Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Flash Back Summer! July, 2008 at Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog: 500 Years of Palladio

Church of Redentore
(Venice, Italy) In these hazy, crazy days of summer, I am going to be lazy and publish a rerun of a post I wrote just about six years ago in July, 2008 -- the year I first created this blog -- before most people in Italy (and other parts of the world) knew what a blog was. I've had other blogs before this one, but Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog was when I decided to blend what I used to do when I wrote for the International Herald Tribune's Italian supplement, Italy Daily, with my personal thoughts. These days, you can throw a rock out the window and hit someone who is writing a blog about Venice, but back then, there were only a few...

Saturday, July 19, 2008

500 Years of Andrea Palladio - Palladian Gala - Save Venice, Inc.

(VENICE, ITALY) When the Director of the International Center for the Study of the Architecture of Andrea Palladio in Vicenza begins his lecture with a not-very-flattering quote by John Ruskin about his subject, you know you're in for an exciting ride.

Professor Guido Beltramini did just that in the Giorgio Cini Foundation's Palladian refectory yesterday, and it was one of the most fascinating lectures I've heard in a long time. He was part of the Save Venice, Inc. Palladian Gala, which culminates at Hotel Cipriani's Granai tonight with the celebration of our most beloved Venetian holiday, the Festa del Redentore, complete with fireworks. (Each one of these topics could be a blog in itself, so I am going to give you a brief overview, and delve more deeply in the future.)

Professor Beltramini said that last year on November 30th, the kick-off of the 500 year anniversary of the renowned architect's birth, many local architects in Vicenza held an anti-Palladio demonstration. The projection screen then flashed up a picture of Andrea Palladio that had been doctored to give him horns! Professor Beltramini said it was about time we had a look at this part of Palladian architecture, and the dark forces that generate the upper harmony. The windows that are eyes; the doors that are mouths are countered by the belly of the building. He spoke about the "heart of darkness" and the unconscious, and showed us a photo of a brutish faun on the floor, saying no visit to a Palladian villa would be complete without a visit to the underground vaults. The lecture covered the Villa Rotunda in Vicenza, the nobility who supported Palladio, his early life, and much, much more.

It is the ancient argument -- who is more powerful? Man or Nature? Does Man impose his Will on Nature? Does Man work together with Nature? Does Nature impose her Will upon Man? Or, most importantly, what is Man anyway? Who are we and what are we doing on this planet?

People constantly ask me why I moved to Venice, and I reply that Venice is a magnetic center. The more you study Venice, you will find it is not just about canals and gondolas. The palaces and churches were designed with esoteric principles. As was the Art. As was the Music. As was the Literature. Etc.

This is from the website of Centro Internazionale di Studi di Architettura Andrea Palladio at

"Andrea Palladio was born in Padua on St Andrew’s Day, 30 November, 1508. To celebrate this quincentenary, the Centro Internazionale di Studi di Architettura Andrea Palladio, Vicenza and the Royal Academy of Arts, London, with the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), are mounting a major exhibition. It will open in Vicenza, (palazzo Barbaran da Porto, 20 September 2008 – 6 January 2009), it will then move to London (Royal Academy of Arts, 31 January – 13 April 2009) and will close in the United States of America in Autumn 2009. ...
Jefferson’s house at Monticello will be presented."

Well, apparently we have run out of money in the United States of America, and the Washington D.C. leg of the exhibition has not been confirmed, and may well be cancelled. Makes you wonder... doesn't it? Well, I most definitely intend to go to Vicenza to see it this fall, and strongly suggest you all try to catch it either here or in London.

Another interesting tidbit about Palladio: as hard as he and the nobility who supported him tried, he didn't make it into Venice until he was about 60-years-old, and even then, he only designed buildings on the outskirts of town, like the Churches of Redentore, Zitelle and San Francesco dello Vigna -- which, if you remember, I have written about before:

After the lecture, the Save Venice, Inc. folks bravely climbed into a wild boat, rearing against its ropes, docked outside on the Island of San Giorgio. It was pouring rain, and the waves were ghastly, but off we chugged to the Church of Redentore itself, where I have spent a lot of time behind the scenes with the Capuchin friars, an Order close to my heart. (In fact, you will find a Venetian Capuchin friar in Harley's Ninth:) We were given a brief tour of the interior by the scholars Professor Deborah Howard of Cambridge, and Professor Frederic Ilchman of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Now, you might think that scholars are stuffy, but I actually hang out with them, and they always amaze me with their wit, humor and ability to bring the past alive.

