Thursday, 11 February 2016

The Sanremo week

The question is now how to describe to non-Italians what the Festival of Sanremo is. The big issue here is why: why is the festival still a thing and why should I bother trying to make any sense out of it?
Well, let's define it first and move to the finer details later on.

You don't really have to call it with its complete name "Festival delle musica italiana di Sanremo", Sanremo will do: everybody knows what you're referring to with that name. It's a week long competition that has been running for 66 years: journalists, photographers, pseudo-celebrities and singers flock to the town and it feels the whole nation has fall into a sick z-version of Groundhog Day. Everyday is the same: non-stop talking of the festival, tv, newspaper and so on talking about the songs, singers, etc.
Most of the song are hopelessly bad, it's a mashup of the worse of average dumb television.
It's more a marathon than a music show: it runs way over midnight and it's followed by an  after festival show that runs until... I don't know, I never watched it, but I know it exists.
It feels impossible to escape it. But at the same time is extremely easy, cause switching the TV off is more than enough to cut more than half the pain away.

So far I watched only 5 minutes of the festival, when Elio e le storie tese were playing. Francesca texted me when they finally made it to the stage and when the song was over I turned the TV off and went to sleep, as it was quite late already.
I am a snob when it comes to music and guess what? I'm perfectly fine with it.

The week of Sanremo means that I watch even less TV than usual and spend more time doing other things. This year I've been writing a lot of mails, listened to music and discovered poetry.
The big final is on Saturday, but I'll be in Torino where I don't even have a TV set to keep off.
In the past I would make an effort to read some news about it, because it was impossible to avoid the office chit-chat about it. But since I don't speak to anybody at work, it felt right to not bother at all and spend my time otherwise.

I could have started packing my stuff, since end of month is going to be here soon and then I'll have to move all my stuff to Torino. But I thought spending 32 minutes listening to Dave Matthews Band with Bela Fleck & the Flecktones would be much much better:

And at that point it was too late to pack, but look! I still got some spare 23 minutes for one more song:

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Inside out

Well, what should I do with you, neglected blog of mine?
Pretty you up a little? Add some nice widget to your layout perhaps? Would that make you happy?

(Am I really talking to my blog?!?)

The problem is that I should be prepared: by now I should know that January and February are always tough months for me. There is something about the start of the new year, the gloomy winter, the lack of real changes in my life that, combined with my inclination towards depression, should make a philharmonic orchestra of alarm bells go off in my brain.
I should know that, between the end of January and beginning of February, I'm finding everything is just harder: waking up, getting up, going to work, working, coming back from work. It's like having to carry an extra weight with me the whole time, and I already have my never-budging overweight to carry around!
Sadness takes old of every single aspect of my life and it's very tiring. I should remember how bad this feels, year after year, yet January comes and I'm taken completely by surprise, as if the pain in the past didn't leave any warning or reminder.

One thing has changed this year though. I can't shield the external world from it. I got to the point of being so tired that I don't have the energy to pretend to be ok. If my face is not enough proof of it, my words will be.

The only thing that is probably saving me right now is that for good part of my working week, I barely talk with people. But people should really learn to not say anything more than "hello". After hello, I normally go for banal sentences, safe and neutral territory.

But lots of people around me are completely devoid of this basic notion and they have to go and ask me "How are you? What's that face?"
At that point my brain freezes for a split second.
In an "Inside Out"-like scenario, I can picture Sensible trying to input an answer that can be polite and believable at the same time. But just little bit behind her, here comes Brass pushing over Honesty with a bit too much of strength so that I unload on the poor person who asked the question a whole speech on the unfairness of life and universe.
Sensible shakes her head, while Brass looks, well, brassy.
In the meantime, Wonder wonders when Sarcasm got so sarcastic.
Everything is so messed up that even Wisdom goes ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Active laziness

I bought a magnet in Berlin with a green Ampelmann. I put it on the fridge once back home and didn't think about it very much afterwards.
Weeks became months, I put some more magnets on the fridge: the places I lived in the past years had, most of the times, fitted refrigerators, so now I'm making up for lost time and cluttering the fridge.

scapa travaj

Then my sister posted a Oscar Wilde's quote, stating that "hard work is simply the refuge of people who have nothing to do."

