Archive for Christmas

Dec
21

Off for Christmas

Posted by: | Comments (13)

I know it seems like I just got back, so to speak, but Christmas is bearing down on us and we are fleeing to the mountains where we will alternately celebrate and combat it with cheese, apple strudel, needlepoint, TV, hiking, and sleep.

Happy holidays to everyone who reads my scribbles.  You have made this a wonderful year for me.

IMG_0096 gondola xmas card crop blog resize

 

Categories : Uncategorized
Comments (13)
Dec
23

Christmas cheer

Posted by: | Comments (1)

 

IMG_4403  xmas blog USE

Yes, I have returned to my mooring here and have been grappling with the holiday trappings — more mental than physical.  Translation: I just haven’t felt like doing or writing or thinking anything, really.

But the ghosts of Calvinists Past have reared up and made harrowing threats if I continue to indulge this revolting lethargy.  And I always respond to harrowing threats, in case you ever need to know.  Hideous predictions about the afterlife usually do the trick.

In any case, Christmas in our lobe of Venice this year is so low-key that it’s hardly noticeable.  The atmosphere in the city as a whole is so far from festive that I’m not going to go into it at all.  But I don’t need lights and spangles to know that it’s just about show time.

We will do the traditional Christmas food and possibly the traditional staying-up-late, though that’s becoming more optional as the years go by.  Then we will go to the mountains for the New Year phase.

And then we’ll all be back here together, not making it up.

The Nativity scene at the F. Morosini Naval School has once again focused on the lagoon.  The innovations here are the starfish as stars (no surprise there), and the comet's tail is the shell of a pinna nobilis (fan mussel) painted gold.  The cradle for the still-in-transit Baby Jesus is a clamshell.  It looks pretty comfortable, at least to me.

The Nativity scene at the F. Morosini Naval School has once again focused on the lagoon. The innovations here are the starfish as stars (no surprise there), and the comet’s tail is the shell of a pinna nobilis (fan mussel) painted gold. The cradle for the still-in-transit Baby Jesus is a clamshell. It looks pretty comfortable, at least to me.

IMG_4391  xmas blog USE

One creche (or presepe, as it's called here) isn't enough at the Naval School, where the chaplain and cadets put heart, soul and all sorts of useful bric-a-brac into their scenes. The lifebuoy adds a touch of metaphor to the arrangement. As is usual, the figure of the Bambin Gesu' is only installed on Christmas Day.

One creche (or presepe, as it’s called here) isn’t enough at the Naval School, where the chaplain and cadets put heart, soul and all sorts of useful bric-a-brac into their scenes. The lifebuoy adds a touch of metaphor to the arrangement. As is usual, the figure of the Bambin Gesu’ is only installed on Christmas Day.

The woman in command of this family was getting everything ready a week early, from socks to reindeer.

The woman in command of this family was getting everything ready a week early, from underwear to reindeer.

This curious but strangely appealing effort at spreading holiday cheer didn't last long.  An hour later it was gone.  Why ?  Were they  breaking some municipal ordinance?  Or did they suddenly discover that they really needed these three balls inside?

This curious but strangely appealing effort at spreading holiday cheer didn’t last long. An hour later they were gone. Why?  Were this in contravention of some municipal ordinance? Or did the family suddenly discover that it really needed these three balls inside?

Humans are preparing to gorge over the next few days, but a Little egret (Egretta garzetta) has already started noshing.  The vaporetto dock is an excellent place to spear anguele (Atherina boyeri).

Humans are preparing to gorge themselves over the next few days, but a little egret (Egretta garzetta) has already started noshing. The vaporetto dock is an excellent place to spear anguele (Atherina boyeri).  When the birds are happy, I’m happy.  I wonder if they’d like some panettone, we’ve got three of them already.  It’ll take me till Candlemas to finish them if nobody helps me.

