Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

Miscellany page #88
started August 7, 2022
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#1. This year's drought in Europe and Italy.

A substantial part of Europe, including Italy, is currently suffering a drought. A report in July said that 46% of the EU (European Union) territory is now at "warning" drought levels and 11% at "soil moisture deficit associated with plant stress." That leads to lower crop yields. The report specified France, Romania, Spain, Portugal and Italy as nations that will have to deal with this drop in crop yield.
     By definition, drought is a prolonged shortage of water, caused by a reduction or absence of rain. This causes a drop in the flow rate of rivers* and of the level of lakes, but not a lowering of the aquifers (water-saturated rock below the surface, which is sufficiently porous and permeable, under normal conditions, to provide water for springs and wells on the surface).** Drought can last months as in the Mediterranean, where it is recurrent, but also years in some places in the world. Drought and an increase in average temperature are not uniform, and conditions vary from place to place. In Italy the situation is severe in the north, where the normally abundant rainfall has almost stopped, and the important but less obvious snowmelt from snow and glaciers has been sparse. The situation is less severe as you move south.
*The Po River is a useful gauge. It  runs eastward across the northern part of Italy from the Alps to the Adriatic for 652 km (405 mi). The Italian government has declared a state of emergency in the regions of Emilia-Romagna, Lombardy, Piedmont, Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia. The river is at historic low levels. Normally it has a water discharge larger than some longer rivers in Europe.The historic average flow for June is 1,805 cubic meters per second. In late June 2022, the flow fell below an average of 145 cubic meters per second.

**
The process is called osmosis: the movement through a permeable membrane of a liquid from a dilute solution to a more concentrated solution.
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#2.
Today nothing happened. I don't care what Wikipedia says: "Aug. 14, 1352 – War of the Breton Succession: Anglo-Bretons defeat the French in the Battle of Mauron." Big deal. It is already too late to leave on vacation in case you were thinking of today. You should have left yesterday, so forget it. Tomorrow is the day to avoid. The 15th is Ferragosto (from Feriae Augusti/Holidays of August), a public holiday in Italy. It's the deadest day  of the year, unless you pick that day to actually leave. If drive anywhere tomorrow, you will be in a nation-wide traffic jam that will last until you are whimpering (and seeing) Autumn Leaves as you beat your head against the steering wheel. Why don't you leave last week? Think of all the things you should have already done: unplug the  microwave and the children, euthanize the dog, buy a car, etc. etc. Better, if you want the excitement, wait until the 30th, drive somewhere and then try to drive home on the 31st, the day of the Great Anti-Exodus (not even Moses did that!)  Besides, Lady of Info, Selene Salvi, reminds that there is a Neapolitan proverb that says: Aùsto cap’ ‘e vierno (August is the beginning of winter).

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#3. This comes from Neal Perrine, our  raving reporter roving  "somewhere in Italy." He likes WW2 headlines.
     
The Washington Post has published the winners of its yearly neologism contest,
 in which readers supply alternate meanings for common words. The winners:
1. Coffe (m), the person upon whom one coughs.
2. Flabbergasted (adj.) appalled at how much weight you have gained.
3. Abdicate (v.), to give up all hope of having a flat stomach.     4. Esplanade (v.), to attempt to explain while drunk.
5. Willy-nilly (adj.), impotent.    6. Negligent (adj.), when you absentmindededly answer the door in your nightgown.
7. Lymph (v), to walk with a lisp.        8. Gargoyle (n.), gross olive-flavored mouthwash.
9. Flatulence (n), vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller.   
10.
Balderdash (n.),  a rapidly receding hairline.
11. Rectitude (n.), the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.      12. Pokemon (n.), a Rastafarian proctologist.
13. Circumvent (n.), a slit in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.
14. Frisbeetarianism (n.), the belief that when you die, your soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.

