Splendid Photos and a Story Behind One

A couple of photos just blew me away yesterday!

First (without the backstory), the spectacular Thomas Hawk's sunset over the Empire State Building...

Then, last but certainly not least, this lush image taken in June of 1957 by famous photographer Robert Frank. Equally as beautiful is the story behind it, about which I've blogged over at MeFi. Read more at They didn't know they were icons... | MetaFilter

The Flaming Gates of Hell

Once upon a time, geologists were searching for natural gas deposits when they encountered a huge underground cavern filled with poisonous gases. They ignited it, thinking that it would burn off in a few hours. THIRTY-FIVE YEARS LATER, there's STILL the Burning Crater of Darvaza in Turkmenistan!

25 Precious Photographs from the Web

Some AMAZING photo work here... Enjoy!!

Kayaking Venice's Canals?! Ew!!

A couple of weeks ago, the New York Times posted a feature on a guy who toured Venice in an inflatable kayak...

I had thought about doing precisely the same thing (except out in the lagoon!) years ago, but nowadays my own reaction to this was a typically Venetian mix of bemusement and horror... Here's why at Letters - The Canals of Venice - NYTimes.com!

Twittering Ice on Mars!

The muy-coolest celebrity on Twitter at the moment is the Mars Phoenix lander! It was on Twitter that NASA first announced the discovery of ice on Mars last night, saying "Are you ready to celebrate? Well, get ready: We have ICE!!!!! Yes, ICE, *WATER ICE* on Mars! w00t!!! Best day ever!!"

This 140-character post on Twitter soon set the blogosphere ablaze with the news and Wired Science quickly published this animated photo to show you the stuff that melted...

NASA has more 411 on this amazing discovery, and there will be a good ol' fashioned press conference on the discovery in about 30 minutes!!

Killing Venice, Inside and Out

One of my first posts back in 2005 chronicled Petrarch's frustration with the tall ships ("floating mountains," he called them) dwarfing the Venetian cityscape back in 1363. What would he have thought of the impact of the ginormous cruise ships which dock there today?!

This past week, citizen environmental groups published a damning report of the ecological impact of these behemoths on the fragile ecosystem that is the Venetian lagoon! You can read more at Cruise ships devastating Venice lagoon, report says | Italy Magazine...

But Venice isn't just being assaulted from the outside. When I first arrived in Venice 15 years ago, its population stood at over 70,000 - having been cut in half over the previous 3 decades or so. Today, Venetians number little more than 60,000. Can the population decline be stopped?
A group of young Venetians [pictured above!] are selling themselves as the last of a dying breed in a bid to stop developers turning their home town into a place only tourists can afford. "Born and bred Venetians, excellent pedigree, last in stock: movie extras, fancy-dress parties, high-toned decoration. Going fast!" reads the eBay offer whose price has risen from 10 to 2,800 euros in a day. [and is now up to over 5000 euros! Read more at ANSA.it - Pedigree Venetians bid to save town]
The move's bringing lots of attention to bear on Venice's plight, but is it too little too late?

MMC's Greatest Hits, Volume 1: 2005-2008

With over 1000 posts in three years on "Michelle's Mental Clutter," how do you cut to the best?

Well, there's always the topic categories on the right sidebar, which picks up posts starting in 2006. Before that, Blogger didn't have the option built in to tag posts with subjects... So, I gerry-rigged the equivalent. So, for the multitude of posts between 2005 and 2006, the subject breakdown is as follows:
What's more, the footer at the bottom of every page highlights a past post! That's like two blog posts for the price of one!! :-)

Last but not least, the greatest hits! Of these, probably my post on Hieronymus Bosch Action Figures! has generated by far the most correspondence... Then, of the rest, I'd say that the following is a VERY quick (and completely unscientific!) "Top 15" just of my blog essays from the past 3 years of MMC, in no particular order! But please keep in mind they're nothing but the tip of the vast plethora that is the "Michelle's Mental Clutter" iceberg!!
  1. Overheard at the Bookstore...

