Friday, September 15, 2017

Athens

Homeless - street art - Athens, Greece
Exarchia neighborhood

In its own way, Athens is a something of a wreck. Greece has been in an economic tailspin for years now and, at least there, it shows. Of course, the fact that we stayed in Exarchia, (Aug 17/24) a neighborhood the US Embassy advises travelers avoid, amplified that reality. The streets are lined with olive trees but its otherwise post-apocalyptic look and feel is definitely not for everyone. We liked it. We had a quiet flat above a small grocery story and the area has a lot of excellent street art. I even liked the gutter to rooftop crust of weather-beaten posters and layers of graffiti.

Swami at Plato's Academy - Athen's Greece
Swami on the road to Plato's Academy

We stayed seven days so we bought the three day pass and walked to all the main sites, covering some 10 to 15 miles a day. One of my favorite places was the Kerameikos Cemetery. Its earliest tombs date back to 2700-2000 BC.  Even Plato had an Academy there, although there's nothing left of it but a sign and path leading to the face of a small hill upon which apartment buildings now stand. And we went to the Parthenon.

Swami at the Parthenon  - Athens, Greece
The second after I snapped this photo of Swami,
I was busted by a security guard.
He was nice enough but explained that,
in order to reduce traffic jams,
the rules strictly prohibit taking photos with mascotas.

As is so often the case at historical sites, it was roped off for renovation. The Parthenon has endured countless sackings during its 2455 years but the worst was by the Venetians in 1687. Thinking no one would fire upon a site of such historic importance, the Ottomans were using it as ammunition dump. Sadly, they overestimated the Venetian's cultural values and sense of history. Immediately upon hearing about the dump, they shelled the building. The damage was immense. The roof caved in, pillars collapsed, enormous sculptures were destroyed and 300 people were killed. The following year, now themselves facing attack by Ottomans, they fled. They considered blowing up the entire Acropolis before leaving but, lucky for us, did not.

The Parthenon -  Athens, Greece
The Acropolis, Athens Greece

During high season, there's no beating the crowd. Five cruise ships were in port the day we visited. I'm glad we went but, really, I think the most inspiring views are from a distance.

Swami viewing the Acropolis - Athens, Greece
Swami viewing the Acropolis


To be continued....

Monday, September 4, 2017

And now the Balkans

We're currently in the Balkans. I know very little about this area. I'm not even certain which countries are in the Balkans. Opinions differ, plus it depends on which century you're referring to. The one thing people do seem to agree on is that they're in eastern and southeastern Europe.

In general, the Balkans

The history here is wildly complicated but one thing I have learned is that, from the 15th century, most of the Balkans were under Ottoman rule for about 500 years. By the mid-20th century Balkan countries, free of Ottoman influence began experimenting with socialism and communism. Today, the Balkan countries are all more or less democratic but still very raw. Romania, where we are now, only got rid of its strong man dictator in 1989.

But back to now. On August 9, we took the train from Venice to Slovenia, our first country in the Balkans. We stayed three days there, in Ljubljana - then five in Belgrade (Serbia) - six in Athens and five in Thessaloniki (Greece), and then five days in Sofia (Bulgaria). Now, after a ten hour train from Sofia to Bucharest, we're in Romania for 11 days . . . five in Bucharest then on to Brasov for six including, of course, Transylvania. It's hard to keep up with all this here. We're out every day and when I'm online, sadly, the current Trump and Republican shit show in America occupies a fair amount of my attention. Paltry as they be, the following notes are all I've got for now.

Our apartment in Ljubljana was a tiny quasi-fascist era flat, very basic but good internet, quiet, centrally located, with a very friendly host, an American fellow married to a Slovenian. And Ljubljana itself is a nice town built along a river in an area first settled about 2000 B.C. According to legend, it is guarded by dragons. It's a very livable place, with pedestrian streets, lively open air cafes and markets. There's even an anarchist neighborhood in Ljubljana famous for its graffiti, art projects and night life. Luckily, the world wars of the 20th century mostly bypassed Ljubljana though it was under fascist rule from WWII until 1991 which, predictably, left it somewhat bleak.

