Friday, April 28, 2006

Who are you?

Since I've started my blog, or more correctly since someone pointed me to sitetracker allowing me to have a general idea about where my visitors were coming from, this site has received several hundreds visits from 24 different countries. Now, it's true that most of them are related to the vcn rome group, either because people reading my replies there feel like checking my blog from time to time or because if you look for vcn-rome on Google my page is like the first or second to come up, yet over time I see that I've a few people who connect directly to my page.

Now, while in some case I have a given idea of who these people might be, especially when someone is connecting from Germany, Hungary, Russia, Itacha or Staten Island in the USA, Ukraine and Trinidad and Tobago, I admit I'd be very curious about who are the recurring guests from some places in Italy, France and various other locations in US.

So, if you happen to be one of those, I'd be happy to hear from you, how you found about my blog (which originally I had disclosed only to a given group of friends) and what kept you so entertained that you felt like checking back again. you can do so by clicking on the "comments" link at the end of this post! I'd love to hear from you even because a Blog is meaningful, I think, when it doesn't limit itself to report to the world (who obviously wouldn't care less about it) your ideas and impressions, but when it is a tool of exchanging ideas and impressions, to open a dialogue, so to say. At least so I think.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Books XII - The Lord of the Rings

As I said passingly some entries earlier, I finally got my new illustrated edition of the "Lord of the Rings" after my old, beloved and revered copy, given to me as a present when I was 14 or 15 years old by my father, ended up, for a misunderstanding that it's too late to solve now, in the shelves of my german ex-girlfriend Christina.

If I do not put it under my pillow at night is just because is a massive tome and would be quite uncomfortable for my poor neck, but otherwise it's a wonderful book and in the sparse moments i could dedicate to it over the last days I have tried to check if I can notice the difference between the "historical" translation and the revised one of this edition.

Books XI - The Fort at the River's Bend - Uther

While I admit I have set aside Ray Bradbury's "The Machineries of Joy", and for the second time at that, and that I had said I would had turned myself to something more serious even after "The Fort at the River's Bend", I admit I'm a repeat offender (or maybe I just want to finish something I've started) and picked up something that is kind of a spin off of the "Camulod chronicles", and that is "Uther" ("Le Porte di Camelot" in italian").

I'm just at the very first pages, anyway, the first 14 anyway, so it is
definitely to soon for any idea about it. In the meanwhile, it might be a while before I get to finish the proper Camulod Chronicles, as the last two books "The Lancethrower" and "the Eagle" are either just translated and in a hard to find hardcover edition (the first) or yet to be translated altogether (the second).

Quite interestingly, apparently Uther came out with two different titles in Italy: "Le Porte di Camelot" and "La Donna di Avalon", so either it was divided in two for publishing in Italy or there is one
book with two different titles. I shall try to find a copy of the second one and see to solve the mystery.

Books X - The Sorcerer: Methamorphosis

I never read so fast as when I have to get a plane. In the time needed to go and come back from Paris (admittedly, the way back gave me several hours of hours to spend alone with nothing better to do than reading) I started and finished "The Sorcerer: Metamorphosis", 6th installment of Jack Whyte's "Camulod's Chronicles" (which in italian comes in a red, slightly less awful than the previous "colored" ones, edition named "Il Segno di Excalibur").

Now, if you are reading the series or you know you will do so in a close or far future, stop reading here because for once I'll have some spoilers in the lines that follow.

I loved it and at the same time I hated him. It has a much more dense and vivid plot than the other books, even more touching moments... and yet once again it felt like the end of it has been rushed: the evil character that had obsessed us for the last two books, Peter Ironhair, is disposed of in an anonymous, un-described way without giving us a reason, exactly as Lot of Cornwell (and even in the same way, hung at a tree) had been in the first half of the series. One of the characters we grew to love, Merlyn's brother, is unrealistically (how is supposed a besieged Carthac, at the head of a hundred men, to put up a rally and capture and behead the general of a 9.000 men army?) caught and killed without even the grace of a description.

