"Costco offering Picasso originals online for $40K"

This is older news, but it only just last week made La Repubblica's "Venerdi'" magazine...

Boing Boing: Costco offering Picasso originals online for $40K

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Surgically-implanted jewelry for your eyeballs

The latest from the "Why do I have a bad feeling about this?" dept...

The Cosmetic Extraocular Implant (JewelEyeTM) "is 3.5 mm in diameter and available in the following shapes: ring, heart, star, ring" but the website advises, "In the Netherlands, a Cosmetic Extraocular Implant is not considered a medical device..."

Got this news item from last week's "Venerdi'" magazine put out by the newspaper La Repubblica, but apparently Boing Boing first had the whole unbelievable story eons ago:

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(or I'll be away from blogging...)

While I usually like to post around three things a day, I'm afraid that my blogging's going to be rather irregular this week, since it's time for our biannual "transhumance."

According to Wikipedia,
"Transhumance is the seasonal movement of livestock between mountainous and lowland pastures. It occurs throughout the world, including Scandinavia, France, Italy, Romania, Spain, Turkey, Switzerland and amongst the Sami people of Scandinavia. This practice is based on the difference of climate between the mountains (where the herds stay during the summer) and the lowlands (where they remain the winter). Its importance to pastoralist societies cannot be overstated. Milk, butter and cheese - the products of transhumance - often form the basis of the local population's diet. In the past transhumance was widespread throughout Europe, in some areas - such as the Isle of Lewis in Scotland - within living memory. Today much of the Alpine transhumance is carried out by truck. In other parts of the world a more traditional approach is maintained; for regions of the Himalaya transhumance still provides the mainstay of several near subsistence economies - for example, that of Zanskar. Often traditional nomadic groups that have subsequently settled into a regular seasonal pattern are described by anthropologists as practicing transhumance."
Okay, okay... I don't really own livestock. But we still migrate back and forth to Italy with the changing seasons! :-)

In the meantime, please feel free to browse my archives or my subject categories... In three short months, I've posted over 250 goodies on Venice, Italy, History and Humor (among other "michellaneous" things!) Enjoy!!

(Coincidently, on a related note... ANSA.it announced yesterday that the award for the most beautiful stamp in Italy has gone to one celebrating the traditional transhumance between Abruzzo and Puglia, which you can see above.)

Ci rivediamo a presto!
("See you again soon!!")

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Children's book question I just posted on "Ask MetaFilter"... Anybody know the answer??

This is a children's book question... Do you know the title??
(from "Ask MetaFilter")


Vote for Maine's Best Lobster Roll!

Vote for Maine's Best Lobster Roll!

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Doonesbury does blogs...

This is great!

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"100 Greatest Pop Songs Since 1963"

After Rolling Stone's 500 greatest songs of the rock era, there's now "the 100 greatest pop songs since 1963, determined by experts at MTV and Rolling Stone magazine.

Whether you agree with the list or not, good news is that you can download all of these songs." (from
The Presurfer - Your Daily Dose of Diversion)

Wow, from one extreme to another!

While in Rolling Stone's top 500 there were only three songs from all of the last 25 years in the top 10% (and only about 80 in all), fewer than half of the "100 greatest pop songs" are pre-1980 (and, of the rest, about 30% are from the last 15 years alone!)

I'd say that surely the role of MTV is throwing things a bit off here, but I guess that mathematically that's just about right... but whether one agrees with specific songs on the list is another matter! Whatcha think?

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"The pope and the pussycats"

The news about Pope Benedict XVI's faves made me wonder if there have been any other papal pets...

The pope and the pussycats - Other Pet News - MSNBC.com

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The Fruits of Global Warming

"Italy: Global warming is confusing our fruit"
Antonio Cianciullo
La Repubblica

"Climate change has already hit Italy, said Antonio Cianciullo in Rome's La Repubblica. The proof is right there on the farms. Grain farmers have long been complaining that each year brings less and less rain, but scientists simply shrugged. Droughts come and go, and they aren't a good measure of global warming. Now, there's evidence that can't be ignored. The fruits are migrating. For centuries, hardy, hot-weather fruits such as lemons, oranges, and olives have grown only in southern Italy, while more delicate crops, such as apricots, thrived in the northern zones. Now we see citrus farms springing up all over northern Italy. And apricot production is all but gone. Last year, for the first time, Italy was forced to import apricots from Great Britain. Date palms, an invasive species, have pushed as far as the foothills of the Alps. This is an aspect of global warming we failed to predict. Local agricultural traditions, so dear to rural Italian life, are in danger of being lost."