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#4.                                         
                                  I Hope Your City is for the Birds

"Birds of  a feather flock together" in various ways. The simplest
is the iconic "V"-flight of water fowl. You don't need a picture; it's in your mind's eye --elegant and simple. At the other end of the
flocking spectrum is what they call murmuration (shown in the
photos in this entry). You need film or video to follow this kind of flocking. I've seen these amazing aerial displays. As they fly, starlings (example, right) in a murmuration seem connected. They twist and turn and change direction at a moment's notice. First, they're almost invisible. It's like seeing only the  thin edge of a playing card; then the card rotates 90° and you see the full surface.  There are thousands of birds in a flight. It's hypnotic to watch. No matter how often you see them, you have the same question I have: how does the one in back know where the one in front is going. Is it like "Pilot to bombardier? ... approaching target... OK, handing over the controls. The bombardier takes over the bird version of a Norden bomb-sight and chirp-speaks to his thousand fliers:"OK, if you've got something to dump, in...3...2...1...NOW!" The city is then befouled with tons of bird-crap. This is totally at odds with the stunning beauty of the flight, so I desist.
photos, top:  over Rome, from a BBC video. middle: Karl Eschenmoser. bottom; James Crombie


This one is coming in over Piazza Garibaldi in Naples.
The simplest explanation I could find was "each bird adjusts its velocity and position to the other birds within a fixed radius, the time it takes to converge to a steady state is an iterated exponential of height logarithmic in the number of birds. This means that if the number of birds is large enough, the convergence time will be so great that it might as well be infinite. This result applies only to convergence to a steady state. For example, arrows fired into the air at the edge of a flock will cause the whole flock to react more rapidly than can be explained by interactions with neighbors (the birds next door), which are slowed down by the time delay in the bird's central nervous systems —bird-to-bird-to-bird." I found some that threw in "quantistic" analogies because at absolute zero there is no resistance to electrical conductivity, see? No. My explanation is that they all have a primordial version of the iPhone. It was for the birds, but it sure could dance in the sky. (It occurs to me that this one looks sinister. A bird of prey)



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#5.
        "How ya gonna keep'em down on the farm after they've seen Paree?
"

That was a 1919 song* that says no one wants to go back to the simple small town life after they've seen the big wide word. Our version might be, How ya gonna get'em back to the village they grew up in when they have to live elsewhere to make money. Ask yourself what the opposite of "urbanization" is. I found "rural migration". That'll do if you explain what it means: moving out of the city and back to the country, the village, the farm. *music, Walter Donaldson, lyrics by Joe Young and Sam M. Lewis

Various items in the press talk about how Italy is spending hundreds of millions of euros (funneled from the European Union (EU) to save dying villages. The 1-Euro Houses idea (image) was one such scheme. My original item on that is here. The general consensus is that it has been a total pie-in-the-sky flop. Yes, you say, but so-and-so came and bought a house and has built a thriving business. Isn't that something? Yes, and a few others like him have done the same and I wish them well. Whether or not they have helped one of the dying villages to survive is dubious, or a least a very open question. A few statistics might help.

- The estimated population of Italy is 60 million (compared to 32 million in 1900). 
- 70% of the Italian population is urban --they live in or near a city or large town.
Italy has a 0.3% rate of urbanization,  the rate at which people are moving out of rural areas into urban areas. The Italian rate is significant but not that high. Italy's rate is widely uneven; that is, the urban centers of the north have a higher rate than the south. (The heavily populated Po Valley in the north accounts for half of the national population.) The UK, for example has a higher rate of 0.9%.
-  The world at large has a 2% rate.
Note that all of these rates are plus; none are minus. Out of the 200 countries, not one shows a trend to move back to the countryside. There will always be those who want to go back and see the village or farm where they grew up, or foreigners who want to change their lives and find a "nice little place in Italy" but that's not what we're talking about here. We asked if these villages are going to be saved. No. Fewer and fewer are choosing to live in the small towns and on the farms where they grew up. The most productive years of the young, of those who work, are spent in cities where they will pay taxes and take on mortgages.The historic Italian villages are attracting an increasing number of tourists. That is true. Ads for "The most beautiful villages of Italy" are not hard to find, and they increase tourism in many places that now depend on such trade. That is an important part of Italian demographics, but another question.

