September 25th, 2014 | Uncategorized



Well Venice was pretty amazing. I am a bad traveler and did not do much research beforehand. I know very little of the history there, really, political or art historical or literary. Except for Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley, and Those Who Walk Away which have given me such vivid impressions of the city. I kept wanting to know where her protagonists had stayed…but I have had such terrible wifi on this journey, I can’t look anything up. It’s hard not having that external memory–I really find it difficult to function without it. Anyhow, I couldn’t get excited about Henry James or freaking Titian. I just liked walking along all those tiny wending canals and imagining Tom Ripley having a panic attack around the next corner.

Also, even though everyone had warned me about the tourists, I somehow didn’t believe it until I was caught up in the insane throng. It was like being in Las Vegas, except everything was real. And people were not so drunk and women were not walking around dressed like prostitutes…uh… okay, it was really nothing like Las Vegas but it was a bit sad nonetheless. Yet there Hol and I were jostling along with everyone. One cool thing we stumbled onto that was practically empty, though, was this Hiroshige show at the Palazzo Grimani.

photo 3

Hiroshige was a bit younger than Hokusai, and maybe a little more conservative and not quite as brilliant, but his woodblock prints are breathtaking and very comic book-like.


photo 2

Look how he drew these cherry blossoms for godsakes.


Then we did this totally corny thing. Went to a Vivaldi concert of the Four Seasons in some church. It wasn’t great, and the audience was really confused and clapping when they shouldn’t and not clapping when they should and the musicians were rolling their eyes at each other. But these four well-set-up gentlemen in front of us seemed to be enjoying themselves so maybe it wasn’t so dorky after all.


Everything is so crooked and leaning and off center…I guess you can’t tell from the photo that that tower is completely askew. Hol is copying it.



Here is a lovely view of a canal obstructed by someone selling trite drawings of views of canals.


Another cool thing was the Peggy Guggenheim Museum. We visited  in a downpour, which slightly reduced the madding crowds. Here I am on her front porch…deck…dock? With a Calder.



Well that’s about all I have to report. We did not ride in a gondola. But I did spring for a water taxi to go to the train station. When we arrived, we had schlepped onto a vaporetto with all our suitcases and about 4 thousand people and it took forever. But leaving the city, the water taxi ride on the Grand Canal was great fun and totally worth the money.

28 Responses to “venice”

  1. Alex K says:

    How wonderful Hiroshige’s cherry blossoms are, an absence signifying a presence.

  2. Susan Scheid says:

    Love thinking of Hiroshige as “comic book-like.” I’ll never think of his cherry blossoms in quite the same way again.

  3. LondonBoy says:

    A best-selling author, a respected artist, a bona fide genius with an award to prove it, world travel and the canals of Venice… Did you imagine when you drew Marianne, dissatisfied with the morning brew, that this is where she would take you?

  4. NLC says:

    OK, you laugh but:
    “Leaning to the left makes the Eiffel Tower seem smaller: posture-modulated estimation.”
    Eerland A1, Guadalupe TM, Zwaan RA.[*]

    …for which the authors received the 2012 Ig Noble award in physiology.

    [* Paper abstract available [HERE].]

  5. Love that you went to hear a concert of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in Venice. Love having experiences of art that I’ve engaged with before in different contexts, places and times. Along with everything else that can be, it’s a wild mirror.

  6. Kate L says:

    Glad Holly is accompanying you on the Grand Tour! 🙂 I always talk with the woman who teaches European History before my Natural Disasters class, and the other day before my class started, we got to talking about Vesuvius (not just one, but two, different eruption styles come from famous eruptions of Vesuvius). She asked me if I had ever been to Italy. Nope. I’ve been to Juarez, Mexico, and Niagara Falls, Ontario, and Calgary (Alberta, not Scotland). That’s about it. I have been to White Woman Creek*, Kansas, though.

    * Growing up, I thought this town’s name came from a European pioneer. Not so. The name is much, much older and concerns the ghost of an Indian maiden who supposedly wanders along the creek looking for her lover.

  7. eyebeat says:

    Make time for a Donna Leon Commissario Guido Brunitti novel to learn all you will ever need to know about Venice.

  8. Kate L says:

    … don’t fall into a canal like Katharine Hepburn did when she was filming a movie in Venice! She was bothered with eye infections for the rest of her life!

  9. NLC says:

    Given everything that’s been going on in AB’s life in the last year or so –i.e. the Guggenheim; the six weeks at a writers’ retreat (in Umbria, for god’s sake); the announcements that “Fun Home” will be opening on Broadway and of the upcoming publication of “The Secret to Superhuman Strength”; and, of course, MacArthur Fellowship– I suppose it’s not too out of line to remind folks that the Swedish Academy will begin announcing the winner of the 2014 Nobel Prizes next monday?

