Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
This blog started, almost one year ago, as an experiment in totally anonymous blogging. Also it was an exercise in a foreign language. It remained anonymous (and lonely) for the first months – nobody, not even my closest friends, knew about it. I probably expected visitors from the wide international blog-ocean. A few came and only one left a comment.
Then, tired of loneliness, I started to divulge my secret to some people and later to visitors of my site. This was wrong. My private diary became a blog like all others. It seems I could not resist the lures of publicity. Aiming to an audience, my texts and photos became predictable and trite. (You can see the difference from the first entries). I repent.
I will continue for a time, but my heart is cold. I plan to start a new anonymous blog, in another language – and this time I will tell nobody. I like talking to myself. It is a warm clandestine privilege.
Friday, September 12, 2008
Rome. Piazza di Spagna. The college (of cardinals) for the dissemination of faith, founded by the Vatican in 1622. "De propaganda fide". Propaganda, from the verb propagare, became a noun. And what a noun!
Everything started here. Propaganda, advertising, marketing, public relations, spin doctors, Goebbels, Mao, brain washing... everything...
Rome is the city of Vespas, minimal Cars (nowhere have I seen so many Smarts, swarms of Smarts) and narrow undulating paved roads. With a lot of obstacles - tables, boxes, plants, parked vehicles...
In this photo you can see eighteen Vespas and two Smarts. This is the right statistical proportion.
Driving around can make you seasick. Especially if you ride in a classic Roman taxi - a Fiat Multipla - with a suspension to win you a gold medal in the trampoline.
As an alternative you can alway hire a horse driven carriage. Otherwise it is Vespas and Vespas...
Bur sometimes, in the depths of a magnificent portico, in the insides of a palazzo you can spot an expensive Merc.
Rome is also the city of herds. Not of cattle but of tourists. They dutifully follow their cicerone who holds high up something to be seen from afar. A number, a folded umbrella or a bouquet of flowers.
The herds come and go, cross and mix and sometimes lose a stray tourist...
Monday, September 8, 2008
What I most love about the Eternal City are its elegant, slender "umbrella pines". For me the pines of Rome are its basic symbol. Whether in the Palatine hill, in the Villa Borghese, or the road to Ostia.
In their elegance they remind me of the women of Rome. In their power and durability, of its history.
Ottorino Respighi has written a symphonic poem about the Pines of Rome. For the time being, I can only produce one photo (the only one I was able to upload from my hotel connection). Now I added a second one.
The color of Rome
This is as close as I could get, photographically, to that strange tint of ochre, that most of the old Roman houses present on their facade. It descends all the way from the Ancient Romans - excavation vestiges have proved that it was their favorite color too.
And sometimes you see bushes and trees - olive trees! - adorning a Roman window.
More when I am back.
Saturday, September 6, 2008
I have being in Rome many times - starting in 1955 during a month-long vacation. But the crown was my last visit, in 1986. The Villa Adriana and a walk down the Via Appia Antiqua at dusk.
There is only one way out - not to revisit the same spots. Big and historical cities like London, Paris, Constantinople, have always new surprises for you.
No, this time I will definitely NOT go to Tivoli for the Villa Adriana. Hope I will discover something else, something different.
And after all, there is always pasta...
Packing suitcase. I'm off.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Who is that woman?
I check the program. And now I know. She is the woman I saw on the screen sixty years ago and remained sleepless for nights.
Her name is Maureen O'Hara.
She was my first love. I was twelve and her beauty and temperament completely overwhelmed me.
I saw her again, later, in other movies. Color changed her - fiery red hair and limpid green eyes added to her radiance. But the magic of the first encounter was gone.
Decades went by. I had completely forgotten my first love. Until last night. I searched the Internet for photos. Here she is, in all her glory.
(She is still alive - but no, I will not publish newer stills).
Sunday, July 6, 2008
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Saturday, June 21, 2008
A life-long sun worshiper, the 21st of June used to be MY day. I never celebrated birth- or nameday, but the unending torrents of light made me sing.
How is it now that I observe this date not as the triumph of light but as the beginning of its gradual dwindling and decadence?
I have grown old.
Friday, June 13, 2008
I was sent this short article published in the Wall Street Journal - and I want to share it with you:
JOHN R. CHRISTY: My Nobel Moment (2007 Nobel Peace Prize)
I've had a lot of fun recently with my tiny (and unofficial) slice of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). But, though I was one of thousands of IPCC participants, I don't think I will add "0.0001 Nobel Laureate" to my resume.
The other half of the prize was awarded to former Vice President Al Gore, whose carbon footprint would stomp my neighborhood flat. But that's another story.
Both halves of the award honor promoting the message that Earth's temperature is rising due to human-based emissions of greenhouse gases. The Nobel committee praises Mr. Gore and the IPCC for alerting us to a potential catastrophe and for spurring us to a carbonless economy.
