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The Indie Music Pillars of Athens, Greece

Saturday, November 21, 2009

DUSK was descending softly on Athens as the sounds of bass-heavy noise pop drifted across Karitsi Square, a tucked-away cobblestone oasis near the city center. In the outside seating area of Use Bar (Karitsi Square 5; 30-210-323-5993), two tables of artist types were discussing a recent show by the local dark-wave band Phoenix Catscratch. Later, throngs of young men and women sporting skinny jeans and asymmetrical haircuts would fill the square and seep down winding Kolokotroni Street into a slew of new bars, galleries and other spots catering to the city’s growing indie and post-alternative scene.
It’s hard to believe that only six or seven years ago, this shop-filled area — known by the somewhat unwieldy title of the “historic commercial triangle” — was a virtual wasteland for night life. Back then, after the bustling daytime crowds dispersed, the triangle went dark.
“In the center of Athens there was nothing, just these really cheap shops,” said Christoforos Tiropolis, who rode the crest of the downtown indie bar deluge when he and a partner opened the small cocktail bar Pop (Kleitou 10B; 30-210-322-06-50) in June of 2001. “We came here to have space around us. We just wanted a place where our friends could come and have drinks and hear great music.”
These days, if you can find a spot at the perpetually gridlocked bar, you’ll find that Pop still houses a range of great local D.J.’s playing everything from no-wave to British invasion to indie pop and offers some of the best cocktails in the city. The signature drink, known as the Pop, is a fizzy, decadent blend of two types of vodka, triple sec, fresh strawberries, fresh lime, sugar and Champagne.
As Pop gained a reputation as a hip late-night locale, new bars in the same mold — intimate, unpretentious, urbane — began sprouting up in the neighborhood. By 2006, the number of bars downtown had grown to around 15. By the middle of October there were at least 27 by the count of several bar owners.
Much of the growth was centered on Avramiotou, a quiet, run-down sliver of a street off Kolokotroni, which metamorphosed into a hot spot when four small indie bars — Kinky, Urban, Black Cat and Plastelini — opened next to one another between 2004 and 2007. Then last month, the owners of the bars merged into a four-part music location called Six D.O.G.S.

The building’s sophisticated, minimalist redesign, undertaken by the Greek architectural firm Point Supreme, uses a gray-scale gradient color scheme that darkens as the site progresses from the airy, white gallery space to the slate-colored cafe-library to the large, charcoal-hued gig space and finally to the sleek, black cocktail bar.
With its newly streamlined acoustics, Six D.O.G.S. is probably the best spot in the neighborhood for hearing local D.J.’s and bands. And for an indie scene more concerned with listening to the music than moving to it, Six D.O.G.S. is one of the few downtown places where people take to the dance floor en masse.
The artistic director, Konstantinos Dagritzikos, who plays drums in the ’60s-influenced band Love Beverly, says he tries to maintain a balance between booking local independent bands and acts from abroad, like the London-based electro-punk outfit Publicist, which played at the opening, and the English D.J. collective Disco Bloodbath (traces of this group are still visible in the form of splattered fake blood handprints on Six D.O.G.S.’s graffitied facade).
Though the historic commercial triangle was for centuries the center of Athenian cultural life, overcrowding, traffic and pollution eventually led to an exodus from the center. While many businesses and retail shops remained, much of Athens’s cultural activity moved elsewhere, and the downtown area became more of an administrative and commercial hub.
As a result, night life gravitated to more residential outlying neighborhoods like Gazi — once the site of the city’s gasworks — and the posh Psirri, where large, flashy nightclubs came and went faster than British island-hoppers. In the rough-edged neighborhood of Exarchia, punks, goths and beefed-up rockers defined the late-night scene. But more intimate, indie-oriented options were few and far between.
“I was alone, completely,” said Nikos Louvros, who opened Booze Cooperativa (Kolokotroni 57; a combination bar, cafe and gallery, in a former textile mill in 1989. The three-story neo-Classical-style complex is now at the center of downtown’s indie renaissance, offering a rotating selection of exhibitions, screenings, theatrical performances and live music gigs. Though this kind of multiplatform cultural program is now prevalent in the Athens indie scene, it was something of an anomaly when Booze first opened its doors.
Earlier this year, when the municipal government banned smoking in public spaces including many bars, Mr. Louvros, a former political cartoonist, made a splash in Athenian politics by founding his own political party called Smoking Groups for Art and Artistic Creation, which in Greek forms the acronym “chicken.” He then registered Booze as his party headquarters, which under the Greek constitution makes it exempt from the ban.
One factor in Athens’s downtown indie transformation was a recent explosion of free press in the city. Five years ago, there was only The Athens Voice, an alternative weekly that then had a meager listings section and only a few pages devoted to the arts.
But along came Velvet a free monthly first published in 2004 by the Athens-born brothers Lakis and Aris Ionas, who run a veritable do-it-yourself culture factory out of their fourth-floor downtown studio.
In addition to running the magazine, devoted entirely to the local indie scene, the Ionases have an art collective, a fashion line (their mother sews all their futuristic neon-colored metallic wool creations), and an art-punk band called the Callas. The group has self-released two albums and performed throughout Europe — often in homemade spandex Superman costumes — with the Callasettes, their five “laboratory-made groupies.” Following Velvet, many other locally focused free publications, like Lifo, FAQ, Don’t Panic Athens and Ozon, which has an English-language have sprung up.
“In the past, there were bands, but there wasn’t a common ground to support all these bands,” Aris Ionas said. “There wasn’t a magazine or a record label that was paying attention to the indie scene.”
Though musically diverse, the bands currently emerging out of the Athens scene like the Callas, Phoenix Catscratch, the singer-songwriter Monika, and My Wet Calvin, an experimental indie pop act that often performs in animal costumes, all share a commitment to wild, unconventional live shows and a high-concept, do-it-yourself aesthetic.
“It’s more like a scene now,” said Fotis Vallatos, music editor of the Athens-based FREE magazine. “There’s more of a connection between music and art and bars.”
Mr. Vallatos is also one-half of a D.J. team called Armani Had a Softer Touch, which plays regularly throughout the neighborhood in places like Six D.O.G.S., Use Bar and the seven-month-old Ambariza (Lekka 14; 30-210-325-76-44), a chic, L-shaped bar off Karitsi Square that by day caters to the Wi-Fi-and-frappe crowd but later transforms into a lively hangout for the indie set.
“We hope that the neighborhood can work as a place where new bands and non-mainstream D.J.’s can play,” Lakis Ionas said. “I think it’s working. It’s still a small community, but it’s quite strong.”

