Monday, July 31, 2006

The week of broken plans - part II

As it had begun, so it kept going. As it had happened on wednesday and thursday, also on friday and sunday the original plans went down the drain and had to be re-arranged on the spot. It's a good thing that in Italy we learn to be flexible and improvise since we are kids, as it came useful today.

After the failed blitz on Florence on thursday, the plan called for a Romanian friend of mine to arrive in Rome in the late afternoon of friday, dinner out and then, possibly, party on the beach organized by another VCNer, Aziz (Aziz's parties, which are fundraising events for various causes in the under-developed countries, have became sort of widely anticipated events in the community). Fact is, a series of incidents delayed her arrival once, twice, three times over the day so much that at 9 I found myself at the last VCN Happy Hour of the season in the coolest (both as posh and fresh - picture at the right) place we ever had it, the lounge bar of the Rose Garden Palace Hotel near the american embassy.

At midnight, as the Happy Hour closed with half the people moving to the party and the other half dispersing, I went back home, waiting for news, which didn't arrive until 4 am, when my friend, obviously too exhausted to do anything, finally arrived in Rome. We reconvened for the day after.

Saturday, finally, the original plans were sort of respected. Muesi Capitolini in the morning, my favourite italian restaurant (Hosteria del Moro in Vicolo del Cinque) for lunch, so she could finally try italian lasagna, at my place during the afternoon to see "the Sixth Sense" with the air conditioned (and good thing I called my brother, or we would had probably surprised him in his usual "home alone without parents" attire), out again for shopping and finally Eritrean restaurant, something I had meant to do for the last 4 weeks.

Then, after having taken her back to her hotel, I joined the "usual friends" at Campo dei Fiori for the last drink together before vacations (for them) would had divided us until september. There, following an old game we have been playing for years, finding ourselves in 4 boys next a table of 4 girls, we sent the most uninterested of the lot (following the old rule that the least interested you are in girls, the most sucesful you are), which in this case was obviously me, to establish a contact, which was done in the best style and successfully and then, no more than 5 minutes later, having accomplished my mission for my friends, I parted ways and headed home.

Sunday I should had seen my Romanian friend again, but once again technical difficulties arose and plans were cancelled, so I ended up staying home, watched Ferrari winning the Hockenaheim Grand Prix, caught up with the (awful, I must say) news from the world I hadn't been following. Then, the night was troubled by a definitely annoying dream regarding a given someone far far away which awoke me at around 2 am, without any chance of falling asleep again.

And so here I am, on a monday morning, slightly zombie-like, a new week which, at least, should led to a much, very much, awfully much wished meeting... with the same given someone of above.

Friday, July 28, 2006

The week of broken plans

"Mortals plan and the Gods laugh" is a recurring sentence in my blog, but it's something that I firmly believe into and this week was made to make me an even firmer believer into one of the basic lines of any classical tragedy.

Not that my own case was so tragic, anyway. On wednesday, the plan was to meet with a new VCNer and go to see a Movie, "The Lake House" after months that I do not enter a cinema. It didn't come to happen due a series of incidents and eventually I joined the IFN's happy hour in Campo dei Fiori, ending up leaving at about eleven. Oh, IFN stands for International Friends' Network, which is something similar, on a smaller scale and a higher average age, than VCN.

Yesterday, the plan was a quick blitz on Florence to meet a friend coming from abroad for a night. The plan called for getting out of office early, take a train, spend the evening there, sleep a few hours at a little hotel near the station, take the first train back in the morning in order to be at work today. Train tickets taken, hotel room booked, 20 minutes before departure everything was called off due a technical problem. Money of bookings was mostly lost, which is annoying but not a tragedy, and in rebellion against fate I decided that I wouldn't had stayed home and went to the happy hour of the french sub-group of VCN, "pasdeblabla", where I tried to put to use my scarce french.

Then, I had the very unhappy idea of going to the board meeting of my students association, ELSA, and went away nauseous noticing how badly and deep it has fallen over the last two years, with people quarreling about who to assign the position in the next year's board rather than on what to practically do. The spirit is gone, definitely.

Today another friend from Romania should arrive in Rome and I pledged myself to the customary hosting/touring duties, but if the trend keeps like this, her coach will probably be hijacked or something...

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Technical trials of immortality

It has been said that you have grown old the day you realize that you are not immortal and you are, sooner or later, going to die. If so, I'm pleased to announce that I'm still a kid at heart.

Yesterday evening, while on the city was falling one of the most intense thunderstorms I've ever seen, I, together with another 20 people, was happily playing volleyball on the top of a roof of a building placed on a top of a hill, possibly without a lightning rod, and with a metallic net all around (yes, the "sky court").

And it's not like we didn't realize that supposedly those are the best conditions ever to have a close encounter with a lightning (even if someone, quite wisely, was talking about a Faraday cage effect being in place due the metallic net all around us, but theory is one thing, practice...), as we indeed even joked about the chances of being incinerated and the joy of having lightning spikes.

I didn't play very well, truly, and the fact I had been swimming right before starting playing could have something to do with it. To that point, I must say that, at least, while at the beginning it took me over one hour and a half for swimming my customary 1,25 kms, now it takes me 45 minutes. The show of lightnings in the sky was amazing anyway, especially one that at some point seemed to cover the whole sky (and made me miss setting a ball completely).

Anyway, I'm trying to keep busy. While most of my writing time is taken by the ongoing Middle east discussion over the VCN-discussions list (and, apparently and maybe not surprisingly, my post of a few days ago, sent over the list, created quite some commotion), on monday I went swimming, tuesday swimming and volleyball, today swimming and possibly going to see a movie with some VCNers. What will tomorrow bring?

Monday, July 24, 2006


Too much politics, too little blog. But time being a scarce resource, I shall have to be quick.

Thursday was interesting as, checking my mobile after having finished at the swimming pool, out of the blue I found two missed calls from a friend of mine from Milan, Elisabetta, who I hadn't seen in almost 2 years, who announced me her presence in Rome for her work. 20 minutes later I was downtown, touring her and her colleague around the tiberina island, the Jewish ghetto, Marcellus' theatre and back to Largo Argentina. I should actually speak a bit about her, being that she's probably the most long term italian female friend I have and the only one I ever was at the wedding of, but time is a tyrant today.

Friday was, on the other hand, a goodbye day for another friend from Milan who, after having lived here for over a year and finding it impossible to stay longer despite his efforts, is going back home. It was an interesting evening, the table finding sat around all the romans members of Nova Roma (link to the right) and I suppose the waiters were a bit puzzled of this strange group of people speaking of history, archeology and such things calling each other with strange, latin, names (as we take a full latin name joining the association and we usually address each other with that). It was a sad dinner, but a great discovery about the restaurant, as I shall have to get back there again.

Saturday was a day of waiting in a what was hopefully the warmest day of the summer (if it gets any warmer, we have a real problem). Waiting for a word for a given someone far away, waiting for the warmth to lower so to be able to get out 8it never did), waiting for some friends to decide about what to do in the evening and waiting for going to what should had been a mega-party at the beach, anticipated for the whole week. And as it usually happened when there's much of waiting, nothing came out of it at all and so the day was spent reading, helped by air conditioned which can indeed be a problem for environment, but it's so good when temperature is 38 degrees with 90% humidity.

And sunday... sunday was VCN bbq time again, this time with twice more people than the previous time, especially with an unexpected large group of french-speaking boys and girls, three times as much food, three different kinds of balls (volleyball, light football and american football ones) and... the police paying us a visit (it's not legal to have an open fire or even a barbecue on a beach). Luckily, they were of the policemen (and woman, three of them) of the nice kind who, after having praised our organization and sort of tidiness, simply suggested us to extinguish the fire until past 8, when the people who had called them would had been probably gone. Time waiting was spent playing beach volley (where effort and laughters often made up for lack of style and technique) and chatting around (I even managed to try a bit of german and french, amazing).

Some pictures here, altho most of the ones I took were blurry this time, who knows why (click to enlarge).

Friday, July 21, 2006

Against the "It's different, therefore to be respected" statement.

A couple of days ago, as a spin off of the discussion regarding the current crisis in Middle East which is taking place on the VCN list/s (and that is taking mucho fmy little free-time), there was a brief exchange involving 2 or 3 people about the superiority or inferiority, on a cultural level, of Israelis over the Palestinians, which developed into a "you can't compare things and say one culture is better than another" exchange.

Now that struck me, and to the risk of sounding unpopular, my question is, why not? Why can't one say, after having laid down a given referral structure that we should all have and we probably do have and take for granted, that something is better than another, rather than everything being the same? We all are able to say that a given tool is better than another for a given purpose or that a given object has a better quality than another, yet when it comes to an abstract and often undefined thing as "culture", we are supposed to abstain from any judgement and declare that every culture is equal and deserve the same respect.

Well, I disagree.

As I see it, every possible discussion and every comparison, to be possible, has to start from a set of outlined premises, be them axioms in mathematics, rules in a game or values in ethics. Once laid down such lines, one can actually see when a discussion is indeed possible, even if not necessarily fruitful, or impossible altogether. For instance, it's usually pointless to discuss about religion and, much similarly, politics, as the premises the people use their own ideas are often irrational (as, not rationally demonstrable), radically different and mutually exclusive.

If I believe that there is no God I can't possibly discuss with someone who believes there is a God in order to find a common position, just as much as someone who believes the State shouldn't intervene in the life of the citizens besides laying down a set of given rules will never be able to reach a compromise with someone who firmly believes the state should intervene in the life of its citizens to the point of directing them towards a given set of beliefs.

When it comes to ethics, social issues, politics, culture and every discussion that one way or the other touches any of those (which means, thinking about it, almost everything that is not the weather and the customary "how do you do" exchanges) , I believe that it's only possible to have a discussion if a given set of undeniable values are laid down and generally agreed upon and accepted. At the same time, I believe I can give a positive or negative judgement on the
different things that are considered values by an individual or a culture and ultimately on the individual or the culture as whole. My own personal judgement, obviously.

I know in a western world which has been suffering for political-correctness for the last 20 years to the extent of denying its own values to avoid a confrontation with others who won't give up theirs, such a statement as the one before is most likely to be labelled as racist, if not worse, but I suppose I'll run the risk.

