Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

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   begun in mid-August 2021
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Aug 12, 2021

The "Duomo" Metropolitana station is open. It took 20 years to build. The results are impressive. The station is 40 meters below ground. The main entrance here (image) is not really that near the actual Duomo (Cathedral), a few hundred meters up the sloped via Duomo to the north. The station you see is on the large boulevard, Corso Umberto, that runs from the Borsa (stock market) to Piazza Garibaldi and the main train station. The square is Piazza Nicola Amore, with the "4 Gemelli" (Quadruplets), 4 identical buildings built during the Risanamento, the urban renewal of Naples in 1900. Engineers say this was the most difficult station of all.

2.  August 15,  Ferragosto
Ferragosto was a tribute to the Iron Emperor. It comes from Iron + Emperor Augustus. Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe (from Latin: ferrum) and atomic number 26. It is a metal that belongs to the first transition series and group 8 of the periodic table. It is, by mass, the most common element on Earth, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. Iron melts at 1,500 °C (2,730 °F). If you heated Augustus to 1,500 °C, he got really steamed, then hot under the collar, but generally he was a very solid emperor, cool as  a cucumber, which, if you heat to 1,500 °C — well, you got no more cucumber.

Anyway, Ferragosto —the Iron Emperor. Now, none of that is true (except a few names and degrees C.) but it's better than the real story, so pedestrian I'll tell you in my bare feet: It's Latin for "August vacation." The Latin was Feriae Augusti, instituted by Augustus (Roman emperor from 63 BC to 14 AD) in 18 BC. He fused a lot of other festivals in that month* into one. They were all "end-of-havest" holidays. Time to rest from all that hard work. The Catholic Church later decided to get some of the action by declaring the 15th of August the day to celebrate  the Assumption of Mary into Heaven; thus it may also be called the Assunta.

What? Did you just say you guess the month is called August because "all this" happened in August?  First,  all what? Second, Romans used a calendar based on Ab urbe condita [from the foundation of the City spoiler, that means Rome]. It is abbreviated AUC and is the number of years since 753 BC, the traditional founding of Rome by Romulus and Remus. It's an expression used in antiquity and by classical historians to refer to a given year in Ancient Rome. In reference to the traditional year of the foundation of Rome, the year 1 BC would be written AUC 753, whereas 1 AD would be AUC 754.  The foundation of the Roman Empire in 27 BC would be AUC 727. Our current common era year 2021 is AUC 2774.

Oh, there is a Neapolitan proverb that says: Aùsto cap’ ‘e vierno [August is the beginning of winter]. Really? That proverb is nonsense, or at least makes no sense to Sicilians this year.

3. August 18, Speaking of which...
Mount Etna Keeps Growing. Taller Than Ever

Mt. Etna's southeastern crater has grown after six months of activity, Europe's tallest active volcano is taller than ever. The youngest and most active crater has risen to a new record of 3,357 meters (11,000 feet) above sea level, said INGV, the National Institute for Geophysics and Vulcanology, based in Catania. "The southeast crater is now much higher than its 'older brother', the northeast crater, for 40 years the undisputed peak... ...Some 50 episodes of ash and lava belching from the mouth of the crater since mid-February have led to a 'conspicuous change' in the volcano's outline." The dimensions are calculated through satellite images. The northeastern crater of Etna reached a record height of 3,350 meters in 1981, but a rim collapse reduced that to 3,326 meters, recorded in 2018.

Enthusiasts of the classics remember Virgil's reference to Mt. Etna in the Aneid:
" 'T is said that here / Enceladus, half blasted by the bolts / Of heaven, was thrust beneath the mountainous mass;/
And mighty Etna, piled above, sends forth / His fiery breathings from the broken flues; /And every time he turns his weary sides,/
All Sicily groans and trembles, and the sky Is wreathed in smoke."

Enceladus was the giant of Greek mythology, the offspring of Gaia (Earth), and Uranus (Sky) (Insert your anus joke here.)
Enceladus was the traditional opponent of Athena during the Gigantomachy, the war between the Giants and the gods, and was said to be buried under Mount Etna.