LMAO! Jessica Alba Is a Funny Friggin' Focker

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Just because Jessica Alba isn't the most smiley, happy-go-lucky starlet in Hollywood that doesn't mean she's not a load of fun.
Teri Polo, one of Alba's costars in the upcoming Little Fockers, insists Ms. Alba loves a good laugh…
"She loves to be funny," Polo told us at last night's BAFTA/LA Britannia Awards. "I also think she's a very shy person who perhaps people perceive as a certain way…We get along just great."
So why does she get a rap for being a sourpuss? Polo explained...
"I think some people have a certain preconception and are intimidated and don't approach them properly," Polo said. "So then why would that person come out of their shell? You just kind of have to prod them along and then they just come right out."
And Alba's mommy side also brings out the fun.
"Her little baby Honor has come to set and run around," Polo said. "And my baby girl who's almost two comes to set and runs around…Lots of gals, which is nice."
Another Fockers star, Robert De Niro, wasn't as chatty. But he's De Niro, and it's not often we get to talk to the legend...
"The kids are great," he said of the flick. "We're still just at the beginning. It's only been a few weeks. But it's great."Read More......

Meet Britain's tallest schoolgirl who at 6ft 5ins towers over her teachers (and has size 14 feet)

Friday, November 6, 2009

There's no chance you'll catch Emma Cahill stooping or hunching her shoulders. At 6ft 5in, it probably wouldn't make much difference anyway.
The tallest schoolgirl in Britain is enormously proud of her height. And at 16, she is hoping she still has a bit of growing to do.
'I am really proud to be the tallest schoolgirl. I like being a bit different,' she said. 'I'd like to grow an extra inch to catch up with my dad.'
Her father Andrew, 45, is 6ft 6in and mother Jane 5ft 11in.
But while Emma already stands head and shoulders above students and teachers, little sister Jennifer, 12, is an average height for her age.
'Emma was always a big child but in the last few years she's shot up,' said Mr Cahill at the family home in Worcester. 'We keep joking we'll have to buy a bigger house so we can all fit in it.'
Emma, who has just started sixth form, has to have shoes specially made to fit her size 14 feet. Her uniform was tailored to fit her 36in legs.
'Even the longest jeans in the shops look like cropped jeans on me,' she said.
She fears she scares potential boyfriends away. 'I haven't got a boyfriend at the moment. I think I scare them off with my height,' she said. 'I'll probably always be bigger than anyone I go out with but I'll still wear heels.'
Father Andrew, who runs a software company in Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire, said: 'Emma was always a big child but in the last few years she's shot up.
'We keep joking we'll have to buy a bigger house so we can all fit in it.
'She was born a normal size but genetics must have kicked in. My parents and my wife's parents were tall so she must have got her height from there.'
She is the star player on the netball team but has to have shoes specially designed to fit her huge size 14 feet.
Emma also had to have her new uniform specially tailored to fit her 36in legs.
She said: 'Being so big does have some disadvantages. I have to get my clothes specially made in Germany and America which is really expensive.
'No high street clothes fit me. Even the longest jeans in the shops look like cropped jeans on me,' she said. '[But] I'm proud to be tall.'
Despite mum Jane suggesting she become a catwalk model, Emma says she wants to study to become an occupational therapist.
Emma, who is looking forward to learning to drive when she turns 17 next August, added: 'I am already trying out cars to see if I fit in the driver's seat.
'There are only a few cars which I will be able to drive - unfortunately none of them are a Mini which would be my first choice.'
Emma's record height was confirmed today by the Tall Persons Club.
Director Louise Ross said: 'Emma is the tallest teenage girl in Britain. There are taller teenage boys but she is head and shoulders above most of them.
'Emma should enjoy being the tallest teenage girl in the country. Women like her are the future and she should be proud and never stoop.
Around 98 per cent of tall people are bullied but the trick is to literally rise above it.'
The world's tallest teenager is 17-year-old American Brandon Adams who stands at 7ft four-and-a-half inches.Read More....

