Thursday, December 23, 2021

Acqua Alta for Christmas (Two Years Ago Today)

Coming just a month after a record high tide in November, the acqua alta that rolled into Venice shortly before Christmas in 2019 was yet another bitter reminder of just how vulnerable the city remained in spite of the billions of dollars poured into the MOSE flood barriers. For businesses still cleaning up after the November flooding and trying to regain their financial footing, it was like a recurrent nightmare--and seemed like the worst thing that could befall them...

But by February 4 signs of another threat began to appear, and for many of the businesses which had managed to hobble through the end of 2019, this new one would finish them off.


Monday, December 13, 2021

Boating Home A Tree (8 Years Ago Today)

It's debatable whether boating home a Christmas tree is actually a tradition in Venice (I think not), but it became a tradition for us, at least. 

For an account of the debate, and of our purchase of this particular tree, you can get the full story here in "Boating Home a Christmas Tree: Tradition or Folly?"


Saturday, December 11, 2021

Bumper Cars With A View: Venice Pre-Covid

Le Giostre, or the Luna Park along the water, was a post-war Venetian holiday tradition: initially not far from Piazza San Marco, on the Riva degli Schiavoni;; more recently (as above), just east of Via Garibaldi of the Riva dei Sette Martiri. Covid put an end to it all a couple of years ago, and I'm not sure whether it has returned this year, though I suspect (and maybe hope, given the new variant) that it has not. (This photo, which always struck me as a still from a film that never actually existed, was taken January 5, 2015.)

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Today Is the Festa della Salute: Here Are a Dozen Views from Past Years


Today the Festa della Salute is being celebrated at the church of the Salute, which since July has been surrounded by scaffolding and shrouded beneath the acres of material used to conceal all renovations done in Venice from public view--and often to serve as billboards for sale, sometimes even long after renovations have been completed. 

These are images from prior years, a couple of which have not been posted before. For information about the festa and its rituals, both religious and culinary (in the case of the traditional dish of castradina seen in the last image below), look under the date of November 21 on almost any of the archive years in the right margin of this blog.






2016: water from Lourdes stacked in plastic bottles shaped like the Virgin Mary

2014: for Venetian kids, the festa is all about candy (of the cotton variety in this image) and balloons


2016: some people worried about the health and well-being of the city itself

2013: homemade castradina, whose preparation etc is described here

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Optimism or Desperation?

When the air is damper than the laundry you hang out in it, does that mean you're an optimist or merely desperate? (7 January 2016)

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Welcome to Surveillance City

Can Venice survive the second 6-year term of its non-resident Mayor Luigi Brugnaro? (I'm not sure it survived the first)

I'm old enough to remember a time (not long ago, actually) when the thought of being constantly surveilled was the stuff of dystopian fiction. 1984, of course, is the most famous and celebrated example. In the nightmarish world of Winston Smith a citizen can never escape--even in what should be the privacy of his own home--a screen that surveils his every moment and forces upon him a steady stream of propaganda and disinformation. 

Orwell's novel makes it clear that to be in the continual presence of such a screen is nothing less than a form of dehumanizing torture.

But long before a writer could imagine the technology that would enable remote surveillance, the idea of having one's movements constantly monitored seemed a fate so oppressive that it was considered suitable only for a segment of a country's population whose transgressions against the social order were so serious as to be considered justifiable grounds to strip of them of what, during the so-called Age of Enlightenment, had been considered fundamental human rights (like the freedom of movement and association, as well as of privacy).

The form this surveillance took in those early days was Jeremy Bentham's Panopticon: a design for a cylindrical building whose earliest objects of surveillance would be prisoners. 

Though it was perhaps a disturbing sign of things to come, and of our own present day, that its potential applications were almost immediately expanded to institutional (schools and asylums and workhouses) and industrial purposes (factories).

The form this surveillance takes now, in what might be called the full flowering of Bentham's odious idea, is the smart phone. 

And it is a testimony to the diabolical genius of contemporary capitalism that it has been able to transform what George Orwell would have considered an instrument of torture (that is, of constant surveillance) into an alluring object of desire, status, and emotional dependence ("Americans check their smartphones an average of 96 times a day, which works out to once every 15 minutes. Two-thirds of Americans check their phones 160 times every day.")

