Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Martidi Musciale

A bit early with the music for the week but tomorrow is July 1st and that demands special music. Hands up everyone who wanted to be on American Bandstand - actually maybe it would be better to say: Hands up anyone who even remembers American Bandstand! I can put my hand up for both - but then I'm old. Apparently Shirley Ellis was more than a one hit wonder but it was the "The Name Game Song" that she is best remembered for.

Which brings up the subject of names. My friend Cathy was wondering where people got the various names they leave comments under. Well Uncle Pervy was the easiest to explain: a few years back one of my oldest friends, Blake, agreed to look after Reesie for a month while I was in Vietnam. When he first came into the house and approached the Reeserman, he was greeted with a look that pretty much said: who is this pervert and why is he touching me? Reese was good with that sort of look. Ever after Blake was known as Uncle Pervy. And Reesie became very attached to his Uncle Pervy.

She also questioned where I got the title for my blog. I only wish I could claim credit for the witty play on words but that was a nickname given to me years ago by my colleague Sue at Air Canada. She had a dry wit, a sharp sense of humour and a nickname for everyone.

So where did your comment nickname, blog title or nom d'internet come from?

30 giugno - Protomartiri della chiesa di Roma

Monday, June 29, 2009

Nicky News

Just so his Uncle Pervy and everyone who sent messages won't worry, Nicky is doing much much better. It looks like he may have eaten something at the kennel that he shouldn't have or maybe even on one of our walks - because if you want proof that dogs are scavengers all you have to do is walk Nicky. He has developed a love of pebbles amongst other things. Of course at that stage of puppydom if you can't play with it you must be able to eat it!

Anyway he is on the mend - his tummy is settling, his energy he never lost and he is still fighting with Nora for sovereignty over the doggie bed.

29 giugno - Santi Pietro e Paolo

Saturday, June 27, 2009

And Now For A Word ...

... not from our sponsors but from me. I probably won't be posting for a day or two - its just been too hectic around here. We've had a visit from our friend Cathy, always a pleasure to have company from Canada especially when they bring large jars of Kraft peanut butter, so that has kept me busy; I've been trying to finish a contract so I can get more mad money for opera trips; plus I took on a translation job with Ballet2000 a periodical out of London; and our Nicky has been a bit under the weather which has meant trips to the vets. The phrase "bugger for punishment" keeps running through my head!

Having said that I have a few things in that growing "Drafts" folder - something on this past two weeks at the opera; a picture and word bit on Trieste inspired by Jan Morris's wonderful book Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere; a GVP of the dynamic duo; and a slide show of our tour of the Vatican Gardens. Plus we have Canada Day coming up. Damn the excitement just never ends.

Anyway I'm off to figure out how you translate "Bolle e uno hunk!" into English!

27 giugno - San Ferdinando d'Aragona

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Poster Politic

This poster has appeared all over Roma today.

Here's what it says (not translated word for word but with the intent) with apologies for any of the epithets.

NOTE: I have found a more powerful translation which is an even clearer message:

You call me a dirty nigger or a disgusting lesbian
But you are offended if I call you Mafioso.

Racism (prejudice) is a boomerang.
Sooner or later it comes back to you.

24 giugno - San Giovanni Batista

Mercoledi Musicale

As the month of weddings comes to a close and my friends in various States in the Union debate the definition of marriage here's the incredible Madeline Kahn with the ultimate pre-nuptial jitters from Stephen Sondheim's Company.

Believe it or not as rapid as Kahn is with the patter Beth Howland did it faster and with even clear diction in the original Broadway production.

Now someone throw the bouquet!

24 giugno - San Giovanni Batista

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ain't That Peachy

One of the joys of living in Italy - and though I do occasionally complain there are more than enough joys to make up for the problems and pitfalls - is that fruit and vegetables are still pretty much sold in season. Oh sure we get the Chiquita bananas from god-only-knows-where and the Turkish figs in October but still much of the produce is local and in season. Italian figs have just appeared on the market and peaches, which my Sri Lankan fruttivendelo (greengrocer) assures me are Italian, are showing up.

I had never seen those little squash shaped peaches before but a quick Googling revealed that they are called Pan Tao or Peen To. Apparently they are also being marketed as Donut peaches because you can push the pit out leaving a donut shape. Whatever they are called they are delicious - white fleshed, sweet and soft without being mushy. And the skin is almost fuzzless - sorry but peach fuzz gives me the shivers.

