“Telling it like it isn’t” – an apologia for Romantic philosophy. by Carlo Pizzati

“The world exists to end up in a book” –     Stephane Mallarmé

Journalists lie pretending to tell the truth. Novelists and poets tell the truth pretending to lie. Journalists lie by definition. They are supposed to gather objective facts. It is obviously an impossible mission. There is no such thing as an objective truth, everything is subjective, everything is seen through the individual’s perception. Not only that – simply choosing a subject is already an exercise in exclusion of other truths. It’s inescapable.

When, as a journalist I found myself on the border between Guatemala and Mexico with undercover police units wearing a bullet proof vest, chasing gangsters who assault immigrants, I thought I was experiencing facts that I would then be able to translate into an objective reportage. It is obvious that my state of mind, the excitement and the fear had directed my attention towards something rather than something else. That’s why the superficial facts I described in such context, maintaining journalistic standards, are actually limited in depicting the truth of that experience.

Reality requires different tools.

The misconception is the belief held by the reader, or the viewer, that a journalist reporting for radio, TV, newspaper or the Internet is able to deliver all the relevant facts. It is no surprise that lately the journalistic profession in the U.S. and in parts of Europe is encouraging development in the direction of what is basically data gathering. However, compared to traditional journalists, even data-gathering is not that much closer to the truth, presuming such a thing exists. Meta-analysis is a fad. Don’t be fooled by the mechanization of analysis. Don’t be lured by the mermaids of the robonews tsunami.

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It is not a problem of scope or of the amount of data. It is a problem of depth. It is not an issue of who observes, but of how things are observed and especially, and more importantly, how they are told.

It is a problem of language.

The journalist is expected to rely on facts. Readers believe they are absorbing facts to compose a reality, or rather the truth. Even those who are relativists and who understand that the journalists’ article, reportage or TV show is limited to the narrator’s point of view, can’t help but open their perception to that specific truth – and herein lies the fallacy.

The impossibility of describing the truth lies at the source of journalism. It started with the birth of this mode of communication which now seems to be seriously suffering.

There is no magazine, there is no newspaper, there is no TV, no radio, no Internet site that can tell you the truth. The so-called news is not the truth. Of course, there is no such thing as the truth. But there is something that could get closer to a commonly shared experience of reality. Something that makes us understand more deeply the meaning of such experience.

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Humans have at their disposal a more ancient tool that is able to expand the experience of reality in a much more appropriate and useful way than journalism ever developed.

The problem lies in the fact that, at one point in history, many people who belonged to this ancient craft, were forced for economic reasons to migrate their talents into this new growing and well-paying activity called: journalism.

Before that, storytelling, even before it took on the guise of writing, was much more interested in describing not simple facts, but the deeper truth which deals more directly with the emotional, sentimental and true issues concerning humanity.

This is what most good writers do. However, instead of pretending to be able to be faithful to an objective, independent aspect of reality, they plunge into their own interpretation. Sometimes imagination abounds, sometimes it is just a simple tweak into the observed reality, however voluntary or involuntary that distortion maybe. “There are plenty of records of everyday life,” Italo Calvino said in a BBC interview right before dying. “Literature has to give something more, as a fantastic interpretation of reality.”

The fact that novelists, poets, fiction writers in general do not even attempt or pretend to report objective reality makes their tale, for some strange and seemingly unexpected reason, much closer to a deeper truth.

Once we tap into the feelings, empathy and identification with characters, suddenly something more universal emerges from the depths. That is why the freer “creative non-fiction” writers of today may be getting closer to a syncretic view which would join the forces of the intuitive power of fiction with the lucid grasp into detectable reality.

Between Homer and Herodotus, I choose Homer.

As we read, as we watch a story well expressed by an artist, a writer, a poet, the feeling of the true experience being communicated, a real event happening in front of our eyes, even though that event is obviously imagined, or obviously distorted from the original it’s trying to rebuild, we are touched – in that moment our understanding and experience of the story makes us feel we are closer to something real.

By contradiction, the more unreal the tale the more real it may feel, if the talent warrants this effect.

To give the first example that comes to mind, you may read the best reportage on whale hunting in Norway or in Japanese waters, and yet nothing will be as close to experiencing something that goes much deeper and beyond the experience of hunting a whale then reading good old Melville’s Moby Dick, isn’t that so?

And isn’t that what the Romantics were saying? Unfortunately, the word “Romantic” has been glazed over by a kitsch effect, the maudlin and flowery interpretation taking over the Anglo-saxon connotation of “romantic” as “non-real,” more evocative of a literary style that integrated fantastic knighthood tales into a more or less accurate historic context. It was the degeneration of the “pittoresco” which deteriorated the concept.

Sensibility based on imagination was the tool used to go beyond reason. The French Revolution, product of Enlightenment, had lead to the years of Terror, the ugly side of rationality, which, pretending to soar above humanity, stoops to inhumanly cruel lows.

But humankind’s tendency towards the mystery of infinity, according to philosophers Schopenhauer and Fichte, lead us always back to search for something else. Sensibility, inspiration, intuition lead our search, backed up by reason. Reason alone will lead to the cold world of meta-data.

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What is different now, compared to the religious context of the Romantic era, is the decreased power of the Church and of Religions in general in the Western world. And this is thanks to Rationality, this must be granted. But this makes it possible, today, not to jump any longer from the Light of Reason into blind Faith, like Kierkegaard or Pascal would.

Atheistic spirituality is not a contradiction in terms any more, just like, well, creative non-fiction. Another ugly development of Romanticism, nationalism, has less reasons to exist in a globalized world. Take away irrational Faith and close-minded Nationalism from Romanticism and you will have Nomadism (rarely before as common as today); Exoticism (investigating what’s foreign, drawing upon the great inspiration derived from feeling alien to the context); embracing of subjectivity and individualism; Spirituality as investigation into the unknown (a useful scientific tool also according to Einstein’s interpretation); and the study of History to remember that humankind is in constant change. And also a very healthy sense of Socratic Self-irony.

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Friedrich Shelling, a leading thinker of German idealism, reminded the world of the central importance of myth and aesthetic sensitivity in order to go beyond the philosophy of Enlightenment. He gave value again to intuition, underlining the impossibility for reason alone to grasp the Absolute. Romanticism pointed out reason’s basic limitedness in capturing the most intimate essence of reality, juxtaposing the tools of feeling, irony and instinct to Reason.

It is Hegel’s conception of Reason as immanent Spirit of reality which can be seen as the great-grandfather of the last century’s ideological massacres perpetuated both by Nazi and Communist states and by ideological terrorism incarnated both by nation states or paramilitary groups of all sorts. French post-revolutionary Terror was just the prodrome of the thirst for blood of Rationality of the 20th Century, which now could maybe be glimpsed at in our out of control reality of the contemporary Techonopoly.

It just might be that a new interpretation of the Romantics could save us from the next massacre, presuming that the genocide of traffic accidents is not already such slow and silent horror, a price of the embrace between humankind and the machine.

Session for the Nepal Literature Festival (Kathmandu, Nepal on Sept. 20th, 2014)

“Liberi dalla schiavitù del lavoro” apologia di Marshall McLuhan di Carlo Pizzati

Woody Allen in fila al cinema con Diane Keaton in “Annie Hall” è infastidito dalle sbruffoneggiate pseudo-intellettuali di un nevrotico newyorkese che dietro di loro parla di Marshall McLuhan.