What brings such thoughts to mind is a recent New York Times piece about Venice which, like most Times pieces on Venice, and many other things, for that matter, evinces little thought at all for a publication that once prided itself on being America's "paper of record":  Venice, Overwhelmed By Tourists, Tries Tracking Them.

I've already written more than I wanted, so I'll leave it to you to make what you wish of the article, noting only that the a-critical implication in this piece that mass surveillance has become something like an inevitable last resort to managing mass tourism in Venice is absurd in a city whose administration has been unwilling to implement the kind of fundamental first steps undertaken in other tourist-ridden places like Barcelona and Amsterdam (eg, a crack down on AirBnB rentals and the conversion of public and residential properties into tourist properties).

The writer of the piece also passes quickly over the money to be made from selling the data mined from Venetian tourists: it's mentioned generally in one sentence and then forgotten. But in a city run by Mayor Luigi Conflict-of-Interests Brugaro, a journalist worthy of the title might want to at least scratch the surface of this matter.

The assumption, of both the Mayor and the article, is that tourists will tolerate anything for the chance to visit the most beautiful city in the world. Will they? Should they?

"If we possess the why of life we can put up with almost any how," Nietszche wrote.

It is assumed that the why--that is, the stated aim--of "saving Venice" (in whatever that form of salvation takes) will justify any how.

I fantasize about a time when both journalists and people in general will devote a little more critical attention to the details of that how part.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Venetian Altane On a Cloudy Day

With the Rialto Bridge just below and a view of San Marco in the distance, these are classic Venetian altane, and are also (not surprisingly) tourist rentals (taken November 19, 2018)

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Sleeping Hard, Rialto

26 May 2018, midnight: even in the fantasy-land and playground that is Venice, with mainland kids coming into the city on weekends to drink and urinate and vomit in the calli, social reality sometimes intrudes.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Boys of Summer, Al Bacan

As our son starts school today in Toronto and summer officially comes to a close for him (and us), here's an image of him and his friends during the height of summer taken at il bacan, the sandbank extending eastwards off Sant' Erasmo, on 27 July 2021

Saturday, August 28, 2021

New Tech, Old Lagoon, or, Solar Panel, Sunlight

This is perhaps one of the least photogenic views of the cemetery island's church of San Michele that is possible, and yet... (taken 13 October 2018)

Friday, August 20, 2021

Waterside Music (Though Not in Venice)

We're still so tangled up in getting settled here in Toronto, that I've still had no time to think of Venice, nor even access photos from earlier in the summer in Venice that I might like to post, nor to really reply to comments. 

But I wanted to share this short clip from Monday evening captured with my wife's smart phone in the park on Kew Beach, on the shore of Lake Ontario.

Earlier in the evening were were walking down a busy street and were surprised to see a guy pedaling a bicycle in the bike lane and pulling a cart behind him with what looked to be a little baby grand piano built into it (what's the proper term for a grand-piano-shaped instrument smaller than a baby grand? A new-born grand? A preemie grand?).

We remarked upon it, but it flashed past without us having much time to make much sense of what we saw, nor even begin to imagine where he might be going.

Then about an hour later we encountered the same guy and same piano, as you can see and hear above.  Though the audio, alas, includes as much of a neighboring conversation on a nearby park bench as it does music.

We were only taking a very brief break from errands and so I didn't go close enough to see if he was playing for tips or just for the pleasure of it (though from a distance it appeared to be the latter).   

Saturday, August 7, 2021

180 Degrees of the Grand Canal As Mirror--and An Update

The kind of calm on the Grand Canal that one hopes never to see again: 5 April 2020 during the first lockdown

No, I've not stopped doing this blog, I just haven't had any time to give to it during our long, complicated, and on-going move from Venice to Toronto. 

By this time we'd hoped/planned to be getting settled into a new home, but the apartment in Toronto we rented months ago from a distance turned out, in person, to be no place we could really live. So we are still in a transitional stage, still living mostly out of our suitcases, and once again looking for another home. 

In the meantime, both Toronto and Venice--and any place with any sense (which, alas, leaves out a dismayingly large percentage of my native land)--are doing what they can to fend off or contain a potential fourth wave of Covid infections. 

The surface of Grand Canal so calm as to be mirror-like (as seen in the panorama above) is a rare and wonderful sight, but one that I hope no one will be seeing again because of a pandemic.