I am thinking they are the perfect candidate for the simplest of Italian deserts - peaches soaked in wine. Just the thought of it is enough to send me tumbling off the wagon!

23 giugno - Santi Martiri di Nicomedia

Monday, June 22, 2009

Lunedi Lunacy

I felt a bit like this on Saturday when I phoned my bank help desk about an international transfer.

22 giugno - San Tommaso Moro

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Pope's Tile Store

Every so often I get a chance to visit something here in Roma that is not accessible to the populus generalus: the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel after hours with a small group; the Headquarters of the Knights of Malta; a long buried Mithraeum; the monastery garden at St Croece; the Scavi under St Peter's; and just last week the Mosaic Factory in the Vatican City.

Not to make it sound too exclusive, these sort of special visits are available for everyone, it just takes some fore thought, some planning and a bit of knowing how to arrange it.

Next on the list - this coming Friday a visit to the Vatican Gardens with our friend Cathy.

Interesting note: One of the major tasks the Vatican Mosaic Factory faces on a monthly basis is replacing tiles in the dome of the Basilica. While up there many tourists have a habit of chipping off pieces to take home as souvenirs.

20 giugno - Sant'Ettore

Thursday, June 18, 2009

What a Frenzied Moment That Was!

Didn't they maintain an exhausting pace?
'Twas a thrilling, absolutely chilling
Running of the Ascot op'ning race.
Ascot Gavotte - My Fair Lady
Alan Jay Lerner

My darling OC posted some fun photos from Ascot Opening Day with the usual assortment of haute and not so haute millinery that has become de rigeur.

I was reminded of a wondrous hat that Dame Edna Everage wore back in 1976.

A lovely replica of the Sydney Opera House - sail boats and sharks in the bay included. Dame Edna could get away with that sort of thing - some of the ladies that OC has posted pictures of can't.

18 giugno - Santa Marina

This Week's GPP! or Is That MPP*

Even though their Uncle Pervy has expressed a preference for a video entry on the weekly Gratuitous Puppy post I'm afraid that just wasn't possible this week. What with being up in Milano in mid-week and a few other things happening here its been impossible to catch the dynamic duo on film. So here they are in uncharacteristic moments of sweet repose - much to the relief of their poor Papa and Gros Pa, who after all are not young pups!
Nicky seems to feel that his tummy is particularly photogenic.

*Mandatory Puppy Pictures

18 giugno - Sant'Erasmo

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Mercoledi Musicale

A sentiment that several people I know are going through right now.

And no one sings it like Bernadette!

Time heals everything
Tuesday, Thursday
Time heals everything
April, August
If I'm patient the break will mend
And one fine morning the hurt will end
So make the moments fly
I'll forget you by
Next year,Some year
Tho' it's hell that I'm going through
Some Tuesday, Thursday
April, August
Autumn, Winter
Next year, Some year
Time heals everything
Time heals everything
But loving you.

So make the moments fly
Autumn, Winter
I'll forget you by
Next year, Some year
Though it's hell that I'm going through
Some Tuesday, Thursday
April, August
Autumn, winter
Next year, Some year
Time heals everything
Time heals everything
But loving you!
Jerry Herman - Mack and Mabel

17 giugno - San Ranieri

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

By Altichiero

The trouble with living in a place with so much going on is that you see things advertised, you turn to someone and say "we really must see ...." and then when you turn around its left town. It happened with the Bellini exhibition last year and several others that we just managed to miss. The Giotto e Il Trecento has been on since late March and is due to close the end of this month. My friend Simonetta and I started talking about going sometime in April and finally yesterday managed to brave the heat, and at a time when only mad dogs and Englishman should be out, ventured down to the Vittoriano for a look.

