Thursday, July 30, 2009

Oh Look We're Having Tuna Salad

Some how or other I never got around to posting this - and given the Saint's name day how could I have forgotten. Anyway better late et al. And it was a great, though sadly our last, evening with Yves, Rolando, Joe and Peter. That's the way of life in the foreign service as people move around from post to post.

Well yes we are - tonight as we say goodbye to two of our colleagues at dinner - we are starting with tuna salad. But not just any old Tuna Salad. Back in March when I was in Barcelona I had THE TUNA SALAD! It was around 1400 and we were heading up to the Gaudi Parco Guell. The old tummy was suggesting that food was in order but the pickings for sustenance were a bit scarce in the area - a sandwich shop appeared to be the only thing open, that and a hole in the wall bar.

Well that old saying about books and covers definitely applied - that hole in the wall was only the entrance to a very small but homey restaurant: la Pousada Caballito Blanco. The waiter, an older gentleman, seemed to have a bit of an attitude but the menu looked inviting with all manner of tapas and the omni-present paella. I went for the tapas including THE TUNA SALAD. What the waiter, now a bit more friendly, place in front of me was a small piece of culinary art: a tower of tuna. As I scrapped up the dressing with a piece of (forbidden) bread I told him how good it was and asked what was in it. At that point he became all smiles and affability. Nothing really unusual he assured me: tomato, tuna, caramelized onion, salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Why you could make it at home.

And indeed I can and have. It is a great starter or could be a main for summer lunch.
The Tower of Tuna: this was how it ended up for last night's dinner (July 29) - along with a salad of thinly sliced finocchio, celery and cucumber (all white and crunchy)sprinkled with parsley then liberally dressed with gingered olive oil.

Here's my re-creation, sorry but measurements are pretty much by eye on this one.
The Tower of Tuna (serves 4)

4 large ripe tomatoes
2 cups or more caramelized onions (click for recipe)*
Canned tuna (preferably packed in olive oil)
Fresh Ground Pepper
Balsamic vinegar
Olive Oil (from tuna with additional if needed)

Slice each tomato into thick slices and drain on paper towel - make sure you put the slices in order so you can reconstruct the tomato.

Place the bottom slice on a plate - you may want to drizzle a bit of balsamic reduction on the plate before hand if you want to go all fancy.

Crumple a generous amount of tuna on top of the tomato slice, salt and pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of balsamic vinegar then a spoonful of caramelized onion.

Alternate tomato with tuna/onion/oil/vinegar layers and cap with the top slice.

And that's it.

*I like the idea in this recipe of deglazing with a splash of balsamic vinegar.

If you have some extra caramelized onion you might want to scatter them around or save them for the next night's hamburgers.
The biggest chore in all this is the onions. I've taken to doing a whole pile at once - they can be frozen and used on hamburger or around roasts.

The rest of tonight's menu: Saltimbocca alla Romana (here's a link to GBs recipe over at Italian Notebook), roast potatoes and spinach, a green salad and peaches in red wine.

A great way to say goodbye to a great colleague and his partner.

Written on: 09 luglio - Sant'Agostino Zhao Rong e i 120 martiri cinesi

Posted on: 30 luglio - San Pietro Crisologo
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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Thought for Food

In the highly readable and entertaining Delizia, John Dickie explodes the myth of good solid Italian country cuisine: the slow simmered sauce, the rustic bread sopping up extra extra virgin oil etc etc etc. All the clichés of Italian peasant cooking are paraded out and deflated.

And he also destroys the myth of the Italian momma slaving over a hot stove 24/7 - though he admits it still happens, more and more Italians turn to ready made or quick to prepare pre-packaged foods. Gone are the days when the lady of the household would spend an hour laboriously stirring stock into the rice spoonful by spoonful to turn out a creamy risotto. Perhaps for a special dinner yes but why would you spend that time when there are perfectly good prepackaged versions available for every day meals.

As an example the nice people at Gallo (since 1856) make several types of quick risotto that only take about 12 minutes to cook and they guarantee have less than 2% fat. One of those variaties - the Milanese, Shrimp or Asparagas are big favorites - appears on our dinner table at least once a week and is so good I've even served it - jazzed up - to company.

