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Athens rocking to absent crowds May 15, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Music Life Greek.
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Alternative scene’s supply of acts and shows is plentiful, but Greek capital is struggling to absorb

Yuria, one of the local alternative music scene’s most significant festivals, has been held annually in recent years at the Vinyl Microstore, a well-informed store in central Athens. Performances inside the small store are watched by fans from the street. 

Never before has Athens been subject to so much live rock music, both in terms of quantity and quality. Rock may well be too narrow a term to describe the variety of musical styles, many of them alternative, offered by touring acts passing through the Greek capital. New acts, domestic and imported, springing up all over, the city’s concert venues are proliferating and a battle is being waged for concert-poster space on the walls of the youth-oriented and active downtown districts of Exarchia and Psyrri.

We should have seen it coming. New technologies have simplified the music-making process, while the Internet functions as a major distribution tool. This is the MySpace era, where the limitless music medium allows us to upload music that becomes instantly available to millions of listeners. Despite the changes, it all boils down to economic feasibility. If we can make the assumption that an abundance of talent is out there, we need to question whether there is an audience to absorb this extraordinary supply.

Vinyl Microstore, a modern downtown music store on Didotou Street, in Kolonaki, central Athens, has been an integral part of this scene. Besides offering music fans a carefully chosen selection of indie releases, the store’s parallel ventures include VM Recordings, an independent record company, and vmradio, an online radio station. Lots of aspiring young musicians drop off demo recordings here. Over the past three years, the store has also held its own in-store festival, Yuria. It has all turned the store into a gathering place for local indie-music enthusiasts.

Nektarios Pappas, the head at Vinyl Microstore, has closely witnessed the scene’s developments. “Free press and the Internet prepared the ground for what’s happening today,” Pappas explained. “Publications were looking for fresh material and projected it, while the Internet, through MySpace, became an enormous place where anybody could upload music. Digital technology itself helped to simplify music production. It brought about the development of a network that does what fanzines and music magazines did in the 80s, the difference being that it’s now done far quicker.”

The Internet has been detrimental to record companies. This has come as sweet revenge for many youngsters who no longer need the record labels as much as their peers of a decade or two ago did. These days, young musicians upload their work on MySpace and can become known through this network alone, which explains why so many new bands don’t necessarily consider it a problem if they haven’t recorded an album.

“In three to four years, CD releases will be made selectively and will be targeted at a limited, informed and specialized listener,” said Pappas. “In a few years time, the CD will be treated as a work of art,” he continued.

The end of the CD era damages a traditional source of income in the music industry.

“If you exclude the releases by Poeta Negra, a Greek independent label, and certain small indie labels that manage to get mass distribution, most new acts release demos and pass them around hand-to-hand, handmade productions that are available at a few downtown music stores in Athens and Thessaloniki,” said Tassos Bregoulakis, who maintains a music site. “Artists release their work themselves, on MySpace, and have direct contact with their listeners, but most are limited to that. On the other hand, it’s not a case of big labels and promotion, because not even Kore Ydro, a local act, sold the expected amount of albums. It’s difficult for a band to generate sales of around 3,000 copies. Exceeding this number is next to impossible, mainly because listeners of this type of scene, no longer buy CDs. They download them. They listen to songs on MySpace and are satisfied. Gone are the days when there were favorite groups, fans recited lyrics or owned a group’s entire discography. With so much music around these days, listeners have neither the time for a careful listen nor the right frame of mind. The music fan who listens to a favorite new album over 20 times is a species headed for extinction.”

Bregoulakis acknowledges that, over the past couple of years, something is happening on the local alternative scene. Progress has been gradual and the scene has grown and become better organized.

“Just when the media treated these artists as something totally marginal and of interest to very few, they suddenly became subjects in the press, not only musical,” said Bregoulakis. “MySpace has filled up with local groups and wanna-be artists, and a large number of Greek-language blogs deal with them regularly with lots of analysis and heated remarks. The Greek scene is being discussed,” he added.

Yet, in spite of all this, the question of economic feasibility, or the number of people willing to support this Athenian scene, remains a real issue.

“Judging by the results, it’s probably a matter that concerns very few. Though there are many who perceive the glass as being half-full and believe that the alternative scene has the potential to step out of obscurity and become the new mainstream, the numbers defy this prospect, which leads to the glass being perceived as half-empty again,” said Bregoulakis.

Even so, a considerable number of groups perform at small venues like the Small Music Theater, Bios or Planet Music to great success.

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Hotel prices boost Athens tourism May 15, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece Athens, Tourism.
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Hotel rates in Athens are entirely in line with the cost of living, unlike in other European city-destinations, according to data by the Attica Hotel Association (EXA).