So, what are the values that I think should be laid down and accepted as universal before even entering any discussion which has to do with different cultures? Simple things really, and nothing that has not been thought about, at least in the western society, for the last two thousand years and that was considered as an generally agreed thing already 2 hundred years ago:

a) that all human beings, male and female, are equal and are entitled to the same rights
b) that the life of a human being is sacred, has to be protected and even encouraged
c) that the human being has the right to self-determinate the course of its life, as long as by doing so he infringes the same right of another human being, and seek its happiness in its life as it sees fit for itself.
d) that freedom of thought is sacred
e) that the freedoms that are direct consequences of the 4 points above are sacred, as long as they aren't used against any of those 4 points.
f) for instance, as a consequence of d), that freedom of religious belief (or un-belief) is sacred as long as I don't use it against the equality of male and female, their life, their self-determination and their freedom of thought
g) similarly and under the same conditions, the freedom of expression
h) similarly and under the same conditions, the freedom of association
i) similarly and under the same conditions, all the corollary rights like the one to privacy, sexual freedom, movement establishment, property, political activity, work and retribution, instruction and so on and so forth.

Some, I hope few, will find such a list astounding and biased, the most will find that natural and agreeable. I'm afraid, I can't but consider worse and undesiderable individuals and cultures which do not accept such values or, even more, consider them un-values. Which doesn't mean such cultures should be actively and forcefully eradicated, but that, finding myself in the need of choosing, I could assign a lesser values to the one I consider worse and favor the other.

To be noted that it is following this or a very similar scale of values that most of us live.

In almost every country we live political organizations and activities are protected and even encouraged, but for instance in
Germany and in Italy is forbidden the constitution and the activity of Fascist parties, because they fundamentally deny all or some of the top points
of the list.

In almost every country freedom of speech is (at least nominally) protected, but you can't use it against a minority or without limits. And I could go on with examples.

But the point is, why, if we agree on such a list of values (and I admit freely and without any problem that I am not interested in discussing about anything with anyone who doesn't agree on them, as the person would be utterly alien to me) in expressing a judgment of value, I can't say that a person, culture, organization that respect all or most of those points is *better*, not merely different, than one which respect less or none of those, or that even professes the belief that some of those are indeed non-values and are not to be respected at all?

Should I say that an individual or a culture that profess the subjugation of the woman to the man is merely different, but not worse, than the one which profess their equality?

Should I think that an individual or a culture that punishes harshly, to the point of killing, someone who decides there is not a supreme being or that there is one, but it's not the one he was told it is, is equal, but simply different, than the one who allow you to believe what you feel better, as long as you do not force it on the others? Or am I allowed to believe and profess the second is actually better?

Should I really profess the equality of an individual or culture who places the freedom of thought and expression as hypothetical, conditioned to the adherence of a given doctrine or belief, or downright denies it as a right to an individual or culture which see it as a fundamental individual right (with the only condition stated above)?

Am I allowed to say that an individual or a culture that strives to protect the minors is inherently better than one that requires permanent, debilitating and at times catastrophically disabling mutilations performed on them for them to be accepted as persons, profess the preference for a gender over the other to the point of actively predetermining it before birth and deny their free will in choosing a partner or I must profess them as merely different, but
deserving the same respect?

May I humbly decide and profess that an individual or culture that has life as a value is better than the one who cherishes death as long as it brings death unto others as well?

The "every belief is different, but deserving the same respect and consideration as ultimately morally equal" line is the same that brings to the greatest and unsolvable paradoxes. May I protect the freedom of speech of the one who speaks against the freedom of speech of the others? Should I preserve the right to life of the one who will use it to deny that same right to another, or many others? Should I protect the freedom of someone who will use it to oppress others?

Given that, can I consequently decide that, given a system of referral points, something is indeed better than something else and decide to think, speak and act consequently? For myself, I decide I can. And I will make a step forward and consider my own referral system not as relative and equal to any other possible referral system, but as absolute, in an act of probable pride, but as the only act that allows a human being to live following, as much as possible given the frailty of the human nature, a line and a direction, and not swaying around, lacking a compass.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Some intense days

"And may you live in boring times" was, and is still by many, considered a kind of good wish and while I generally would disagree with the statement, sometimes, like now, I'm tempted to accept that.

Sure the last few days have been full of things. Monday I did raise, unintentionally I must say, a stir over the VCN community by posting an ad about a pro-Israel rally to take place in Rome, near the synagogue, later that evening. A wake to be more precise. Not that I didn't know the general leftish, anti-USA and pro-arab feeling generally reigning in the community, I suppose it's unavoidable in a place where a sizable minority works in the UN or similar organizations, but in my being an idealistic naive (at times) I didn't think posting a simple rally notice without even adding a personal comment would had caused such a reaction.

Fact is, that started a quite lively river of posts, some actually accusing me of hypocrisy as I had indeed expressed my view in the past that general political discussions shouldn't had taken place on the list (and in fact I took no part in the discussion that followed), but someone forgot I had made an express exception for the advertising of real social events taking place in Rome. Most of the posts anyway were simply to throw in opinions, for the most part scarcely supported by facts or references, about the situation at hand in middle east. The discussion has not been closed even now, 2 days later, despite the first signs of life of the silent majority who'd rather not be spammed by such things. To try to make things better, I went on and created a separates list which hopefully will be the place for VCNers to let go of their polemical energies.

In the evening I did indeed go to the wake I advertised and found it an interesting event. Not too many people sadly, just about a thousand of very quite, ordered people (while a bit earlier another rally - pic on the right - that had been taking place organized by "pacifists" and left groups in which the most tender words for Israel was "Murderers! Murderers" had seen quite a bit more), but with quite some speakers, with representatives from both the present government and the opposition (on the left, the secretary of the largest left party in Italy and the president of the major right one - click to enlarge). So I went, and despite a given nervousness for the concrete possibility of something bad happening (which is the main reason the whole gathering was organized and advertised at the very last minute), I'm proud of having been there. I even met a friend of mine, Sara, who I hadn't seen or heard about in a couple of years.

As a side note is to be said, tho, that the apparent idyllic moment between government and opposition was somewhat marred by the fact that our Prime Minister earlier that day had came out with the total idiocy of proposing Iran as a mediator in the crisis (yes, the same Iran that funds both Hezbollah and Hamas and pledges to wipe off Israel from the face of Earth), another side of the government coalition was asking for the withdrawal of our Ambassador from Jerusalem and the foreign minister expressed a position of "equivicinanza" (a neologism meaning same closeness to the two parties) at the same time said Israel's reaction had been disproportionated and unreasonable.

Tuesday could had been a peaceful day (except for the ongoing quarrel on the VCN list), if at some point my chief at work hadn't just decided to go absolutely mad out of a misunderstanding and, to the shock and disbelief of everyone present (but me, considering I know the temper of the person), started to violently attack me verbally, proceeded to almost knocking down a bewildered female colleague and stormed out of the room to return a few minutes later to continue the tirade.

To my own shock and disbelief, instead, I managed not only to take the whole thing with an Olympic calm (maybe I'm getting old), which probably enraged the guy even more, but even accept gracefully without smart remarks the sort of apologize (the most close thing to it I can reasonably expect to get) I received this morning from both my chief and his superior. Yet, that's one more thing to be added on the scale in deciding what I do want to do coming this autumn. Taking a sabbatical year for a master sounds more and more a better idea these days, I must say.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Why I'm pro-Israel these days

Ok, after a calm and relaxing sunday, I'll try, even if it's hard in such a little space as a blog allows for such a complex matter, to explain why these days I feel Israel is right in doing what its doing in Lebanon and Gaza. Hopefully, I shall not lose friends over this and someone else currently far far away will not get too mad with me, but anyway...

Without going too far back in time, and noticing the irony of the arab world which invokes the UN to intervene with its (faded and lost forever, as repeatedly and recently proved by Korea and Iran cases) authority forgetting that the whole mess in Middle East derives from the fact the arabs didn't and still don't accept the UN resolution forming the state of Israel, I will go back in time 10 months.

10 months ago Israel left, paying a huge internal price, the Gaza strip, removing all its colonies there as well. At the same time, Israel announced its will of removing at least part of its colonies in the West Bank. Was it used by the palestinians as a first step towards the creation of two countries where the two people could have lived more or less peacefully, even if keeping happily hating each other? No. What happened was that Palestinians sent Hamas (which is an officially recognized terrorist group) to power the first time they could vote (and they couldn't ignore the fact that would had meant more struggles and hardships) and that the Gaza strip became the lunch base for hundreds of rockets that daily, and without the media reporting it, hit the southerns Israelian cities and villages.

Did Israel flatten every single house that could had possibly be giving shelter to the people lunching those rockets to its cities? Did they moved in once again with tanks and soldeirs as the rockets started falling down? No, they did nothing until two soldiers of his were kidnapped by three organizations, two of them officially part of Hamas, meaning the government in charge of Gaza in a move that was criticized even by arab government like the Egyptian one.

Now, I ask you, if your cities were bombed daily from your neighbor country and its government officially started kidnapping your people, wouldn't you feel your own government had to do something?

Then Lebanon came in. Lebanon that was invaded once exactly because from its southern border rockets and missiles were lunched to the Israelian northern cities. Hezbollah militia killed seven israelian soldiers and kidnapped another one. To be remember that hezbollah is in fact part of the Lebanese government these days. So once again, aren't government endorsed hostile acts of violence resulting in the kidnapping or death of foreigner citizens to be considered acts of war or not? If the soldiers killed and kidnapped and the cities hit by rockets daily were French, English, American or Italian, wouldn't we want a reaction from our own government? I'd expect one. I'd expect my own goverment to do just about everythign for that to stop at once, and thus I can't but stand by Israel right now.

And finally, the "proportional" or "moderate" use of violence that everyone seems to be asking to Israel. What does proportional or moderate means? If we go by mere numbers, probably, the number of missiles fired by Israel over the last three days is, even now, inferior than the number of rockets that were fired upon its soil in the last two months. But that's beyond the point, as the point is that force has to be used in the amount and direction needed to obtain a result. Moderate and proportional use of force two years ago is what led Iraq to be the endless series of road-side bombs it is now. Now, if the result that is to be achieved is for the prisoners to be freed and for the involved parties to realize that kidnapping people and rocketing cities is not a good deal at the end of the day, nor economically nor politically, what is the amount of force to be used?

Well, considering the people who seem to be leading Hezbollah and Hamas, probably more than Israel will ever be able to exert. But not doing anything or doing less than Israel is doing would be taken by its neighbors as a show of weakness and just incite more acts similar to the ones which ignited (because Hamas and Hezbollah started this, let's not forget it) the present situation. And to all the ones saying that Israel shouldn't do what it's doing, I ask: then what should they do? Besides packing up and leaving, of course?

It's a pity that in an environment where only force is taken into consideration to evaluate political moves, the escalation of violence is the only way to prove you are alive and kicking, but that's how it is. And it's tragic that, always, innocent people get caught in the middle and suffer and die. But that happens on both sides of this now 60 years struggle and, despite the fact everyone likes to forget about it, Israel, here and now, is reacting to an aggression, it's not the aggressor.

This is my standing, yet, I'd like to hear other opinions and the "comments" thing under here is free for everyone who'd like to express one.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

A VCN week-end, part II

I can't believe it's sunday already. And yet it is sunday, as the loud (so much I could hear them at the fourth floor with my windows closed as clearly as if they were indeed inside my room) and over-excited people who gathered under my building at 9 am before going to a wedding proved by yelling, several times, that getting married on sunday is boring (why, I have no idea).

Anyway, the VCN week-end has been a success. After the night volleyball of thursday (which, again, was simply fantastic, the Happy Hour of friday saw about 40 people in this very cool place, called Oppio Caffè directly overlooking... well, let's say facing, considering how tall it is... the Colosseum's side on Via dei Fori Imperiali. Rarely, I must say, I had enjoyed so much a happy hour location, even if my mood was probably not the best one that evening to start with. Anyway, at some point Alessandro joined together with a couple of friends, we did chit chat a bit (which led me to disappear from the VCN group altogether) and then the plan was to move at an "Afro" party organized by the WFP on a barge on the Tiber. But Gods laugh about the mortals' plans, as we say, and i ended up meeting Liesbeth and talking with her until late in the night about many and varied things. Note for everyone coming to Rome these days: go to the Tiberine Island, they organized a very cool place to hang around in summer with bars and stands selling a bit of everything. Very relaxed atmosphere and, unless the river decides to produce un-nice smells, fascinating in its own way.

Yesterday was the the VCN barbecue day, an experiment that risked to finish even before starting given that as we gathered near the EUR lake some nasty dark clouds gathered over the city and started to move south, promising nothing less than a summer storm. Yet we were lucky and a first group of about twenty people, which would had grown over the evening to maybe forty, moved towards the sea without even finding the feared week-end traffic along the way. Also finding a parking place turned out to be easier than expected as we arrived at about the same time normal people were leaving the beach to return home. And we also got a great light, eventually, and a wonderful sunset with it.

While some attended the barbecue, others played volleyball and then ran in the water (for my first summer dive in the sea this year). Bruschette with tomatoes and pepperoni followed and then hamburgers and hot dogs as Dario "Adam" and myself alternated at the grill. Relaxed chats (and, I think, the beginning of a couple of romances) followed with the occasional drink as new people and new faces sort of appeared (lights were a problems, as even the torches we had brought proved not so suited for the task with the wind that was blowing).

Even in this relaxed environment I managed to somehow get hurt, as it seems the norm over the last week or so, as the dog someone carried along at some point became too friendly (or rather, was aiming at my hamburger eventually managing to get a bite out of it and winning the whole thing by it) and jumped on me, resulting in a red and pretty painful claw mark all along the left side of my chest... that, and working with the torches produced a variety of cuts on my hands... all that, giving to be disinfected with pure alcohol, known for its not exactly painless effect.

But anyway, seriously, the whole thing was pretty cool and will probably be repeated over the next weeks. For once I took my camera with me so you can see some pictures (click to enlarge them). The evening was completed a couple of hours later when, finally, at 2 am I managed to talk with Susanne.

Oh, for the ones who asked over the mail, I know I haven't got back to the Israel statement I made a couple of days ago but I didn't have time and besides, now i know that I shall have to discuss about it with a given someone so, I better be careful. I will get back to it anyway.

Friday, July 14, 2006

A VCN Week-end and various stances

And so, it begun. The week-end, I mean, and the VCN week-end at that, being that, if everything goes as planned, for the next coming days it will be all related to this online group, or almost. After having survived yesterday's VCN volley ball meeting (my arms are turning blue as the bruises produced by three and a half hours of spikes have produced!) , today it is the turn of the bi-weekly VCN happy hour, held in a new location somewhere near the Colosseo, and tomorrow will be the first VCN barbecue on the beach. Sounds as a promising and busy week-end, closed, maybe, with basket on sunday.

Tomorrow. Tomorrow, or rather tonight at 11, but for reasons I shall not explain we conventionally decided it's tomorrow, it will be one year since I first saw Susanne and she's currently 10.000 kms away so celebrating is out of question for at least another three weeks.

Anyway, while I prepare for the week-end, I shall name a few point of views I currently hold on various issues:

a) International politics: Israel is not only justified, but is actually right, in doing what it's doing these days in the Gaza strip and in Lebanon. On this one I will return tomorrow or when I have a moment to elaborate.

b) Domestic politics: the day a report says that drugs' use, included heavy drugs, is up 100% in Italy over the last 5 years, our new leftish government says that the solution is making the use of drugs legal and informing the population at the same time of the risks related to the use of drugs. Brilliant.

c) Sports: French people should learn to lose and trudge on, rather than keep whining for a week or more. We so scorned italians took it as men when we lost at penalties with Brazil in 1994.

d) related to the one above, Materazzi should, and probably will, be disqualified for a couple of international games and Zidane should not be allowed to play again ever after the show they have put on for everyone in the world to see, but considering the latter has already played his last game, at least for him it's a moot point.

That said, have a good week-end everyone!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

And busy it was...

I had told myself over and over I had to find a way to be busy over the coming days so not to have my mind wandering too much? Well, without even realizing how I did it, I was definitely succesful in that.

The celebrations for the World Championship's victory are slowing down after that between 600.000 and 1.000.000 people gathered at the Circus Maximus to give the team a welcome back in an almsot ancient roman style (pictures at the bottom, To be noted that the "frecce Tricolori", the acrobatic squadron of the Italian Air Force, invented a new manouver to create in teh sky a heart for them, as you can see in teh picture), if you overlook the fact that the king of the enemies has not been captured to be paraded in the street and publicly executed afterwards. Actually, it wouldn't had been a bad idea, all in all, considering how the french people, 2.000 years after, still can't absorb the fact the romans conquered and ruled them for centuries, as shown by the popularity of Asterix.