However, and you knew there had to be a however, even the prepackaged people take for granted that you must have watched your Nonni,Zie and Mama while they worked in the kitchen. The cooking instruction, though colourful, often lack the precision that we expect in North America. This is a direct translation from the box at the left:
Pour two glasses of cold water into a pan for every glass of rice.
Stir and bring to a boil.
When water has come to a boil cook for 12 minutes, stirring occasionally.
When the liquid has been completely absorbed, take off heat and stir in a string of olive oil or a nut of butter.
Add grated parmigiana to taste.
To the North American eye this is totally unacceptable. How much is a glass? What size glass? We have five or six types in the cupboard. A wine glass? A juice glass? What heat? High, low, medium? How much oil is a string? Are we talking rope? Yarn? Thread? And what type of nut? Peanut? Walnut? Hazelnut?

I've been assured that these are foolish and frivolous questions. A glass is a glass and a nut is a nut. Use your judgement - do it the way your Nonna did and if she didn't do it then make a few mistakes, clean a few pots with rice glued firmly to the bottom, waift the smell of burnt rice out of the kitchen with a towel, you'll catch on.

Oh and they give you suggestions on how to personalize it a bit too:
To finish it off just add:
Mixed mushrooms sauted in a pan with sliced onions
Strips of red pepper sauted in a pan
Pitted black olives and minced rosemary
In what quantities? Don't ask! Just do what your Nonna did!

29 luglio - Santa Marta di Betania

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Mercoledi Musicale

On Saturday night I'll have the opportunity to hear Elina Garnaca, the new mezzo sensation, in Carmen. While surfing YouTube for a clip I came across one of her singing another French role - Dalila. A few of the comments on her singing of "Mon coeur s'ouvre a ta voix" took me to what is one of the great performances of Saint-Saens' best known opera. Shirley Verrett was one of the great singers in the last half of the 20th century. Retired after a incredible career she is now teaching at the University of Michigan. Here at Covent Garden in 1981 she and Jon Vickers seemed to have inspired each other to give one of those performances that became legendary.

I only had the pleasure of seeing Verrett on stage twice - the first time in 1971 as Gluck's Orfeo with Georg Solti conducting at Covent Garden and the following year in Meyerbeer's rarely performed L'Africaine with Placido Domingo at San Fransisco Opera. Performances that have stayed with me to this day.

29 lulgio - Santa Marta di Betania
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Monday, July 27, 2009

Lunedi Lunacy

I honestly don't know where I've been lately - I mean I know where I've been but I do seem to have missed things. As I was surfing the web on Friday I discovered that another one of the greats had died: Danny LaRue.

Now that name may not mean any thing to some of my North American friends but take it from me Danny was something special. The one thing he wasn't was a female impersonator - he was by his own definition: a Comic in a Frock. And what frocks! A Danny Larue show was going to be glamorous, glorious and fun filled.

Here's a brief BBC obit - that don't half do him justice:

On my second trip to England in 1970 I remember seeing some wonderful shows in the West End but the one that sticks in my mind was Danny LaRue at the Palace. For two years Danny packed the 1400 seat Shaftesbury Lane theatre dishing up an evening of galmour, glitz and laughter. I recall the audience being filled with moms, dads and the like all in for a good night's fun with "our Danny". Its rather strange that there is no entry for his long run there in the online history of the Palace.* Unless drag isn't respectable enough for the gang at Real Useful who now own the theatre? Damn if there is one thing Danny was it was respectable - racy, bawdy and very naughty sure but he took "drag" out of the clubs and pubs and put it into the mainstream of British entertainment.

And here's a clip from the Act one finale of that Palace show I saw back in 1970.

Danny wasn't one of the those lip-sync artists - he did all his own vocals and when younger could dance up a storm with the best of the gypsies on stage. Though I find in the later part of this clip I want to slap host Michael Barrymore (an irritating man in soooo many ways)I've included it for Danny giving his famous catchphrase "Wotcher mates!" and singing one of his signature numbers.

Danny, you definitely had that "little bit extra"!