Reminder of war - Belgrade, Serbia
Sad reminder of the Kosovo War
Belgrade, Serbia

Belgrade was a different story. Its history dates back to at least 7000 BC and, because of its strategic location at the confluence of the Danube and Sava rivers, it has endured 115 wars and been razed to the ground 44 times, including by Attila the Hun in 471. Most recently, 1999, Belgrade was bombed again, this time for 78 days straight during the Kosovo War by both sides in the conflict.

Downtown Belgrade - Serbia
Downtown Belgrade with bombed out building
Serbia

It was eerie being in a city my "own" country helped bomb. I could see the remains of a bombed out building from the window of our flat. And, as if that were not spectral enough, on what had been the fourth or fifth floor, a house nestled in the hollow of the building's skeleton. There were bombed out buildings in the center of town as well. I kept reminding myself that I am simply another bystander along the road as history marches by but, after hearing our tour guide's take on things, I have the distinct impression that poor Belgrade, hanging by its hinges, disagrees.


To be continued . . .

Friday, August 25, 2017

Thessaloniki church crawl

That's it for today. Will catch up later.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Bullshit

Sick and tired of bullshit GOP and Trump clown show? Princeton Professor Emeritus Harry Frankfurt runs it down. Don't miss it.


BULLSHIT! from Think Nice on Vimeo.

Harry Frankfurt is an American philosopher and author of the New York Times Best Seller "On Bullshit". Although first conceived as an essay over 30 years ago, his theory on bullshit is more relevant than ever before.


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Venice, truth and illusion

Venice, Italy

Venice - one fish eating another?

What can I say that hasn't been said about Venice a million++ times? And, of the hundreds of photos I took of Venice, what can I post that isn't already a cliche? But we were there for the two weeks straddling July and August so, for my own record, I leave mention.

Merchant in Venice 1 - Venice shop, Italy
Merchant in Venice

For starters, I don't know which will destroy Venice first, sea rise due to human caused climate change or us humans tromping through it's crumbling maze. Beautiful, timeworn, sea-wrecked Venice.


Venice with cruise ship - Italy
Venice, Italy with cruise ship

It's listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site yet is "close to losing its hallowed status in exchange for a place on the "In-Danger" list - a category normally reserved for war-ravaged ruins and dilapidated historical sites in Third World countries".

Venitian wall -  Italy
Venetian wall

What hope is there for poor Venice? I think of myself as fairly savvy about these things but still that didn't stop me from touching a brick in one of its ancient walls then being "startled" when red silt gushed from it like blood from a wound.

Asha - Venezia 2017
Damn.
I really am part of the problem.
photo by anonymous

Of course, like everyone else, we were put off by the hoards of other tourists. Some 70,000+ people pour into Venice daily even though it's more an apparition than a place. However, most are day trippers or cruise ship passengers there only for a few hours. The majority want to see the same things so, if you're willing to walk, you can explore Venice more or less on your own. That's what we did. It's what we always do.

Gondola tours - Venice Italy
Gondola jam

We did not take a gondola. It costs about €80 per boat ($95 US). At twilight, the price goes up to around €100. However, we did take the Grand Canal ferry. That cost us €7 each. Never mind we got on the wrong boat, an island hopper, and missed the canal altogether. We rode it to the end and hopped a return ferry which did go through the Grand Canal. I highly recommend it.

"Support" - 57th Venice Biennale, Italy
- Support -
Sculpture by Lorenzo Quinn
as seen from the ferry.
57th Venice Biennale

On our last two days there we attended the 57th Venice Biennale. Since it began in 1895, the venue has grown so huge, it is now more of an expedition into strange lands than anything resembling an "art show". The exhibits are organized by country and the two main locations alone house miles of art . . . installations, performance, cinema, music, spectacle from around the world.

Asha Venezia 2017 n
Roberto Cuoghi, The Imitation of Christ
photo: anonymous

Also, the grounds themselves are historic and fascinating. And, beyond the two main venues, small exhibitions are tucked into various buildings within the city maze. We stumbled onto a few but missed most.