The Church of Redentore was built in honor of Christ the Redeemer to save Venice from the plague, which wiped out ONE THIRD of the population, including Titian himself. Professor Howard said we must remember the time it was built, and what, exactly, were the sins from which the Venetians thought they needed redemption. One was that they did a lot of trading with the Muslim countries. (I can think of several others:) The Venetians had tried everything, and as we know, when all else fails, the only thing left to do is to pray. In any event, it WORKED! The end of the plague on July 21, 1577 is what we are celebrating tonight with what is usually the best fireworks in the entire world exploding over the lagoon. Venetians from all over the Veneto arrive in their boats to watch the show. The fondamenta on the Giudecca is lined with tables and Venetians eating traditional food. Terraces and balconies are filled with revelers. The Lido has their own party going on over there. It's a big Venetian party, and deserves its own blog, which perhaps I will give it in the future.

After the Church of Redentore, it was onto the Church of Zitelle, and then a lunch at the newly restored Zitelle convent, now the magnificent five-star Bauer Palladio Hotel & Spa. I have known the Chair & CEO, Francesca Bortolotto Possati for a long time -- and no, I am not related to the Bauer Hotel:) But I saw the convent many years ago, long before Francesca restored it, and I will tell you that she did an amazing job (the photo you see is the garden where we had lunch -- the rain had stopped and the Sun came out!). She is also the International Chairman of Save Venice, Inc.. Something you should know about Francesca -- she puts her whole heart into all her projects with the purest intentions, and works tirelessly to help this city. For instance, despite all odds, she launched the very first solar-electric boat on the Grand Canal, which runs from the Bauer Hotel in the historic center, across to Zitelle.

Here is a little excerpt from something I wrote about Zitelle for the International Herald Tribune's Italy Daily years ago:

"Santa Maria della Presentazione, or Le Zitelle, was once a home for maidens famous for their skill in creating punto in aria Venetian lace. Founded in 1599 on the premise that impoverished, good-looking virgins were doomed to a life of sin unless someone intervened, the convent had strict entry requirements: the virgins had to be between the ages of 12 and 18, very healthy, very beautiful, and have a graceful, lively demeanor. The girls received training that prepared them not for the nunnery, but for marriage. The three-story structure, built on a Reformation model with a cloister behind the church and two wings near the Giudecca Canal, is currently undergoing restoration. Plans exist to convert it into a hotel and conference center, retaining much of the original structure, and to bring the large botanical garden back to life. The wellhead in the courtyard bears the coat of arms of the aristocratic Loredan family, and dates from the early 14th century when the Loredans were granted possession of the property by the Venetian Senate."

And something you should know about Save Venice, Inc. -- I have never seen the organization more vibrant and alive. There is a new contingency from the West Coast in the United States, which I strongly recommend those of you out there support, plus the Old Guard from New York, Boston and the South, etc. If you're looking for a charitable organization to stash your cash, your dollars will not only beautify Venice and its structures, but the soul of Venice itself.

Ciao from Venice,
P.S. I am back from Redentore. At the last minute, I decided to watch the fireworks with the Guardia di Finanza in honor of Bruno Abbate. Bruno was a renowned boat builder in a traditional family business, and he made some boats for the Guardia -- their party was next door to Save Venice over at Cipriani's. Bruno died last week at age 57. His birthday is one day before mine. We are Leos. Last year about this time, I had the great honor to be with Bruno on his yacht you see there during his Primatist Trophy with a group of friendly folks -- seriously, I was taking the Sun on that very cushion in the back of his boat. It seems incredible that he is now gone. Last year was the first time I had met him... he was such a generous man; he enjoyed sharing his great wealth. We zoomed all over the coast of Sardinia during the morning, paused for lunch and a swim, then zoomed some more in the afternoon to the next stop. Every evening there was some kind of spectacular. Bruno genuinely loved human beings from every walk of life. He created an enormous family called Primatist People, providing lots of jobs and lots of fun. When Bruno showed up, the world came alive with helicopters swirling overhead, and music, music, music -- he was like fireworks personified. The great explosion at the end of Redentore tonight reminded me of Bruno... Even though I didn't know him well, when you spend a week on someone's boat, you form a kind of bond.... he touched so many lives... Thank you, Bruno, for granting me the privilege of being one of the Primatist People, if only for a moment.

After the fireworks, I was swept back into another world -- the Cipriani Olympic-size pool where there was music, food, drinks, dancing.... It was strange... one of the first articles I had ever written for IHT Italy Daily was about the Redentore party at that very pool, back in 2001 -- it seemed almost frozen in time with the same stock characters wearing the same outfits.... as if that party has been going on for centuries during Redentore, and will continue for centuries in the future.

Tonight, however, I met a vibrant woman from Los Angeles, Francesca DeMarco, who had never been there before. She said: "I've seen fireworks at the Rose Bowl. I've seen fireworks at the Hollywood Bowl. But I've never seen fireworks like these!" I said, "Francesca, I am going to quote you. Are they the best fireworks you have ever seen in your life?" Francesca said, "YES!"

