Blame it on Ios

athens, greece, Uncategorized

“Ios is a party island.”

“There is nothing to see or do on Ios.”

“Oh yeah,  Ios: that’s where my friends went to lose their virginity.”

Friends, I am going to tell you how to lose your Ios virginity. But I’m not promising to tell you where.

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YES KAN DO! ISRAEL’S PUBLIC BROADCASTER GETS ITS CLOSE-UP

israel

filed by Antoine de GRANT

If you thought politics in the Holy Land were complicated, how about giving Israeli television a whirl? An American in Israel flipping on the TV at any given moment is likely to find an array of news and entertainment content with a substantive-to-silly range you would normally only ascribe to a much larger country (such as ours). But then Israel is nothing if not full of surprises: how else to explain the recent saga of Israeli public broadcasting?

The old Israel Broadcasting Authority was shuttered last May and replaced almost immediately by KAN (Hebrew for “here”), broadcasting on Israeli’s channel 11 (the IBA used to broadcast on channel 1). Considering that newish and nominally Israeli  i24news, with a studio in Jaffa but business HQ  curiously outside Israel, took months to get going a few years ago–its curious hommes de tête Patrick Drahi and Frank Melloul perhaps better hucksters than visionaries–the swift transition from IBA to KAN was all the more remarkable. Some secret Sabra sauce, perhaps? We were eager to hear from Eldad Koblenz, CEO of the new channel, for the inside scoop.

eldadkoblenz

AdG: From press accounts the transition, so to speak, from the IBA to KAN was challenging in human terms, especially in light of IBA’s long history. American Jews don’t necessarily understand the politics behind all of this. What made this transition so politically freighted?

Eldad Koblenz: During our establishment we faced attempts to prevent and sabotage from different factors and directions. The struggle created uncertainty and difficulty in recruiting employees, in addition to hurting the onboarding of hundreds of IBA employees who joined Kan only on the day we launched. Despite all of these challenges we launched a continuous broadcast on three platforms: 8 radio stations, 2 television channels, and on digital, we established a strong news division and maintained administrative independence while preventing the possibility of content interference.

AdG: Would it be fair to call this a rebranding, or are we looking at a completely different animal?

Koblenz: IBA was closed according to the law and as a result of legislation by the government and the Knesset, due to lack of efficiency, wasteful expenditure of public funds and irrelevancy among other reasons and all its employees were dismissed. In its place a completely new body was founded, Kan- Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation, at a significantly lower budget, leaner workforce and with the goal to provide new, quality, independent and diverse public broadcasting on three platforms: digital, radio and television. Kan accepted about 500 former IBA employees out of its 800 employees.

AdG: Language difference aside, how is KAN’s programming distinctly Israeli in the way that PBS is distinctly American?

Koblenz: Kan invests about 220 million NIS in Israeli production and producers, unlike IBA which did not budget local productions at all.  Additionally, on all three platforms the content and presenters are picked to represent all facets of the Israeli population and present diverse opinions and angles on the topics covered by Kan’s successful digital division which is rapidly expanding and showcases the content to varied audiences in Israel and beyond. On the radio front, Kan Gimmel broadcasts only Israeli music in all hours of the day.

Kanstudio

AdG: Is KAN editorially independent of any political party’s influence?

Koblenz: The new law setup a clear mechanism that will allow Kan to operate independently and reduces political interference which was prevalent in the past. A committee of judges appointed a public council that appoints the CEO and approves the appointing of Kan’s management. All appointing is done by scouting committees and only out of professional considerations. A yearly budget is set in law and the head of news is the exclusive authority in terms of news content, without dependency on political or commercial factors.

AdG: Language difference aside, how is KAN’s programming distinctly Israeli in the way that PBS is distinctly American?

Koblenz: Kan invests about 220 million NIS in Israeli production and producers, unlike IBA which did not budget local productions at all.  Additionally, on all three platforms the content and presenters are picked to represent all facets of the Israeli population and present diverse opinions and angles on the topics covered by Kan’s successful digital division which is rapidly expanding and showcases the content to varied audiences in Israel and beyond. On the radio front, Kan Gimmel broadcasts only Israeli music in all hours of the day.

AdG: According to an article in The Independent, “The Israel Broadcasting Corporation (KAN), was stripped of a news division during negotiations, leaving a separate entity to broadcast current affairs”….is KAN broadcasting news now?

Koblenz: Kan airs news since the day of launch and the news division is an inseparable part of it. The issue is being debated in the Israeli High Court of Justice because separating the news from Kan is inefficient on every level and will bring to millions of shekels of the public’s money being wasted, leading to encumbrance and lack of efficiency.

