Museum, 1 Koumbari Street, Kolonaki, Athens, tel 210 3671000, www.benaki.gr to April 15. The CD of Yorgos Sicilianos’s piano music has been released by the Hellenic Society for Aesthetics. Concerts of the composer’s music will take place on March 20 and 30.