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Burt Bacharach at La Fenice - Venezia Jazz Festival

Burt Bacharach at La Fenice
(Venice, Italy) Magic Moments was one of Burt Bacharach's very first hits, and that is what he gave the full-house audience at La Fenice on Sunday night, July 20th --- some very Magic Moments.

Sung by Perry Como back in 1958, Magic Moments reminds us how long the 86-year-old Bacharach has been providing background music for the highs and lows of our lives. Baby it's You by the Shirelles in 1961, and again by the Beatles in 1963, and again by the Smiths in 1969; Blue on Blue by Bobby Vinton in 1963; Walk on By by Dionne Warwick in 1964; Wishin' and Hopin' by Dusty Springfield in 1964 were the beginnings of the world's love affair with Burt Bacharach, which continues to this day -- after collaborating with Elvis Costello and appearing in the Austin Powers films, Bacharach was embraced by another generation.

Burt Bacharach & Elvis Costello - Austin Powers - The Spy who Shagged Me
Bacharach gazed out at La Fenice and remarked how beautiful the theater was; what a wonderful setting. And La Fenice did look especially beautiful on Sunday, the day of Redentore.The mood was festive and anticipatory -- after all, the man is 86-years-old; how well could he possibly perform?

It turned out: very well, indeed. Burt Bacharach exceeded expectations with one of the best shows I have ever seen in my life. Yes, his voice cracked, and he had some difficulty walking, but he played the piano with ease, and his band was tight; he called them a family. In fact, his very young son, Oliver, who looked like he was about 20, had joined him on the tour on keyboards. Bacharach was emotional when he said how much it meant to have his son with him.

Interior of La Fenice
Burt Bacharach and his posse opened the show with What the World needs now is Love, which was first a hit for Jackie DeShannon back in 1965. The audience clapped with joy, everyone from the plateau up to the tiers at the top of the opera house. With so much tension in the world these days, that simple message written by lyricist Hal David, who died in 2012 at the age of 91, was especially poignant: "What the world needs now is love, sweet love, it's the only thing that there's just too little of."

Here's a clip from In Performance at the White House after the team won the Library of Contest Gershwin Prize in 2012:

Bacharach remarked that the movies have been very good to him over the years -- it is astonishing how many of his songs were written for soundtracks, such as Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Alfie, Arthur's Theme from Arthur, and who can ever forget Tom Jones belting out What's New Pussycat as frenzied women tossed their panties on the stage.

The Look of Love is probably my favorite Bacharach song, full of romance and sensuality; it has been recorded by many artists over the years. Here's the original version by Dusty Springfield from 1967 James Bond film Casino Royale.

There were so many hits, it is not possible to list them all, but you will remember: This Guy's in Love with You by Herb Alpert. I Say a Little Prayer by Aretha Franklin and then Dionne Warwick. I'll Never Fall in Love Again. Close to You by the Carpenters. One Less Bell to Answer by the Fifth Dimension. Walk on By. Only Love Can Break a Heart. Always Something There to Remind Me. A House is Not a Home. And, of course, That's What Friends are For with Dionne Warwick and the whole gang.

Veneto Jazz Festival
Burt Bacharach was here in collaboration with the Venezia Jazz Festival; his early background lies in jazz. In fact, the Venezia Jazz Festival is filling the whole town with excellent music throughout the second half of July.

Venezia Jazz Festival is the Venice section of the larger Veneto Jazz Festival, which has been organizing jazz performances throughout the region since 1988 with international stars like Keith Jarret, Bobby McFerrin, Paolo Conte, Norah Jones, Pat Metheny, Wynton Marsalis, Sting with the Symphony Orchestra of Teatro La Fenice, Cesaria Evora , Paco De Lucia, and Gilberto Gil appearing on the scene.

Burt Bacharach ended the evening with an audience sing-along of Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head, the entire theater standing on its feet, applauding with genuine appreciation.

Bacharach said, very sincerely, that he had really enjoyed himself; that we were a great audience, and that he had a very, very good time. He walked slowly off the stage, the band still playing, as his young son, Oliver, waved at the crowd from behind the keyboards.

Thank you, Burt Bacharach, for all the Magic Moments you have given me in my life. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to have heard the Maestro at the beautiful La Fenice -- and to be reminded that I believe in love, Alfie.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

by Burt Bacharach and Hal David

What's it all about, Alfie?
Is it just for the moment we live?
What's it all about when you sort it out, Alfie?
Are we meant to take more than we give?
...or are we meant to be kind?

And if only fools are kind, Alfie,
then I guess it is wise to be cruel.
And if life belongs only to the strong, Alfie,
what will you lend on an old golden rule?

As sure as I believe there's a heaven above, Alfie,
I know there's something much more --
something even non-believers can believe in...