 

Categories : Uncategorized
Comments (1)
Somebody put an amazing amount of time, effort and Christmas spirit into this for no evident reason other than to be beautiful and make people smile. For me, that sums up a large slice of the Christmas Spirit..

Somebody put an amazing amount of time, energy and good will into bedizening their everyday boat for no evident reason other than to make it beautiful and possibly also make people smile. For me, that sums up a large slice of the Christmas Spirit.

I have returned to my duties as lookout, town crier, Samuel Pepys, and portraitist.

But Christmas is no time for teeth-grinding or fist-shaking — I state that as a principle, but it’s still early and reality may yet intervene — and so please consider this post as my heartfelt wish that it may be a beautiful time for everyone. And that 2014 will be the best year ever.

I have to close; Lino has begun to roast the eel for tomorrow night’s dinner and I need to go open all the windows.

 

Categories : Events
Comments (10)
Dec
30

The last rant of 2012, I promise

Posted by: | Comments (3)

A touch of Christmas spirit, hung out to dry.  Festive photographs are added to this post to mitigate the rantage.

I can’t resist — well, I don’t know if I can’t, because I haven’t tried — recounting the latest arabesques from the ACTV.  And lest you think I am obsessed with the public transport system here, let me defend my little manias by saying that it’s not so much the ACTV that I’m obsessed with so much as I am with absurdities and preposterosities.  They have a fatal fascination for me.  My father was the same way.  And the ACTV is the Venetian equivalent of Old Faithful, gushing an unfailing flood of reckless absurdity over the the lives of innocent, unoffending travelers who have paid their money to go somewhere and have found themselves instead on the road to the looney bin.

Christmas Day.  I thought everybody knew that the entire world has important plans which involve some sort of travel.  But if you were to have been so ill-starred as to need to go between the Lido and Tronchetto (d/b/a/ the mainland) on the morning of our Saviour’s birth, you’d have spent all morning praying in your car.  A car almost certainly loaded with children, gifts for relatives, and perhaps foodstuffs not packed for long-term transport.

Poinsettias (known here as “stella di Natale,” or “Christmas star”) are always a good theme for a tablecloth. They’re so pretty.  And they don’t have to be watered.

According to the report in the Gazzettino, the reserved spaces for cars on the ferryboats for Christmas Day had been sold out almost a week earlier.  Which meant that — not to put too fine a point on it — the ACTV had time to prepare reinforcements, because it is obvious to anyone who has ever been alive on Christmas Day that masses of people who needed to travel but hadn’t managed to book a space would just show up.  And so it was: On the morning of one of the busiest travel days in the year, hundreds of cars were lined up, at the Lido and also at Tronchetto, just waiting.

This was Olympics-level waiting, waiting on the grand scale.  Because the ACTV had put only two (2) ferryboats into service that morning.  One (1) going each way.

The two “flagships” (“Lido di Venezia” and “San Nicolo'”) were out of service for scheduled maintenance work.  Not emergency maintenance, which would be moderately excusable, but work that had been scheduled by some large intellect for the holiday period.  Not only does this border on madness from the public-service point of view, it’s also insane because who would be working over Christmas?  Except, I mean, in an emergency capacity.

The enraged would-be passengers began a surge of protest on Facebook and (I suppose) Twitter.  The ACTV, roused by this from its torpor, launched extra boats — the two smallest ferries, “Marco Polo” at 12:05 and “Ammiana” (no heating, but who cares at this point) at 12:20.  For someone who might have had a two-hour trip ahead of them, this wouldn’t translate as “Way to go, ACTV, you’ve saved the day,” but “Thanks, ACTV, you’ve dismembered my Christmas.”

Note: Due to the “excellent work” of Mauro Minio, may his tribe increase and all go to work for the ACTV, the “Lido di Venezia” was sufficiently repaired in order to begin service that afternoon at 4:00 PM.