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Newsflash: Science explains why dry spaghetti always breaks into 3 or more pieces

Boing Boing: Why dry spaghetti always breaks into 3 or more pieces

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QUOTE OF THE DAY (from BlogHop)

"Warning: Dates in calendar are closer than they appear."


UPDATED: Glass was the secret ingredient in Venetian Renaissance painting!

This news has been floating around Venetian studies' circles for a little while now... Nice to know that it's finally hit the mainstream! (Thanks for the link, Tom!!)

Makes a lot of sense, when you think about it, that the nearby glassmaking island of Murano didn't simply inspire Venetian painters just to employ bright colors, but also to use the very glass itself in their artworks!

"How did paintings by Tintoretto and other Venetian Renaissance artists get their special glow? Using an electron microscope, Barbara Berrie, senior conservation scientist at the National Gallery of Art, discovered one of their secrets: tiny bits of glass the artists mixed with their pigments." (from
CNN.com - Venetian secret ingredient -- glass - Aug 25, 2005)

UPDATED: For more info (from this past spring) on the science behind this discovery, see "Venetian Grinds".

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Grave reveals medieval caesarean section

"The medieval remains of a mother and daughter found in North Yorkshire shows signs of an attempted Caesarean operation, scientists have revealed. The 900-year-old grave at Wharram Percy held the remains of a woman aged between 25 and 30 with a baby...

Simon Mays, skeletal biologist at English Heritage's Centre for Archaeology, said the find contradicts previous notions that medieval people got used to death. He said it suggests life was precious and people were prepared to carry out drastic acts to preserve it..."

(from Mirabilis)

Strange Gadgets Connected to the Internet

Everybody knows that there are tons of plain ol' live webcams on the internet (including some in Venice and Maine), but what about other strange things that are connected to the great world wide web?

(From bsy's List of Internet Accessible Machines)

They'll be more unusual web devices as I find 'em!

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Eat like the Pope!

I was hanging out at my in-laws' house recently during riposo (the Italian version of the midday siesta), when I began to peruse a stash of older celebrity gossip magazines from right about the time when Pope Benedict XVI was elected.

Now, these mags are rather a "happy medium" between People and The National Enquirer. So, what was kind of humorous was that they were clearly at a complete loss about what was appropriately "gossipable" about the new pontiff.

As a result, they tended to focus on trying to reveal to their readers his favorite things, like music and cats, for example...

I particularly enjoyed the article on the Pope's favorite Italian food!

Apparently, as Cardinal, his favorite Italian restaurant in Rome was always the Ristorante al Passetto di Borgo (named for its proximity to the long, fortified passageway that leads from the Vatican to that great papal fortress in times past of Castel Sant'Angelo).

There, his favorite meal is apparently a medley of great Italian classics, and the magazine even gave its own recipes for each dish... I guess should you want to eat like a pontiff, or else in case he should ever just pop by for dinner! :-)

As a public service (because you never know when it could come in handy!) I reproduce Benedict XVI's favorite Italian menu here (with links to Italian Made...)

For first course...
Pasta alla Carbonara
Second course...
Roasted Veal
Artichokes Roman-Style
And last, but certainly not least.... his favorite dessert is Tiramisu'.

Now, that's what I call a heavenly meal!

Buon Appetito!!

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"What's the largest living thing in the world?

Did you say the blue whale? That's a good guess. After all, the average blue whale measures about 75-80 feet long and weighs about 110 tons.

But there is another living thing that's bigger. Much, much bigger. It stretches 3.5 miles across and covers an area larger than 1,600 football fields. Most of it is hidden underground.

It's... a fungus..." (
more from The Presurfer - Your Daily Dose of Diversion)


"Knife Culture... A Scottish Perspective"

Talk about "cultural opacity"!

By now, I've been finding all kinds of things on blogs... and while I'm still frequently surprised, on the other hand, I've practically come to expect it.

But I have to admit that am still pretty amazed when I find that a major news outlet has an
rss feed on what they're calling "Knife Culture":

Scotsman.com News - Knife culture from the Web via RSS: A Scottish perspective on world events (Knife culture, knives, stabbings, crime, youths, swords, daggers)"

Hmmm... would this be the "cutting edge" of culture?


August 24, 79 A.D.: Pompeii's Last Day

August 24 marks the 1926th anniversary of the famous eruption of Mount Vesuvius that buried both Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Because of this fateful calamity, however, these Roman towns would be sealed in time, forever frozen in that terrible moment.