I believe in love, Alfie.
Without true love we just exist, Alfie.
Until you find the love you've missed you're nothing, Alfie.
When you walk let your heart lead the way
and you'll find love any day, Alfie, Alfie.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Festa del Redentore 2014 in Venice - Luxurious Things to Do

Redentore Fireworks - watercolor by Alexander Creswell
(Venice, Italy) The Festa del Redentore, or the Feast of the Redeemer, the festival that Venice has been celebrating every year since 1577 to give thanks for deliverance from the plague is coming up on Saturday, July 19 and Sunday, July 20. I have written about the festival many times before; here is an excerpt from last year:

Church of the Redentore
  ...between 1575 and 1577, Venice was ravaged by the plague, which wiped out nearly 50,000 people, almost a third of the population. The Venetians became convinced it was divine punishment for their sins. Desperate, powerless to stop it, in the midst of the desolation, on September 4, 1576, the Venetian Senate voted to ask the Redeemer, or the Redentore, for help, vowing to build a magnificent temple in thanksgiving. They commissioned the great architect, Andrea Palladio, to design the church, and on May 3, 1577 the Patriarch of Venice laid the cornerstone. 

And it worked! Just two months later, on July 13, 1577, the plague was declared officially over. After it was consecrated in 1592, the Church of Redentore was placed in the charge of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin. Every year the Doge, the Patriarch and the Senate walked across a pontoon bridge to attend Mass on the third Sunday in July, grateful for all the good they had received.

Click to read the entire post: 

Fireworks in Venice - Redentore 2013

This year, Grassi+ Partners, who do marketing for The Luxury Collection, one of my sponsors, sent over a press release describing how their hotels in Venice will celebrate the evening. For me, the best place to be in the entire world on the evening of Redentore is in Venice. Whether you are in a tiny boat with your lover, on the island of Giudecca with the locals or at a 5-star hotel with a group of friends, if you are in the right venue, and with the right people, it is an exceptional experience. Venetians know how to celebrate their own holiday, but for those of you (with money) from out of town who want to watch, here are some suggestions:

Terrace at Club del Doge - Gritti Palace
The Gritti Palace - A Luxury Collection Hotel
Guests can dine on the terrace of the Club del Doge restaurant or Bar Longhi with spectacular views of the lagoon lit by the wonderful fireworks display. Chef Daniel Turco masterfully combines local ingredients in two tasty menus designed specifically for the occasion.
Club del Doge:
Time: 20:45
Price: € 405 per person, includes a welcome Ruinart Bellini cocktail and a 6-course menu (including service charge and VAT). Drinks not included.
Bar Longhi:
Time: 21:30
Price: € 240 per person, includes a welcome Ruinart Bellini cocktail, a selection of snacks, a first dish of lobster, and a bottle of Champagne "R" de Ruinart at the table (tax and service included) 

Private table at La Cusina - Westin Europa & Regina
The Westin Europa & Regina
Guests can dine at Bar Tiepolo or enjoy the menu of the gala dinner at the La Cusina Restaurant, or in the comfort of the private terraces in each suite, watching the amazing fireworks display that lights up the spires, domes and bell towers of the city with kaleidoscope colors and reflections.
Bar Tiepolo:
Time: 19:30
Price: € 210 per person, includes typical Venetian dishes of fish and Champagne (covered, service and 10% VAT included)
Restaurant La Cusina:
Time: 19:30
Price: € 410 per person, includes gala dinner and selected wines (service and 10% VAT included)
Private terraces:
Time: 19:30
Price: € 495 per person, includes gala dinner and selected wines (service and 10% VAT included) 

Restaurant Terrazza Danieli
Hotel Danieli - A Luxury Collection Hotel
Guests can dine at the Restaurant Terrazza Danieli; the gala dinner will be accompanied by spectacular views of the lagoon of Venice, which becomes an open-air theater where you can admire the kaleidoscope of colors, lights and reflections that illuminate the spiers, domes and bell towers of the city. Guests will be delighted by local ingredients superbly combined by Chef Dario Parascandolos in a tasty menu that combines the sophistication of Venetian cuisine and sparkling entertainment.
Restaurant Terrazza Danieli
Time: 20:00
Price: € 590 per person, includes a gala dinner with a 7-course menu and wines selected by our sommelier (tax and service included) 

The St. Regis San Clemente Palace Venice
Guests can entertain themselves starting at 6:00PM in the beautiful gardens of The St. Regis Bar with DJ music, Moët & Chandon tastings and the mixology of Alessandro Carà accompanied by tasty snacks. Afterwards, at 8:00PM at the restaurant Acquerello, Chef Roberto del Seno delights guests with a 5-course menu accompanied by perfectly paired wines selected by our Head Sommelier and live jazz music, ending with the magnificent spectacle of fireworks at starting at 11:30PM until midnight.
For those who wish, the party will continue after midnight until 3:00AM at La Dolce Restaurant with a DJ set at the poolside, Veuve Clicquot Champagn , cocktail mixology and raw and smoked delicacies.
Time: 6:00PM
Price: € 390 per person includes welcome drink at the St. Regis Bar, 5-course dinner with live jazz music and paired wines / € 150 per person includes "late night celebration" at La Dolce Restaurant / € 950 up to 6 people, includes gala dinner at Gazebo Privé with personal butler service; supplement of €150 for each additional guest. 