Perhaps you ask, like many, Well is this the whole Enceladus? I wouldn't count on it.

This photo added Nov. 2021

(See also: UNESCO's inclusion of Etna on one of their many "Why this is important!" lists. That link is here.)
(D.H. Lawrence's spectacular description of Etna.)

4. August 23
Alessandra Buonanno, Physicist.

I have a passionate lay interest in cosmology — the Big Bang, black holes, stuff like that. I like to read about Einstein, Fermi, Hawking, Bohr, guys like that. Guys. Hmmmm. Who is a person who understands all that stuff and is better looking than all of them put together? Her name is Alessandra Buonanno (image). Born in Cassino, not far from Naples, one of the worst places to be in WWII in Italy, no matter what side you were on.

Buonanno completed her PhD in theoretical physics at the University of Pisa in 1996. After a brief period spent at the theory division of CERN (European Co-op for Nuclear Research), she held a postdoctoral position at the Institut des Hautes Etudes Scientifiques in France. She became a permanent researcher (Chargée de 1ere classe, CR1) in 2001 at the Institut d'Astrophysique de Paris and then at the Astroparticle and Cosmology Laboratory in Paris with the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique before joining the University of Maryland as a physics prof in 2005. She moved to the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in 2014. She got a Tolman Prize fellowship at Cal Tech.  She is among the "go-to" experts in the world on gravitational waves (disturbances in the curvature of spacetime).
added sept. 2022 update
2021: Balzan Prize in the subject area "Gravitation: physical and astrophysical aspects" (shared with Thibault
2021: Dirac Medal and Prize of the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP)[24] (shared with
         T. Damour, F. Pretorious and S. Teukolsky)
2021: Elected Member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences
2021: Elected Member of the German National Academy of Sciences
2021: Elected Member of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities
2021: Galileo Galilei Medal of the Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (INFN) (shared with T. Damour and
          F. Pretorious)
peronal website

She is called the "Black hole whisperer." Come on! That's a sexist comment hung on her by male scientists, who feel there
must be something magical about beautiful women with brains. How much brains? You judge. She is now director of the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Potsdam, Germany. She just got the Dirac medal from the International Center for Theoretical Physics. She holds a research professorship at the University of Maryland (on their softball team she has a curve ball you can't touch!) She's an honorary professor at the Humboldt University in Berlin and the University of Potsdam. She is a leading member of LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory), which observed gravitational waves from a binary black-hole merger in 2015, showing that quantum correlations between photon shot noise and radiation-pressure noise can circumvent constraints imposed by the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. I'm uncertain about that one, but I know from my own modest research that a "binary black-hole merger" is two black holes trying to devour each other. You can forget King Kong vs. Godzilla.

5. Aug 24
"...and all I ask is a tall ship that doesn't look like this."

                                Sailing Yacht A (uh, that's the name of the boat!)
in Naples, Sorrentine peninsula in background          
Maybe the world's largest sailing yacht, although it's really a "sail-assisted motor yacht". Maybe the ugliest thing afloat. It is held by Valla Yachts Ltd. (motto: "Totally tasteless luxury." Their ads say SY-A is a "natural head turner." OK, I turned my head so as not to throw up on myself. SY A was finished in 2017 by German yard Nobiskrug. It is 143 meters long and 25 m at the beam. SY-A  was built for well-known Russian yacht owner Andrey Melnichenko and displays his also well-known knack of working his way through non-Cyrillic letters. Alessandra's time may be up. Get Barbara out of the cage. Some numbers and letters: IMO 1012141, MMSI 310763000, Callsign ZCEU9. It is currently sailing under the flag of Bermuda. Give them a call. Operators who are not chained to an oar are standing by. My guess is that it
carries 8-10 guests, all fairly well of heel, and a lot more crew, maybe 20.

6. Aug.25

                                    A Benefactor's Work is Never Done

Gino Strada
(1948 – 13 August 2021) died two weeks ago. That left a big gap among doctors, nurses, and health care providers, whose goal is to help those who are in pain. The consolation is that his life was exemplary. A doctor told me the other day she wanted join EMERGENCY, the medical humanitarian organization founded in 1994 by Strada, his wife, and colleagues and that by now has treated millions of patients around the world.

