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City of Athens launches campaign to turn off plastic bags February 11, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Environment, Lifestyle, Shopping.
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Greece’s top supermarket chains and the City of Athens launched Monday a campaign to turn shoppers off plastic bags, some 2.5 billion of which are used nationwide each year.

“We need to persuade people to stop using plastic bags,” Christophoros Giokas, general sales manager at Greek chain My Market, told reporters. “We frequently see shoppers taking five spare bags home.”

Nine chains, AB Vassilopoulos, Atlantic, Veropoulos, Bazaar, Galaxias, Carrefour Marinopoulos, Dia Hellas, My Market Metro, and Sklavenitis, signed a memorandum with Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis to provide reusable and environment-friendly bags on a two-month trial ran starting April 14.

The measure will begin in earnest on June 1 along with efforts to expand it to the rest of the country, Kaklamanis told a news conference. Around 40 percent of Greece’s 11 million people live in Athens, where increasing levels of domestic waste are being generated, the memorandum said.

Plastic bags end up in hundreds of unofficial or substandard landfills around the country that are a major headache for Greek authorities, but also pose a threat to river and marine wildlife. Ninety-eight percent of European sea birds have pieces of plastic in their stomachs, the memorandum said.

The European Union has repeatedly expressed alarm over the disposal of environmentally-hazardous waste at these sites, and Greece is often singled out by both the EU and environmental groups such as Greenpeace and WWF for failing to enforce even its own environmental legislation. Only around 20 percent of waste generated in the country is recycled, the Greek environment ministry said in July.

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Costa-Gavras > Scripts, egos and inept producers harming local film industry February 11, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Movies Life, Movies Life Greek.
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Celebrated director at the helm of committee to improve legislation for Greek cinema > Besides working on his upcoming film ‘Eden is West’ and heading a committee on improving Greek legislation on cinema, Costa-Gavras is currently heading the Berlin Film Festival’s international jury.

«Every country needs its own images. A friend, a Brazilian producer, once said that cinema is our mirror,» said Costa-Gavras recently. Could this be the reason behind the director’s decision to lead a committee working toward the improvement and modernization of Greece’s legislative framework for cinema? Given the director’s international reputation and experience, for years Costa-Gavras headed the French Cinematheque, Culture Minister Michalis Liapis invited him to contribute to the Greek efforts.

A few weeks ago, Costa-Gavras was in Greece for three days. It was a dual-purpose visit, on the one hand to participate in the committee’s first session, while also working on matters regarding the production of his upcoming film, «Eden is West» in which Greece is participating as co-producer. Costa-Gavras is currently in Berlin as the president of that city’s film festival’s international jury.

How does France protect its cinema tradition nowadays? > To begin with, cinema is indeed protected. That’s a fact. It was de Gaulle, when he rose to power in 1944-45, who decided that France ought to have a national cinema and started by imposing a series of laws for its protection. These were laws supporting film production and cinema houses, for instance. A percentage of all foreign films screened, taken from ticket sales, went toward French cinema.

That was 50 years ago. > What is great in this case is that all ensuing governments have protected the sector. And, at times of crisis, the world of cinema sat down with the state to find a solution. When television emerged, for instance, absorbing the public’s interest, channels were forced to co-produce movies. And that included the private ones too. Canal Plus, for example, was developed especially for the cinema.

What do you think Greek cinema needs above all else? > In keeping with the rest of the world, one of the fundamental problems here is with scripts. The other problem is that we, the directors, given our power, go on huge ego trips. I also consider a problem the lack of competent producers who know how to read scripts and subsequently guide the directors accordingly.

In your opinion, what parts of the relevant Greek laws don’t work anymore and therefore ought to change? > That is up to the committee to figure out. Laws are conceived, they come alive, they grow old and then decay. Today, for instance, cinema is entering a revolutionary, digital period. Everything is changing: conception, aesthetics and film production. It’s a little bit like living a landmark moment: from silent to talkies, from black and white to color. We are now living through the same revolutionary changes because we can watch the films in our homes – tomorrow it will be on our phones. On top of it all, films can now be made on a low budget. Cinema houses will have to readjust as well. No one knows where we are heading… Who knows, perhaps tomorrow a big Hollywood distributor might say, «Right, this week, this film will be screened at a particular time in 10,000 theaters around the world,» and impose this at the touch of a button. It sounds like science fiction, but the truth is we don’t know what lies ahead… Theaters will have to acquire new machinery within the next four to five years. Large studio sets are currently being replaced by digital environments. Impressive sets are being mounted on computers. Actors are acting in empty space, with props to be added at a later stage. Laws should follow our lifestyle. The new digital age is similar to the kind of changes that took place when electricity was discovered.

