Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Funky bass funky bass.

Check out freeman's post about Les Claypool's Frog Brigade and then his review of the concert by Les Claypool and his Fancy Band in Royal Oak, Michigan a few days ago. freeman has been generous enough to provide samples of Les Claypool's music, which do rock, and have a listen particularly to the bits from that recent concert.

You do not want to miss this, people, so be warned: the downloads are only good for 7 days or 25 downloads, whichever comes first. Dawdlers are not winners.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Scooped again.

I bet you didn't know that Jerry Shriver of USA Today is a regular reader of this blog. Goodness knows I was surprised. But how else to explain this article in Friday's paper?

Stately Turin is putting its Games face on
By Jerry Shriver, USA TODAY

TURIN, Italy — Seven months before it enters the world spotlight as host for the XXth Olympic Winter Games, this once-regal city on the banks of the Po River is going through an unfortunate but necessary ugh! phase that temporarily masks some of its baroque beauty.

He goes on to say:
The beautiful Piazza San Carlo, bordered by magnificent arcaded streets, has been torn up to install an underground parking garage.

Scaffolding and tarps cling to some of the stately baroque buildings in the central Piazza Castello area, where many of the medals will be awarded.

Well, dear reader, you read it here first.

He does, however, include a lovely collection of photos along with his article. Go here to see parts of Turin not currently covered with scaffolding. And he points out a number of indoor attractions, things you can still see even with the mass beautification under way. I can personally echo his recommendation of the Museo Egizio, with its amazing collection of Egyptian artifacts and an interesting story to tell about Italian archaeological expeditions in Egypt during the early twentieth century. And I would add the Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, or GAM. (Speaking of creative acronyms....) They have one of the more impressive collections of 19th and 20th century Italian art, centering as you might guess on artists from Torino and environs, but with excellent examples of the rapidly evolving range of styles during that period, and artists like Casorati, Sironi, Balla, and Modigliani. Don't miss it, and then go get yourself some agnolotti. They rock.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Posting will be light.

Guess what finally arrived from the UK in my mailbox today?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


OK, I am ready to take the plunge. I think.

I have decided to train for Nationals. I already have one qualifying time (assuming that this year's time standards don't get too much stiffer) and I hope that during this year's season I can pick up another one.

Is this crazy? Let's see.

1. I have one cut already, dammit. It would be a shame to waste it.
2. The Masters Short Course Nationals take place beginning 2 days after my spring grades are due. Is this a sign? It might be.
3. I have a base layer already, from this past year's work, that would mean that I would not need to step up the swimming quantity so much as train with a little more focus. And because my two events would be 100 BR and 200 BR, there is room for focus there.
4. I have the training infrastructure in place, in the form of a team and a good coach who is game to help me pursue this goal--plus the available practice times actually work with the rest of my life.
5. I have had regular and serious training as a part of my life in years past, when I was trying to be a triathlete, before my calf pointed out that I am not a runner.
6. This kind of goal can be very motivating on those days when I do not feel like going to practice.
7. I don't have to train backstroke! This is good for everyone, because no one should have to see that.

1. The sabbatical is over, Sister, and you would do well to keep in mind that you will have significantly less energy to devote to sports during this academic year.
2. It will require care to maintain not only the training schedule but also some semblance of a healthy diet.
3. Might need to cut back on the drinking. :o
4. The new time standards will be available in September, it seems, and I do not even know yet whether my 200 breaststroke time from last year will be fast enough for this year's cut.
5. Do I want the pressure of this goal in my life?

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Advice to travelers

Welcome me home. Yes, after a fine honeymoon, with no groom, and after a couple of rough days of travel, I am home, home again. Without plans for big trips for a while. Whew.

But before I leave topics Italian completely, let me offer you one piece of advice.

If you want to visit an Olympic host city, do so after the games, not before.

Torino, capital of the Italian Piemonte region, will host the 20th Olympic Winter Games in February 2006. The city is psyched: there are special Olympic Stores all over the place, not to mention the ubiquitous rings and stylized torch in front of the Porta Nuova train station.

But unless you are more interested in seeing construction sites than touristic sites, you might rather not be part of the lead-up frenzy.

Touristic. That is one of those words we don't really use in English. In fact, per my dictionary, the adjectival form of "tourist" is "tourist." (It can be an adverb too--how efficient.) But because Italians can talk about "siti touristici," then their pamphlet translations use this new specially adjectivized form of the word. So presto, now it is an English word, and I kind of like it.

If you have traveled in Europe recently, then you have seen the new way of handling sites under restoration. Used to be there would just be plain old scaffolding over the thing being fixed. But is a Tyvec-wrapped scaffold any substitute for the actual facade of the cathedral in Orvieto? And if you have traveled thousands of miles to see the thing, is the greater cultural enrichment of Europe really what you are thinking of as you stand there in the square, your camera lowered?

So now those scaffolds are hidden in boxes, covered with some kind of sign material, often including a photo of the thing that is in restauro. For instance, this beautiful bridge across the Po has bronze statues at its four corners, allegories of Piety, Valor, Art and Industry. Now there is an allegory of Restoration--complete with its generous donors, each of whom gets space on the box for a logo. See? This way you get to see the statue even while it is being worked on--see it in that Age of Mechanical Reproduction kind of way. What might Walter B. say has happened to the statue's aura?