More seriously, the defeat against Italy has started a wave of recriminations and insults (again) which might even become a formal diplomatic row (in the cartoon, fron an italian newspaper, the Italian President of the Repubbli cheadbutts the french president), but differently than with the germans (who we'd like to be respected by, more or less secretely), we italians just love to argue with the french and making them mad, which always happen when they send "critiques" to us and we just made fun of them, their grandeur, their language, whatever they are saying in that particular moment and keep doing whatever they are criticizing about.

Today the mom of their former captain, red carded in the final game, just came out with a wish that our player (that his lovely son headbutted on the chest just because our player is 20 cms taller, otherwise would had been probably plain in the face) was neutered and his testicles served to her on a plate. Justfitting, considering 30.000.000 Italians were singing about her and doubting about her virtue in the night of celebrations.

Anyway, enough about that (even because my french friends might get upset, and I do not want that to be... they have already enough grief about having lost the world cup after all...). Now, being busy. All of a sudden, while yesterday I went to the swimming pool again (and today my shoulders and arms aren't SO bad, so much that I'm going again), I realized that tomorrow I've Volley in the night at that famous "over the roof" court, friday is VCN happy hour time, saturday will be the first VCN "barbecue on the beach" and sunday basketball, either at the sky-court or near Saint Paul outside the Walls cathedral. Sounds busy enough, doesn't it?

In the meanwhile, besides work obviously, most of my time has been absorbed by a nice little game called "Crown of Glory", a napoleonic strategical/tactical wargame over the computer that, even if much less complex than the games I usually find myself irremediably drawn to, yet is enjoyable and flexible enough to be hypnotic and so, I found myself playing at odd hours just wishing my heavy cavalry charge wouldn't had been crushed against an austrian square formation while the russian troops close from the north and my Spanish allies are late to join... Seriously, cool game, hadn't been so into a game since the times of Europa Universalis or Hearts of Iron and, even if nothing can compare with the ancient SSI' "Battles of Napoleon" that (on a commodore 64, because the PC version was a let down) is still, for me, the best game ever (with the best editor too), yet, it promises to be a good filler for the coming days.

And now, celebrations' pictures (click to enlarge)!

Monday, July 10, 2006

World Champions!

Semel in Anno Licet Insanire. Which means, once a year it's ok to go crazy. So when it's 24 years you do not win anything, it's 24 times better. We won. As unbelievable as it is, Italy won the World Championsip (the only real one, the football one) against France, at penalty shoot-outs. First time we ever won a game at penalties, which goes together with another series of records: after having been the first to ever win against Germany in Dortmund, first European team to win 4 world titles, the first team of having had 10 different players scoring and, most important, the first team to win having been scored against only two goals. The first team no one managed to score against on a normal game situation (one was an unprovoked own goal by Zaccardo, the other a penalty by Zidane). 2 goals taken in 7 games. And for the ones who say we are defence only, we actually did score 12 goals.

True, France probably deserved to win the final game, but all in all, I think we deserved the title. To be said that, while the french coach is being much worse of a sore loser than german coach Jurgen "KataKlinsmann" Klinsmann has been (Klinsi is just so cool), the french press is, for now, showing the german one how one can lose in style. The best game of the whole tournament was arguably Germany-Italy and we deserved to win that. After that, we were probably on our way down. But winning against France, who threw us out from the World championship in 1998 again at penalties shoot-out and defeated us in the Euro championships 2000 with a golden goal by the same player who yesterday missed his penalty... that added an even sweeter taste to everything. And Zidane presented to the news the best picture possible of defeated France (and worst ever of himself) as he walked head down past the cup on his way to locker rooms after having been red-carded for a head-down, bull-like, charge against Materazzi.

So it was celebrations in the streets again, improvised fireworks, cars going around honking and blasting music, people throwing themselves in the fountains (and if there is something we have in abundance in Rome, that's fountains), flags and national anthem all around. Pure, happy, absurd madness spreading from kids who weren't even born last time Italy won something (I was 6 myself at that time) to oldies (I met my own boss in Piazza Venezia). And again the side violence, again in Campo dei Fiori (and Piazza del Popolo), again and again...

Yesterday I was out celebrating until I don't know when, 3 am or 4 am probably, and today I'm mostly asleep while wearing my Italian t-shirt under my business suit. Until 9.00 am no one was to be seen in the office and faces are mostly grey, fatigued and yet relaxed and happy. The email system of the office is all congratulations mails and whoever is pretending to work is probably just checking the news sites and writing emails. That's football baby. Tomorrow, or next week, everything will be back to normal, but how Lorenzo the Great of Florence said "who wants to be happy, be it, there's nothing certain about tomorrow".

The only thing missing was being able to celebrate in the streets with my girlfriend (incidentally, Germany ended up third, and they have the top scorer of the tournament). We live in an imperfect universe, after all.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Tanto tuonò che piovve

Which means, so much thunders we had, that eventually it did rain. Now, that usually applies to situation when there are so many signs of something was going to happen, that it indeed happened eventually, but in this case it is intended literally, as this morning we had a full tropical storm hitting the city.