Is the French language protected in France? > French has to exceed 50 percent of the spoken language in order for a film to benefit from French laws. It has to go on television at some point. It must have a specific number of technical and acting crew and a language percentage. This is vital. Consider that television channels prefer to purchase an hour of American programs (at about 50,000 dollars) rather than produce in France (at about 300,000 dollars). On this scale, if left unprotected, national production would vanish entirely. We are so hooked on the American living room that we don’t really know what is going on in the French one. We know about the lives of others, but not about our own. This kind of discussion has been going on for decades, since May of 1968.

Not in Greece. > The funny thing is that in France, all theoretical discussions begin with Greek philosophers.

Does it get easier to make a film as time goes by? > It’s a new, personal adventure every single time. I start from scratch. It always depends on the last two films. If they have worked out then it’s easier. If not, doors are half-open.

Even if you’re Costa-Gavras? > Even if you’re Costa-Gavras. With today’s overproduction, films are losing respect. There are 200 films made in France every year, that is excessive. There are theaters for 150, not more. That’s where I think the problem lies today: We are losing respect for films and the myth of cinema. The myth that the actors themselves once nurtured for their work has disappeared.

A Larissa-born soprano brings opera home February 11, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Ballet Dance Opera.
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Myrto Papathanassiou at the helm of ‘La Traviata’ > The Greek soprano is presenting ‘La Traviata’ in Larissa this month.

The headline in leading Italian newspaper La Repubblica was poignant: “Violetta-Myrto seduces the Opera,” read the title, while nearly all of the rave review was dedicated to “Myrto Papathanassiou from Larissa.” Greek soprano Papathanassiou had drawn enthusiasm from the Roman public as Violetta in Verdi’s “La Traviata” at the city’s Teatro dell’Opera. That was back in April of last year, when two leading names of Italian opera, director Franco Zeffirelli and conductor Gianluigi Gelmetti, had entrusted Papathanassiou with the role. She was back in Rome’s opera house this year, taking part in a new production of Puccini’s “Tosca.”

Taking a break from her busy international schedule, Papathanassiou is currently in Greece working on a project that will not get her another Repubblica headline but nevertheless means a lot to her.

On February 22, Papathanassiou is scheduled to go on stage in Larissa, her hometown. At the helm of an almost exclusively made-in-Larissa production of “La Traviata,” at the city’s Municipal musical conservatory, the soprano will appear alongside the city’s Municipal Young Symphony Orchestra, the Larissa conservatory’s Dimitris Mitropoulos school orchestra and opera choir as well as the Thessaly ballet, under the guidance of director Costas Lambroulis and maestro Christos Chtistakis.

Considering that opera productions are a rarity in places like Thessaloniki, a city with over 1 million inhabitants, staging “La Traviata” in Larissa takes on a larger dimension, far beyond the upcoming five scheduled performances at the city’s municipal music school. The event is uniting the city’s artistic powers and brings an artistic genre identified with big city centers to the local community.

As for Papathanassiou, the soprano is fully aware of the upcoming project’s importance. “It takes guts to do this,” she says, adding that her involvement in the production has a lot to do with her faith in the abilities of the local community. Furthermore, following the orchestra’s own preparations, whose level she finds “very good,” she is now looking forward to the rehearsals.

Papathanassiou’s own journey from Larissa has been embellished with various stops at leading opera houses around the world: the Sydney Opera, the Monaco Opera, the Amsterdam Opera, Vienna’s Theater an der Wien, the Opera Comique in Paris and the Konzerthaus in Vienna, to name but a few.

On the Greek front, Papathanassiou has collaborated with the Greek National Opera only once so far, taking on the role of Sandrina in Mozart’s “La Finta Giardiniera” – something the soprano attributes to coincidence and chance. In any case, while Papathanassiou is already aware of her schedule for 2011, the Greek National Opera has yet to announce its program for next season.

Impressive turnout for O’Neill masterpiece February 11, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Stage & Theater.
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Impressive turnout for O’Neill masterpiece at the Aplo Theater > Eugene O’Neill’s troubling ‘Long Day’s Journey into Night’ is proving a major draw this winter at the Athens theater.

Seeing this show requires booking at least 10 days in advance. Almost on a nightly basis, the Aplo Theater’s production of Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey into Night” is attracting turnout beyond expectations. So strong a draw is the theater’s interpretation of this extremely troubling and demanding play – whose autobiographical plot is based on a family of colossal woes – that some members of the audience are prepared to sit in the aisles.

The production at the Aplo Theater is performed by a wonderful cast consisting of Costas Vassardanis as the sickly younger son, Rania Economidou as the morphine addict mother, who is also tormented by suppressed desires, Alkis Kourkoulos as the alcoholic older brother, and Dimitris Kataleifos as the frugal father. This quartet makes up the Tyrone family.

Stage director Antonis Antypas’s interpretation, which lasts three hours, highlights the affection in the family, the fine balance of the circumstances it confronts, as well as the ghastly emotional hardship experienced, ranging from lighter moments to realization and compromise amid harsh reality.