Literally, as it turns out... as you can see from the plaster casts made of the victims' last, dying expressions, like in the so-called "Garden of the Fugitives" that you can see at left from
W. Smith at Flickr.

Or in the
original Pompeiian graffitti which captured the drama of the everyday lives of ordinary Romans.

Will history repeat itself? Let's hope not... at least two million people live in the shadow of Vesuvius now!

More information, together with eyewitness reports of the eruption which occurred almost two thousand years ago today, are available

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Do you want to "chattare"?

I.M., texting, and chat abbreviations in Italian!

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Even dolphins speak in dialect

Not only do humans and ducks speak in dialects, but now apparently dolphins do too!

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Still Missing... One 40-Foot, 5-Ton Crane!

The television news of Canale 5 reported today that in Trieste, the easternmost port city of northern Italy, an enormous, five-metric-ton crane was discovered missing just before evening last Friday.

Nobody knows where it's gone, or how or when it could have been removed without anyone noticing, or where anybody could possibly be hiding the darn thing!

More updates as the story develops...

UPDATED (Aug. 24): According to ANSA.it, the nearly forty-foot-tall crane is still missing, and the Triestino police still haven't turned up any positive leads. Most hypothesize that the crane was stolen by being loaded on a ship. However, this would have had to happen in broad daylight, and no one, either inside the port or out, apparently saw anything. What's more, the crane was supposedly equipped with GPS, but its signal has been lost.

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Totally Useless Office Skills, Part 1:
"The Endless Fax"

Totally Useless Office Skills: The Endless Fax!

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Newsflash: Monkey See, Monkey Do!
Fashion-conscious chimpanzees "ape" their friends

Independent Online Edition:
"Fashion-conscious chimps ape habits of their friends"


Rome's Castel Sant'Angelo is falling down,
falling down...

Of all the thousands of artistic and historical treasures in Italy desperately needing restoration, this may be one of the most surprising!!

Hadrian's neglected mausoleum 'close to collapse' (from The Independent Online Edition)

Foreign Language Faux Pas!

Yesterday's post on "Languages 'leak' into each other in subtle ways" inspired a fun comment on mistakes we make when speaking foreign languages...

Anytime you travel and try to learn another language, great stories about embarrassing mistakes are inevitable!

Some are just plain silly!

For example, instead of saying "good afternoon" ("buon pomeriggio") to a government functionary, I once wished him "happy tomato" ("buon pomodoro") !

Then of course others come from the not-always-so-obvious double meanings of words...

A very proper friend of mine once declared that she was so tired because she'd "swept" all evening. Of course, she meant that she'd been housecleaning... but what she didn't realize is that "scopare," or "to sweep" in Italian, is used in a double-sense, just like the English "to screw"! Oops!!

And yet others come from so-called "false friends"... Foreign words that seem similar, but actually mean something totally different!

One of my professors, when he had first come to Italy, was at a cocktail party where they were serving a kind of brie-like cheese. He wanted to ask, "Can you eat the rind?" but didn't know "rind" in Italian. So, he thought, what is a "rind"? Why, it's something that preserves a cheese! Problem is, however, that Italians tend to use the word "conserve" to mean "preserve" in that sense, and instead use "preserve" with a more "prophylactic" meaning.

Yes, that's right... he wound up asking, "Do you eat the condoms?" !

And my all-time favorite of these stories (which, to tell you the truth, I can't really believe is anything other than an urban legend)...

"At an informal get-together, a Dutch woman introduced herself to a British woman. When asked what her profession was, the Dutch woman tried to translate 'Ik fok honden' (I breed dogs) - into English. Unfortunately, rather than 'breed' she used the English vulgar cognate of the Dutch verb "fokken." Calmly, she informed her shocked companion that her working relationship with her animals was extremely intimate."

Not to mention probably caused the person to marvel that apparently the Dutch could even get paid for this! :-)

Indeed, for this very reason, to this day, I never, ever, ever use the word "discourage" ("scoraggiare") in Italian, because it's just one letter off from "to fart" ("scoreggiare") ! Talk about a faux pas!!

What about you? Do you have any good foreign language faux pas stories?? Let's hear them!!

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Miss Maine?

I do...

Here's a fix, from the Portland Observatory Live Webcam!


"Languages 'leak' into each other in subtle ways"

I can personally vouch for this!

Not to mention, for example, that my Italian husband didn't really start speaking Venetian dialect until he was a teenager, and so apparently Venetian and English are stored in the same compartment of the brain, since sometimes an English word will come up mid-conversation when speaking to, say, older Venetians who don't even know Italian, much less a foreign language!