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#6.
The Choice is Yours

If you enjoy being on the water, you can either
    (1) cruise down the river on a giant violin. (
Apologies to the original 1946 song: Cruising down the river on a Sunday afternoon; music, Dayne; lyrics, Beadell 6 Tollerton. My original item on this  is from Sept. 2021. here) or
   (2) go aboard the "tall ship" the Amerigo Vespucci. All you need is a "star to steer her by". She is one of two such traing ships in the Italian navy. The other is the Palinuro. You can see both of them at the top of my "boat page".





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#7.
                                                                   If you decide on the "tall ship"...
               
Preussen                                                                                                     Royal Clipper
...I just saw this one sailing from Sorrento over to
Capri. Royal Clipper is a steel-hulled 5-masted fully rigged cruise ship built for Star Clippers of Sweden. She was built in 1990 on  an existing, modified steel hull. She was renovated in 2000. Her design was based on Preussen (image, left) a famous German  5-masted ship launched in 1902. Star Clippers claims that Royal Clipper is the largest "true sailing ship" built since Preussen.* Guinness Records says she is the largest square-rigged ship in service. Sails can be handled with a crew as small as twenty. Port of registry, Malta; tonnage, 5,000 GT; length, 439 ft (134.8 m); beam, 54 ft (16.5 m). She has 2 Caterpillar 3516 diesel engines; carries  227 passengers; crew: 106.  IMO: 8712178; MMSI: 215813000; Call Sign: 9HA2796. Mention my name. Ask them what "keel-haul" means.
*Preussen had a short life. She was launched in 1902 and was rammed in the English channel by a cross-channel ferry in 1910. She could not be salvaged and was scrapped.
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#8.           Droughts Reveal Glimpses of History

An archaeologist might in some professional sense view the current world-drought as a boon. After all, look at some of the "glimpses of history" that have resurfaced:
- an ornate 17th-century garden in England with 300-year-old paths;
- an island in China with its Buddhist statues thought to be 600 years old;
- Kemune, an ancient city on the Tigris River that flourished under the Mitanni Empire from  1550 to 1350 B.C.—during the Bronze Age, with intact cuneiform tablets;
- in Spain, the Dolmen of Guadalperal, called the "Spanish  Stonehenge”, megaliths from between 2000 and 3000 BC, in  eastern Extremadura;                                                               
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- in Texas, 113-million-year-old dinosaur tracks;
- a bit more recently, bombs from WW2 (maybe duds, maybe not) and Nazi warships from the Danube;
- those include ordnance found in Italy's longest river, the Po, now at historic low levels;
- in Rome, over the Tiber River, the piers of a bridge built during Emperor Nero's rule;                                                                                                                                                                            (image, right)
                        
                                                                             

- and, poignantly, "hunger stones", famine memorials, warnings, erected in ethnic German settlements  in the 15th through 19th centuries. One famous example in the Elbe river has carved into it "Wenn du mich siehst, dann weine" ("If you see me, then weep").                      (image below right)
                    



Our archaeologists will soon see, we hope, what all this truly means in human terms. A drought this severe affects the food supply chain, also called "farm to fork". Without water, nothing grows, if nothing grows, you don't eat. This is not rocket science. You don't eat, you die. Forget becoming a beefatarian. Cows have to eat, too.
This is all very bad news.


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#9.