It was... interesting, shall we say, as riding on my faithful scooter ("muletto", meaning little donkey) to work, I rarely had more than 5 meters of visual line and at some point the Cristoforo Colombo, one of teh largest streets of the city connecting downtown to the EUR neighborhood, was flooded with more than 60 centimeters of water, forcing cars to wide detours and scooters to just give up hopes, walk back (not really easy on such a street, much akin to a highway) and try another way.

Needless to say, 10 minutes after I reached my office, the sun shone again, even if more monsoon-like weather is forecast for the coming days.

In the meanwhile, I managed to go to the swimming pool yesterday and must say, was interesting. The structure is pretty original on an architectural point of view, being a pool that is all indoor in winter, but partially open in summer, when the roof can be largely open together with half the perimeter's walls (as it can more or less be seen in the picture, click to enlarge). Also, being most of the structure in wood or paneled in such material, it gives the feeling of finding yourself somewhere in the mountains, rather than in the middle of the city.

I managed to swim a bit more than the bare minimum I had fixed for myself, meaning I did 50 courses rather than 40, but must be said that it is not, to my knowledge, an olympic swimming pool and I have no idea how long each course is. Also, honestly, my shoulders today are just a single node of screaming pain, but that was to be expected, I suppose.

Week-end is coming, and surprisingly so, considering untill sometimes this morning I was totally in the belief of today being thursday rather than friday... and while I know exactly what I will be doing on sunday, I have no idea about today or tomorrow, while I should definitely try to get busy and keep my mind occupied. I think I'll try to organize an Eritrean dinner for tonight, we'll see...

Thursday, July 06, 2006

And finally!

And finally, I found a newspaper reporting the news about tuesday's night events. It's "City", one of those little free newspapers they give you in the metro station, in the roman version and my congratulations to be the only one to have covered the story.

So, eventually the night ended with 30 persons wounded (I suspect more, as I doubt the ones involved in the "incidents" stayed there to be checked upon and be possibly arrested afterwards), 15 of them in hospital with more or less serious wounds, 25 buses damaged (one probably beyond repair), the Police had 1 car damaged and the city police 2, plus several girls heavily harassed in Trastevere.

And our mayor, Walter Veltroni (on the right), after 2 years that things go on like that, was re-elected last April with over 60% of the votes. I suppose we only deserve what we get afterwards.

On a totally unrelated matter, today I was set to start going to swimming pool I got myself all the was needed (included, argh, a mandatory cap and googles) and of course today, after 3 weeks of scorching sun, *today* the sky is dark grey and threatening a storm. Lovely. Not to mention that it is since sunday night that I have no news from a given someone presently in the States and I'm becoming nervous.

Does it show I'm not in a good mood at all?

Idiots' moms are always pregnant

That's a typical italian saying, that shows the never vanishing faith of the italians on the human intelligence. But after all, Murphy's law applied to intelligence says it all "The Intelligence in the world is a constant, population is growing".

Update about what happened in Campo dei Fiori and around the city on tuesday night. After a whole day of the media saying absolutely nothing about the incidents, with the notable exception of the "Gazzetta dello Sport" (online version) which was so daring to go like "In tanto tripudio, non è mancata qualche intemperanza" (In so much rejoicing, there has been some minor trouble), yesterday night finally something came throught in TV.

Turned out that an italian troupe was indeed in Campo dei Fiori tuesday night and got the beginning of the "minor troubles" on tape (before the cameraman ran for cover as well). It also turned out that during the night 25 public buses were damaged or destroyed. Why the italian tv, usually so avid of sensational or anyway live footage, has waited untill 1 am of teh day after to show what happened at Campo is anyone's guess, I have my own. Nothing was said about the woundeds tho, and I know there were as I see a couple with my own eyes, one actually unconscious and bloody after a bottle caught him right in the face.

Now, just to show that this situation of urban guerrilla is nothing new (even if I had never seen it escalate to the point of volleys of glass bottle being thrown indisciminately in the peaceful crowd), look here (or, google translated, here) or here (or, google translated, here).

Now, if guerrilla is an every night issue and devastating damages are donw when there are celebrations for a victory, what is going to happen on sunday, however the game will end?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

How yesterday Italy won and I almost got killed.

It happened. No one really believed that it could happen, even if everyone did indeed hope so. It's always like this when Germany and Italy plays, the ancient memories embedded in our DNA wakes up again and remember the two thousand years of struggles, started with the 2-0 victory by coach Caius Marius over the german team at Acquae Sextiae, continued with the 0-3 defeat of the italian (well, roman) team at the Teutoburg stadium with a team led by coach Varus and went along the centuries until yesterday. We never believe we can make it, until we actually do. Always against Germany: 1970, 1982, 2006. If we consider that we ended up playing the final in 1994 as well, we do get to play the last game exactly once every 12 years.

That's football, baby.

So it was that we won 2-0 again, at the end of the extra-times, after having hit twice the german bars and broken the Dortmund Stadium's record (Germany had never lost there until yesterday). As the referee whistled the end, 58.000.000 of italians felt vindicated for the insults thrown at them over the last week by the german newspapers (Bild and Der Spiegel especially), for the killed bear, for all the little and big torts, real or imaginary, suffered from germans over the last 24 years (all the previous ones had been washed away by the victory in Spain) and we even almost forgot the loud whistles against our national anthem and the fact that Germany twice in a game (unheard of in international competition since the concept of "fair play" was created) didn't return the ball to us after we threw it out to have injured players assisted by doctors.

