So, I’m in Venice, accompanying once again. How can anybody work here? Well, this guy, sure, he spends all day on the water. But visitors? I was not at all surprised to bump into one of MM’s colleagues at Piazza San Marco. Who can listen to a bunch of gaseous speeches when Venice is calling?

I have seen most of the basic tourist attractions and will probably get back to them later on. Today I went to the Fortuny Museum, located in the old Fortuny workshops. The current exhibition, « Intuition, » is something I can’t really describe. The pamphlet I picked up is on the pretentious side, so that’s no help. I guess the simplest thing is to say that the work shown plays with dream imagery, with allusion and imagination, and the play of light. Ancient sculpture is placed near new work in a way seems like a dialogue and not at all forced. I thought it was brilliantly curated and suited the building perfectly.

I also went to the European Cultural Centre, where my buddy Brigitte Spiegeler is part of a group show associated with the Biennale. The work ranged from kind of dreadful to stunning. Brigitte, of course, is always stunning.

And, don’t tell my banker, but in my travels I stumbled across the Fortuny shop. I’m not exactly sure what is up with Fortuny. There seem to be a couple of different companies that claim the legacy. I went to the one that does the lamps and prints on velvet and all: basically what you think of when you think of Fortuny.

Anyway, interesting. The city is working hard to remain a living city. Lots to say about that, though I won’t right now. I wish them well.

Athens and Kifissia

I have been curious about how Greece is doing, given the economic troubles and the refugee situation. So I was pleased to accompany “he who is tired of being called Mr. France” to a conference in Kifissia, an affluent suburb of Athens.

The short answer is, they are doing as well as can be expected.

You can see that before the downturn gracious old homes were being sold, to be demolished to make way for apartments.

Gracious apartments? No, unfortunately not. Developers were following their usual pattern of squeezing the biggest, cheapest building possible on a lot, preferably with the fewest possible parking spaces. Street parking in this area, even given the number of vacant buildings, is already at a premium. Traffic is already congested. Honestly I hope the squatters who must surely live in these buildings render them uninhabitable, that permits expire and that whatever eventually goes in is scaled for the area, including the area-standard one-lane streets.

It looks like the greedheads lost a round. For everybody else, it’s just plain tough. Good people went under too. Many businesses located just outside prime locations went under and have not been replaced. Many beautiful restaurants went whole meal times with maybe just half a dozen tables filled. I was delighted to find Greek designers with shops alongside the usual Italian and French ones. I was less delighted to be the only customer in many of them. Whatever remains, such as the church and park above, is beautifully maintained.

I’ll let this healthy little guy stand in for the scrawny, barely weaned kitten I fed one lunchtime, so hungry he forgot he was supposed to be feral. He filled up and finally did run away before I could get too serious about rescuing him.

Above is the temple of Hephestos. Many temples and other monuments seem to have been restored as part of philanthropic and academic archaeology programs.

American money built or rebuilt this stoa for use as a museum. These efforts continue, of course. In general I got the feeling that education, philanthropy and tourist money are keeping people coming and ordinary businesses afloat. Tourist places were pretty busy. The rest were either shuttered or just hanging on.

If you can, consider going to Greece. Consider visiting cities and towns, rather than just rushing to the beach. Have a nice stay and throw some money at the locally owned businesses. They need it and there is still a lot to like.

Rats and Bugs

Well, you got yer rats and you got yer bugs. Right at the moment, I’ve got a little of both.

The image above is used entirely without permission, though I think Pixar released it for public use. I think. Anyway, thank you Pixar. The real rats, which I did not have the dexterity to photograph, are actually the good news. We were in Paris, at the park with the youngest grandchild and her parents. Who should be running around enjoying the park with us, but a whole passel of rats. I was pleased to discover that Jacques, in the presence of a rat, goes into totally instinctive rat-hunting mode. There was a little gate into the bushes where the rats were hiding — hah, they thought — so I indulged Jacques by letting us in. Then I let him off-lead. Bwahahahaha. He was into those bushes like a shot and quickly flushed those critters into the open. The fence stopped him and the rats escaped, probably to the bushes on the other side of the park. Fine by me. I don’t need for all those little kids to see my dog gleefully breaking rodent necks right and left. But I was delighted to see Jacques just go for them like that. Now if only I could find some “go to ground” working terrier competitions here in France. That would be fun. And no worries, the rats there live, too.

The bugs are not so fun. As you can see I have changed the format of my blog. It was looking a little dated and I wanted to feature more photos and more entries. The widgets have moved to another page. So far, so good. However one page disappeared entirely and another, instead of uploading itself, uploaded a different page. And now, silly me for not using more low-res images, the home page takes a very long time to upload. Yikes, how do I fix all this? I’ll work it out but it will take some time. Meantime, I hope you like the new format, assuming you have the patience for it to appear. Comments welcome.

Bug Two might be a little more worrisome. I got a notice from Google: “Someone has your password.” I get a lot of false alerts from Google but this one was real. So I changed my password but the email had been sitting there for 45 minutes before I noticed it. You can do a lot of damage in 45 minutes. I have unique passwords for each of my accounts but honestly, that’s not much help. There are programs out there that can hack passwords in seconds. My bank account has two-step authentication. So boring but I think I’ll have to activate it elsewhere, too.

So if you notice some strangeness, sorry. Fixing this stuff is a priority but as you can see, I have a lot on my plate at the moment. At least there are no rats.