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Italy

Italy

Thursday, 23 September 2010
Vesuvius

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As seen from the sea. Vesuvius, according to Wikipedia

is best known for its eruption in AD 79 that led to the destruction of the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. They were never rebuilt, although surviving townspeople and probably looters did undertake extensive salvage work after the destructions. The towns’ locations were eventually forgotten until their accidental rediscovery in the 18th century.

The eruption also changed the course of the Sarno River and raised the sea beach, so that Pompeii was now neither on the river nor adjacent to the coast. Vesuvius itself underwent major changes – its slopes were denuded of vegetation and its summit changed considerably due to the force of the eruption.

Vesuvius has erupted many times since and is today regarded as one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world because of the population of 3,000,000 people living nearby and its tendency towards explosive (Plinian) eruptions. It is the most densely populated volcanic region in the world.

Posted by bigblue on 23/09/2010 at 08:34 AM
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Wednesday, 22 September 2010
Nisida Island

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This is the Isola di Nsida, a volcanic islet off Cape Posillipo, near Naples. According to Googlehacks:

The tiny island off the tip of Cape Posillipo is named Nisida. The original Greek settlers of the area called this small island Nesis. The Romans called it Nisida. It is here that Brutus plotted the assassination of Julius Caesar, and it is here that Cicero says apud illum multas horas in Néside—that he had a long talk with Brutus after the assassination to discuss the future of Rome. In the 1800s Nisida was the site of a Bourbon prison, then an Italian state penitentiary.

It is currently a juvenile prison, housing some 40 inmates.  In 2007 the director Lara Lastelli created a movie Nisida, Growing in Prison:

Some forty young people aged 14 to 21 are held in the Nisida Island prison off Naples. They make masks to protect their identity during the filming. Paradoxically, these masks help a close relationship to grow with three of them. Enzo, Rosario and Samir live with prison life day after day. They talk about their daily routine of school and work, boredom and confinement. Over the months of filming, they tell us the stories of their lives, sharing moments of sadness and hope. Through their eyes, Lara Rastelli explores the meaning of “educational” remand.

From a French site that announced the film.

Posted by bigblue on 22/09/2010 at 08:10 AM
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Tuesday, 21 September 2010
A window in a window

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In a gelateria in Naples.

Posted by bigblue on 21/09/2010 at 08:47 AM
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Monday, 20 September 2010
Illicit Art

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Diego Miedo is an artist from Naples who is responsible for some of the art which appears on the walls of the city (and other cities around Europe). He is quoted on the illicitexhibitions blog as writing:

I’ve been drawing since I was born ...... I started doing it on the street about ten years ago. I was born and live in Naples. It is also the best place to draw: good climate, cheap, beautiful girls and it’s also a great source of inspiration.

I try to work with more people who can respect all the people from the city. Above all, I try not to do it for fashion.

I love studying, reading, travelling, talking to people and observing their movements, working with children, reading old comic books, seeing very old cartoons and smoking joints.

Street art is good anywhere; you need to be at peace with yourself and with others.

At the moment, my projects are still trying to awaken the minds of Neapolitans with my drawings and cartoons.

He has put up some photos of his own work on Flickr.

Posted by bigblue on 20/09/2010 at 08:25 AM
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Sunday, 19 September 2010
Lesbian Kyma

Lesbian kyma

Found in the archaeological museum in Naples recently. Kyma is a Greek word meaning wave, and this is a fragment of cornice (a dentil) decorated with a lesbian kyma. This one is from the Severan Period of 190 - 225 CE.

Posted by bigblue on 19/09/2010 at 10:23 AM
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Saturday, 18 September 2010
Italian comedy in graffiti

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Commedia Dell’Arte or Artistic Comedy, known in English as Italian Comedy seems to have influenced some of this Neapolitan graffiti. In particular noticed the distinctive nose of Zanni which was superimposed on the photographs of Ralph Lauren models. Here is some information about Zanni:

Zanni, as much as Harlequin, is originary from Bergamo. The lower Bergamo of course, “Bergam de hüta”, where all the poor come from, and he’s part of that emigrant population that has to mingle into an hostile environment to survive. Zanni means the first name “Giovanni” in the dialect of Bergamo, the most common of all Italian names, sort of a John Doe of the times. The Zanni can be recognized, with good approximation, as the matrix on which other masks were created.

Harlequin, for instance, had (especially in his first years) so much of the Zanni character, that was almost a reflection of it. In later times we also have a primo and secondo Zanni that in a certain way replicate that situation (the smart Harlequin, the dumb Zanni).

Pulcinella, also, in the way he dresses, the typical “poor folk” uniform, is basically a Zanni, although developing a very personal pattern very soon. Brighella too, shares the hunger and the way he leads his life, no real clue of what goes on, his life an improvisation after another just trying to get by.

