Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

Miscellany Page #87
started middle of March 2022
to all miscellany pages (a table)
to bottom of this page

1. Let the seizures Begin!
Since last week Italian police have seized villas and yachts worth more than 700 million euros ($763.63 million) from high-profile Russians on the EU sanctions list. "So far we have hit what was visible, now we have to get the rest, such as shareholdings. We are doing a good job finding what is shielded by trusts and front names," says Giuseppe Zafarana, head of the Italian tax police. The operations were part of a coordinated drive by Western states to penalize wealthy Russians they say are linked to President Vladimir Putin.

One of the superyachts seized is the one in this image (in the Bay of Naples), the 143-meter (470-foot) Sailing Yacht A, which has a price tag of 530 million euros ($578 million). The Italian tax police sequestered A at the northern port of Trieste. A spokesperson for Melnichenko said the businessman had "no relation to the tragic events in Ukraine. He has no political affiliations....There is no justification whatsoever for placing him on the EU sanctions list...We will be disputing these baseless and unjustified sanctions, and believe that the rule of law and common sense will prevail."

The boat shown here is but one of two of Mr.
Melnichenko's superyachts. This is his sailboat. The other is his motorboat, also called A. His name starts with A. So does his girlfriend's. Your call. (It is a very sinister Bond-villain boat, shown at the second link below.) These links have further info and photos on them both.  boatpage.php      misc37#3       misc55#5       misc67#25

2. March 18    St. Patrick's Day was yesterday. It was my dear sister's birthday. In her memory I offer this meek apology for and confirmation of the fact that there is still  no widespread knowledge of St. Patrick here in Naples. It's as narrowspread as you can get. We can find Ireland on a map if you point it out to us, we know that green is on the visible spectrum (somewhere after red)  and a lot of people in Ireland  are Roman Catholic. We know nothing of that story of Patrick driving the snakes out. We still know nothing of W. B. Yeats. I'm sorry. I offer this strange connection between Naples and the Irish as a small token because I'm really all out of large tokens.
                                            This link will take you to the page.

April 1

Happy April Fool's Day

Of course, I could be kidding about that.
The whole story is here.


4 . Apr. 18  - Pasquetta
...And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus…and they talked together of these things which had happened…[and] Jesus himself drew near and went with them… (Luke 24:13-15)

That biblical passage is the source of the traditional outing on Easter Monday (today), called Pasquetta (little Easter) in Italy. Everyone goes out for a walk. It is a prominent holiday, commemorating the Risen Christ's first appearance after His Resurrection. The Emmaus episode is simple, powerful and obviously meaningful to Christians; if the story really happened as described in the Gospel of Luke it shows the historicity of the Resurrection and that Jesus was the Messiah. (I deftly leave the difference between belief and knowledge to you.) (Whether it all has anything to do with these images, well...The image on the right is from before the pandemic, when things were normal. Lots of people, fine. Today, it was the image on the left. Some of those people are local, but most are tourists. The city was crawling with foreign tourists who had heard that Naples was somewhere in Italy and the seaside was a nice place to walk but why is everything closed? "Honey, did we get off at the wrong airport, again?"
My original entry on Pasquetta is at this link. That entry and the update, a few years later, describe the biblical origins of Pasquetta and its recent transition from loud holiday of great interest to Martian anthropologists and to the eerie digitally-driven silence of mobile-phone zombies lumbering along talking to their "friends" who are very very somewhere else. Direct human interaction is not to be seen except when they walk into one another, which happens all too infrequently for my tastes. (What we need  is the amazing ZDC, the "Zombie Domino Chain," toppling over from foreground in these image all the way to the background -- Mt. Vesuvius. righthand photo by Selene Salvi is from 2014. Lefthand image, la Repubblica.) The transition is complete. No one really talks to anyone. Oh, don't forget to "like" Jesus.
5. Apr. 22

                OPUS CONTINUUM presents TALES OF PSYCHE

                Images of gods, goddesses and manias
                from 6 MAY - 5 JUNE 2022

What has become of the gods and goddesses that lived among us not so long ago? Can a god just suddenly disappear or even die? Who knows if they were not just sick of being hounded, as Jung says, and changed themselves into our sicknesses? TALES OF PSYCHE is presented in collaboration with ASL NAPOLI 2 NORD COMUNE DI BACOLI. The opening ceremony is on the evening of Friday 6 May at 18:30 At 19:00  psychotherapist Dr. Domenico Nardiello will host "Mythological and Heroic Imagery as Instruments in Psychoanalysis."   There are further presentations during the month.