Careful! "Red dot traffic!" Of all the silly misuses of English, "red dot" for "bad traffic" ranks pretty high. "Red dot" in English usually indicates a laser-beam sight on a rifle, which lets you shoot people very accurately. So when I  read "red dot traffic", I think, uh-oh, drive on the shoulder and you are dead meat, pal. Major holidays in Italy involve an "exodus" and  "anti-exodus" in which you, respectively, leave for a vacation and then return home. The worst one, the reddest of all imaginable red dots
well, we're in the middle of it right now, August 30. Upstairs they came home yesterday. He and she scream obscenities at each other all day when they're home, anyway, so I hope they had a good, mutually abusive vacation. Common sense tells you to cut your vacation a few days sort and come home early or extend it and come a bit late. Do your best to beat the massive traffic. Which would you choose? Me, too. But school starts in early September, so that might be hard to do. You have to get the little tykes ready. Pets? If you left your dog by the side of the road on the way out, where it suffers in the heat and then  gets run over, you, too, should be left by the side of the road some day. See how you like it.


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#10. This comes from John Booth in Germany.

"When I was doing my graduate studies at the University of Mannheim there was an elevator I used often. There were two buttons vertically placed on the control panel, and somebody had placed labels with handwritten lines next to them:

                             Ich will nach oben.         [I want to go up]
                             Ich will nach unten.        [I want to go down]

Some joker had put a third label between those two buttons with the line

                              "Ich will hier bleiben.      [I want to stay here]"

Personally, I think it was the same guy who scrawled all three lines. All of this is explained here. I'd explain it here, but
there's not enough space.
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#11. 
                                        Mystical Cellos -- We few, we happy few, we bass-clef brothers
                                                (Hank Sank, Shakespeare)


These are by Adrian Borda, a painter and photographer from Reghin, Romania. They are two of a fascinating series of photos from the insides of old  cellos and contrabasses. Borda fit a Sony NEX-6 camera equipped with a Samyang 8mm fisheye lens inside the instruments and then used a smart remote so he could preview the workflow on his phone.



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#12.
I remain entranced by Adrian Borda's fusion of musical instruments with the human body, often with Biblical and literary allusions. Here we see "The Fountain" (clearly the Virgin Mary and Infant Jesus" (left). The open top of the
Virgin's head is the bell of a brass instrument as is the top of the Infant's head.

Leda is the Swan                                                  
In "The Swan Song Hunter" (right) , the cello is fused into the swan and forms the bird's neck and then the beak, a human hand, recalling W.B. Yeats' poem "Leda and the Swan" from his 1928 volume The Tower.

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#13.
                                    Neapolitan Nursery Rhymes

All families with children use nursery rhymes. It never occurred to me that they might have had had a sinister effect on me. Mommy probably played This Little Piggy on my toes and I enjoyed it (I never asked why pigs eat beef.) Alas, I now know from revisionist psycho-historians the real meaning behind the nursery rhyme: "This little piggy went to market" means it was more than likely butchered and sold off to a market, or was on its way to the slaughterhouse. "This little piggy stayed home" - it managed to survive another day without being slaughtered and is safe, for now. That nursery rhyme, if you don't remember (because you were traumatized by all of them!) goes
This little piggy went to the market,   This little piggy stayed home,
This little piggy had roast beef,  This little piggy had none,
And this little piggy cried wee wee wee all the way home.

The rhyme is recited to toddlers while
holding up one toe at a time. Each toe representing a piggy, with the final “pig” being the pinky toe. Sorry, but it's about time you knew why your innocence was crushed.

Friend Selene Salvi's infancy was fine as far as I know.  She tells me that these five Neapolitan nursery rhymes
are well-liked. As far as I can tell, she turned out fine except she is very slow at answering her e-mail.

1. “Batti Batti le manine, che viene papà”. In this version "papà" is bringing candy

                    batte ‘e mmane ca vene papà,
                    porta ‘o zucchero e ‘o baba’
                    nuje ‘o mettimmo a cucenà
                    e ‘o nennillo s’ ‘o va a magnà.

(Roughly: clap your hands, here comes daddy, he's bring candy, then we can go to the kitchen and eat.)

2. If the infant is bouncing on your knee, pretending to play "horsey" mommy can try

                    arri, arri cavalluccio
                    ce ne jamm’a Murchigliano,
                    ce accattamo nu bellu ciuccio
                    arri, arri cavalluccio

It's slow and was probably a lullaby. In "Murchigliano" (Mercogliano) there was market where beasts of burden
were rented out.