I don't know, all considered, the first books of the series ended up giving me a better feeling than the last ones... there is something definitely missing, and is not simply the end of the story (everyone who knows anything about the Arthurian saga knows what the end of the story will be, either Jack Whyte gets to write it or not) but a sense of accomplished. The book has also an open end, as Arthur gets crowned, yet has to leave immediately to face an immense invasion.

Too many things

I'm in a lazy mood today. The world, on the other hand, is not being lazy at all in these days, if it ever is, and produced a mass of interesting, even if usually not happy, events that would be worth to comment. It's obvious that these opposite dispositions will not produce anything good and they pose an immediate problem: now that I finally finished the Paris report (even if I might get back to it at some point), where to start?

From Iran, who apparently has decided that US and Israel will not use force against it (so much to appear defiant and even threathening against the americans) and China and Russia will even veto economic sanctions to prevent them to get the nuclear deterrent (I do not even consider the chance that Iran has a peaceful only nuclear program)?

From the tragic-comic situation of italian politics, that I mostly followed by newspapers' headlines while I was in France, that saw the parties of the centre-left coalition, the moment after the Supreme Court declared them winners, start to brawl about the various chairs of the highest italian institutions (for the chronicles, we'll have a communist as president of the parliament, while it's still uncertain who will be the president of the Senate and, even more important, who will be next president of the Republic and when we'll have a new government)?

From the two events that were the highlight of italian news in the last 2 days, like the social centre extreme left activities that burned israelian flags and ferociously insulted centre-right candidate as Milan major Letizia Moratti and her Dachau lager-survived father at the yearly rallying celebrating the end of WWII and the blasts that killed 16 people in Egypt and, just this morning, 3 italian soldiers in Iraq?

The truth is, any of these subject is worth a long analysis and I've no energy for it at all (and the atrocious throat ache that is afflicting me since tuesday, getting constantly worse, might have a part on it) so, I'll let it go for now, waiting for some inspiration.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Paris - Impressions

If it took me almost half a day to compile an easy and cut to the bone log of the days in Paris, how long will it take to write down the impressions and feelings about it? But what is said is said and so I shall nevertheless trying, in random order, to write them down.

First of all, Susanne. It was the first time ever I got to spend so much time with her. Yes, we have stayed even longer periods "generally" together in Rome, but I always had to spend a good third of the day, at least, at work. This time, we were uninterruptedly together, except for about 90 minutes on saturday, from monday morning to sunday afternoon. It was simply great. Sure, there was some minor attrition over the week and the occasional moments of insufference, more or less well hidden, on both sides and definitely the fact we have both quite some, shall we say, definite characters didn't help, but considering that I blame most of those short moments on the tiredness of the very long days, generally I'd say things were very, very good.

Secondly, the French people and the tourists. Gee, I could write chapters and chapters about it, starting from the lack of decent directions at the train or bus stations, where the signs for the airports connections are tiny or nonexistent altogether, to the superabundance of explanations, but all rigorously in french only, at the museums. I could continue narrating from the over-friendly bohemian shop-keeper of rue du dragon who started a consultation with the owner of the shop at the other side of the street (obviously, without crossing the said street, so that the whole neighborhood ended up knowing what we were looking for, what color, why, since when and for whom) about where to send us for finding a given dress to the absolutely insane other female shop-keeper who didn't hesitate to roughly re-arrange a dress over Susanne's body touching her in a way, in such places and with such rudeness that made me wish to take her from her neck and throw her out of her own shop. Or the ones who simply lean to the metro holding poles, preventing anyone to reach them? Or the restaurant owner who tried his best, and in a totally successful way, to not hide the fact that, yes, he had to serve us, but that he didn't really like that, for whatever reason that was, and that as soon as we would had moved away he would had been happy? Or the other restaurant owner, in this belle-epoque style place called Chartier (pic to the right), and re-named by Susanne "the factory", who refused to bring our (German) table-neighbors a bottle of wine unless they were taking food with it? Or...

Third, breakfast. Why you can find the croissants, cakes and everything you could wish for breakfast in the bulangeries, but no coffee or anything to drink with, while you can find those drinks in the bars, which in turn have nothing to eat? How much of a illumination does it take to realize those two things should go together?

Fourth, lines. Why everyone complains about the italian way of arranging and keeping a line, and no one mentions the fact that at least we have one, while French people don't at all and even worse sometimes they have queues (for instance at the Eiffel tower) that start with 4 distinct lanes and that end in a single lane only with the concrete risk of either a brawl erupting among the squeezed and by then pretty nervous people or some of them being smashed against the hard obstacles the other lines end abruptly against?

Fifth, maps. Everyone has some moments when he never manages to take the right direction, even if he has spent all his life reading maps. The problem is that this "moment" for me in Paris did last a whole week. It was embarrassing! I do not know how many times I turned right when I should had turned left (but I absolve myself about doing that in Versailles, it turned out my map was outdated and the gardens had been re-arranged to more closely match the late XVIII century's layout) and all that for the hardly hidden amusement of Susanne.

Sixth, the plan and the achievements. Being my third long visit to Paris, I had just a very few things I meant to see this time, well knowing that most of the time would had been spent showing Susanne, at her first visit, the city. Well, I missed all of those. The Cathedral of Saint Denis is a bit off the usual beaten track (which is also the reason I didn't manage to see it the previous two times I was in Paris) and even this time I couldn't find the time to be there. The gallery of the Renaissance art objects at the Louvre was closed, just like the Halls of Battles and half the Halls of Mirrors at Versailles, together with my favourite space in the garden, the "Ballroom" and finally, I still have to realize how did it happen, also the boat trip along the Seine river was missed. Ah well, I suppose I shall have to go to Paris again.

Seventh, real estate. It's depressing if I think about it: I found out I could go and buy myself a decent, 60 square meters. place in downtown Paris (like in the good areas of Montmatre or not too distant from Chatlet) at a price for which in Rome you hardly get 40 square meters in the very far and badly connected suburbs of the city. Did I say depressing? I was wrong, disheartening is more like it.

Eight, the metro chansonniers. I regret not having taken pictures of them, but the point is, every single morning when we got on the metro, Susanne and me were "blessed" by someone coming on the car and singing, with skills varying from the "accomplished throat killer" to the "animals producing such sounds would be put out of their miseries". The highlight was this huge black guy sitting in front of us almost dying by trying to hold the quite probably explosive laughter inducted by this other guy trying to sing (butchering would be the right term), by reading the words from a bloc-notes, a half-rap version of "oh Champs elysees". Over the week-end things improved tho, as the singers were replaced by trumpets and accordion players which were actually pretty good.

Ninth, metro meetings. Something that really caught my attention was this little episode that would be worth of a better narrator than I will ever be. This bald, anonymous looking man in his fortys, dressed in a suit with this terrible (and very french) unmatching striped shirt and no tie, was sitting in front of us in the metro, with his gaze fixed somewhere out of the window pane (which would be reasonable on a train, but in a metro where on the other side of the window there is only blackness and concrete...). The doors of the car opened and this, shall we say, interesting woman in her mid thirties, wearing the most classic "frowning-bored-vaguely annoyed" expression that is kind of a trademark of the french female population, walked in and sat next to him, carrying an unidentified book with her. A moment later, the "I'm going towards middle age and I'm so insignificant" icon that had been the man in front of me turned his eyes down, I suspect to check the woman's legs barely covered with a skirt that had risen quite a bit, and noticed the book... and suddenly came back to life.

What followed was a no more than 10 minutes story that encompassed every single expression a human face can show with the exception of those in the anger and passion fields. As the man addressed the woman about the book she first showed annoyance, which turned to hesitation at what must have been a witty comment from the guy, whose hand gestures were a proclaim of greatness for either the author or the book. His expression had in the meanwhile turned from the total emptiness of before to a friendly smile, an oddly intriguing one actually, which in turn brought the first signs of relaxation over the woman's face and composure.

Two metro stops later, the man pulled out a bag from under his seat, opened it and produced another book and the talk became even more animated, the wide smile of the man being now matched by a knowingly, self-conscious smile of her female counterpart who for the first time had moved her hands away from her knees and, while for a moment she had kept her arms crossed over her chest, was now gesturing as well. The most obvious body language followed as the man brought himself very slightly, yet unobtrusively, towards the woman and she in turn bent slightly her head, while the hands of both drew intricate patterns in the air.

Then, as suddenly as the encounter had started, it came to an end as, at the fourth or fifth stop, the woman suddenly looked at the station's name and stood, with a hurried goodbye rushing out of the car as the closing door howled his unpleasant sound. The guy followed her with his eyes as the train started moving then, almost as some kind of spell had been broken, he smiled to himself once more and then went back to his inanimate expression of but a few minutes before, as nothing had happened.

Tenth, the Paris effect. Why, whenever I go to Paris, and especially when I have been at the Musee d'orsay, I come back wishing I could draw, paint or generally have an artistic side? And especially that I could draw in the art noveau style (here in Italy called "liberty")? Who knows, maybe over the week-end...

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Paris - the brief day by day log

Ok, ok, guilty as charged. I didn't update my blog yesterday, in the end. After I ended up at work, I directed myself to my usual bookshop and after more than a year of pondering, I finally got myself my "Lords of the Rings" copy, hardcover and illustrated by Alan Lee. Then, I moved downtown for a happy hour with Francesca, a friend of mine with whom recently I got re-acquainted with during the Swedish days and had quite an interesting discussion about this and that, only to get back home at 9 something and spend few hours talking with Susanne... so, as you see, how could I?

Well, honestly, I still could have done it once Susanne went to bed, but the point is, I tried, and I realized I didn't know where to start. It has been a long, intense week full of things, experiences and feelings and summarizing all of this in a blog entry is in no way easy, if possible at all. So, I've decided I will just try to put down a very short day by day log now and then, in another entry, some impressions about the whole travel rather than a full report.

Btw: prepare to finally... SEE Susanne (and remember you can often click on a picture to get a larger version).


So, where to start where to start, if not by the beginning? I met Susanne at the airport of Orly where we landed at a few minutes one from the other, and already the jumping way she came towards me made me feel good. Arriving to Paris from Orly was relatively easy, even if the ticket I ad taken didn't open the gates out of the Gare du Nord for some unknown reason. Anyway, solved the problem, we reached the apartment where we would had stayed.

Calling it an apartment, or even a studio, would be greatly exaggerating what that was, as once the convertible bed was open there was almost no space left to reach the kitchenette or the (minuscule) bathroom, and barely enough space around the minimalistic table to move the chairs and sit down. Yet, I loved the place at first sight (and appreciated the hyper organized owner who had prepared a full dossier about the area and transports, even if I have to admit towards the end of his lengthy description I only wished he would be moving away as fast as possible).

After having settled down, the first day was spent in a general walk around the city (especially liked the little gardens at the base of the Pont Neuf) and metro-hopping around, included a first pass in the courtyard of the Louvre and a walk along the Tuileries, with no real goal and having to give up the visit of Notre Dame de Paris due the immense line there (I suppose, in order to follow the service of Easter's monday).


Also part of tuesday morning, as I discovered the Louvre was closed and the line in front of the Musee d'Orsay was unimaginable, was spent just walking around. So, we headed to the Arc deTriomphe and Champs Elysees, got to a Fnac where I got the Louvre tickets and, given we were there, the one for the other museum to avoid the queue (why people get in a line if they can pre-order the tickets and skip it is a mystery to me) and later on we joined for lunch some italian friends of mine who coincidentally were there as well, included Francesco from Pisa, a mythical ELSA character of when I had just joined the association and who I had not seen for over 5 years. I found little changed, with the exception that now he's married (and was there with his wife). Giuseppe was his usual self, as well, with his long time girlfriend. It was a chaotic as usual group of 9 italians and a German, and I suspect that both amused and strengthened the prejudices about italians of my german counterpart...

Parting with my friends, that I hoped I would had seen again in the following days, hope that never came true, we headed for Montmatre and the Sacre Coeur basilica (and the view enjoyed from there) on top of it, then it was time for Montparnasse (I had this fancy idea that the two artists' neighborhood would had been in some way similar, and boy if I was wrong) and some more hopping along the river, until the Palais Royal Gardens. And it was night and it was morning.


Wednesdat was the turn of the Louvre, 9 hours of it, actually, 9 hours of discoveries of things I had already seen and forgotten, of frustration for a given section I failed to see the first time I visited museum was closed this time, of repulsion for the mass of people noisily amassed in front of the "Monna Lisa" ignoring the masterworks that surrounds that (especially teh Tizianos) and even the way more meaningful "Virgin of the Rock" that being exposed in the long hallway from which you reach the Monna Lisa among hundreds of other masterpieces is almost ignored.

At 6.30 pm, it was time to leave and head towards Virginie's house in the Parisian "banlieue" where we were expected for dinner. The time to get a hold of a couple of wine bottles, the travel... and once again we couldn't get out of the metro station for a ticket problem, but while the first time we had found someone opening us a gate, this time the problem was solved by simply jumping over the turning bars (to be noted, I *did* had paid for the tickets). Anyway, long talks, dinner based on crepes, a long metro ride back home and it was night, and it was morning.


We decided to gamble with weather and go to Versailles. We weren't too lucky really, as the day which had started slightly overcast but yet sunny turned along the way in a grey cloudy one. and yet, I loved that. Again skipping the main queue by buying a "combined" ticket, we spent the most part of the day by going methodically around the gardens (but without reaching the Grand Trianon and the Petite Trianon) and the apartments of the King, Queen and Dauphin, where I had the bad surprise of finding the Gallery of Battles closed just as well as half of the Gallery of Mirrors. Eventually, after having rested a few moments (actually apparently it was more than that, as I fell asleep) at the Basin of Neptune, we headed back home to much deserved rest. And it was night, an it was morning.


As already the gloomy feelings of an impending end of the vacation was starting to fall on us, it was finally the day of the Musee d'Orsay, much more manageable and yet no less wonder filled than the Louvre. 6 hours later, after having met once again Virginie and Pascal for a drink (the Tolkien reading was turned down for the project of the "all romantic night" that was not meant to be) we decided to head towards the Eiffel Tower hoping to be able to reach it while sunset was still going on. We didn't, and even if we had, it would had made no difference as it took more than one hour and a half, after the most chaotic and ill managed approach I have ever seen, to get on the top of the tower where on the exposed part, a strong and chilly wind welcomed us. Have to admit the sight was quite something tho.

It took another hour and something to come down tho, and so it was very late when we headed to the places around the Saint Michele fountain to find a restaurant still open and even later when we reached the metro to get back home. Too late, indeed, as it was already closed (much to Susanne's dismay, who probably thought that Paris, at least in the week-end, would have had a 24 hours metro service as Berlin does) and so the day was closed with a good half a hour march. And it was night (it had been since quite a while actually), and it was morning.


Exhausted by the day before, it was not until 4 pm that we emerged from hour house and for the first time in days me and Susanne parted, she directed to Place Vendome in search for a french ball-dress, myself to Port-Maillot looking for information for the bus which would had carried me to the Airport of Beauvais. One and a hour later, turned out that both our expeditions had been unfruitful, but it was so strange, after having been together without parting more than 5 minutes for over 120 hours, to be alone again. Anyway, once we reunited again, we headed towards la Sainte Chapelle, finding it closed, and then to Notre Dame where we finally managed to enter (and that didn't impress so much Susanne). After a brief stop to the side of the Seine river (where a jazz brass band was playing in a very nice way), we made a walk (for the first time ever, I followed a guide in a suggested itinerary) around Le Marais and Place de Vosges until it was time to head back, where a mixed japanese sushi - indian rice "A emporater" dinner closed the day. And it was night and it was morning again.


