More Secrets of the Vatican Revealed

Wednesday 11 March 2009

Thanks to Bodgieman for his comments on touring the Vatican; in particular, for his reminiscence of the time he “stole a brown plastic coffee cup from the restaurant /bar on top of the dome at St Peters”. The most shocking thing about this revelation is that there’s a restaurant hidden away in the top of St Peters. I had no idea. It sounds like the sort of thing the British would do in St Pauls.
I haven’t been inside St Pauls yet, because I hear they charge admission. Mind you, they charge admission to go up in the dome of St Peters, which is why I didn’t find out if there really is a bar up there.
On the plus side, the toilets at St Pauls are free, although they use a cheap type of toilet paper you can see your reflection in.
The Bodgieman also accurately notes that “it wasn’t like tv at all where there is commentator and no-one else”. Actually, every time I watch one of those programs where some historian is happily flitting about the Sistine Chapel all to himself, I wonder about all the pissed-off tourists outside who took their one chance to see the place only to discover it’s closed for filming a poncey TV show.
Sometimes, the presenter and camera crew aren’t quite so alone as they would like you to think. I’ve already mentioned the time my visit to the Tate was thwarted by a TV crew butting in every time I’d found a nice painting to contemplate.

Secrets of the Vatican

Wednesday 25 February 2009

Both photography and talking are prohibited in the Sistine Chapel. Unlike most churches which don’t allow photography, the Chapel has relatively few punters in it blithely flashing away at something fifty feet above their heads. The chatter, however, is almost impossible to control.
I was about to make a joke about the effrontery of being told to shut up by a bunch of Italians, but it isn’t necessary: the guards, when they weren’t shushing people, passed time by chatting to each other or yakking on their mobile phones. Besides the guards, the worst offenders were Spanish speakers, who seemed to be at pains to point out that their language is completely different from Italian and the two are mutually incomprehensible.

To get to the Sistine Chapel you have to schlep a long, convoluted path through most of the other Vatican Museums first, with the Chapel itself acting like the centre of a labyrinth. After several miles the senses become dulled, particularly during a series of rooms filled with mostly dull modern religious art. Then, secreted between a room of dodgy late de Chiricos and a room of godawful late Dalis, is a little room which you might overlook in your hurry to get to the Chapel before christmas: it has a dozen Morandis in it. Six paintings and six drawings.
Up until then I’d only seen three of Morandi’s paintings, and none of his drawings. Given how excited art lovers can get when they find more than one of his paintings in the same room, it seemed incredible that this bounty was casually plonked off a passageway with so little fanfare, surrounded by so much vulgarity.
His drawing method is as fascinating as his brushwork, rendering all shade, contrast and depth in a careful layering of meticulous crosshatching.

One last piece of advice: don’t ask the cashier in the cafeteria how much the bananas cost. It will only cause you grief and anxiety and you won’t want a banana in any case.

The past is a foreign country, and sometimes vice versa.

Wednesday 18 February 2009

While Shepherds Watched Their Ducks By Night, or The Decline of the Roman Empire

Sunday 15 February 2009

First of all, the threatened photo of Wussius Maximus.
Secondly, before anyone asks, no I didn’t buy any Fonzies when I was in Rome. By the time I remembered to look for them I was already at the pitiful airport departures terminal and didn’t want to pay an extra Euro for the privilege of possessing a rather sad looking packet behind the only bar. (If you’re a Twisties fan, apparently you’re not missing much.)
The good thing about visiting Rome in the middle of winter is that the city is pretty empty. On a Monday night in January you and your special someone can have a restaurant more or less to yourselves. This makes it an excellent time of year to visit the Vatican, which at any other time is impossibly packed with tourists. Mind you, the low season doesn’t deter the dodgy touts who still hang around on the Rome-Vatican border offering you “special access” to St Peter’s and the museums, even though you it’s perfectly possible to wander in by yourself. (Don’t try this at any other time of year! The queue for the museums gets up to a kilometre long.)
The Vatican houses some of the greatest masterpieces of art from the past two millennia. It also contains some remarkable modern catholic tat. The Holy See keeps its Christmas decorations up until Candlemas, so I got to see two nativity dioramas: a ho-hum, life-size one outside in the piazza, and this monstrosity inside the basilica itself.

It looks like someone just went crazy with the church credit card down at the local garden centre, then just shoved it all together wherever they could get it to fit.

Apparently there was a sale on plaster ducks that day.

It’s good to see the Catholic church still has a good eye for a fine bottom on a young lad. That rooster is totally checking him out (make your own joke here.)

As promised, for once

Friday 30 January 2009

I’ve just returned from a week in Rome. It was good to get away from the freezing drizzle of London to a milder soaking, of a type that made me nostalgic for winters in Melbourne, back in the days when it rained. Actually, it made me nostalgic for Melbourne coffee too.

Right now I really need to find a new job, but there’ll be at least a couple of posts over the next few days. Stand by for photos of quaint old Fiat 500s and the world’s wussiest gladiator.

Streetview Adelaide: The Museum Of Dirt

Tuesday 7 October 2008

I haven’t been doing any work, I’ve just been playing with Google’s street view of Australia. I’ve been mostly looking at Adelaide, my old home town.
Thanks Google, for picking Hard Rubbish Day to send your little car around the neighbourhood I grew up in. You make it look like I spent my childhood in a tip.

Note also in the above photos two other Adelaide icons, the brush fence and the stobie pole. I’ve tweaked the photos a little bit because Google went through town on a bright sunny day, and the intermittent tree cover made a lot of the pictures overexposed.

