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Greek writer wins French book prize October 27, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Books Life Greek.
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Greek author Vassilis Alexakis has been awarded one of France’s top fiction awards, the Grand Prix du Roman de l’Academie Francaise, for his novel “Ap. J.C,” the academy said Thursday.

Alexakis, 63, was born in Athens and came to France at the age of 17. He writes in both Greek and French. In 1995 he won another prize, the Prix Medicis, for his novel “La Langue Maternelle” (Mother Tongue).

“Ap. J.C” tells the story of a young researcher looking into the history of the monks of Mount Athos in northern Greece.


The blossoming and downfall of the Greek grindhouse movie theaters September 28, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Books Life Greek, Movies Life Greek.
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Athens Film Festival highlights a genre that carved its own path in the country’s capital > The Star cinema, on Aghiou Constantinou Street, was designed by Zach Mose. Were it not for its pornographic films, it could be one of the most charming movie theaters. The Athinaikon, behind Athens City Hall, was a purpose-built theater.

Early on in the history of cinema, there were trends and schools of thought that were not always aimed at the same group of people. Just like today, a large chunk of cinematic output is destined for mass urban consumption, while artistically oriented films are doomed to be shown at just a limited number of theaters.

The Premiere Nights Athens International Film Festival, which ends on Sunday, addresses this issue with a tribute to grindhouse. The term does not describe a particular genre of film, but a very specific category of movie theaters that mushroomed throughout the United States in the 1960s and well into the 80s. Nestled in the seedy neighborhoods of America’s cities, grindhouse theaters reflected the faded, filthy death of the glamorous theaters of the 30s and 40s.

The repertory at America’s grindhouse theaters was surprisingly broad: shocking pseudo-documentaries and wannabe snuff movies, topless starlets and hardcore porn, exotic cannibalistic banquets, rioting women’s prisons and Nazi S&M orgies, zombies and bloodsucking beauties, spaghetti westerns and angry nuns. All day and night, prostitutes, junkies, pimps, homeless people, voyeurs or just lonely Joes with a bent for the weird would pay the meager fee and choose these repugnant theaters as shelter to conduct shady deals or as a refuge from demanding spouses and nosy neighbors.

In the Greek equivalent of grindhouse theaters the selection was somewhat more limited: westerns, war movies, thrillers, martial arts adventures and adult movies. The customers, however, were the same, according to Giorgos Lazaridis in his book “Flash Back: A Life of Cinema” (Livanis Publications), who describes Greek grindhouse theaters as “hangouts for bums, professional idlers, improvised shelter for homeless passers-by, schools for thugs, an easy hideaway for truants from every high school in Athens.”

One big difference between Greek and American theaters is that pornographic movies did not make their way into Greek theaters until the early 70s, according to Dimitris Fyssas, who wrote “X-Rated: Programs of Athenian Sex Cinemas” (Delfini Publications). He describes how in the early years, projectionists would simply splice in a few scenes of pornography during the screening of a regular movie, with the audience below knowing very well, and anticipating, what was to come.

Rising property values in downtown areas, the widespread introduction of television and later video players into people’s homes drove most of these movie house owners to despair. In an effort to secure their financial survival, those two three-minute clips became increasingly longer. But the audiences wanted more sex, and mainstream fare was gradually supplanted by a strictly pornographic program.

Grindhouse, or to use the Greek term “laika” or popular, theaters are a thing of the past in Athens, but Fyssas disagrees: “The multiplex, as far as I’m concerned, is a modern version of grindhouse. That’s where you find movies to help you pass the time of day, movies the entire family can enjoy. These are not necessarily my choice of preference, but I have to give them credit for reviving a feeling that was almost lost.”

The natural heirs of laika theaters are those that play X-rated fare only. From 35 theaters in the 1980s, their numbers have now dwindled to five and this is not so paltry if one considers how easy it is to watch these movies at home nowadays. According to a theater owner, the clientele falls into three categories: immigrants, older men and people hoping for more intimate encounters under the cover of darkness.

The Star, on Aghiou Constantinou Street, is the king of its flock. And if it didn’t play pornographic films it would also probably be one of the most popular and charming cinemas in downtown Athens. Designed by Zach Mose, it began as a family theater with an interesting art deco facade, but the decline of the areas in and around Omonia Square in the 1970s left the owner with little choice. At first they played westerns, martial arts adventures and erotic films.

There are another four such cinemas. The Averof on Lykourgou Street is a historical cinema built in the late 1950s. Hard as it may be to imagine today, it used to be a lot like the grand Attikon cinema of Stadiou Street in its heyday, with elegant balconies and boxes. The clientele was exclusively families who knew that the owner always had his eye out for entertaining Greek movies. The Averof’s decline went hand-in-hand with the decline of commercial Greek cinema.

The Cosmopolite, built in the interwar years near Omonia Square, has retained its architectural charm. Paradoxically, the crisis of the 1980s gave birth to two more theaters. The Athinaikon, behind Athens City Hall, was a purpose-built theater, named after another theater with the same name further down that closed. The Orfeo, in Attikis Square, the only cinema of this type that is not in downtown Athens, opened in 2003 in the place of a small manufacturing business.

Related Links > http://www.aiff.gr

Book activities and celebrations September 27, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Books Life Greek.
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September 30 is International Translation Day. This year it will be celebrated on October 1 in Athens with “Translating Europe,” a discussion organized by the European Translation Center (EKEMEL).