*Post script: I had sent an e-mail to the people at Really Useful asking about the omission of Danny's long run at the Palace. Within a few hours they had replied. Apparently their programme for the current show, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, has a full length feature on his appearance there and they had removed it from the theatre history to avoid repetition. The internet history was copied directly from it but I was told they would update it online. Danny in Priscilla - now that would have been something to see.
27 luglio - Santa Natalia

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Glory That Is Greece - The Byzantine and Christian Museum I

The current glory of Greece is, of course, the new Acropolis Museum. When we were in Athens last November they were allowing viewings of the facility as exhibitions were being put in place and even empty the interior was impressive. It is all raked glass floors, stone, multi levels and natural light illuminating an incredible collection of the glories of Ancient Greece. Sadly the exterior looks, as our friend Fotis suggests, like an alien space craft has landed in the middle of town. It just doesn't fit and we won't even go into the argument raging about destroying two historical houses to improve the view from the restaurant.

Laurent spent a few hours there the second day he was in Athens and was mightily impressed with both the collection and the displays. I decided that since I was only there for the weekend I would restrict myself to a Saturday morning snack with Fotis on the restaurant terrace. The entrance fee, until the end of the year, is 1 euro - so just popping in for a coffee and a salad is not a big deal. I will wait until a weekday on our next trip to view the collection at my leisure.

However one museum I wasn't going to pass up this time was the Byzantine and Christian Museum. I had gone looking for it in November and totally missed the huge signs indicating the entrance on the hoardings that hide it during extensive renovation. Founded in 1914 it is, perhaps, one of the finest collections of Byzantine art in the world. And as with most of the museums I have visited in Greece the curating and displays are amongst the finest I've seen anywhere. And it is staffed with pleasant and knowledgeable people who acknowledge your presence with pleasure - such a nice change from the glowering attendant who knows you are only there to steal their national treasures.

And national treasures they have!
As he did in so many places in the Byzantine world, Justinian greets you as you enter. Mosaics filled palaces, churches and public buildings throughout Byzantium and the Emperor featured in a good many of them.
The Orpheus legend was quickly associated with Christ in the early church - the descent into Hades being the link. This Orpheus has charmed many of the beasts of the field, fowls of the air and a few other strange creatures. But the lion killing the deer has yet to hear his music. That image - a hart being killed by a lion appears in many carvings of the period.
Clothing is perhaps the hardest thing to preserve given that fibers decay quickly however this 6-7th century liturgical robe is still in good condition. The embroidery, though not as elaborate as later examples, has the naive charm of folk art.

This child's tunic is wool and dates from the 6th century. As do the leather shoes, the small child's pair are unadorned but the adults are decorated with gold leaf.
I find the sculpture of the period - both the figurative and the abstract - fascinating. Again there is that image of the hart being attacked this time by a leopard. Often the faces have been hacked away either during one of the Iconoclastic periods or one of the Islamic invasions. I particularly like the work in archways and door lintels - often abstract or as here representing scenes from the Nativity.

And even the utilitarian can be made interesting - that little figure is actually a unit of weight measurement. And this candle holder has been turned into a miniature mobile to adorn the sanctuary of a church.

The Museum is housed in a lovely villa setting with the permanent collection in one building and special exhibits in another. I'll try and post something later this week about Refugee Art - an interesting but terribly sad display of objects from the forced migration of Greeks from Asia Minor in 1923.

25 luglio - San Giacomo il Maggiore

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Mercoledi Musicale

Linda Ronstadt said this was the best performance she ever gave of this song - and I would love to know who did the piano on this. A great song - great lyrics and a great version.

We have been gay, going our way
Life has been beautiful, we have been young
After you've gone, life will go on
Like an old song we have sung

When I grow too old to dream
I'll have you to remember
When I grow too old to dream
Your love will live in my heart
So, kiss me my sweet
And so let us part
And when I grow too old to dream
That kiss will live in my heart
And when I grow too old to dream
That kiss will live in my heart

So, kiss me my sweet
And so let us part
And when I grow too old to dream
That kiss will live in my heart

From the film "The Night Is Young" (1935)
(Sigmund Romberg / Oscar Hammerstein II)

For P from P

22 luglio - Santa Maria Maddalena

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009


What gives with pets and toilets? What is the fascination with that white porcelain bowl and flushing water?

My friend Speck told the story last week of Smudge and the midnight pee break . And I've noticed how Nora delights in the swirl of water as toilets are flushed:

Admittedly unlike Smudge Nora has yet to drink out of the bowl but that could only because she can't quite reach it ... YET!

And speaking of pets, my friend and colleague Laurie sent me this picture of her kitten Pepper.

Now neither Laurie nor I approve of playing Mr Dress Up with our pets - she has four cats - but in this case Pepper is dressed like a convict in a Mack Sennett one reeler for a very good reason. After some routine surgery Pepper developed a dreadful skin condition where the fur literally peeled off. She spent almost two months at the vet's but is back home now. However she still has a very large patch of furless skin that bothers her and she bites at it - making things worse. After turning her into a cone head for over a month Laurie thought she'd try something else: a sweater to cover the raw area. Well apparently the sweater lasted long enough to have this picture taken and within minutes it was back to the cone. Poor Pepper has been through a lot and the healing process will take a long time. But she's a brave little thing and if love can cure her problem she is receiving an endless supply.

*Gratuitous Pet Items

21 luglio - San Lorenzo da Brindisi

I Forgot ... But So Did He!

Okay there is just too damned much going on. Both Laurent and I forgot it was our wedding anniversary today. Yep 2 years ago today he made an honest man out of me. Mind you at that point we'd been together for 29 years so ...
Watching Laurent sign his life away - July 21, 2007. As a sidebar, I remember when Elaine, the minister who married us, was a child visiting the office with her mother. And there she was years later performing our wedding ceremony. How wonderful its that?

According to the tables for this sort of thing, this year's gift could be cotton, paper or crystal. I was thinking of taking him out for a gelato, guess that doesn't fit into any of those catagories?????

Happy Anniversary Caro!

21 luglio - San Lorenzo da Brindisi

Monday, July 20, 2009

Lunedi Lunacy

And here's a little number to brighten up a Monday morning and set your heart a-dancing.

Now if only those relentless Andean musicians that show up in town squares here had some dancing "pingüinos" I'd be dropping a few euros in the hat.

20 luglio - Sant'Apollinare di Ravenna

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Birds of the Air and Beasts of the Field

Most people know that St Francis of Assisi, along with Saint Anthony of Padua, is the Patron of Animals in the Western Church but I defy anyone to tell me - without Google or a similar search - who the Patron Saint of God's Creatures Great and Small is in the Orthodox church. Here's a hint:

Give up? It's Saint Modestus of Jerusalem, one of the several patrons of animals in the Eastern Church.

I had seen this beautiful icon at Koukos when we were in Athens last November - when I bought the very unusual icon of the Child Christ, the Virgin and her mother Saint Anna. But at the time I just didn't have the money to spend on it. However my very thoughtful spouse decided that as we seemed to be calling on several saints name while attempting to train the deadly duo that it would be good to have one of those saints represented in our house.

It was "written" by the same artist from Thessaloniki as the previous one and bears his signature characteristics if not his actually name. It is painted on canvas and attached to the wood rather than on the wood itself. The figure is decidedly Eastern in appearance but scene that surrounds him could almost come out of an early Medieval manuscript. It is this combination of Western and Eastern influences that appeals to me most in this artist's work.

So it now falls to Saint Modestus to become our helpmate in bringing Nick and Nora into line. If that fails we may just have to call upon a higher power. But then I've already done that in a very loud voice on several occasions.

19 luglio - San Pietro Crisci da Foligno

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Shabbiest of Shockers

I have always disagreed with Joseph Kerman's famous assessment of Tosca as being Puccini's "shabby little shocker" (Opera as Drama 1956). When well done it can be the most exciting of operas - the drama of the Te Deum, Scarpia's pursuit of the frightened Tosca ending in his stabbing death and that final leap from the battlements - this is the stuff of great theatre - when well done!

Last evening at the Baths of Caracalla Teatro dell'Opera di Roma seemed bent into proving Kerman right and presented us with the shabbiest of shockers. This will have to go down as one of the worst evenings I've spent at the opera and only the second time in 57 years that I have left before the end of a performance. And though most of the members of our party remained I was not alone on my escape walk to the exit - there was a general exodus towards the Via Appia just after Tosca killed Scarpia with a well placed crucifix to the old Scarpian family jewels.

