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Culture

Music and Passion and Politics at the Cornelia Street Cafe

 

 

 

NEW YORK – The intimate performance space of the Cornelia Street Cafe crackled with music, poetry, and politics at the bimonthly gathering of the Greek-American Writers Association on February 13.

Poet/actress Lili Bita read from her book Flesh Fire, a collection of erotic love poems, TNH Executive Editor Dino Scaros proposed tough love to the Republican Party, and pianist Dr. Louis Davaleris offered a passionate Mozart Sonata.

Writer and journalist Penelope Karageorge praised the guests for braving the bitter cold and introduced the presenters who warmed them up.

The evening began with Mozart’s K. 570, a Sonata for Piano in B-flat, with a violin part that appeared mysteriously after his death. Dr. Dalaveris, who is an ophthalmologist raised in Reading, PA with roots in Mytilene, was joined on violin by Filip Pogady.

The intimate space beneath the cafe’s main dining rooms with its fine sound system made the guests feel like they were enjoying a private concert in their living room with friends and both musicians had their shining moments.

In her introduction of Bita, Karageorge declared that although she “grew up on Zakynthos, she really discovered herself in the Unites States. Nevertheless, Bita insists Greek culture remains her strength and her inspiration.”

The effervescent Bita bookended her delightful reading of Fleshfire, a collection of erotic love poems that was just reissued by Somerset Hall Press, with impassioned messages to the guests: “First I want to tell you I love you all” and “May Eros be your guide forever.”

Bita does not merely read, she gives a dramatic performance, the words receiving their fullest expression only when accompanied by energy generated by the flesh. Indeed Anais Nin said of Bita of Bita, “her words are strong, body and soul in balance.”

Bita is the author of 11 poety collections and two memoirs. Her website is www.lilibita.com.

Her publisher, Dean Papademetriou, made a special trip from Boston and Dr. Robert Valler, who is Bita’s translator and spouse, also presented a poem.

FROM SUBLIME TO EROTIC TO…

The guests traveled from high culture to the media circus that American politics has become. Scaros’ book could be an antidote, however.

The author of Grumpy Old Party, 20 Tips On How the Republicans Can Shed Their Anger and Win Back the White House, in addition to his work at TNH, is an educator, presidential historian, political analyst, and attorney. But it was Scaros as concerned citizen who was motivated to write it.

“I wanted write this book because as soon and the Republicans nominated Mitt Romney I knew there was no way in the world they would win the election in 2012 – just as I knew McCain would not win in 2008. It was obvious to me, but I was baffled how Republican leaders and pundits were so convinced Romney would win.”

On election night in 2012 they showed “they had no clue what it takes to win an election.”

The book offers the GOP 20 tips and number one is “It’s Likability, Stupid.”

“It means that at the very least your base, your party and voters are excited about you. They want to vote for you because they like you, not merely because you have the best chance of defeating the other party’s candidate, whom they can’t stand,” he told TNH.

That likeability is not about “nice” is starkly illustrated by a comparison between Romney and Donald Trump. The former is a “nicer” guy but Trump’s supporters “like” him because his challenges to the status quo excite them.

Trump’s candidacy also shows that some of the tips, in this case “Lose the Angry Tone” are conditional. In this year of anger against politicians and the establishment across the political spectrum, Trump’s tough talk resonates with many voters.

Scaros clarified that “I think it’s okay to be angry about the way things are. By ‘lose the anger’ I mean the name-calling and having an obsession with tearing down your political opponents.

“Another reason Trump has been successful is that his likely opponent on the Democrat side – Hillary Clinton – is even less likeable,” and that helps him to the extent that he is abrasive, Scaros noted.

He also said that Hillary and Romney “ooze inauthenticity.”

George W. Bush, notwithstanding how he is now perceived, won because he showed “genuineness and likability.”

Scaros, who has forecast the election of the last 10 presidents – though he humbly notes they were not early predictions – knew that George W. Bush would beat Al Gore, which was the case, he says, based on all official (and almost all unofficial) counts and recounts. To likability, Scaros pointed to Bush having won the first “candidate you would like to have a beer with” contest.

AND THE WINNER IS…

Who does Scaros think will win this time? Though he hasn’t made an official prediction yet, he thinks Trump has to be the favorite at this point – and knew that as early as August 6, the night of the first Republican debate.

Most political junkies feed directly off their parents’ attitudes, but that’s not the case with Scaros. “My mother has an aversion to politicians in general,” but he did inherit his father’s love of political history. “I think I gained my interest in presidents through him, but my aunts and uncles were very political and I would be entertained by them talking about American politics for hours in a loud, Greek comical way.”

His parents were both born on Nisyros. When his late father Emmanuel was 36, he followed most of his other siblings to America. He was a professor in Athens and then in New York. He didn’t know his future wife, Anthousa, in his youth, but they met through family. Their only child, Scaros was born in Manhattan.

Scaros has written five other books, but those were textbooks. This is the first time he has an opportunity to publicly promote the book, Grumpy Old Party, and is having fun at the cafes and Barnes & Nobles he visits.

Personal gain aside, Scaros also believes the book is a must for the 2016 election for Republicans and Democrats alike – even Michael Dukakis endorsed the book. Having interviewed the former governor and 1988 Democratic presidential nominee for TNH’s 100th Anniversary commemorative compendium, Scaros said Dukakis is “a great guy.” Dukakis’ quote about the book appears with other endorsements on the back cover: “Though I do not agree with everything in this book, I think it should be required reading for all Republicans.”

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