Blog › 2024

Seven views of Jerusalem /5 ·

Shabbat.

After a tiring day in the West Bank, we had it easy and we took a taxi to West Jerusalem to visit the Israel Museum, close to the Knesset.
The museum is inside a modernist building made of concrete and glass, lying within a botanical garden, and was organised chronologically from the Stone Age, through the Phoenician and Greek and Roman dominations, to the current era. A temporary exhibition was dedicated to Herod the Great [1]. Artifacts came from archaeological sites across the Levant, rather than from Eretz Yisrael only, and from the Diaspora, but went beyond a mere collection of Jewish-culture antiquities. Yet what struck me the most was a hall, where the interior of a synagogue was moved and reconstructed: it was the synagogue from Vittorio Veneto, Italy; for obvious reasons, in its original location this synagogue had become tragically useless.

A young woman observes a mosaic depicting a naval scene with Greek inscriptions.

In the late afternoon I parted ways from my companions, to soak up the atmosphere of the Old City, alone, in the golden hour. I strolled again near the Jaffa Gate, through the Armenian Quarter, along and inside the stone walls built by Suleiman the Magnificent. Out of the Zion Gate, I was walking eastwards, where the road turns left and downhill towards the Jewish Quarter: that is where I met God.
There was no one else around: other tourists were in their hotel rooms dressing up for dinner, merchants had closed their shops, Jews were home celebrating the end of their sacred day. I was approached by this man in his 40s, wearing casual clothes, heading in the same direction. We exchanged a few friendly words in English. I cannot remember our conversation, but I can remember distinctly how it ended: he told me that he came from the Czech Republic; I asked him if he was Czech; he shook his head, he said “No”, and he walked away. Befuddled, I looked up at the Mount of Olives; I looked back at him, but he had vanished.
Was he God? Was he Massi from the future? Was he a Shin Bet agent checking on me? I will never know.

The Mount of Olives at twilight as seen from the vicinity of the Zion Gate.

The sun finally set. Children in white shirts were allowed to play football at a yeshiva. I met again my companions at an Armenian restaurant overstuffed with decorations and showing the tallest samovar ever. At night the streets of the Old City were roamed by lean Hasidic youth growing pe’ot, and the stones shone magically black and gold.

The tallest samovar ever and a quite short samotář.

[To be continued…]

  1. Should I buy today the exhibition’s catalogue that I didn’t buy then?

Gli occhi dell’amore (marròn) ·

[H]o stirato camicie per le prossime due settimane ascoltando il Best Of della prima parte di carriera di Jana Kirschner.
«“Donna” non è un genere musicale!» diranno le mie 1,5 lettrici femministe, però siamo lí: una giovane che imbraccia una chitarra e impugna una penna, e che scrive bozze di canzoni autobiografiche che sviluppa insieme a una band di turnisti maschi. Quasi inevitabilmente la produzione della casa discografica major dà alle composizioni un’impronta blues-rock che fa tanto donna vissuta, perché questo tipo di dischi lo compra(va)no gli uomini. Insomma, fino a dieci anni fa Jana Kirschner cantava roba non male ma non originalissima: tracce derivative del cantautorato radiofonico americano dei Novanta o pezzi orecchiabili di quelli per puntare al podio di Sanremo senza vincerlo. Leggo su Wikipedia che in seguito ha conosciuto un tastierista inglese che ha lavorato con Moloko e Zero 7, Róisín Murphy e Sia, e che ha prodotto le sue uscite successive, piú mature e interessanti (infatti la casa discografica l’ha lasciata a spasso). Devo fare un giro al negozio dell’usato dell’Alfa Pasáž.

Píseň týdne: Jana Kirschner – Na čiernom koni (17. března ~09:15. Qui siamo in territorio “premio della critica”.)

Del florilegio della prima parte di carriera di Jana Kirschner avevo già scritto, e dalle casse del mio stereo suona molto piú ricco che dai miseri auricolari dell’iPod. Il libretto del disco – un racconto delle sessioni di registrazione, inframmezzato dai testi di canzoni escluse (?) dalla raccolta – è interamente in slovacco e mi compiaccio di capirci qualcosa.

Il suo disco successivo è anche l’ultimo pubblicato con la casa discografica importante, e si capisce perché già dal primo ascolto. La forma-canzonetta è abbandonata per composizioni piú rilassate, che si prendono tutto il tempo necessario; la durata media delle canzoni nel Best Of è tre minuti e mezzo, in Krajina rovina è sei minuti e mezzo. Immagino la reazione del dirigente della Universal quando il master è stato recapitato sulla sua scrivania: non c’è proprio niente di commerciale o radiofonico qui!
L’album è stato registrato nel piccolo teatro di una villa in Moravia, penso in presa diretta, ottenendo cosí un senso d’inquieta intimità. Gli arrangiamenti variano fra il jazz da camera e l’elettronica (con qualche eccesso, tipo l’onnipresente effetto “puntina saltata”).
Krajina rovina […] è anche il titolo dell’ultima canzone, una poesia in musica sul trovare rifugio e pace nella terra madre.

Cosí scrivevo cinque anni fa della moja obľúbená československá speváčka. Seguí l’acquisto dei suoi album piú sperimentali, Moruša biela e Moruša čierna, al pericoloso limitare del teatro-canzone che dà l’impronta al live Živá. Esclusa una raccolta di ninne-nanne, Jana Kirschner non ha piú pubblicato un album d’inediti fino al mese scorso, quando è uscito Obyčajnosti (“Cose ordinarie”).
In questi cinque anni Jana Kirschner è transitata per Brno un paio di volte, e io ero altrove. A promozione di Obyčajnosti è stato organizzato un breve tour di Slovacchia e Cechia, di cui ho ansiosamente preso un biglietto. La mia copia del disco è rimasta a lungo ferma in un deposito di Praga, per cui ho dovuto ascoltarlo su YouTube, ed è arrivata a Jundrov il giorno del concerto, con l’ufficio postale chiuso: niente autografo!

Jana Kirschner @ Fléda, Brno, 09/04/2024

Alle otto della sera la coda davanti al Fléda è lunga una ventina di minuti. La demografia del pubblico tende al femminile/maturo/slovacco – come Kirschner – ma ci sono anche giovani maschi stranieri, e coppie di anziani locali. Penso che molti avventori siano qui per la carriera pop di Kirschner e/o la conoscano come giudice in un talent show. Obyčajnosti è meno sperimentale delle Morušy ma non è un disco pop e non ha canzoni radiofoniche (a eccezione forse del singolo Struny, con una certa influenza hip-hop). Qualcuno uscirà annoiato e/o deluso. E io?

Sul palco salgono: un bassista, un chitarrista, un clarinettista, un batterista, un percussionista, una tastierista, due coriste; ed Eddie Stevens, il compagno e produttore, stasera appartato direttore d’orchestra. Jana Kirschner, con indosso una camicetta bianca, segue ultima sulle note del Prológ.
Apre la scaletta il banjo di A po nás, potopa (“Après nous, le déluge”). Ci metto un po’ a capire che la prima parte del concerto è interamente dedicata al nuovo album. Se tenessero fede all’atmosfera rarefatta e sussurrata del disco, assai adatta all’ascolto solitario notturno in cuffia in un tinello marròn, i dieci muzikanti ci manderebbero a nanna. E invece ne esaltano l’energia sottesa, il ritmo, abbandonandosi al parossismo.
Jana Kirschner è un’animala da palcoscenico: non sta ferma un secondo, sottolinea le frasi col corpo, gioca con le coriste, sbatte la distintiva chioma corvina, esalta gli assoli dei talentuosi polistrumentisti. A lei riesce quel che lo scorso novembre a Katarzia non è riuscito: coinvolgere il pubblico in materiale ancora sconosciuto alle orecchie dei piú. Al termine di Holubienka è esausta e si prende venti minuti di pausa.

Scaletta del concerto, diviso in due parti e un encore.