Parisian vending machines

Americans may have condom machines, and Italy automatic ladies' underwear dispensers, but Paris has just installed its own highly-refined version... Now, you can buy books from five vending machines around the city long after the bookshops have kicked out their last customers and closed their doors for the night!

For a mere three and a half bucks, you too can now satisfy your Parisian nocturnal hankerings for Homer's Odyssey, Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, or--perhaps more appropriately at that hour--Baudelaire's Flowers of Evil.

Big sellers at the moment though seem to be French/English dictionaries (no surprise there!) and, oddly enough, cookbooks!

Boing Boing: Parisian book-vending machines & Repubblica.it: Comprare libri anche di notte a Parigi i distributori automatici)



"Take that, ya lousy asteroid! Yeah, how about that, huh?
There's more where that came from!

I hadn't even heard of
this. The Japanese have this probe that's a month or two from making a landing on an asteroid... Apparently in an attempt to outdo NASA crashing that Deep Impact probe headfirst into a comet, this one actually has a gun they're going to shoot the asteroid with.. The point of the gun is to cause particles to fly up into a collection chamber. Then it's going to bring the samples back to Earth.

If bad movies have taught me anything (and they have), that's just the sort of thing that starts a zombie plague loose on Earth!

I'm a little skeptical this will all work out as planned, but I'm rooting for it.

*BLAM* 'That's for wiping out the dinosaurs!'
*BLAM* 'And that's for 50,000 BC Arizona!'
*BLAM* 'And that's for 1908 Tunuska! We will never forget...'

Oh, while I'm at it I might as well plug my Flash game where you try to save the Earth from an asteroid:

(From Planet Tom)

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For my friends trapped by the housing bubble...

Boing Boing yesterday presented some alternatives for cheap, ecological, and--above all--portable housing:


This was a...

"Good Week For...
Cows, after Russian authorities announced that bales of confiscated marijuana will be used to feed cattle over the winter. 'I don't know what the milk will be like after this,' one Russian official said.

Bad Week For...
Prognostication, after a psychic in Scotland failed to predict that the sun's rays passing through the crystal ball he left on his windowsill would set fire to his laundry pile and scorch his apartment building."

(From The Week Magazine, August 20)

International Personality Item Pool

For what it's worth, a sample of more fun with online personality quizzes... (from Dappled Things, via Mom!)

The International Personality Item Pool
(both long & short versions

"Your score on Extraversion is low, indicating you are introverted, reserved, and quiet. You enjoy solitude and solitary activities. Your socializing tends to be restricted to a few close friends.

Your high level of Agreeableness indicates a strong interest in others' needs and well-being. You are pleasant, sympathetic, and cooperative.

Your score on Conscientiousness is high. This means you set clear goals and pursue them with determination. People regard you as reliable and hard-working.

Your score on Neuroticism is low, indicating that you are exceptionally calm, composed and unflappable. You do not react with intense emotions, even to situations that most people would describe as stressful.

Neuroticism Facets:

  • Your level of anxiety is average.
  • Your level of anger is low.
  • Your level of depression is average.
  • Your level of self-consciousness is high.
  • Your level of immoderation is average.
  • Your level of vulnerability is low.

Your score on Openness to Experience is high, indicating you enjoy novelty, variety, and change. You are curious, imaginative, and creative.

Openness Facets:

  • Your level of imagination is high.
  • Your level of artistic interests is average.
  • Your level of emotionality is high.
  • Your level of adventurousness is average.
  • Your level of intellect is high."
Pretty much what I expected, although in some areas where I was kinda hard on myself, it seems that I register as "average." But I guess that's good news! (I'll take it!!)

How about you? Enjoy!!

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"Vesuvius could shed light on Mars"

ANSA.it - News in English - Vesuvius could shed light on Mars

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And today's "Carlo Darwin" award nearly goes to...

A 33 year-old man from Livorno, Italy who wound up in intensive care when he was bitten by his pet American diamondback rattlesnake. Things looked dire for a while, because Italy didn't have the antivenom, which is really not too surprising... considering that Italy doesn't have diamondbacks! But in the end he was saved by an antidote flown in specifically for him from Switzerland.

ANSA.it - Morso da serpente, salvato da siero


Today's Strange but Adorable Moment


Grappa vs. Limoncello

Somebody once said, "There are two groups of people in the world: those who believe that the world can be divided into two groups of people, and those who don't."

And then, of course, there's the Italian proverb, "Two Italians, three opinions!"

You'll always find Italians splitting themselves up in all kinds of interesting ways. Just wait until we get near the holidays, for example... then there's the great national Pandoro vs. Panettone Christmas Cake divide!

But during the rest of the year, you can count on that of the digestivo, or the alcoholic beverage that's supposed to help you digest the massive Italian meal you've just consumed.

In the North of Italy, the after-dinner drink of choice is grappa, a potent little elixir actually made from the fermented and distilled remnants of the wine-making process, like grapeskins and vines.

In Southern Italy, limoncello's the choice... It's a liqueur infused with lemons, which can grow to be nearly as big as your head on the gorgeous Amalfi Coast south of Naples!

Now, between the two, I admit that limoncello sounds hands-down the most appetizing. I unfortunately have always found it to taste a little too much like lemony cough-syrup. But then again, I've hung out primarily in the North, where some hardy souls even drink grappa in their morning coffee (nicknamed, interestingly, a "corrected coffee" in most of Italy, or ironically enough, particularly in Venice, a "fog-cutter"!)

What can I say? While I can't even look at the stuff before, say, about 10 o'clock at night, it's what I'm used to. And like anything else, the cheap stuff's rot gut... but the good stuff's smooth as quicksilver, and just slightly less deadly! :-)

Considering that it'd probably violate a few dozen federal laws, I won't pass along any recipes for grappa here. But I did run across
a recipe for Limoncello today. I have no idea how tasty the recipe is, but--lemme tell you--as a cough remedy, it oughta put Nyquil to shame!!

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"Stephen King will kill you, if you can afford it!"

"What if Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights had been named Jimmy? Or can one imagine J.D. Salinger’s Fanny as, say, Sarah? Authors frequently spend long hours determining the appropriate names for their characters and readers often develop a close bond with these personas as they begin to develop throughout a novel or short story. In a very interesting twist, a number of contemporary authors are selling the right to have a character named by the highest bidder all for a very good cause. The characters will be featured in a forthcoming literary work, and the monies raised by this online auction will go directly to the First Amendment Project, a nonprofit group that promotes freedom of information and expression. Some of the authors participating in this project include Stephen King, Dave Eggers, Amy Tan, Michael Chabon and Nora Roberts. Of course, the authors have given some very specific requirements as to what may befall the character in each work. Ayelet Waldman notes that the name of the character in question will appear at least once in the next Mommy Track mystery, while Michael Chabon notes that the name will appear at least once in his next novel, but that he also reserves the right 'not to use the name if it is offensive, mischievous, ill-intentioned or inappropriate.' The first link will take users to a news story on this rather compellingauction as offered by the Houston Chronicle in this past Tuesday’s online edition. The second link leads to quite an entertaining piece on the auction by C.A. Bridges, writing in the Dayton Beach News-Journal. Bridges even remarks that 'I want to be a Chuck Palahniuk character with an entirely new pathology, maybe something involving floss.' The third link leads to the homepage of the auction, where visitors will want to check out each author’s specific requirements for the character 'to-be-named'. The fourth link leads to the homepage of the First Amendment Project..."

(From The Scout Report [11:33] August 19, 2005)

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"Italy: Instructions for Use"

When I visited Italy (and came here to live) for the first time over ten years ago, I arrived with a suitcase full of guidebooks: Italian phrase-books, Italian menu-translations, guides to Italian culture, explanations of the Italian transportation system, etc. etc. I hate to think what it all must have weighed... and, in the end, I could only study them at home, because they certainly weren't portable!
How much I wish that back then there'd been Italy: Instructions for Use... The Personal, On-Site Assistant for the Enthusiastic but Inexperienced Traveler!

As its author, Venetian resident Nan McElroy explains,

"here's the catch: since you've never been, we guarantee you won't know all the questions you have until you actually arrive. And once in Italy, because you're completely unfamiliar with the environment, language and way of life, information--and therefore understanding--can be that much more difficult to come by."

So, in a single book, little more than 4 by 5 inches and weighing just a few ounces, Nan has assembled TONS of easy-to-look-up helpful hints on everything from planning a visit to Italy to getting around on all kinds of transportation; from how to pack and where to stay to ordering in restaurants; from handling money to the best ways to shop! And throughout, right there in the book, is all the basic vocabulary that you'd need to start navigating your way through this fascinating country! Let me tell you, Italy: Instructions for Use is no small accomplishment!!