Bus Simulator 2.0

Sunday 5 October 2008

This weekend I’ve been distracted by (a) a head cold, and (b) Street View on Google Maps. The Sooper Seekrit Kar has been tootling around London for months now, but there still aren’t any British photos available on Google’s site yet. I’ve been counting on this to save me from having to take lots of boring photos of where I live, work etc to email the folks Back Home.
I thought I’d have to content myself with vicarious trips around New York City in the meantime, but I’ve just found out accidentally that Street View is now available for Australia. Not just inner cities – the whole bloody lot. Well, the bits I can be bothered looking at.
After checking up on the houses I used to live in around Melbourne, I headed out through the suburbs to see how far the Street View photographs extended. They extend all the way up the highway, 750km to Adelaide. Even though technically, out in the Mallee, there are no streets and there’s not much of a view.
If you ever wanted to check out the main drag of Lameroo without actually going there, now’s your chance. My childhood homes on the outskirts of Adelaide seem to be in there too, so I should have more to report soon.

A Southeastern Trains Employee Offers Travel Advice To A Lost Tourist, Which May Have More General Applications In Life.

Monday 22 September 2008

“It doesn’t matter where you are now, that’s not important. Where do you have to get to?”

Postcards from Berlin (G – VG+)

Monday 15 September 2008

The Weekend that Wasn’t

Monday 15 September 2008

By now I should have just come home tired and hungover from a weekend across the channel catching up with some friends at Happy New Ears in the bustling Belgian burg of Kortrijk – or Courtrai, depending on which Belgian you ask.
Except, I had my ticket booked on the Eurostar on Friday morning. So instead I spent the last couple of days sleeping, drinking alone (whoopee.) and sorting through a small pile of CD-Rs. One of these contained some photos from a trip to Berlin in 2006, which are now on Flickr.
A bunch of these photos are of the sound/painting/lighting installation psc by Michael Graeve, who was at Happy New Ears. Ah well. More sad stories as the week progresses.

Postcards from Amsterdam

Wednesday 10 September 2008

Beautiful Waste

Wednesday 30 July 2008

In a splendid act of procrastination, I’ve been flipping through the photos I took while in Melbourne I found that I spent a lot of time taking pictures of old cars around the place. You don’t see many interesting heaps around Britain, what with the annual testing and British cars having all pretty much rusted away or otherwise fallen to bits. Anyway, I went slightly OCD and uploaded them all to Flickr.

Frontier: Coburg

Saturday 19 July 2008

A few years ago, my girlfriend went to her first medical checkup in London and found herself explaining to the British-born doctor that Australian houses have bedrooms, thus correcting her assumption that verandahs were primarily designed for sleeping. When the only news story from Australia that has impinged upon British consciousness this year is the one about the bloke with the seatbelt on his slab, it can be hard explaining to Brits that Australia is a modern, largely urbanised society, with a complex and sophisticated culture.
Then you come back to Melbourne for a visit, sit out on the verandah of your friend’s house in leafy Coburg, and flip through the Personal Services classifieds at the back of the local paper.

“Yee-haw! There’s a passel o’ fine fillies up from South Yarra ways on that thar stagecoach, pardner!”
“Shucks, Jed, I ain’t seen me a gin-u-wine South Yarra lady up the Sydney Road in a month o’ Sundays!”
And then there’s this inspired promotional campaign that’s guaranteed to drum up trade. It’s enough to make any bargain-hunting man grab his hod and head out west. Also note the somewhat excessive zeal and efficiency that Amy brings to her job.

(Crossposted at Sarsaparilla.)

The tide turns: George W. Bush irritates a blogger

Tuesday 17 June 2008

This time he’s really gone too far. As part of his farewell tour of screwing up bits of the world wherever he goes, Bush decided to arrive at Heathrow at about the same time as my terrible, bumpy, putrid, disease-ridden 23-hour Qantas flight from Melbourne. Thus my journey ended with an extra hour of sitting cooped up in Economy on the tarmac about 20 metres from the arrivals gate, waiting for Air Force One to land, fanny about on the taxiway and disgorge its toxic cargo into a trio of US helicopters.
We were probably the unauthorised plebs with the clearest plain view of the whole ritual. My girlfriend took some photos of POTUS and his posse, but she was using a phone from an aisle seat so the shots all came out looking like she photographed her own armpit under a blanket. Some friendly BritsAustralians in the window seats got us the plane photo.
Another black eye for the British. It took only one American to bring Heathrow Airport to a standstill, something it usually takes thousands of British airport staff to achieve.

By “next week” I meant of course “next next week”

Wednesday 27 February 2008

I’ve finally moved properly into the new house, found my computer, found the computer’s power cable, gotten back online, gotten cut off, remembered to pay the broadband bill, and gotten back online again. Mind you, I also slipped out of town for a long weekend in Barcelona, so it’s not like I’ve been working. Barcelona’s a great city, but it has a dark side. Most particularly, every now and then I would come across a poster advertising an upcoming masterclass. By Craig David.
If life were an early ’70s sci-fi movie, you could destroy the evil supercomputer that had taken over the world by going up to it, showing this poster and saying “Craig David Masterclass”, then running for cover while it shouted “Er-ror! Er-ror! Does Not Com-Pute!” and self-destructed in an enormous, sparkly explosion. I figured this must be some mistake in translation, so I just googled for it:

The main purpose of the Masterclass in Space Movistar is getting artist and audience closer than ever, not only for fitness but also spiritually, as Craig David will answer questions from fans and explain what have been the sources of inspiration his best-known songs as “Walking Away” or his new single “Hot Stuff.”

I expect the source of inspiration for that first song was something to do with him walking away, yeah oh, to find a better day. Here’s hoping he does a masterclass in a country where the audience speaks English as its first language.