In 1831, the Mediterranean south of Sicily began to boil and bubble, and before long a volcanic island appeared, in full eruption. The English were the first to lay claim to the new island, naming it Graham Island, for James Graham, First Lord of the Admiralty. Then the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies laid claim to the island, removing the Union Jack and naming the island Ferdinandea, after King Ferdinand II. The next nation to claim the island was France, though initial French interest was in the geology of the newly emerged island (Google translation of French text, much from geologist Constant Prévost). France's choice of names was practical, Île Julia, as the island was formed in July. Spain also tried to lay claim to the newly formed island, setting the stage for a grand four-way dispute over its sovereignty, but before a single shot could be fired over its possession, geology rapidly had the last word on the matter. Graham Island/ Ferdinandea/ Île Julia crumbled in on itself and all but disappeared by the end of the year. [more inside]
"Italy is in crisis. I think that's safe to say. Something new is arising out of something old. I don't know whether it's a first breath or a last gasp. James Walston, the professor, thinks all the racial abuse is a sign that Italy has changed, and this is a defiant last stand before a multi-cultural society emerges. Maybe he's right. I don't know." Wright Thompson writes about soccer and racism in Italy.
To document the amazing beauty of the moment, Photographer Brady Dyer had his girlfriend Emma take a 360 panorama at sunset from their rooftop in Florence, Italy, it ended with unexpected sweetness. [slyt | via]
The New Yorker is publishing excerpts from Italo Calvino: Letters, 1941-1985, translated by Martin McLaughlin, on its book blog. (via) [more inside]
Lee Buchheit, fairy godmother to finance ministers in distress
Lee Buchheit, a lawyer at US firm Cleary Gottlieb, has been present at all the major debt crises of the past three decades. His reputation among investors is as a fearsome and aggressive litigator, but finance ministers in distress see him as something of a fairy godmother.[more inside]
Suspended in Void - a lovely collection of Italian ex votos depicting people who survived falls under the watchful eye of the Virgin Mary. Previously: a larger collection of ex votos from various cultures. (Via Heading East)
Enzo Jannacci, a father of Italian rock and roll, jazz musician, actor, writer, comedian, and doctor had a 50+ year career in Italy. He died yesterday of cancer at the age of 77. His biggest hit song, 1968's Ho Vista un Re (I Saw a King), written by the 1997 Nobel Prize winner for Literature Dario Fo and Eugenio Esposito, was banned on RAI TV and radio, due to its subversive lyrics. Jannacci performed and worked until illness forced his retirement in 2011, though still beloved by Italians of all ages.
The Poet-King Of Fiume
There is no decent way of containing the excesses of Gabriele d'Annunzio's lives. It would astonish his contemporaries to discover that he is now only faintly remembered outside Italy. Even within Italy, though firmly entrenched in the literary canon, he is most commonly recalled with a sort of collective cringe. For once upon a time, in the fervid fin de siècle - for reasons variously literary, political, military and, not least, sexual - he was one of the towering figures of European culture. Think Wilde crossed with Casanova and Savonarola; Byron meets Barnum meets Mussolini - and you would have some of the flavours, but still not quite the essence, of this extraordinary, unstoppable and in many ways quite ridiculous figure. The Pike - A Review [more inside]
There's been quite the political earthquake in Italy this weekend: the latest national elections have up-ended all expectations, with Silvio Berlusconi's populist right bouncing back to a photo-finish against the forecasted favourite center-left coalition, headed by Pier Luigi Bersani. But it's neither of their results that will cause the real aftershocks - those are the sole honour (and, now, onus) of the most meteoric of political entities Europe has ever witnessed: former comic Beppe Grillo's 5-Star MoVement, formally founded just three years ago, have crowned their national electoral debut by earning over 25% of the popular vote, becoming Italy's leading political force. [more inside]
Boateng walks off: Kevin-Prince Boateng, the former Tottenham and Portsmouth midfielder left the field after AC Milan players were abused in a friendly against Pro Patria. On his way from the pitch, Boateng applauded sections of the crowd, who then reacted angrily towards the corner of the ground from which the chants came. It was quickly established that play would not restart and AC Milan's official website said other black players in the Milan side - M'Baye Niang, Urby Emanuelson and Sulley Muntari - suffered abuse. [Video on Daily Mirror Website] BBC report.