The paroxysm of joy, after the immense tension kept at bay for 119 minutes (plus intervals and injury time), was so uncontrollable that upon the first italian goal I found myself hugging and embracing my brother, something I do not remember doing since I was 5 and my brother a still innocent looking toddler of 2.

The funny thing is that the one Germany and Italy is such a love-hate relationship (and how well I do know...). It's since Goethe, and probably even before, that germans are fascinated by our history and spirit and yet are irked by our lack of tidiness and order. On the other hand, while we do not like at all the sense of superiority towards us that germans don't even try to hide, we are, often openly, envious of them under many aspects. Mixed couples cannot be counted and yesterday I've seen more than one person wearing an azure shirt consoling another wearing a white one (admittedly, the ones in azure were mostly dark haired guys and the ones in white blond girl, so much for stereotypes).

Another ironic thing is that no one like italians can understand the germans right now. We were the one who lost in semifinals playing at home in 1990 (and actually, Germany won the title back then) and we know the desperation of playing the "consolation" final on our own soil while someone else fights for the title (w all did actually cheer for Germany back then, with such a passion to whistle soundly the Argentinian anthem).

So, we won, game over and that's it, at least until the next game on sunday night, which will see us facing either France or Portugal (I'd rather have the second, actually)

In the meanwhile, I almost got killed yesterday. For the first time in my life I abandoned my house after the game and directed downtown to celebrate. The streets were a mass of flags, cheers, cars and scooters hoking (mine included) where the only colors seemed to be azure, red, white and green. Took me almost one hour to cross the city and meet my best friend, spent a bit of time with them than took one and directed in the real centre.

Met some other friends and while in Piazza Venezia several thousands of Italians sung the national anthem in front of the "Altar of Fatherland"... which would be quite fitting, if it wasn't for the fact the unification of Italy was fought mostly against austrians (so, germans) but possible only thanks to prussians (so, other Germans)... I directed towards Campo dei Fiori. And that proved to be an almost fatal mistake.

While talking with this friend at the far end of the square on the flower market side, something literally exploded between our feet. A second later, something passed so close to my face that I could clearly feel the air displacement before exploding behind me. At that point I did raise my eyes and saw a volley of beer bottles falling from the sky, one hitting square in the face the person right next to me. I ducked and ran, together with another thousand of people, while the police started lunching tear gas and charged a bunch of... how should I define them? who had started the whole thing. Two real loud explosions followed and then I do not know what happened, as it took me 10 minutes to find again my friends, one of which, the one who was talking with me, carried light glass splinters bruises.

Five minutes later, as the adrenaline rush lowered, I did realize that if the bottle that I felt passing so near to my eye and temple had been just a couple of centimeters, at most, more on target I'd probably be dead by now. Great way to celebrate the victory. And not a single newspaper reporting what is becoming a normal thing in the roman week-ends...

PS. the Finland case continues. I got even more contact from finnish places I didn't even know the existance of (Kaarlejoki?? Jyvskyl???) and I have no idea why. Anyone cares about telling me why?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Fame in Finland and a Nation holding its breath

I have no idea why, but apparently I became famous in Finland. Ok, famous is not the word, but the fact is that over the last two days apparently this blog was accessed three times from Helsinki, once from Kerava and once from Hakkila and it seems whoever it was, at least in two cases was looking definitely for me, as they came from google looking for "vcn" and "guido" (guido costantini in another case). Now, I do like being famous in that part of the world where scientists have predicted the last blond person of the planet will be born two centuries from now, but I'd be very curious about why so, my anonymous finnish reader (or readers), just in case, you can hit the "comment" link under this page and leave a line :)

But let's come to the news of the day, which can't be but one and one only. No, not the situation in Israel. No, not the sad news from Valencia's underground. NO! Not even the fact our cities are being blocked by a major taxi strike after the government announced they will remove every limits about taxi licenses. the news of today is, obviously, that the whole country is waiting for this evening, for Italy once again facing Germany for the semifinals of the world cup (if you need to ask "what world cup" you are either the american baseball person or Fox Mulder was right and aliens are among us).

Now, full books could be written about such a game that in the past has given some of the most emotional moments of football history and there are writers better suited, and more read, than me who will spend their talent over it. I will just mention that:

a) yesterday a Lufthansa captain disembarked 40 italian children, on their way to Manchester, in Hamburg in the pretense they were making too much noise.

b) yesterday the mayor (burgermeister, which doesn't mean the master of the hamburgers) of Dortmund, where the game is going to be played, has expressly forbidden any manifestation of joy in the street should germany loose... ergo, italians supporters can't cheer in case we'd win.

c) yesterday the always kind german newspapers have accused us italians to have asked the FIFA to intervene and have Frings, a german player, disqualified for the game after he hit with a punch in the face, live worldwide, an argentinian player. The fact the images were asked and broadcasted by german television first, that FIFA firmly denied any involvement of the Italian federation and that the german player did indeed and wthout any doubt show quite some boxeing talent while the whole planet was watching didn't stop the Bild, among others, to drop another avalanche of stereotypes and common places against italians.

d) a week ago the germans killed OUR bear.

e) what Der Spiegel wrote, which you can read summarized two entries before this one.

Now, considering a), b), c), d) and e) not to mention for the hundred of thousands of italians emigrants living in Germany and the ever going love-hate relationship that goes on between Italy and Germany since the time of the Holy Roman Empire a thousand years ago... I hope we are going to teach germans a lesson on the football field.

Forza Italia!