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A current debate with ancient roots April 25, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Culture History Mythology.
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The current debate over violence and other kinds of contemptible behavior that is being broadcast to the youth in the form of video games, CDs, music videos, television shows, movies, and song lyrics, harkens one back to the dialogues of Plato (428 B.C. – 348 B.C.) and which are found in The Republic. It was more than 2,500 years ago when Plato founded an Academy in Athens, which is considered one of the earliest institutions of higher learning in the western world.

In his dialogues, Plato provides thought-provoking discussions concerning the teachings of his mentor, Socrates. Among these writings is a concern on the poets’ corrupting influence on the youth. Plato even raised the issue of censuring the poets in order to protect the youth.

Poetry itself can involve a kind of persuasive and influential discourse or rhetoric, which Plato claimed can result in not only the corruption of self but also can be harmful to the audience exposed to it. In the Republic, rhetoric is described as the art of “leading the soul by means of speech” and poetry and rhetoric is also considered a “matter of the soul leading itself.”

Homer (800 B.C.) was a poet whose writings shaped the popular culture and religion of Ancient Greece. Plato saw how influential Homer’s poetry was and it was widely recited throughout the culture as people committed it to memory and repeated it over and over again. The kind of poetry Plato was most concerned with is not the written text that is read in silence, but rather the kind that is recited or performed and is also experienced in a group setting, theater, or concert hall.

A great deal of the final book of Plato’s Republic is a criticism of poetry. And, I think it is important to consider the impact violent images, messages, song lyrics, and other forms of rhetoric and poetry are having upon our culture, including our own values and the youth. Yes, Ancient Greece was a very different culture and its philosophers grappled with these issues a long time ago. However, they were and we are human beings, which means we share a lot in common. Consider the function of the human mind’s memory. Right now, you can recall more than you realize and have in your memory bank images, words, speech, movies, songs, and so much more that you have been exposed to in your lifetime. I could ask you a question, such as “Think of a scene from your favorite movie” and you would probably be able to replay it in your mind. I could ask you questions that conjure up childhood memories. And, as biographers will tell you, the more you ask questions and provoke responses, the more your brain will bring up more memories that you thought you had forgotten. The process of questions and answers stimulate memories and bring them to mind.

Music can also inspire moods and behavior too. Not only the melody, but also the lyrics can impact a person’s disposition, attitude, and values. What are we putting into our own memory banks? Are we even aware of how influential the arts are for both the good and for ill?

If Aristotle was right that happiness is an activity of soul in accordance with virtue, then are the arts, music, theater, movies, poetry, among others, that we are exposed to helping to promote and inspire the virtues we need for happiness?

Satirical, not satyrical > there’s a difference April 25, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Culture History Mythology.
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Ancient Greece has given the world exceptional examples of art, architecture, government, philosophy and, of all things, words. 

If something is described in satirical (pronounced “sa-teer-i-cal”) terms, it is typically being mocked in the form of a satire, a literary work in which human foibles and follies are ridiculed in an ironic, derisive, sarcastic or witty manner. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, satire can also use sometimes caustic and often sharp language to expose, denounce or deride society’s vices, abuses and evils.

The Athenian playwright Aristophanes, regarded as the most influential Greek satirist, inspired the likes of Horace, the Roman lyric poet, and Shakespeare. Since the Romans loved to copy the Greeks, it’s little wonder that both the idea of satire and its practice is alive and well in today’s television shows, movies and plays.

According to the OED, British historian Goldwin Smith, in the February 1880 edition of Atlantic Monthly, describes the various forms of satire thus: “There are different kinds of satire: the epicurean, which laughs at mankind … the stoical, which indignantly lashes mankind … the cynical, which hates and despises mankind.”

As it turns out, satire comes to us by way of Middle French, and thence from the Latin satira or satura, meaning a “medley,” and referring to a type of poem that denounces society’s flaws. Curiously enough, it is expressed as lanx satura, literally meaning a “full dish”, supposedly a plate or dish of mixed ingredients, such as various kinds of fruit, since lanx means “dish” and satura is the feminine form of “full,” from satis, meaning “enough”.

In this form, The American Heritage Dictionary says that satura was quite possibly derived from the Greek word satur, or satyr, a forest-dwelling deity that is associated with Bacchus, aka Dionysus, the Greek god of wine. This is where the etymology gets interesting, as it is this association with the mythical chorus of satyrs in “satyric” comedies, plays with satyrs, that led to the two words being used interchangeably.