GlamourFilter: Opening Night at La Scala. Pictures from La Scala's opening nights, dating through the fifties and sixties. (Main story here, slideshow here, those links in Italian, but easy enough to figure out for non-speakers.) Pictures of Callas, Toscanini, Princess Grace, Dick and Liz, and many more, all looking impossibly fab and glamourous. (Via the always informative and entertaining Opera Chic.)
The Torre Argentina Roman Cat Sanctuary has been taking care of the multitude of felines that haunt the Largo Argentina archeological site in Rome since 1995. Their website has a page about its history, videos of their cats, and all the things you find on cat shelter websites. But they also have a blog dedicated to their fight with local authorities. Italian archeological administrators have demanded that the feline sanctuary be evicted [NYT] from the location of Julius Caesar's assassination, but the cat shelter is fighting back. In the blog of the New York Review of Books, the almost certainly pseudonymous Massimo Gatto points out that the archeological site is a hodgepodge of actual ruins and bad reconstructions dating back to the Fascist era.
Be it the United States or the European Union, most Western countries are so highly indebted today that the markets have a greater say in their policies than the people. Why are democratic countries so pathetic when it comes to managing their money sustainably? This clear, well-written essay in Der Speigel lays out the current debt crisis - along with current, proposed solutions - in an understandable manner. Not included among the so-far-proposed solutions is one other that has opened up a veritable financial market and debt Pandora's Box - i.e. a central bank debt jubilee.
"Buffalo mozzarella is the Great White Whale of American cheesemaking: a dream so exotic and powerful that it drives otherwise sensible people into ruinous monomaniacal quests."
Perhaps to compensate for his not-so imposing physique, lack of good looks, and plebeian background, Gabriele D’Annunzio (1863-1938) embraced excess in everything he did. And he did many things: novelist, playwright, poet, aviator and sailor, a genuine war hero, a narcissist, a drug addict, a gifted rabble-rouser, debt-evader, and a noted womanizer.
It’s a good story because of the Vatican’s proverbial secrecy and intrigue and because of its ambiguity between its role as an international political and economic power and its claim to spiritual and ethical leadership. Mix that with the pedophile priest scandals (none in the Vatican itself so far but plenty of accusations of cover-ups) and not surprisingly, there is good copy for all. [more inside]
Franco Fiorito, also known as Batman, is the (ex) leader and treasurer of Berlusconi's party - Il Popolo della Libertà(PdL) in the Lazio regional council. He is being accused of channeling 800k of the party's funds into 12 of his bank accounts and making extravagant expenditures for his own benefit. Reports say that in court he is more annoyed than afraid: "Yes, I went to two beautiful resorts of the Costa Smeralda with PdL money. The regional election campaign left me exhausted and depressed. I needed a big vacation". Fiorito is now lashing out at other PdL councillors: "There are eight thieves. I didn't steal, I distributed the money." [more inside]
Italian peace activist Vittorio Arrigoni's kidnappers were convicted by a Hamas-run military court in the Gaza Strip today for their involvement in the abduction and murder of the Italian activist Vittorio Arrigoni in April 2011. [more inside]
Interest rate swap derivatives have not only turned sour for local governments and agencies across the United States. London-based banks are accused of massive mis-selling to dozens of Italian cities and regions. [more inside]
Talking Heads, Live in Rome, 1980 The Talking Heads concert film you haven't seen: the show that would eventually be recorded in the (awesome) concert film Stop Making Sense 3 years later, recorded while it was still a bit weird and uncertain. And therefore, wonderful. [more inside]
In 2009, the entire rental library of legendary New York video store Mondo Kim's (previously) was shipped to a small town in Sicily, with the promise of a nonstop film festival and free access for former Kim's members. The reality turned out considerably differently. (Printer-friendly link).