After medical school Strada went into emergency surgery. His concern was war victims. In 1988, he began surgery with the International Committee of the Red Cross in conflict zones, including Pakistan, Ethiopia, Peru, Afghanistan, Thailand, Djibouti, Somalia, Bosnia. He launched projects in Iraq, Cambodia, Eritrea and Afghanistan, now much in the news. EMERGENCY was effective. By 2013 EMERGENCY was running four hospitals and 34 clinics in Afghanistan.

Strada's life was a handbook on doing the right thing: "Do you think that health care is a human right? Do you think all human beings deserve to be treated with dignity? Yes and yes. He devoted his life to those principles. He would be the first to say he left a lot undone. But what he did get done matters to the millions he helped.

    "If any human being is, at this very moment, suffering, or ill, or hungry, that is something that should concern  all of us because to ignore the suffering of a person is always an act of violence, one of the most cowardly."
 "War is a persistent form of terrorism against civilian populations in which people are maimed by bullets, shrapnel, 
antipersonnel mines and so-called toy mines. Treating the wounded is neither generous nor merciful; it is only just. It has to be done.”
           Gino Strada

7. Aug. 31 

                                                    Ocean Sapphire

This one is so strange I like it. It was here yesterday and is gone now, back to its home star-system. Ocean Sapphire says it's a motor yacht. Stats are 41m / 134'6 long, beam 8.4m / 27'7, built by Rodriquez Yachts in 2010. Their home office on Earth is "near the Solent" (hah! a likely story!) on the UK south coast. The Solent is a strait between the Isle of Wight and Great Britain. The Isle of Wight thus is in the English Channel. The nearest  large city is Southampton. Sleeps 12 guests in 5 rooms, including a master suite. Carries a crew of 7. It boasts "timeless styling, beautiful furnishings and sumptuous seating...aluminium superstructure and hull. Cruising speed, 12 knots; maximum speed 16 knots. Range 2,400nm (nautical miles) from 26,000 liter fuel tanks. Ahoy, landlubbers: a knot is a unit of speed, equal to one nm per hour. Something moving at one knot is going 1.151 land miles per hour. A mile per hour is a unit of speed used in the U.S. It equals 1.61 km per hour but that's dicey because our Earth is not a perfect sphere but an oblate spheroid with slightly flattened poles. Ask a crew member. Thus, if you are walking at 2 knots per hour, you are going about 2.4 mph. Go faster. These aliens can't even spell "aluminum" right.

8. Sept. 7
The Opus Continuum Exibit "Eros" has Ended
                        first mentioned mentioned here                             complete program and ample photos

They started on July 4 and went, as advertised, through Sept. 5, the other day. It was an exhibit on erotic art at one of the most
enchanting venues in all of Italy, the Vanvittelian Lodge at Lake Fusaro. It was at best,  as we all know, "the worst of times" 
— there was and still is a global pandemic in progress; people are afraid, no one knows exactly what comes next.

This exhibit was a perfect example of art in the service of Good, art telling us that we will get through this: come in, have a good time, take lots of pictures, watch others take pictures, write on the walls, go out and look at the lake, and, my favorite, look at the naked models (hah! I spit in the face of hypocrisy!) It was great. It was just what we needed. Call the Nobel committee. We need a Peace Prize down here.

9. Sept. 10
                                                                It's Just a Game!  Relax.

This is part of a harmless little internet game I am playing with a handful of real chumps. They know who are they and now know if they have won or lost. Well, there is no winning because if you win, having chosen correctly, then you lose, big-time. If, on the other hand, you guessed incorrectly, well...

Look, it's hard to explain. If you are not playing the game, then you may put your heads down on your desk and weep until the bell rings.