Jana Kirschner torna in scena con indosso una camicetta rossa, la chitarra acustica in mano, e il solo supporto della tastierista e delle coriste. È il momento intimista-karaoke: dal periodo pop intona Líška e Modrá, si alza il coro nazionale slovacco, le due giovani amanti al mio fianco si baciano e abbracciano (mám, stále ťa mám, ma è un sogno). Dopo un discorsetto che capisco essere sulle recenti elezioni presidenziali, e che viene ben accolto dal pubblico progressista, rientrano tutti gli altri musicisti. Si riprende con Divná (la piú accessibile delle Morušy), e con il crescendo parossistico di Máj krásny Máj (da Krajina rovina) che è la mia canzone preferita delle sue e che riesce perfetta. Si continua con il klezmer gitano di Sama, con Láska neumiera (singolo che mi ero perso), e con Muzika! (l’altro pezzo facile delle Morušy) che evidenzia l’affiatamento con le coriste. Si chiude con Na čiernom koni che è la seconda mia canzone preferita delle sue e che riesce perfetta pure questa, e con Pokoj v duši che non scattano gli accendini soltanto perché siamo al chiuso. Mi manca Dunaj, la canzone che me l’ha fatta conoscere, ma va bene cosí.
Nell’encore un ukulele accompagna Jana Kirschner in un ringraziamento a musicisti e pubblico che sfuma in Unesená: è una versione diversa da quella eterea dell’album, sembra terminare in una coda alla Hey Jude, infine si spegne in uno zufolare collettivo diretto da Eddie Stevens.

Unesený e úplně uspokojený torno a casa nella notte piena di odori.

Gli occhi dell’amore (verdi) ·

Anna Vaverková + Kule @ Alterna, Brno, 21/02/2024

Lo scorso settembre non mi sono re-iscritto al corso di ceco, e non so come spendere le corone extra del welfare aziendale (i “punti Fragola”): cosmetici? massaggi? sport? Quindi ho cominciato a spenderli in prevendite di biglietti di concerti. Il primo concerto dell’anno doveva essere quello di Anna Vaverková e Kule all’Alterna, ma ero stanco e di cattivo umore e non sono andato ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

Vltava @ Kabinet Múz, Brno, 20/03/2024

I Vltava sono stati una scelta casuale; poi Vojta mi ha ricordato che li avevamo già visti due anni fa al Ponava Fest in Lužánky e ce n’eravamo andati dopo due pezzi per la noia. E invece al Kabinet Múz il gruppo di Robert Nebřenský mi ha divertito, con il suo derivativissimo pop-rock imbastardito di reggae e di soul. Il pubblico canterino copriva due generazioni, io nel mezzo l’unico non-ceco/slovacco nostalgico. Sbirciato negli appunti del fonico: «kapacitu držet do 200 lidi (budou starší a potřebují komfort)».

Strain Rate + Franzie @ Stará Pekárna, Brno, 26/03/2024

Vojta’s band Strain Rate got their demo out of their first gig ever (once they cut off my fanboy screams). For their second public appearance, in that tiny basement with bad acoustics, they played roughly the same set, just swapping the crazy encore piece with an intimate song about break-up and beer. If Evička is counting correctly, these were the first sounds for Zdislava’s developing ears and musical taste.

Franzie’s soundcheck was promising, at least for the singer’s vocal tricks; when their set began, they shipwrecked in a sea of post-rock noise.

Playback on other websites has been disabled by the video owner, because Strain Rate are not the best self-promoters.

La globalizzazione è femminista? ·

L’azienda per cui lavoro ha programmi di tirocinio per studenti, attivi nelle nostre principali sedi: Chicago, Brno, Città del Messico, Penang.
Qui a Brno il programma copre i mesi di luglio e agosto. Io ho richiesto un tirocinante per un progetto che richiede idee fresche, e competenze che né io né la mia squadra abbiamo: è una cosa all’incrocio fra architettura dell’informazione e linguistica computazionale, con un possibile uso di IA generativa qualora funzionasse. Dall’ufficio del personale ho ricevuto una manciata di CV e videoclip (la Generazione Z è piú ad agio con la videocamera che con un foglio di testo) che ho vagliato con le due colleghe che formeranno il tirocinante e che lavoreranno con lui.
Le migliori candidature sono arrivate da tre giovani donne straniere, studentesse nelle università brunensi. Senza entrare in dettagli, vengono da quelli che fino a ieri chiamavamo il secondo e il terzo mondo. A parte l’inglese perfetto, possiedono le specifiche competenze richieste e/o un’attitudine comunicativa e/o una vivacità d’ingegno che si confanno al progetto. Sceglierò una di loro, e segnalerò le altre ad altri manager: l’obiettivo primario è scovare talenti, e c’è cosí tanto talento in movimento!

Due anni fa cercavo un analista dei processi aziendali da inserire in squadra. Le migliori candidature arrivarono da tre giovani donne indiane che percorsi differenti avevano portato in Cechia e nei dintorni. Avevano precedenti esperienze e avrebbero potuto trovare impiego in patria, in una delle centinaia di aziende di servizi di Bengaluru o di Mumbai, ma erano assai determinate a costruirsi una carriera in Europa.

Queste giovani donne talentuose avrebbero potuto far notare le proprie eccezionali qualità, prima che l’economia diventasse globale?

«La globalizzazione è femminista?» è una semplificazione; probabilmente vale la legge dei titoli di Betteridge. Voglio dire: la globalizzazione sta migliorando la condizione femminile su scala globale? Non ho una risposta, né sono certo che la domanda stessa sia corretta o sensata.
Cercare su Google “Is globalization feminist?” non fornisce alcun risultato esatto – nessuno ha mai posto la questione nei medesimi termini – ma rimanda a testi in cui le parole chiave sono rilevanti.

Il primo risultato è la voce Feminist Perspectives on Globalization della Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, in cui le autrici Serena Parekh e Shelley Wilcox articolano i diversi possibili punti di vista. Un passaggio mi sembra suggerire che per alcune filosofe la domanda possa persino essere considerata offensiva:

Schutte insists that ostensibly universal feminist values and ideas are likely to embody the values of dominant cultures. This helps to explain why the voices of women from developing countries are often taken seriously only if they reflect the norms and values of the West and conform to Western expectations. Thus, Schutte insists that feminists must engage in methodological practices that de-center their habitual standpoints and foreground perspectives that challenge accepted ways of thinking (Schutte 2002). Khader extends this call, urging transnational feminists to reject the problematic variants of “Enlightenment liberal” values taken to be central to Western feminism, including individualism, autonomy, and gender-role eliminativism (Khader 2019, 3). Such values not only constitute cultural imperialism when imposed on cultural “others,” as Schutte argues, but also can serve to justify militarism, political domination, economic exploitation, and white supremacy in the name of advancing gender interests (Khader 2019).

Che schifo, i valori dell’illuminismo liberale!

Un paragrafo sulla giustizia economica evidenzia le contraddizioni che si sono create per le donne che sono rimaste nel Sud globale:

Proponents of globalization argue that the expansion of export processing has had positive consequences for women, providing jobs for thousands of otherwise unemployed women and offering new forms of agency. However, feminist political philosophers argue that jobs on the global assembly line tend to be difficult, insecure, and dangerous: working conditions are poor, hours are long, wages are low, and sexual harassment is widespread (Young 2007, 164–67). Thus, they contend, the results for women are contradictory at best. As Jaggar argues, while women’s increased economic power may provide them with some freedom within their families, they are also “super-exploited by foreign corporations with the collusion of their own governments. As employees, they often experience a type of labor control that is almost feudal in its requirement of subservience and dependence” (Jaggar 2001, 306).

La sezione sulla migrazione pone l’attenzione sulle lavoratrici domestiche e sulle “catene globali della cura”:

These chains, which link women across the world, are established through the transnational exchange of domestic services. Global care chains typically begin when relatively well-off northern or Western women enter the paid labor force and hire other women, usually poorer women from developing countries, to care for their children and other dependents. Migrant careworkers often must leave their own children behind in their home countries to be cared for by even poorer careworkers or family members who may already have care-giving responsibilities or be engaged with paid labor.