Must-See Holiday Movies

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The holidays are approaching, and if people are not busy running around thinking of Christmas or Hanukkah gifts, they're considering what to do with their family when they actually have to entertain everyone.
Every year there are big blockbuster films that come out around Thanksgiving and Christmas purposely devoted to people looking to enjoy time with their families, or to escape from them for a few blissful hours.
Here's a look at some of the movies coming out for the holiday season:
November 6 - Disney's A Christmas Carol
Disney is no stranger to taking beloved tales and making them into box office darlings, so it was no surprise when they announced "A Christmas Carol" as their newest endeavor for family entertainment. Why this is being released in November rather than in December, where it honestly belongs, is still a mystery. Jim Carrey stars as Ebenezer Scrooge, an old, vicious, and cold-hearted miser who hates everything but his money. In one night his entire view changes when he's visited by three ghosts who show him the truth about his life and how it could be. This classic tale is originally a Charles Dickens' story, and it will be released on 3-D and IMAX. Carrey will be voicing four of the characters (Scrooge and all three ghosts), and the rest of the cast includes Gary Oldman, Cary Elwes, Colin Firth, and Robin Wright Penn. The movie will be performance capture, which could be dangerous since that kind of animation has been criticized in the past for seeming soulless, like in "The Polar Express." Still, it has a strong cast, a legendary story, and Robert Zemeckis ("Forrest Gump," "Beowulf," "Cast Away") as the director. Sounds like a great moral tale for families everywhere, right?
Watch "A Christmas Carol Trailer"
November 13 - 2012 and Fantastic Mr. Fox
In the second week of November two movies are coming out sure to win the audiences over: "2012," which is promised to be the best disaster film in years, and "Fantastic Mr. Fox," another classic tale taken from Roald Dahl. "2012" is based on the idea that the Mayan Long Count Calendar declared that year to be the one where the world ends. In the film, the world does indeed seem to be ending as earthquakes, fires, tsunamis, and general global disorder happens. It stars John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Amanda Peet, Woody Harrelson, and Danny Glover.
Then there is "Fantastic Mr. Fox" which will be more family friendly and was made with stop motion animation. It is about Mr. Fox, a creature who steals chickens and livestock from three mean farmers to protect his family. The farmers try to kill him and starve him out of his hole, but the animals band together to keep off the nasty men. It's a very charming tale told by Dahl, and it attracted big name voice actors like George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, and Willem Dafoe. Parents can take their kids to "Fantastic Mr. Fox," while fans of destruction and mayhem can go check out "2012."
November 20 - Twilight Saga: New Moon
Not much needs to be told about this movie; everyone and their mother has heard about the "Twilight" series by now, whether they want to or not. The popular young adult series has just started being adapted into film, and the first movie did very well in its release. It was no surprise then that "New Moon" was put into production overdrive and will be released only a year after its predecessor. The film focuses on human everywoman Bella and her love affair with the sparkling vampire Edward, although in "New Moon" she gets drawn to the animal magnetism of werewolf Jacob. Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner all return as the main characters, with Michael Sheen and Dakota Fanning joining the cast. If you're a fan of the series you probably already have your tickets!
November 25 - The Princess and the Frog
Is that another 2D animated film from Disney I see? The company planned to stop after "Home on the Range," but it is great to see them getting back to their roots in this upcoming movie. It is based roughly on the fairy tale "The Frog Prince," but it seems to be going in a more lively direction in its New Orleans setting and funky Jazz music. A prince is turned into a frog by a voodoo magician and he convinces a pretty girl to kiss him, thinking it will turn him back into a man. Instead it turns her into a frog, and they must journey together to find a cure. The jury is still out on whether this movie is decent, although it has stirred up plenty of controversies already with its location choice, but it does look very creative. This is another family film option, and at the least it should have excellent music between Tony winning actress Anika Noni Rose and Randy Newman.