Recorded in the Venice Arsenale.
I love the sound the old building makes.
video by anonymous

If you travel at all, are thinking of trying it out, are an artist, lover of art, lover of spectacle, a history buff or whatever, consider attending the next Biennale in 2019. I hope by then Venice will have established daily tourist caps. In any case, if you plan on going, plan ahead.

Gondola - Venice, Italy
Venice at twilight

More photos here.


Saturday, August 5, 2017

Cimitero Monumentale

I didn't intend to but I spent all morning reading and commenting about Trump again. So irritating. It's such a flaming shit show. Everyday there's a new outrage. I'm glad Mueller has finally impaneled a grand jury. They've got to nail these bastards.

OK. Breathe. Breathe.


Kiss of Death
Kiss of Death

Now . . . back to Milan.

Monumental Cemetery (Cimitero Monumentale di Milano) Italy
One of the grander tombs

Of all that I saw in Milan, the Cimitero Monumentale (Monumental Cemetery) was the most remarkable. This cemetery, founded in 1866, houses acres of amazing works in marble . . . everything from ornately carved name plates, portraits, busts, and figures to entire scenes, obelisks, and sepulchers. The artistry rivals many, if not most, museum pieces I've ever seen.


Milan, Italy - Cimitero Monumentale


Some of the tombs depict the life, others betray the vanity, of the dearly departed. More importantly, most are extraordinarily expressive, making love, in life and in death, visceral.

The crypt of Zaira Brivio - Milan, 1896
The tomb of Zaira Brivio
B. 1876 -- D. 1896

For both of us, the most moving crypt in the entire cemetery was the tomb of Zaira Brivio, a 16 year-old girl who died in 1896. We lingered at her grave awhile, saddened by its beauty and the love expressed by her bereft family.

The crypt of Zaira Brivio - Milan, 1896
The tomb of Zaira Brivio
B. 1876 -- D. 1896

On another day, we visited Milan's Brera Art Gallery (Pinacoteca di Brera). The museum's collection was not the best but there were highlights. My favorite was Caravaggio's Supper at Emmaus,

Supper at Emmaus by Caravaggio - Milan, Italy
Supper at Emmaus by Caravaggio
Pinacoteca di Brera museum - Milan, Italy

M. Lee's was an early perspective painting by Jacopo Tintoretto - St Mark Working Many Miracles

Jacopo Tintoretto - St Mark Working Many Miracles
attribution: Tintoretto [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


This summer we are moving around a lot more than usual. Since July 4, we've been in London a week, Basel Switzerland a week, Milan a week and now, many many photos later, we've been in Venice for almost two weeks. It's very hot. This Wednesday we leave for Ljubljana, Slovenia.


Saturday, July 29, 2017

Milano

The best part of Milan was having dinner on a warm July evening with new friends in a pleasantly crowded courtyard cafe. It all felt very Italian until I declined the after-dinner coffee although, to their credit, everyone graciously pretended they weren't dismayed by my response. I was sorry to drop out of the flow but I like to sleep at night.

It's certainly not that I don't like coffee. I drink coffee by the mugful. It's one of the few things most of us Americans still agree on, the mug, though it's not so important in the rest of the world. We've stayed in over 50 Airbnb apartments, mostly outside the US, and of those only a couple were stocked with American-sized mugs. And, if you're traveling outside the US, forget about refills. If you want more coffee you buy another cup, full price. Say what you will about the treasonous dimwit and crew currently infesting the White House, at least in America it's possible to find a diner that still pours the proverbial endless cup. Not to say Italians don't love coffee. It ranks not far below the hallowed wine itself, but no sloshing gallons for them. In Italy coffee is a ritual so, as M. Lee recently forwarded me the Ten Commandments of Coffee, I've included them here for your convenience, should you be planning a first trip to Italy.

Crypt of St. Ambrose - Milan
Skeletons of St. Ambrose and his two companions

Beyond that dinner, the Basilica of St. Ambrose (Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio) was one of my two favorite sites in Milan. The 1600 year-old basilica doesn't look that impressive from the outside. Its decorative plaster and bright frescoes are long gone leaving bare brick which makes it seem more like a garden house than important historical site.
 
