giovedì 23 ottobre 2014

Restless reading

When we were all still living under the same roof, I was impressed by the way my sister read books: by stack. What's the point of reading Proust, after all, if you don't carry more than one volume of the Recherché with you? At least, as a reference tool, to remember what good old Marcel was ranting about 400 pages before.
She seemed to apply the same methodology to pretty much any kind of literature: from fantasy to Kundera via King, the Adri in my memory has always more than one book with her. And she leaves books scattered around the flat, open at the page she arrived to.
I didn't know how she could do it, I found it extremely distracting. Plus I didn't want any crease to form on my books, so the notions of leaving books over the sofa, on the table, on the heaters, etc. was not that appealing to me.

Things have changed recently. I blame it on the lack of decent bookshelves: I already told myself I was going to get a decent book case hundreds of time, but I keep postponing the purchase. There's always something more interesting to do on the weekend: like reading a book, for example.
Situation has worsened in the past months and now the space in the flat assigned to the books is in utter chaos.
I blame Murakami too. After finishing reading his latest novel, I found myself unable to be linear in my readings: I seem unable to start and finish a novel in a straightforward line.
I start reading a book, then I put it aside.
Open another book, read few lines, leave it on the bed to get tangled with the sheets and be found again only when I change them.
Start re-reading a childhood book, forget it in the office drawer for a whole month, while wondering at the same time where I left it.
I jump from novel to short story, unable to focus on more than 2 chapters in a row.

Some months ago I'd find this whole situation deeply unsettling. I would have probably headed straight to Ikea to get a decent bookcase. However, not only I got better things to do in my spare time now, but I also don't want to change things. I don't want to get the shelves, because part of me doesn't want them in the flat: I don't want to invest money and time, I don't want to settle in.

For somebody that always wanted to settle, to be balanced and at peace with herself and the world, it's ironic how much I've come to appreciate my restlessness. I don't want to settle in. When the "in" is so shitty, fake and grey, I welcome the mess and lack of peace.
So no Ikea trip for this flat anytime soon (for the little home in Turin, however this is whole different story): I will enjoy the chaos for some more time, waiting for the books I started reading to eventually turn up somewhere in the flat.

sabato 18 ottobre 2014

Yarn in Munich

Something I do every time I travel is visiting yarn shops.
It's a joy and a pain at the same time: it's really cool to visit new shops, not necessarily buying things (even though, this time, I shopped in basically every single yarn shop I visited), but just browsing through their shelves, looking at local yarns and just enjoying the atmosphere.  
It's a pain because I know I got to return to Italy, where the situation is awful and depressing. 

Turin fares it slightly better than Milan. In Turin, you can never go wrong with shopping at the traditional Albozzi, where you can get the everyday, heavy-duty pullover yarn: colours don't really change over time, but yarn doesn't pill too much and it's got a pretty good price/quality ratio.
Then there's "La compagnia del cotone" with its amazing rainbow wall and haskets of different yarns. Sometimes I go there with my friends just as a beauty treatment for my eyes. 

As for Milan... Well suffices to say the best yarn can be found at the stall of Antonio at some of the markets around town. Then it's the desert. There are some other shops that offers not a lot of choice in terms of fibers and colours, not to mention the lack of proper manner of some of the shop assistants.
The yarn shops quality in Milan is so poor that I basically gave up on the idea of finding something nice and rely on travels and online shopping to stash up.

Munich has been a great trip for this: I didn't got enough time to visit all the shops, I was there for work after all. Yet, I managed to find enough time to visit 3 stores.
First shop on the list was Wolladiho. The entrance was already promising, with model of their creation outside:


And one colorful welcome at the door:


The shop is really tiny, but it's tightly pack with loads of different kind of yarns, in baskets, shelves up to the ceiling, basically everywhere.

Second stop was at Strickeria.
They have their own needles,  especially made for them by Knit Pro, do I really need to say more?



Other than I bought something else with them, obviously:


But the best shop, the one that I fall in love with was Die Mercerie. It is a yarn and fabric shop with a small cafe and book section: it offers courses and workshops as well.
When you look at it from the outside, you don't expect very much:


But then you step in and you start asking yourself some important questions such as: can I sleep in a yarn store? Can I ask my manager to move my office into the yarn store?
There is yarn everywhere you look: on the shelves, in baskets, hanging from the ceiling!