Redentore - Views on Venice
Of course, you can always do what the Venetians do and make your own food, bring your own boat, and watch the fireworks explode over your head from the waters of the magical Venice lagoon, and give thanks that we aren't all dead from the plague. Yet. 

Ciao from Venezia,

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Digital Venice - Europe Starts Up - The Internet of Things

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in Venice
(Venice, Italy) This past week, from July 7 to 12, Venice was the digital capital of Europe as Italy kicked off its turn at the Presidency of the Council of the European Union with Matteo Renzi himself, the Prime Minister of Italy, arriving here in Venice on Tuesday, July 8.

From Digital Venice 2014:

Digital Venice 2014” is a high-level meeting, hosted by the City of Venice and promoted by the Italian Presidency of the Council of the European Union with the support of European Commission – DG Connect, that will gather policy, industry and innovation leaders from all over Europe to trace the road to a growing, sustainable digital economy.

The event, intended to be held every year, takes place at the start of the Italian Presidency to mark the emphasis placed by the Italian government on digital innovation as the key to sustainable economic development and boost to new employment. A “Venice Declaration” summarizing vision and recommendations will be presented by the Italian Presidency to be tabled at the next Digital Council...

The European Union is a strange creature, and is still in the process of becoming. The United States began with 13 original states, and those states rebelled against Great Britain for taxation without representation. They declared that they were independent on "Independence Day," July 4, 1775, and then created a Constitution in 1781, which we still argue about nearly every day -- in English, the language that everyone in the United States of America is supposed to speak.

The European Union originated under very different circumstances. It was created after World War II to ensure that such killing, devastation and destruction never happens again. According to the European Union website, "Europe Day" is May 9, and celebrates the Schuman Plan presented by French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman on May 9, 1950.

Then, on April 18, 1951, six different nations, all with their own languages and cultures -- Italy, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg -- agreed to place the coal and steel industries under one common management so that no country could make its own weapons of war and turn against the others. Bitter enemies, who just a few years earlier were massacring each other, decided they were going to become friends. Italy and Germany were on one side, and France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg were on the other.

So for Robert Schuman, who was born in Luxembourg, and was a member of the French Resistance and nearly thrown into Dachau, to decide to become friends with Germany just five years after the Nazis were defeated, shows what a civilized, forward-thinking a man he was.

EU flag
The European Union was built on a foundation of peace. There are now 28 countries that belong to the EU, many of which used to be part of the Soviet Union. Absorbing these Eastern European counties into the West has not been simple. To use Latvia as an example, in recent history, it was an independent republic, then forced into the Soviet Union in 1940, then invaded by Nazi Germany in 1941, then went back into the Soviet Union until that collapsed in 1991. It became part of the European Union on May 1, 2004, together with Poland, Hungary, Lithuania, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Cyprus and Malta. 

When I first moved to Italy in 1998, there were still border controls in Europe, which meant each time you drove into another country you had to stop and show your documents. It would be as if each of the 50 states had their own border patrols, with their own attitudes. Imagine driving from New York to Florida, and getting harassed when you reached South Carolina or Georgia because you were a Yankee. We can imagine that an army composed of Californians would be very different than an army composed of Texans. It is sometimes difficult to understand the people from Louisiana if you are from Connecticut; imagine if each state had its own language. Europe was like that once; now there are no borders, but each country still maintains its own language and culture. There is a joke:
Heaven is where the police are British, the lovers French, the mechanics German, the chefs Italian, and it is all organized by the Swiss.
Hell is where the police are German, the lovers Swiss, the mechanics French, the chefs British, and it is all organized by the Italians.

Member states of the EU
Just as Americans fiercely believe in the individual rights written in the Constitution, so do Europeans believe they have certain rights. The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union lists those rights, some of which might surprise Americans. There is no right to bear arms, for example, but there is a right to life, and no death penalty. "No one shall be condemned to the death penalty, or executed."

No one is allowed to be tortured: "No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."

As in America, everyone has the right to freedom of expression, but Europe goes even further, protecting the arts, academics and sciences in particular -- fields which oppressive governments like to restrict: "The arts and scientific research shall be free from constraint. Academic freedom shall be respected."