Typical feature of the Zanni: poor, desperate, ignorant but smart in his own way, everybody makes fun of him. In a second period he gets his revenge, though, and outsmarts many. He’s constantly hungry, and constantly exploited, the primo Zanni smart while the second Zanni hopelessly stupid. The Zanni defines more a kind of mask, but not a particular one, although on several occasions he gets the name of Zany Cornetto. He’s friend / antagonist of Harlequin, of which he shares not only the roots, but the basic needs, food and lack of nobility.

Naples is also allegedly home of the world’s longest graffiti.

Posted by bigblue on 18/09/2010 at 01:32 PM
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Friday, 17 September 2010
Blonde on Blonde

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Donate money for the duck and dog, or perhaps for Jesus?  Or make a non-exclusive donation to all three: a homeless duck, homeless dog and (homeless?) Jesus.

Blonde on Blonde was the 1966 album by Bob Dylan, containing Visions of Johanna, described by UK Poet Laureate, Andrew Motion, as containing the greatest song lyrics ever written:

Visions Of Johanna

Ain’t it just like the night to play tricks when you’re tryin’ to be so quiet ?
We sit here stranded, though we’re all doin our best to deny it
And Louise holds a handfull of rain, tempting you to defy it
Lights flicker from the opposite loft
In this room the heat pipes just cough
The country music station plays soft
But there’s nothing really nothing to turn of
Just Louise and her lover so entwined
And these visions of Johanna that conquer my mind.

In the empty lot where the ladies play blindman’s bluff with the key chain
And the all-night girls they whisper of escapades out on the D-train
We can hear the night watcman click his flashlight
Ask himself if it’s him or them that’s really insane
Louise she’s all right she’s just near
She’s delicate and seems like the mirror
But she just makes it all too concise and too clear
That Johanna’s not here
The ghost of electricity howls in the bones of her face
Where these visions of Johanna have now taken my place.

Now, little boy lost, he takes himself so seriously
He brags of his misery, he likes to live dangerously
And when bringing her name up
He speaks of a farewell kiss to me
He’s sure got a lotta gall to be so useless and all
Muttering small talk at the wall while I’m in the hall
Oh, how can I explain ?
It’s so hard to get on
And these visions of Johanna they kept me up past the dawn.

Inside the museums, Infinity goes up on trial
Voices echo this is what salvation must be like after a while
But Mona Lisa musta had the highway blues
You can tell by the way she smiles
See the primitive wallflower freeze
When the jelly-faced women all sneeze
Hear the one with the mustache say, “Jeeze
I can’t find my knees”
Oh, jewels and binoculars hang from the head of the mule
But these visions of Johanna, they make it all seem so cruel.

The peddler now speaks to the countess who’s pretending to care for him
Saying, “Name me someone that’s not a parasite and I’ll go out and say a prayer for him”
But like Louise always says
“Ya can’t look at much, can ya man “

As she, herself prepares for him
And Madonna, she still has not showed
We see this empty cage now corrode
Where her cape of the stage once had flowed
The fiddler, he now steps to the road
He writes ev’rything’s been returned which was owed
On the back of the fish truck that loads
While my conscience explodes
The harmonicas play the skeleton keys and the rain
And these visions of Johanna are now all that remain.

There’s a good video of Dylan playing the song on Vimeo: Visions of Johanna, and an article on making the album Blonde on Blonde Mystic Nights: The Making of Blonde on Blonde in Nashville reproduced there from Oxford American Magazine.

Posted by bigblue on 17/09/2010 at 04:43 PM
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Monday, 09 August 2010
Positano and the Pistrice

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In the end the Metro del Mare ferry we caught on Saturday stopped at Positano on the way to Amalfi and we disembarked. Firstly, my Napolitean friends had recommended it as a better destination on the Amalfi coast than Amalfi itself. Secondly, one of our party was seasick by this time and desperate to reach dry land.

Positano is a splendid little destination where you can visit the local domed church of Santa Maria dell’Assunte, browse numerous street stalls and shops and visit local restaurants. Otherwise it suffers from the unrelenting Medittereanian heat as Napoli and most of the visitors sweat it out under sunflower yellow parasols laid out in close proximity on one half of the beach. The parasols are for hire.

One of the symbols of the town is a mythological (Greek) creature that resembles a mer-dog, and it adorns a wall on the clock tower at the town square as well as broaches, fridge magnets, aprons, tea towels, shirts and various bric-o-brac in the village stalls. The mythological creature represented is from Greek and Roman mythology, known as a pistrice, so is actually half dragon/half fish (or sea serpent).  One of the locals told me it was a symbol of good luck. It does appear that the creature has brought good luck for the tourist industry.

Posted by bigblue on 09/08/2010 at 07:58 AM
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