It hosts a wide variety of international yarns: from Filatura di Crosa to Madeline Tosh, from Holst Garn to Koigu. The variety is impressive, alongside the quantity and different colorways on display







The shop assistants were very helpful: I was looking for some yarn for Manuela and for once I didn't have to dive into the shelves and hope for the best, but just ask them and they checked on their shop database on the computer.
I hope to get a chance to visit Munich again soon, to visit them once more and continue my exploration of the other shops.

martedì 14 ottobre 2014

Barbottina e il tutto

La sveglia è suonata presto nella nobile ma non troppo magione degli aRissoGatti.
Avendo prenotato il taxi, avevo detto ai miei genitori di non preoccuparsi: davvero, non c'era bisogno che mi accompagnassero all'aeroporto.
Ma cuore di mamma e cuore di papà oblige, e quindi si sono alzati alla mia stessa ora e abbiamo fatto colazione insieme.

Mia mamma si è poi preoccupata che avessi "tutto".

"Hai tutto?"
"Sì."

Sono anni che mi chiede se ho "tutto".  Sono anni che le rispondo di sì.
Dov'è il problema? Il problema è che i nostri rispettivi concetti di tutto non coincidono del tutto. Mia madre l'ha ovviamente capito prima di me e infatti, subito dopo il mio sì, eccola partire con una serie di domande atte a scoprire falle e lacune del mio tutto.

A volte mento dicendo che non ho certe cose. Perché? Beh, perché io sono cuore di figlie, ed è un modo innocuo di far capire all'altra che le si vuole bene senza dover ricorrere alle parole.
Quindi quando mia mamma mi ha chiesto se avevo i fazzolettini di carta, ho risposto di no.

"Vuoi quelli di Peppa Pig?"
"Eh no! Peppa Pig no! Sto partendo per un viaggio di lavoro, cerchiamo di salvare quel minimo di serietà che mi è avanzata!"
"Angry Birds?"
"No, gli Angry Birds no..."
"Barbapapà?"
"Oh sì, vada per i Barbapapà! Però no, non mi dare quello rosa, dammi quello arancione, Barbottina è la più intelligente..."

A quel punto la mia serietà ha deciso di tornarsene a dormire perché era evidentemente di troppo nella conversazione.
E ovviamente nel mio "tutto" mi ero scordata di includere la giacca autunnale, quindi c'è qualche possibilità mi prenda il raffreddore, ma tanto ho i fazzoletti con me.


venerdì 3 ottobre 2014

The mad hat

"The truth is this: for alarmingly large chunks of an average day I am a moron"
(Nick Hornby, "Fever Pitch")

Back in Brighton last July, I bought this wonderful skein of Lush Worsted from The Uncommon Thread:


Beautiful, isn't it?
I knew the universe would be deeply unbalanced if I didn't buy it (so I bought it! You can thank me later, universe); and I knew I had to turn it into a hat (so I knitted it).

I bought the pattern for a hat by Robin Ulrich, called Greyhaven.
As I enjoy swatching and the pattern had info for gauge both in stockinette stitch and in lace pattern I swatched them both. I then proceeded to wash and block the swatch: it turned out that this yarn lets go a little after washing, and this was something I was happy as it meant my tension was at that point perfect without me needing to alter anything. 

I quickly started the project and knitted the hat in less than a day; I didn't try it on: I was just too caught up in how quickly the hat was growing before my eyes and how soft the yarn felt in my hands.
It truly was growing fast and it looked so nice and... and big, but hey, I got a big head, so that's fine!

Binded off the hat, washed it and updated the Ravelry page as the hat was drying. Everything was perfect when... ("Jaws" music cues in)... tragedy! Tragic tragedy!!!
This hat is huge even for my Charlie Brown, very round, XXXL head!
How on earth?!?! WTF!?! I called for help and moral support from some fellow knitters, some of whom had their fair share of gauge drama recently. 

I googled for possible explanations and solutions, while in my heart I knew what was going to happen to me and to the hat. I tried to put off the inevitable, but then I had to give up and admit I had to frog and reknit the whole hat.

So I started frogging the hat, while still trying to understand how my tension managed to change within 2 days. Because obviously the hat must have been bigger than it should have even prior to washing and blocking. Or my head shrunk to the size of an apple. But I checked and no, my head is still closer to the size of an Halloween pumpkin than the one of an apple.

It was puzzling and unnerving. I couldn't understand why: the swatch was ok, I followed the pattern, I didn't cast on more stitches than needed, I used the right needle.... and that was the moment. The moment when I started to doubt myself, the moment when I started connecting the dots, the moment when I went back to the knitting bag and checked the needles. 

