Free Greek Lessons

Hellenic American Union offers free podcastsin conversational Greek. You can subscribe online at its web site and also download printed material to augment each audio lesson. This is not for beginners but for those who already have at least a rudimentary understanding of the language. It’s perfect for someone like myself who learned the language at home as a child and wishes to raise his/her speaking level. Or for anyone who’s already completed a year of study and wants to brush up on they’re Greek.

I found the podcasts a few years ago on iTunes, subscribed to all 80 short lessons I later burned onto a DVD I was able to play on my laptop or a music system that plays mp3s. I learned how to say the more polite I would like rather than the cruder I want. Also how to make an appointment as well as how to make a reservation. The former useful when calling a doctor’s office. The latter handy for booking a restaurant table or making travel arrangements.

Xenophon

I learned the word for moving from one residence to another. It isn’t something that comes up in conversation every day but people do change apartments or houses. I was glad to know what they’re talking about.

For those who prefer a more traditional classroom situation the Hellenic American Union conducts both intermediate and advanced classes in Athens, Greece for anyone over 16 years of age, along with cultural excursions to various museums in the city for its students.

copyright © 2012 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

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Call For Young Media Artists

Istanbul Digital is looking for young Greek and Turkish media artists in their twenties to early thirties to produce short films that explore what unites and divides the two neighbor countries. The deadline to register online is Sunday 12 February 2012. The main project partner is the Center For Research And Action On Peace, based in Athens.

Associate partners include European Cultural Foundation, Aeolis, The University Of The Aegean, Centre Of Education and Intercultural Communication, Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University, Yildiz Technical University, and Anadolu University.

The overall theme of the North Aegean Narratives project is Rethinking Closeness and Apartness– Reconnecting with the Other Side. The ultimate goal is to foster mutual cultural understanding through open dialogue between Greeks and Turks. The project is co-funded by the European Union and the Government of the Republic of Turkey.

The eight Turkish and eight Greek filmmakers chosen to participate will first attend a documentary workshop before teaming up to work collaboratively on 16 short films that will later be screened in Adatepe, Athens, Çanakkale, Anadolu University in Eskişehir, Yildiz Technical University in Istanbul, and Mytilene. Finally a closing conference will be held in Istanbul to evaluate the project and share the results with a wider audience.

For more information click on one of the red words above.

copyright © 2012 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

Spanish Pop Singer

I’ve enjoyed listening to Mexican romantic music (pop & bolero) for over a decade and a half. My favorites include Cristian Castro, Alejandro Fernández, and Marco Antonio Solis. Three other Latin artists I like are Pepe Aguilar (US), Alex Ubago (Spain), and Charlie Zaa (Columbia).

I first heard what turned out to be the title song of Alex Ubago’s debut album in San Miguel de Allende. I went to the studios of the local radio station to find out who the singer was and immediately bought Que Pides Tu?, Warner Music, 2001. This was followed by two other pop albums released by Warner Music: Aviones De Cristal, 2004 and Calle Illusión, 2009.

The 31-year old singer-songwriter has a clear, forceful voice I find pleasant to listen to. He accompanies himself on guitar or piano. I look forward to future releases of his work.

In 2010 he joined with Lena Burke and Jorge Villamizar to form a supergroup called Alex, Jorge Y Lena. AJ&L has already been nominated for a Latin Grammy. More information is available at alexjorgeylena.

copyright © 2012 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

Butter To Olive Oil

In The Food Of France, published by Knopf in 1958, Waverley Root divides French cuisine into three domains: butter, lard, and oil. The book is a delightful tour, province by province, describing what is eaten and how it is prepared.

When I read the book I was already a Julia Child fan, preparing meals for my friends from the first volume of Mastering The Art Of French Cooking, Knopf, 1961. I had a set of Le Creuset enameled, cast iron cookware and some of the other kitchen tools she recommended. I enjoyed the many rich sauces containing butter and cream.

My introduction to French food was in San Francisco just a few years earlier. Roderick, my roommate at the time, received money from his parents in England for his birthday. Instead of spending it on himself he generously invited his ex-girlfriend, Jill, and me to have dinner with him at Chez Marguerite, a small North Beach restaurant.

The meal began with escargot traditionally prepared with butter and garlic. I ordered filet of sole in a Mornay sauce, Jill had the tournedos and Roderick Châteaubriand. I don’t remember dessert; perhaps it was Crème Brûlée.