I'm sure the majority (but not all) of my IPCC colleagues cringe when I say this, but I see neither the developing catastrophe nor the smoking gun proving that human activity is to blame for most of the warming we see. Rather, I see a reliance on climate models (useful but never "proof") and the coincidence that changes in carbon dioxide and global temperatures have loose similarity over time.
There are some of us who remain so humbled by the task of measuring and understanding the extraordinarily complex climate system that we are skeptical of our ability to know what it is doing and why. As we build climate data sets from scratch and look into the guts...
Mother Nature simply operates at a level of complexity that is, at this point, beyond the mastery of mere mortals (such as scientists) and the tools available to us. As my high-school physics teacher admonished us in those we-shall-conquer-the-world-with-a-slide-rule days, "Begin all of your scientific pronouncements with: 'At our present level of ignorance, we think we know . . .'"
Monday, June 9, 2008
The sun was setting and filling everything with gold.
The little boy was tinkering, with a serious and decisive expression. I do not know what two planks and a fork stood for - maybe a car, or a spaceship.
Gold was all over the place. I hope he finds more in his life.
Friday, June 6, 2008
Yesterday upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn't there.
He wasn't there again today,
Oh how I wish he'd go away!
(Hughes Mearns. Antigonish 1899)
- Give me an ice cream without flavor
- Without what flavor?
- Without vanilla.
- Ain't got no ice without vanilla.
- OK, gimme one without strawberry!
(Old American joke).
Two antagonistic salesmen meet on the train.
- Where are you going?
- To Mink
- Ha! You tell me you are going to Mink, so that I think you are going to Pink. But you bastard, are really going to Mink. So why are you lying?
What is common in all three texts is the affirmation of a negation. The man who wasn't there, the ice without flavor and the true statement which is marked as a lie (because a lie is expected) have a common denominator. Negative thinking.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
- Their names
(OK, I can identify a rose or a carnation - but most flowers are anonymous for me and the ones in the picture totally unknown).
- Their botanical classification (species, Latin name, family).
What I do know about flowers:
- Their beauty (fragile and transitory)
- Their scent (should they have one)
- and the fact that seeing them can make my day, as these flowers did. I tried to capture the moment with my mobile phone.
But the feeling - abruptly being confronted with a high, all-blossoming bush - you must try and imagine for yourselves.
Sunday, June 1, 2008
What makes the world go round?
One obvious answer comes up in verse. Love (or sex) makes the world go round.
Cynics would not agree. For them the power of money is the cause, the motive and the ultimate reason for everything that happens.
In my youth, real money meant gold. Currency, whether in coins or in bank notes, meant nothing. It was subject to fluctuations, devaluations and loss. Only gold was a steady and safe value. During wars and in dark periods, gold was the main factor of survival.
The gold standard does not exist any more – but the yellow metal remains a secure investment and is constantly gaining in price. Not to speak of its mystical and symbolic value.
This is the photograph of a gold bar I had bought in dark times as a back up – if worse came to worst. I sold it a few days ago. But before, I took a parting shot.
Saturday, May 31, 2008
Thursday, May 22, 2008
My first blogs were turbulent. Hundreds of comments, sometimes very aggressive, requesting answers. Just reading everything took hours off my time.
In the beginning it was stimulating and invigorating. But, as things got worse and worse (more visitors, more comments, more aggression) it became tiring.
I had to close them down. Later I came back anonymously, with this blog, at first a secret one. It was so quiet and peaceful... Later still I revealed its existence to a few friends. Some, remembering the old turmoil, speak of decadence. "Quiet as a cemetery" was one comment.
But stillness and tranquility are the conditions of any creative moment. Sometimes they are the prerequisites of happiness itself. "Ataraxia", according to the late Greek philosophers.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
I am the proud owner of Edward Lear’s “Nonsense Books” (1903 reprint of the original edition, 1888). I bought it for a lark as a student from my College Library which had discarded it. (They did not think it was serious enough). It has been a source of constant pleasure to me, for decades.
I can compare Lear to the other contemporary English genius – Lewis Carroll. Both were lucidly mad. Lear was more multi-talented: an exquisite painter (beautiful views of Greece and Italy). As for his gift in writing I can quote John Ruskin. In his “List of the Best Hundred Authors” he wrote:
“Surely the most beneficent and innocent of all books yet produced is the “Book of Nonsense” with its corollary carols, inimitable and refreshing, and perfect in rhythm. I really do not know any author to whom I am half so grateful for my idle self as Edward Lear. I shall put him first of my hundred authors.”
And now for the whole song:
The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
'O lovely Pussy! O Pussy my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
What a beautiful Pussy you are!'
Pussy said to the Owl, 'You elegant fowl!
How charmingly sweet you sing!
O let us be married! too long we have tarried:
But what shall we do for a ring?'
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-tree grows
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.
'Dear pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring?' Said the Piggy, 'I will.'
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.