“Cosa non darei per avere una grande calza piena di merda di cavallo per darla in testa a uno così!”

“Ehi, aspetta, questo è un paese libero, posso dire quello che voglio!” si lagna l’intellettuale.

“Ma tu non capisci niente di Marshall McLuhan!”

“Capita che io insegni un corso alla Columbia University che si chiama ‘TV, media e cultura’ quindi penso che la mia visione sul signor McLuhan abbia un certo peso…”

“Davvero? Davvero? Perché capita che io abbia il signor McLuhan proprio qui, e allora, e allora, lascia che…lascia che…” Woody Allen infila la mano dietro un cartellone pubblicitario e ne estrae un elegante signore in cravatta scura e giacca color crema: Marshall McLuhan.

“Ho sentito quel che ha detto. Lei non sa nulla del mio lavoro. Quel che lei dice vorrebbe dimostrare che il mio intero sofisma era sbagliato. Che lei sia riuscito a farsi assumere per insegnare quel corso è strabiliante.”

Woody Allen guarda il pubblico, sconsolato, e dice: “Se solo la vita potesse essere così…”

woody-allen-marshall-mcluhan-thumb-350x233-37609Era il 1977 e la parabola di Marshall McLuhan stava per toccare il fondo, nonostante gli sforzi di Woody Allen e di altri. Protestante convertito al cattolicesimo, forse per questo sfornò sei figli che dovette poi mantenere e quindi, già accademico di successo mondiale, stella internazionale del suo Villaggio Globale, già meme con “il mezzo è il messaggio,” si dovette far assumere come consulente e conferenziere proprio per quelle multinazionali come l’IBM e la telefonica AT & T da cui metteva in guardia il mondo. Il famoso “punto di appoggio” da cui Archimede avrebbe sollevato la Terra con la sua leva “è stato affittato alle società private,” aveva previsto.

Morì a Capodanno del 1980, alba di un decennio che non fu molto rispettoso del suo genio. Ebbe un ictus e il suo cervello, che secondo la biografia di Douglas Copeland era irrorato da due arterie invece che una, ne risentì, essendo già sopravvissuto a un tumore benigno. Durante le ultime lezioni universitarie si bloccava a metà frase e poteva restare così, nel silenzio, anche per parecchi minuti prima di riprendere la frase esattamente dove l’aveva lasciata e completare il ragionamento.

Eppure dopo che negli anni ’80 e ’90 il suo pensiero fu declinato alla francese da Lacan, Baudrillard e Derrida, sopravvivendo anche agli attacchi di Umberto Eco e Regis Debray, ecco che la realtà dimostra che quest’uomo ha saputo fotografare, molto prima che iniziasse ad accadere, la trasformazione che stiamo vivendo oggi. Come spesso capita agli artisti, era troppo in anticipo. O, come rapperebbe er Piotta, era “troppo avanti”.

Si può sperare anche che fosse in anticipo sulla sua idea di sviluppo tecnologico come chiave di affrancamento e liberazione dai vincoli del lavoro. McLuhan spiegava che, paradossalmente, l’automazione rende lo studio delle discipline umanistiche ancora più importante. Alle macchine ciò che è meccanico, agli umani ciò che è intuito. Nel nostro nuovo Medioevo pervaso dalla tirannia degli ingegneri informatici, questo ancora non si è realizzato del tutto. Ma come le macchine e le automobili hanno liberato dalla servitù i cavalli, così l’automazione libererà l’umanità.

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“Gli uomini sono diventati all’improvviso nomadi raccoglitori di informazioni, nomadi come non mai, informati come non mai, liberi dalla frammentaria specializzazione come non mai, ma anche coinvolti nel processo sociale come mai prima; poiché con l’elettricità noi estendiamo il nostro sistema nervoso globalmente, interrelazionando  subito ogni esperienza umana.” All’epoca non solo non esisteva WhatsApp, Viber, Skype, Facebook e Twitter: non esisteva nemmeno il World Wide Web, e il suo precursore del Pentagono, Arpanet, sarebbe nato solo cinque anni dopo.

Aveva anche capito che nei decenni successivi saremmo stati costretti a partecipare perché “l’implosione elettrica spinge all’impegno e alla partecipazione.” E alla libertà.

La profezia di 50 anni fa immaginava una società in cui le macchine al servizio dell’uomo gli avrebbero consegnato la libertà di sviluppare la propria tendenza artistica.

Ecco, l’arte. Sperava, questo intellettuale canadese dal pensiero secco e freddo come i paesaggi della sua Winnipeg, nel Manitoba, che la “società elettrica” avrebbe portato all’autonomia artistica.

Per lui, l’arte era “un’informazione esatta su come riorganizzare la propria psiche per anticipare il successivo colpo generato dalle nostre facoltà estese.” Tradotto (a rischio di farsi prendere a colpi di calza piena di merda di cavallo): liberati dalla schiavitù del lavoro automatizzato grazie all’avvento delle macchine, l’uomo si sarebbe potuto dedicare più liberamente a interpretare i cambiamenti storici cui partecipava. E’ andata così? Non proprio. O non ancora? Le idee di McLuhan erano “indagini,” “mosaici,” inviti a pensare ai media, non assiomi.

WellAdjusted“Nell’era elettrica indossiamo l’intera umanità come fosse la nostra pelle.” Queste parole, da “Understanding Media,” nel 1964 dovevano esser sembrate solo un bel verso poetico. Oggi sono chiarissime.

La narcosi nascosta etimologicamente nel narcisismo induce l’uomo a diventare il servomeccanismo della propria immagine estesa e ripetuta. In questa sonnolenza nemmeno le frammentate grida della ninfa Eco arrivano a Narciso che è diventato ormai un sistema chiuso. Familiare? Guardate chiunque vi stia accanto risucchiato da uno schermo e capirete.

“L’uomo è l’organo sessuale delle macchine, così come le api lo sono delle piante.” E questo ci porta al fatidico “il mezzo è il messaggio.” “Il contenuto è la grattata, il mezzo di comunicazione è il prurito.” “Il contenuto è il succulente pezzo di carne portato dal ladro per distrarre il cane da guarda della mente.” Ovvero: “il messaggio di ogni mezzo o tecnologia è il cambiamento apportato alla scala, ritmo o schema che viene introdotto nelle cose umane.” O, meglio ancora: “Tutto ciò che accade alla luce di una lampada elettrica o di un neon è il ‘contenuto’ di quella luce elettrica: non esisterebbe senza di essa.” Non importa cosa fai, cosa metti su Internet o come lo usi, appena lo usi tu sei il suo contenuto, ed è Internet il messaggio.

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The Mechanical Bride (’51), studio critico sulla cultura pop; The Gutenberg Galaxy (’62) sulla crescita dell’individualismo nell’uomo tipografico e in cui si descrive il famoso Villaggio Globale sono culminati poi in Understanding Media da cui nascono le idee di mezzi caldi e freddi, l’età dell’ansia, la scomparsa del linguaggio nel futuro tecnologico (lo vediamo ora frammentarsi in 140 caratteri), la fotografia che rende gli essere umani degli oggetti e poi l’importante concetto che gli spazi pubblicitari sono buone notizie in un mare di brutte notizie (un segreto ancora ben celato da media ed editori).