I couldn’t imagine not having butter daily with meals, preferring sweet rather salted butter most Americans use.

Visiting my father in Greece, where he lived after his retirement, most of the food his wife cooked was served swimming in oil and tomato sauce I left uneaten. My father praised the benefits of olive oil while I held firm to my preference for butter. The virtues of the Mediterranean diet weren’t widely publicized then.

Athens lunch, 2004

However, years later when consuming fatty foods became problematic for me, I gradually cut down on my personal use of butter. By then I more often cooked Italian rather than French food. Now during summer I make pesto weekly with fresh organic basil I buy at the Saturday famers market and eat it with homemade fettuccini I also make from scratch.

I still keep sweet butter in the freezer for recipes that require it but it’s no longer in my daily diet. I’ve definitely developed a taste for olive oil and can’t imagine living without it.

image & text copyright © 2012 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

French Oscar Nominees

The Artist, winner of three Golden Globes, received ten nominations for both the Oscars and the Césars. Michel Hazanavicius was nominated for writing the original screenplay, directing, and co-editing the film. This black and white film with no dialogue is set in Hollywood before the advent of talkies. It pairs Jean Dujardin in the role of a declining actor with Bérénice Bejo, who plays a rising actress. Both of the principal players were nominated for Academy Awards, Dujardin for actor in a leading role and Bejo for supporting actress.

Other Oscar nominees for The Artist include Thomas Langmann, producer for best picture, Guillaume Schiffman for cinematography, Anne-Sophie Bion for film co-editing, and Ludovic Bource for original score.

Une Vie De Chat (A Cat In Paris), showcasing the work of Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli, was nominated for animated feature film. It’s an exciting mystery solved by a young Parisian girl who follows her cat during the course of a single evening. It also received a César nomination for best animated film.

copyright © 2012 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

Greek Dilemma

Violent street demonstrations and debt talks dominate the news from Greece, but few Americans understand daily life there. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal exposed the desperate situations of individuals who borrowed money they weren’t able to repay.

Athens food vendor 2010

Suicides have doubled. Young people graduating from university are unable to find work. Businesses are closing. Austerity measures are only making things worse for the average Greek.

The inauguration of the Euro a decade ago was accompanied by jubilation on the continent. And the 2004 Olympics brought sudden glory and pride to the nation. However, it was the flow of easy money, initially taken as a sign of success, that derailed the small nation.

Continental Breakup, a sixty-minute, radio documentary produced by the Planet Money team for This American Life, brings new clarity to the contemporary Greek dilemma. The program is presented in five acts after a brief introduction by guest producer Alex Blumberg.

The century-and-a-half dream of a single European currency seemed unattainable until Germany and France were able to overcome their differences. Stalled talks finally moved forward after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Most of the other EU countries were eager to become a part of the newly created economic zone.

In order to qualify for the Euro, the Greek establishment falsified its financial status but the leaders of other nations considered it rude to scrutinize the figures provided.

Greek banks, for the first time, offered low-interest loans to consumers that previously only bought goods with cash. German products were in high demand. Germany grew even richer selling to other EU countries. Luxury items such as Mercedes-Benz automobiles, boats, homes, and expensive vacations became new status symbols before the Greek economy came tumbling down.

What Planet Money reporters discovered was that the Greeks are not much different from Americans who overreached financially because they believed the economic system was headed toward stratospheric heights. Suddenly faced with reality when the fantasy collapsed.

This show is well-worth listening to in order to gain a better understanding of not only the Greek crises but also conditions in the US and why what’s happening abroad is relevant to us.

image & text copyright © 2012 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

Introduction

Nikos 2011

I publish under the name N A Diaman, however my friends call me Nikos.

Born 1 November 1936 in San Francisco, a fourth generation Californian and the first United States native in my family. Both parents and three of my grandparents originated on Ikaria, a small island in the Eastern Aegean.

I graduated from the University of Southern California, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1958, as a Humanities major and Television minor.

Lived in Los Angeles, New York and Paris, before returning home to San Francisco in 1972.

Traveled extensively in Mexico and also visited Greece, Italy and Turkey.

I strongly identify as a Mediterranean.

The author of ten books published by Persona Press, San Francisco. The last two titles are 2009 travel memoirs: Paris Dreams and Athens Apartment.

Books available at Amazon & Powell’s

image & text copyright © 2012 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved