The envious oohing and aahing over the Ruth Asawa hanging prominently next to Gwyneth Paltrow’s couch in the March issue of Architectural Digest subsided somewhat after the sculpture was revealed not to be a Ruth Asawa after all. “Instead, the piece is by D’Lisa Creager, who learned Asawa’s signature wire looping technique at a workshop taught by Aiko Cuneo, one of the artist’s daughters,” ARTnews reported. The photo, part of a spread on Paltrow’s new California home, was duly cropped and the caption corrected. Asawa’s top auction price so far is $5.38 million, according to ARTnews, and while “how much Paltrow paid for her lookalike works remains unclear,” Creager’s “auction high tops out at a very respectable $35,000.”
Vladimir Putin’s luxury private yacht Graceful has left a Hamburg shipyard and headed for the high seas—rather, it is widely speculated, than risk facing possible post-hypothetical-Ukraine-invasion-sanction-related confiscation. “The Kieler Nachrichten newspaper on Sunday had published a photo of the 82-metre [270-foot] luxury yacht moored alongside the German navy corvette Emden,” reported The Times of London. “Since then the yacht has sailed into the Baltic. Putin’s Graceful had been undergoing refurbishment at the Blohm+Voss shipyard since September where it had been fitted with two new large balconies and had its hull cleaned and its engines overhauled.” The Russia-bound Graceful has five decks, a helipad, and (all-important) an indoor pool that can be converted to a dance floor.
Paraguay is turning into a paradise for “matrix”-rejecting, “deep state”–averse Europeans, The Guardian reported. The expatriate community in this poor region of the country consists “mainly of German, Austrian and Swiss immigrants,” mostly older, and “will eventually swell from 150 to 3,000,” say the colony’s owners. The Web site for El Paraiso Verde, “by far the largest urbanization and settlement project in South America,” explains the rationale. “The socialist trends of current economic and political situations worldwide, as well as the global spread of degenerative implementations such as 5G, chemtrails, fluoridated water, mandatory vaccinations and health care mandates were our catalyst to seek a new frontier of possibilities.”
Some locals are concerned. “Even as Paraguay recorded the world’s highest Covid death rate per capita in June 2021, the colony shared videos of large parties in violation of restrictions,” said the newspaper. But not to worry—this “new frontier of possibilities” is perfectly safe: El Paraiso Verde reassures us that the coronavirus pandemic is in fact “non-existent.”
The coronavirus has hit Japanese tourism especially hard, with the number of overseas visitors dropping to 245,900 in 2021—from 31 million two years earlier. In the nation’s cultural capital, that’s regarded as a mixed blessing. On the one hand, there is the substantial loss of revenue. On the other, “the cacophony of English and Chinese, and a smattering of other European and Asian languages, has been replaced by the chatter of Japanese children on school excursions,” reported The Guardian.
“It wasn’t long ago that the city was at the centre of a backlash against ‘tourism pollution,’” the newspaper noted, with traffic “clogg[ing] popular sightseeing spots” and visitors “pestering passing geiko and maiko entertainers for selfies as they walked to their evening teahouse appointments,” all the while displaying “staggering bad manners.” Put that way, schoolkid chatter doesn’t sound bad at all.
Career opportunities: a security company based in this city is looking for a receptionist, and in advertising for the position, the firm “stipulated that the candidate must be female, no older than 30, a fluent English speaker and have their own car and ‘a sunny character with an attractive appearance,’” according to The Guardian. Oh, and regarding that last qualification, “we ask that you send a full photo in a bathing suit or similar.” The Italian labor ministry is investigating.
More Italian news, of a legal nature. A duke from a distinguished, centuries-old Roman family that claims an ancestry including a pope and Julius Caesar has won a court battle with a bigamist American former beauty queen over his late father’s $14 million estate. Stay with this. Italy’s supreme court backed Duke Oddone Colonna’s claim that Johnine Leigh Avery, Miss World USA 1968, was already married when she tied the knot with Ugo Colonna in 1991, and that she had “forged a certificate proving her divorce,” according to The Times of London.
“I have never wanted her to go to jail, but I do want what is ours seized from her,” the duke, Ugo’s son from a previous marriage, told the newspaper. And what is “what is ours”? Well, for one thing, there’s this “palazzo at the foot of the Capitoline hill, where he grew up surrounded by butlers and ladies-in-waiting,” said The Times. Oddone remembers “the tower on the roof my great-grandfather built for his telescope and how my grandmother, who was addressed as ‘your excellency’, had a dachshund which bit everyone.” Something, perhaps, to look forward to again.
And the descendants of Umberto II, Italy’s last king (banished, along with the monarchy, in 1946), are trying to reclaim the crown jewels—more than 6,000 diamonds and 2,000 pearls—which have been in a Bank of Italy safe-deposit box. “The jewels are said to have been the only part of the royal estate that were not confiscated by the Italian state after the monarchy was scrapped,” reported The Guardian, “an element that might help the descendants of the House of Savoy, including Umberto II’s son, Vittorio Emanuele di Savoia, and three daughters, Maria Gabriella, Maria Pia and Maria Beatrice, win back possession.” Why did the family wait so long to lay claim? “Fears they might fuel a wave of resentment,” said the newspaper. “It wasn’t until 2002 that the male descendants of the House of Savoy were allowed to reenter Italy.”
Kate Clanchy’s highly praised, controversial, award-winning Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me has a new publisher. “Clanchy’s memoir was criticised in the summer for its portrayal of young people, including accusations of racial stereotyping and criticism of its descriptions of children with autism,” said The Times of London. “But many of those taught by the former teacher—and even those she had written about in the 2019 book—defended her.” Nevertheless, Pan Macmillan dropped her completely—or rather, “by mutual agreement, Pan Macmillan and Kate Clanchy have decided to part company.” Swift Press will henceforth publish the book with some revisions and a new afterword.
Finally, as of this week, don’t even think about contacting civil servants in Belgium after business hours. (You had that look.) A new law, part of a growing trend in Europe, gives federal workers the right to unplug and “make themselves unavailable at the end of the normal working day,” reported The Guardian, “unless there are ‘exceptional’ reasons for not doing so.” The upcoming debates over the precise meaning of “exceptional” should be interesting.
George Kalogerakis, one of the original editor-writers at Spy, later worked for Vanity Fair, New York, and The New York Times, where he was deputy op-ed editor. A co-author of Spy: The Funny Years and co-editor of Disunion: A History of the Civil War, he is a Writer at Large for AIR MAIL