The moment I realized I'm a moron, a moron that used the wrong knitting needles for the hat!!! 

Instead of the 4.0 mm I knitted the swatch with, I picked a 5.0 mm circular needle and happily knitted till the end of it as if nothing mattered. What's the difference between a 4 mm and a 5 mm needle after all?
Just a little tiny inconsequential single millimeter, right?
Wrong! It's the difference between knitting a hat for myself and knitting a hat for a Dalek!

I finished the hat yesterday evening, washed and blocked it again and now its dimension are back to normal levels. 
This story taught me that no matter the attention I can put to every single details of a knitting project there's something that will always prevail: my innate capacity of abso-fucking-lutely messing it everything up. Even though now I can do it while wearing a very cool hat!

The right size for my big head

martedì 9 settembre 2014

totally a feminist

This summer was a lucky string of good reads. I loved almost every single book I picked up and it's something that hasn't happened so often recently.

One of the best book I read was Lauren Bates’s “Everyday Sexism”.
The first time I came across the Everyday Sexism Project was on Twitter.
One of the many possible harassment I could be victim of just because I'm a woman had just happened and I got back home feeling angry and upset.
To quote my sister quoting a De André's song, "it's easier to vent your rage on Twitter rather than doing the same in a movie studio", so I took it to the internet and found the Everyday Sexism website and pour all my frustration in a post.
I start reading the other posts: the more I read the more I felt passionate, angry and tired about this whole fuc**d up situation.
It made me also more aware I'm not alone, it's not just me and it's not my fault. 
I mirrored myself in the words of other women from all over the world: I could see my old self in the tweets from teenagers and I fear my future can be read on that website too.
I took it as my personal daily homework to repeat it to myself. It didn't solve anything per se but it helped.

When the book was published I knew it was a matter of time before I eventually bought it. 
So far I haven't found a better way to explain it but bear with me: by reading this book I detached myself from the world around me in order to plunge deeper into reality. This book hits a lot of painful chords. 
Sometimes I caught myself laughing out loud while reading it on the metro.  Some other times I felt tears in my eyes, because nobody should ever be victim of abuses.
Way too often I felt angry because I recognized how many times I left the catcalls, the abuse and discrimination pass by because I was tired, because "I'm not going to change it by myself alone", because it's downright dangerous, because "that's the way it works".

Yeah, the way it works is that you just shut up. The way it works is that when you try to talk about it with a colleague or a male friend, he shuts you down saying that those are not abuses or violent acts, no, no,  it's just that men need to get laid (sic). It's oh-so-so-so tempting to give up already, thinking it's not worthy the headache and disappointments.

But then, something small and ordinary happened few days ago that changed my whole feeling towards this whole matter, making me thinking humans do stand some chances after all.
Yep, one more thing happened.
I don't really talk about work and colleagues that much, but this is something I just need to tell somebody; or anybody; well, everybody really.

Few days ago, I was chatting with my colleague Mo, telling him how my intention of posting a feedback ended up in a small paper on being a woman in IT and being a woman in IT in Italy.

This is the short chat that followed:
Mo: Totally a feminist
Me: I’ll take it as a compliment ;-)
Mo: It is!

5 words and one exclamation mark. That's it.

Can it get any better? Probably no, and you want to know why? Because it felt natural, normal.
It didn't feel like a struggle to claim a right, or yet another battle to win.

Of course it is a compliment, why should it be something else?!
Life and society have made me feel as if I had to justify my demand of equal rights (and pay, and treatment, etc.), Mo simply reminded me that I didn't have to justify myself but be proud.
And I am; I'm totally a feminist.
I'm proud of being so. And proud of having as colleague and friend some great men, just like Mo.

lunedì 8 settembre 2014

pensierini sparsi

È Settembre.
Le rondini migrano a sud.
La gente vendemmia.
I/le blogger tornano dalle ferie con un surplus di energie e buoni propositi.
E con questo ho raggiunto la mia quota mensile di luoghi comuni.
Ora aggiungo pure una foto per completare l'opera. Voilà!