To explain why, I think Nan herself put it best,

"There's more than one reason we've used lots of color throughout our guide. It's not only to help you locate information easily... But more importantly, we also hope to convey the fact that in Italy, nothing, but nothing, is black-and-white. You may notice extensive use of the words usually, often, likely, frequently, sometimes, normally, may and perhaps, while a world like always will appear far less frequently. Although we've written detailed guidelines based on personal experience and extensive research, to truly enjoy your time there, understand that in Italy, perhaps more than anywhere else, the exceptions are the rule."

Precisely because Italy is so hard to nail down, it is really tough to try to provide explanations to cover every possible contingency here. And yet, every single time I was reading Nan's book and thinking to myself, "Yes, but what if this or that happens (or doesn't)?" Nan was there, explaining exactly those common pitfalls and giving you valuable understanding to help you roll with the punches while travelling in the bel paese. That takes not only experienced knowledge of the country, but also great organization, imagination, and sympathy for the first-time visitor to Italy!

I wholeheartily recommend Italy: Instructions for Use! In fact, I envy those people coming to Italy for the very first time who can now enjoy this great little book!

(And for more "instructions" and installments in her ongoing adventures in Italy, be sure to check out Nan McElroy's blog,
"Living Venice... and Beyond"!)

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William Shatner Interprets "Rocketman"

To quote Dave Barry, "I am probably not guilty of understatement when I say that what follows, on the videotape, is the most wonderful event in the history of the universe..."

IFILM - Viral Videos: William Shatner Interprets "Rocketman"
(via Planet Tom)



I was only kidding about Italians sending wine into space,
but apparently I wasn't too far wrong!

Astro-vino: Sassicaia in space

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"List of amusingly-named towns"

While some might find these names truly offensive, keep in mind that in other languages such words don't have the same meaning! (In France, of course, that'd be "foodj packay"! But then again, I don't guess that the town in the U.S. can claim any such excuse...)

List of amusingly-named towns (from grow-a-brain)

Talk about when life gives you lemons!

Personally, I like the story about the
tiny village in Austria,

"whose sole industry consists of allowing tourists to have their photo taken alongside the town sign on the main road. In fiscal 2003 (the last year for which figures are available), the town made €32,980 in photo fees - remarkable because the town only charge €2.00 per photo. Unfortunately, the town spent €48,250 to replace stolen signs..."

Got Wallpaper?

Some of these images are a little geeky, but others are just breathtaking... Enjoy!


"Nothing puts the smell of romance into the air like burning tires..."

Burning-tire scented candles (from Memepool)

I find the coasters quite elegant, too! :-)


To my "bro"!


You've Got Mail (From the Pope)

"The Pope has decided to send blessings out via text messages from his World Youth Day masses -- now Catholics can get a BlesSMS."

"You've Got Mail (From the Pope)" from Deutsche Welle
(via Boing Boing)


(from Clark Howard's Travel e-Scapes newsletter)

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes."
Marcel Proust, French Novelist and Author, 1871-1922

Want your own little piece of Venice?
Buy it now on the web!

According to ANSA.it, a German real estate agency is selling Venetian lagoon islands online, including one that many visitors will know right off-hand!

"Vladi Private Islands" is offering an island off of Torcello (price available upon request!), plus Tessera Island, well-known by travellers arriving at Venice's Marco Polo airport who take the Alilaguna boat service into the city... That's the little island not too far from the airport (where the boat always momentarily slows down) with its very own eighteenth-century villa and orchard. It's a steal at a mere six million euros!


"Viking ship built with 15 million ice cream sticks"

And I thought I had a time-consuming hobby of questionable utility!

Viking ship built with 15 million ice cream sticks - Yahoo! News

UPDATED (Aug. 18): Hey, apparently the thing even floats, despite the fact that it's held together with more than a ton of glue! The official website's here...

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(From Sierra Club's "Currents" Newsletter)

"Your motto is service. Back on the farm, when I heard that the bull was 'servicing' the cows, I looked behind the barn. And, gentlemen, what the bull was doing to the cow is exactly what you people have been doing to the public all these years."

--Will Rogers to the Board of Directors of Standard Oil,
as quoted by Morris K. Udall, 1988


"New study claims lying can help you lose weight"

Or, more accurately, being lied to!

New study claims lying can help you lose weight
(from Monkey Filter)


Armchair Sightseeing on Google Earth

Now with 3348 destinations!

Sightseeing with Google Satellite Maps

The Presurfer)


Itchin' to leave your mark?
Try "Virtual Graffitti"!

As a public service to all would-be "writerz," here's a testament of love that's portable and Venice-friendly...