The cost of living in Athens does not deter visitors at all. In fact, in other cities, such as Paris, hotel rates are 105 percent higher than in the Greek capital, while the cost of living is just 31 percent higher. In Istanbul, hotel rates are 49 percent higher, but the cost of living is just 5 percent higher.

EXA President Giorgos Tsakiris said hotel prices in the capital are particularly low and continue to be the main marketing tool for promoting the city’s tourism product. Despite the major steps taken in public and private infrastructure, Athens as a destination has not capitalized on its tourism potential, mainly due to the lack of organization and proper promotion of its product.

Tsakiris believes that the image projected to foreigners is that of a touristic Athens, with an emphasis on a rather obsolete picture that visitors want to see anyway. “The traditional aspects of the city are known, but there is also more to see. Athens is a modern destination offering numerous options for entertainment and an excellent variety of images, from the sea, to a center for antiquities and cultural events,” said Tsakiris, noting Athens’s rich cuisine and shopping.

He went on to ask for the creation of a National convention and visitors’ bureau with specialized staff, in order to coordinate the promotion of conference tourism in Greece, along with recording the trends of the international conference market.

EXA has also proposed the creation of companies to promote, advertize and organize the tourism product on aa local and regional level, at the initiative of hoteliers and local firms. Finally, EXA calls for the creation of an agency to process demands for the supply of monuments, Museums, installations and other special venues for conference events. The lack of timely satisfaction of such requests has often resulted in major conferences being lost by Athens, said Tsakiris.

He added that a main priority for Athens should be the operation of a metropolitan conference center and said that the areas of special interest in Attica are in the south, from Palaio Faliron up to Sounion, where there are some important hotel units with excellent conference infrastructure.

Greek philanthropist’s donation to Oxford University May 15, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Education.
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The recently opened Stelios Joannou School for Research in Classical and Byzantine Studies at St Giles, Oxford University, will help boost the discipline

Many Greeks study at Oxford, about 300, according to the University’s statistics, and they do well in their studies. Just as Greek parents keep up the tradition of investing heavily in their children’s education, there is also an element in the Greek private sector that places a very high value on culture and is prepared to invest significantly in it.

Greek investment in Oxford University, that remarkable accumulation of knowledge, material and courses, is highly effective, supporting the University while fostering the development of Greek-related studies.

The inauguration of the Stelios Joannou School for Research in Classical and Byzantine Studies is the most recent example of that investment and the most impressive.

Oxford University Chancellor Lord Patten of Barnes, who opened the school, noted that the investment would attract more researchers and students. A growing interest in classical studies has become apparent in the past 10-15 years, and the number of undergraduate and postgraduate students of classics has multiplied.

The major donation by Dakis Joannou in the name of his father, the Greek-Cypriot entrepreneur and philanthropist Stelios Joannou, not only exemplifies that dynamism but will also help channel it into new paths.

Lord Patten thanked the Joannou family for their “generosity and vision.” Such a donation is like an act of foreign policy, without national overtones, since classical studies are universal, but which clearly enhances Greek prestige.

The Stelios Joannou School is a new building for the University with multiple missions and uses. It is, above all, a research center, with important courses taught by leading classical scholars. But it is also a pole of attraction for research right in the heart of Oxford. It will also be the base for a classics outreach program that will attract future students.

Strategically located at St Giles, the school forms part of a triangle with the Ashmolean Museum, which is currently in the process of building new wings, and the renowned Sackler Library, both of which have formidable collections. The new, ultra-modern school will accept students who have no previous knowledge of Greek or Latin, as the notion of classical studies changes to favor the Greek approach. The study of classics at Oxford now officially includes Byzantium, removing it from the hitherto separate departments of history and medieval studies and connecting it directly with the Greco-Roman world. This creates a bridge to post-Byzantine studies and modern Greece, which is matched by the opening up to new subjects. Greek and Latin studies now include and are linked to literature, art history, theater studies, linguistics and history.

It is interesting to look at these developments in the light of geopolitical alliances. The ebb and flow of interest in different disciplines is related to many factors, first among them economics.

Now, as the academic tradition of classical studies at Oxford joins forces with private investment, they will build a strong basis for development on an international map where in recent years other subjects, such as Chinese and Islamic studies, have been competing for the attention of the new educational elite.

24-hour strike paralyzed the Greek capital May 15, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece News.
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Greece’s largest unions launched a nationwide strike today that was expected to disrupt air travel and public transport, shut state offices and paralyze many key services.

The strike has been called by the General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE) and the Civil Servants’ Union (ADEDY) to demand the return of money lost by pension funds which purchased overpriced bonds. “We want the money to be returned and those responsible to be held accountable,” the unions said in a statement yesterday.