La mia estate non è stata propriamente l'ortodossa estate media italiana, d'altro canto non lo è più da tanto tempo ormai, e io tutto questo entusiasmo del "ricominciare" proprio non lo sento.
Deve essere la mia base da bastian contrario ma di fronte a questa esplosione di positività e creatività mi chiudo a riccio e reagisco in maniera estremamente misantropa.
Forse, come mio solito, mi sto facendo troppe paranoie. Anche questa è una mia non troppo sana abitudine che porto avanti da tanti anni. Eppure di spunti di riflessione e cose da raccontare sono circondata, e allora cose che mi frena? Credo che il conclamato terrore dei refusi scampati al correttore automatico e al correttore ortografico del MacBook mi faccia tirare il freno a mano di fronte al post seriale e compulsivo, ma non può essere solo questo.

Allora, visto che non ho buoni propositi, nuovi spunti, inizi o iniziative con cui illuminare le 4 persone che ancora si incaponiscono a leggermi, vi voglio raccontare una storia.
Anzi no. La storia ve la racconto dopo.

Prima voglio ringraziare le suddette 4 persone che ancora si incaponiscono a leggermi: se quando mi fate i complimenti a quattrocchi sembro scostante o poco felice, beh non lo sono, anzi è tutto l'opposto. I complimenti mi fanno molto piacere ma allo stesso tempo mi gettano nel panico: vengo da una lunga tradizione di understatement piemontese, quel tipo di educazione per la quale le cose vanno fatte bene perché è questo l'unico modo accettabile in cui farle, tanto meglio se si aggiunge una una soddisfazione intima e basta; i traguardi raggiunti non vanno sbandierati troppo perché sta male.

Se passi una vita a non ricevere complimenti perché "quello che hai fatto è il minimo che avresti comunque dovuto fare", credetemi, al primo "sei stata brava" da una persona che non conosci magari benissimo, ma alla cui buona opinione tieni tanto, il cervello va in corto: le sinapsi assumono la forma di urlo di Munch e con una vocina da particella d'acqua Lete ti gridano nelle orecchie: "E ora che facciamo? Che facciamo? Che facciamo? Aiuto! Mamma!"
Ecco, io ai complimenti ancora non ho imparato come reagire. Mi fanno piacere ma non so esprimermi, perché tutte le frasi di risposta mi suonano "false e cortesi" e pure presuntuose: allora piuttosto abbozzo un grazie stentato e poi sto zitta.

Ecco, ora vi voglio finalmente raccontare una storia. Storia di vita vissuta, neh, mica bruscolini o pettini per bambole usati sui baffi dei gatti.
Alle superiori non sarò stata la più simpatica della classe, nè la più furba, ma avevo capito che il modo migliore per continuare a farmi gli affari miei, giocare al gioco del 100 e soprattutto leggere Pennac durante le lezioni era capire cosa volessero da me i singoli professori.
Non ero in grado di capire chi fra i miei compagni di scuola mi stesse prendendo per i fondelli, ma i professori erano libri aperti: i miei preferiti erano quelli lineari e onesti, quelli che non facevano gli amiconi o i gggiovani, ma volevano semplicemente impegno e studio. C'erano le perle rare, come la prof di lettere e storia del terzo anno capace di far abbandonare la lettura di "Cioè" anche le takethattiane più sfegatate.

In quarta superiore, mi erano bastati un tema e un'interrogazione di storia per inquadrare la nuova docente di lettere: la professoressa assegnava dei temi dai titoli tremendi, vuoti e io mi vedevo costretta a riempire almeno un intero foglio protocollo di parole vuote. Faceva domande allucinanti alle interrogazioni, ma non mi fregava.
Io sapevo che a lei importavano solo il primo e l'ultimo paragrafo.
Del tema o del capitolo da studiare, la prof valutava solamente in base a quella ventina di righe.
Ovviamente avevo subito ricambiato la mia produzione scolastica ed ero diventata bravissima a scrivere un inizio scoppiettante del tema, a cui facevo seguire tre pagine di "bla bla bla" per poi concludere con un paragrafo altrettanto buono.
Lo facevo per il quieto vivere e perché sapevo che superate le 3 pagine e mezzo di scritto in calligrafia media (spaziata ma non troppo, per non far scattare il sospetto che la stessi prendendo in giro) scattava il sette.
Delle tre ore assegnateci per il tema, riuscivo così a ricavarmi due ore durante le quali scrivevo quel che più pareva a me sui fogli di brutta. Buona parte della mia corrispondenza con Gill di quell'anno è stata un gentile omaggio delle tre ore di tema.
Sapevo che alla professoressa non interessava che io esponessi i miei pensieri e le mie idee in maniera interessante (a Gill invece interessavano eccome); le interessava piuttosto che io non commettessi strafalcioni grammaticali e argomentassi le mie idee secondo il suo punto di vista. Sapevo che impegnarsi a esporre le proprie idee in maniera personale e originale non mi avrebbe fatto guadagnare nulla se non un sei scarso e infinite discussioni; ma io di discussioni infinite non ne volevo fare: ne avevo già diverse in corso nella vita extra-scolastica, le sue ore di lezione erano le mie ore di cessate-il-fuoco cerebrale, perché rovinarsele?