L’articolo non tratta le high-skilled workers, le giovani donne talentuose con cui ho piú spesso a che fare: è possibile che esse siano le uniche per cui la globalizzazione è un guadagno netto. Qui si può aprire il dibattito, non limitato al genere femminile, su low-skilled e high-skilled, ovvero i nuovi sommersi e salvati nella competizione capitalista; e ci si può chiedere se queste high skills siano state conseguite con fatica o con fortuna, per merito personale, o per privilegio di classe o familiare, ecc.

Like Leila Khaled said /4 ·

We weren’t stranded on that emergency lane for long; half an hour later we crossed further checkpoints and we reached Bethlehem.

Chaotic street as seen from inside the van, with twin minarets in the background.

Somewhere on the road to Bethlehem; it may be East Jerusalem, but I cannot find these twin minarets anywhere on the web.

Like Jericho, the town where Jesus was allegedly born also lies in the Area “A” of the Occupied Territories. When we arrived it was already mid-afternoon and the streets were chaotic with random vehicles: local cars, pilgrims’ coaches, yellow taxis, our white van among them.
We bowed our heads down and we entered the Basilica of the Nativity by its low-framed Door of Humility. A Palestinian Christian showed us around. The church had just been declared a World Heritage Site and was under extensive renovation, still its structural features were visible: the irregular stone floor, the wooden ceiling, the gold-decorated apse. The remains of the millennium-old mosaics were its most interesting artistic elements. Tourists were scarce, mainly gathering inside the crypt, better known as the Grotto, with an altar marking the place where Mary gave birth to Jesus (maintained by the Greek Orthodox), and with a separate spot where Mary laid Jesus in the manger (maintained by the Franciscans). No signs of veneration for the ox and the ass, nor for poor old Joseph who patiently witnessed all of that.
Walking out on the sunny square in front of the Basilica, we stopped to look at a tabby cat in the quiet, shaded garden of a Franciscan hostel. A friar came by, made it clear that we weren’t welcomed, and shut the gate.

Tabby cat in the quiet, shaded garden.

The streets of Bethlehem are lined with ugly buildings of naked cement bricks which host tourist traps facilities. We visited one souvenir shop for our mandatory purchases: postcards, rosaries. I was enthralled by a small statue of Saint Peter, carved in olive wood, seemingly genuine; it would have been a perfect gift to my father, but the price was quite high. I decided how much I would pay, and I kept that amount of shekels in my wallet, hiding the rest. I went to the salesman and I negotiated for my price, literally showing him that was all I had; he didn’t agree, so I waved goodbye and I walked out the shop. There I started counting seconds: only half a minute later he called me back in. I ended up paying 40% of the asking price, which means my statue was not worth half of that. I guess it is a game local merchants have played countless times.

Carved wooden statue of Saint Peter, with ruler showing a height of about twelve inches.

Today it can be yours for $539. Ships from Colorado because why not.

On the way back to Jerusalem the van drove us along the West Bank barrier, which Israel built mostly inside Palestinian territory. The section circling Bethlehem is the most famous: that is where Banksy painted his stencil figurines and later financed a hotel, where other artists show solidarity to the cause, where the local youth express their anger, all under Western tourists’ eyes. Approaching the Israeli exit checkpoint, passport at hand, I managed to snap some shots; but the van was going too fast when we passed by the mural depicting Leila Khaled.

Blurry shot of the mural depicting Leila Khaled, her name can barely be seen. Proper shot of the mural depicting Leila Khaled, a smiling woman wearing a keffiyeh and holding a Kalashnikov. The writing says: «Dont forget the struggle».

Wikipedia user Bluewind had a firmer hand than mine. © CC-BY-SA 3.0.

Leila Khaled is a former militant / terrorist / freedom fighter and national heroine, depending on whom you ask. In the late ‘60s / early ‘70s she became the charming poster woman of the Palestinian liberation struggle. She has had several works of art dedicated to her, including a quite sympathetic documentary that is available on Vimeo and on YouTube, and the song by The Teardrop Explodes that I will embed below. Imagine, nowadays, recording a love song to an anti-Zionist plane hijacker.

[To be continued…]

Nová hudba, ktorej verím #8 ·

Lael Neale – In Verona

(Via Daniel Baláž and Matthew Perpetua.)
In Verona, where we lay «… our scene!», my Shakespeare readers will instantly exclaim. As Perpetua puts it: The song moves at a brisk walking pace, with piano chords circling the center of the mix like a hypno-spiral. The accompaniment gets more soaring and dramatic, but there’s no rhythmic catharis. You steadily move ahead for eight minutes, passing through inclines, epiphanies, storms, and little moments of grace, and eventually you stop at some mysterious destination. Yet the destination of the song, and the setting of this tainted love (?) story between a friar and a nun, may not be Verona, Italy, but rather Verona, California.

Trinket – New Hobby

(Via Steve Lamacq.)
Earlier this week, in an interview with Lammo from SXSW, their singer said something like Trinket had never been outside of NYC before. They must have spent their lives in their tiny Brooklyn bedrooms, listening to C86 compilations all summers long.

Anna Erhard – 170

Annə, exotropic, very_british, aus Berlin. Lidl shoes. Siegessäule!

(Via Nika Svorenčíková and Huw Stephens.)
As a 5′6″-tall man I feel personally attacked.

Yungatita – Pick at Your Face

(Via Matthew Perpetua.)
Valentina Zapata aka Yungatita is a visual and music artist from San Gabriel Valley with a clear taste for indie-rock from the ‘90s, good songs, and an awesome backing band. After an EP that she couldn’t promote during pandemic times, with its lead song about abortion, in January she released her debut album, Shoelace & a Knot. Also she has issues with Joe Biden.

Internet explorer #36 ·

Aeon › This granular life, by Carlo Rovelli.

Antidote Zine › Same/Different, by Andrea Glioti.
A Comparative Study of Kurdish-Led Rojava and Opposition-Held Syria.

SGMOIKYouth Cooperatives: An Emergent Model for a Palestinian Resistance Economy, by Faiq Mari.
Through brute force, taxation and other policies, Israel gradually suffocated Palestine’s productive sectors, as a consequence of which most Palestinians became wage workers. While I ignore what Palestine’s productive sectors were in the past, and I am sceptical that its economy can – one future day – be re-started from agriculture, I realise that the economics of the occupation are never a subject in the neverending Western debate over Zionism. Also from the article: the Palestinian Social Fund, a non-profit organisation registered in Canada that supports cooperative farms (via Antidote Zine).

Transitions › Promises Unfulfilled, by Charlotte Robertson.
“The [Czechoslovak] state committed the crime [of forced sterilisation]. The [Romani] victim has to prove that the crime was done.”

Transitions › Are There Too Many Stay-At-Home Czech Moms?, by Isabel Ames.
No, but these prolonged career breaks contribute to the prevailing gender inequality in the Czech Republic.

Aeon › Liberal socialism now, by Matthew McManus.
The case for liberal socialism in the 21st century. I must re-read Carlo Rosselli.

Antinomie › La fabbrichetta di Kafka, di Riccardo Venturi.
Franz Kafka come un inconsapevole Stephan Schmidheiny.

Road & Track › Behind F1’s Velvet Curtain, by Kate Wagner.
The funny case of a car magazine who sent a self-described “card-carrying socialist” writer to a Formula 1 race, then published her benevolent but critical article online, then deleted the article from its website like no one had noticed and saved an archive copy of that masterpiece.

Lavoce › Tutti i rischi della cittadinanza a punti, di Vitalba Azzollini.
Liberali italiani 🤝 comunisti cinesi.

The New York Times › Automakers Are Sharing Consumers’ Driving Behavior With Insurance Companies, by Kashmir Hill. 🎁
Good rule of thumb: If your car has a CD player, it is protecting your privacy (via Pluralistic).

