Thriller a cappella... The same guy sings 64 different tracks!

A "Michael Jackson" with a French accent is an unusual experience, but this video is kinda neat, especially with the 64 separate video tracks for each voice effect!

Happy Halloween!!

François Macré - Thriller (reprise A'cappella 64 pistes)

(via Neatorama)

Obama-McCain Dance Off!

Recommended by one of my students as "not biased, just hilarious!" Enjoy!!

Sarah Palin Wardrobe Challenge

Kathryn Builds Entire $150,000 Wardrobe for the Candidate for Less Than $2500! Enjoy!!

(I love them powersuits!)

"Wassup?" Eight Years Later!

Firstly, here's the original "Wassup" Commercial from 2000!

And here are the same guys in 2008! Brilliantly remade and whichever way you lean, it's certainly gotta make you think about the last 8 years!! Enjoy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Venetian Astronomy: The Lagoon Nebula

Couldn't resist posting this "Astronomy Photo of the Day" picture of the Lagoon Nebula, which seems just oh-so-appropriate for a blog which loves all things Venetian! Enjoy!!

Scientists create glow-in-the-dark cat

I totally want one... :-)

It's all part of an experiment which may eventually result in genetic treatments for human cystic fibrosis and other conditions.

The glowing is just the fun part, said the scientist!

(via Mirabilis)

The Beauty and Absurdity of Venice at Night

Here's a great video of Venice at night that you can enjoy on two different levels at once!

Firstly, those who don't know Italian will find it a relaxingly tranquil scene of the peace of the nocturnal city.

Secondly, those who DO know Italian AND know Venice will find the commentary utterly ridiculous. The whole time, while nothing at all of any significance is happening, the so-called journalist who's narrating is trying to characterize Venice at night as dangerous, an assertion which is almost completely untrue!

The first part of the video shows a bridge leading to Campo San Giovanni & Paolo and the entrance to the municipal hospital (neither of which you see...) that's actually a lovely area at night. Instead, the voiceover claims that it's an area nefarious for drug dealing, and implies that there's some kind of crackhouse or the like in the illuminated window on the other side of the canal (when it's really like a trattoria or something).

Then they switch to the alley of Calle Larga Giacinto Gallina, which is just on the other side of that bridge we saw earlier, and again... ABSOLUTELY NOTHING HAPPENS! Instead, the journalist, who can't help but nevertheless observe that the walkway is so well-lit (like it's always been) lies that it's only a recent phenomenon resulting from several muggings which had happened there. (Not.) Again, he says the area's notorious for drug dealers (again, NOT!) and when an older man who's coming home at night enters in his front door, the voiceover wonders aloud what he must be doing since isn't a habitation there. (Another big lie!)

So there you have it! Totally fictional fear-mongering, however patently obvious it is to any viewer that it's completely ridiculous!! Still, turn down the voiceover and you too can experience the quiet, uneventful magic of Venice at night... Enjoy!!

Celebrating Immigrants in Venice!

I understand Venetians are shell-shocked and often embittered by tourism. I get that. I just can't abide when some think that all foreigners are destroying their city. Personally, I'm not only appassionata about Venice and married to a Venetian, but I professionally research their history and often know more about it than they do!

I've always wanted to wear around town a t-shirt like the one at left, which says in Venetian dialect, "I am not a tourist." (If you're female, I've made one up at Zazzle... Enjoy!)

Venice throughout the centuries has been a crossroads and melting pot for all kinds of nationalities. That was its bread and butter! It's only been in the last few decades when Venice (for anything other than tourism) became an economic backwater that Venetians began to forget that.

That is, until now! Last week, according to Buongiorno Venezia, the city held its first-ever official "Celebration of the Immigrant." And - predictably - it was a huge success!! For more about it... read on!

NEWS. From 1 January to 30 September 2008, the number of residents in Venice (including the mainland) increased to 270,000 residents (+ 0.25%). But the historical centre (including Burano and Murano), which counts around 60,000 inhabitants, has lost 372 who are likely to have moved to the mainland or to have sold their houses to non-residents. By contrast, the numbers of foreigners and immigrants living in Venice has increased to such an extent that the Municipality organised a "Feast of the Immigrant" in Mestre, which was for the first time last Sunday. It was quite a success. .

