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. 

Sunday, 3 January 2016

night at the movies

Yesterday was one of those day, you know.

I woke up around 10 (as in way over 10:30), lazied around a little bit, then a little bit more, then started to listen to Shakespeare audio books (more on this later on), knit a Star Wars pot holder, lazied around even more.

Then my sister texted me, around 6 in the evening: “How about we go and re-watch Star Wars tonight at 8?

I took a brief look at myself, still clad in my Xmas pajama, the messy hair and text back: “Sure why not, which theatre?

My nephew wasn’t coming with us, so I asked about my niece. “Of course Sara coming”. I could read my sister eyes rolling in the reply.

I sprung into action and jumped into the shower then. Well, no, I didn’t exactly jump into the shower; never been the athletic type and all this festivity dinners, luncheons, aperitifs and what not are kind of weighing me down. Still, I trudged myself into the shower and before you can say “Fuck, this water is cold, damn, the weather is cold today, jeez, couldn’t my sis leave at ground level, how many floors do I still have to climb?!?” I was at my sister place and we were all off to the cinema.

So, I had watched episode VII pf “Star Wars” in Dublin and my sis went through a quite painful experience of broken film when she went to see it for the first time. Yet we both thought we needed an encore and we were both ready for a nice, quite evening enjoining above mentioned round two, when we realized we were sitting in front of a bunch of 1st class, First Order’s Idiots. An array of supposed jokes and commentaries followed good part of the movie.

Growing up, when our family got the first VHS player, we kind of drove my mum mad with the Indiana Jones and Star Wars movies. In the summer we’d wake up and start binge watching. One movie every morning, maybe 2 and then we started again. Day after day, week after week. At the end of summer vacation not only we could quote the movies line by line (I think we could even use their scripts as the only needed day by day lexicon) but I think my mum had developed some involuntary twitches at mention of key words such as “Death Star” or “the Force”.
So, even though we’re not fanboys reading every possible article or book about it and exploring every possible theory, we do take Star Wars quite seriously. We might not have read any novel spin-off of the Star Wars universe but we do take our obsession seriously.

And so our luck wanted that last night we sat just in front of a row of complete, utter idiots.
I think some witch put an evil spell on me when I was in a crib at the hospital after I was born: “Thou you shall watched animated motion pictures, surrounded only by the foolest of the fool of the kingdom.”

I knew they were idiots by the moment we sat down. I just didn’t know they were that level of idiots. The “jokes” they made were not funny and so I tried desperately to pay attention to the movie. "Pay attention to the movie and to the movie only. You can do it, use the Force, Virgi!”
No, I couldn’t. Two minutes into the movie and I could clearly see my sister couldn’t either as I saw her turning around to take a look at them, I think the correct expression is that she "turned around to try to turn them into a pile of ash with a very painful yet silent stare". Pity neither Italian nor English contain a verb that can describe this concept.

I think a proof of how much we’re both grown up is the fact I wasn’t that surprised when she didn’t murder them in a very painful way… even though the dark side in me kind of wished she did.

During a small break they put in the middle of the movie, I considered going to buy popcorn for the all group: I noticed they were loud when chewing popcorn, but at least they weren’t speaking. And, who knows, they might choke on the popcorn and be silent a little bit longer and let me enjoy the second part of the film, right?

Coming out of the movie, Adri still managed to hear comments that I will not report here as faint hearts might be reading this post and it could be just too much.
Yet none of us acted upon the lure of the dark side. Either we’re really turning into kickass Jedi or we’re really just too tired to care. I will choke them… tomorrow.

Friday, 1 January 2016

plans and resolutions

The plan for New Year’s Eve was simple: dinner with some friends at Angela and Marco’s place and that’s about it.

As it’s standard for us, there were a lot of declaration for this year to be different, for the dinner to be kept simple and minimal and no overdo in food and wine.
As it’s standard for us, things didn’t exactly go according to the plan. Pity, because this year the plan looked rock solid.

Marco, being Marco, started planning in advance: he set up a whatsup group chat to organize everything.
As 31st got closer, Marco also created an excel file with a split of all the food, drinks, cutlery, etc. and who was in charge of cooking what and who was bringing which wine.
It was during the sending of the excel file and the replies to the mail, that things started spiraling out of control, just a little.

Paola declared that Antonio had to bring cheese even though it wasn’t in the list, because he was bringing it back from his hometown in Puglia.
Angela expressively forbade Paola to bring dried fruits. So Paola arrived with some small bags of Brazilian nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, pistachios, the more the merrier.
She also brought 2 (or were they 3?) cotechino even though she knew that we were going to eat only one of them.

I volunteered to bring the salad. "Oh and yeah", I added, "I’ll bring an extra bottle of prosecco, cause you never know."

I did my groceries on New Year’s Eve morning. I did look a bit out of place in the supermarket as I wasn’t buying any of the typical food that are part of the traditional Eve’s dinner (some other people were doing that in another supermarket about the same time): I was trying to buy the right amount of vegetables for a small salad for 7 people. I thought I did quite well: 4 big peppers, 3 fennels, 1 kg of carrots and 1 kg of cherry tomatoes.

Marco greeted me on the kitchen door; he’s wearing a green apron and he temporarily stopped opening oysters to tell me to put all the veggies straight out on the balcony: we don’t need any salad, there’s no way we’re going to eat it, there’s already too much stuff anyway.

He was right, obviously. So when I got back home later on in the early morning, I was carrying 4 big peppers, 3 fennels, 1 kg of carrots and 1 kg of cherry tomatoes back to the flat with me.
Alongside “some”rocket salad (around half a kilo), walnuts, pistachios, lychees and a whole bag of oranges and clementines.
Basically I won’t need to buy anything to eat for the next week. I also think we should really take my plan “let’s just order pizza” more seriously for the next New Year’s Eve dinner. This is a good resolution for the new year.