There is a right to education, a right to unionize, and a right to medical care. There is a right to freedom of peaceful assembly. One right that interests me personally is the right to property: "No one may be deprived of his or her possessions, except in the public interest and in the cases and under the conditions provided for by law, subject to fair compensation being paid in good time for their loss."

Importantly, there is a right to protection of personal data and "such data must be processed fairly for specified purposes and on the basis of the person concerned or some other legitimate basis laid down by law. Everyone has the right of access to data which has been collected concerning him or her, and the right to have it rectified."

In terms of history, the United States is an adolescent, only 238 years old, and often behaves like one. Europe has been around for millennia, and understands well the horrors of war, and the extreme dangers of spying on innocent civilians and the attempt to control a population by fear and intimidation, which is one reason why its Fundamental Rights differ from the United States -- Europe lived through the Nazi invasion.

Which brings us to the Internet of Everything, the conference I attended on July 8 as part of Digital Venice 2014, which was presented by Roberto Masiero, Co-Founder of The Innovation Group, and by. Cisco, which was represented by Agostino Santoni, CEO of Cisco Italia. Cisco is really pushing the Internet of Everything, or the IoE, and says that it is a $19 trillion global opportunity. Since Italy is still in a recession with 12.6% unemployment, and a whopping 45% youth unemployment rate, the idea of a new arena for growth is particularly exciting.

Apparently there is an Internet of Things (IoT) and an Internet of Everything (IoE). Cisco says that the IoE is not its trademark, or its architecture, but if you google the Internet of Everything, you get Cisco, whereas if you google the Internet of Things, you get... everything. The sector does, indeed, seem to be exploding. Huge investments are being made; Forbes says that "influential conversations" about the Internet of Things have increased 70% between late March and early July of this year.

First -- what IS the Internet of Things? It will connect everything in the world, including people, to the Internet. Billions and billions of things. From Forbes:

The new rule for the future is going to be, “anything that can be connected, will be connected.” But why on earth would you want so many connected devices talking to each other?  There are many examples for what this might look like or what the potential value might be.  Say for example you are on your way to a meeting, your car could have access to your calendar and already know the best route to take, if the traffic is heavy your car might send a text to the other party notifying them that you will be late.  What if your alarm clock wakes up you at 6 am and then notifies your coffee maker to start brewing coffee for you? What if your office equipment knew when it was running low on supplies and automatically re-ordered more? What if the wearable device you used in the workplace could tell you when and where you were most active and productive and shared that information with other devices that you used while working?

That sounds a bit too much like Big Brother for my taste, though when applied to a "Smart City," it makes more sense. Traffic lights would be connected so you wouldn't have to wait unnecessarily for a green light at 2:00 in the morning. Trash cans run on solar energy would alert their collectors when they are full. Self-driving cars mean no more accidents, though how it will prevent a tractor trailer from jackknifing on the LA freeway, I have yet to understand.

Under 30 CEO
The problem, of course, is security and privacy, and someone who was not a techie, Gerard de Graaf from the European Commission, brought that up in his keynote speech. He said a lot of politicians don't get it, and that tech scares them. They need to be shown: HOW CAN THEY ACHIEVE THEIR AGENDA? He said that we could not build a 90% bridge; it must be a 100% bridge, and that all the pieces of the puzzle must be put in place -- he compared it to doing a jigsaw puzzle with your kids, to complete the entire thing only to discover that three pieces are missing. He said that his home is his castle, and that the IoT will know everything about our lives. We will be connected but incredibly vulnerable, and it could easily disrupt our societies.

Since Google and Facebook and other American giants are attempting to gain the lead on the Internet of Things, and since we have already seen how the United States government has abused its data, to me, the top priority must be security and privacy. 

With headlines like these:

A Year After Snowden, U.S. Tech Losing Trust Overseas

you would think the US government would put a brake on it, but no. Just a few days ago Germany kicked out the head of the CIA. According to the Voice of America: "Analyst Pawel Swidlicki of the Open Europe research organization says that could get worse unless the United States stops spying on Germany. 'German public opinion will only continue to harden against the U.S., which would have very negative implications for quite crucial issues, like the EU-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, currently under negotiation,' Swidlicki said."

Stars and Stripes
The reminders of World War II still permeate the air in Europe today. Less than three months ago, on April 25, 2014, nearly 30,000 residents of nearby Vicenza here in Italy were evacuated due to the discovery of a humongous "Blockbuster" bomb dropped during WWII by the British, found, ironically, in the Peace Park next to the recently-expanded US military base -- expanded to the outrage of the residents, who created Peace Park to block further expansion. How the citizens of Vicenza feel about the USA in their midst:

Peace Park... today continues to be a social laboratory of participation that combines anti-militarism with an affirmation of common goods. But the park is not the only result. Vicenza is no longer the same, and the United States has to reckon with a city ever less hospitable, so much so that holidays once important for friendly encounters with the local community—such as the Fourth of July or Halloween—are now occasions when the sites under the Stars and Stripes close up, forced to guard themselves against the antagonistic citizenry.