Aveva visto bene su musica, cinema, radio, tv e armi e persino sui videogiochi, ora punta d’avanguardia della colonizzazione inversa della tecnologia nelle menti. “Il futuro del lavoro consiste nel guadagnarsi da vivere nell’era dell’automazione,” lo scriveva 50 anni fa. Ciao ciao Eco, ciao ciao Debray e tutti i suoi nemici.

Una delle sue barzellette preferite spiega sia il suo sense of humour, sia ciò che cercava di dire con le sue teorie. E forse può esser vista anche come una presa in giro dei suoi detrattori. La storiella descrive due indiani Navajo che si stanno facendo una chiacchierata da un capo all’altro dell’Arizona con segnali di fumo. A metà della conversazione la Commissione per l’energia atomica fa detonare una bomba nucleare. Quando il nuvolone a fungo si disperde, il primo indiano manda all’altro un segnale di fumo che dice: “Mannaggia, magari l’avessi detto io!”

follow on twitter: @carlopizzati

(pubblicato a pagina 9 su il Garantista il 30 agosto 2014 per la rubrica lo Scaffale)

McLuhan su il Garantista

Sulla passione per i polizieschi

Un amico straniero cresciuto tra Italia, Francia e Stati Uniti mi raccontava della sua passione per i polizieschi italiani.

“Il commissario Montalbano no,” diceva: “Camilleri lo leggo solo per le ricette.” Carlotto, Carofiglio, ecco, quelli gli piacevano e stava iniziando (buon per lui) a leggere Giorgio Scerbanenco, autore che dà il nome al più importante premio del genere. Gli sembrava, così diceva, che attraverso le inchieste poliziesche gli arrivasse un’immagine della realtà italiana: era un suo modo per ricollegarsi a un paese dove aveva abitato.con-la-figlia1

Nonostante questo, ammetteva che nessuno come una scrittrice di opere di letteratura e non di narrativa poliziesca, Elena Ferrante, riusciva a portarlo nel profondo di una realtà che appare come italiana, ma che sotto la cute nazionale rivela un racconto di umanità universale.

Purtroppo, tranne qualche romanzo che mi sono costretto a leggere per capire alcune cose sull’editoria italiana, non posso dire di essere un conoscitore né un fan del poliziesco, ma mi pare si stia cadendo in una trappola (questa sì degna di un giallo poliziesco) pensando, il naso tra le pagine di carta o sopra a uno schermo, che possa esistere un commissario o un investigatore privato che metta ordine nel caos.

Questo è il substrato di ogni poliziesco italiano in voga in questi anni, a quanto mi par di capire. Ed è questo il senso di sollievo e appagamento che immagino provino gli entusiasti lettori di questa forma di narrativa.

Molti anni fa un produttore americano mi voleva convincere a scrivere una sceneggiatura che raccontasse come Antonio Di Pietro fosse diventato l’erede di Falcone e Borsellino. Il film doveva narrare come la Mafia fosse riuscita a uccidere due eroi, espandendo di conseguenza il suo potere nel nord del paese e aumentando la sua presa sulla politica. Ma come poi (il bene trionfa!) il magistrato Di Pietro fosse riuscito a bloccare il malaffare anche al nord, incastrando politici concussi e imprenditori disonesti.

Quel film non si fece. Nemmeno nella realtà si è mai realizzata la visione di quel produttore americano, come mi pare di leggere sempre nelle cronache, nonostante gli arresti importanti, le condanne esemplari, personaggi famosi ora ufficialmente famigerati: non sembra che ci sia uno smantellamento del sistema, ma lo smottamento di una cosca o di una famiglia a vantaggio di un’altra, tutto qui. Si tratta di una sorta di debole riformismo, non di una rivoluzione di sistema che metta fine del malaffare endemico, aggettivo che viene da endemia: malattia infettiva costantemente presente, anche se in forma sporadica, in un determinato territorio.

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Per questo il lettore italiano che si diletta con quei libri il cui unico prurito intellettuale è scoprire “chi è stato?” si sta autoingannando senza rendersene conto: appaga un disagio tangibile affidando la propria fantasia a un uomo di legge che porta ordine nella confusione utilizzando la sua virtù, logica, deduzione e raziocinio.

Così facendo il lettore riporta nella realtà quest’illusione e questo spiegherebbe poi, confrontandosi con la caotica realtà, perché si moltiplichi con fervore quel senso di brontolona dissociazione per cui siamo noti in tutta Europa (addio Bel Paese ridanciano).

Per questo, dicevo al mio amico, preferisco rileggere Edgar Allan Poe, Raymond Chandler, l’ispettore Maigret di Simenon.

tumblr_lxd1y6Uuw61qzdxojo1_400Ma sopra a questi, provo piacere nel rileggere Friedrich Dürrenmatt, che tra le sue cupe valli svizzere non tenta di portare un finto ordine, ma lascia nell’anonimato il Mostro (il deviato, l’assassino, il Male) o, meglio ancora, porta a capire che quel Mostro, quel caos, quel vero Male è l’intero villaggio, la città, l’intera nazione.

 

 

 

(pubblicato anche su il Post)

Sulla non-morte del romanzo

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Il romanzo non è morto. Non è nemmeno nato, a dire il vero, in quanto il romanzo non è un essere vivente, siamo seri, ma è un mezzo per trasmettere il pensiero dell’autore ai suoi lettori. Per qualche secolo questa comunicazione è avvenuta tramite la scrittura e continua ad essere così.

Da quando è stato scoperto un nuovo metodo per consegnare i pensieri scritti di un autore ai suoi lettori ci si preoccupa del fatto che il veicolo utilizzato per questa “trasmissione del pensiero” possa alterare il modo in cui il contenuto viene recepito.

Attorno ai temi di questi due paragrafi si avvita da qualche anno un dibattito che riguarda la lettura. Recentemente sul “Guardian,” “New York Times” e “Corriere della Sera,” sono stati pubblicati (sia su carta che in Internet)  interventi stimolanti su questo tema.

Will Self ha firmato una analisi approfondita dal titolo “Il romanzo è morto (questa volta sul serio),” ovvero il testo di un suo intervento a Oxford pochi giorni fa. Dice Self che il romanzo come forma letteraria sarebbe dovuto morire con Hemingway e Fitzgerald e poi sepolto per sempre con “Finnegan’s Wake”. Invece si è trascinato per altri tre quarti di secolo. I bei romanzi usciti dopo l’epopea di James Joyce, scrive Self, altro non erano che zombi: “esempi di una forma d’arte non-morta che rifiutava d’estinguersi.”

Le menti gutenberghiane (per citare MacLuhan) di molti critici letterari sono rimaste bloccate nelle loro prigioni di carta. Però, nonostante ciò, nulla può sostituire la profondità dell’esperienza della lettura.

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Così, i cowboy del libro stampato da qualche anno si chiudono a cerchio attorno a biblioteche e tipografie, accerchiati dalle tribù degli e-book. Libri gratis per bambini, borse che con slogan supplichevoli implorano d’essere riempite di libri, scambi di libri, volumi abbandonati in luoghi pubblici per esser condivisi, club di lettori, presentazioni, fidelizzazione del lettore. E poi tutto un inno al fascino fisico del libro, il piacere dei polpastrelli sulla carta, gli effluvi profumati che escono da quelle pagine, descrizioni sensuali di un oggetto che sempre più spesso finisce a macerare in umidi garage e il cui valore commerciale tracolla del 95 per cento subito dopo l’acquisto. Misure disperate, dice Self.