When I landed on the article above, which is behind a paywall like most New York Times articles, and is written by the same tech journalist as the first article that I bookmarked in this series, a prompt offered me a 1-year subscription to the Times for only 20 €. I subscribed. Not only do I have access now to a firehose of content, but I can share this content with non-subscribers as ten “gift articles” per calendar month (links expire after thirty days). So keep an eye out for the gift emoji 🎁 and feel free to ask me for gift links to NYT articles that may interest you.

Internet explorer #35 ·

The Paris Review › Divorce Does Funny Things, by Tabitha Lasley.
I wrote that I found Tabitha Lasley’s prose sloppy…

Granta › One Day It Will all Make Sense, by Tabitha Lasley.
… but I sensed it was the Italian translator’s fault, and indeed it may be the case.

The Telegraph › Walking, wine, castles and cuisine make Alto Monferrato the perfect piece of Piedmont, by Sarah Lane.
«Gavi is in Oltregiogo!», my little readers will instantly exclaim. Also, Strevi as a tourist destination? Seriously?

The Observer › [A] deadly attack on a Slovakian gay bar – and its link to a fast-spreading racist ideology, by Jason Burke.

UnHerd › The male baldness industrial complex, by Nicholas Harris.

Financial Times › ‘Enshittification’ is coming for absolutely everything, by Cory Doctorow.

RSFRSF dissipe les idées reçues dans l’affaire Julian Assange / RSF dispels common misconceptions in the case against Julian Assange.

The Guardian › A train through Ukraine: a journey into the stories of two years of war, by Shaun Walker and Kasia Stręk.

East Journal › L’Occidente tradirà l’Ucraina? L’amaro bilancio dopo due anni di guerra, di Matteo Zola.

Mastodon.uno › Le elezioni europee spiegate in modo puccioso, di Stefano Tartarotti.

With English subtitles / avec doublage français auf Arte.tv (via Jon Worth).

Seven views of Jerusalem /3 ·

In the third and central day of our short trip we visited the Occupied Territories / the West Bank.

The previous morning I had asked the concierge to tip us to a local travel agency who would take us around; he had answered that the hotel could arrange a tour, others were interested. We got grouped with a married couple and with a pair of French-Algerian mother and daughter. In the white van were the driver and a young guide who spoke broken English.
There were traffic jams at the checkpoints leaving Jerusalem. The journey eastward, down the immaculate tarmac of the Kvish Ahat, revealed to us the bare nature of Judaea: scattered trees, rocky hills; and only desert, below the sea level. There is an altitude drop of more than 1 km from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea.

View from the van: a sign in English, Hebrew and Arabic tells the travellers that they are at sea level.

The first stop was at a barren, empty resort on the coast. The water glimmered of a quiet shade of blue, the Jordan hills stood beyond heated haze in the distance. You could see, smell, taste, touch the salt. I got my shoes off and I dipped my feet in the sea: I would have tried and float, had I brought trunks. From the loudspeakers a voice sent a warning that sounded for me only, indeed it stopped when I got out of the water.
On the way back to the van I passed by two middle-aged men, smoking placidly in the shade, a cigarette and a shisha. I digged into my fifteen lessons of Arabic and I greeted them «salam alaykum»; they gave me a certain look. Then I noticed that only Israeli flags were flying above us. It occurred to me that perhaps those two men would have preferred to be greeted «shalom aleichem».

The two men, relaxing on plastic chairs, fully clothed but with their shoes off, smoking.

Jericho lies in the Area “A” of the Occupied Territories, under full (theoretical) control of the Palestinian National Authority. It is a sister city of my hometown – also thanks to the pious work of my former parish’s former priest [1] – although no signs of twinship could be found during our visit. Instead, Jericho was littered with archaeological excavations, trying to connect its desolate present with its illustrious past, and with references to episodes of the Gospel: under a wonderful tree that was claimed to be Zacchaeus’s sycamore we bought a box of delicious dates.
A cable car (!) took us to the Greek Orthodox monastery which is built/carved into stone half-way up the Mount of Temptation; there we stole a twig of basil, with a strong scent and with dark-green/purple leaves, the seeds of which my father would later plant in his vegetable garden. And from the monastery it was quite a sight, down from the red mountain to the lush vegetation of the plain: I am glad to read that years later the Jericho Oasis Archaeological Park was established with Italian public funds.

The Greek Orthodox monastery, as seen from the cable car.

The van drove us among marked minefields to a slow stream of yellowish water flowing between close banks covered in palms: River Jordan. On the West side, under the Star of David, Qasr al-Yahud; on the East side, under the pan-Arab colours, al-Maghtas, the one “Bethany” where the Gospel of John reports that Jesus was baptised. The reason why so many pilgrims flock there is to bathe in the very same waters where John the Baptist practiced his ritual; ideally, to renew their Christian vow. I am not sure that my companions understood the significance of their carefree refreshments; I did, and that is why I refused to “bathe in the Jordan”.
A burst of laughter: a herd of Eastern Orthodox nuns, covered from head to toes in black robes, had entered knee-deep in the river, shrieking and splashing one another, crying in pure joy, teaching me happiness.

The herd of Eastern Orthodox nuns, bathing in the yellowish waters of River Jordan.

On the road to Bethlehem, at the foot of a hill colonised by Israeli settlers, two hundred metres before the junction between the Kvish Ahat and the Kvish Arba-Ahat-Sheva, the van stopped. The driver and the guide exchanged a few words, then they told us: we had run out of fuel!

Stranded on the highway: road signs for Ma’ale Adumim (417, ahead) and Jerusalem (1, right).

[To be continued…]

  1. In 2016 the municipality named a garden after him; may he burn in hell.

Just a casual, casual, easy blog ·

Nel maggio del ‘16 venni a lavorare e a vivere a Brno. L’aneddoto è arcinoto: avevo caricato il mio CV sul sito dell’EURES, un tale mi spammò un’offerta di lavoro presso la sua azienda, senza che io acconsentissi il tale girò i miei dati al suo ufficio del personale, l’ufficio del personale m’invitò a un colloquio via Skype, ecc. Quando dicono che le occasioni non bussano alla porta: be’, talvolta bussano.

Ancor prima di volare da Milano a Praga, ancor prima del secondo colloquio, come avevo fatto nell’agosto del ‘13 prima di volare in Iscozia, aprii un blog su Blogspot: il titolo era Moravian Like You, con (ovvio) riferimento alla canzone dei Dandy Warhols. Il blog era sí pubblico ma non era indicizzato; ne diedi l’indirizzo moravianlikeyou.blogspot.cz a famiglia e amici.

La versione nudista del videoclip, con un diverso montaggio, è disponibile su Vimeo e su YouTube.

Ho importato (il primo anno di) Moravian Like You dopo aver fatto un’accurata pulizia del codice di Blogspot, e dopo aver allineato lo stile dei post alle Virtualia?. Ho recuperato le foto dai miei rullini digitali; se una foto era stata scattata col cellulare, l’unica copia oggi disponibile è quella in formato ridotto del backup. Molti link esterni puntano alle corrispondenti pagine salvate nell’Internet Archive. Alcuni paragrafi che preferisco tenere sotto chiave in una cartella del mio laptop sono indicati come {OMISSIS}; il taglio di singole frasi è indicato come {…}.

L’autocensura riguarda una dozzina di post che trattavano di clienti o di colleghi, talvolta in modo poco opportuno, benché usassi sempre pseudonimi geografici o convolute locuzioni anonimizzanti. Ho conservato quei paragrafi il cui soggetto ho trattato in seguito, o la cui assenza renderebbe meno comprensibile gli articoli seguenti. Scopo di Moravian Like You era raccontare a famiglia e amici le mie storie di emigrato, l’impiego che mi ero trovato che mi aveva trovato, le persone che incontravo. Uno scopo delle Virtualia? è tenere traccia di un percorso, e non c’è piú bisogno di ritrattini caustici. I miei futuri biografi potranno riesumare i testi originali dal suddetto laptop o dai server di Google.