“O’Neill, an artist who researches, looks to the past to find what went wrong… All four Tyrones share an intense hatred of the present and its morbid, inescapable reality. All four seek solace from the shocks of life in nostalgic memories, which they achieve through different paths,” says Robert Brustein, an eminent scholar of O’Neill’s work. Though depression, suffering and hopelessness dominate the three-hour play, it maintains the audience’s utmost interest throughout. This of course can also be attributed to the director and the wonderful acting. In this three-hour performance, which covers a lifetime, everything unfolds within the four walls of one house.

Aplo Theater, 4 Harilaou Trikoupi Street, Kallithea, Athens, tel 210 9229605.

Olympiakos FC keeps up pressure February 11, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Football.
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Darko Kovacevic scored twice to help visiting Olympiakos beat Panionios 4-0 in the Greek Super League yesterday, a result which keeps the defending champion just two points behind front-runner Panathinaikos with a game in hand.

Late on Friday night, Greek soccer’s disciplinary committee ordered a rematch between Olympiakos and lowly Apollon Kalamaria, which beat the Piraeus team in a shock victory last weekend. Olympiakos had filed an appeal arguing that the Thessaloniki team’s selection of a recent signing, Austrian international Roman Wallner, was improper because he had already represented two other clubs this season. A date for the rematch has not yet been set.

On Saturday, an improved second-half display from Panathinaikos earned the league leader a 1-0 home win over battling Veria.

The home side found it difficult to break down Veria’s resistance but found a way through when Austria captain Andreas Ivanschitz scored the winner in the 71st minute with a curled free kick from outside the area.

AEK, which had held top spot in the standings for the season’s greater part, slipped to third place following a second consecutive defeat, this time a 1-0 loss at Larissa.

Panathinaikos leads the standings with 46 points following 20 rounds of play, or exactly two-thirds of the way through the season. Olympiakos is on 44 points with a game less. AEK lies third on 42 points.

Kovacevic gave Olympiakos the lead in the fifth minute after a mix-up in the Panionios defense. Captain Predrag Djordjevic converted a penalty to make it 2-0 in the 26th after he was fouled in the area by Sekou Berthe, who was shown a red card. Kovacevic stretched the lead to 3-0 after meeting a cross from Argentinean Luciano Galletti in the 53rd. Lionel Nunez rounded off the scoring in the 82nd.

Struggling this season, Thessaloniki club PAOK, currently midtable, registered a badly needed win, 3-0, over crosstown rival Aris, which is equal fourth, 10 points behind AEK. Also yesterday, it was: Xanthi 4, Levadiakos 1; Ergotelis 2, Apollon 2; and Asteras 1, OFI 1. In the round’s other game, on Saturday, Iraklis and visiting Atromitos drew 1-1.

Greece’s coaching job in jeopardy February 11, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Basketball.
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Greek Basketball Federation objects to Yiannakis’s dual posts at Olympiakos and National Team

Just days after he took on troubled Piraeus basketball club Olympiakos as an additional coach, Panayiotis Yiannakis appears likely to be forced from his job with the national team following federation objections. The federation has raised concern about the dual role on the grounds of conflicting ethics standards.

Yiannakis, a European basketball great who has led Greece to European titles both as a player, in 1987, and as coach, in 2005, assumed his club-level job in pursuit of more regular challenges than those offered by the national team’s more sporadic agenda. Giorgos Vassilakopoulos, the chief of FIBA Europe and a member of the Greek federation’s board, has expressed concern about the possible effects of Yiannakis’s ties with the national team’s squad should he, as Olympiakos coach, be verbally abused by fans of archrival Panathinaikos, whose ranks include a considerable number of Greece internationals.

The rivals meet in the Greek Cup final on March 29. Up until a year-and-a-half ago, Yiannakis held concurrent coaching posts with the national team and the less prominent Athens club Maroussi, where the prospect of controversy was not an issue of concern. Greece takes part in the Olympic qualifying tournament this July. It remains unknown whether Yiannakis will still lead Greece.

Greece’s new elected Archbishop calls for unity, truth February 11, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Religion & Faith.
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Greece’s newly elected Archbishop Ieronymos yesterday led his final Sunday service at the cathedral of Livadia, where he has been a local Bishop for nearly three decades, stressing the need for unity within the Church and good relations with Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios.

Referring to his new role, Ieronymos said he regarded himself as “equal among equals… a coordinator” and stressed his desire to “work collectively and with unity.”

The 70-year-old cleric said the Church should do everything possible to protect the role of the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarchate, saying its existence was “a blessing” for the Greek Orthodox Church. Vartholomaios had clashed frequently with the late Archbishop Christodoulos.

In an apparent reference to the wave of recent corruption scandals, Ieronymos said institutions and laws should be respected. “We are living in an era of confusion where lies can be presented as truth and bad as good… institutions are good and should be supported and laws are also good and should be observed,” he said.