Eppure qualche segnale fa sperare i cowboy nell’ “arrivano i nostri”: l’anno scorso negli Stati Uniti le vendite di libri a copertina rigida sono aumentate del 10 per cento, mentre le vendite di e-book sono calate del 3 per cento. Effetto snob o status symbol, forse. Ma il dato c’è.

La realtà, dice Self, è che i libri di carta sono destinati comunque ad essere una tecnologia minore, anche se il beau livre sopravviverà. Ma la domanda è: sopravviverà la vera lettura, il pensiero profondo?

L’avvento della nuova tecnologia di lettura non cambia il codice, cambia la mente. Il mezzo è il messaggio. Ci voleva Internet per resuscitare le verità di MacLuhan, il cui pensiero torna giustamente di moda.

Self pone l’unica domanda pratica che riguarda la battaglia tra libro stampato e ebook, tra lettura con concentrazione profonda contro lo skimming e il browsing della cosiddetta Nuova Intelligenza (basata su sinossi ed estratti, su Wikipedia e Google):  i lettori saranno in grado di disattivare volontariamente il collegamento internet dei lettori digitali quando sono assorti in un romanzo o saggio?

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Quattro anni fa, recensendo per il Sole 24 Ore un saggio di Nicholas Carr su quello che Internet sta facendo ai nostri cervelli avevo già proposto questa semplicissima seppur virtuosa soluzione. Mi ero imposto di leggere proprio su un lettore digitale un libro la cui tesi è contraria alla lettura degli ebook. Interruppi la lettura (in ebook) di “Anna Karenina” per leggere il saggio “The Shallows” di Carr, finito il quale completai tranquillamente il capolavoro di Tolstoj.

Carr descriveva l’avere un cervello letterario come la capacità di mantenere l’attenzione su parole, idee ed emozioni che fluiscono dentro di noi. Il lettore diventa il libro. Esce da questo genere di lettura trasformato (solo se il libro in questione è in grado di arrivare a questo, naturalmente). Ma questo è possibile solo con la carta.

Perché una volta che ci si è abituati al multitasking il nostro cervello perde la capacità di concentrarsi a lungo, sostiene Carr. Ma a me bastò spegnere la connessione wi-fi del lettore digitale per consentirmi di utilizzare l’ebook come un libro che mi comunicò, senza distrazioni, un contenuto profondo che 4 anni dopo ricordo ancora.

È quel Pensiero di cui scrive anche David Brooks sul “New York Times” in un editoriale intitolato “Love Story”  rievocando una conversazione letteraria durata una notte intera tra Isaiah Berlin e la poetessa Anna Akhmatova. Lei recitava il “Don Juan” di Byron facendo piangere Berlin, poi discutevano delle differenze tra Pushkin e Chekov. Berlin dichiarava di preferire la leggerezza dell’intelligenza di Turgenev, l’Akhmatova preferiva l’intensità oscura di Dostoevskij.

Mentre la poetessa confessava la sua solitudine e le sue passioni, Berlin non riuscì nemmeno ad interrompere l’incantesimo di quel dialogo letterario per andare un attimo al bagno.

“Berlin e l’Akhmatova,” commenta David Brooks, “furono in grado di creare quel dialogo che cambiò la loro vita grazie al fatto che avevano entrambi assorbito delle buone letture. Erano spiritualmente ambiziosi. Avevano in comune il linguaggio della letteratura, scritta da geni che ci capiscono meglio di quanto noi capiamo noi stessi.”

Paolo Di Stefano sul “Corriere della Sera” ha scritto un testo stimolante e pieno di speranze in questo senso. Ricordando l’esortazione foscoliana “O italiani, vi esorto alle storie” sostiene che non è troppo tardi, perché attraverso la lettura dei grandi romanzi europei si può “aprire quello scrigno d’argento in cui ritrovare sé stessi.” Che poi Di Stefano possa pubblicare questo genere di ragionamento soprattutto in funzione di una promozione marketing per romanzi letterari in vendita con il Corriere toglie poco al valore dell’analisi.

L’identità europea nasce dal romanzo (sì, anche dall’economia e dalla scienza, ma trova un senso nel romanzo). E anche per questo ormai che ha meno senso parlare di letterature nazionali. I veri autori contemporanei europei sono influenzati da Balzac, Hugo, Dickens, Mann, Marquez, Kafka, Kundera, Tolstoj, Calvino, Bernhard, Philip Roth o Pynchon in egual misura, non sono discendenti di padri che scrivevano nella loro stessa lingua, sono figli della Weltliteratur.

Sopravviverà tutta questa fondante ricchezza culturale, travasando il romanzo dalla carta allo schermo?

Ogni nuova tecnologia ha bisogno di uno (spesso doloroso) assestamento nell’integrarsi alla cultura dei suoi inventori.

Riusciranno i lettori a costringere se stessi (o con l’aiuto di utili e già esistenti App) a quel semplice “click” che scollega la lettura continuativa dalle distrazioni della rete, dai “ping” delle mail, delle chat, dalla seduzione della ricerca infinita?

Non lo so. Provateci. E vedrete forse che le 853 pagine di un romanzo di Stephen King ambientato nel 1963 si leggono con facilità anche su uno schermo, così com’è possibile leggere Tolstoj, Jack London, Platone e lo stesso MacLuhan.

L’importante è scollegare wifi o connessione Internet e avere le batterie cariche, nell’interesse della salvaguardia del pensiero continuativo e profondo.

 

 

(pubblicato anche su il Post a questo link)

Per una goccia d’inchiostro in più (di Carlo Pizzati)

Un conoscente indiano mi racconta con orgoglio la notizia di un 14enne americano di origini indiane che ha trovato il modo di far risparmiare alle casse dello Stato circa 400 milioni di dollari l’anno.

Come? Semplicemente cambiando il font di tutti i documenti ufficiali. Dal Times New Roman al Garamond. È solo una teoria, ma pare funzioni.

Il Garamond, oltre a essere più elegante, fluido e consistente, grazie al buon gusto di Claude Garamont che l’ha inventato nel 1530, contiene meno inchiostro del Times New Roman.

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Suvir Mirchandani, iscritto a una scuola media nella zona di Pittsburgh, per un suo progetto scolastico sui costi ha prima pensato a ridurre l’utilizzo della carta (ovvio) e poi ha guardato la questione obliquamente (genio).

“L’inchiostro costa il doppio del profumo francese,” ha detto Mirchandani.

Il Garamond ha lettere più sottili. E così lo studente ha preso una serie di campioni di documenti ufficiali. Ha calcolato quante “e,” “t,” “a,” “o,” e “r” vengono utilizzate, poiché questi sono i caratteri più comuni in inglese. E si è accorto che nel Garamond queste lettere sono più sottili che nel Times New Roman. Ha fatto i suoi calcoli. Risultato: risparmio del 24 per cento per la sua scuola. Risparmio del 30 per cento per gli Stati Uniti se applicheranno questo cambiamento.