Harmonogram, come dicono da queste parti:

  • Moravian Like You · 2016, 64 post (01/03/2024)
  • ☐ Moravian Like You · 2017, 78 post (01/06/2024)
  • ☐ Moravian Like You · 2018, 64 post (01/09/2024)
  • ☐ Moravian Like You · 2019, 50 post (01/12/2024)

Buona lettura!

Signal Failure ·

Cet article ici est dédié à Martine, ma traductrice de “Monbió” préférée.

Quand j’ai abandonné les “boulots à la con” de David Graeber, j’ai découvert ce livre dans le catalogue de ma liseuse électronique. Au début, j’ai cherché et trouvé une copie pirate; lorsque j’avais lu la moitié, je l’ai acheté comme il faut.

La clé est dans son titre: Signal Failure est l’histoire d’un échec, comme Mer agitée de Tabitha Lasley ou La Vie aigre de Luciano Bianciardi. À la difference de ces livres, l’échec est le point de départ pour une introspection qui développe le sujet plus profondément.
L’auteur, Tom Jeffreys, est un écrivain sur l’art et la culture, et un artiste lui-même. Dans novembre 2014, il parti de Londres à pied, direction Birmingham, sur le parcourse proposé pour la ligne de chemin de fer à grande vitesse HS2. Il voulait raconter comment la ligne – et avant d’elle, sa construction – aurait changé l’espace physique, naturel et social entre les deux villes. C’est une approche à la marche qui s’appelle psychogéographie, et qui s’inscrit dans une résurgence du nature writing. L’échec de Jeffreys fut double: il ne connaissait pas la nature dans laquelle il marchait, et il dut s’arrêter à la moitié du chemin à cause d’une blessure. Le juillet suivant, il reprit et termina sa marche; après ça, il écrivit son mémoire.

Son mémoire est plein de réflexions philosophiques, que je ne sais pas commenter, et de références aux œuvres célèbres d’autres écrivain(e)s de nature writing, que je ne connais pas sauf George Monbiot et Rebecca Solnit. Aussi, je sais rien au sujet du HS2. Mais je peux lire ce livre politiquement: Tom Jeffreys vient de la middle class, et il parle avec personnes de la même classe, d’où son seul point de vue. L’opposition à la ligne, de laquelle il prend note sur son chemin, est toujours pour un motif: la construction ira perturber leur style de vie. [T]he reason why many people actually choose to live in the country: ‘peace and quiet’ are the words that crop up again and again along the route. Les raisons économiques en faveur ou contre ne sont pas traitées. Jeffreys se plaint que les personnes ne sont pas envisagées par les rédacteurs du projet; mais, en omettant la dimension économique, dans laquelle les personnes vivent leurs vies, il commet la même erreur.

I ask a man with a dog if I’m going the right way, but I can’t understand his accent. I nod and pick up my pace to avoid having to walk together.

Ceci est son troisième échec.

Seven views of Jerusalem /2 ·

A muezzin at the Sheikh Jarrah mosque (or perhaps a tape recording blasted from loudspeakers) woke my mother and me up at dawn, 04:30.

Hours later we strolled along Salah ad-Din Street, a road busy with people and with commercial enterprises of the most disparate kinds: a soft landing onto another world, looking differently but whose mechanisms we could recognise. We entered the Old Town through Herod’s Gate, which was teeming with women and children and old men visiting the local grocery markets and shops. We roamed around the narrow roads of the Muslim Quarter, beneath arched underpasses and up steep stairs; a mix of the ancient and the modern, but with a battered demeanor, corrugated iron and scattered garbage opposed to the magnificent gardens within white stone walls. We wanted to access the Holy Esplanade / the Temple Mount / Haram ash-Sharif, but every portal was closed shut; down one dead-end lane, a child threw a stone at us.
Inside a small and otherwise quiet church we saw a young Western man dressed in a white robe, praying with unmatched intensity, suffering with the Jerusalem syndrome. We would encounter him again later, doing the rounds among Christian landmark sites.

At-Takiyyah Ascent: above the dark street with open shops selling clothes and food, a metal grill; above the grill, the sunny upper half of the buildings.

We took up the Via Dolorosa and turned south to the at-Takiyyah Ascent, where a metal grill seven metres above ground protected merchants and passers-by from unfriendly neighbours: something I had already seen on TV, but I thought pertained only to settlements like Hebron.
At the end of the road we got to an armed checkpoint, where bored IDF soldiers acted as both security guards and touring guides. They spoke English: I referred to one of them as “sir”, which prompted some mocking by his mate. Past the weapon detectors we got to the sunny square in front of the Western Wall: a unique mix of a holy site and a tourist trap, with soup kitchens next to fancy restaurants, and toilet facilities under seats of rich foreign foundations. Lots of families with kids celebrating their bar and bat mitzvah; lots of Americans. It was definitely not the right place to shout «Allahu Akbar», like an Israeli man would do a week later.

On the foreground of the Western Wall, a family of neatly-dressed Orthodox Jews: father, mother, five children aged about six to thirteen; an uncle overlooks, a man takes their picture.

The approach to the Wall was divided by a light fence between men on the left/north and women on the right/south. It was mostly men who prayed beside the Wall, either in communal rituals or in pious contemplation of the Scriptures; some were dressed in plain summer clothes, some in serious dark garments. Women and children had a more relaxed behaviour, as either less interested or not required to participate.
The only allowed entry to the Esplanade was temporarily unavailable. After lunch we returned to the armed checkpoint and we went down to the tunnels, which take visitors closer to where the core of the Temple was once located, and therefore are of significant religious relevance. Their excavation is also extremely controversial, as the Arabs see them as a way for the Jews to sneak beneath Haram ash-Sharif.

Two elderly Orthodox Jews pray in front of the Western Wall: one standing with his forehead and his right palm pressed against it, the other sitting on a plastic chair and reading a secret text.

It must have been in Gerusalemme by Franco Cardini [1] that I read that all Christian pilgrimage sites in the Old City, around and including the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, are essentially fake: they were built on top of ruins of old temples which in turn had been built on the spot where someone thought that centuries before something may have happened. Yet the stratification of history is fascinating; the petty quarrels among various denominations are amusing; and the sincere devotion of pilgrims is moving, especially so if the faithful are delicate Orthodox ladies in mystical and sensual rapture.

Hundreds of Templar crosses carved in brown stones.

In the Christian Quarter I was more impressed by the relatively modern and surprisingly quiet agora/bazaar complex of Suq Aftimos.
During that short trip to Jerusalem and surroundings I mostly talked with shopkeepers. The one who sold me the «Let there be light» t-shirt that I still wear, who asked me where I was from, told me he was an admirer of Del Piero and Mussolini, and said they didn’t need democracy. The one sitting on a chair near the Jaffa Gate, who lured me into his boutique and wasted short of half an hour trying to sell me silver trinkets that I had no intention to buy. The one where I stopped for a fresh beverage to go, who resolutely made me sit at one of his deserted tables, in a psychological move to capture the interest of other tourists. Just brief encounters, glimpses of the levantine spirit.

Two children playing football in the market, in sight of a security camera.

[To be continued…]

  1. Obligatory disclaimer for my Italian readers: I don’t subscribe to his political views.

Internet explorer #34 ·

The Paris Review › E. M. Forster, The Art of Fiction No. 1, by P. N. Furbank & F. J. H. Haskell.
A useful trick is to look back upon such a person with half-closed eyes, fully describing certain characteristics. I am left with about two-thirds of a human being and can get to work. A likeness isn’t aimed at, and couldn’t be obtained, because a man’s only himself amid the particular circumstances of his life and not amid other circumstances. [1] […] When all goes well, the original material soon disappears, and a character who belongs to the book and nowhere else emerges.

