Car Show

My favorite is the Hemi Roadrunner. It probably doesn’t compare to the Ferrari’s, but it hits close to home for me. I owned one back in the ’70’s. Not as nice as this one though. A very nice post. Click through to Johnny Bond’s site.

Johnny Bond's Hot Wheels

The 5th Avenue Car Show was this weekend in Naples, Florida. I was told by the owner of The Corvette Store in Pompano Beach that it is the largest car show in Florida. There were eight blocks filled with 100s of rare exotics and vintage cars.

The left side of the street is vintage Ferrari’s and the right side of the street is new Ferraris

An extremely rare Mercedes Benz 300 SLR

An original Mustang Shelby GT 350

The Back To The Future Car

This beautiful vintage Ferrari was amongst my favorites at the show

A Ferrari Enzo was a highlight at the show. Only 399 were ever produced

The brand new 2012 McLaren. This car’s direct competition is the Ferrari Italia.

The brand new Corvette was modified to look like a 1960s Stingray

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An Industry in Trouble – Carrara, Italy

Carrara, Italy

This is a re-post. I wrote this in 2009. Sadly, the situation has not improved in Carrara since that time. By now the situation has become permanent damage and I do not expect it to revive. Here is that post:

As you might already know, my business interests are tied to the marble and stone industry. Over the last several decades I have been creating estimates, selling stone projects, and then managing them. Recently, perhaps during the last decade, but especially over the last 5 years, I’ve become aware of a situation that the average person wouldn’t know about.

Ever so slowly the stone cutting industry in Carrara, Italy has been eroded and is now standing in devastation. There isn’t any moral or lesson to this short essay, I just feel sad to see the outcome, and I thought that it might be interesting to some.

My wife and I traveled to Carrara during one of our trips to Europe. I was working on a project that was in fabrication there and I stopped to visit with the company doing the work. We were welcomed very warmly; something that we all could learn from doing business with the Italians. They know how to warm your heart and make a transaction with them enjoyable. Beth and I were treated to lunch up on the mountain top near to the quarries. There is a very small village up top, where the quarrymen live. In that village is a tiny, but excellent, restaurant. Two bottles of wine, grappa to finish, and some great food made that lunch a big deal. We’ve never forgotten it.

At that time things were going fairly well for the stone fabricators in Carrara. There was an abundance of business. Demand was high from the U.S. and from the Middle East where palaces were being build in abundance. There was only one annoyance: The Chinese were starting to take work from them. But it wasn’t critical, since the jobs taken were simple work, and these craftsmen felt confident in their long developed skills; having creating project after project successfully. They expected to prevail. It was just galling at the time; at least that was the attitude that I noted. A particular frustration was that the Chinese were buying the stone cutting equipment from Italian machinery manufacturers. Those vendors had developed their equipment and technologies of course in Carrara. Much of that equipment and those Chinese fabrication shops were heavily funded by the Chinese government, putting the Italian fabrication industry at a substantial disadvantage.

Carrara Marble Quarries

Of course that competition never abated. And the Chinese only worked on the small and simple projects for a little while. They slowly captured a larger and larger share of the market for cut stone. At the same time the European Union came together and adapted the Euro. The EU determined to make this currency a strong and solid value. Unfortunately the stone fabrication industry in Italy was heavily dependent upon exporting their services and stone products. The U.S. wasn’t on the same track for strengthening our Dollar. We professed to desire a strong Dollar, but it was only lip-service. We were busy printing money. The Chinese Renminbi (元 the yuan) was tied to the Dollar and so it depreciated in value with it. European goods and services became more expensive in the U.S. over time, and Italian fabricators were undercut worldwide by Chinese fabricators of marbles and granite, who were selling goods in Dollars much more cheaply than the Italians.

Then came the worldwide recession we are currency experiencing. Who needs high cost cut-stone projects today? I can answer that – almost no one. So the industry in Carrara, developed since the time of the Roman Empire, is collapsing and shop after shop are standing empty and idle. A business that was developed and handed down from generation to generation is going away.

“So the industry in Carrara, developed since the time of the Roman Empire, is collapsing and shop after shop are standing empty and idle. A business that was developed and handed down from generation to generation is going away.”

Our host during our time in Carrara, for that wonderful lunch, pointed out to us that many of the people that live there on the mountain, and who work in the quarries, are blue-eyed and blonde-haired. Not particularly important, but he pointed out that these people were decedents of Germanic slaves brought back to Italy by the Roman’s hundreds of years and countless generations ago. I found that fascinating, and it made perfect sense. When we were in Florence I spoke to a tilesetter who was working adjacent to the piazza where we were having lunch. He mentioned that the building where he was working was very old, and that he enjoyed being part of its history. He asked if I, in my work, did likewise work on historic projects? I had to point out that the U.S. was only a little over 200 years old, and that most of our buildings were built very recently by his reckoning. So our perspectives were much different. I mention that encounter because it brings to mind the certain sadness that people in Carrara undoubtedly feel over the decimation of their businesses. Businesses that were handed down from father to son for generations. I don’t think we can appreciate the historical context here. We come and go in businesses that last only a few years sometimes.