I had to remind myself that St. Ambrose built his cathedral in the 4th century, 800 years before Cambodia's crumbling Angkor Wat was built which, by comparison, seemed so much older. Of course, over the centuries, parts of the basilica have also collapsed, been torn down, re-built, built up or over. It's like George Washington's axe which is said to be the very one young George used to chop down the legendary cherry tree, though it's had several new handles and heads. 

White slippers cover St. Ambrose's feet.
The foot bones of one of his companions are exposed.

St. Ambrose died in Milan in 397 and he, and his two companions, have laid in the crypt below the alter ever since—give or take a few centuries during which time they disappeared.

Next . . . the Cimitero Monumentale.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Basel lion and the strange drifting refrains

Basel, Switzerland


Lion guarding the nave of the 700 year-old Basel Münster (cathedral)


They say life is what you make of it. Yes, it's an irritatingly simplistic saying, an elitist platitude but, even at that, there is something to it otherwise we are dupes only, powerless to shape or influence our reality. So what do I make of life? A favorite view of mine is the surreal. I enjoy dark, ironic, absurdist and/or stupid humor and thrive on life's strange details hidden in plain sight. No wonder then, when I heard creepy organ music wafting from the nave of the 700 year-old built and rebuilt Münster (cathedral) in Basel I had to stop, listen and watch.


Thursday, July 6, 2017

Firewords and another cemetery


4th of July Fireworks  -  Los Angeles

On the 4th of July flew from LA to London where we've been for the last few days, back in our old Finsbury Park neighborhood. This time we're much closer to our favorite halva place, Kofali Hot Nuts. The first day we bought a 2 lb block and have been working on it since. Also since arriving in London we've taken some good walks.

Sunny day in a London cemetery
Lovely day in a London cemetery

For our first outing, needing a good walk to survive the stupor of  jet lag, we went to Kensal Green Cemetery. Nice place to visit. It's a charming mix of history, ruin and repair. Along with some 65,000 others, some English notables are laid to rest there including Charles Babbage, often referred to as the "father of the computer" and playwright and Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter.

Kensal Green Cemetery
Road's end

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Rosie or As the Century Rolls On


The Bird Park has changed in the months we've been away. It's full of cats  . . . and a skunk with a fabulous long flowing tail whom I call Rosie. In the brief time we were back, I put food out as always and good old Maggie Magpie, who ever keeps an eye on the place, showed up for breakfast as always, but she was one of the very few birds daring enough to do so.



Of course, predators have hunted here before but never stayed. Until now, the Bird Park was a relatively peaceful world just for birds. No more and I'm sad about that. I suspect these cats live in the house just over the back fence so they have the place for now. The black one spent most of her time staking out the squirrel hole and all four came and went at will. At various times I chased them away but it won't matter. I'm already gone again for months. Perhaps this is the end of an era.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Happy Summer Solstice

First day of summer. All the mysticism and high holy aspirations aside . . .  do yourself a favor. Pause. Yes. Take a moment or two today to breathe, look around, start fresh. Pass it on.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

On the eve of Comey's testimony . . .

. . .  life goes on . . .

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Why tick tock, zig zag, ding dong, King Kong?

If you're a word geek, there's a delightful article at the BBC by Mark Forsyth I think you'll enjoy. Check it out. "The language we know but don't know we know."

The big bad wolf ie the rule of ablaut reduplication

“Adjectives in English absolutely have to be in this order: opinion-size-age-shape-colour-origin-material-purpose Noun. So you can have a lovely little old rectangular green French silver whittling knife. But if you mess with that word order in the slightest you’ll sound like a maniac. It’s an odd thing that every English speaker uses that list, but almost none of us could write it out.” - Mark Forsyth, BBC

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Freedom, sweet freedom!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Desperate Trump fires Comey

Trump just fired James Comey, the man who was leading the FBI's ongoing investigation of his campaign ties to Russia during the hacked 2016 Presidential election. The Golden Boy's hubris is staggering. He actually does think he's above the law. The truth is he's a brazen, dirty, greedy, smug incompetent.