The damage that has been done by the United States must be repaired immediately before moving toward the future. As has been illustrated time and again, the USA has infuriated the entire world with its disrespect and interference. We have learned the USA has tortured, assassinated, used punitive psychiatry, used extraordinary rendition, droned women and children, killed innocent civilians and is spying on completely innocent people going about their everyday lives. I, myself, have been targeted on a personal level, and I can attest that the USA has trampled on my rights to an outrageous extent. Like an alcoholic in denial, the USA seems incapable of realizing the damage it is inflicting on the rest of the human race. That is the reality of the situation, and it must be addressed, not covered-up and avoided. It is dysfunctional behavior, and it needs drastic intervention.

Even before Germany kicked out the CIA station chief, Angela Merkel kicked out Verizon.

Snowden Asylum in Germany? Support Grows for NSA Whistleblower After Merkel Cancels Verizon Contract

Support is growing to grant Edward Snowden asylum in Germany. Perhaps that is the solution that is needed. He seems to know a bit about technology:), and has proven that he has integrity and great concerns about security and privacy. If the United States refuses to grant him asylum, it is a waste of talent to keep him in Russia when he has knowledge that could help create a solid foundation for a technological future in Europe. If Europe wants an edge, offering a safe haven to the rest of the world where innocent data and innocent personal lives are free from governmental interference would be a way to start.

The Internet of Things
If we are seriously talking about a new $19 trillion "global opportunity," then that opportunity must be founded on sound moral principles, trust, transparency and integrity, otherwise it will be a world in which no one wants to live, no matter how perfectly toasted our bread is.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Perfect Evening in Venice - A Venetian Affair at Venice Music Project

Andrea di Robilant with Venice Music Project at Church of San Giovanni Evangelista - Photo: Cat Bauer
(Venice, Italy) If you have ever been in Venice when the spirits of the past make an appearance in the present, you know how wondrous it can be. On Friday, June 27, all the elements came together to create a magical evening when Andrea di Robilant, author of A Venetian Affair, told the story of his ancestor, Andrea Memmo (1729-1793) and his clandestine love affair with the alluring Giustiniana Wynne (1737-1791).

The Church of San Giovanni Evangelista where the Venice Music Project is based was the venue. Interspersed perfectly between the story were Baroque melodies played by the Venetia Antiqua Ensemble on original instruments, with soprano Liesl Odenweller bringing alive arias that were composed during the same era.

Andrea di Robilant - Venice Music Project
Andrea Memmo was the oldest son of one of Venice's oldest, wealthiest and most powerful families -- he was Andrea di Robilant's great-great-great-great-great grandfather. In 1919, the author's grandfather, also named Andrea di Robilant, inherited Palazzo Mocenigo, one of Venice's most magnificent palaces. Andrea's father, Alvise, found a carton of letters up in the attic, and they turned out to be be love letters written by Andrea Memmo to Giustiniana Wynne -- in secret code. Father and son worked together and broke the code, but Andrea's father was murdered during the project, and Andrea carried on alone, resulting in the New York Times notable book,  A Venetian Affair - A True Tale of Forbidden Love in the 18th Century.

Giustiniana Wynne was the illegitimate daughter (her parents later married) of a British father, Sir Richard Wynne, and Greek-born Venetian mother, Anna Gazini. Giustiniana was the oldest of their five children, and was raised solely by Anna after the death of Sir Richard.

Giustiniana met Andrea Memmo at Palazzo Balbi, the home of Joseph Smith, the British Consul and Canaletto patron, and the two fell passionately in love; she was not quite 18; he was 24. (Giustiniana called him Memmo, and I will, too, since there are an abundance of Andreas in this story.) When Giustiniana's mother, Anna, learned of the affair, she forbade it, wanting to preserve her daughter's reputation. Venetian society at the time dictated that the oldest son of a patrician family must marry into Venetian nobility.

