Quantum of Siena

Finally got around to seeing the new Bond flick. Heavy on good action, light on solid plot development...

But I did enjoy the use of Siena as this film's de rigore Italian backdrop! I haven't seen the specific locations there first-hand (other than the famous Campo), but the premises were certainly good. The underground tunnels would have been part of the medieval "bottini" waterworks that were built up in case the city ever had to withstand a long siege.

The horse race conveniently happening at the same time is of course the famous Palio, of which I've blogged before!

Last but not least, it seems that the chase climaxes in a fight among what looks to be restorations of the Cathedral of Siena. It's surely a soundstage, but they did do a nice job of echoing the black and white Romanesque marble walls of the city's duomo. I don't recall anything like a glass cupola though... and a quick search online reveals a Flickr shot of a characteristic Gothic style arched vault.

Oh well, I guess if the last movie could sink an entire Venetian palazzo, I should tolerate at least this tiny bit of artistic license. I'd give this movie an Italian versimilitude rating of "B."

(What can I say? The kicker was that the Sienese would not be partying like usual after the Palio if somebody had actually been shot during it! I once saw a trial gone horribly wrong in which a horse was injured, and that alone cast a pall over all the celebrations...)

Pictures of Canadian Meteorite Fragments!

Universe Today has pictures of the remnants from last week's fireball!

(Posted using ShareThis)

Blogging Thanksgiving Dinner!

Happy Thanksgiving! This is of course not limited to those in the States... I've cooked my share of Thanksgivings in Italy for my Italian friends and family. After all, giving thanks is universal!

Today, I'm cooking some oldie-but-goodie recipies, but mostly a messload of brand-spanking new vegetable recipes from food magazines and around the web! (I'll let you know how they turn out!!)

Spend Christmas in the house from "A Christmas Story"!

Who doesn't love the holiday classic, "A Christmas Story"?? Well, now you and your family can spend Christmas eve and Christmas day in the historic abode featured in the film! And give to charity to boot... (or "to lamp," as the case may be!!)

Learn more by clicking through... Good luck and happy holidays!

Sinking like the Titanic: Venice in the Movies!

The big question I'm getting these days, as people rewatch "Casino Royale" before going out to see the new Bond movie, is "Can Venetian buildings really sink like that?" (You can stop watching the following clip after about 6 seconds...)

The answer is a big "nope"! And, in truth, that scene's nearly as ridiculous as Venice in "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen"!! Venice is not built on pylons over open water, but rather on (more or less) solid ground. The palace on the Grand Canal in "Casino Royale" would have crumbled, not sunk. Oh well...

Venice though to be one of the cities that James Bond has returned to most frequently. You don't have to take my word for it... Here's a video somebody did of nearly all the Bonds crossing paths in the city. Enjoy!!

Police dashboard cam catches meteorite fireball!

Thursday night, a meteorite fell in Western Canada, and it was so brilliant that it could be seen for more than a 400 mile radius! It caused sonic booms and generated radio static that sounded to observers like crackling bacon...

You can see for yourself this spectacular display through the eyes of a copcam that happened to catch the event! Watch and be amazed!!

(read more at io9!)

Great retro song, beautiful retro video!

Well, let it not be said that there's little value to the new "Get Smart" movie... In it, I recognized a song I've been trying to identify for years, imdb'ed it, and found it's called "Anna (El Negro Zumbon)".

This song is in a beautiful snippet from the breathtakingly lyrical 1988 film "Cinema Paradiso," and I could never track down before now what it was or who was the actress... But here's the original! (I love the smoky high-key lighting in it!) Enjoy!!

So, thanks to "Get Smart," I've just learned the actress was Silvana Mangano in the 1951 film "Anna," which, according to "The Foreign Film Theme" page, was "one of the earliest foreign films to enjoy much success in the U.S.--due in large part to Magnano's sensuality and the more open treatment of sexuality than accepted in contemporary American films. Magnano plays a nun who meets two former lovers when one shoots the other in her hospital. She flashes back to her life as a dancer in a smoky nightclub while nursing one back to health, but decides to stick with the spiritual life."

(I don't understand the Spanish lyrics, but they seem to be about a Brazilian dance...)

Some trivia from what seems to be the closest things to an official "Anna (El Negro Zumbon)" page:
  • Original: 1951 Silvana Mangano (dubbed by Flo Sandon's) in Italian film "Anna" (director Alberto Lattuada)

  • First guitar instrumental of Anna was recorded by Chet Atkins in 1957.

  • Danish guitarist Jørgen Ingmann scored in 1961 a hit (#54 Billboard) with Anna on the Atco label as follow-up for Apache.

  • A very interesting Indo-Rock version was recorded live from The Twangies (with lead-guitarist Frits Galistan) at the Astoria in Freiburg, Germany in the Summer of 1963.