He might as well have written "GUILTY of TREASON" on his forehead in that crazy scroll of his. The New York Time's calls Trump’s Firing of James Comey as Echoes of Watergate. 

Trump's firing of Comey "echoes of Watergate". - NYT

The NY Times posted a link to the letter Trump sent to the FBI announcing the news of his dismissal of Comey. Fox Fake News ran a different story, of course, claiming Comey resigned until finally it was impossible to deny.

Naturally Fox News initially lied claiming Comey "resigned".

Monday, May 8, 2017

Sally Yates - Jeff Session then and now

Watch Sally Yates kick some swampass then and now. Thanks Parker.


Sunday, May 7, 2017

Crows like Ol' Roy

I don't know how good it is for them but clearly the crows at the Bird Park prefer Ol' Roy puppy chow to other brands. Magpies too. In fact, I tried Pedigree puppy chow and the squirrel was the only one willing to finish it up. And just to be clear, I am not doing a commercial here. I'm noting it in case someone happens upon this post who likes feeding birds and the occasional squirrel. Nothing more. And no. Don't feed birds cat chow. Too rich. Another reason to feed puppy chow is that the bits are smaller therefore easier to swallow. That is all.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Swami and Flat Eric

Rockin' out here tonight . . .



. . . with Swami, his cousin, Flat Eric . . .



. . and Mr. Oizo.







Monday, April 17, 2017

Studio notes: Degas and Henri Roché pastels

Seems that flu I had over the weekend is finally winding down. I spent this morning in my studio and did a couple of quick pencil/pastel drawings. When we're traveling, I put the studio out of mind but being in it is like being in the middle of the world. Now, M. Lee is planning another big trip. The question always is how to the studio with me when we're on the move.


Interview with Isabelle Roché at La Maison du Pastel

Speaking of pastels, when we were in LA last week we saw some of the later pastel works by Degas at The Getty. Also we saw one of Degas's personal cases of (used) pastelsHenri Roché's, handmade in Paris at La Maison du Pastel. I've never work with that brand. My pastels are made either by Pentle, Reeves, or Artist's Loft. They are all cheap and sold in many places. Henri Roché pastels are not. A quick web search put to rest any notion I might switch to them. A single, full-size stick costs 20 Euros, currently that's just over $21 US.

Complete set of Henri Roché pastels
1201 colors
$17,550.00


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Meanwhile, in America . . .

Don Jung Un

 The neighbor is rockin' the country tunes. That means he's outside in his hot tub. Trump rages on. He and Kim Jung Un are in a dick measuring contest. This in Trumpie's first 80 days. We knew that was going to happen. These guys are twins. As for me, I'm sick . . .food poisoning, flu or whatever. Whatever it is, I haven't felt this bad in a long time. I must be getting better though. I've managed a glass a water and this. Now on to the tea.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

What time is it anyway?

The Pacific ocean at dawn and a lone boat far below on the sea.

We checked out of our room in Bangkok in the morning. Our flight left at 2 AM the next morning. We arrived in LA 20 hours later or four hours later by the clock. It's now nearly 10 PM or noon tomorrow according to my body. I haven't slept since Bangkok but I'm not sleepy. Jet lag is brutal.


Monday, March 20, 2017

Spring Equinox 2017

It's morning in America, 06:33 AM PST when I started this post and the first day of Spring. For Pearl, a flickr friend in Australia, today is the long awaited first day of fall. As the sun returns to our hemisphere I hope she and her beloved companions Ms. Pips and Ms. Woolly and their world finally get relief from what has been a summer of grueling heat.

Bangkok - Spring Equinox night
Spring Equinox night in Bangkok

It's the end of the day here in Bangkok. The high was 34° Celsius (93.2° Fahrenheit). Like I said, I didn't know it was the equinox when I woke up but the morning light gave me pause, something about how it illuminated the leaves of the trees below my window. They glowed primavera green. They called to me, drew me in, reminded me . . . even in this blade runner city . . . earth lives . . . will prevail. That area is dark now, the left third of this photo I took tonight. A lot of Thai people live in that section, under long, shared tin roofs. I don't think there is much in the way of walls between them. The trees grow wild there. They have been hacked down numerous times but grow back again, as they are now.