  2. History Bloopers

  3. First signs of summer at Land's End

  4. Clutter!

  5. A Night at the Opera

  6. Venice Streetnames

  7. A Venetian "Tail" of Cat & Dog:

    The "veci paroni" of Via Garibaldi

  8. The Best of...: Capri (UPDATED!)

  9. Baby Food?

  10. Big Eye for the Smallest Alley

  11. Love that "American Style"!

  12. Grappa vs. Limoncello

  13. Foreign Language Faux Pas!

  14. Frank Lloyd Wright in Venice?

  15. Venice on Ice

You say it's your blog birthday? It's my blog birthday too, yeah!

Earlier this week, medievalist blog Unlocked Wordhoard celebrated its 3rd year of existence. Today, June 18, marks three years of *Michelle's Mental Clutter* as well!

Back on June 18 2005, I started MMC as a tribute to the endearing peculiarities of life in Venice and Italy. Right away that first month, it quickly developed also into my own personal link filter, where I tried to keep on top of and share anything and everything from the net that interested me nearly as quickly as I could find it.

A quick review of the MMC archives in the sidebar tells the rest of the story... Within nine months, I was suffering from informational burnout, and had to find another blogging raison d'ĂȘtre!

Nowadays, MMC tends to be most active during the summer, when I'm off from teaching and/or have returned to Venice. What's more, as you can sample here, Michelle's Mental Clutter is now just the best of the things I love most to share: news from Venice; the funny and the curious or the interesting and the edifying links from the web; stuff about my hobbies, like photography and cooking; and my own pontifications (such as they are) on life, the universe and everything! I hope folks out there may come to enjoy them almost as much as I do!!

It's been a good three years... Thanks for your kind attention, best wishes, and hope to see you for years to come here at "Michelle's Mental Clutter"!


UPDATED: Sleep and Happiness

I practically never watch on television "60 Minutes," but this week's edition was a highly entertaining, edifying and thought-provoking one. (If you'd like, you can even catch the whole episode as an audio podcast.)

Firstly, "The Science of Sleep"... We all know that we don't feel our best if we don't get a good night's sleep, but is it really that important? This segment suggests that even the slight sleep-deprivation we tend to experience in the early 21st century may lead to premature aging and even pre-diabetes. It's not to be missed!Last but not least, the science of Happiness... In a widely-reported 2006 survey of Leicester University in England, the United States of America ranked only 23rd in "happiness," while Denmark ranked first! What are they doing right that we Americans may be missing? Watch to see...UPDATED (6/17): I had no sooner posted about the science of sleep then posts on napping innundated the internet, inspired by the Boston Globe's extensive cheatsheet on how to nap!

A big roundup of nap-news at zzzzzzzzzzzz | MetaFilter!

Photo of the Day!

Thanks for the Review, Blogged!

The editors at the Blogged: Find Better Blogs site have reviewed "Michelle's Mental Clutter" and given it a rating of 8.6 out of 10, making it officially - in their words, not mine - "great"!

Thanks for the compliment!!!!

My Metafilter Post on the Real-Life Crystal Skulls

There've been a number of posts recently on the crystal skulls which inspired the latest Indy movie, and one of my perennially fave blogs Boing Boing's done quite a few (like here and here!) As you can see in the sidebar at the left, though, another post's been added to the blogosphere... Mine!

I hoped to add a bit more science to the mix with my Metafilter post, Indiana Jones & the Quest for the Truth behind the Crystal Skulls. I hope you enjoy it!


A little known use for Twitter via Linkfilter... Global pants status!
(Just click on the title of this post.)

Venice, City of Shadows

When I clicked on city of shadows | MetaFilter, I expected to see some lovely photos by Alexey Titarenko... (My fave at left!)

... but I didn't expect to see equally evocative photos of Venice!

More on a showing of Titarenko's Venetian series at Alexey Titarenko's Venetian Style - April 24, 2008 - The New York Sun

Newsflash: "Pigeon lovers defy Venice feed ban in early morning raid"

Because nasty disease-ridden pigeons deserve to be overfed beyond all measure of natural selection! More at Pigeon lovers defy Venice feed ban | Italy Magazine

Sharing only the best from over 500 webposts read daily so you don't have to!