AdG: While KAN is broadcasting in Hebrew, part of the Public Broadcasting Law which led to its creation evokes “broadcasts in other languages prevalent in Israeli society.” At the same time, the demise of the IBA also meant an end to English-language broadcasts on Israel’s public service such as IBA News. Is there any provision or plan in the works for resumption of English-language broadcasts?

Koblenz: The radio station Kan-Rekah broadcasts programs and news in a variety of languages, among them is the news in English every night at 8pm.

AdG: In addition to KAN 11, there are 8 radio stations, but are all these really necessary? Especially when there is already Army Radio, which is also publicly-funded, and when so many people of all demographics are getting information from their smartphones?

Koblenz: Out of the 8 radio stations, only one is a news station – Kan-Reshet Beit and it is part of the unified news division that includes radio, digital and television, and is synchronized to bring news to our audience anytime and any place. It is good that even in the public broadcasting there’s competition for the heart of the audience. The other Kan stations are intended for different audiences and it is important that public broadcasting will include a variety of content such that each member of the audience can find his or her favorite content. In that sense Kan-Sound of Music is for classical music audiences, Kan-Heritage is for religious audiences, Kan-Culture which was radically changed deals with all aspects of Israeli culture with an emphasis on oriental culture revolution, the unique Kan-88 which broadcasts alternative music of different genres. Kan-Gimmel provides a stage for Israeli creation and broadcasts only Israeli music all day, and Kan-Rekkah for foreign language listeners among them Russian, Amharic and more. The are 5 additional digital radio stations that broadcast music from different genres. Some of Kan’s radio programs are filmed and can be viewed on television or on mobile screens. All of Kan’s radio and television content is uploaded to the website and digital platforms.

tripseal

AdG: A report in The Jerusalem Post said KAN “is now around the the half way mark of its 100 days of grace, so hopefully by the triple digit mark, it will have succeeded in completely getting its act together.”   What has been the biggest challenge so far?

Koblenz: I am proud of our broadcasting from the day of launch. We did the unbelievable and our start in the given circumstances and uncertainty is considered a miracle. 90% of reforms in the public sector fail, but Kan was established and broadcast on three platforms: radio, television, and digital, under a budgetary frame and reduced human resources while maintaining our independence. We contended with accepting hundreds of IBA employees that joined on the day of launch and were asked to operate new systems with no practice or test runs.

Despite everything we are fulfilling our commitment to the public – to bring new, quality, independent and diverse public broadcasting, and the ratings point upwards and us reaching new audiences. The biggest challenge is earning back public trust in public broadcasting and we will earn it.

 

Antoine adds: “Tune in to  KAN on televisions at some of the fine Israeli hotels noted here.”

 

 

6 WAYS TO BEAT AN ATHENIAN HEATWAVE

aegean, athens, grecotel, greece, jennifer aniston, mykonos, santorini, travel in Greece

 

September in Athens can be toasty indeed, I am rapidly finding out. Every day I start with a mental checklist of things I want to do: the Gaultier exhibit at the Benaki, the store in Kolonaki that sells the spoon sweets, the hike behind Lycabettus…then I have my first espresso freddo from Coffee Island, then the second (with extra ice) then the sun starts displaying its teeth and in a matter of minutes my list shrinks as I go from can-do to torpor beyond repair. But it’s precisely having been brought to that lazy place that let me identify a few fool-proof and mostly cost-effective ways to throw some serious shade at the monolithic heatwave that is your basic September in the Greek capital. Can’t be bothered? I know, it’s hot out. But stick with me…

1. Make a beeline for the nearest museum. And then slow down.

While there may be a deficit of cooling breezes in Athens even in late summer, there is no shortage of cultural refreshment. The hot days are a perfect opportunity to recalibrate and instead of rushing through the centuries with the velocity of a metro train racing from station to station, slowing your pace. Whether you’re at the Acropolis Museum or the Benaki or another, It’s a great way to spend time focusing on a few objects at a time instead of trying to take everything in at once (what are those hoplites smiling about? wait—is it a smile?) and to indulge in the aircon. Plus the heat is a perfect excuse to check out some of Athens’ fantastic museum cafés.

hopliteB

2. Ride the bus to Limanakia.

Mykonos is great, but you can’t get there by bus. But hop on the 122 from Elliniko metro station and don’t get off until you hear “Limanakia A”. There are lots of little coves starting at about Vouliagmeni, but only at Limanakia (Greek for “little port”) will you find a spot that blends city beach energy with island getaway atmosphere. But you go there less for the vibe than the water which is a clear and shimmering emerald-blue. Remember, there’s no sand here: you just walk down some rough steps, maybe grab a drink at the lone beach bar, and dive right in. Warning: the bus ride is long, crowded and bumpy and making friends along the way is not assured, but once you get there you’re going to love it.