Nel corso degli anni ho spesso ripensato a quei temi: mi sono chiesta se la mia decisione del tempo, quella specie di bandiera bianca sul versante della critica e della libera espressione sia stata la migliore, la più saggia scelta che avessi potuto prendere. Ai tempi mi sembrava tale: era un ennesimo modo di amalgamarsi alla visione che gli altri avevano di me, non scontentavo nessuno e potevo continuare a vivere tranquilla e fare ciò che mi interessava davvero.

Non li rimpiango però, ecco, penso che avessi fatto quei temi come andavano veramente fatti, avrei acquisito delle doti che oggi, di fronte alla schermata bianca di TextEdit, vorrei tanto possedere. Però, di contro, ci avrei messo molto, ma molto di più a finire Dostoevskij.

lunedì 1 settembre 2014

of communions and not belonging

Communion…
Community…
You hear these words so often, over and over, in a Catholic country such as Italy that you could easily be fooled into believing they hold some true meanings.
Most of the time, however, they feel like nothing but a clutter of vowels and consonants.
It's so easy to be tempted to dismiss it all as me being over-sensitive about it, but then I remind myself that dismissing facts and feelings is the best way to bury my head in the sands.
It happened when visiting the cathedral of Trieste some weeks ago. It’s a magnificent church, yet the thing I remember the most is this panel.



The thing is that the English sentence is not the exact equivalent of the Italian one. The Italian sentence reads: “Who has faith, worship. Who doesn't have such gift pass by with respect and reverence”.

Given that the vast majority of Italians are Catholics (well, they’re baptized and gets married in the church) and I don’t belong to the vast majority, it’s obvious I’m a gift less one.
But with so few people outside Italy speaking my language, I wonder why was it necessary to word the request for respect of a sacred space in such a arrogant way. The tone that transpire for that "Who doesn't have such gift" is closer to a "if you're so unfortunate to not have such a gift, oh you miserable inferior being" than anything.

Do you really need your sense of belonging to a community to be enhanced by reminding people out of it that they don’t belong?
Do you feel more part of it by marking over and over something you supposedly have and others don’t?
Who knows, it probably does work, if you’re inside that community. But I don’t belong to that communion of people and I felt incredibly irritated by it. Sure, there are far worse thing to worry and get upset about it, yet this small event was enough to make me stop: my visit of the church was truly spoiled by it, because while I was admiring the mosaics on the rooftop, I was still thinking about that sign.

It seems there was a need to remark you the need to respect this place of worship: yet who ever placed the sign has obviously forgot most of the people that are so unrespectful to the churches during their visits, using flash to take photos, answering the phones etc, are catholic themselves.

I think it’s mainly due to the fact yes, this is a small event, but it’s not the first and it won’t be the last.
I’ve lived through so many of these small little acts of discrimination (should, can I call them so?), yet I haven’t grew any immunity against them.
I still feel irritated by what I perceive as a conceited act of  self-righteousness and arrogane, an ill-disguised sense of superiority applied on me, as an atheist, by people that leave everyday life not following the advice and words of Vatican yet thinking of themselves standing on a superior moral ground.
I 'm pained by the fact I have to endure people deeming themselves as "tolerant" to other people religious beliefs (or lack of them) yet being effectively the complete opposite on every day life. And it seems there is no way to make them understand what they're doing is not so "christian", if we consider as "christian" the basics teaching of Christ and not the structure of power built up in the centuries by different churches. The most common reply you will hear when you complain (and I can tell it by experience) is "Oh, but we allow them freedoms and rights they would never have in their countries". They don't specify who the "them" are, but it includes anybody who is not exactly 100% like them, i.e. white, Italian and catholic, but by lacking just one of these factor is enough to endure some sort of discrimination.

On the good side, year after year, I met more and more people like me, in Italy: so while I'm still annoyed by events and sentences like the one I met in Trieste, I also hold on to the knowledge there are people out there that not only use the word "communion", but act upon it. I just have to remind myself about it, no matter how hard and tiring it can be.