December 18 - Avatar and Nine
I don't know if you've heard of this film called "Avatar," it may ring a few bells since people have been talking about it for, oh, 10 years! James Cameron actually wrote the first idea in 1994, and he's had it in mind ever since. The film moves between live action and motion capture and performance capture animation. It has been rumored to revolutionize CGI and animation, and so far it looks visually incredible. The movie is about a paralyzed man named Jake who takes part in a program that lets him put his mind into the body of an alien creature. He goes to their planet to infiltrate the tribe and gets drawn in by the beautiful world and the people. It stars Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, and Sigourney Weaver.
If this sci-fi blockbuster isn't really your thing, however, there is "Nine," a musical based on a Tony-Award winning musical of the same name. It's about the midlife crisis of an Italian director who contemplates his lifelong relationship with women. It stars Daniel Day-Lewis, Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, Nicole Kidman, and Kate Hudson. With a star-studded cast like that, it really seems worth a look.
December 25 - The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus and Sherlock Holmes
Let's face it: most of the hype over "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" comes due to the fact it is Heath Ledger's last movie before he died, and because three exceptional male actors took his place since he wasn't finished the role. Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell all play versions of Ledger's original character Tony, and they each donated their paychecks to Ledger's daughter. The movie itself is finally coming out, and it is about Doctor Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) who leads a traveling theater group and makes a deal with the devil. He was given powers over the imagination and must trade his daughter in return. It looks bizarre and fun and beautiful, so if you're in the mood for something a little difference, this is the one to check out.
Then of course there is "Sherlock Holmes." The brilliant detective brought to life by Arthur Conan Doyle has starred in many books, TV series, and several other films in the past. The movie stars Robert Downey Jr., fresh from his "Iron Man" success, as the title character and Jude Law as his best friend and partner Watson. Using Holmes' unique style of investigation and intellect, the duo plan to stop a cult leader (Mark Strong) from destroying Britain. The film is directed by Guy Ritchie, which means it kind of comes off as more of an action movie than fans of the books might expect, but the humor and charm of its main characters seem solid and attractive. It's elementary, my dear readers, that this will definitely be a Christmas Day hit. Read More...

Beyonce preps live discs, ABC special

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

NEW YORK (Billboard) – Beyonce will later this month release a live concert DVD and companion CD, and a new song, "Video Phone" featuring Lady Gaga. bollywood News
The DVD, entitled "I Am ... Yours: An Intimate Performance At Wynn Las Vegas," will be released November 23 by Columbia Records. Three days later, ABC will air a Beyonce Thanksgiving special. music masti
The DVD, culled from an August stand in Las Vegas, will mix biographical storytelling, performances and behind-the-scenes footage, showcasing over 30 songs from all three Beyonce solo albums. A CD of the concert will be included in the package.
Also due on November 23 is a deluxe version of her current studio album "I Am ... Sasha Fierce," which will feature two bonus tracks, including "Video Phone (Extended Remix)," featuring Lady Gaga. The music video for "Video Phone" will premiere on MTV on Thursday. Read More.....

Jessica Biel’s super sexy role in new film F***ing Engaged

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Jessica Biel is set to star in new film F***ing Engaged focussin on a couple's prenuptial sex pact.
The actress will also produce the movie, an original screenplay from rookie screenwriter Julia Brownell. bollywood News
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the film tells the story of an engaged couple who make a pact to have sex every day until their wedding, reports the New York Daily News. music masti
Biel, who recently played a stripper in Powder Blue, will also feature in Nailed and Valentine''s Day’ this February.Read More...