    Just sayin’….

  10. Kate L says:

    … It looks like Kansas is going to elect its first non-Republican U.S. Senator since 1932*, thereby knocking for six (as we say on the High Plains) the plans of Reince Prebus** and the Koch Brothers of Wichita to finance the GOP take-over of the United States Senate. Those conservative plans have been pitched a googly!

    * – I was undecided about Independent U.S. Senate candidate Greg Orman at first, but decided to vote for him when he criticized Republican Kansas Governor Sam Brownback for not expanding Medicare in the state as the Affordable Care Act (i.e., Obamacare) allows.

    ** – Yes, the chairman of the national Republican Party is actually named Reince Prebus.

  11. Andrew B says:

    Alison, I hope you’ll visit Tokyo soon so we can find out what you think about Italian Renaissance art! Seriously, though, crowds are bad and tourist crowds are awful. I probably would have been right behind you in line for the Hiroshige exhibit.

    I don’t fully understand what’s going on in the cherry blossoms. That part of the print appears to have a texture that’s not present in the rest. Am I correct in thinking that what looks like texture to me is actually printed lines in slightly varying colors?

    Whatever exactly is going on there, it reminds me of the no outlines/no boundaries page in Are You My Mother. That’s one of my favorite pages in the book.

    That also gives me an excuse to mention one of my favorite books: Richard Benson’s The Printed Picture. It’s an illustrated history of printing technology from prehistoric hand prints on cave walls to inkjet printers and other contemporary technology. Benson emphasizes the remarkable skill that went into producing Japanese woodblocks. He has a two page spread showing how a simple image was actually built up from many impressions of different blocks. The care required was extraordinary, because the printer had to make all the impressions align correctly. It’s a great book for anybody who’s interested in printed art.

    [By the way, I assume most folks know that you can zoom in on the photos by clicking on them.

    In particular, the “cherry blossom” photo is pretty high-res, so you can get down to a lot of detail. –Mentor]

  12. LondonBoy says:

    Kate L.: I didn’t realise that you played cricket on the High Plains! To “knock for six” and “googly” are both originally cricketing terms: the first refers to the maximum score that can be made on a valid strike by the batsman, by performing the equivalent of an “out of the ballpark” home run in baseball; the second, “googly”, is way of spin bowling a cricket ball, often regarded as difficult to defend against (perhaps analogous to a screw ball in baseball?).

    By the way, I think his surname is “Priebus”.

  13. Kate L says:

    LondonBoy (#12) You’re right about Reince Priebus. Blimey! Here is an Onion special report on this mystical being.

  14. hairball_of_hope says:

    [Report from ComicCon]

    Don’t ask me how I ended up at ComicCon today. Someone gave me a pass, so I trundled off to the Javits Center to observe the wildlife and fauna.

    Wow. Someone hid all the weird kids who were outcasts in high school, let them ferment for at least a decade or two, and unleashed them in full regalia at this event that celebrates nerdom, narcissism, and love of all things animated in roughly equal proportions.

    Not much in the way of enlightened feminist imagery, the female-identified art I spotted emphasized physical attributes designed to appeal to the newly-pubescent male (or perhaps the perennially-pubescent male).

    Offset that female imagery with the real-life attendees in costume. Plenty of diversity in body type, and not a whole lot of objectification stuff.

    Of course, there was the person I nearly tripped over upon escaping Javits. Crouched to the floor looking through her satchel, I observed she was wearing more tatoos than clothing (at first I thought there was no clothing at all).

    I wondered what a graphic media Bechdel test would entail. Are there two identifiably female characters, who aren’t sporting over-emphasized mammaries, and they engage in self-determined powerful actions not dependent on male-identified characters?

    I dunno. I didn’t spot Dr. E or AB in attendance, I could have used some sage wisdom from the DTWOF world on this.

    (… goes back to her boring existence with ordinary human powers at her disposal …)

  15. Kate L says:

    hairball (#14) My favorite superhero line is from Linda Carter (who was television’s Wonder Woman back in the 1970’s) She said this to some villain that she had just lassoed: “You do not value women. You must be taught respect!”

    I met Senator Jacob Javits, once, in an elevator at our apartment house in Arlington, Virginia. My mother and I were riding up to the fourth floor with some man. On the way up, my mother asked me “Aren’t you going to say hello to Senator Javits?” I remember turning around from watching the floor indicator, and looked up… and up.. and up* at a distinguished-looking white haired man in what must have been a very expensive suit. I said, “Hi.” He, amused, said “Hello”.