6. May 13. On language vs. dialect. This is a comment I have at various place under entries on "dialect" or "dialect v. language." The problem of "stigmatized language" or even "self-stigmatized language" is worldwide. Dialects often run the risk of being stigmatized, that is,  disapproved of by those who speak the official state-approved language (often the language of  the greatest number of speakers). Also, certain dialects are "self-stigmatized", that is, speakers disapprove of the way they, themselves, speak. (It happens all the time: "Oh, I just speak a dialect." In Italy, Neapolitan is one such self-stigmatized dialect; Sicilian is another. In February of 2022,  a Sicilian newspaper ran an article that reported on the responses by 9-10 year-old school kids on the difference between Italian and Sicilian. Their comments are interesting: "The mafia, thieves, and bad kids speak Sicilian. Police, teachers, and good kids speak Italian." "Women speak Italian. Men speak dialect."                              
The image shows The Tale of Tales by Giambattista Basile, retold by Roberto De Simone

June 8.
The Serpent Coiled in Naples - book release

  Actually, Marius Kociejowski's (hereafter MK) latest book is not The Serpent Coiled in Naples, but a volume called A Factotum in the Book Trade, a Memoir. I had a brief discussion with the author. My impression is that this one will tell us us why it is so damned hard to get books published these days. I don't look forward to reading it, but I will. My own view is that it would be better if we all lived in the same place. The one consolation is that MK is such a good writer that whatever he writes is worth reading.

  I have a personal interest in The Serpent Coiled in Naples because I had the joy, job, task, pleasure, excruciating fun of editing the original. I made insightful comments such as "Maybe this sentence is too long, or maybe it's too short" and "you make Finnegans Wake sound crystal clear." If you follow this site, you have noticed that I started putting up excerpts from The Serpent... as MK finished the chapters, one by one, in 2018.
This is one such except:
Note that each excerpt links to all the others.

So, The Serpent...  is loose in Europe! Quality craftsmanship, 500 pp hardbound. The release date for the U.S. is the someteenth of September. All others? Ask in a local bookshop. If you're lucky, the owner will growl and throw a copy at your head.

A word about the cover. This is a fresco held at MANN (National Archaeological Museum). The fresco is "
Bacco and Vesuvius, dated to 68-79 AD, found at the House of the Centurion, IX, 8, 3-6 stored at Affrescoes, inventory number 112286." 'Bacco' is Italian for Bacchus (in Latin) or Dionysius  (in classical Greek). (The image, right, shows the part of the fresco that the cover cuts off. They chose to fill the inside flap of the paper cover to praise the book.) Three things stand out: the image of Bacchus, covered with vine tendrils,  the mountain, and the serpent. If you  think of symbols in terms of Judaism, Christianity, or Islam, be careful. Many ancient cultures view snakes as the holders of knowledge, strength, and renewal. Our three monotheistic faiths do generally associate serpents with evil --(Genesis 3:14: "thou art cursed above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life." Or, as Dylan Thomas says, an "Incarnate devil in a talking snake." Yet there are exceptions: in Matthew 10:16, Jesus tells his disciples: "I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves." So we grant them wisdom, a virtue. (Indeed, some Gnostic tradition views serpents as the bringers of knowledge to humanity. The ancient Greek word for heresy is haíresis (αἵρεσις). It really meant not much more than our word  "choice", something you choose to believe. Thus, if I say that Gnostics believed this or that, I am using it in the sense of haíresis (αἵρεσις), nothing like the fiercely intense "You heretic! You are wrong and we should kill you.") In other faiths, I remind you that Buddha was born sheltered by a cobra spreading its great defensive hood over him. This is no 'snake in the grass' on the cover! This is agathodaemon, a good snake. (Ancient Greek: ἀγαθοδαίμων, agathodaímōn) or agathos daemon (ἀγαθός δαίμων, lit. 'noble spirit') a spirit (daemon) in ancient Greek religion,  a personal companion spirit who ensured good luck, health, and wisdom. They  were frequently part of shrines of family worship  in ancient Rome and a protector. The mountain is Vesuvius, but before the great eruption of 79 AD that split the summit in two.
Current thinking is that this particular image is unique and by
the same artist who did the famous statue of Artemis in the Farnese collection. I recall counting all those lovely breasts for those around me who would need my instruction. I calmly told them there were 21 breasts. My sister said, "Check again, kiddo." I had misread the description. It said b-e-a-s-t-s. They were 21 bull scrota. Our book cover fresco artist changed all those bull-balls to grapes to let the guys and gals tending the vineyards know what a good job they were doing. There are some other strange symbols in there. There's a panther drinking wine. Great cover.

8.  June 23.                   PIZZAGATE

Reuters news service reports that Campania is no longer the kingdom of pizza. That title now belongs to Lombardy. That is sad news but recent statistics tell us that 7,000 pizzerias in Campania (of which Naples is the capital) have closed since the pandemic crisis hit. To rub it in, northern entrepreneur, Flavio Briatore, wants to do us a favor and open a northern pizzeria down here. (My computer balked at that, too. It wrote, "Are you sure you want to write "northern pizzeria"? It gave me three choices: NO, VERY NO and CRUISIN' FOR A BRUISIN'. To interpret the symbolism of the image (shown, right) that ran with this item in la Reppublica, that is the maw of a pizza oven from whence is being taken out a good-looking pizza... the banked oven itself... hmmmm .... that is Mt. Vesuvius, The book cover displays one summit because before the great eruption that's all there was, one summit and was called Somma. They called the mountain "Mountain". The whole 8.23 meters of the symbolism is "light at the end of the tunnel". Thus: "From us in the north to you in the south, this is where you are going to get good pizza from here on. From us!" To be completely impartial --you know me-- Flavio Briatore is a total douchebag. He has been convicted in Italy on several fraud charges and currently enjoys spending what little remains of his 81-year-old life hanging out with supermodels. Oinkers aweigh!

  9. July 4.

e Hold these Noodles to be Self-Evident...

Besides that thing that starts “When in the course of human events…,” Thomas Jefferson’s other immortal line was “The best maccaroni [sic] in Italy is made with a particular sort of flour called semola, in Naples.” True, he misspelled maccheroni, but even the Oxford English Dictionary has 6 or 7 spellings for it, from macaroni (a common English version) to mackerony. In Italian, the singular is maccherone; the plural (obviously the most common form, unless you are anorexic) is maccheroni. The only correct Italian spelling in English I have found is one from 1711 by Joseph Addison, who used maccherone to mean “a fool.”

Somewhat later, the term “macaroni” gained currency in English in the meaning of “fop” or “dandy”—a foolish individual given to affectation and excesses of foreign fashion, real or imagined. (There was even a Macaroni Club in London where they walked around in outlandishly high wigs with ridiculous caps on top, the origin of the Yankee Doodle line, "...stuck a feather in his hat and called it macaroni.") That might be related to an earlier English and even Italian meaning of the adjective “macaronic” (maccheronico in Italian) to mean an unintentionally clumsy or affected jumble of language as a result of trying to show off what little Latin you know in your everyday speech. Can I get an amen on that? Or at least an e pluribus gluteus?

Thomas Jefferson was the US minister to France from 1785 to 1789. He did a great many things: he negotiated a loan from Dutch bankers to consolidate U.S. debts; he hosted Lafayette and other liberals in his home in secret when the French revolution broke out; and he traveled around a lot, intensely interested in local geography, agriculture, customs—and food. He even had his servant—his slave, really—James Hemings* learn the art of French cuisine. (I don't know how the revolutionary Liberté, égalité, fraternité crowd hiding in Jefferson's home felt about eating fine food prepared by a slave.) Jefferson indeed, traveled to Italy, but only up north, primarily Turin, Milan and Genoa. He took notes in Rozzano (9 km from Milan) on how to make parmesan cheese, and somewhere picked up the good counsel that the best “maccaroni” in Italy is made in Naples. He decided to buy a machine to make the stuff, but apparently couldn’t find exactly what he wanted, so he shipped some pasta flour home and then, being Thomas Jefferson, designed his own machine to keep himself in noodles forever. His instructions on how to make macaroni start with the line cited (above) about Naples. He may, thus, be responsible —ugh!— for “mac & cheese,” but there is no evidence that he ever stuck a feather in his cap and called it anything but a feather. I feel sure, however, that Tom knew how to ride a pony. In fact, I will stake my life, my fortune and my sacred honor on it.

*James Hemings was the brother of Sally (Sarah) Hemings, another of Jefferson's slaves. She was the mother of at least one of his children.

This is abridged from an earlier article here.  Today is July 4, U.S. Independence Day. Many of my American friends are cavorting in Europe today enjoying British Airways cuisine on Air France -- indeed, confused as their lives, liberties, and sacred honor are swiftly eroded by their own Supreme Court.

10. July 9.
                            Last Word (maybe) on this Strange Title
(item 7, above)
When Marius K. asked me in July 2019 to look at some material he was working on about Naples, I said OK. I've now had a few queries about the title, not the symbolism of the images not snakes and volcanoes and panthers, oh my, but the words of the title. Not so easy. I looked at my original notes to him and found in his introduction:

"...all over Naples I showed people a sentence ... a Sicilian proverb I had jotted down: ‘Mai temere Roma, il serpente se ne sta attorcigliato a Napoli.’ (‘Never fear Rome, the serpent lies coiled in Naples.’). It also appears in an American TV film about John Gotti: The Rise and Fall of a Real Life Mafia Don, which one critic dismissed as being ‘too detailed for casual viewers and too inaccurate for enthusiasts’... I seized upon it before I ever got to Naples. It provided me with a title before I knew what the book’s contents would be. It was like being handed a physical law for which I had yet to find a theory..."

I let it pass with no comment. He found the proverb and used it as a title before he wrote the book, so I asked Selene Salvi about the Sicilian proverb. She's not Sicilian, but is homegrown Neapolitan and history enthusiast of anything about Naples. I asked about pp.6-7. (Never fear Rome, the serpent...etc)? She said,  "You know, I've never heard that expression, but it's like our "parenti serpenti", rhyming noun combinations, like fender bender, brain drain, boob tube. They're usually negative with the second element the "head" and the first becoming adjectival."
I knew that.
"He says he found it as a proverb. Maybe it's slang from the Sicilian Mafia, something a tv screenwriter might also like. Or maybe old Nefarious Marius...
"Thank you."
" trying to pull a fast one. He comes down here, hangs out with his hoodlum friends...who knows what else he's picked up?! Has he been tested?"
I asked Nefarious about this and he said,
"Yes, the Gotti movie and 'poisonous relatives', I think it can mean whatever you wish. My angle, while realising that in ancient times the serpent was an image of good fortune, is that it became, with not a little help from Mother Church, the very opposite. And so throughout the book the serpent strikes - the accidental death of Pina's husband which brought her whole edifice crashing down, the aspirations of so many people demolished, the horrendous business at Solfatara, etc, etc."
I mentioned to Selene that "poisonous relatives reminded me of the Gospel of Matthew (10:36), the powerful passage where Christ sends his disciples out to spread the word that He has arrived.
He warns them that "A man's foes shall be they of his own household." She says that Virgil mentions 'poisonous relatives' in The Aeneid.
"What am I, your private encyclopedia? Google it."

11. July 12

Extra moenia and intra moenia are Latin. They mean, respectively, outside and within the walls of the city. The phrases referred to buildings, usually churches, which were outside or inside (within) the city walls. Today the terms can refer to events or activities outside or at (within) the normal venue. They may indicate "is (or 'is not') one's normal responsibility". You can be both. Doctors, for example, who work in private practice can also be part of the national health service, in which case they may say they are "intra moenia" and "extra moenia", depending on what they're doing at the moment.

With that, here is a fine recent example of intra moenia in Naples. It's at Piazza Bellini. My complete entry on that piazza is here, and includes what follows here below.

As of now, today, July 12, 2022, 10:32 Central European Summer Time (aka Daylight Time) and the Livin' Ain't Easy, Piazza Bellini has changed but is still quite recognizable and pleasant looking. The statue of Bellini is still there. There are still some bleacher-type steps where you go up once or twice and then down again as you cross the square, but the big change is the charming "literary coffee bar" (image), the "Intra Moenia" (within the city walls). You can sit, enjoy coffee, pastries and snacks and wonder what happened to the good old days.

12. July 16

This is a nice
shot of the supermoon a few days ago, taken from Positano in the province of Salerno, to the SW across the entire Gulf of Salerno to the other side, a distance of about 50 km/30 miles. The next gulf beyond that is the Gulf of Policastro and then the long road to Calabria.
Photo credit: la Repubblica.

13. July 17
                        Nice Try, Coppers!

This stretch of beach front at Mergellina harbor is on via Caracciolo. It takes up 985 sq. meters. That is not a lot, about a quarter acre. (There are motor yachts moored in the bay right now that are larger.) It has just been seized by the State Police and Coast Guard because of the 42 illegally moored recreational boats. Thirty boat owners were fined for violating the Navigation Code and the laws that govern such things as beach establishments.
(I don't know what happened to the other 12.) I think they have to move the boats. I bet they don't. They'll appeal and this will drag on forever. The boat owners will claim
that they wanted to move their boats but couldn't cross that police tape. That would be illegal.

14. July 17       
The Pillars of Creation

These iPhone cameras are getting pretty good. I took this from
my balcony. The text insert is from
Ridley Scott's film, Blade Runner.
They are spoken in the film by the great Dutch actor, Rutger Hauer.
It has been called the greatest death scene in the history of cinema.

15. July 20
                                "It Wasn't That Much of a Kiss"

Maybe not, but it's a great photo. If you see a familiar image on the left and a bizarre variation on the right, that's fine. That means the photo is iconic. No matter how distorted the image is, you see it as one of the happiest moments of WW2, the end. Call it, if you will, the happiest wartime photo ever. There are many ghastly wartime photos, but it hurts to look at the dead and dying even if it shows the victory of good over evil. This shows a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square, midtown Manhattan, on Aug. 14, 1945, V-J day. There is much we don't know about the photo, but we do know the name of the photographer, Alfred Eisentaedt.*
This gigantic statue is on the beach of Civitavecchia, the port of Rome.
 If you leave by ship from Rome, you might even walk right by it.    
This jubilant image then appeared as one of a series of images in the inside pages of Life in their photo essay titled "The Men of War Kiss From Coast to Coast". It was the last image in the array and the only one to take up a full page. When it ran, no one was sure who the sailor and woman were. Later, when Life asked someone (or two) to show up and take credit, dozens of persons claimed to be those two, maybe thinking, "That's the way I felt, so it might as well be me." Decades yes, decadesof research and photo analysis have settled on the nurse as Greta Zimmer Friedman and the sailor as George Mendonsa. She said in an interview, “It was just  somebody celebrating. It wasn’t a romantic event.” She died at 92. He died in 2016. He said in 2012, “It wasn’t that much of a kiss.”
*Eisenstaedt was a well-known photojournalist even in the 1930s in Europe. He covered the Italian invasion of Ethiopia and even the meeting in Naples in 1936 between Hitler and Mussolini. He was a Jew and fled to the U.S. to flee the Nazis just before WW2 broke out. He was a great fan of the new,
small cameras and their use of 35 mm film roles instead of the bulky cameras that folded in and out
like an accordion and needed an extra flash attachment. He always relied on natural light.

  to previous Miscellany page (#86)                      to top of this page                to next miscellany page (#88)

© 2002 - 2023