But Memmo was head-over-heels in love, as was Giustiniana, as their letters reveal. To communicate, the young couple developed a written secret code, as well as a sign language, and bombarded each other with love letters delivered by a boy named Alvisetto. They dashed all over town, hoping for a glimpse of one another. Anyone familiar with Venice can picture the scene depicted in one of Memmo's letters:

Yesterday I tried desperately to see you. Before lunch the gondoliers could not serve me. After lunch I went looking for you in Campo Santo Stefano. Nothing. So I walked toward Piazza San Marco, and when I arrived at the bridge of San Moisè I ran into Lucrezia Pisani! I gave her my hand on the bridge, and then I saw you. I left her immediately and went looking for you everywhere. Finally I found you in the Piazza. I sent Alvisetto ahead to find out whether you were on your way to the opera or to the new play at the Teatro Sant'Angelo so that I could rush to get a box in time. Then I forged ahead and waited for you, filled with desire. Finally you arrived and I went up to my box so that I could contemplate you -- not only for the sheer pleasure I take in admiring you, but also in the hope of receiving a sign of acknowledgment as a form of consolation. But you did nothing of the sort. Instead you laughed continuously, made loud noises until the end of the show, for which I was both sorry and angry -- as you can well imagine. 

Venetia Antiqua Ensemble
The music performed between the intervals in the story moved the action along seamlessly. Pieces composed by Vivaldi, J.A. Hasse and Benedetto and Alessandro Marcello provided the soundtrack to the love story. Memmo desperately wanted to be with Giustiana, and tried several schemes to make that happen. When the elderly John Smith's wife died, Memmo directed Giustiana to seduce the old man in the hopes of making a marriage, thereby opening up the possibility for Giustiana to be seen in the company of gentlemen -- since she would be a properly married woman. At first Giustiana was outraged, then saw Memmo's logic, and made the attempt. She writes:

I've never seen Smith so sprightly. He made me walk with him all morning and climbed the stairs, skipping the steps to show his agility and strenth. [The children] were playing in the garden at who could throw stones the furthest. And Memmo, would you believe it? Smith turned to me and said, "Do you want to see me throw a stone further than anyone else?" I thought he was kidding, but no: he asked [the children] to hand him two rocks and threw them toward the target. He didn't even reach it, so he blamed the stones, saying they were too light. He then threw more stones. By that time I was bursting with laughter and kept biting my lip.

 My favorite letter was the young Memmo's sexual fantasy about his beloved:

As I lay in bed alone for so long I thought of the days when we will be together, comforting each other at night. This idea led to another and then to another and soon I was so fired up I could see you in bed with me. You wore that nightcap of yours I like so much, and a certain ribbon I gave you adorned your face so sweetly. You were so near to me and so seductive I took in your tender fragrance and felt your breath. You were in a deep sleep -- you even snored at times. You had kept me company all evening long with such grace that I really didn't have the heart to wake you up... but then a most fortunate little accident occurred just as my discretion was exhausting itself. You turned to me at the very moment in which you dreamed of being in my arms. Nature, perhaps encourage by habit, led you to embrace me. So there we were, next to each other, face to face and mouth to mouth! Your right leg was leaning on my left leg. Little by little the beak of the baby dove began to prick you so forcefully that in your sleep you moved your hand in such a way the thirsty little creature found the door wide open. Trembling from both fear and delight, it entered oh so gently into that little cage and after quenching its thirst it began to have some fun, flying about those spaces and trying to penetrate them as far as it could. It was so eager and made such a fuss that in the end you woke up.

It was not long before Memmo's scheme was found out -- Venice being the gossipy town that it is -- and Smith, furious, banished him from Palazzo Balbi. Undeterred, Memmo then plotted to marry Giustiana secretly in the church, and the church was happy to oblige, eager to capture such a notable young nobleman. But when Memmo seriously considered what he would lose -- his entire life and career -- he reconsidered.

He next decided that he would marry Giustiana legally, in front of the entire world -- all he needed to do was to change the law itself. He was not the only young man who wanted to move the oligarchy into modern times; there were other aristocrats in the same spot, and Memmo had the wealth and power to do it. He came very close to persuading enough nobility to join his cause until a document was found in the Archives revealing that Giustiana's mother, Anna, had been deflowered by a Greek in her youth, and that was the end of that.

Andrea di Robilant and Liesl Odenweller - Photo: Cat Bauer Venice Blog
Andrea di Robilant and Liesl Odenweller - Photo: Cat Bauer
In the end, both Memmo and Giustiana married others, but remained lifelong friends; Giustiana even went to Memmo's daughter's wedding. Memmo became governor of Padua and Ambassador to Constantinople; Giustiana married Count Orsini-Rosenberg, the Austrian Ambassador to Venice, and then became a writer. Although they have been gone for more than 200 hundred years, their great love story lives on.

Titian's Assumption at the Frari
Coda: As we left San Giovanni Evangelista and headed toward dinner, a chorus of angels filled the night air. The door to the Frari was wide open, and Titian's Assumption of the Virgin glowed as if it were lit by heaven itself. We entered the enormous basilica and learned it was a free concert -- a perfect coda to a perfect evening in mystical, magical Venice.

Click for Venice Music Project
Click for Andrea di Robilant
Click for Liesl Odenweller

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog