Places

Bomarzo tra il Santo Biscotto e la Fava Marxista: La Festa di Sant’Anselmo (April 23-25, 2014)

Il biscotto di Sant'Anselmo

My days in Bomarzo in 2009 did not show the town at its most industrious…or, on the contrary, perhaps it did. The end of April and the beginning of May mark holiday season in this medieval hill town of fewer than 1800 inhabitants. The third weekend of the month and the weekdays that lead up to it mark the festival of the local saint, Saint Anselm of Bomarzo, the 25th also being the national holiday of the Liberation. The following weekend embraces May Day, the international celebration of the working man and woman, which needs no explanation. A young person asked me why we don’t celebrate this holiday in the United States, conjuring up old photos of the police and the National Guard in my mind.

Seven Ways to Improve the Tour de France

Cycling fans watch the opening time trial of Paris-Nice in Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse, 3 March 2012. Photo © 2012 Alan Miller.

I wouldn’t go so far as the three-time world-champion Óscar Friere, who reckons that the Tour de France is “the most boring race of the year” — has he ever watched the Tour of Qatar? — but this year’s race did make me wonder how many more like it the old institution can take. Institutionalization is the Tour’s great burden, or at least its double-edged sword. For the casual fan it is the ‘race of record,’ cycling itself. Those who follow the sport more closely understand that while the Tour is undeniably the most competitive, and therefore the most prestigious, among the three Grand Tours of Italy, France and Spain, it often not the most interesting.

Heart of the City

A successful public space, they say, is one where the citizens block the steps. So suggested urbanologist Lewis Mumford nearly a hundred years ago. I’m not certain he would have had San Francisco’s busy Union Square in mind, but he may have, even then. What Mumford never envisaged, surely, was the odd and telling assemblage of human beings who make the Square the center of their lives and a Rorschach test for the character of one of America’s great cities. I am one of them. For those of us living downtown, it is the front yard.

Le Tour de France 2011 (version française)

Le Tour de France, comme un voyage à la lune ou une mission de la navette spatiale, est une espèce d’art performatif. Le parcours est dessinée, mais un scénario imprévisible se déroule toujours sur les routes de France. La plupart des Tours de France depuis j’ai commencé à faire attention en 1989 étaient dominés par les grands champions comme Miguel Indurain (cinq maillots jaunes) et Lance Armstrong (sept), avec les brefs interrègnes. Le Tour de 2011, possiblement le meilleur, est peut-être le Tour qui rompra cette modèle de “star-système.” C’est le premier Tour vraiment post-Armstrong, post-Armstrongiste.
Grace peut-être au dessin supérieur des routes français, le parcours du Tour n’est pas le plus difficile des trois grands tours (de la France, l’Italie et l’Espagne). Si le Giro d’Italia, incroyablement dur dans les années recentes (deux ascensions de Mt. Etna dans une journée!?) est une sorte de free jazz, le Tour de France est peut-être un big band de Glenn Miller: structuré, populaire, avec ses conventions familières et ses variations subtils entre les éditions qui se produit des énormes différences de scénario. Le parcours et les ambitions des 198 coureurs créent des histoires grands, petits et insolites, surtout cette année.

Le Tour de France 2011 (English Version)

The Tour de France, like a moon landing or shuttle mission, is a kind of performance art. The route is predetermined, but the scenario which plays out on the roads of France is always unpredictable. The majority of the Tours since I started paying attention in 1989 have been dominated by the likes of five time winner Miguel Indurain and seven time winner Lance Armstrong, interspersed with brief interregnums. If we are lucky, the 2011 edition, the greatest I have seen without a doubt, will be remembered as the Tour which broke this “star-system.” It is certainly the first truly post-Armstrong, and post-Armstrongian, race.

Seeking Solitude in Venice

It’s been some years since I’ve been in Venice, and I found the state of the Piazza S. Marco disturbing. I was appalled by the huge ads for clothing and champagne which dominated both the Piazza and the Piazzetta — now the subject of a formal protest published in the Art Newspaper (“Ads of Sighs,” The Art Newspaper, Friday, October 8, 2010), to which the mayor of Venice, Giorgio Orsoni, has given a reply worthy of Glenn Beck…

Australia Says No, Thanks: the Election of 2010

Three weeks after deposing Kevin Rudd, as though ticking off another item on her to-do list, Julia Gillard called a federal election (one of only three winter federal elections in Australian history). I can’t summon the heart to give much of an account of the five week campaign which followed, especially since the twist in the story only came once the votes began to be counted. You really had to be here. The campaign was truly godawful, a complete extinguishing of the hope which had seen Kevin07 elected three years before. Both major parties pandered to the same focus groups in the same few marginal electorates. They peddled small bore middle class welfare and indulged trumped-up fear; they blandly appealed to the most disgracefully narrow-minded tendencies in the darkest marginal corners of the Australian electorate, the people who fear their leaf blowers will not be powerful enough to defend their McMansions against Taliban invasion. It was easy to to believe that the entire country had become, as one correspondent to the Sydney Morning Herald wrote, a Boganocracy.

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