Yes you did read that right. Poor old Scarpia died not from multiple stab wounds but from a smack in the cullones! And this was just one of director Franco Ripa di Meana's many "innovations". Other fascinating concepts included turning Scarpia into a prelate of the church which meant that the stage was frequently filled with phalanxes of black soutaned priests bearing down relentlessly on the principals. Oh I get it the oppression of the church - very cutting edge but I still question turning the celebratory Te Deum into the auto-de-fe scene from Don Carlo. And the burst of flames and fiery cross that closed ACT I lasted all off 2 seconds and blinded most of the audience not astounded them. And why exactly was Tosca costumed like a 19th century hooch dancer - slit skirt, bustier and all - surely Queen Caroline had a stricter court protocol than that? And wasn't it rather louche of her to walk on Scarpia's dinner table. And since when was Cavaradossi a pavement artist spreading his canvases out on the floor and having them walked on by thoughtless sacristans? And what was with that murder? First she hit him in the stones with the crucifix then she brandished it at him like a vampire killer. And rather than the drama of the placing of candles around the body and retrieving the liaise-passe from the hands of the dead man she picked it up off the table/prie-deux/chair and as a platoon of priests bore down on the corpse, escaped through the audience - to a round of applause that destroyed the climax of Puccini's music. "Sadly" I did not see what "improvements'" had been thought up for Act 3 but I'm sure it was just as original.
Edoardo Sanchi's set was a gigantic map of Rome with the locales of the opera circled in red. And once again it was one of those singers' nightmares - ramps and rakes of various levels always great fun to negotiate in elaborate costumes. It was the first sign that we were in for an evening of "innovations".

Now all of this would have been acceptable if it had been possible to close your eyes and listen to incredible singing - though given the "wrong-headedness" there may not be singers alive who could make it acceptable. I never take pleasure in criticizing singers - theirs is a difficult profession and in many ways an ephemeral one. So believe me I take little or no joy in what follows. Aside from having to fight some of the most hideous costumes ever created poor Michaela Carosi spent a good deal of the evening fighting to stay in tune. At several points I was reminded of a comment made during a performance of Fidelio by my friend John: if that woman screams at us one more time I'm going to stand up and scream back. I would have spent a good time standing and screaming at Madame Carosi which would have made for a duet of out of tune voices, Fabio Armiliato is a singer I admire but he must have been having an off night - the sounds he produced where throaty and at points he sounded strained. He was not helped by having to singing Recondita armonia in a prone position. His Vittoria! Vittoria! was thrilling but does not a Cavaradossi make. Giorigo Surian gave a generalized Scarpia - the voice is more bass than baritone and was swamped by the orchestra on more than one occasion. The remainder of the cast did nothing to make up for the deficiencies displayed by the principals. The normally exceptional Opera chorus was having a bad night - the underpowered Te Deum was a real disappointment. And even the children's chorus were more members of some penitent youth organization than merry, prank playing choir boys. The miking was not particularly successful and on several occasions static and voice placement went awry. Paolo Olmi led a routine performance bringing no special insights into the piece and the orchestra gave yeoman service but again the miking seemed slightly awry.

I had heard some comments while waiting in line at Santa Cecelia the other day about how dreadful this Tosca was so word of mouth is spreading through the city. That and the general decline in tourists trade would account for many blocks of empty seats at the beginning of the performance. And a productin as bad as this would account for the growing numbers that left at each intermission.

Arts money is tight here in Italia - most budgets have been cut 30% - and it is sad to think so many people will go away thinking this is the best that Roma can do. This a company that has a beautiful (and dramatic) Zeffirelli Tosca in its repertory along with some very fine productions of both standard and little known works. This is a company that gives adventuresome seasons, like the one currently in progress - Le Grande Macabre, Pelleas, Iphigenia in Aulide. This is a company where Riccardo Muti has conducted Otello and Iphigenia in the past year and is scheduled to lead Nabucco and Idomeneo in the next. Despite what the Caracalla Tosca could lead you to believe it is not an inconsequential company - but sadly this is the impression many people will carry away with them.

PS: I felt particularly bad for several of our group who were coming to an opera for the first time. This was a sorry introduction and certainly didn't give them much encouragement to give it another try.