The problem with Giotto is that he was better at frescoes than anything else and its difficult to cart a wall away from a church - they get a bit shirty when you suggest it. So though there were several fine frescoes most of the Giotto work were his altar pieces etc; and frankly at the risk of being stoned, though he is a great fresco painter, I find much of the rest of his work static and at time unmoving. However the crafty curators solved that with the Trecento tag - Giotto and the 1300s. As a result much of what I, personally, found moving or interesting were works by his students.
Madonna con bambino (1370-1384) - Altichiero
Affresco staccato diametro 55 cm
Padova, Parrocchia degli Eremitan

And both of us were totally captivated by this sublime Madonna con bambino by Altichiero di Zevio, a follower if not a student of Giotto. Though the hands have that elongated appearance so typical of the Master from Bondone, the features have a more human look. To my eye this is a portrait of a loving mother and an adoring child as much as it is a representation of a spiritual subject.

16 giugno - Santi Quirico e Giulitta

Monday, June 15, 2009

Lunedi Lunacy

Here is a little something my nephew sent me that is indisputable mathematical logic. Somehow it seemed appropriate at the moment and it also gave me a chuckle. This is a strictly mathematical viewpoint...it goes like this:

What Makes 100%? What does it mean to give MORE than 100%? Ever wonder about those people who say they are giving more than 100%? We have all been to those meetings where someone wants you to give over 100%. How about achieving 103%? What makes up 100%?

Here's a little mathematical formula that might help you answer these questions:


Is represented as:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26

8+1+18+4+23+15+18+11 = 98%

11+14+15+23+12+5+4+7+5 = 96%

1+20+20+9+20+21+4+5 = 100%

2+21+12+12+19+8+9+20 = 103%

And, look how far ass kissing will take you:
1+19+19+11+9+19+19+9+14+7 = 118%

So, one can conclude with mathematical certainty, that while Hard work and Knowledge will get you close, and Attitude will get you there, its the Bullshit and Ass kissing that will put you over the top!

15 giugno - San Vito

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Hey Devin! Welcome to the World!

The newest member of our family of friends arrived on June 10th at 6:10 pm. Devin Ognjen weighed in at 3 kilos and 150 grams and 51 cm tall. Marija is doing just fine and Darryl is already trying to show the kid how to grill the perfect hamburger. And big brother Tyler Vuk has sung him his first lullaby - in Serbian.

The hospital photographer was trying to convince Darryl that it would be better for him to take the photos - more professional, better equipment yada yada yada! Myself I like Papa Fidelak's photos. It takes a new dad to capture the moment!

Tyler Vuk isn't too sure about this new brother thing - he's awfully small!

But he is awfully cute and he seems fairly impressed with his big brother.

However there obviously came a time when Devin Ognjen had it with the paparazzi. No more photos! Devin Ognjen has left the building. (That's Grandma helping protect him from the press.)

14 guigno - Sant'Eliseo

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Wanton Distruction

For six of the seven years that I lived there I was involved with the Aylmer Heritage Association (AHA). It is a group dedicated to saving the architectural patrimony of Aylmer, a town with one of the richest stock of heritage buildings in the Ottawa Valley. Founded in 1810 by a small group of Scots Methodists from New England the town thrived as a lumbering community and staging post for trips up the Ottawa River. As it developed Irish immigrants and French Canadians came in as labourers and workers; prosperous merchants built large stylish homes and all the businesses that were necessary for a town to prosper and grow were opened.

Given the background of the town founders it stands to reason that the first house of worship was a Methodist Chapel - a lovely building recently restored and the headquarters of the AHA. Churches of other faiths followed and in 1838 Charles Symmes, one of the city fathers and an ardent Methodist, gave land for the expressed purpose of building a Catholic church - he may not have agreed with the way his staff worshiped but he wanted them to worship! The first St Paul's was destroyed by fire in 1892 and a new church built in 1893. In the Gothic style so favoured at the time, the interior was richly adorned and painted and the steeple reached for the heavens.

In the 1800s St Paul's steeple was a landmark to travellers on both sides of the river whither arrival was by steamer or stage coach. And was still an indication that I was near home when I was coming back from trips up the Valley a full century later. I always knew I was almost there when I could see that steeple. That will no longer be the case.

Early on the morning of June 11th a fire broke out in the back of the church and within hours, no doubt fed by the old wood interior, St Paul's had become an empty stone shell. It appears, from evidence and witness accounts, that the fire was an act of arson. The purposeful destruction of historical buildings is not unknown in the town but normally that would be when it stood in the way of some developer's plans. This was a working and active parish church with a good size congregation and was in the process of being restored. Why anyone would want to destroyed it is a mystery.