Want more? Don't spray paint that Renaissance statue!

Try the Graffitti Creator instead!!

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Graffitti & "Urban Decorum" in Venice

The assault on "indecorum" (and usually that of the tourists) continues in Venice...

This time, the city has graffitti writers in its sights... and, after seeing some of the culprits' handiwork at "Og's Odd Chronicles of Venice" at the beginning of this month here, who would blame them, you may ask?

Actually, in this case, it's the Venetians who aren't totally enthusiastic!

Take a look at last week's headline from Il Gazzettino newspaper (translation mine):

"Urban Decorum - The City Warns: He who dirties the walls risks prison... even those who write 'I love you'"!

Ah, you've got to love Italians... they're so romantic!!

(And I thought it was just an American south thing... You know, as in Jeff Foxworthy's "You might be a redneck if you've ever had to climb a water tower with a bucket of paint to defend your sister's honor!")

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Want to be a modern artist? Now you can!

Inspired by the Venetian Biennale to become a modern artist?

But maybe you're like me, and can't draw a straight line if your life depended on it?!

Luckily, for folks like us, there's the godsend of the world wide web!!

Yes, thanks to the miracles of modern technology, now you too can be a Mondrian or a Picasso in your spare time! Enjoy!!

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The Venetian Biennale
& the Women Artists of Venice

You've got to love Venice's biannual international exhibition of modern art, or "La Biennale di Venezia"... This year's has been criticized for being too elitist, too pop, too political and yet not political enough!!

While I couldn't quite appreciate the spirit behind this year's Italian pavilion (which, in the end, wasn't very Italian!), the other national exhibitions in the Biennale gardens were pretty enjoyable! Perhaps I'll post more about them later, but I found that the pavilions of Australia, France, and Hungary particularly stood out! (I'll freely admit that this year, with a preponderance of video clips, I was a sucker for anything that was three-dimensional!)

But, in the end, I have to admit that my favorite modern art (just like most of my favorite anything) has a smart sense of humor...

That's why my favorite works at the other half of the Biennale at the Venetian Arsenal were those right at the entrance by the "
Guerrilla Girls." Of course, you don't necessarily have to agree with them to appreciate them! But this mega-poster they made about women artists in Venice certainly makes a point...

"It isn’t La Dolce Vita for female artists in Venice.

Over the centuries, this city has been home to great artists like Marietta Robusti, Rosalba Carriera, Giulia Lama, and Isabella Piccini. They and many others succeeded when women had almost no legal rights and rules were set up to keep them out of the artworld.

Where are the girl artists of Venice now?
Underneath . . . in storage . . . in the basement...

Of more than 1,238 artworks currently on exhibit at the major museums of Venice, fewer than 40 are by women.

Accademia: 2 women in collection, 2 on view
Quadreria: 0 women artists in collection, 0 on view
Ca’ Rezzonico: 6 women artists in collection, 4 on view
Museo Correr: 15 artworks by women in collection, 0 on view
Ca’ Pesaro International Gallery of Modern Art:
120 artworks by women in collection, 2 on view
Guggenheim Venice: At least 18 women artists in collection, only a few on view inside Peggy’s house — including one in the bathroom!"

(From Guerilla Girls: Where Are the Women Artists of Venice? Underneath the Men!)

They went very nicely in the same room with what was probably my husband's favorite artwork of the day, "The Bride" by Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos, a beautiful, enormous, absolutely stunning, glistening white chandelier...

...which, only when you get right up close to it, do you realize is masterfully made entirely and painstakingly out of 14,000 unopened packages of ob tampons! :-)

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A whole new meaning to the word "newsflash":
Tourist found running nude thru St. Mark's Square

Today's issue of Il Gazzettino newspaper reports that the other night a twenty-two year-old Canadian tourist was stopped by police for running utterly nude in Piazza San Marco.

The youth, "having drunk a good amount of wine," apparently told police afterward that it had been the result of a bet with friends... plus he was trying to pick up girls.

Instead, he managed to attract the attention of the local police foot patrol, who promptly fined him for drunkeness and public indecency.

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Unfortunate Italian-"Engrish" Women's T-Shirts

Spotted these tees in a shop today.

The front of the first one, on the right, isn't really too bad...

The second one below is however really rather unfortunate!

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Virtual Venice

Nice views!

Venice, city of Renaissance, Italy in Virtual Reality


Now, how did that get here?! Giant waterfall discovered in California national park

Giant waterfall discovered in California national park - CNN.com

Boston's Un-Common Love Story of Juliet AND Juliet

Thou art no Romeo (from MetaFilter)


Talk about recovering lost languages!
You may think it's easy, but it's *knot*!!