La Rivista degli Investigatori Emergenti, fondata da studenti di Harvard tre anni fa, ha pubblicato la sua analisi affinata con Peter Pinto, analisi che ha dei punti deboli, senz’altro, come il fatto che abbia utilizzato un campione basandosi su documenti on-line, non quelli effettivamente stampati dallo Stato. Ma il ragionamento sembra comunque poter funzionare.

Ad arrivarci è stato uno studente di 14 anni.

È lo spirito dei tempi. L’invenzione più utile è quella che trova il modo migliore per tagliare i costi. Non è un’invenzione che genera un prodotto o scopre un modo più facile per produrre qualcosa. È un’indagine sugli sprechi, sull’eccesso, sull’indolente tendenza a dare per scontato ciò che è già lì (il Times New Roman) senza immaginare una soluzione sotto gli occhi di tutti (il Garamond).

È un’invenzione che viene forse da una cultura abituata a fare economia, come quella indiana, in contrasto con l’iper-consumismo americano: un altro esempio del fatto che l’integrazione globale non è per niente fallita, come qualche vento politico europeo vorrebbe suggerire.

(pubblicato anche sul mio blog ne il Post, qui)

When I feel lonely, I look for a shopping mall. (from a first draft of a creative non-fiction book by Carlo Pizzati)

When I feel  lonely, I look for a shopping mall.

There’s one in every big Latin American city. I call a cab and ask the driver to take me to one of those shopping centers you see advertised in giant billboards, the kind with the  happy nuclear family with the Pepsodent smile.

“Alto Las Condes”, “Palacio de Hierro”, “Jockey Plaza”- Santiago de Chile, Mexico City, Lima. Different names, same kind of places. I’m on a hunt for a familiar scene.

Walking down the aisles of the mall, I feel like I’m at home, in a timeless bliss where there’s no past nor future, while the present is gently massaged by the desire to buy.

The naked objects of the timeless super-stores create a sense of anonymity. In this giant acquarium I become a fish without rank and identity, no “job title” to speak of.

Is there anything more anonymous than a square building looking inside itself, without windows so that not for a moment your eyes are diverted from their purchasing duties? This is a non-place where I come to be looked at, to be seen and to look at my own self. Here everything looks just so available and so attractive.

The mall always matches the one next your home, transforming it into a tranquilizing experience. Shopping is just another brand of credit card people’s Prozac.

In front of the merchandise, facing what becomes the meaning of life – work to live, to buy  useless object that overcrowd apartments getting always smaller and more expensive – finally I rest in a sense of calm which invites me to buy, to perform my role in the big mechanism.

Everywhere I’m that shopper, reassured by my credit card, accepted in all major chain stores and franchises. A buyer among buyers.
In this mood, I rest from the hot fumes of the exotic streets of Latin America, the continent where I’ve lived for 3 years, working as a correspondent for La Repubblica, one of Italy’s major daily papers.

Nature begins where culture ends or, rather, in those sterilized places like the mall, a hyper-ambiance whose purpose is to reassure. The plastic, steel, linoleum and wall to wall carpeting alienation rocks my eyes to sleep. Walking along the aisles stuffed with brands, I find another home, the great home of MacDonald’s, Blockbuster, Warner Village – the “Fourth Reich” of Microsoft-Nestlè-Ibm-Nike-Adidas, the one of the few names, but everywhere.

Inside every shopping mall, everything looks the same, everywhere. Objects as much as people.

And this makes me feel less lonely.

*   *   *

It was on my way to a flight to Buenos Aires that I first felt the need to draw a diagram of my life. I was riding a train, leaving once again Valdagno, my hometown in the humid valleys of Northern Italy, an hour ride from Venice.

I hail from a town that has been often described by visiting friends as being “a little like Transylvania”. The county it’s in has got it all – rain, factories, dark narrow valleys and the highest suicide, alcoholic, nuns, priest and lap-dance bar rate in the country. It’s a good place to go back and visit. Once in a while.

Valdagno, population 27.000, was also a good place to leave for good, especially at 16, as I was when I moved to Pensacola, Florida. I was an exchange student at first, then I staid on in the U.S. for a total of 11 years, spent between Washington D.C. at first and then New York City, where I’ve worked at La Repubblica’s U.S. Bureau.

This varied resumé is why I often feel like an intruder. I’m out of place in Italy, where I’m “americanizzato” while in the States – which feels like a second home – I’m always a grown up exchange student with an “exoticah accent”. Maybe that’s why I’ve moved to India!

And maybe that’s why, in that hybrid continent known as Latin America, I recognized a bit of myself. Not entirely Latin, because it is also Aztec, Inca, Maya, Arab, African and Chinese and not really “American,” a word which sounds much more northern. Latin America is a little bit of both. And neither. Like me.

And that’s also why I had to draw a diagram of myself as I was leaving for Buenos Aires. Blame it on the fog, outside the windows, hiding the lines of the cities and the landscape, transformed in a slow motion blinking lights show.

I was driven by the need to know that I exist, shed light on this confusion, exploring inside, after so many outside quests.

I drew a map to understand where I’m going, in this life.diagram latin america

“I” am that center of everything. Pretty easy. Around me, like satellites, there are memory, solitude, family, women, friends, my job, vocation, strangers, her, dreams.

Solitude, however, should not be a satellite but a color, the color of this piece of paper, where I’m drawing the diagram.

The color of solitude is yellow, and yellow is the light of the streetlamps shining through the windows on this legal size notepad.

Memory should be the  thickness of the sheet.

“I” should not be at the center, but spread around the edges of the paper, like the borders of what matters in this life, given that it is mine we’re talking about.

Women are the smell of the paper, friends are the wrinkles.

My job is the handwriting.

Things are the sound of the rumpled paper.

Family is the shape of the paper.

The vocation is the pen.

Strangers are the empty space around the notepad.

And the dreams are of her.

Tomorrow I go back to her.

*    *   *

Pasaporte…” orders the man with the mustache. The plexiglass between myself and the man in the uniform shows me a reflection of myself, a jet-lagged ghost overlapping the officer’s face.

Every time you cross a border you feel the uneasiness of an exam. The stare of the custom officer is searching something within you – your forbidden dreams, your vices, your inclinations. What you have done, what you might do.

Look in his eyes without challenging him. Smile, but not too much. Stay calm, serene, be ok.

The border is a zone of possibility.

Why do I like so much crossing borders, I ask myself while the officer leaves through my bordeaux-colored EU passport, where there are maybe too many stamps – 20 Mexicans, 12 Argentinians, eight Chileans, four Peruvians, two Ecuadorians, some Brasilians, a couple of Uruguay then Paraguay, Bolivia, Panama, Cuba, Jamaica, Venezuela, Kenya, Marocco, Hong Kong, the Philippenes, Tahiti and so on.

Not everyone is satisfied with some “Journalist” or “Periodista” visa stamped on it to justify so many trips. So, turning indifferently their head to the computer, they go looking for my name on the screen, hoping they’ve gotten their hands on someone who should be stopped. They maybe right. Someone should stop me from traveling too much.

Why do I enjoy that moment? Is it the blood of my smuggler ancestors from Valdagno who a 100 years ago crossed the mountains between Austria and Italy?

What am I smuggling, here? What makes me feel the pleasure of hiding something forbidden, carrying it across the line of legality drawn by the border?