The Paris Review › Christopher Isherwood, The Art of Fiction No. 49, by W. I. Scobie.
It happens through the process of thinking of them in their eternal, magic, symbolic aspects: It’s rather the way you feel when you fall in love with somebody and that person ceases to be just another face in the crowd. The difference is that in art, almost by definition, everybody is quite extraordinary if only you can see them as such. When you’re writing a book, you ask yourself: What is it that so intrigues me about this person—be it good or bad, that’s neither here nor there, art knows nothing of such words. Having discovered what it is you really consider to be the essence of the interest you feel in this person, you then set about heightening it. The individuals themselves aren’t quite up to this vision you have of them. Therefore you start trying to create a fiction character that is quintessentially what you see as interesting in the individual, without all the contradictions that are inseparable from a human being, aspects that don’t seem exciting or marvelous or beautiful. The last thing you’re trying to do is get an overall picture of somebody, since then you’d end up with nothing.

Granta › A Kidnapped West or Culture Bows Out, by Milan Kundera.
The same text as in The Tragedy of Central Europe, but with legible footnotes.

Granta › Somewhere Behind, by Milan Kundera.
Kundera on totalitarianism, by way of Josef Škvorecký and Franz Kafka and Jan Skácel; I read it also as an oblique response to Václav Havel.

Granta › An Interview with Milan Kundera, by Ian McEwan.

The Paris Review › Milan Kundera, The Art of Fiction No. 81, by Christian Salmon.

Granta › Failed Saxophonist, by Josef Škvorecký.
A short and sweet autobiography: through no fault or credit of mine, I was apparently walking some strange sort of tightrope which neither the political Right nor the political Left approved.

The New York Review of Books › Jamming the Jazz Section, by Josef Škvorecký.
Counterculture in the years of Normalisation.

The Paris Review › Josef Skvorecky, The Art of Fiction No. 112, by John Glusman.
[W]e’ve received letters from people—particularly during the summer, when many Czechs go to Yugoslavia for vacation—telling us about our books, though the letters are unsigned. Whoever owns a copy really operates as a lending library, maintaining lists of subscribers, and restricting loans to forty-eight hours. The one complaint we’ve had is that our books should be published in hardcover since they tend to fall apart after 300 people or so have read a copy. But the books are also copied—though not xeroxed, since access to reproduction machines in the ministries and public libraries is closely guarded. So our books are retyped, and carbon copies are made. Ironically, they’re more intensively read in Czechoslovakia than in exile; access to books here seems to reduce interest in them. […] In 1968, when censorship relaxed, there was a sharp drop in book sales in Czechoslovakia because the daily papers and magazines were full of real news. Now, however, there’s real interest in books from abroad in Czechoslovakia, because the information they contain can’t be gotten elsewhere.

Granta › Feminine Mystique, by Josef Škvorecký.
An autobiographical story that was later included in When Eve Was Naked.

Granta › The State of Europe: Christmas Eve 1989, by Josef Škvorecký, Ivan Klíma, Stephen Spender, et al.
What a time to be an intellectual, the end of 1989 must have been! Here I liked the contributions from George Steiner and Werner Krätschell.

Granta › A Childhood in Terezin, by Ivan Klíma.
When you live with death, you must, consciously or unconsciously, develop a kind of resolution. The knowledge that you can be murdered tomorrow evokes a longing to live intensively; the knowledge that the person you are talking to can be murdered tomorrow, someone you may be fond of, leads to a fear of intimacy. You build in yourself a kind of wall behind which you conceal what is fragile of yourself: your deepest feelings, your relationship to other people, especially to those closest to you. This is the only way to bear the repeated, despairing and inevitable partings. // If you construct such an inner wall when you are still a child, you must then spend the rest of your life tearing it down, and the question is, can you ever manage to destroy it completely?

The Paris Review › Michel Houellebecq, The Art of Fiction No. 206, by Susannah Hunnewell.
“An old Calvinist pain-in-the-ass”: I tend to think that good and evil exist and that the quantity in each of us is unchangeable. The moral character of people is set, fixed until death. This resembles the Calvinist notion of predestination, in which people are born saved or damned, without being able to do a thing about it. And I am a curmudgeonly pain in the ass because I refuse to diverge from the scientific method or to believe there is a truth beyond science.

  1. It seemed to me an error in reasoning for a man to isolate a woman he loves from all the circumstances in which he met her and in which she lives, etc.

Lavori del cazzo ·

Ho abbandonato Bullshit Jobs di David Graeber al termine del secondo capitolo.
Lavori del cazzo è probabilmente il saggio anticapitalista del decennio scorso. Nacque su una rivista anarchica britannica come un articolo che ebbe un’immediata risonanza nel mondo anglosassone, e l’autore (antropologo americano) fu convinto a svilupparne il tema in un libro.

È un saggio rigoroso quanto un rutto in birreria.
L’idea di partenza è che abbiamo raggiunto un livello tecnologico che dovrebbe permetterci di lavorare poche ore alla settimana (è appunto una sua idea, al cui sostegno non è fornita alcuna fonte); se questo non accade è perché molti di noi sono occupati in impieghi inutili. Graeber deriva una definizione di bullshit jobs dalle testimonianze raccolte dopo la pubblicazione dell’articolo, e sollecitate in seguito via social media:

[A] form of paid employment that is so completely pointless, unnecessary, or pernicious that even the employee cannot justify its existence even though, as part of the conditions of employment, the employee feels obliged to pretend that this is not the case.

Traduco:

Un tipo d’impiego retribuito che è cosí totalmente senza senso, inutile, o dannoso che persino il lavoratore non può giustificarne l’esistenza benché, come parte delle condizioni dell’impiego, il lavoratore si senta tenuto a fingere che la situazione sia diversa.

Graeber si chiede perché gli impieghi inutili esistano in una società capitalista, quando il capitalismo ambisce a eliminare gli sprechi ovunque. Sulla base delle medesime testimonianze di lettori occidentali, l’autore individua poi cinque categorie di bullshit jobs (senza fare distinzione alcuna fra pubblico e privato); ma sono cosí vaghe che egli stesso ammette come non rappresentino adeguatamente i vari esempi proposti.
Alla fine, se un lavoratore dice che il suo lavoro è un lavoro del cazzo, allora il suo lavoro è un lavoro del cazzo, chi può saperlo meglio di lui? Una tautologia populista, convalidata da un sondaggio [1] secondo cui il 37% dei britannici pensa che il proprio impiego non dia un contributo significativo alla società; se agli scontenti si aggiunge chi fornisce servizi utili a chi fa lavori inutili, allora metà della popolazione è impiegata in bullshit jobs. Qui ho smesso di leggere.

I miei 2,5 lettori sanno che da 2,5 anni faccio il gestore dei processi aziendali. Ovvero, io e la mia squadra forniamo supporto (settore terziario avanzato) ai colleghi dei servizi amministrativi (settore terziario) che elaborano ordini per prodotti industriali (settore secondario) costruiti con materie estratte da qualche parte nel sud del mondo (settore primario). A dirla con Luciano Bianciardi, sono la vaselina negli ingranaggi del capitalismo. A dirla con Carlo Marx, sono un servo dal cui sudore cervello i padroni estraggono plusvalore. A dirla con David Graeber, sono un duct-taper, talvolta un box-ticker, certamente un taskmaster: tre mansioni senza valore per la società (se non forse, indirettamente, per i clienti dell’azienda); eppure ricevo uno stipendio ogni quindici del mese.
Many duct-taper jobs are the result of a glitch in the system that no one has bothered to correct—tasks that could easily be automated, for instance, but haven’t been either because no one has gotten around to it, or because the manager wants to maintain as many subordinates as possible, or because of some structural confusion, or because of some combination of the three. Quello “easily” mi manda in bestia, offende me e le decine di colleghi con cui sono in call ogni giorno per risolvere problemi, e dimostra come l’autore – un antropologo! – non abbia idea della moderna complessità tecnologica; e l’opinione che l’automazione non avvenga perché un manager vuole avere piú subordinati possibile – in un mondo in cui si è robotizzata persino la creatività – è ridicola.
Quanto all’avversione di Graeber per chi organizza il lavoro altrui, mi chiedo se egli abbia mai notato la tendenza delle persone a scansarlo – com’è naturale! – o se abbia mai avuto a che fare con organizzazioni da piú di quindici dipendenti. This job can be considered bullshit if the taskmaster herself believes that there is no need for her intervention, and that if she were not there, underlings would be perfectly capable of carrying on by themselves. O una mansione è eternamente identica e svolta in totale isolamento, oppure chiunque ha bisogno di direttive, istruzioni, obiettivi, e di coordinamento con i suoi colleghi, fosse soltanto per avere una divisa pulita o per decidere chi prende ferie a Natale. Nella multinazionale che mi paga il salario siamo diecimila: dovremmo tutti essere onniscienti, in assoluta autonomia e senza gerarchie?

