Monday, May 28, 2018

A Renaissance

As soon as my college job ended for the year, I began and finished a new episode of Alan's Italy which I completed in less than 3 days. The diminished pressure of not having to prepare for my courses, get to the college, and perform and get tired (especially at my age!!) gave me a renewed sense of purpose and here I am. I chose a theme which was conceived while we were in Rome last January. We left our family in the Roman Forum in the early afternoon of Sunday, Jan 14, took a makeshift rick-shaw from the vicinity of the Colliseum to the Piazza Navona where we spent the next 2 -3 hours sipping one of the finest wines in Italy, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. We enhanced the experience with some snacks and then let the Sunday afternoon crowds of Rome unfold before us. It's like watching a play with the piazza as the stage. As you will see, several hours just sitting and relaxing, watching the world go by on one of the most famous piazzas in Rome can be a delightful experience. Since I knew this would be the theme of a future show, I took three videos which capture the majesty of the moment. I hope you enjoy.

In the future I may have some trouble creating future shows since my material is thin. I have an inkling to explore one of the famous Florentine churches, the Church of Santa Maria Novella and we do have a lot of photos to show. That would be my guess as the next episode of Alan's Italy.

Anyway it's good to be back.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

We Are Back!!!!!

After months of inaction on my part a new video is uploading. After the cancelation of the trip we were supposed to have taken in May 2017, I lost interest for a number of reasons. First, a lot of material I would have brought home and indeed planned for were not there. Second, I just lost interest in the creative process. I found that creativity is not always there, so I gave up the process. I could produced with shows on things which we had not photographed for a while, but that would have required a lot of research and I just wasn't up for it so the channel, Alan's Italy, was in a state of abeyance.

However, we took a fabulous vacation in Italy in January 2018 for 2 weeks, did some photography and videography and my creative juices came back with some ideas. You will see one of them in show # 144 - What's New in Florence, 2018. I focus on a couple of restaurants, one old with a new owner and one totally new, both on via della Scala. I also talk about the renovation completion in the Piazza Santa Maria Novella, the new emphasis on bicycles in Florence, and the new opera house.

The show is not one of my best, although I should leave that judgement to my audience. I didn't feel comfortable and I believe that may come through in the video. I have some more ideas that I hope to get into. I also must sadly report that my dear friend Sharon Hirst, Ric's wonderful wife of many, many years passed away recently. It was quite devastating and shocking even though she had been sick for a long time. Her courage and fortitude were astounding during her final years, months and she will always have a place in my heart. Ric indicates to me that he would like to continue to do shows with me and we have one idea that is almost ready to be pursued.

I have a show I would like to do next on the wonderful and famous Piazza Navona where Laura and I spent two hours just sitting and relaxing and watching the world go by. I took three videos which I will include plus some photos and background material.

Meanwhile we are up to 204 subscribers and over 54,000 views, so even though I have been inactive, the audience has not. Thank you.

Saturday, August 26, 2017


Last week my many fans around the world lucked out when my friends Alan and Ken came to visit. They had promised to take a lot of photos during their trip to Puglia and Basilicata, and then do a show with me. They delivered big time when Ken spent about 25 minutes explaining in great detail a boatload of towns all over that area. I took that interview and created my first production in almost two months, Alan's Italy Show # 143: Puglia. Building on the interview weaving together their many photographs plus my usual search on the Internet for fill ins, I came up with a 31 minute show that focuses on the 9 towns in the Region of Puglia and the 1 town in neighboring Basilicata.

I can't say that everything went smoothly. There was a lot of editing to do both of my intro and outro, and Ken's presentation. I wanted to make it perfect, of course, so edited out most of the times he indicated to Laura, who was advancing the photos for him a few feet in front of the two chairs in which we sat during the presentation, "next photo." I also edited the few times I hesitated or repeated something in my beginning and ending. I found that although my speaking was not the usual "polished work" I usually do, the two month hiatus did not diminish my editing skills as I feared it might. Although I was just not in the mood to produce a show, I was afraid that I would forget stuff, but that didn't happen. After several creations of the finished product, I went back and forth with editing, but finally have what I think is pretty good.

What you will see is quite a wonderful tour of the Southeast Italian peninsula, the "heel of the boot" mostly. Ken has an art background and also has been to many, many places around the world in Asia and Europe mostly so has a world of experience to draw from. He will describe in great detail what there is to see with special emphasis on the churches and Cathedrals. Also he included tips for travelers to this region and advice on how in retrospect he and Alan could have enhanced their trip. Join us for a great show.