The only illegal things I’m smuggling are my intentions, those of telling a story, distorting what I will see with my subjectivity. All right, I confess Mr. Custom Officer, yes, you, running your fingers through my passport, stamping it, throwing it across the counter, almost disappointed for not having found anything, not being able to keep me here in your limbo.

To be precise, the limbo has been abolished by the Catholic Church. Who knows where the soul of the agnostics and the non-christened will have to go after death. Before, at least, they had the consolation of that sort of V.I.P. Lounge section of Purgatory, whose name. “Limbo”,  always evokes a tropical dance. I almost hear the voice of a dj calling the souls to the dance floor: “And nooow…limmmb-oooh!”.

And yet the limbo, presumed hideout of souls marred only by the original sin, is that waiting room, that condition, undefined and far from a solution, that for me remains the perfect hideout for eternal intruders like me.

As I’ve said before, I’ve always felt at home in the alienation of fast-food restaurants, in the cosmopolitan airport waiting lounges, in the country-side amusement parks, among the noise of rowdy game rooms as much as in shopping malls.

I feel at home here because these are borders as well. This is also a limbo.

I can’t say, however, that I felt at home in the limbo of the Mexico-Guatemala border, where I arrived one morning to meet a Mexican cop who went by the name of “Rolfi”, the person who first taught me the meaning of the typically Mexican expression “ni modo”.

Used in moments of failure and distress, “ni modo” is the layman’s version of the Islamic “inshallah”, or God willing. It’s a fatalistic sigh, which basically means “forget about it, and go on with your life”.

This trip would teach me how useful saying “Ni modo” can be.

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*   *   *

The humid weather wets my neck and forehead. The heat breaths on me making my skin stick to the t-shirt as if someone had poured a glass of lukewarm soup down my spine. The streets are only muddy brooks that seem like they’ll never dry. There’s only a skimpy river deviding Tecun Uman in Guatemala from Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico.

It’s simply too hot, that humid tropical heat of the Cuban summer, of Bahia, Manaus, Caracas, Panama City, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Puerto Rico, Jamaica. Names that are as hot as their temperature. Ja-mai-caaaah, Hon-du-rasss, just pronouncing them makes me sweat.  Those temperatures mold the time-space formula in a molasses of shiny colors that seem to round off the corners of life. A calor verde tropical, a “Tropical-green heat” which lives in the lazy anticipation of the Frente del Norte, the cold wind coming from the north. It is hope that feeds Latin America, allowing it to endure the heat of its destiny.

In Ciudad Hidalgo, a special corps Grupo Beta Sur policeman offer me the chance to join a robbers chase. “Una pandilla de bandidos”, he says. They are looking for a group of bandidos and I’ve come here to find out more about their work.

The contact was given to me by a photographer friend, the Brasilian Sebastiao Salgado. He was on patrol with them, grabbing on ladders of cargo trains, jumping across the railroad into the woods, so he could take pictures of the illegal immigrants.

Thinking that Sebastiao had already done it, and that maybe that was the only way to find “the” story, I let myself be seduced by this proposal. So, as I hear the invitation to join them in a thugs-hunting expeditions I reply, maybe too quickly, “Si, señor.

The officer warns me: “It’s risky, you better think twice about it…”

“Don’t worry”, I reply, and than, taking advantage of the slang learned on the streets of Mexico City, I encourage them to put a stop to their doubts with a very macho: “vamonos, güeyes!”, which translates more or less into: “let’s go, homeboys!”.

The agents laugh and I’m told I can go, but, to limit the risk, I have to wear a bulletproof vest under my t-shirt. We get started on the expedition, the agents dressed like poor illegal immigrants  – checkered shirts and torn sweat shirts hanging from their shoulders and hiding sawed off shot guns and smaller guns, which they loaded back at Head Quarters.

Checov wrote that when in the first act you see a gun, before the end of the story it is most likely to be used. I hope this time the Checov rule won’t apply.

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Along the railroad where we walk, runs another of the “Roads to the North” where everyday hundreds of migrants flood in from Central America. They head to the US border, a desperate river of people trying their luck, searching for a gateway to los dolares. Hidden in their satchels, inside their belts or rolled up in their socks, they hide the savings of a lifetime. And that’s what the robbers are after.

There’s a boy from Honduras with us, the husband of a girl who only two hours earlier, exactly on this railroad, was forced to strip naked, then was robbed and gang-raped. He says he’ll tell us where the assault took place.

The heat feels like it’s swelling, growing, almost as if reacting to our sense of suffocation by growing even hotter, more humid, oppressive.

Rolfi, the cop who acts as my guide, says that it could’ve been the Salva Truchas, the cruelest gang in Mexico, made up by former Salvadorean guerrilla fighters who often sport a tatoo on their forehead which is an autobiography summed up in one phrase – “Mi vida loca”, my crazy life.

Those with three spots tattooed on the skin between thumb and index finger have already gone to jail for homicide. Those with a tear tattooed under the right eye have killed their own mother.

What am I doing then, in the middle of the railroad, with Mexican police hunting for rapists who killed their mothers? What’s wrong with me? Was it in order to find myself here that I spent my summers – when I was 18, 19 and 20 – working as an intern for the Associated Press in Rome instead of going on holiday like the other kids? Is this the landing spot of the wanderlust which has kept me going through so many trips? Why did I let the thirst for a new story push me all the way here?

Mexico has a police corp that protects from assaults and violence the ilegales coming in from Guatemala. For decades hurricanes and wrong economic policies have filled the “Roads to the north” with poor people who have transformed California into their obsession. But before getting there, or to Tijuana, you first have to survive a series of dangers.

For those who enter illegally, escaping the “uniforms” is easy. If “imigraciòn” catches you the only risk is being sent back to Tecun Uman, in Guatemala, where you can try again to break through the border. The real danger are bandits.

The Salva Truchas haven’t showed up yet. From a banana plantation, a farmer, fooled my our looks, warns us: “Be careful, get yourselves some rocks, you’ll find bandidos ahead!”.

Rolfi looks around, and reminds me to hit the ground and hide between the rails if I hear shots. He tries to let some steam off by saying to his partner: “Hey, pendejo, you remember that lady who was raped and scarred in front of her son, who had been tied to a pole? It was a Guatemalan cop who did it, everybody knows him, but they never caught him”.

The friend replies: “What about the Nicaraguan we found in the ditch after 12 hours who was screaming “I’m alive, help me!”, remember? He was missing one hand and the nose, cut off with the machete. The upper lip was dangling and bleeding like mad”.

“We looked for his hand and nose in the bushes”, says Rolfi, “And we found them, so they stiched ‘em up in the hospital. But two days later he was dead”.

The next few minutes are filled only by the sound of our own steps.

The boy from Honduras will show us the place where the assault took place. “Maybe the gang’s still there”, says Rolfi.

The boy, however, is too shaken to realize that we’ve already passed the little bridge where the first rapist had appeared, he’s still too shocked to remember that it was exactly under that sign reading “Peligro Zona Despoblada!” (Warging Deserted Area!) that the first bandido had made his appearence a few hours earlier. He’s too distracted, too nervous, he’s probably thinking of the violence his wife suffered.

But under that same sign, the same gangster pops up. I can see him clearly, even though it doesn’t really seem possible to me. A man with a rifle in his hands, and he’s pointing it at us. He’s so close that “I can see the white in his eyes”, as people say in these situations.
The gangster recognizes the boy and screams something at someone  behind us, hiding in the trees and in the bushes: “It’s them! It’s them again!” and he starts shooting at us.