Le mie mansioni ricadono fra le categorie di bullshit jobs individuate da David Graeber, e il mio impiego non costituisce un contributo significativo alla società, però esso sfugge alla definizione di lavoro del cazzo perché io non lo ritengo tale. È un’incongruenza che presumo verrà risolta quando il mio costo nei libri contabili supererà il plusvalore che gli azionisti spremono dalle mie fatiche; ed è un’incongruenza che m’invita a non perdere tempo con un libro che ha l’ambizione di cambiare la società contemporanea sulla base di premesse cosí fragili.

  1. So not only has the hypothesis been confirmed by public reaction, it has now been overwhelmingly confirmed by statistical research. Nella prossima vita studierò antropologia.

Seven views of Jerusalem /1 ·

In the spring of 2013 I was unemployed I had a lot of time on my hands.
My mother and three of her colleagues at the trade union – three dyed-in-the-wool communists – had purchased an old-style travel package to a quite peculiar destination: Israel and Palestine; or the Holy Land, if you will. Shamelessly I asked her if I could join them. For a long time I have cultivated a mild interest in Judaism, and anyway didn’t they need someone who spoke English with the locals?
That year was the most quiet of this century in the territories “between the river and the sea”. Violence and deaths fell to a relative low; while we were visiting, Israel even hosted the UEFA Euro Under-21 football championship. It was the perfect time for tourism unrelated to ethnicity or religion. What follows is a “recollection in tranquility” of that short trip, supported only by a folder of pictures and by fading memories.

A black trolley lying on floor tiles. On top of that: an Italian passport, a copy of a touring guide of Jerusalem, and the books “Gerusalemme” by Franco Cardini and “Primavera araba” by Domenico Quirico.

We flew from Malpensa airport on Wednesday, 12th June. Before we boarded our El Al flight to Tel Aviv, two agents gave us the third degree: they couldn’t believe that my mother had paid for my ticket; they were also suspicious of one of my mother’s colleagues’ identity card, which said she was born in Cairo, but not that Cairo, you know.
On the plane I fell in love with one of the attendants: olive skin, green eyes, pointy features.
At passport control inside Ben Gurion airport I asked for mine not to be stamped, as it was customary back then to avoid problems if visiting other Middle Eastern countries; instead I got a slip of paper that I still treasure among the expired pages. When we finally broke free from security checks, in the late afternoon, almost all service shops in the arrivals lobby were closed, including the private bus company that should have fetched us to Jerusalem. The travel agency in Italy couldn’t do anything; I scrambled through the lobby to find a replacement, in the end I called the hotel and they found us a driver.

We made our acquaintance with police checkpoints right outside the airport. Then the van climbed up to Judaea, and we arrived in Jerusalem in the early night. Our hotel was situated about a kilometre north of the Damascus Gate, towards the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, opposite the American Colony. More significantly, it lay on the East side of the 1949 border, where the armistice lines drawn on paper by the Israelis and by the Jordanians didn’t match, thus creating a geographical oddity known as “no man’s land”.
For dinner we dragged ourselves to a garden restaurant down the road, where large TV screens flashed a pan-Arabic talent show: Arab Idol? By then, cultural globalisation was already an established fact.

[To be continued…]

Internet explorer #33 ·

The New Yorker › Eichmann in Jerusalem—I & —II, by Hannah Arendt.

The New York Review of Books › The Tragedy of Central Europe, by Milan Kundera.
Central Europe as a family of small nations has its own vision of the world, a vision based on a deep distrust of history. History, that goddess of Hegel and Marx, that incarnation of reason that judges us and arbitrates our fate—that is the history of conquerors. The people of Central Europe are not conquerors. They cannot be separated from European history; they cannot exist outside it; but they represent the wrong side of this history; they are its victims and outsiders. It’s this disabused view of history that is the source of their culture, of their wisdom, of the “nonserious spirit” that mocks grandeur and glory. “Never forget that only in opposing History as such can we resist the history of our own day.” I would love to engrave this sentence by Witold Gombrowicz above the entry gate to Central Europe.

SIRCPassport to the Pub, by Kate Fox.
I am afraid I broke so many rules during my brief time in Scotland

The Washington Post › What if gun owners had to pass a test? Czech Republic offers an answer., by Chico Harlan and Ladka Bauerová.
No, still not enough.

Pietní místo před Karolínem a filozofickou fakultou.

Praha, 23.12.2023. © Milan Jaroš, Respekt.

Politico Europe › The visionary legacy of Jacques Delors, by Alberto Alemanno.

Telex › You can hide from war propaganda, but it will still find you anyway, by Zsolt Hanula.
A hilarious piece on the amount of political crap we you are fed by social media (via Transitions).

Radio Prague International › Czechast: Why the Name Is Czechia, by Vít Pohanka.

iRozhlas › Básníka Ivana Blatného dnes známe i díky jeho anglické ošetřovatelce v blázinci, naznačuje historik, od Ivany Chmel Denčevové.

The London Dead › Quite Decent, Mr Kozderka - the astonishing life of Ivan Blatný (1919-1990), by David Bingham.

Jon Worth › The future of long distance train services through the Channel Tunnel.

Il Post › Storia tossica della letteratura italiana, di Lorenza Pieri e Michela Volante.
Excursus simplicistico sulla misoginia che viene insegnata a scuola. Segnalo un passaggio che mi ha fatto sorridere: Dei poeti nelle antologie Giovanni Pascoli è forse il più cringe […] con quella relazione semi incestuosa con le sorelle, tutta “nidi che fremono”. Le due fanciulle della Digitale purpurea ricordano proprio le sorelle di Pascoli – Maria, “semplice di gesti e di sguardi” e Rachele, mora dallo sguardo ardente (aridaje con il dualismo donna angelo/donna demonio) e si vagheggia sui morbosi ricordi di quella delle due che ha provato la traumatizzante e dolce esperienza del fiore velenoso, simbolo dell’esperienza sessuale. Quando all’esame orale della maturità affermai che Giovanni Pascoli era un pervertito, il presidente esterno di commissione (un ill.ssimo prof. della Facoltà di Lettere dell’Università di Torino) ebbe una sincope; fui invitato a proseguire.

My first spam e-mail ·

A few nights ago I received the following e-mail:

Screenshot of the e-mail received on Thursday, 11 January 2024 at 00:41. «Hello there , I’m sorry I don’t speak Italian but I think this can be helpful. I was using the picture compressor tool you mentioned on your page here: massimiliano.farinetti.eu/blog/2020/ (sorry for the email in English, it's easier for me to read than write in Italian). While gimp.org does a good job, I just wanted to share about another tool, that I think looks better. After some exploring I found this other tool and I wanted to suggest you show it along that one. [url] This tools allows you to compress both jpeg and png files and each picture can be up to 50 MB in size! In hope I helped back, [signature]»

Although it looks legitimate, I am fairly sure it is a pre-composed spam e-mail.