PPS: This comment from my friend Flipstinger who has a very good source:
oh my! very unfortunate indeed.... i think it was a good idea to leave after the 2nd act because after i found out more info; the shepherd boy came in on the 3rd act with a llama or a goat which started to make noises and the audience, confused with what's happening on the stage, just burst out in laughter....AND after the show, my informer told me the director, Olmi was frustrated that the audience behaved in such manner and was heard saying "the audience don't get could they have acted that way....they are just clueless."

UHMMMM, i'd say...this director needs to be a part of the audience and watch carefully the product of his so called vision and then look at the libretto again! VERY FAR OFF!

I am so glad I didn't stick around for the 3rd Act - laughter would have been the least of their worries.

17 luglio - Sant'Alessio

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Mercoledi Musicale

Photo by Neil Gillespie*My good friend Parsi, with whom if as there was is a goddess in heaven I'd I'll be having dinner and concert going this coming Saturday in Corinth but sadly it is not to be because as I don't now have a babysitter for the kids, had the good fortunate to be at one of those evenings that will go down in operatic history. I could forgive him for that but then a few nights ago he also caught Helen Mirren in Phaedra at the wonderful Theatre in Epidaurus. Parsi , if you weren't so "adorable"....

Appropriately on the 4th of July Yankee Diva Joyce DiDonato was singing Rosina as part of an all-star cast in Rossini's Barber of Seville at London's Royal Opera House. During one particularly hectic moment in the frantic staging she tripped and sprained her ankle - or so it appeared. She went on to sing the rest of the performance using a crutch. But it turns out it was more than a simple sprain. She has sang the rest of the performances from a wheelchair.

But it's probably better to let the lady herself tell you the complete story but only after you've heard her as Rosina standing on her own two feet. Here she is with her frequent partner the wonderful Juan Diego Florez, showing both her vocal and comedic skills.

So here's Joyce's taking on the evening of the 4th and the adventure that followed at the next performance. We are sure as hell talking Yankee pluck here!

Brava for the Diva!

The photograph of Ms DiDonato en fauteuil roulant is taken from her blog and is the work of the very talented Neil Gillespie.

*God help me I am starting to write like an Italian ballet critic!

15 luglio - San Bonaventura da Bagnoregio

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I'll Try and Explain

Several of my blog buddies have been asking what exactly the fuss was about yesterday here in Italy. Why the "strike" and what exactly were bloggers "striking" for or against.

As I mentioned I do not get involved in politics here or normally voice an opinion on them - as a guest I do not have either the right or the gall to do so. But here is a bit of background and a quote which I hope will shed some light on the matter.

Il disegno di legge Alfano
, is a complicated piece of legislation and my take on it is perforce simplistic. Many feel that it will compromise the work of the judiciary here to fight organized crime. It would impose gags of one type or other on information and imposes fines on journalists and publishers for "misinformation" which is not "rectified" within a set period of time. It has been extended to include information of any type disseminated on the internet.

The following is a translation of an item that appeared on Diritto di critica (Right to Criticize):
The latest criticism came finally from the net. The DDL is also the talk of the Internet. As already mentioned in a previous post, the text introduces Ordinance l "the obligation" to correct any item on request of an 'offended' person within 48 hours, otherwise there will be a fine imposed from 7500 to € 12,000 which applies to all owners of information sites. It also reintroduces the offense of incitement to civil disobedience, by which it will be possible without the intervention of the Judiciary, to intimidate and silence any voice of dissent.

Guido Scorza, lawyer, journalist, blogger and expert on right to information and new technologies, says that with this rule will be touch social networks like My Space or Facebook, but also video and search sites such as Youtube and Google, not to mention the millions of those blogging. The lawyer says that in the ddl Alfano the government wishes to expand the "right to correct" which now apply to the press and TV to all information services. ..... The journalist sees it as an act of intimidation, designed to frighten and to shock with exorbitant fines, the millions of Internet users and bloggers who write, disseminate, or even share information and video networking, consequently forcing them to close.