Next, I'd like to introduce you to Google Reader!

Google's "Reader" feature is what's called a "newsfeed aggregator," which is just a fancy name for a website that lets me boil down all the websites I like to follow into a friendly, portable text format that I can skim far more easily than if I tried to browse all-day-long all 66 websites I'm currently following! Sure, it's not nearly as pretty as the original webpages, but it is infinitely quicker to read, and is totally portable on ye olde new iPhone!

In the process, I even can point out the rare needles of particular interest from among those massive haystacks of information, and share them with you in the left sidebar on "Michelle's Mental Clutter." I hope you'll find this a great way not just to avoid information overclocking (since out of the over 4000 items I've eye-scanned over last week, I've only shared a total of NINE!) but also to discover for yourself the eclectic little nuggets o' fun 'n' knowledge that I've been only too glad to mine for you!

To give you an idea of the kinds of myriad things you'll be finding there, here's a review of what's resident in the sidebar RIGHT NOW at 2:53 pm on Wednesday, June 11:
  • No glove boning for me: If you're like me and read cookbooks as brain candy, what's your own personal "deal breaker" for trying a recipe? NY Times asks the question, and Lifehacker and Metafilter respond!

More to come from the road all this summer! Enjoy!!

Twitter and Twinkle

Ah, summertime... and the bloggin' is easy!

Yes, another year, another gadget... And right now we're tweaking "Michelle's Mental Clutter" to get the most out of our new iPhone mobile blogging!

To wit, at left in the sidebar you'll see a couple of new additions...

First, there's Twitter! If you're familiar with the status updates on Facebook, then you already have an idea what Twitter is all about. If not, well... as the website says, "Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?"

According to the all-knowing Wikipedia, many prominent people and organizations have embraced this technology, "including the Los Angeles Fire Department who put it to use in situations such as the October 2007 California wildfires." (Not to mention that the great and august The Onion is, too!)

I first really experienced Twitter through what turned out to be a couple of its greatest uses ever... The incredibly plugged-in and insightful "microblogging" of Rex Sorgatz on Fimoculous and the raising of the legendary digital truisms (pictured at left) of contemporary artist Jenny Holzer to its logical, ubiquitious, and glorious Twittery conclusion!

Now, all this incoming informational minutia might seem a bit overwhelming. But there are a couple of fun ways to narrow it down...
  • Favrd collects the best of Twitter.
  • Twitstori is both a digital art project and "the first step in an ongoing social experiment based on twitter"... What does the world say that it loves, hates, believes, feels or wishes?
  • Ever overhear something surreal, stupid, wise, etc. and want to share it with the world? Overheard.it is a fun site that pulls in all the fun things which people twittered, saying that they've overheard.
  • The ultimate in citizen journalism is TweetWire.com, which tries to build a newspaper out of Twitter posts.
I am personally twittering mostly through the iPhone app Twinkle, which sorta guestimates location by trianangulating with cell towers, plus can let you add pictures (both of which can only be seen on the iPhone, so hope to see you on one soon!)

Gearing Up for Summer... (Literally!)

Ah, summer... Where the days are longer, the nights are stronger than moonshine!

It's nearly time for my annual transhumance from Maine to Venice! That can only mean one thing... that "Michelle's Mental Clutter" is about to leap out of its usual 9 month-long semi-hibernation into vibrant blogurial life, and I will again be pontificating on the adventures, life, the universe and everything of an American abroad in Italy.

To celebrate, we're adding some zippy features to MMC before the event! I'll be introducing them to you one-by-one over the course of the day...

The first of course is Michelle's swank new iPhone (unlocked, jailbroken, first gen!) Finally, I hope to bring true (laptop-less, so to speak!) mobile blogging to MMC... The trial in the last post was a great success, and I'm looking forward to bringing you field updates from your woman on the scene in Venice. Hopefully, you'll find them more pithy and original than the ironic and oft-copied telegram sent by absurdist humorist and journalist Robert Benchley over half a century ago, that is, "Streets flooded. Please advise."