(Dec 17) Today is Friday the 17th! Unlike many cultures that view Friday the 13th as unlucky, in Italy, today is the day of bad luck. The Friday part may be traceable to the fact that Christ was crucified on a Friday. In ancient Rome they executed prisoners on Friday and Romans paid their taxes on a Friday. The number 17 (and not 13) is unlucky apparently because if you write 17 with Roman numerals as XVII, you can view those numbers as the letters VIXI; in Latin that means "I have lived" and is in the past tense and perfect aspect (it describes a completed action); thus, "I have lived and am done living. My life is over." So, put Friday and 17 together and you have a very unlucky day.  In the smorfia, the Neapolitan tradition of interpreting dreams as numbers to bet on in the lottery, the number 17 is associated with disgrazia —that is, an accident or disaster. So if you dream of such, bet on 17 as one of your numbers. Interestingly, the number 13 is considered lucky in Italy (as in a number of cultures in the world). In Naples and the Campania region, in general, you might say "tredici" (13) if you think your luck has changed for the worse and you want to call it back. Having said all that, I'm not sure if the word for "fear of Friday the 17th" is friggaheptakaidekaphobia or friggadekaheptaphobia. Frigga was the Norse goddess "Friday" is named for. I'll stop now. It would be just my Frigga-luck if my computer started to act x^ci**%tz....

19 Sept 2021
The Miracle of San Gennaro 

The faithful gathered outside the Naples cathedral

he Miracle of San Gennaro refers to the reputed liquefaction of a vial of  the saint's clotted blood. It is held to occur at other times during the year, but Sept. 19 is the one that counts most in the minds of the faithful.  At 10 a.m. this morning the archbishop of Naples, monsignor
Domenico Battaglia announced that the miracle had in fact taken place.
There is a complete discussion of this here.                        (photo taken 19 Sept 2021)

Sept. 23
Opus Continuum, Hard at Work or
                                                                        Art is a Many Fingered Thing

The artists' collective Opus Continuum is at work preparing for summer 2022. Climate change tells us (I just spoke to her) that summers are getting longer, so that may be sooner than they think. They 'd better get crackin' instead of preening for the camera. The canvas behind them is a collective effort
—the bay of Naples seen from Bacoli. It's pretty empty but by next summer will be full of what artists call "stuff". It will be the center-piece of an exhibit at the Vanvitellian Lodge at Lake Fusaro in Bacoli. (see #8, above) They're also drawing up lesson plans for courses in painting, design, and photography at the same location. Selene teases a "proposal" for Capri. I have no idea what that means, but I like it.

Sept. 25

Cruising Down the River on a Sunday Afternoo.. Giant Violin
with apologies to the original © 1946 song: music, Dayne; lyrics, Beadell & Tollerton

"Noah's Violin", a giant floating violin by Venetian sculptor Livio De Marchi, journeyed through Venice's Grand Canal on  Saturday. The trademark gondolas of Venice's Grand Canal played second fiddle this weekend to a very unusual vessel: A giant violin carrying a live string quartet. This large-scale replica is made from about a dozen different kinds of wood, with nuts, bolts and space for a motor inside. De Marchi said the violin is a "sign of Venice restarting." He named it after Noah's ark because he sees it as bringing a message of hope — artistically and culturally — after a storm. The violin made its journey down the canal on Saturday, as musicians on board performed works by Vivaldi (De Marchi also cited the Venetian violinist and composer as a source of inspiration for the craft's design. After its roughly hour-long ride, the violin was blessed by a reverend, who said he hoped it would send a message of hope to the world. Businesses in Italy and a museum in China have already expressed interest.

14. Sept. 26 

A Tagger's Work is Never Done! 
A "tagger" is one who likes to decorate public property with his or her own comments, usually with spray paint or a magic marker. Those comments then become "street art". I call your attention to these links on my site about the same problem: graffiti and street art. Given the "Führerbunker Bauhaus" look of some of the concrete slab & drab architecture that now counts as "public property," maybe a few bits of tagging is not such a bad idea, you say. In some cases, as in this image, the "tag" is a very slight change, an addition of a single letter to a known phrase. That phrase
is very current around the world as a commitment to... well, you know it. It took the slightest change to make it different. It's also easy to imitate fast and has appeared in various places in Italy.

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