Meanwhile I will attempt to sustain some momentum and come up with something new. I have been toying with the idea of a tour of the Medici Chapel in Florence since anyone who loves Michelangelo will get a feast at this amazing museum of history and sculpture. Although I have been there probably 3 or 4 times, I have never studied the actual technique and meaning as an art expert would. I have some research to do obviously. Will do my best.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Dragging Myself Through A Production

Show # 142 was the most difficult experience of my "career" in video production. The logical thing to say here would be, "Gee, Alan, you have met and overcome so many challenges over the past almost 6 years, how can this be so." If you watch the last show, you may have noticed some things that make me believe this one was among my worst productions. There was a very poor transition from image to image that a few weeks ago would have made me make the change no matter how much time it took. This time I just said, "what the heck," and let it go. I almost always start the show with a video of me sitting in a chair, be in the studio or in my house introducing what will come and then an ending saying goodbye "in person". This time I was so lazy that I just did a voice over with some photos. There is very little detail about each place I covered. I could have spoken more about Capri  some interesting Roman ruins, and the fact that the island, in Ancient times, was the retreat away from Rome for Emperor Tiberius. I could have spoken more about what there is to see in Sorrento, or the advantages of taking a boat into Positano to see the remarkable view from the sea angle as opposed to the land entrance into the town. And on and on that in retrospect do not even make me want to do the show over.

So the question on your minds, if you are a steady follower and reader of these blogs, should be, "What is going on?" Several things have occurred lately which have clearly spilled over into my video productions. I will be candid, as I usually am, and mention a few. First, and probably foremost, we cancelled our trip to Italy. During that trip I would have come home with new material which would have produced at least 10 - 12 new shows. In all likelihood I would have scrapped the Bay of Naples Show in favor of one of those things which would have provided me with much greater enthusiasm. For this show I had almost no enthusiasm and very little motivation. The disappointment I sustained had a deleterious effect on my level of motivation to continue Alan's Italy, not simply for psychological reasons, but also simply because I am running out of material. When I return from a trip to Italy, not only do I return with a treasure trove of new things, but the level of excitement to get them into a show is almost overwhelming. So that was absent. Although over the course of 25 years of Italian travel with 27 trips actually planned, I have only cancelled three of them due to various causes, and not since 2012 when I began Alan's Italy. I cancelled in 2000 when I chickened out of my first attempt at a solo trip overseas, and in 2011 when I was recovering from physical illness and frankly felt it more important to prepare for my stepdaughter's wedding in Missouri.

   Second, there is such a thing as being too bored to produce a show. This, to someone who is totally healthy psychologically is unfathomable. That person would think the opposite, "You're too bored, so there you have it, the time to produce at your heart's content." Wrong. Boredom can cause one to become so low, that the motivation part of the brain freezes up. That was part of the reason I struggled with show # 142. I finished my love of teaching math at the college on May 23 and not beginning again until August 29. More than three months off; what a lucky guy I am! Yes, I am definitely very lucky in many, many respects. I had a job lined up for the summer which, although would have filled up my entire month of July, would also have probably caused a breakdown because although there was three hours a day of teaching involved, at the time of day I would have been traveling into the city, I would have travelled back and forth for 6 1/2 to 7 hrs a day for four days a week!!!! That is too much even for me. The extremes of working and filling up at least a month of activity or doing nothing of note - those were my choices; neither of which came close to my idea of fulfillment. Thus I have fallen into somewhat of a depression. Of course, I am no stranger to anxiety and depression and am using all the techniques I have garnered over my lifetime to fill in the space. I am at the YMCA 5 days a weeks and having fun. I am reading again TG and that is very good for me. I am trying to come up with shows to produce. Those three major things should sustain me, but three months of no teaching is getting me down. I am both lucky and unlucky. There are worse things in life!!!!