Back in 1509, satire made its first quasi-modern appearance in the English language in Scottish poet Alexander Barclay’s The Ship of Fools, with the line, “Therfore in this satyre suche wyll I repreue…” and the English author George Puttenham was the first to use the word in its meaning as a written composition in The Arte of English Poesie in 1589. A typical 17th century example of satirical is found in this rather silly title of a work by Thomas May: “The Life of a Satyrical Pvppy, Called Nim, who worrieth all those Satyrists he knowes, and barkes at the rest.”

The word history of satire took us back to ancient Greece and dropped us off in Shakespeare’s day. From Greek plays to puppies, etymologies have it all.

A feast of Greek music in Budapest, Hungary April 25, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Hellenic Light Europe.
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It will be no surprise if there is a full house at the Palace of Arts on Sunday, April 29, when George Dalaras visits Budapest on his European tour with 12 other Greek musicians, including prominent artists such as Melina Aslanidou and Michalis Tzouganakis.

When Dalaras sang in Budapest a few years ago, it was at the Margit Island open-air theater. It was the celebration of Panygiris, the Greek Whitsun, and there was an “arena atmosphere” inside the theater. All of the people sung the songs together, with George Dalaras, an idol of Greek music. No-one missed a word, they knew every song by heart. The people present were mostly from Hungary’s Greek community, people whose ancestors arrived in Hungary after the Greek Civil War in 1946-49, and who established the so-called Beloyiannis, Hungary’s Greek Village.

Dalaras grew up in Piraeus, in the ambience of the old Rembetika and Laika: his father, Loukas was a famous Rembetika player. The Rembetika, “urban blues” in Greek, was originally the music of the Greek Underground, and originated in the hashish dens of Piraeus and Thessaloniki around the turn of the 20th century. It was influenced by oriental elements that came with the forced immigration of two million Greek refugees from Asia Minor. It gave way to Greek popular music, Laika, in Greek, means “urban folk”, that used the same instruments in similar ways during the early 1950s.

Dalaras’s first public appearance was at the age of 15, as guitarist and singer, and his first recording was made at the age of 18. The authentic sound of Greek urban music based essentially on the bouzouki, enriched by the young artist’s innovative contemporary approach, won him instant critical and popular acclaim, his vast live audiences rewarding him with sales of several hundred thousand recordings for his first best-seller.

He was the first to take Hellenic music out of the conventional club environment and perform concerts in large venues. Since then, Dalaras has sold more than 10 million albums of his own work and his collaborations. Dalaras started as a Rembetika player, and initiated its revival after he turned back to its roots with his album 50 Years of Rembetika.

Thanks to his exceptional voice and instrumental skills, he has always been an innovator in contemporary Hellenic music. In a country with so many flourishing musical traditions, Dalaras has become a musical phenomenon. He has brought new music and cultures to his listeners, and his collaborations with other international artists have demonstrated his ability to cross over into other styles. He has, for example, recorded and appeared on stage with Paco de Lucia, Al di Meola, Ian Anderson, Sting, and produced albums such as Misa Criolla for Ariel Ramirez.

In his Budapest concert, Dalaras is likely to focus on his urban bouzouki songs, but expect him to play every kind of Greek-style music, from Rembetika to Laika, from ethnopop to entechno.

George Dalaras > April 29
Palace of Arts Pest, District IX, Komor Marcell utca 1, Tel 555-3000. www.mupa.hu

Anthos > a new Greek revival in New York April 25, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Taste World.
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The new Greek revival in New York is heating up, and Michael Psilakis is the one turning up the flame. His first Manhattan restaurant, Onera, helped pioneer the movement in 2004. Now, three restaurants later, he is asking $44 for lamb chops.

Onera broke new ground for inventive Greek-inspired cooking, but Anthos, located across 52nd Street from “21,” innovates in a different way. The dishes listed in the left-hand column of the menu haven’t changed dramatically at the new restaurant, but the numbers on the right have leapt up, making it hard to escape the floral decorated dining room for under $100 a head sober, and impossible if you want to sample the interesting Greek wine list.

