Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Insanity Museum & the Clock Tower Drops Its Veil

Our Friends at Buongiorno Venezia had a lot of good (i.e., weird) news. Here's two for you:

From "BUONGIORNO VENEZIA - The News from Venice" published fortnightly by VENICEWORD
INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SERVICES in Venice, Italy - 22 May 2006

A museum devoted to insanity -- or the treatment of it -- was inaugurated on 20 May in the island of S. Servolo, which is in the stretch of the lagoon between Venice and the Lido and, for 300 years, housed a mental hospital. The name of the museum is "Museum of the Psychiatric Hospital of S. Servolo. The secluded madness". It's divided into different sectors, with a historic introductory section that shows the main curative methods of past centuries, such as chains, straitjackets, handcuffs, and the equipment used for the electroshock treatment, an Italian invention that was first used on this island in 1938. There are also, from the early years of the 20th-Century, some very rare plethysmographs: the first, primitive lie detectors.

The restoration work on the Clock Tower in St. Mark's Square has ended, and on Saturday 27 May there will be a great fete to celebrate the event. At midnight, the veil that now covers it will fall, and the Moors -- silent for ten years -- will welcome the new day by tolling 132 times. At the last toll, a brilliant display of fireworks will light the tower. The producer of the event, Venetian Marco Balich, was also the artistic director of the opening and closing ceremonies at the Turin Winter Olympics. A few hours before, beginning at 8:30 p.m., actors, acrobats, and jugglers will liven up the scene, and the feast's Patroness will be actress Claudia Cardinale.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Mad Cows May Silence Venice's Music?

From our friends at ANSA.it news:

Music string makers hit by mad cow

Italian world-beaters struggle with gut ban (ANSA) - Venice, May 19 -

Italy's musical-string makers are fighting a mad-cow ban on the use of their raw material, animal guts.

"This ban makes no sense. You can't eat a violin string," said Mimo Peruffo of the Aquila company, the leading Italian producer of strings.

Aquila uses the intestines of sheep and cows, both outlawed under a European Union ban on offal and other animal parts introduced to halt the spread of mad cow disease.

The company, which is based at Caldogno near Venice, has been forced to turn to a gut supplier in Argentina, the only country the EU rates as risk-free.

"It's simply not enough to ensure future production," Peruffo said.

"We're faced with the risk of shutting down because of a lack of raw material".

Peruffo pointed out that, at the end of the production process, his strings are painted or clad with silver-coated copper wire.

"This eliminates all risk for humans. But the ban stands. The extension of the measure to cover strings is absurd. Our product is simply unfit for human consumption - for the right reasons".

Aquila asked the Italian ministry of health if the EU really meant to include musical strings, to be met with the official answer: "The measure applies to all forms of animal intestines, no matter where they end up".

Peruffo now plans to appeal to a court for an exemption as part of an "historically significant" craft.

Italy has long stood at the head of the world's string makers, the small-business association Confartigianato pointed out.

"The skills were handed down for centuries by craftsmen in Rome, Naples and the Abruzzo region, spreading later to workshops in the Venice and Modena areas," the association noted.

"Traditional Italian mastery cannot be jeopardised by a silly ban on eating violin strings," the association said. Animal intestines have been used to make strings for thousands of years. The first proof that the Ancient Greeks used the material came in 1827 when an English archaeologist found harp strings in Thebes that still had a tone after about 2,000 years.

Legend has it that Greek god Apollo stretched tortoise entrails across the animal's scooped-out shell to invent the first lyre.

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