The number of legal foreign residents jumped from 17,000 to about 20.000 in one year, representing 7.5% of residents. Most are Europeans followed by Asians then Africans. The demographic survey, conducted on 31 December 2007, ranks Bangladesh as the largest community (3247 residents, +17%); Moldova was second with 2209 residents, two thirds of them women employed as assistants for the elderly, a common occupation in Venice for Eastern European women); number three was Romania (2092 residents, +97% since their membership in the European Union); Ukraine ranked fourth with 1488 followed by Albania (1127); Macedonia (1083); People's Republic of China (1196 residents, +13%). African residents total 1445, mostly from Senegal (281), Morocco (258), Tunisia (257), and Egypt (211). Residents from the Americas number 970 (321 men and 649 women), most from Brazil (227) and the USA (170). Residents from Oceania total 21: Australia (16), New Zealand (4), and Tonga (1). Welcome to them all!

Astronomy Photo of the Day

I've seen these around before, but I never really followed the "Astronomy Photo of the Day" regularly. I see now that I should! Get a load of these images... (and click on the picture for more information about what you're seeing!)

Venice scraps locals-only vaporetto

Another episode in the deeply ambivalent relationship of Venetians with tourists: Venice to scrap locals-only cheap watertaxis.

I witnessed the service over the summer, and - while a VERY rare direct perk for Venetian residents - the locals-only service did seem a bit underutilized. Not to mention that those vaporetti seemed to be nearly as frequent as the regular waterbus lines. I have to admit that it just didn't seem fiscally sustainable for such a small resident population.

At the time, though, I thought maybe one or two locals-only boats an hour might be more practical. But instead it looks now like they've gone ahead and thrown out the baby with the bathwater... Oh well!

Heavenly Bodies!

It looks like a fantasy painting of an alien landscape, but it's not! Instead, it's an actual photo of the Milky Way and the planet Jupiter, taken from a cave in the Utah desert. Breathtaking!!

(via the always splendid Presurfer)

Burning Bridges in Venice, Literally & Figuratively

Ah, where do I begin with the long, troubled saga of the new bridge over the Grand Canal?

Well, for centuries, there had only been ONE bridge over the Grand Canal, and that was the famed Rialto Bridge. Anybody who wanted to cross the 2+ mile long Canal Grande either had to schlep there or be ferried across by a gondola traghetto. Then, in the 19th and 20th centuries, two other bridges were added, which - if truth be told - made life A LOT easier for the Venetians. The same cannot be said of the new FOURTH bridge over the Grand Canal.

About 10 years ago, the city government first announced the building of a bridge that would link the bus station on the south side of the canal with the train station on the north. I remember when I first saw the project drawings by world-famous architect Santiago Calatrava... As you can see above, it was beautiful, without a doubt... poetry in glass, marble and brass, with some steps twice the width of the others so that folks could stand and admire the view. I could see why the mayor, who's also a professor at Venice's architectural university, wanted it.

But it also struck me as imminently impractical. Venice's bridges can already be slippery in the humid lagoon climate... This, I thought, is going to be like an ice rink.

And guess what? Now, over 10 years later, innumerable delays and astronomical building costs (more than ELEVEN MILLION EUROS, nearly fifteen million US dollars, and more than five million euros over budget) that's exactly what's happening.

The bridge officially opened without any fanfare on the eleventh of September of this year (since the inaugural celebrations were canceled in fear of a huge public protest). Almost immediately thereafter, several people would be injured when they lost their footing. It's gotten to the point that the Veniceword newsletter reports that folks all over the world have begun tuning into the bridge's new webcam to see if they can catch any of these Benny-Hillesque moments in real time. (What do you know... The camera seems to be down at the moment!)

The Venetian city government will not, however, intervene to make the bridge safer. You gotta love the official response: Public works councillor Mara Rumiz said falls on Venice bridges ''are natural'' and that it would be ''less complicated and less costly'' to put signs up alerting tourists to the problem rather than ''substituting parts of the bridge''.

And now, just to add insult to injury... or injury to injury, as the case may be, there may be now nothing to hang onto for safety as one crosses the bridge! It turns out that the gleaming brass handrail is becoming too hot to touch in Venice's recent spate of warm autumn weather. "I noticed that the upper handrail becomes burning hot. I'm afraid next summer it will be a problem," the Venetian Order of Engineers president, Vito Saccarola, was quoted as saying by news agency Adnkronos, and went on to describe the structure as "beautiful, but not indispensable."

And there you have it. Called for years the ponte di Calatrava and now christened the Constitution Bridge, the fourth bridge over the Grand Canal in Venice has become a symbol to all Venetians of not only the ultimate albatross, but also of the complete disconnect and disregard of the government about the human realities of the city.

It's the seeming victory of form over function, not to mention of tourist attractions over quality of life...

UPDATED: More Sexy Astronomy!

This time, we've got a GOR-GEOUS composite image from observations of our very own sun, taken in three different wavelengths! Enjoy the gloriousness!!

(via Dark Roasted Blend)

UPDATED 10/13: "The Sun" was the theme of today's "Big Picture." The images are splendid... Enjoy!!

"Divers Reach the Portland for the 1st Time"

The following news comes to us from this month's New England Historical and Genealogical Society newsletter... (BTW, note that "Divers David Faye, Bob Foster, Don Morse, Slav Mlch and Paul Blanchette spent 10 to 15 minutes each dive exploring the shipwreck but had to endure up to 4 hours of decompression in the frigid North Atlantic in exchange"!)
The wreck of the steamship Portland off the coast of Cape Ann was one of the worst shipwrecks in the history of New England. Sailing into a 'perfect storm' now known as the Portland Gale in November 1898, almost 200 people, including a senator from Maine, lost their lives returning home from a Thanksgiving holiday.

Little of the wreckage was ever recovered. Few victims ever turned up on shore. Even the exact location of the disaster remained a mystery for a century, until researchers discovered her in the summer of 2002.

The wreckage lies about 15 miles east of Cape Ann, and at 460 feet is about the limit that unprotected human divers can reach. Five Massachusetts men recently reached the Portland for the first time since she sank more than a century ago.

Even though the disaster was enough to rip the upper decks off the ship, many fragile class and porcelain items were found intact, including stacks of delicate china plates.

You can read more about the divers in the Boston Globe, and a slideshow is also available here. In addition, you can also read more about the wreck and view a computer-animated [and - I think - haunting!] video of what scientists believe happened to the ship, on the Science Channel.
The wreck site of the S.S. Portland was added to the National Register of Historic Places back in 2005.

Accordian Vivaldi!

What could POSSIBLY be more Venetian than Vivaldi OR accordians? How about a post which manages to combine BOTH?! Without further ado, I give you Vivaldi's "Winter" from The Four Seasons (the unofficial soundtrack of Venice) played by a virtuoso on the accordian! Enjoy!!

(via the ever-wonderful Gail's Scribal Terror!)

Maine in the National Arena

"At this stage of a campaign season, Maine is rarely in the national news. But 2008 appears to be different..."

Read more here.

"Venice's Pigeons Almost Totally Gone"??

(A sixties' ad that was done with pigeons by spreading corn just right in Saint Mark's Square)

"After several months of battling thousands of pigeons hovering over Piazza San Marco, Venice has declared victory. From 20,000 the canal city's pigeon population has dwindled to less than 1,000."

That's what the "All Headline News" site reported on Thursday. Can it even possibly be true??


Turns out the AHN did what a lot of tourists do all the time, and that's confuse Saint Mark's Square with Venice itself.

As any longtime fan of Venice and/or this blog can tell you, San Marco's pigeons aren't quaint; they're gross. And their numbers in the square had swelled to 20,0000 because of the corn vendors there, making that pigeon population a veritable petri dish for salmonella and respiratory disease. So, the fact that EACH pigeon produces an estimated 26 pounds of guano annually (MORE THAN A QUARTER OF A TON COLLECTIVELY?!) which was burying and eating away at the peerless historical monuments there, was really only a (powerful) side concern.

(The video doesn't seem quite so delightful NOW, does it? Yuk!)

Hence, the Venetian city government's decision this past year to ban selling corn in the square and thankfully for once they had the stones to stick to it!

As a result, the population of pigeons IN PIAZZA SAN MARCO ALONE is now estimated to be 1000 instead of 20,000. (Although, as one reader on put it, "would you be happy if somebody said that now there are only 1000 rats in the piazza?")

But, let me tell you, it's not that 19,000 pigeons have starved to death since May. They clearly just went elsewhere. Which means that the city as a whole may still be laboring under what was the highest pigeon-population density in the world: more than 3 per resident (or nearly 200,000) in LITTLE MORE THAN THREE SQUARE MILES!

So, don't lament the untimely passing of those poor darling Venetian flying rats just yet. But, for God's sake and Venice's, please don't feed them either!