An investigation is under way and it appears an arrest is imminent. But if found and then convicted what punishment do you give to someone who has destroyed a piece of history? What is a fitting sentence when the heritage of a place is wantonly destroyed? What do you get for taking the heart out of a community?

13 giugno - Sant'Antonio di Padova

Friday, June 12, 2009


Its been a while since I've shared some of my favorite posts with you but its not because there's been a lack of things out there just that there's been a lot going on here. I am still visiting and enjoying all my regulars plus a few new ones. I don't mean to be jingoistic here but Laurent has decided to try his hand at blogging. He's got one called Larry Muffin At Home - and don't even ask where the Muffin comes from!

Aside from his new blog I also have two postings that I read this week that effected me very much. Both from my dear friend Elizabeth. Liz was the first person who ever asked to use something from my blog and from that simple e-mail request a friendship developed. She's a remarkable lady with remarkable talents, not the least of which is her writing.

  • When I read this posting earlier this week I so wished in my heart that it would be what happened in every family, though sadly I know that is not the case.
  • The events this week at the Holacaust Memorial in Washington were frightening and paint a sad picture of the state of a nation; Elizabeth was close enough to those events that they resonated with her and her family.

The first post fills me with hope, the second despair.

12 giugno - Giovanni da San Facondo González de Castrillo

Thursday, June 11, 2009

This Week's GPP!

So I come back from vacation and go into the office expecting to be greeted with questions about the trip and what do I get? How are the puppies? ... Did Nicky and Nora miss you? ... Did they remember who you were? ... What about the dogs, were they okay?

Hey come on this was my trip! The dogs stayed stationary I was seeing all sorts of wonderful things; they ate their regular puppy chow I was having grilled sea bass and ! But do you think anyone is interested - nah.

So here's the report: The pups did just fine. They did remember us but have forgotten everything they learned about house training! We are now back to square one - or at least square one and a half with that.

We stopped off on the way home Sunday to see our friends Linda and Nazareno and sat on their terrace having coffee. Or at least I tried to have coffee as neither Nicky nor Nora wanted to leave my lap.

And once we got home they lost no time in letting us know what exactly they thought of my duffel bag!
I guess the idea is that the next time we pack them too!

11 giugno - San Barnaba apostolo

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Perché non?

I’ve always hated the conditional tense, particularly the past conditional: would have, could have, and should have are such sad conjugations. And I find as I get older than I like them less and less.

I was mentioning to a colleague today that I’d decided to go up to Milano next Wednesday to catch the last performance of the Robert Carsen production of Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at La Scala. She casually asked how long I planned on staying – with that slight raised eyebrow that most Southerners give you when you mention spending any time in Milano. When I said just overnight, she gave me an astounded look and said: All that way for one night? You’re mad you know?

And I guess in a way I am. So far I’ve journeyed up to Milano, Bologna, Reggio Emilia, Parma, Torino and Genova for short periods of time to go to operas or theatre that I particularly wanted to see. But in discussing with Laurent– who often can’t accompany me because of work – whither I should go or not, his response has always been: Why not?

And why not indeed? If I don’t take advantage of the opportunities that are being presented I'm the only one losing. Probably in two years time it will be back to Canada, the winter cold of Ottawa and the mundane existence of a Civil Servant. La Scala, Salzburg, a box at the Opera and travel to the Dolomites, Greece and the Adriatic coast will all be in the past tense. And I would rather that not be past conditional.

And frankly I am getting too old to want to have regrets about not doing something. And not meaning to sound dramatic – Cecilia you know this is to set your mind at rest – but given the on-going health issues, more a matter of not being able to find the parts on E-bay than anything else, I should be making hay while the old sol is shining.

So next Wednesday I will board the 0930 AV for Milano, arrive 4 hours later, check into the Hotel Felice, meander around the neighbourhood, head down to Scala around 1800, get my ticket, grab a bite to eat in the Galleria and be sitting in my palcho at 2000 when Sir Andrew Davies mounts the podium. Next morning after a leisurely breakfast I’ll leave Milano Centrale at 1130. God and the deities of train travel willing I’ll be back in the house by 1600 – much lighter of wallet but a bit higher of heart.