The price buys its share of frills. There are two rounds of palateteasers, one before and one after you’re allowed to see a menu, and a selection of perfect ovoids of goat or cow butter, set out on fine china, to spread on the dinner rolls. But the luxury isn’t consistent: The tables are too close-set, the waits for food prolonged, and little imperfections spot the experience, like the nodule of hardened food that spotted one of my dinner forks.

Mr. Psilakis favors unusual harmonies among his ingredients, an approach that succeeds most, but not all, of the time. A starter quintet of raw fish, another Psilakis hallmark, packs a lot of ingredients into five bites. Toasted, almost burnt pistachios mingle with pomegranate seeds and fresh mint leaves on top of a smooth, sweet scallop; a mild piece of yellowtail is upstaged by its flavorful crust of fennel pollen and ouzo soaked cherries. Bright-pink tuna is seasoned with mastic, the aromatic resin with a bitter piney taste; mint, vinegar, and potato temper the sweetness of faintly smoked sable (aka black cod), and firm cobia fish gets a savory gel coating flavored with lamb. It’s a quick, immersive tour of the chef’s imagination.

Hilopites pasta is a stalwart of Mr. Psilakis’s restaurants, where it’s reconfigured for each incarnation. Here it’s gussied up by a couple of garden pests: rabbits and snails, the one braised juicily and the other buttery and scented with black truffle.

The lamb, a pair of thick, beautifully grilled cuts stacked rustically on the plate, certainly provide a lot of meat for the buck, and easily hold their own against less exorbitant chops, but they don’t set any citywide records for succulence or flavor. Ordering the lamb chops is also the only way to get at the chef’s famous moussaka, which comes in a cast-iron pot beside the lamb, capped with sizzling eggplant slices and drenched in cinnamon-tinged cream. The savory hunks of lamb at the bottom of the little pot are worth digging for, but the body of the moussaka has a pasty, floury consistency that hardly measures up to Onera’s classic version.

Fish options are a bit more dependable. A grilled swordfish steak, blackened on the outside and sliced into tender hunks, has more than enough full flavor to compete with the smoky lamb sausage and charred miniature octopi that are its plate-mates. Like the monkfish, the John Dory is a fish that feeds on crustaceans and other marine delicacies, and the benefit shows in its dense, tasty flesh. At Anthos, it’s crisped deliciously and poached in olive oil, giving it an unusually moist and firm character. Accompanied by tiny, tart yogurt-filled dumplings, and doused in a foamy, fresh broth that’s steeped at the table in a French press from pungent, oniony ramps, it could be simple and perfect, but misguided luxury strikes again. Perhaps to justify the price, the kitchen scoops onto the fish a couple of generous tablespoons of American caviar, which quickly loses in the heat any crunch or character it may have had, becoming a salty gunmetal-gray mush.

A wide array of Greek wines many from small vineyards, is supplemented by plenty of non-Greek options, although both are victims of a stiff markup. Baklava puts in a command performance modernized and elaborated by pastry chef Bill Corbett into a trio one traditional, dense baklava square, heavy on the nuts and light on the honey; one sandwich of tuile and honey custard that’s like brown-sugar penuche fudge, and a heavy walnut cake capped with zesty cinnamon ice cream. But the loukoumades, Greek dough fritters, are unbeatable: served hot, sugared, and piped full of custard, with a clove-scented honey sauce for dipping.

At Anthos, Mr. Psilakis has set himself a challenge. His creativity is still impressive, and his peaks are very high, but with an average main-course price of $36, the height to which the restaurant raises the stakes feels somewhat precarious.

Anthos, 36 W. 52nd St., between Fifth and Sixth avenues, 212-582 6900.

Greece top spot for buying abroad April 25, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Living.
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Greece is the most popular destination for people planning to buy overseas property, according to the latest research from Greece’s Piraeus Bank, London Branch.

It conducted a survey among 308 people planning to buy overseas within the next two years in which nearly 20% of those asked said Greece was the most appealing property destination. Cyprus came a close second, following by Bulgaria, Egypt and Romania.

While the majority of those surveyed said they were seeking holiday homes, other motives given included lifestyle, climate and a lower cost of living.

Most of those planning to buy abroad would be investing overseas for the first time, with only one in seven saying they already owned property in foreign countries.