State-run Olympic Airlines announced the cancellation of more than 60 domestic and international flights from Athens International Airport and changed the departure times of many others.

The Proastiakos suburban railway, the metro and Athens-Piraeus electric railway (ISAP) were shut down completely, while blue buses only operated between 7.30 a.m. and 10.30 p.m. Trolleys were pulled off the road between 11.15 a.m. and 3.15 p.m.

Major archaeological sites in Athens, including the Acropolis and the Athenian and Roman Agoras, closed earlier than normal visiting hours, due to strike-related staff shortages.

Demonstrators gathered at the Pedion tou Areos Park at 11 a.m. before marching on to the Economy and Finance Ministry in central Athens.

There was also a media blackout as journalists walk off the job for a second time in just over a week.

Driving today in Athens, can only be described as driving in hell! I guess that’s the hard part of life, living in the Greek Metropolis. Or is, the word “metropolis” too much for describing the Greek capital?

Greece’s National benefactors May 15, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Business & Economy, Greece News.
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In the 19th and early 20th century, although the economy was weaker than today’s and the assets of the wealthy comparatively smaller, there was a group of national benefactors who made sizable contributions to Greek society.

People such as Georgios Averof, Panaghis Vallianos, Evangelos Zappas and Andreas Syngros left an indelible mark on the country in key sectors ranging from health and welfare to defense.

Any comparisons, on the occasion of yesterday’s Finance Ministry event in honor of Greece’s benefactors, are sobering.

The majority of modern-day tycoons have chosen to abstain from this noble tradition, even though their well-being may largely be attributed to their dealings with the state, unlike in the past, when fortunes were made from private trade or business activities beyond national borders.

The public expects to see more donations on their behalf. It is a moral dictate.

Earliest traces of cat domestication > 9,500 years back May 15, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Cyprus.
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The Mediterranean island, which researchers say bears the earliest traces worldwide of cat domestication some 9,500 years ago.

In 2004 French archaeologists said Cyprus bore the oldest records of bonds between felines and humans after discovering a human and a cat interred in the same 9,500 year old grave site.

Until that discovery, the ancient Egyptians were considered the earliest civilisation which domesticated cats.

Funny Women tour at Londa Hotel in Limassol, Cyprus May 15, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Hotels Cyprus, Stage & Theater.
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Comedienne Sally-Anne Hayward is the second performer to appear at the Londa Hotel in Limassol Cyprus as part of the Funny Women tour 2007.

Sponsored by GB Airways, this is a series of events featuring top British female comedy talent from leading promoters of female comedy, Funny Women, all taking place at the Londa Hotel this year. Sally-Anne will appear on Saturday 30 June. Two more dates are to be announced in September and November.

Described as a charming and popular performer, Sally-Anne has a winning brand of autobiographical humour. Singled out as an artist with great star potential, this comedienne has developed a sharp, incisive style, making her a delight to watch. Last year the Londa hosted their first comedy evening when Suzy Bennett, winner of the Funny Women Awards 2006, performed to an enthusiastic crowd in the autumn. This success prompted the development of this exclusive tour in Cyprus.

The sponsorship by GB Airways highlights their GB Privilege exclusive email service. This new service offers exclusive news and offers to expats and second-home owners who register online at www.Gbairways.com/gbprivilege.

Jochen Niemann, General Manager of the Londa explains: “We were so impressed by the response to our first comedy evening last year that we agreed to host a series of events featuring Funny Women artistes in 2007. Our designer boutique hotel with its lively outlets has become the place to be seen for the cognoscenti of Cyprus. So hosting a Funny Women tour is a perfect way to develop our unique offer for guests, both for locals and the tourist market.”

Isabelle Baret from the GB Airways communications department comments: “We are extremely proud to sponsor the Funny Women tour at the exclusive Londa in Cyprus. As the event coincides with the launch of GB Privilege, our exclusive email service offering fantastic deals to expats and second home owners, and the proceeds go to charity, there really is no excuse to miss out on such a fantastic night out.”

Funny Women runs the UK’s only dedicated awards for new female comedy talent and is now in its 5th year. The awards have become a platform for launching the careers of a great number of artistes. The Londa became a partner in the Awards for the first time last year, providing a prize of a week’s luxury holiday for two at this new 5 star boutique hotel in Limassol. Flights were provided courtesy of British Airways Club Europe.

The show starts at 8.30 pm in the Alpha Omega Ballroom. Kindly note that there is a limited number of seats. A cover charge of £5.00 will apply and all proceeds will be donated to the Cyprus Anticancer Society, www.Anticancersociety.org.cy. All Funny Women events aim to raise money and awareness for causes that affect women.

Fore more information visit www.funnywomen.com and www.londahotel.com