Happy first day of Spring and Roy, thank you for reminding me.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Swami and the Moon over Bangkok


Swami & the moon tonight- Bangkok
Swami and the moon tonight
Bangkok

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Publishing and republishing

Besides publishing a current list of literary magazines accepting reprints, the blog Published to Death includes a link to poetry publishers accepting unagented manuscripts. And it's not just for poetry. There are listings for all genres, including visual, and their markets and includes cool links such as . . . calls for submissions by the month, paying markets etc. Yes, there are similar sites, but this is a good one.


Of course, Duotrope is, at least in my limited experience, the best of the best when it comes to offering an "extensive, searchable database of current fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and visual art markets, a calendar of upcoming deadlines, a personal submissions tracker, and useful statistics compiled from the millions of data points". Yes, that's their description but it is what they do and they do it well. I was a subscriber until they erected a paywall. After that I couldn't justify the expense. I seldom followed through and actually submitted anything.


I did a poetry blog instead. Poetry needs to be free. However, that means if I want to publish something elsewhere, in a "real" publication, I must find publishers who accept reprints.  Annasadhorse may be one of the the least visited sites in the universe but most publishers automatically refuse anything unless they get first rights. Rock and a hard place.

Beware the Six Month Rule

Back in Bangkok after an ill-fated trip to Singapore. We were planning to stay there for five days and then slowly travel north though Malaysia working our way back to Bangkok. Unfortunately, at customs Lee ran up against the Six Month Rule and we had to cancel our plans. In fact, only after a prolonged interview with the head of customs at the Singapore airport was he allowed into the country.

The Six Month Rule requires that, to enter the country, your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond your travel dates. A list of countries that have this requirement here. Lee's passport expires in April. We picked up six month tourist visas for Thailand before leaving the US, so we didn't learn about the rule until Singapore. They could have turned him away right there but, after showing return travel arrangements, he was permitted entry. Plus it probably helped that his passport was already full of stamps from other countries, some proof anyway of our nomadic life-style. We felt very lucky, especially after learning that Singapore is very strict about it. So, beware the Six Month Travel rule or you might find yourself on day one of a trip headed back home on the next available flight whatever the cost, whether you can afford it or not.

But we did stay five days in Singapore. More about that later.


Friday, March 3, 2017

Pattaya

Morning in Pattaya
Morning in Pattaya

Some call Pattaya the wild west of Thailand. We were there for a conference so, other than streets thronging with nearly naked bar girls and fat, grubby sexpats with girlfriends younger than their granddaughters, we saw none of it.

Sunset in Pattaya
Evening in Pattaya

A friend at the conference did mention however that, while on the lunch break, a ladyboy grabbed  him by the crotch and tried pulling him in for a drink. I'm not sure Trump would like Pattaya. He likes to do the grabbing.


Sunday, February 5, 2017

It was inevitable




Mysteries on Sukhumvit

Four more or less identical mirrors hang above the sidewalk on the front of a strange shop along Sukhumvit, one of Bangkok's busiest streets. They are too high up to use as mirrors so why they are there, as ornaments, protection from spirits or whatever, I do not know. Whenever I pass by, the door is locked and the shade pulled, thus it remains a mystery.


To be continued . . .

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Silent Majority aka The Deplorables



Silence is compliance . . . PERIOD

Here is the very long list of Republicans who have remained silent on Trump's refugee ban. Time to dump the spineless, compliant Republican Party!

THE DEPLORABLE GOP
The Deplorable Republican Silent Majority
source: Vox

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Lunar New Year 2017



Tis the year of the Fire Rooster according to the Chinese lunar calendar, so Happy New Year. Here's wishing you all the best in the coming year. They say if you encounter a dragon on the lunar new year, give him money. We did so we did. Dragon was moving fast so Swami had to follow him into a girlie bar to put money in his mouth.

Swami & the Dragon - Bangkok - Lunar New Year Celebrations
Swami and the Dragon
Bar on Sukhumvit soi 22