3. This is lullaby sung for centuries, and, indeed, is used in the well-known “Cantata dei Pastori” (Shepherds'  Cantata). The running refrain is 

                    E pecurella mia comme farraje,
                    quanno mocca a lu lupo te truvarraje?
(My little lamb, what will you do if the wolf comes for you?)

(There is an earlier entry on Lullabies at this link.)

4. For infants who've just had their hair almost completely shaved off.

                    Carùso, mellùso,
                    miette ‘a capa ‘int’a ‘o pertùso,
                    ca si vene ‘o scarrafòne
                    te ròseca ‘o mellòne.
(Roughly: Baldy, baldy, put on a cap or the bugs will eat your bald little head.)

5. This a finger-game I remember in English as "Here is the church, Here is the steeple, Open the church and see all the people." The Neapolitan version is:

                   Dinte a chesta manèlla,
                   nce steva na vòta na funtanèlla,
                   venèvene a bere ‘e paparelle…
                   più, più, più…

       (In this tiny hand there is a fountain where ducks come to drink...and more ducks...and more...) 

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#14.                       Doryphoros - the Spear Bearer

                                    I'm not sure why we want another copy.

After all, we have a pretty good copy in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples (image) found near Castellammare di Stabiae in 1976. The Minneapolis Art Museum has a nice copy. There's another one in Spain, and others, no doubt. The one in Minneapolis was, according to Italian art cops, illicitly taken out of Italy (certainly true) and should be returned. It is "plunder", stolen and sold by scumbag art pirates (SAPs) (who should be in prison). I don't know about the one in Spain. SAPs are all over. I say, let the people of Minneapolis have their copy. We have ours. (OK, don't put the SAPs in prison. Cut off their hands and let them go. (I know, unwonted benevolence. I am nothing if not unwonted.)

What we care about is what these copies (or the original, which by general consensus, is lost) tell us. Scholarly sources say the sculptor was Polykleitos, an ancient Greek sculptor in bronze of the 5th century BC. He is considered one of the most important sculptors of classical antiquity. He is particularly known for his lost treatise, the Canon of Polykleitos, setting out his mathematical basis of an idealized male body, a system based on mathematical ratios. His sculptures expressed the Greek ideal of symmetry. None of his original sculptures are known to survive, but there are many later copies in marble, mostly Roman. The Naples copy is typical ancient Greek sculpture. The influence on sculptors from centuries later, such as Michelangelo, is obvious. What? How do we know this is a copy? Were you listening? The original was in bronze. This beautiful copy is marble.

What do you want a museum to be, anyway? Isn't it really a place for you to get a
sense of your own history, where you come from, how you fit in with everything else?
Looking at this sculpture, you can feel your human history. Why are we so taken with  the astronomy images from the Hubble and now the new Webb telescopes? Because it makes you feel part of all that. We are all part of all that. I
have fallen short, so take it from one who had much finer words, John Donne:

    No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent,  a part of the main.
    If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were:
    As well as if a manor of thy friend's
or of thine own were.
    Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.
    And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

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#15.
                                                                    I Can Live with it
...I'm stuck. If it was a dark and stormy September for you, I'm sorry. As much as I hate to be the bearer of good news when there is such pain, agony, hatred, and fear of an angry Mother Nature elsewhere, things haven't been too bad here in Naples. We had a few flooded streets, but that's normal. Things that don't work still don't.The sense of normalcy is middle-whelming. That, too, is normal. I know that in the course of the --as Maxwell Anderson  put it in September Song--  "long, long while from May to December"... the days "dwindle down to a precious few." I can live with that. Hey, that's funny. Get it?
I apologize to the memories of Charles Schultz for messing with his great Snoopy panel, and to Maxwell Anderson and Kurt Weill for whatever I've done to September Song.
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