Irini Tzortzoglou, head of personal banking at Piraeus Bank London, commented: “Piraeus Bank has identified a growing trend amongst property buyers in south east Europe which is supported by the findings of the survey, that buyers of second homes are looking to enjoy the property for holidays with family and friends, at the same time as gaining both from steady capital appreciation and generating useful rental income which can be used to offset the cost of the mortgage”.

The survey was carried out to highlight Piraeus’ mortgage service to UK and Irish investors buying property in Greece and Bulgaria. The bank is proposing to extend the proposition to include other countries in south-east Europe.

Solar Power for Mediterranean homes April 25, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Energy.
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Photovoltaic electricity is able to provide by 2020 power supply for over 26 Million households in the Mediterranean, with simultaneous creation of hundreds thousands of new jobs.

This was announced by the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA), at the 2nd Photovoltaic Mediterranean Conference, that took place in Athens on 19 and 20 April.

In 2006, EPIA estimates that photovoltaic energy supplied 400 GWh of electricity all over the Mediterranean, while it expects that in 2010 it will amount to 5 TWh and 78 TWh in 2020. In particular, this could have very positive impact on the environment as it could enable to save 47 million tons of CO2 emissions in 2020. For the last 5 years, the photovoltaic sector has experienced annual growth of 40%. It is expected that this trend will continue until 2010. Between 2011 and 2016 the growth rate is expected to stabilise at 26% while from 2016 to 2020 growth should be at 19%.

In 2007 the global photovoltaic industry is expected to invest 2,6 billion euros in new production capacities. EPIA estimates that investments until 2010 will raise to 14 billion in order to meet the increasing demand. Dr. Winfried Hoffmann, President of EPIA stressed that the recent favourable legislative frameworks set in different Mediterranean countries such as Spain, Italy or Greece is giving further confidence to investors. Photovoltaics is today one of the most dynamic economic business and it is one of the few industrial sectors able to significantly create jobs in developed economies and re-boost local development.

As Ernesto Macias, President of the Alliance for Rural Electrification recalled, solar photovoltaic energy, as a decentralised form of energy, is able to bring electricity to remote areas. Today 1,6 billion people on earth do not have access to energy. Photovoltaic combined with other renewable sources of energy can bring clean solutions to this problem. Developing countries should learn on the lessons from the past and favour development of clean energy sources in order to ensure sustainable development. In his closing speech Mr. Macias, who is also Vice-President of EPIA, announced that the next PV MED conference will be held in 2009 at a country in South or Eastern Mediterranean.

In Greece, according to projections of the European Photovoltaic Industry Association, solar power could provide electricity to half a million of households in Greece by 2020, provided of course that an adequate promotion towards the end-user market is actively put in place. Over 65 000 jobs are expected to be created in Greece. The Greek law on Renewable Energy Sources sets the goal that in 2020, at least 700 MW will have been installed in Greece, while the EPIA anticipates that it could exceed by far 1200 MW.

Mellon Group expands to Egypt April 25, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Business & Economy.
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The Greece-based Mellon Group, provider of value-added services and technological solutions to financial institutions, has launched Mellon Egypt, its new subsidiary in northern Africa.

Mellon Egypt, based in Cairo, aims to support the increasing needs of effectively managing and expanding the retail and corporate transactions business of banks, telecom providers, public utilities, as well as private companies of Egypt with a large customer-base.

“Mellon Egypt can meet the accelerating needs of organizations with strong consumer business to grow and optimise their contact with their customers in Egypt and near shore territories,” said George Theodossiou, Managing Director of Mellon Egypt. “We are offering a unique portfolio of outsourced call/contact services, business process outsourcing services and cutting-edge transactions solutions that will enable our customers to optimise their retail business and achieve their strategic goals. Our extended multinational know-how and local expertise give us momentum and enable us to provide world class, value added solutions and services, customized to the specific needs of our customers.”

Mellon Egypt follows the growth model of the other Group subsidiaries outside Greece; a market of eight countries, Bulgaria, Romania, FYROM, Serbia, Albania, Cyprus, Poland and Egypt, and approximately 200 million people.

“Mellon Egypt is a great challenge for us, as we will be competing with large local and international companies in a big financial market. We are positive that our extensive experience from all the countries in which we operate and our compelling offering, will constitute a considerable competitive advantage and a growth driver for our subsidiary in Egypt,” noted Stefanos Karapetsis, Executive Director, Mellon Group of Companies.

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