P. S. I lived all my life between Owls and Pussy Cats - and O how I love this "runcible spoon"...
Monday, May 12, 2008
The tidal wave in Myanmar. The earthquake in China. Thousand and thousand lives lost. You can imagine the grief of one person, even of two, three. But who can conceive, who can visualize and feel the pain of millions...
The earthquake of Lisbon in 1755 caused Voltaire to write a poem questioning the existence of an allmighty, just and benevolent God:
«C’est l’effet des éternelles lois
Qui d’un Dieu libre et bon nécessitent le choix?»
Thursday, May 8, 2008
He remembers his mother.
For long periods of her life she worked on knitting and stitchery. A hobby that, in hard times, sustained her.
Her son started by being a linguist and an expert on machine translation. Then, a major turn in his life: he became an artist.
He now completed a series of large drawings inspired by his mother's life and handicraft.
He writes to me: "Very abstract pieces, all about work, vision, perseverance, and (of course) escape. And about seeing small, insignificant, repeated gestures and marks add up to something complicated (and, for me, complex)".
He commemorates his mother who departed a year ago. My half sister.
Drawings like doodles. With the persistence of mechanical repetition. Doodles on the margins of life. Forgotten marks to be remembered by.
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
She used to be a beautiful woman: not only fair but charming and deeply intelligent. A woman you would and could never forget.
She left life early, young and radiant.
Now she is a ship, sailing the open sea. Her beloved only son commands it, and sleeps nights in her womb.
* With sounds by Leonard Cohen and words from C. P. Cavafy.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
I do not believe in things that transcend the laws of nature, in events that belie logic, in paranormal happenings. But I always admire beauty when I encounter it. Beauty seems to transcend, invert and subvert chaos in nature. It is a revolution, an overturning. Even in a single flower. It amazes me.
This is a miracle.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Sometimes I long to retire to a monastery. Not to worship God (what do I know about Gods?) but to exist in absolute silence. To ponder. To reminisce. To dive deep inside.
Sometimes I wish there were convents dedicated to the misery and glory of Man.
But aren’t they all?
You don't have to believe in a God in order to take monastic vows.
Friday, April 18, 2008
He was the terror of the neighborhood, the king of the strays. Male cats tried to avoid him, because he always tore them to pieces. Until one day he appeared with one half of his face missing - actually hanging down. I thought he would die. But after a week he appeared again with a part of his face still bleeding and protruding as a mask. The outer part was healing but the inside is still raw meat.
When he was healthy, I chased him away - now I am feeding him. He is too wild, he cannot be caught and taken to a vet. I still do not know if he will survive.
Today, April 21, I saw him again after 10 days. He is still alive but from the picture you can see his state. Different organs are hanging from the still open wound. He does not seem to notice. He is moving around and has a very healthy appetite!
After an absence of many weeks, he was seen again on May 19 - the scars are there, but almost healed. Verily, they have nine lives!
July 20. He is still alive - but not kicking. He has become almost tame and gentle. At times his scar is still bleeding, but he seems OK.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
In my thirties, as a businessman, I drank coffee. But as soon as I retired (very early) I chose tea. It is good company for a writer. I love tea - all kinds of it, from classic Darjeeling and Ceylon, to jasmine and green tea. Plus the wild varieties nature offers - down to the most soothing: sage and chamomile infusion.
How do I understand Dr. Samuel Johnson when he described himself:
"A hardened and shameless tea drinker, who has for twenty years diluted his meals with only the infusion of this fascinating plant; whose kettle has scarcely time to cool; who with his tea amuses the evening, with tea solaces the midnight, and with tea welcomes the morning".
Well said, back in 1757!
Monday, April 14, 2008
I am not referring to the tone poem by Richard Strauss (Death and Transfiguration) but to an incident I experienced last night. After reading for half an hour in bed, I shut down the light and tried to sleep. But instead of descending into oblivion, I felt a wave of discomfort covering me. Nausea, shortness of breath, a sinking feeling… I thought I was going to vomit. This indisposition grew and grew – no pain but distress, which culminated in anxiety. No other symptoms, no manifestations. Just an immense nausea, all pervading.
It was not a dream or a nightmare. I was ill - but even the doctor could not help.
I do not know how long it took to subside. I fell asleep. In the morning I was OK – but somewhat worn, as if I had taken a beating.
Life goes on. Small deaths until the big one.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
More than swallows, poppies are for me the symbols of spring. As long as I do not see these red dots in the landscape, spring remains an abstraction.
P. S. Ten minutes after I photographed them with my cell phone (mobile for Europeans) they were no more. The gardener came and started weeding.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Some people live in order to destroy. As long as this blog was unknown, it was left alone. Then one day it tired of silence and solitude and went out in the world. Its happiness lasted three days. The fourth it was filled by noise, extraneous interference. It had to erect a protective wall, activate moderation and erase 25 comments.
I am sorry. I did my best to be discreet, to write low key personal posts in order not to offend, not to provoke. I will try to continue, although now it is less fun.