Perry Anderson's book length three part series on the history of India from the beginnings of its independence movement, through independence and partition into its recent history as a nation-state is the latest in a series of erudite, opinionated and wordy articles in The London Review of Books by the UCLA professor of history and sociology on the modern history of various countries, so far taking in Brazil, Italy, Turkey, Cyprus, the EU, Russia, Taiwan and France. [more inside]
The Calendario Romano, aka "the most typical souvenir from Rome," is looking for a few good men: "single clergymen and seminaristi" who wish to be featured are welcome to contact the being followed author of the Calendar to deliveries. Inevitable video tribute! [more inside]
"If nobody cares about the art that's inside the museum, then I'll burn it," vowed Antonio Manfredi, director of the cash-starved Contemporary Art Museum of Casoria in Italy. In February, he started burning.
Randy George Scott turns himself in for riding through British Columbia at speeds in excess of 180 mph (300 km/h). [more inside]
Kerouac as an 11 year old? Many of us have ran away from home. Most make it to the first street corner before coming back home. Liam Corcoran of Manchester made it all the way to Rome. He managed to board a plane without a passport or boarding pass.
Barbed Wire no longer lines the Franco-Italian Alps. On the 11th of July this year, after working since 2002, mainly in the Mercantour National Park, the last of 134 tonnes of steel was finally removed for recycling by teams of volunteers. [more inside]
"Euphoria", which won the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest (previously), is a #1 in several countries, including Ireland, Austria, and Switzerland Of course, it's not the only song charting internationally that you might never hear on US radio. It should come as no surprise that one can readily find international hits online. For instance - Sweden, #4: Panetoz - Dansa Pausa Sweden, #9: Mange Makers - Drick Den This doesn't purport to be an exhaustive list, but rather a jumping-off point. [more inside]
In advance of Euro 2012, the Guardian has made animated histories of six of the competitors: England, Spain, the Republic of Ireland, Italy, Germany and France. (Autoplay video in last six links.)
"An imprecation to read an avant-garde novelist is not something you often see written in spray-paint". And why should we pay attention? Because it "will fill your spine with gunpowder and light a match in your brain". Verso republishes Nanni Balestrini's The Unseen (with a brand new foreword by Antonio Negri), an epic monument to the struggle of the Italian Autonomia movement of the 1970s.
Moscow of 1931 is a collection of hand-tinted lantern slides by Branson DeCou, an American photographer and travelogue lecturer who traveled the world for 30 years before his death in 1941. You can view more of the DeCou corpus online at the Branson Decou Archive at the University of California, Santa Cruz where they've been attempting to sort, preserve, identify and digitize 10,000 DeCou slides received in 1971, a gift referred to the university chancellor by photographer Ansel Adams. [more inside]
The Camorra Never Sleeps: "The Camorra is not an organization like the Mafia that can be separated from society, disciplined in court, or even quite defined. It is an amorphous grouping in Naples and its hinterlands of more than 100 autonomous clans and perhaps 10,000 immediate associates, along with a much larger population of dependents, clients, and friends. It is an understanding, a way of justice, a means of creating wealth and spreading it around. It has been a part of life in Naples for centuries—far longer than the fragile construct called Italy has even existed. At its strongest it has grown in recent years into a complete parallel world and, in many people’s minds, an alternative to the Italian government, whatever that term may mean." [more inside]
Is Mario Balotelli the most entertaining footballer of all time? "Oh Balotelli he's a striker… He's good at darts/ He's allergic to grass but when he plays/ He's fucking class. Drives round Moss Side/ with a wallet full of cash/ Can't put on his vest/ But when he does he is the best Goes into schools / Tells teachers all the rules Sets fire to his gaff / With rockets from his bath Doesn't give a fuck/ Cos he did it for a laugh Runs back to his house / For a suitcase full of cash Oh Balotelli …"
City of the Wildcats 1 2: A documentary about the urban kitties of Rome narrated by Sir David Attenborough.