image2-Limanakia.png

3. Drink this lemonade.

There’s nothing like a cold frappé to start the day, but when I see Greeks clinging to their caffeine under the hot afternoon sun it makes me wonder if they have overlooked the awesomeness of the Hellenic lemon. And not all are created equal: there is something about the lemons squeezed into the Chios Fruits lemonade that will literally knock your socks off (but hopefully you are already wearing sandals by now). Because I had not tasted lemonade this completely fantastic since going to the county fair as a kid, I had to ask Yiannis Trantalis, the juice co.’s Chief Commercial Officer, what makes it so good. “We carefully select all of our citrus crop,” he told me, “paying special attention not to receive any rotten or non A-class fruits. We do all the squeezing ourselves, using the lemons’ own essential oil and pulp.” They also pasteurize the lemonade just once, “to keep it as fresh as possible.” If you can find this lemonade at a kiosk near you, and manage to get your hands on some ice cubes, you will have the answer to an Athenian heat wave in a glass.

image3-lemonade

4. Cut your hair off.

If the trip to Limanakia and the pitcher of Chios Fruits Lemonade has still not managed to keep the sweat from your brow, follow suggestion number four and cut your hair off. Okay, not all of it (although it’s certainly an option), but have you noticed all the fantastic vintage barber shops in Athens? The sun is so bright it can be easy to overlook them, but trust me they’re there and Athens could right the book on impeccable grooming. In fact it’s hard to recommend just one, but I’d say make an appointment at Aki Pierro Barber & Shop on Solonos St. Heck, I haven’t even had my hair cut there yet but I’ve visited and can tell you the guys leaving the shop look ready to walk onto a movie set. Cool stuff.

akipierro2-1

5. Party all night and sleep all day.

It was almost 9:30 the other night and was getting testy (via text, of course) with Panagiotis for making me wait to go out to dinner. “It’s still early,” he wrote. However, I have realized that if you shed the Anglo-Saxon skin a bit and start having dinner later, then go for drinks say, in Gazi later than that, you can easily transform yourself from a diurnal being dodging the bright sunlight into a creature of the night. It may not work every day of the week, but if you can live by the night two or three days a week in the hot season, you’ll feel better in the morning. Because you’ll be sleeping through it.

6. Book this room.

Finally, if your air conditioner broke or you just can’t be bothered to schlep to the beach, check into the Presidential Suite at the King George Hotel. Because there’s nothing like a view of the sun-drenched Acropolis from the comfort of your own private swimming pool. And I checked—it was booked this week, but there’s always next, and guess what? If it’s September, it’s probably gonna be hot.

Penthouse Suite Private Pool Day view

 

Imitos: The Original, if Slightly Crazy Yet Always Mythic Magic Mountain

Uncategorized

This is gonna be a short post because I’m having to type with one hand—the other having just been coated with the Greek equivalent of Krazy Glue (do not attempt to fix broken sunglasses by the light of  the moon on a windswept hotel balcony), and as all the pharmacies are shut on the remote Cycladic island on which I find myself and acetone is perhaps the one travel essential I forgot to throw in the suitcase, I’m literally stuck.

But the WiFi is flickering on and off and in terms of this magical mountain in Athens I wanted to talk about, I actually already said almost everything I wanted to about it. And if you think it’s the Acropolis I’m talking about, nope! Think again.

 

 

On Paris Addiction and the Rather Strange Things It Makes One Does

Uncategorized

There’s something about Paris, and it isn’t the Eiffel Tower. The hold this city has had on the hearts (and purse strings) of generations of Americans is largely unprecedented: London may be bubbling with more cultural ferment, Dublin is really nice but, yeah, you know: Paris.

I lived in Paris on two occasions, once in the early 1990s as a student and then from 2003 to 2007, in self-imposed exile from post 9/11 New York. My addiction grew, I was shooting up Paris on a 24/7 basis, I was in so deep I even had the legal right to stay and work there. That was probably the start of the end of the addiction; getting into the French daily grind exposes Paris-lovers to the other side of the postcard, and it’s not always pretty. Au contraire.

But what could be more Parisian than parking your tired ass at an atmospheric café and spilling your angst du jour to your journal or closest friends? I remember one day at La Palette when my friend Julien pleaded with me for some romantic advice and I felt rather honored by that; the sophisticated Parigot asking the silly American about affairs of the heart. Lovely! It was at mythic Café de Flore that I formulated the first Paris travel blog for state propaganda machine  France 24. Memories! The only problem was choosing which café—so many demitasses, so little time. But I’ve saved you some (time, not demitasses), so please do check out my 11 top Paris café choices now at The Points Guy.