And notice at no point in that last paragraph did I use the conditional – future or past. I really don’t like the conditional tense.

These pictures are from the Carsen Dream when it was presented last year in Athens - my good friend Parsifal took them. For more a few more just click here. It is an incredibly beautiful production.

10 giugno - Santa Diana

Mercoledi Musicale

Sadly Mildred Bailey seems to be largely forgotten today but in the 30s-50s she was known as Mrs Swing!

She recorded "I'm Nobody's Baby" in April of 1940.

Here she is in March 1937 singing one of her standards - Old Rockin' Chair.

10 giugno - Santa Diana

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Trieste - The Art of the Carver

The art of wood working has always held a fascination for me - perhaps because I spent so many weekends watching my father at his work bench. Though his work was not that of a master craftsman it was always a wonder to me that he could take a few pieces of wood and turn them into something useful or decorative for our house.

The Castello San Giusto had some lovely examples of craftsmanship from the 17th century.

I’m not sure what the intended allegory was on these six door panels but the proud warriors in the bottom two don’t seem to be unduly concerned with the safety of the young lady at the top. And frankly the satyrs seem more interested in their wine and pipe playing than ravishing anyone.

These two lovely chests are from slightly different periods - a left click with give a close up of the detailing on each.

The doorways of the castle are decorated with grotesque fauna and fanciful flora. And pillars around the main doors repeat the motif.

Of similar quality is the workmanship on these ivory powder horns and the ivory handled crossbow.

09 giugno - Sant'Efrem il Siro

Monday, June 08, 2009

Villach - Church Humour?

Villach is a strange little Austrian town close to the Italian border. As a Nazi hold out at the end of World War II it was subject to intense bombing and much in the city was destroyed. According to Wikpedia: the town was bombed 37 times by the Allies. About 42,500 bombs killed 300 people and damaged 85% of the buildings, nevertheless the city quickly recovered.

It's a pleasant town but there was really very little of great interest - an Austrian lady I met on the train to Udine was astounded I’d even spend a night there. However the Post Hotel had a remarkably good dining room and perhaps on something other than the Whitsun Monday holiday it would have been more active and attractive.

However the parish church of St Jakob was interesting if for nothing more than some unintentional humour.

Laurent’s first impression of the ceiling? It looks like pretzels!

Is it just me or do the two figures on either side of Christ seem to be pointing with a “He’s the Man!” attitude? Or am I just imaging things?

I know that the idea behind this pulpit is The Tree of Jesse but I kept thinking it may also be a comment on the quality of the sermons being preached from it. I'm not sure I would want to hold forth from a podium with a sleeping man under it, it could give parishioners ideas!

08 guigno - San Massimino

Lunedi Lunacy

This is from one of those catch-all films the studios use to put out that allowed their stars to make cameos and earn their keep when not making features. Here's two of the greatest comedians of the time, or maybe any time!

08 giugno - San Medardo

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Trieste - Michez and Jachez

I might get arguments from my friends Simonetta, Marco, Walter or Vincenzo, who after all know the country better than I, but I honestly think that Trieste’s Piazza Unità d'Italia is the loveliest square in all of Italy. Grand buildings and pleasant cafes on three sides and open to the Adriatic on the fourth it has a lightness that I don’t recall in any other piazza so far in my travels.

And it has Michez and Jachez - two sterling chaps, well more bronze than sterling these days - who announce the hour, every hour on the hour, to the good citizens of Trieste. They - or chaps much like them - have been performing that service since the 17th century. The Port clock tower was pulled down in 1838 and the original pair relegated to the junk heap to the very vocal horror of the populace.

When the new city hall was built in 1873 the clock tower was designed to be reminiscent of its ancestor and the new Michez and Jachez (in cast zinc) put into place in January of 1876. They did their job faithfully until, finally worn out by sea salt air and almost a hundred years of non-stop working, they were replaced by bronze replicas in 1972.

The 1876 pair were kept in a warehouse until 2005 when they were restored. After a careful cleaning of the zinc alloy and the iron bearings, all the cracks and holes were filled in and a wax-based protective coating with a a corrosion inhibitor was applied.

Then they were honorably retired to the courtyard of the Castello San Giusto - not required to work but now in peak condition ready at a moments notice to spring into action.

07 giugno - San Candido