A very sad morning, actually. After having prepared our bags and given the apartment back to the owner (who let us keep our baggage at his place just next door, giving us the opportunity of going around a few more hours), we headed again to Saint Michele, originally to get a couple of sandwiches at our favourite "panini" stand for later during the day but then we headed to "Shakespeare and C.", an incredible bookshop that you can see in the opening scenes of one of my favourite movies, "Before Sunset". being impossible to visit the Sainte Chappelle given the line and the lack of time, having got the panini for later and having just generally spent whatever time was left together, Susanne and me finally recovered our bags and headed to the Gare du Nord again, once again having a hard time (the French are terrible when it comes at signs) to understand how to have Susanne reaching her airport and, finally, parting ways.

Quite sadly, I then headed towards my bus station and of course, after a week of relatively good weather, exactly in the moment I was without any cover near the Congress Centre of Paris and in the middle of the bus station and immense tropical-like storm erupted with its lightnings and thunders (for the chronicles, it was so bad that Susanne had to take off way behind schedule) . Wet and pretty demoralized I finally boarded the bus which one hour and a half later delivered me to my airport (the most poor and no-frill I ever seen, with the boarding area consisting of a wooden platform surmounted by a simple tent) and, later than expected, I arrived to Ciampino, form there home here, at 3, finally in my bed. The travel was over.

Monday, April 24, 2006

And Back Again

Dear friends,

yes, I did land in Rome yesterday night at 23.40 coming from Paris Bouvais. Calling it "Paris" is like calling the city of Latina "Rome", given it's 80 kms north of Paris, but anyway...

All quiet at work (and gee if it was hard to wake up and come here) even considering that tomorrow is a national holyday here and the people present in the office are a sparse population almost lost in the empty rooms.

Later today an update about the travel and maybe, maybe, some pics.

Friday, April 14, 2006

On the road again

Ah, Easter... even more important than Christmas for Catholics, it's right now my favourite holiday, even considering it's this sunday and, amazingly, we got half a day off today for gracious concession of our CEO.

This might be my last post for a while, as tomorrow, after 16 years since my last visit, I'll be heading to Spoleto with Liesbeth, sunday will be busy with family and on monday morning I'm flying to Paris for my third visit to my 4th favourite city (Venice, Rome and Saint Petersburg leading my personal ranking), and for the first time in sweet company. The Louvre and Orsay museums, Notre Dame and the Tour Eiffel, Saint Denis and Versailles are definitely on the list, but I hope to be able to see some of the least known curiosity of the city.

That should be made even more interesting by the unexpected news that one of my best ELSA friends, Giuseppe from Cagliari, companion in more than a daylight battle in ELSA and nighttime epic parties and drinking contest, will accidentally be there at the same time visiting his girlfriend. We already planned dinner together on monday. I will also get to see again Virginie, one of my oldest net friends, met on Elendor years ago and then face to face in my second visit in Paris, two years ago and then again in Rome last summer. I've been promised a dinner with crepes and possibly a tolkenian reading.

So, my dear reader, this might be my last entry for a week or so. Yes, I know, I said the same for London and then I managed to write almost every two days, but this time I shall not be alone and so...

And so, while a given someone is not giving news about itself (yes, you know who you are), let me wish you all a Happy Easter! And hopefully I will not find a civil war in my country when I will be back.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Two days of ordinary madness


As expected, the elections' results of monday have been contested and what had started with a pretty normal and low-toned request for the usual post-counts checks, has quickly escalated as Berlusconi and his allies (less the centrist UDC party) denounced open gerrymandering.

I'll just list a few facts: before the vote, in Turin, the leftish mayor of the city announced that there were so many bus-drivers (one of the most politicized category of the country) selected as poll personnel and especially poll presidents that she couldn't guarantee the service. In Rome, the leftish mayor selected 400 members of the urban police to deal with the ballots of the italians voting from abroad. In Switzerland, 38.000 people who asked to vote never received the ballots. I have personally seen when I went to vote, the president of my poll wearing in all evidence the pin of one of the parties of the centre-left coalition. During the counting, in the middle of the night, while the centre-right coalition gained around 45.000 votes every 1000 polls reporting, the leaders of the center made a public statement encouraging their representatives at the polls "To watch out for the regularity of the operations" (something never happened before and that to many sounded as a signal). Again during the counting, a section in Sicily where the centre-right coalition had got 1.096 votes reported only 96 of them. Yesterday, full boxes of voted ballots have been found in the middle of the streets in a popular neighborhood of Rome (picture above).

These are hard facts, the interpretation of them is open.

One thing is for sure: if after 12 years of being on the political scene and 5 having the government, the centre-right coalition was unable to have a single Representative for each one of the 60.000 polls checking that the vote was not being "retouched", it does deserve to lose.

On a side note, one of the two communist parties managed to have elected two arab muslims affiliated with the UCOII, which is again closely ties with the Muslim Brotherhood: we officially have the first two islam integralist members of the parliament.

The World

But for how tense the situation can be perceived to be in Italy, that's nothing compared to the big news of the last two days in the world: Iran announced they entered the "nuclear club" by having enriched uranium to a level worth of being used both in nuclear power plants and nuclear warheads.

This, 16 days before the expiration of the UN security council's ultimatum calling for Iran to suspend any operation relative to uranium enrichment (ultimatum that, to be fair, Iran had scornfully rejected right at the first minute). As the news came out during a public speech by the Iranian president Ahmadinejad, Russia tried to propose itself, again, as mediator in the crisis, only to receive, as usual, another diplomatic slap in the face.

And so, we are yet one step closer of someone who swore to wipe out Israel from the geographic maps and from a country where someone has already theorized the "nuclear jihad" and found the probable figures of millions of casualties among the muslim palestinians as "acceptable for the well being of the islamic umma", having the means to back up their words with facts.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Politics Can Still Be Thrilling

Who said that politics can't be thrilling anymore in a world that is losing tracks of ideologies? Whoever said that, Italy proved that even today, politics can be indeed exciting. Between sunday and monday morning, 83,6% of the italians went to vote for the general political elections, and that already should say something. That the final result was decided by a mere 25.000 votes (the 0,06%) gives a good picture of how my country is politically split exactly in two.

Truth to be told, the Italian political landscape is demoralizing.

On the centre-right side there's the first party of Italy which is basically a one-man show by Mr. Silvio Berlusconi (Forza Italia), a more or less genuinely conservative party ("Alleanza Nazionale") that has lost most of its vision and purpose in the transition from being a post-fascist to a generally conservative party, a christian inspired party ("UDC-CDU") and a hardly definable party that was born with the goal of having an independent north Italy ("La Lega"), plus a bunch of minor parties of little or none importance.

If you think that's depressing, you should then look at the centre-left coalition, putting together christian inspired and liberal parties like "La Margherita" and the "UDEUR" together with rabidly anticlerical and atheist parties ("La Rosa nel Pugno"), proudly communist ones ("Rifondazione comunista" and "Uniti con l'Ulivo" which reunites the "Comunisti Italiani" and the radical-environmentalists of the "Verdi") which have strong ties with the violent anarchists and no-global movements and the former communist, now self-declared social-democrat, party "Democratici di Sinistra"... plus a score or minor, but pretty vocal, parties.

Those two sides, and the people they represent, basically loath each other and for the centre-left supporters (but, truth to be told, for many centre-right ones as well) this elections had became a matter of death of life. So it was somewhat interesting, as the polls closed and the first exit polls announced a major victory for the center left (so much that the president of that coalition's main party, Massimo Dalema, announced an "historical victory"), to see that coalition's leader, Romano Prodi, call for a victory speech at 18.30 pm in the small, but very symbolic square of Saint Apostles, to move afterwards in the much bigger Piazza del Popolo for the celebration.

But... then real votes started to be displayed, and the speech was postponed at 19.00, then another half hour, then a hour as the results showed the centre-right coalition had a narrow majority at the Senate (the upper house). The "victory speech" had been postponed at 23.00 when the real votes for the parliament (the lower chamber) started to show an initial difference of 450.000 votes becoming narrower and narrower until, at 2.00 am, the centre-left coalition won the race (and a 5% premium of seats given to the coalition with the higher number of votes) for a mere 0,06%, 25.000 votes (with 500.000 ballots declared void, which will probably throw us in a Florida-style count and recount syndrome.).