Beppe Giulietti, parliamentarian, journalist and founder of the website Article 21, gives a very similar reading and also lists three areas where the decree violates existing laws:

1. The proposed rule is in violation of one of the fundamental principles expressed in our Constitution (Article 21 Constitution) that allows the free expression of thought in all its forms except in the case of any activity contrary to morality.
2. In the case of information conveyed through sites as "non-traditional", the standard in force (art. 16 D. Lgs. 70/2003) states that the service provider (hoster) is not responsible for the content stored unless it is illegal content. "Illegal content" means content that is contrary to the law: content that is not truthful or harmful to another person is not always "illegal".
3. Article 10 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which enshrines the right to freedom of expression, among which we mention the freedom to receive information (from sources of news), is protected from interference by public authority.
Again I cannot begin to unravel the various threads that complicate this whole question as with most things political here it is neither black or white; nor can I presume to voice an opinion about it. I took part yesterday as a show of support for the many blogger friends I have here and I thank all my friends in other places who voiced their support.

15 luglio - San Bonaventura da Bagnoregio

Bloggisti unite!*

*Bloggers Unite!

Though, for obvious reasons, I do not normally get involved nor comment on Italian politics or government policies I am with Italian bloggers on this one.

On July 14, 2009, Italian bloggers will muzzle themselves in the Web as well as in Piazza Navona in Rome, at 7PM where they will meet to protest against an Italian government bill (the Alfano decree) introducing a number of new rules which will limit the freedom of expression in Italian internet. The so-called "obligation to rectify" imposed to the manager of an information site (blogs, social networks such as Facebook, Twitter etc) [....] download english version.pdf

14 luglio - San Camillo de Lellis

Monday, July 13, 2009

So Where The Hell Have I Been?

I was happy to see my blog buddy Speck (that would be she in younger days at the left) over at Worms, Puppies, Barbecue had posted a little item earlier today for the first time in about a month. I immediately added a comment telling her how much I had missed her posts.

Now I knew she had gotten into sketching and many of her posts at WPB were cartoons and sketches but somehow I had missed the fact that she now has a sketch blog!!!!! So a good deal of this morning was spent scrolling through all the goodies I had missed at Speck's Sketch Blog. She's a talented and a funny lady. I recommend taking a look in - and I've added her to my daily check list.

Sorry Speck don't know where the hell I was when you announced the new (?) blog.

13 lulgio - Sant'Enrico II del Sacro Romano Impero

Lunedi Lunacy

I was talking with my friend John in Ottawa on Saturday and it looks like if it doesn't stop raining they may just consider a sacrifice - provided a virgin of either sex can be found.

13 luglio - Sant'Enrico II del Sacro Roman Impero

Friday, July 10, 2009

GPV for the Week

I will let the video explain itself.

And yes Marco that is me doing the narration!

10 lulgio - San Silvano

Signs of the Times

I always knew that Constance Bay was a recreational paradise... I just didn't know how inclusive that recreation was!

It appears that the City of Ottawa sign painters left one of the panels blank so a thoughtful citizen filled it in for them.

10 luglio - San Silvano
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Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Finger Painting

I'm constantly amazed by what creative people can do with computer programmes. Its not that I'm computer illiterate but I've had Adobe Suite sitting on the desktop for several years now and all I ever use is basic Photoshop. You know the sort of stuff - auto colour/contrast/levels and resize for web.

But over at The New Yorker, Jorge Colombo shows what he can do with Brushes on his IPhone with what he calls finger painting. A click through the videos there shows his amazing talent.

Hell I couldn't do that with real finger paints!

08 lulgio - Sant'Adriano Papa

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Mercoledi Musicale

For some reason saying goodbye has been on my mind a great deal lately.

Though she is best known as the ice queen Lilith on Frazier, Bebe Neuwirth has always been a song and dance girl. Star of the Broadway revival of Chicago and the upcoming Addams Family, she also knows her way around an old standard.

08 lulgio - San Pancrazio di Taormina

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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Quote ... Unquote

I was put on to Jan Morris's Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere by a comment from David at I'll Think of Something Later and then again by my friend Simonetta. Both assured me that it was a brilliant piece of writing and as always both were right.

Morris began life as James Morris and first visited Trieste as part of the British Forces of Occupation after the war. I won't go into the details of his becoming Jan and the incredible career that has led her to prominence as a writer. Morris has said that Trieste is her last book and if so it is a touching farewell to a city and perhaps for Morris a life that is rich in memories.