Talk about recovering lost languages! You may think it's easy, but it's knot!

Experts 'decipher' Inca strings: "The coloured, knotted pieces of string, known as khipu, are believed to have been used for accounting information." (from Mirabilis)

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Email Anybody's Cellphone!

I don't know if Teleflip only works in N. America, but it sure is a handy little thing!



Astronomical Italian Food!!

There's another recent food commercial that's so typically Italian (and that I don't think you'd ever see starring Americans in the States).
I can't find a link to it on the net, so I'll just have to give you the synopsis here:

Andrea, a space engineer, has friends over for dinner. He serves them box wine (which often in Italy is actually quite passable!) They're marvelling at its good ol' fashioned flavor in its new-fangled packaging, when one of the friends says, "Andrea! This would be perfect for space!!" Scene shifts to Andrea in a space capsule, sitting down to an abundant plate of spaghetti and pouring himself some wine. But while the pasta seems to ignore the laws of gravity, the wine doesn't... and floats off in small globules to be gulped up by another astronaut. No wimpy Tang for these guys!! (Somehow, though, I just can't imagine the astronauts on the space shuttle sitting down to enjoy a good chianti with their freeze-dried meal before landing...)

Actually, you know how in Star Trek there were always all these myriad ethnicities all over the place? Well, you still practically never saw an Italian (unless of course he was a hapless redshirt!) "Why is that?" I always used to tease my Italian husband. "Are there no Italians in space in the future??" Finally, I decided that there must be, and that somewhere there's actually a U.S.S. Garibaldi (or maybe the U.S.S. Dolce Vita?) but it's the most laidback ship in all of Starfleet, with everybody almost always on cigarette or coffee breaks (not to mention aperitifs!) Hey, can anybody come up with a better explanation?

In the meantime, more Italian food in the news (from Zoomata)...

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A Race Against Time:
Project Seeks to Preserve Dying Languages

Daunting thought: "Every two weeks or so the last elderly man or woman with full command of a particular language dies. At that rate, as many as 2,500 native tongues will disappear forever by 2100."

"Project Seeks to Preserve Dying Languages" from Yahoo! News

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"Rome's greatest brickmakers identified"

The Emperor Augustus may have claimed that he'd "found Rome a city of bricks, and left her clothed in marble," but he certainly hadn't been the one to go to the effort of making all those bricks in the first place!

This family did! (from Mirabilis)

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The Value of a Good Education?

Why no big dreams?

Just take a look at these numbers about college graduates in Italy...
  • Only "9% of Italians graduate before age 25"
  • "7 years average time to get degree" (more)
But while Aug. 10's Il Gazzettino newspaper announces, "A good degree and you find work right away" and that "youths who graduate from the University of Padua don't have to sweat to find a job," only 55% have found work within a year of graduation (still a good 14% higher than the national average! but at least 20% lower than the American average!) The newspaper continues, "the Alma Laurea [consortium's] study of more than 60,000 graduates throughout Italy reveals in fact that 8 out of 10 find a job within three years" (only about six percent higher than the national average).

Ironically, it goes on to say that for Paduan students, "the only sad note is that graduation's coming at a relatively advanced age; on average, studies are completed at the age of 27."

In addition, average monthly entry salaries for Italian university graduates start at 981 euros (only about 150 euros more than a starting high-school graduate, and as opposed to about $3000 for a U.S. college grad, who on average will wind up earning over $20,000 more annually than the average high-school graduate).

The study, of course, didn't examine whether Italian graduates end up working in their goal jobs or in their chosen fields of study (nor am I certain they differentiate between part- and full-time). A closer look at Alma Laurea's results shows that about 20% of employed graduates find their degree to be of "okay effectiveness" and that they "use their acquired competencies in a reduced fashion," while over 15% find it of little or no use at all.

But if you don't count professional degrees like medicine, pharmacy, engineering or architecture, that number goes up signficantly! One year after graduation, only around 40% of other employed graduates tended to find their degree "of use" or "great use," while 25% reported that their degree was of little or no use whatsoever, and just around 20% will report the same five years later.

Now, this is not to laud the U.S. at Italy's expense. Clearly, a lot has to do with the Italian economy, which hasn't been so hot lately. But one message about the society's priorities seems to come through loud and clear... If there's a path for the ambitious in Italy, unfortunately, education doesn't look like it's the one!