It was a thrilling night, with the votes and results, and therefore comments, changing any minute, the faces of the ones who had been sure of emerging in a triumph turning first concerned and than definitely grey as the announced celebrations had turned in a boomerang, as the most classic italian saying "Don't you ever sell the Bear's skin before you have killed it" was proved once again right.

Eventually, it was that at 3.00 am, in front of a very sparse number of supporters, the leaders of the centre-left, with the most loser faces some winners ever showed, announced their historical victory, having a minimal majority at the senate based on the 6 senators elected oversee (yes, we do have 6 senators and 12 members of the parliament elected by the italians who live abroad, despite the fact they do not pay taxes and possibly have no contact whatsoever with the country's reality) and the 7 senators for life nominated by the President of the Republic (which in the intention of the Founding Fathers should had been something of a symbolic thing) and a large majority at the lower chamber out of the majority's premium they so much adversed when the present electoral law was passed. Irony of history, I suppose.

We'll see what happens. One thing is certain: even if Romano Prodi will become prime minister and even if he'll manage to form a government, for any real issue he will want to deal with he will need the votes of the communists, the radical environmentalists and the no-globals, quite probably making it impossible for him to do something of any significance.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Books IX - The machineries of joy

A few days ago I finished "The Fort at River Bent" and have to say it's the last convincing of the 5 books so far. There's not much action, no new character of any importance and, as usual, we part with one of those we grew accustomed to like. Being impossible to find the sixth installment of the chronicles at this time, and while I've still have to finish "The Beggars Banquet", I recovered a book I had bought almost a year ago containing a few tales by Ray Bradbury, entitled "The machineries of joy". Sci-fiction (and not all of those tales fall in such cathegory, it seems) is not really a genre I deal with so much (with the few exceptions here and there, especially when the author is Philip K. Dick), but Bradbury has a given name, after all, so why not?

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Roman Swedish Days - Part IV

As it always happens, this international parenthesis is over. As I write, in fact, the last ones of the little swedish group that has been going around Rome in the last days should be home.

Yesterday the last night celebrations was much less intense than it usually is in such circumstances, and the fact that most of the italians who took care of the guests were all workers (hence people who had slept an average of 4 hours a day for the last week dealing with staying up as late as possible and than waking up early enough to be on time at work) might have something to do with it. That could actually have me starting a whole line of thoughts about the state of my poor association in Rome, made mostly by graduated student and workers and totally deprived of fresh blood, but that's too depressing and I will skip it.

Also the guests looked fatigued after 4 days of forced marches in the city. Kristine, even being only half swedish, and the others apparently are the perfect example of how those people could wage war against Russia and march all the way to Ukraine in the XVIII century during the Great Northern War.

Anyway, we gathered at Maria Rosaria's house and enjoyed a few hours of dining, drinking (even if not as much as it had been 2 days before at Francesca's) and chatting along, even if it was pretty evident the two groups, the italian and the swedish, had not really mixed up much, and that was indeed a pity. If that happened because the italians were unable to join them for most of the days due work, of the incident Kristine had with her host had influenced the whole group, if indeed there was too little time, I do not know, but indeed this time the relations between the two ELSA groups were civil (with some exceptions), but nothing more. As I said, a pity. Who knows, maybe during teh rturn visit in Stockholm, yet to be planned. I'm reallytempted about bein gpart o fit, if possible, the city being one of those missing in my barely failed "capitals to visit within my 30th birthday" plan.

As part of the people moved on to go dancing, half the swedish and myself opted out and I found myself, in the impossibility of driving them, walking Catherine and Kristine to their home (the distance of I admit of having underestimated... turned out that to walk both ways it was almost 3 kms) with the added few more feminist punches by the latter on the way... I seriously regret not having had time to discuss a bit more with her: most probably it would had ended in blood, but maybe not... and in any case it would had been interesting. Incidentally, now I know why both Michael and Erik at this or that time expressed their hidden desire to migrate south...