The quarries themselves are still in action; as are many of the fabrication shops still. The blocks are still trucked down the mountain and through town. But now, very often, those blocks of marble are loaded on ships going to China for fabrication. As I say, not all the shops are closed, but the heart is being stripped out of the business. What’s left is not happy; it’s a struggle. These are good people – generous people – who have been stripped of a way of life.

It’s only a microcosm of the problems in the world. Soon people in Bangladesh and others who live on low lying islands will be completely displaced by rising oceans. The Italian stone industry and the people who grew up in it aren’t as bad off. It’s just that I know of this situation and thought to mention it here.

Perhaps in the future the industry will rebuild. Times and events change.

The Guaranty Building – A Lewis Sullivan Design 1894

About 30 years ago my company worked on the restoration of the Guaranty Bldg. in Buffalo, NY.

Much of the marble was cleaned and polished by us. We brought experts from Italy to help us, and to teach us the best methods for repairing the damaged tessera panels. We rebuilt the newsstand that you see in this photo from Tenessee Pink Marble that we had removed from the Chevrolet Motor Plant in Tonawanda, NY the year before. They were remodeling shower rooms and had us tear out dozens and dozens of panels. They were indispensable to this renovation at the Guaranty Building. The quarry was closed at that time.

It’s a great building, not big, but it has beautiful features. I have had art work on my office wall showing this building for many years. It isn’t the largest project I’ve ever been a part of, but it was one of the most interesting.

Here is a link to the Wikipedia information about this building.

Sanguinello Painting by Mary Wallace

A wonderful painting by Mary Wallace. More information on her site by clicking through.

artwallace inspired

….every hue from tangerine through to persimmon.

‘Sanguinello’  was inspired by a sojourn in Piemonte, Italia where I breakfasted daily on ‘spremuta d’arancia‘ (freshly squeezed oranges) of every hue from tangerine through to persimmon. I didn’t see any citrus trees whilst there; but the colours of the fruit in the markets and the ever-changing blush of the ‘orange’ juice , sparked something deep down.

Ideas can take a while to come through to my painting them.

Sanguinello – a blood orange – grows in Siciliaand ripens just about now (February). It is a sweet and delicious fruit with crimson flesh. There is a hint of this inner secret in my painting as you will notice I have used red and crimson tones in the shadows of the yellow skin.

This is the first of my series of Mediterranean paintings: images of citrus groves full…

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Storytelling

Last night we watched Out of Africa. There was a thought expressed in the Extra information about the movie, and about the real people upon whom the movie was premised. I thought that it was worthwhile, and worthy of considering in my writing and musings as a writer. Unfortunately I think that I’ve lost it, and I am frustrated.

A part of what I took away was about storytelling. The year then was 1919 and, in Africa, people would take days just getting someplace. When they got there, they were not entertained with TV or movies, they talked, and they told stories. They valued a person who was able to tell a story well.

That is something that I ought to be considering all of the time when writing. Because my craft skills as a writer aren’t the best, I have spent a lot of time considering plot, character development, dialog, and those technical aspects of writing a story. Additionally, I need to consider the storytelling craft. The ability to create suspense, and to build up emotional attachments to the characters by those who read or listen to the story.

There was something else though; I’m sure of it. It is eluding me at the moment, and I may need to re-watch that video clip. It was late at night, I had some wine, and it had been a long day. I just hope, if I do watch it again, that the inspirational idea is really there.

Solar Power Subsidies Being Reduced in Germany

I wasn’t aware that Germany was changing its commitment to solar energy. I need to read more about this in coming days.

Oil and Gas Industry News

http://platform.twitter.com/widgets/hub.1326407570.html

German environment minister Norbert Roettgen wants to bring forward reductions in the country’s incentives for solar power by three months to April 1 in light of the continued strong expansion in the world’s largest market.

But Roettgen said he wants to leave the corridor for new photovoltaic installations unchanged at between 2.5 gigawatt to 3.5 gigawatt per year, rebuffing a demand from the Free Democrat coalition partners to cap new installations at 1 gw per year.

Roettgen, a conservative ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, said he was opposed to capping installations in Germany at 1 gw per year as Economy Minister Philipp Roesler, the leader of the FDP coalition partners, has demanded.

“My goal is to change the law effective April 1,” Roettgen told journalists after a meeting with Christian Democrat members of parliament to discuss speeding up cuts in the “feed-in tariff” (FIT), the lifeblood for the industry…

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Thoughts about Eating and Italian Meals

Here are some excellent thoughts about food and how we eat written by Jeanne Marshall. Thanks Jeanne.

Jeannie Marshall

I’ve been reading some of the latest weight loss tips and diabetes prevention tactics from diet gurus and nutrition experts. It’s all based on recent studies, the most up to the minute research. It never fails to surprise me how much these great scientific revelations mirror the food knowledge already contained in traditional food cultures. Since I live in Italy, I’ll compare what I learned this week from science with what Italians have been doing for centuries.

The experts have found that starches and refined sugars enter our bloodstreams very quickly and cause our sugar levels to spike and our insulin levels to rise. All of this causes us to put on weight and puts us at risk for diabetes. A few years ago the experts were telling us not to eat starches and sugars. Now they’re telling us it’s how we consume starches and sugars that cause our problems…

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