I jump to the floor, as I’ve been instructed to do, trying to make my whole body get inside the bulletproof vest, while I hear shooting and explosions all over. I bite my teeth as hard as I can, staring at the wooden board of the railway in its every little detail, while I ask myself: “Was it really necessary to come all the way here?”.

The cops in front of me scream: “hijo-de-puta-cabròn-pendejo-de-mierdaaa!” running towards the guy, shooting randomly at him while the he runs backwards shooting at us. I say to myself, with a strange calm: “They are insane”. Then I add. “I’m stupid”.
I think that not having a helmet could lead to my getting a bullet in the head, I ask how stupid one must be to risk his own life like this: “What for?”.

For a newspaper article, for the desire to live a fragment of a life that is not mine, in a world very far from mine, which is about to become mine. I understand that for all the victims that I met, and that I’ve heard about, all it took was a moment like this to get sucked into a cosmic swindle like the one I fear I may be about to experience if I don’t keep my head down. Because, while I’m here on the ground with my hands crossed over the back of my neck, those guys keep shooting at each other in the woods.

I close my eyes and see, in the red darkness of my eyelids, a familiar image, that which I have seen since I was a child when I was about to fall asleep: the universe with the stars moving fast towards me. It’s like the tension towards the infinite that one feels when thinking about eternity.

I say to my self, fuck, this could be my turn…

I “think” the image of the stars in movement for a split second, as fast as an explosion. Is it possible that a bullet, getting close to my head has caressed me with its cone of death? The Germans  call Augenblicksgott a minor divinity that speeds around you as fast as a shiver. Is it possible that maybe in the instant a bullet nearly hit me I felt infinity?

When the sound of the shoot-out starts to fade, I raise my head. There’re three of us left: the boy, myself and a cop with a sawed off shotgun ordering us to keep our heads down.

Panting, I ask: “How many have you seen?”.

“One. Just ahead”, the boy answers.

“But we had two of them right behind us”, adds the cop watching over us. I see something moving some 60 yards ahead.

“Over there, there’s another one – I say between a sigh and a scream – The yellow one. Or is it one of ours?”. It is. I better calm down.

The hunt is on. There were two of them shooting from behind, and then the other, the one under the sign, who shot right away. We are hyper from all the adrenalin, but we try to keep cool, maybe out of dignity, or maybe to hide the joy of not having gotten hurt, after having faced a risk like this one.

We find the hideout. After kicking away a tarantula from the back packs, we find  a soldier’s uniform. It’s not the Salva Truchas then, but military people, maybe Mexican former soldiers who rob people to round off their salaries. It wouldn’t be the first time that happens, given the level of corruption in the army and police.

Out of a truck that just arrived jumps the raped girl, pointing to the cops the place where she was forced to strip. Her dark brown hair wound in two braids, the puffy cheeks on her tanned skin, after the hours spent walking under the sun while excaping from Honduras. The girl keeps her eyes to the ground, walking awkwardly, in short steps. How can one keep away from one’s mind the images of what has happened to her, after seeing where it took place?

She’s still shaken by the violence, bundled up in her gray jump suit borrowed by the cops. She walks keeping her arms crossed over her stomach. Her eyes aren’t able to hide the hope to see those cabrones dead.

The Beta Sur agents get back on the pickup truck for a final round. They stop some suspects for questioning. The hunt is useless. The gangsters know the terrain much better and have vanished. Rolfi kicks the truck’s tyre before bringing us back to HQ.

While we pass by a farmers’ village, the wheels crush a little pig crossing the street. But Rolfi keeps driving as if we had just bumped on a large pebble.  In the rearview mirror I see the farrow walking to the middle of the road, trying to move with her snout the flattened piggy pudding, with his entrails all over the dirt road.

The farrow then let’s out a scream in the air, condensing all her motherly pain. A scream that fades in a weeping sound as we move further away aboard our truck.

Seems to me this is the most appropriate soundtrack for the official “the end” of a day like any other in the life of clandestine immigrants, gangsters and police in the great limbo between Guatemala and Mexico.

“Ni modo”, says Rolfi, shaking his head and lowering his eyes on the driving wheel.

“Ni modo”, I reply.

The end

(copyright Carlo Pizzati © 2001-2014)

“Hoblio” a short film by Piero Tonin

What is that little man with a big nose doing, walking in the forest after dark with a heavy load on his shoulders?

He would appear to be unaware of his destiny, simply driven forward by an invisible force we may call life.

It’s dark and windy in here.

He seems serene and untouched by his eerie surroundings.

Who is he? A rich man? No. He’s dressed simply in a pale orange cloth and carries his bundle tied to a wooden stick.

Where is he going? What is he looking for?

Money, maybe, like most people? A chance to make it? Luck?

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a harpsichord riff announces, as in a commercial advertisement, the appearance of a large figure. Stylized curls of thin blue smoke erupt from his giant cigar. The towering, grinning figure stares down at our care-free wanderer and raises his arm, holding an offer: a satchel filled with money, as indicated by the clear dollar $ign painted across the bag.

The Billionaire mutters an offer.

Our wanderer declines it.

The rich man disappears in shock from being rebuked, fragmenting away in a white and purple post-cubist special effect. The load on the wanderer’s shoulders magically become smaller.

The journey continues down that dark forest. Now it’s a Temptress’ turn to offer the joys of passion and sex to our little man, clad in that simple orange cloth. He smiles and declines the again the offer, as the woman vanishes in a rage. And the load gets even lighter.

The path is still there to be walked. The sun comes out, revealing a plethora of joyful colors in the meadows alla round. Things are getting better and better already.

But now, out of the green grass, an imposing and authoritative king appears, red crown, mink coat and all. He offers the wanderer a blue crown muttering some pompous and official sounding formula in an indecipherable gobbledygook. But the walker is just as uninterested as with the previous offers and the harpsichord jingle whisks our king away, as the load on the wanderer’s back gets even smaller. Now the trees are gone as he walks in the open fields, which are more and more colorful, when suddenly pitch-black darkness descends upon him.

A creaky, darkly clad Death creeps up in front of him, blocking his path and wielding the fatal Sickle, thumping it three times in the echoing ground of this sudden night. The wanderer looks more closely at him and then, as in the previous three occasions, declines the offer.

Death is outraged. But can’t help it, as it vanishes just like the other illusions.

The sun is back and the load on the walker’s shoulders now entirely disappears. There’s no more need for a stick either so the walker simply throws it away, slips his hands in his pockets and continues on his merry journey, as we fade to black.

He is free. He has resisted falling for the illusions of desire and attachment, loss and need. He has even refused the illusion of death, remaining unperturbed in his journey.

The lesson is so simple and clear, while so deep and transcendent, that it does not need more words. It is there to be received in the clarity of its meaning.

Yet to create such neatness in the form, requires a wide amount of knowledge, taste and talent that went into the making of this visualtale.

It seems clear where the historical points of reference come from, looking at the history of animation. Clearly Osvaldo Cavandoli’s “La Linea”’s enigmatic posture is just one of the many points of reference. As in “La Linea,” “Hoblio” also is the story of a character who walks a virtually infinite line, speaking a similarly incomprehensible language, which in this case is made mostly of grunts and guttural, inquisitive sighs. The harpsichord is reminiscent of the opening credit of the Pagot Brothers Film company Disegni Animati Italiani, and our “Hoblio” character even has, at times, the happy go lucky stride of “La Pimpa.”