   Getting back to 142. So what you get are inferior productions. I apologize, especially if you actually liked the last show. Not sure where I go from here. My old producer from my studio days invited me back to the studio to try it again or just do another, occasionally, to break it up. I have some ideas like the one I indicate at the end of 142, which is the Medici Chapel show which could be very interesting both to do the research and to put together. I could go from museum to museum; the possibilities are really endless. Who knows? Will keep you informed.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Trip Postponed

Our trip has been postponed due to illness. We will try again for January 2018. I will attempt to put together a show about the Amalfi Coast, Show # 142: A Week on the Bay of Naples. I haven't had the heart since the postponement due to my disappointment. It was quite a let down after so much planning, but we have something really special in the hopper for next January. More on that later. This is intended to update my readers that I am not in Italy at this time, and will try to continue the show.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Sorry, couldn't do it.

Just could not get myself to put together a show even though I had most of it at the tip of my fingers. Producing one of theses shows just took takes too much out of me. We are getting ready for our trip and there was just not much time. My fans will have to do with the 141 for now.

Meanwhile the subscribers keep increasing in numbers. More people are reading these blogs, and of course the number of views on Youtube steadily approaches 50,000, a great milestone for me.

I will try to bring back more shows, although the thought of just relaxing with our friends in great places like Florence, Venice, and Rome appeals to me very much, but I am am a Youtube Video Producer with responsibilities. I would like to bring back videos of performance pieces at the Venice Biennale. That is one sure fire thing. I would also like to photograph and video some more unique Tuscan locations another fair certainty. While in Florence I would like to do some of my own narration on video of places around town, perhaps go to a museum I haven't been to yet (if I can find one), perhaps photograph the inside of one of the most unique stores in Florence, the Alinari Bookstore, occupying the  former Alinari Worshop during the 19th century. We will also be staying at a new hotel in a newish area Trastevere. That alone should be a treasure trove of new material. I would also like to video interview with people in Italy, but not sure how much aggressiveness I will have over there; that's hard to predict. It takes a lot of guts to walk up strangers and even and especially friends and ask for an interview on video. Perhaps 10 more shows total is possible and would satisfy me.

I will see you soon. In the meantime, keep reading and keep watching!! Thanks to my loyal fans.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

A Day and a Half in Milan

After two weeks of back and forth deciding whether to create a show based on Milan or the Amalfi Coast, I suddenly gave in to my initial desire to do Milan and thus show # 141 was born. Taking only a few days to put together, here is a 30 minute retrospective of the tour I planned for myself aboard a train to Milan during one of my between marriages solo trips to Italy. This occurred in 2002 and wound up spontaneously being the result of an imminent rail stroke which threatened to mess up my travel plans. In one of my very few impromptu decisions traveling around Italy, I scrapped a night in Venice and a side trip to Verona in favor of a lot of extra time in Milan. Since I had very little knowledge of Milan, I kept my itinerary simple and contained to one small area of Milan and had an amazing tour of some of the greatest sights in Milan including the Ambrosiana Pinacoteca, Leonardo's Last Supper, Castello Sforzesco for the amazing final sculpture created by Michelangelo just before his death in 1564, the Brera Museum, the unheralded but spectacular Palazzo Poldi Pezzoli, La Scala, arguably the most famous opera house in the world, the Cathedral of Milan, Galleria Emanuele, one of the oldest indoor shopping areas in the world, and Piazza del Duomo one of the most exciting places in Italy. I served the dual purpose of describing some outstanding sights to see in Milan and also reliving one of my favorite times in Italy during my 7th trip total and last solo trip to Italy in the summer of 2002. I interspersed photos Laura and I had taken during subsequent visits to Milan and internet material to enhance the presentation.

I found the production of this show to be very concisely organized and executed. It swiftly moves from topic to topic in a very efficient manner, in many ways more hurried than any show I have produced recently. When I watched it at the conclusion of the process, I was surprised at how efficient it turned out to be and also how short it was, just under 30 minutes, again one of the shortest of my recent creations since I have been doing the work at home using IMovie. However, I was very satisfied. I am not generally given to brevity, as you well know, but somehow felt compelled to be that way once to see how it went. You can be the judge of that, but in the final analysis I was quite content to view the finished product.

Now that I have completed that and am in the process of uploading to Youtube as I type, I will begin the show on the Amalfi Coast. Speaking of spectacular things to see, this region of Italy is chock full of amazing things to see and do, all within a small area of the region known as Campania. I have three weeks before I embark upon my 25th trip Italy. This is a well planned trip which I will not discuss (sticking to tradition of not discussing a trip before I take it), and will talk about more in June. For now I hope I can complete the Amalfi show # 142 before I leave.