78 78s - In Search Of Lost Time - is a streaming mix of beautiful 78s from around the world, collected and curated by Ian Nagoski. "I started sifting through boxes of junky old 78s that no one else wanted about 15 years ago, and almost right away, I made a rule: Anything that wasn't in English, buy it." [more inside]
Almost nine minutes of video of Etna volcano erupting this week in Italy, including a pyroclastic flow. [more inside]
Nobody was surprised when Italy Prime Minister Mario Monti presented a draconian "save Italy" emergency Budget decree on Sunday - that's what he had been nominated to do. But the full impact of the measures, especially hitting pensioners, became stunningly clear when Welfare Minister Elsa Fornero, invited by Monti to present her ministry's section of the decree to the press and TV, broke down (SLYT) and was unable to bring out the word "sacrifice".
In "a comedy of errors", a professor of business at Canada's University of Guelph was accidentally named the Junior Minister of Agriculture for Italy. An interview with Professor Francesco Braga tells the confusing story. It turns out the Prime Minister's office had meant to name Professor Franco Braga, of Sapienza – Università di Roma, to the post.
On July 13, 2010, a cargo container arrived in Genoa, Italy from Saudi Arabia. It was emitting torrents of radiation. No one knew what was inside. And no one knew what to do next.... [more inside]
In a protest against the Wiretapping Act that is set to be discussed in parliament this week, the Italian edition of Wikipedia has been blocked, with all access being redirected to a single page statement (also available in five other languages); so far no timeframe for the protest action has been stated. Comment in support by Wikimedia on this unprecedented initiative; an editor leaves in disagreement; other users discuss.
Most people know that Venice has long been threatened by chronic flooding, but in recent years the Queen of the Adriatic has faced a rising tide of a different sort: advertising. From the Doge's Palace to St. Mark's Square to the bittersweet Bridge of Sighs -- named for the grief its splendid views once inspired in crossing death row prisoners -- immense billboards lit late into the night now mar the city's most treasured places. Allegedly built to cover the cost of restoration work in the face of government cutbacks, the ads have brought in around $600,000 per year since 2008 -- a fraction of the shortfall -- and show no sign of going away any time soon. Their presence prompted a consortium of the world's leading cultural experts led by the Venice in Peril Fund to air an open letter demanding the city government put a stop to the placards that "hit you in the eye and ruin your experience of one of the most beautiful creations of humankind." Mayor Giorgio Orsoni, for one, was not moved, saying last year "If people want to see the building they should go home and look at a picture of it in a book."
Amanda Knox freed by Italian appeals court An Italian appeals court has thrown out the 2009 convictions of herself and her co-defendent, and has ordered Amanda Knox to be freed immediately.
Evan Osnos joins a tour group from China as they traverse Europe. In the front row of the bus, Li stood facing the group with a microphone in hand, a posture he would retain for most of our waking hours in the days ahead. In the life of a Chinese tourist, guides play an especially prominent role—translator, raconteur, and field marshal—and Li projected a calm, seasoned air. He often referred to himself in the third person—Guide Li—and he prided himself on efficiency. “Everyone, our watches should be synchronized,” he said. “It is now 7:16 P.M.” He implored us to be five minutes early for every departure. “We flew all the way here,” he said. “Let’s make the most of it.” [more inside]
The Neverending Nightmare of Amanda Knox. In an in-depth new article in Rolling Stone, writer Nathaniel Rich makes a compelling case for the innocence of the American student at the center of a sordid, long-running Italian crime drama. [via Longreads]
In 2002 a Mrs. Soile Tuulikki Lautsi, a Finnish/Italian woman and member of the Italian Union of Atheists, Agnostics and Rationalists objected to the crucifixes on the wall of her child’s public school. [more inside]