Peter Bergsma, Director of Translators’ House Amsterdam, Francoise Cartano, Director of the International College of Literary Translators in Arles, France, and Francoise Wuilmart, Director of the European College of Literary Translators in Seneffe, Belgium, will address the meeting and a discussion will follow. Simultaneous translation will be provided. At the Leonidas Zervas Hall, National Research Center, 48 Vasileos Constantinou Avenue, Athens, at 7 p.m. Information > call EKEMEL at 210 3639350.

New branch > Metaichmio publishers invite you for a drink to celebrate the opening of their new branch in Thessaloniki, at 81 Olympou Street, today from 6-10 p.m. The bookstore will run a series of meetings for primary (Friday) and secondary school teachers (Saturday) to meet the authors of the new schoolbooks and supplementary titles from Metaichmio. For information call 2310 250075.

Launch > Today at 8 p.m. I. Sideris publishers and the Ianos Bookstore present Giorgos Mylonas’s book “www.ELENI-ONEIRA.GR” www.eleni-dreams.gr. Culture Ministry General Secretary Christos Zachopoulous, director Nikos Koundouros and journalist Antonis Prekas will speak, At Ianos Bookstore, 24 Stadiou Street, Athens, tel 210 3217917.

Recycling > On Saturday at 12.30 p.m., at Ianos Bookstore, Costas Magos, author of “Skoupidistan” (Trashville) and “To dasos tis xylinis xystras” (The Forest of the Wooden Sharpener), both published by Patakis, will lead children aged 5-12 and visitors into the magical world of recycling, with constructions made of discarded bottles, plastic and wood. At Ianos Bookstore, 24 Stadiou Street, Athens, tel 210 3217917.

Music and poetry > Celebrate International Tourism Day with music and poetry dedicated to C.P. Cavafy in the Roman Forum today at 9 p.m. RSVP 210 9333522, hatta@hatta.gr.

Where business meets art and books September 23, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Cyprus, Books Life Greek.
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An innovative book will be launched in Cyprus this week

Talk about creativity and you are probably bound to wander into arts, crafts, architecture and fashion. Talk about business and you’ll be focusing on numbers, competitors and marketing. If you think the two have nothing in common, then you should probably pay attention and get your hands on Dimis Michaelides’ book, The Art of Innovation, billed as the world’s first management art book. It has been praised as ‘the Bible for 21st century CEOs’ and ‘a book that will inspire change in individuals, teams and organisations.’

“Despite years of academic research on the topic of corporate innovation as well as thousands of books on the subject, there are still too many misconceptions on how to promote innovation in organisations,” says Constantinos Markides of the London Business School in the book’s preface. “Prominent among these is the belief that innovation is all about coming up with new ideas. It’s not. Coming up with new ideas is obviously necessary and important but innovation is much more than that. It’s the implementation of these ideas in the market to satisfy customer needs in an economical way that ultimately creates value.”

The point is that over and above the ability to come up with new ideas, innovative organisations have something else. And it is this ‘something else’ that Michaelides has managed to identify. “Having worked for large organisations such as the World Bank, Zeneca and the Popular Bank Group, lived in Paris, London and Washington, among other places, and been a creativity leader, a consultant and a business speaker, I believe that designing work and life in organisations is an art and the synthesis of the twelve key points in the book is crucial because each one, while important in itself, is incomplete if it stands alone,” he says.

The book is about innovation and how to make it an integral part of an organisation. “In times past, creative ideas and the innovations they generated were the domain of just a small number of exceptional individuals,” says Dimis. “In the business world, it was not until the 20th century that the joys of discovery and profit led to the establishment of research and development departments, dedicated to inventing new products, and marketing departments, devoted to finding new ways of matching products and markets.”

Dimis believes that on the way, we discovered that all human beings are creative and that innovation is as much about R&D and marketing, technology and processes as it is about production and selling, service and operations, data and information, management and motivation.

What is most remarkable about The Art of Innovation as a book is its ability to combine art and business through symbols, quotes and original, high-quality artwork, presented in an eye-catching graphic layout. Colours are abundant and almost every page makes a statement of its own. “There were two reasons as to why I wanted this book to include art,” says Dimis. “First of all, aesthetically, it is pleasing unlike many business books that all focus on text. The way it is structured also means that one can begin reading from any given point without losing the main picture through a very unusual angle and with a very original frame of reference, which we know promotes creative thinking.”

Speaking in more local terms, Dimis explained that innovation is risky and this is an area into which many business in Cyprus do not dare enter. “We are in danger of remaining in a stage of knowledge and analytical thinking, which is something we are taught at university but that’s not all. Innovation can be dangerous, leading to losses, bankruptcy, breakdown and disappointment but it can also be rewarding, leading to profit, progress, joy, efficiency, motivation and wealth,” Dimis explains. “Look at Greek Cypriot Sir Stelios Hadjioannou, the EasyJet entrepreneur! I’m guessing he used innovation!”

The Art of Innovation will be launched on Friday in the presence of Dimis Michaelides, Constantinos Markides and the book’s artist Umit Inatci, whose series of 16 paintings will be exhibited for the first time. Friday September 28, 2007. At 7.30pm. Journalists’ House, 12 RIK Avenue, Nicosia. Tel 22 446090. It is available at all bookshops. Dimis’ company Performa Consulting also provides workshops for companies. info@performa.net or call 22 315930.