  • The e-mail subject reports my website’s bare URL, which is not human behaviour.
  • The sender’s e-mail handle – her supposed name and surname – doesn’t match the signature.
  • A Google search doesn’t return anyone in the world having that full name, even misspelled.
  • That surname is Indian; it was about 5 a.m. in India; not that there aren’t many Indians around the world…
  • … but the IP address of origin is geo-located in Caracas, Venezuela, which is not home to a large Indian community.
  • In the salutation, the space before the comma indicates that a script didn’t manage to parse my name.
  • The linked website is one of those with 100s of automated tools, a panoply of AI-generated content and bot-generated comments.

What I think happened is that the owners of that website are fishing for external links to boost their SEO. Using a web scraper they noticed that an article of mine mentions GIMP, so they targeted me to ask promote their alternative tool (it doesn’t matter that I referenced to GIMP as an image processor, not as an image compressor). Most websites are generated with a CMS like WordPress, where basic information about an entry (author, title) is standardised; which is not the case for Virtualia?, that is why the salutation fails to address me by name. I know that robots and scrapers are able to identify a text’s language, regardless of the HTML lang attribute that is assigned to it, hence the apologies for not writing to me in Italian.
What I am concerned about is, how did the scraper get my e-mail address right? Was it able to parse my JavaScript code? Did it just add up subdomain and domain? Perhaps a human had to write that manually? I checked my server’s basic logs and I couldn’t find anything relevant. Surprisingly, neither the link nor the e-mail itself contain any tracker that would allow the spammers to confirm that I read their message and that my e-mail address is valid. You can do better, “Amelia”.

Libertà è non partecipazione ·

Claudio Giunta ha pubblicato sul proprio sito un suo saggio, già incluso in un libro leggi-e-getta edito da Einaudi sulle “cose sopravvalutate”. Il tema è la partecipazione, intesa come contributo attivo alla società, e lo spunto è la predica politica [1] di Giorgio Gaber dal titolo La libertà.
Nel saggio di Giunta ci sono due passaggi che spiegano all’incirca la mia reticenza a partecipare a iniziative socio-politiche o a manifestazioni di massa, e quel certo fastidio per le imprese collettive, specie per quelle che si presentano con la faccia della virtù:

Dire noi mi è diventato quasi sempre insopportabile, ho cominciato a reagire con una smorfia a tutte le dichiarazioni fatte a nome di un gruppo che in teoria poteva contarmi tra i suoi membri: […]. Per non parlare dei gruppi a cui non potevo appartenere: […]. E allora? E perché mai la partecipazione a un solo carattere, la condivisione di una sola esperienza dovrebbe essere condizione sufficiente a formare un gruppo, a dire noi, quest’odiosissimo pronome? Ogni compagnia non conosciuta e non scelta, individuo per individuo, amico per amico, mi fa subito pensare alla Psicologia della folla di Le Bon, a Massa e potere di Canetti, alla Volksgemeinschaft nazista, a Piazza Venezia il 10 giugno del 1940. Quando in Che cosa credo di Forster ho letto: «se dovessi scegliere fra tradire la mia patria e tradire i miei amici spero che avrei il fegato di tradire la mia patria», ho pensato ma certo!, che si fottano le associazioni a cui mi sono trovato iscritto senza saperlo, a tradimento.

[S]ì, va bene partecipare e interagire, ma mi pare che a scuola bisognerebbe insegnare anche la verità complementare, che libertà può voler dire non partecipare, astenersi dall’azione e dal discorso se si crede che il proprio contributo sia inadeguato, o poco significativo, o se proprio non se ne ha voglia. Nella ‘educazione alla socialità e allo stare insieme’ mi piacerebbe che l’invito a dire la propria venisse temperato, ogni tanto, dall’invito a non dirla, e a prestare attenzione piuttosto a ciò che hanno detto e, soprattutto, scritto gli altri. Ascoltare, non parlare, è il verbo che ricorre più spesso nella pagina di Sulla libertà in cui Mill disegna il profilo della persona di giudizio: «questa persona ha tenuto la mente aperta alla critica delle proprie opinioni e della propria condotta; ha prestato ascolto a tutto ciò che poteva essere detto contro di sé; ha compreso che l’unico modo in cui un uomo può tentare di conoscere un argomento nella sua completezza, è quello di ascoltare quanto può essere detto su di esso da sostenitori di ogni tipo di opinione».

Ho scritto “all’incirca” perché Giunta non sviluppa il discorso sulla delega in bianco che si dà con la propria partecipazione a chi organizza quelle esperienze e poi rilascia le dichiarazioni a nome di quel gruppo, una delega in bianco che fatico a dare persino con l’esercizio del voto. Io potrei partecipare a un evento in sostegno a un tema A, ma essere in disaccordo su un tema B, e finire contato fra i favorevoli al tema B; sarebbe davvero insopportabile.
E poi non ho letto né Gustave Le Bon né Elias Canetti né John Stuart Mill. Ho letto Michel Houellebecq, che su questo punto dissentirebbe:

Non è questa libertà di fare ma soprattutto di non fare, di non partecipare, non è l’assenza di costrizioni il nucleo, l’essenza della più bella di tutte le invenzioni, la libertà dei moderni?

Oltretutto ammiro coloro che si dedicano anima e corpo a una Causa; ne avessi mai trovata una, mi ci sarei dedicato anch’io.
Un contributo personale alla società, il piú possible conforme ai miei ideali, provo a darlo per mezzo delle mie azioni quotidiane.


La forte e impegnativa citazione da E. M. Forster è tratta dal saggio What I Believe del 1938: le riflessioni di un individualista e liberale.
In un’era in cui le fedi politiche stanno sconquassando il mondo, Forster afferma di non averne alcuna. Egli crede nelle relazioni personali [2], benché la psicologia a lui contemporanea abbia frantumato l’idea di “persona” e la conoscenza di noi stessi e degli altri sia impossibile; questo è il suo atto di fede. Le relazioni personali vengono prima della fedeltà allo Stato; e fra le forme di governo, la democrazia è la meno odiosa, perché consente l’espressione dell’individuo e permette la critica. Egli crede anche in un’aristocrazia non di potere, ma dei sensibili, cortesi e impavidi, la cui natura privata ne impedisce comunque l’organizzazione pubblica. Non è chiaro come quest’aristocrazia delle affinità elettive si concili con la democrazia; d’altra parte Forster non era un politologo, ma un romanziere e umanista.

  1. Aborro il teatro-canzone quanto il rap sputacchiato.
  2. Only connect! da Howards End si riferisce ad altro, vuol dire mettere in relazione la razionalità e l’emotività che vivono in noi stessi. Live in fragments no longer.

La leggenda del corvo ·

A long time ago, the raven looked down from the sky and saw that the people of the world were living in darkness.
The ball of light was kept hidden by a selfish old chief.
So the raven turned himself into a spruce needle and floated on the river where the chief’s daughter came for water.
She drank the spruce needle.
She became pregnant and gave birth to a boy, who was the raven in disguise.
The baby cried and cried until the chief gave him the ball of light to play with.
As soon as he had the light, the raven turned back into himself.
The raven carried the light into the sky.
From then on, we no longer lived in darkness.

Tanto tempo fa, il corvo guardò in basso dal cielo e vide che le persone nel mondo vivevano nell’oscurità.
Il globo di luce era tenuto nascosto da un vecchio capotribú egoista.
Cosí il corvo mutò se stesso in un ago di abete e galleggiò sul fiume dove la figlia del capotribú prendeva l’acqua.
Ella bevve l’ago di abete.
Restò incinta e mise al mondo un bambino che era il corvo in incognito.
Il bambino pianse e pianse finché il capotribú gli diede il globo di luce con cui giocare.
Appena ebbe la luce, il corvo mutò di nuovo in se stesso.
Il corvo portò la luce su nel cielo.
Da allora non viviamo piú nell’oscurità.

Elaine Miles (Marilyn), Northern Exposure S03E10, Seoul Mates.