The moment I read it, fate wanted me to be standing in the kitchen, in front of the fridge.

The second magnet in the picture is a Piedmont dialect saying "scapa travai che mi i rivo" which translates roughly as "runaway, work, as I'm arriving" and it's used when talking about lazy people. The little green man looks like he's the one running away: maybe from work, who knows.

I have a pretty heavy lazy streak in me, and it wasn't until few years ago I've come to fully appreciate, respect and love it. I've grown up with the notion that you need to work, earn your living honestly, etc.
All nice and very good concepts and I always try my best to live up to them. But on the other hand, laziness is my shelter against the bad side of all this living responsibly. Responsible for whom or what anyway?

Having to come to terms with the unfairness of the system and its double standards,  the inability to break free from all of this... let's just say that adds frustration and dullness to life.
Nothing worse than being bored and let's face it, a 9 to 6 office job is very likely to become boring.
But being the responsible person (at work at least) described above, I go on working, while waiting for the time I can be lazy again.

When I'm lazy, I'm surely not that productive according to our modern world standard, but I'm not bored. It's thanks to my being so good at being lazy that I can indulge in doing the things I love, like reading, listening to music, knitting, or laying on the sofa and staring at the ceiling while I repeat myself "right, time to get up and do something". Nothing sweeter then hear my brain replying to itself: "Sure, I will get up, just give me five more minutes."

Monday, 18 January 2016

weaving through the weekend

Second weekend in a row in Milan equals being close to mental breakdown.
Luckily for me, I am very proactive, so I had my mental breakdown during the week.
This left me with lots of free time to spare on Saturday and Sunday to go on a weaving class.

I've been thinking about learning how to weave for some times now, but never managed to enroll in any class. For a split moment in time I thought of resorting to YouTube clips, but getting a loom just to follow videos on YouTube didn't seem the smartest idea I ever had.

Then I thought of investing 3€ in a kids loom at Tiger, but it proved to be the most stressful thing I ever had to do last year, after queueing at the tax office in Milan.

End of last year, I just decided to find a course and go for it.
It's been a funny weekend: it was a very small workshop, just 2 students. So we had a lot of undivided time and attention from the teacher; in spite of my inability of following rules and patterns as straight as I should, I didn't mess my work up so badly and I managed to bring home some results too!

Now I get a sampler that can also work as a scarf, once I get the time to wash it.
Oh, yeah, I also got a loom sitting on my kitchen table, waiting to be used; at the end of the day, I don't have that many works in progress already, and I can't have more than one work in progress on the loom after all.

Sunday, 10 January 2016


The last time I spent a whole weekend in Milan was so long ago I had to go and check my calendar to see when I had no train tickets booked on Friday and Monday.
Turns out that aside day I was flying in and out of Italy I spent one Sunday in September.

It was a bit weird, because I'm not used to spend time in Milan any longer.
Right now I'm paying an outrageously high rent for a dorm that I use Monday to Friday and that I have stopped considering home long time ago. So waking up in it on Saturday morning felt a bit surreal. Damn: what am I going to do now? Ah, right! Breakfast! Even the most obvious thing looked difficult on Saturday morning. Things improved a little bit later on. I met with Eliana in the city center and we spent some time at the exhibition dedicated to Alfons Mucha. We chat a little bit more after the exhibition and then I returned home to face my flat.

Before going out, I had started putting order but, as it seems to happen every time I try to sort things out, I ended up with more chaos and mess surrounding me than when I started. Same thing happened this weekend. I look around the living room and it simply redefines the concept of "mess".

I guess I need to generate some mess at this point: in about 2 months and a half I'm going to leave the flat and return to live full time in Torino.
Isn't it a bit premature, starting packing so early? Yes and no, but mainly no.
First of all, it helps my mood: I really want to leave Milano and this flat, return to Torino, and the sooner the better, so starting to remove stuff from the house can only help me feel better.
Also, having been in the same flat for almost 4 years means I accumulated a lot of staff: books, records, DVDs, yarn, fabrics, photos, concert stub.
As I normally file my things with the method "quickly shove it into a drawer and close the drawer even faster than I opened it" things just piled up without logic behind. But now I need to put them into boxes, and I need to reorder them. Which is what I started doing on Saturday afternoon and kept doing for most part of today: at the moment I managed to pack the fan (it was still out, since last summer!!!),  bring one bag of clothes to charity, find some photos I thought to be lost during the last move and recover 5,02€ in coins.

Oh, I also managed to pack one box. Yep, a whole weekend and I packed one box.
To my defense I have to say I couldn't find the packing tape: it took me 2 hours on Saturday evening to locate it, it's unbelievable how things can easily disappear from view in a 1-bedroom flat. Still, I managed to pack one single box in a whole weekend.
I'm going to be in Milan next weekend too, but will be busy with a course, so no packing in sight.
With this speed, I fear I should have started packing 2 years ago; it might have even helped me with my bad mood.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

sponsored rant

Italian folklore says that on Epiphany, the Befana visits each households bringing small presents for good children and coal for misbehaved ones. She’s traditionally described as an old and ugly poor lady, poorly dressed and wearing broken shoes; because of it and of the fact she makes her deliveries flying with a broom, she kind of resembles a witch but she’s not exactly one.

There are a lot of small jokes on the day: girls and women, we jokingly wish the best to one another for our special day.
This morning, after waking up and taking my lazy time to get ready for the day I eventually went and checked my Twitter feed and spotted this sponsored tweet:

It’s retirement house, offering a lifetime 10% discount for booking done by end of January.
Maybe all these jokes about the Befana are getting too close to home for me.

So, Twitter, I know you’re a company, not a person and nobody working for you is reading this post. Still, please, let me reach out to you to explain you in a quite simplistic way what’s wrong with this situation.
First of all, a disclaimer: I normally find ads quite annoying when I bother to read them. Given I read them 1 time out of 10 when I’m normally distracted, I find them pointless as well, as they have no real impact on me.

As the old saying goes, Twitter, know thyself, or at least try to know your users. I understand that it’s really hard to tailor meaningful advertisement to people spread all over the globe, but this is getting crazier and crazier.
For example, I listen to the likes of R.E.M. and Wilco, The Frames and Mic Christopher, De Gregori and De Andrè, so Twitter, explains me why does my feed have to be plagued for the whole summer by ads of a stupid, horrible Italian pop song (that I won’t name here to avoid more visibility, but anybody in Italy knows about the song with the name of Italian and Thai capitals in the title).
And it’s not because I’m a snob. It’s just that, at least when it gets to music, I got high standards and you got shitty taste. Moreover after I told you times and times again that the tweet is offensive and irrelevant and appearing too many times, can’t you at least implement an “Avada Kedavra” option?

I live in Italy, so what’s the point of pointing me to Swedish or American companies? It’s not that I’m likely to get free delivery.
Then, if you think about Italian economical situation, you should know that I don’t and won’t need a retirement house, because I won’t retire: I won’t have the mean to retire and will probably need to continue working and working and working… provided I’ll still be employed by then.
Plus, not to be stingy… but 10% discount, seriously!?!? If they added a bicycle or a mattress to the offer I might be tempted to accept it.

This morning, however, I felt a bit of doubles creeping in. A retirement house? I first took a look at myself in the the mirror to make sure I was not in denial about my general appearance. At least from the outside, I’m not that old to be in need of that kind of care.
Dear Twitter, you might never have seen me live, so should I suspect that it’s something in my tweets that makes you think that I’m actually on the lookout for a reasonably priced retirement house? Thinking about it, don’t answer that.
Maybe just point me to some miraculous anti-wrinkle cream in the next ads, how about that?