All this needs no comment from me, but why should that stop me?  The ACTV isn’t expected to stop the war in Syria.  It isn’t expected to eradicate malaria.  It isn’t expected to adopt Ukrainian orphans.  It isn’t expected to anything but provide the means, for payment, by which the public may go from here to there. But that seems to be too much to expect. Pay, yes.  Transport you to where you’re going? In the immortal words of Jack Benny, they’re thinking about it, they’re thinking about it.

Must keep foremost in mind the reason for all this wild activity. My vote goes to this scene; I’ve never seen a fuzzy pipe-cleaner palm tree before, but next year I want an entire oasis made of them.

Breaking news: The ACTV has announced a severe crackdown on scofflaws who ride for free.  Naturally there are people who skip the ticket-buying process. The company makes cheating irresistible, what with gouging the passengers with the price of tickets and then not bothering to maintain any system of checking them (I cannot remember, even if you promised me a house in Aspen, the last time a ticket-checker appeared).

Furthermore, ever since the new, computerized system of electronic tickets replaced the old paper version, you’re required to “beep” your ticket on a little machine before climbing aboard.  Even if you have a month’s pass, you’re required to “beep.”  Anyone caught with an un-beeped ticket is counted as someone who didn’t pay.

No one has ever understood why a person with a once-beeped monthly pass has to keep beeping it or be punished. The ACTV says it’s to get accurate statistics on ridership.

For a while, the ACTV put posters up in the vaporettos and buses complimenting themselves that the percentage of freeloaders had dropped from 8.20 percent to 1.16 percent under their intense vigilance.  But the numbers conceal an unpleasant fact, which is that the directors’ bonuses are directly linked to the percentage of deadbeats they catch. In the real world, that would make sense.  Prizes are supposed to be given for performance. But wait.

Davide Scalzotto wrote about this in the Gazzettino a month ago, headined (I translate): “The mystery of onboard evasion, and the mystery of the company’s bonuses.”  It was inspired by the press conference held to announce the new program to install turnstiles on the docks (there already are some in operation) and buses, turnstiles which are going to stop freeloaders forever.  But the company didn’t give specific numbers to delineate the dimensions of the problem, making it impossible to know how efficient they actually have been and, more to the point, how necessary these expensive turnstiles really are.

The only reason to go anywhere by any means of transport is to eat and drink. And wash up.

As Scalzotto points out, the ACTV is stuck.  If they admit that evasion is high, they don’t have any basis for awarding bonuses.  But on the other hand, if they say evasion is low (“We did it!”), they don’t have any basis for justifying the new turnstiles.

The data provided by the ACTV shows that in 2009 (one year after the electronic, or IMOB, system was instituted), the rate of evasion on the vaporettos was 0.49 percent, and on the buses was 1.72 percent.  In 2011 the rate was 0.64 percent on water and 2.12 on land.

The limit below which bonuses are automatically awarded is fixed at 0.70 and 2.0 percent. This is extraordinary: The numbers given for diminished evasion are just a squeak under the limit which permits the bonuses. I’m not sure how they got around the 2.0 ceiling, but bonuses to the ACTV are like rain in Cherrapunjee, India: Inevitable.

Now a city councilor, Sebastiano Costalonga, has opened an inquiry which will seek to obtain the certifiable passenger/evasion numbers from 2010 to today, and discover the parameters which are used to determine the bonuses.

But keep this in mind.  The ACTV has declared that they’re 8 million euros in the red.  The turnstiles will cost around 5 million euros.  Apart from the fact that these turnstiles will create a sack of problems, as we say here, for the passengers, how can the ACTV keep raising ticket prices because they’re broke, if at the same time they’re so ready to spend money they don’t have?

For something which — if their own numbers are to be believed — isn’t necessary in the first place.  Because if they really have driven down the percentage of cheapskates with hardly any turnstiles, what’s the point of adding more turnstiles?

I promise to change the subject in 2013.  Not for the entire year, but at least for a little while.

Happy New Year.

Wishing everyone a year full to the brim with everything wonderful.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Comments (3)