There’s no spoken word in this tale. It is not necessary: only sounds of a slow Chinese march or harmonious dance, creating a musical carpet by on which our wanderer steps into merrily, thanks to Jiang Li’s “Yangtze” soundtrack.

The atmosphere created around this short film of animation is so gentle and yet so central to the storytelling, that understanding this is useful in order to grasp one more lesson of “Hoblio”: mind your surroundings, and yet be unfazed by them as well, while nurturing that inner contentedness, that omnipresent, infinte, eternal “Joy” referred to in the opening quotation.

A few words must be spent on the stroke of Piero Tonin’s brush, capable of creating with a curve of the pencil a historical, social and economic commentary, cloaked in humour and style. Notice the grin of the millionaire, the flüte-like calves of the sultry sex bomb, the hunched back of a king burdened by the weight of power and the angular dryness of Death, in its tweaking, skeletal rigidity.

Shapes tell a story. If you know how to draw them.

This is what makes “Hoblio” so dense of meaning and hypnotic and makes you go back to it, once in a while, just to remind yourself of the right path to serenity, away from the Maya of wealth, sex, power and death.

To achieve such simplicity and depth requires a lot of hard work.

In this case, it’s been well worth it.

click here to watch video of “Hoblio” on YouTube:

Nihil sub sole novum… all over again. (by Carlo Pizzati)

A new Indian friend made the mistake of asking me this question via email: “I want to ask you about Berlusconi’s expulsion from Parliament. Do you think this could actually be the beginning of the end of his political career or is it another stunt?”

I rarely, if ever, comment on politics, although I’ve been following it since I was reading daily newspapers in middle school and I’ve had a chance to meet a few politicians in my previous avatar as a full-time journo, also having to sedate them on a morning political talk-show at times. And anyway, people around where I grew up in Northern Italy have always been inevitably animated by the political discourse. Almost uselessly so. Anyway, here’s my reply, for those who are interested in such historical cycles.

“Dear Tariq,

As for Berlusconi, I shall not be brief.

His legal troubles? They are only likely to attract more votes from his aficionados. His expulsion from the Italian Parliament is not likely to be “the beginning of the end” of his political career. It has been one more reason to be at the center of attention, where he needs to be in order to control as much as he can the outcome of his legal trouble and political battles.

But that is not really the real relevant question. What could’ve been more threatening was the division within his own coalition party.

But I seriously doubt that the latest schism within his political movement is the beginning of the end of his political career. First of all, Berlusconi, whether we like it or not, has undoubtedly changed Italy. The sheer fact that the best hope for the center-left electorate is now Matteo Renzi is tangible proof of that.

Renzi represent, at least in terms of political communication, the Berlusconi culture, which is a mish-mash of second hand 1950’s American values, fake liberalism, pro-business promises and dreams supposedly in favor of the modernization on Italy. Renzi persuades with his smiles, his winks, his dynamism, he seduces with the power of theater, not with the substance of politics. This is why Berlusconi has triumphed. Well, that and a lot of crafty and often instinctive political genius. In 2006, Italian auteur Nanni Moretti perfectly captured this in an interesting movie called “Il Caimano,” inspired by the concepts I just exposed.

The Opera dei Pupi (Opera of the Puppets; Sicilian: Òpira rî pupi) is a marionette theatrical representation of Frankish romantic poems such as the Song of Roland or Orlando furioso that is one of the characteristic cultural traditions of Sicily.
The Opera dei Pupi (Opera of the Puppets; Sicilian: Òpira rî pupi) is a marionette theatrical representation of Frankish romantic poems such as the Song of Roland or Orlando furioso that is one of the characteristic cultural traditions of Sicily.

After a disastrous vote in Parliament this summer, the political movement that just split up, the People for Freedoms (PDL, Popolo delle Libertà) was lingering sadly in the polls, somewhere below 23 per cent. Once Berlusconi’s sidekick Angelino (“Little Angel”) Alfano – deputy prime minister of the coalition government of Enrico Letta – decided to split from his tutor, things now actually look rosier for the right wing. Absurd? Follow my math: in current polls, the sum of Alfano’s splinter group plus Berlusconi’s renewed Forza Italia, the original political movement he had founded in ’94, now reach above 28 per cent. It’s 5 points higher compared to when Alfano and Berlusconi were in the same party. Alfano has announced that his movement would ally itself with Berlusconi after the next elections. So what has brought about this so-called political divorce is a fake conflict. It is a tactical move in a long term strategy.

This is actually a very ancient game that used to be played by the Christian Democrats who ruled Italy since World War II until the Clean Hands operations of ’92. Constant battles between what were called “currents,” after many negotiations, a game of musical chairs in the Cabinet.

Italy has had, on an approximate average, a new government every 6 months since WWII. But only fools would think this has ever represented instability (except when the Communist party gained the majority in the European elections on ’76. And actually not even then). This was a constant game of re-balancing power within the ruling party, but guaranteeing continuity, which was especially important to American allies who had – and still have – strategic army bases in the peninsula.

Still from Paolo Sorrentino's "Il Divo" showing a Christian Democrat political "current": Aldo Ralli (Ciarrapico), Flavio Bucci (Evangelisti), Carlo Buccirosso (Pomicino), Achille Brugnini (Card. Angelini), Massimo Populizio (Sbardella) e Giorgio Colangeli (Lima)
Still from Paolo Sorrentino’s “Il Divo” showing a Christian Democrat political “current”: Aldo Ralli (Ciarrapico), Flavio Bucci (Evangelisti), Carlo Buccirosso (Pomicino), Achille Brugnini (Card. Angelini), Massimo Populizio (Sbardella) e Giorgio Colangeli (Lima)

In a way, what we are seeing is more of the same. Nihil sub sole novum.

What looks like a divorce is a maneuver to gain some moderate anti-Berlusconi votes. I would venture to say, actually, that this is a maneuver to gain back votes which could be attracted by Renzi’s great appeal to the moderate voter.

Berlusconi is not done. Nothing has changed.

And to paraphrase the overly quoted Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa in The Leopard: in Italy, as usual, everything has to change so that nothing changes.”

How Andrew and I joined the new Psychedelic Renaissance in Hungary. Sort of — by Carlo Pizzati

To celebrate Ozora and Sonica 2013 and to wish “Andrew” good luck at Burning Man!

CARLO PIZZATI

It was midnight, and we were lost in the woods an hour south of Budapest, when I first thought: this is wrong. Not just the wrong road, but wrong in a deeper sense. If we were going to a trance festival to open our hearts to the universe, why were we trusting technology more than our intuition?

We got to where we were because of the GPS, bouncing along with a white hare in our headlights somewhere near the Ozora Festival — the “tribal and psychedelic encounter” my friend Andrew and I were looking for. We were told to expect a day-and-night, rain-or-shine, mud-or-dust, week long psy-trance 24/7 music marathon whose participants would stomp the ground, loudly and often, to “extract energies from the earth.”

What were two middle-aged men doing in a mud puddle in pursuit of this folly, now abandoned also by the white hare? And without tickets?…

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