I am all in favor of new underground parking decks to replace the use of Turin's magnificent baroque piazzas as parking lots, but trust me that having an espresso in one of the city's famous cafes is not the same with a different view.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

La festa di Nostra Signora di Montallegro

Last night I saw the coolest fireworks show. No, it was not an early 4th of July hoohah, although it turns out that my present home had its own fireworks display last night, much to my cats' dismay.

No, this was a fireworks show celebrating deliverance from the plague, a part of a festival held in Rapallo every year on 1, 2, 3 July, giving thanks to the Madonna of Montallegro.

The evening started off with three boats in the Tigullian harbor sending off little lights into the sea. Each boat must have released hundreds of the thing, over the course of a couple of hours, and watching their small lights float away was so serene. Very different from what would come next.

Namely, the firings of mortaletti, an ancient type of firework traditional to Rapallo. Each of the sestieri, or quarters of Rapallo puts together its own display, trying to outdo the others.

I happened to be watching from just above the fifteenth-century Castello right on the harbor, and beside it was the staging area for the display given by the Sestiere Borzoli, whose pirotechnicians all wore red shirts, and their area is marked off with red pendants. They have even painted a very cool shield on the pavement there by the beach.

Sometimes they would fire off one or two mortaletti, but a few of their firings involved multiples, strung together with paths of gunpowder. They would fire off a round, and then all around the harbor, the other sestieri would fire theirs. Ssome of them were too far away for me to see anything, but for some I could see puffs of smoke after the BOUM or else a few sparks and then the BOUM. But for the sestiere Borzoli, I had to plug my ears.

Their grand finale was impressive, even though I could see in advance what they had planned: a path of single mortaletti, then a small cluster, then a few more, then a double path leading up to an enormous conglomeration of the things. From the time when the guy with the long lighting wand walked over, to the end of the sequence, was fairly short, but full of fire and noise.

After all the mortaletti was a visual show over the harbor, and although my view was not perfect, I could see pretty well, and after all, I was in my room, not standing in an enormous crowd. Did I mention that all this was happening at 11:30 p.m.? For a lame-o like me, standing in the crowd would have been a strain, but from my very own room? As long as I hid behind the door to my balcony, I could even stand outside a little bit, even though the polizia had been yelling for people to watch from indoors. There must have been quite a danger for Italian police to be monitoring things!

And the fireworks were magnificent. It was strange, as an American, to see them for a religious festival, as they always seem to have Stars and Stripes Forever in the background, instead of Ave Maria. And even the choice of the O Fortuna opening from Carl Orffàs Carmina Burana did not seem strange in a festival dating back hundreds of years and celebrating the delivery from the plague.

Look here for more about the festa, the fireworks, and the sestieri. If you donàt read Italian, follow the link to the GALLERY for a bunch of great photos.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Italy = not a picnic

OK, Horvus A. Callithumper has shamed me into a quick post. I had thought maybe I would take a little break from the web, but no no no I could not resist checking in, and there are comments from mtnRoughneck and even Anonymous, so OK.

If this post looks strange, it is because I am typing while wearing sunglasses. Oh yes, and the funny diacriticals in unexpected places on Italian keyboards.

I can offer anyone planning to travel a few pieces of advice.

1. If your several-years-old glasses break at some point while you are in the comfort of your own home, and it seems easy enough to fix them with superglue, go ahead and fix them, but then really you should get yourself some new frames. You do not want the little arm to break off afresh while you are in a foreign land, particularly when you have recently arrived and you do not have anything else to wear or any tools or any recent sleep.

2. If possible, when traveling overseas, do not check your bag, especially if you are planning to travel lightly anyway. Sure, sure, I hear you about not wanting to lug the thing around in airports, and about worrying whether there will be room for it in the overhead bin, and about how you want to bring you handy Swiss Army knife along. Get rid of those thoughts immediately, for they only lead you down the path of pain and suffering. After all, many airlines see getting your checked bag on YOUR FLIGHT as an unnecessary bonus, especially when they are about to go bankrupt.

3. Believe what it says on tubes of superglue (or colla rapida, as they say here in Italia) about the glue working fast and sticking to skin. Especially believe it when you are considering, given your lack of any pins or similar items, whether to try to bite off the little tiny end piece on a tube of superglue. Especially since biting off that little end piece exposes more glue than a little pinprick would.

4. On a happier note, remember that there is little that a shower and a good night's sleep won't make tolerable. Even better if you can combine that with clean teeth, newly acquired deodorant, and a clean shirt and undies.

5. Even happier, sometime before you die, take the train from Roma to Rapallo. Somewhere around Pisa you start seeing beautiful mountains on the inland side of the route, and a little north of there the route veers west so that you are barely not in the Mediterranean. You go in and out of tunnels, since the coastline is mountainous, and each time you come out you get a stunning sight off to your left, that clear blue of the Med. Gorgeous. And the little towns along your right are all painted in those gorgeous oranges and pinks that look horrid anywhere but this kind of light.

6. And if you ever stay in the Hotel Italia e Lido in Rapallo, spring for the camera vista mare, with the sea view. I figured it might just be a tiny glimpse out of one corner of the window if you are the right height and the stars are perfectly aligned, but in fact it is splendid, with the Castello, the beach, and the sweeping coastline all right outside your window. I wonder if I'll be able to see the lights tomorrow night, when they are all set afloat in celebration of the festa of Nostra Signora di Montallegro, and maybe the fireworks, too. I hope they are visible through my prescription sunglasses.

p.s. to Tim: here in Rapallo, the weather is perfect. Heh.