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

rediscovering Lussu

Reading Emilio Lussu’s “A Soldier on the Southern Front” is quite common in Italy. Even if you don’t, there’s a high chance you eventually read passages of it during literature classes in junior or high school.

The original title “Un anno sull’altipiano” translates as “A year on the High Plateau” and it refers to the Asiago Plateau, where World War I was fought. But somehow the new edition in English brought along a new title as well.

As for most of the books I read while growing up, I connect the book strongly to the cover. All black and white but for the title, there is a photo in the middle; 3 men, 3 soldiers in white mimetic uniforms, walking in line in a white landscape: snow on the ground, snow on the mountains, snow all around. Like many of the books I read back then, it gave me chills and feel cold.
First time I read this book, it was in a time of heavy reading of XX century Italian literature: Primo Levi, Mario Rigoni Stern, Fruttero & Lucentini and then Emilio Lussu.

Lussu’s book is the memoir of one of the years he spent fighting on the Italian front during World War I. There’s no boast of patriotic heroism, it’s a plain description of the horror and non sense of war and death in the trenches. It doesn't focus extremely on the carnage in its more visual details, but spends a lot of pages describing the utter lack of logic and moral sense behind it.

I remember the heavy sense of rage and injustice it caused in me. I was amazed and upset by the utter stupidity of war. Of that war.
Kids are not that jaded yet by the world and the people. There’s no resignation or cynicism formed yet, no idea on how to shield your conscience and guts to the blows of witnessing injustice and having no idea how or means to prevent it.
That's why, while reading “A Soldier on the Southern Front”, I got extremely angry because of many things, but above all because of General Leone. He’s one of the main characters: he’s absurd and completely crazy. Devoid of any feelings towards the human fellows that make his army, he has no problem at ordering them to run towards bloody and meaningless massacres, to battle that resoled in no gain and had no purpose in the bigger picture of the war, something that can be actually said of pretty much the whole of WWI.

General Leone is the most fitting example of incompetence, arrogance and lack of humanity of the people that decided and conducted that war. This butcher was inspired by a real person, general Giacinto Ferrero. He won several medals, and died (I presume quite peacefully and full of Catholic grace) at home, not in the massacres he ordered on the Alps and elsewhere.

I was dismayed: how? How can somebody like this man arrived at such a place of power? How could he be responsible for so many killings and yet not being held accountable for them? But at the end, he was just one of the many, not the first, not the last. And the truth is that the one that will eventually replace his is in no aspect any better than Leone, so that the men, Lussu writes, almost regret Leone being replaced.
On Monday I thought of just reading some passages while waiting for the veggies to be roasted and thought “why not? Why limit oneself to some quote from the book when I can re-read the whole of it?

And so I went on and re-read it: I found out I haven’t changed that much in all these years. The utter idiocy of men and war still drives me mad. I still had to fight the impulse of shouting profanities at the people depicted on the pages. Ugh, annoying, stupid military and politician elite.

Yet, I found out something I didn’t remember.
‘Have you ever been wounded?'
‘No, sir, general.’
‘What, you’ve been on the frontline for the entire war and you’ve never been wounded? Never?’
‘Never, general. Unless we want to consider a few flesh wounds that i’ve treated here in the battalion, without going to the hospital’
‘No, No, I’m talking about serious wounds, grave wounds.’
‘Never, general.’
‘That’s very odd. How do you explain that?’
‘Very odd indeed. Are you perhaps timorous?’
[…] The general changed the subject.
‘Do you love war?’

Or rather something I was maybe too immature to perceive back then: Lussu’s sarcasm, irony, his ability to make the reader feel how absurd wars are.
Reading Lussu again made me smile sometimes: it was a very bitter and sad smile, it didn’t make the sadness and heavy feeling go away, but added enjoyment to reading it. Can I smile and laugh of war? Yes, I think I can and I should, as it proves a good defence against desperation and being upset.
What comes out from Lussu's words is a collection of surreal people and situations and complete idiocy: I think a lot of it would fit well in some Monty Python's sketches.