    * – I was one of those kids who, when I was in high school, looked too little to be in high school. And I was only in 6th grade when this happened.

    Oh, btw… Canadian astronaut Mark Hadfield took this photo of Venice from the International Space Station. Look, there’s A.B. and Holly!

  16. Dr. Empirical says:

    No one was willing to pay me to go to NY Con this year without giving me a lot of burdensome assignments that would keep me from attending the events I wanted. I’m working on a new scam that would get me in free in exchange for writing about it. Hoping to be back next year.

    I would point out, Hairball, that the male anatomy in the superhero world is also outrageously exaggerated. Not denying that female secondary sexual characteristics are emphasized, but it’s a comic book! It’s not Supposed to be realistic!

  17. Kate L says:

    Dr. Empirical (#16), Hairball. Women actors in the various Star Trek venues were often… augmented. I’ve heard that one person who refused to follow this tradition was Kate Mulgrew (Captain Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager, Red on Orange is the New Black).

  18. Fi says:

    Hot damn, Kate. Yet another reason for smart women everywhere to love Captain Janeway Mulgrew!!

  19. Kate L says:

    Well said, Fi (#18)! 🙂 Meanwhile, here in Smallville-On-The-Highplains, some of the same local characters who campaigned to get the anti-gay marriage amendment in the state constitution were passing out Republican campaign literature in a Smallville apartment building, when one of the residents (not me, I swear) started denouncing them as fascists. I loved it! I only wish that Feminista could have been here to see it!

  20. Kate L says:

    … Btw, the Kansas 1st congressional district takes up the western half of Kansas, covering about two-thirds as much territory as New England. Moo U and Smallville are in the 1st. A liberal Moo U professor is running against conservative Republican Congressman Tim Huelskamp, who you may remember from television. The Moo U professor is running 7 points ahead of Congressman Huelskamp, as of yesterday. My point, and I do have one, is get out and vote! If Kansans can vote for progressives, so can you! As we used to say in the 60’s, “Vote for the Kennedy of your choice, but vote!”

  21. Mentor says:

    [Ever dreamed of a chance to co-author a cartoon with AB?

    Now here’s your chance (well, sort of…):
    [Click Here]
    [Click Here] –Mentor]

  22. Kate L says:

    Mentor (#21) I’d give A.B.’s finish-the-cartoon challenge a try, but everything I draw looks like a character from the old Soupy Sales TV show from the 60’s. Hmmm… maybe the climber character could be hanging onto the side of White Fang? He was never seen, but Soupy always had to look up, up, up to talk with him. Probably too specific a reference, though.

  23. Alex K says:

    ZAP KOMIX as an influence on AB… well. She sezzit, it must be so.

    Perhaps in the YOU CAN DRAW ANYTHING AND NOT BE CAST INTO HELL’S FLAMES sense. At least, not IMMEDIATELY cast into Hell’s flames. The “Look, other people can do it, and so can I!” moment is powerful.

  24. Mentor says:

    [Those who’ve heard the CD for “Fun Home” (or have been lucky enough to have seen the production live) know that one of the true high points of the show is Sydney Lucas’ remarkable rendition of “Ring of Keys”.

    I don’t recall this having been posted here before, but here is a video of SL performing the song at the 2014 Drama desk awards: [CLICK HERE]

    P.S. This is pretty amazing as well: [CLICK HERE] –Mentor]

  25. Kate L says:

    Hey, all women geologists have rings of keys! And, a good pair of hiking boots. Doc Martens are the best, if you can afford them. And, plaid shirts. And (of course) its best to wear your hair short so it doesn’t blow into your face.

    Kansas Republican Governor Sam Brownback was nearly defeated for running a $25 million dollar deficit in the state budget. Less than one week after the election, Governor Brownback and his GOP colleagues in the state legislature have announce that their pre-election budget deficit estimate was slightly off. They now say that it is going to be over $250 million dollars for next year. Somehow, I don’t think the plans to expand the Moo U geology program are going to survive this financial train wreck. Unless we want to call the proposed new geology building the Koch Brothers Fossil Fuel Energy Center. Hey, nobody breathe a word of that idea!

  26. Ginjoint says:

    Hey Kate L, I saw this homage to Janeway, and thought of you. 🙂

  27. Kate L says:


    This is great! As I always say, WWJD (“What Would Janeway Do”)? And, wait until you get a load of THIS!