The overwhelming tone of Morris's Trieste is one of nostalgia but my own few days there lead me to believe that is a constant in that often forgotten city in the middle of "Nowhere". Here are a few quotes from the book and pictures I took on our visit there.
Trieste is a historical chameleon which is reflected in its architecture. Small alley ways (like the one above down which a drunken James Joyce often wended his way home) lead into piazzas lined with facades adorned in the Austro-Hungarian style. And decorations bear the stamp of so many influences.

Across the world we may see famous old havens now neglected or debased, sometimes simply because modern ships need deeper water or different facilities, but sometimes because their fundamental purpose has been lost. Everywhere once vigorous waterfront areas have been emasculated or mutated, with reconstituted flagstones and fancy fittings, warehouses turned into trendy apartments, novelty shops smelling of pot-pourri, dry docks filled in for more office space. The quays where the lovely clippers berthed in Manhattan now form a maritime museum. The docks in London where the East Indiamen unloaded their jutes and spices have been turned into Docklands, a grim, modish city of corporations. Bristol and Liverpool, one great bases of the Atlantic trade, now find themselves on the wrong side of Britain for the European markets, just as one day Hong Kong may wish it were on the mainland of China after all. Nearly everywhere the jumble of port life, with all its stinks, noises and clashing colours, has been removed from the city centres, and so from the public consciousness.

Trieste is still very much a city of the sea. Morris is right, in that the waterfront has become gentrified and, at least when we were there, was often deserted during the day. In the evening the cafés and trattorias were very much alive but not with seafarers. Simonetta and Sheryl tell me that the Grand Canal - that juts into the city from the sea - was very busy one Thursday evening when they were there.

One evening I heard music in the street, and looking out of my window I saw two strange figures passing. One was a young man in a tall brown hat, blowing on a shepherd's flute. The other was attached by complex apparatus to a variety of apparently home-made instruments - bagpipes, drums, cymbals, a triangle I think - and in order to bet the biggest drum he had to move in an abrupt but creaky shuffle. Slowly and sporadically these engaging characters pottered down the pavement below me, tootling and drumming as they went.

In Trieste that day they were like visitors from another, less inhibited world. They brought a touch of the maverick to this ordered cit. They were musicians from the Karst, strollers from the wild side.

On one side of steps leading from the water to the Piazza is a carabinari bravely entering the Piazza flag flying and on the other side these two women engaged in what appears to be sewing. I wish now I had photographed the plaque explaining it but it seemed to me it had something to do with the World War - the first of that name.

There are places that have meant more to me than Trieste. Wales is where my heart is. A lost England made me. I have had more delicious pleasures in Venice. Manhattan excites me more than Trieste ever could, and so does Sydney. But here more than anywhere I remember lost times, lost chances, lost friends, with the sweet tristesse that is onomatopoeic to the place. What became of that innocent young man I escorted to the brothel on page 123? Dead and gone, and all his horses too, from an English countryside that is no more. The friend who came with me to the schooner on page 69? Still sailing his yacht about the seas, loaded with rank and honour now, but no longer the lithe young bravo who clambered on board with the prosecco that evening. Otto, my natural Triestine, was stabbed to death in Arabia long ago. The woman who slept one dreadful night at the Risiera has gone to her peaceful rest at last. And the stranger I bumped into that day at the Savoia Excelsior? What swinging door is he passing through today, with what arthritic difficulty, and what tender lies is he telling now that he is old and grey?

The ecclesiastical heritage of Trieste is as varied as its history. The Cathedral of San Guisto was built on the site of a Roman basilica and is now a mixture of the modern - a very ugly mosaic over the high altar - and ancient - the very lovely 12th century mosaic (above). The Anglican Church (3rd photo)only holds 6 services a year and the rector comes over from Venice. There is a very strong Orthodox presence - both Greek and Serbian. The Greek cathedral is being restored and extensive work done on its fine fin-de-sciecle mosaics.

Now that I've discovered Morris, Amazon.UK will be showing a profit - I've already ordered her book on Venice, the Pax Britanncia trilogy and Conundrum - her story of her gender dysphoria. And of course I still have much of the Benson books to finish - I really shouldn't be pursuing a job all that seriously when there's so much to read.

Note: All excerpts are from Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere by Jan Morris, Published by Faber and Faber.

07 luglio - San Pancrazio di Taormina

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