Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

miscellany page #86
started mid-December 2021

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1. Dec. 15
Welome to the DaDoM!

That stands for Darwin-Dohrn Museum, the newest in the string of acronyms as Naples keeps reducing Italian to a string of grunts. After all, "Love is a Mono-Syllabic Thing",* so why not everything else? People will still call it "the Aquarium" (l'acquario in Italian, and don't worry, I have to look up the aq or acq thing every time, too!) Thus, the former Dohrn Aquarium is now the DaDoM and remains what it has always been (see this link), a scientific center for research with emphasis on marine biology. A good one, too. The new twist is the conversion of the old Press Club at the west end of the main building into part of the DaDoM. The small building was built in 1948 and was a big deal in a city still trying to clear away the rubble left from WWII. That new building did not fare well, as you can see in the old image on the left. It went into debt, was vandalized (the only Boniek I know of was a Polish soccer player — loyal fans!), and finally closed in the mid-1990. In 2015 the city hall and the "Dohrn Zoological station" agreed to convert the old press club building into a library and "museum of the sea", all part of DaDoM. The results are what you see in the image on the right. They did a good job.
* Apologies to Fain and Webster, composers of Love is a Many-Splendored Thing. They, however, swiped that from Puccini. Many legal scholars say that plagiarism is a pretty good deal if you don't get caught.

Dec. 18

elene Salvi  (self-portrait, right) was born in Naples and graduated from the university with a degree in philosophy. She began her artistic studies in the studio of the realist Neapolitan painter, Fulvio De Marinis, through the time-honored ritual of copying the works of the masters: Raffaello, Rubens, Caravaggio, de Ribera, Ingres, Bouguereau, etc. The Neapolitan school of the 1700s became a base for her own original works and creative impulses. She dedicates herself to design and drawing, working from live models. Her portraits are displayed in various Italian galleries.

This link goes to a long single-page display of 18 of her paintings.

Dec. 29  
A recent photo of the Furore 'Fjord' by Sax Palumbo
Obviousy, Palumbo is an an award-winning photographer.

4. Dec. 31

The mayor of Naples, Gaetano Manfredi, has forbidden fireworks for New Year's Eve, which in tonight. No boom-booms from 4 p.m. (an hour from now) until midnight 1 Jan. That includes those "purchased legally," Well, I guess that settles that. My bet is on the lawlessness of the citizenry. I'll be hiding under the bed.

5. Jan.1, 2022   Happy New Year

It was relatively be9 - may be8, may be7. That would be the lost fingers, but there's no report on that yet. As per the mayor's decree, there were fewer than one-thousand sky-rockets shot off last night and not a single white phosphorus "Dresden killer". My chest is singed with pride.

6. Jan. 22

                            Just Tired and Resting

Mt. Vesuvius last had a violent eruption in 1944, towards the end of WWII. It could be a few hundred years before another dangerous, explosive eruption occurs. That is the considered opinion of volcano experts from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH) and local scientists from the Vesuvius geological observatory in Naples. Their report is in Science Advances, the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) (geo-geeks may read the report off-site here). They published this illustration (right). The report concerns only Mt. Vesuvius  under "smaller eruptions") and its good twin Mt. Somma (together called the Somma-Vesuvius Volcanic Complex).
The illustration is by ETH team member, Olivier Bachman. Note the left-hand side of the image, ominously labelled "supereruptions" and "Ereputible magma", briefly
mentioned in the report. That is (1) much closer to where I live, (2) the site of the great Campanian Ignimbrite eruption of 40,000 years ago, which created the Flegrean Fields, a group of small secondary volcanoes , and (3) the site of the Solfatara, still an active volcano, still bubbling, and the site of the next "big one" if it happens. If that happens, I may have to discontinue this website. Happy New Year.

7. Jan. 25
The image relates to the entry "Recovering Stolen Nazi Art Plunder from WW II"
              that entry is here

8. Jan. 28 
Even if you know southern Italy well. You won't guess what this is and where it was taken.

Details are here.

9. Feb. 3  update Velia

                            Recent Digs at Velia
State Museums Director Massimo Osanna, former director of the excavations at Pompeii, said the area explored at Velia probably contained relics of offerings made to Athena, the  mythological Greek goddess of war and wisdom. Velia is 40 kilometers (25 miles) southeast of Paestum, a much-visited site of ancient Greek temples and tourists are now catching on that Velia is a gem unto itself. The recently completed excavation at Velia unearthed a pair of helmets in good condition (image), the remains of a building, vases with the Greek inscription for “sacred” and metal fragments of what possibly were weapons.

Music-lovers, this has nothing to do with "Vilja" a song from
The Merry Widow by Franz Lehar. Sorry.

9. Feb. 6

           3,000 Unmarked Refugee Graves in Sicily

An unmarked grave is one that lacks a marker, headstone, or nameplate indicating that a body is buried there. In cultures that mark burial sites, the phrase 'unmarked grave' has a few metaphorical meanings. A deliberately unmarked grave, for example, may signify disdain and contempt. The underlying intention of some unmarked graves may be to suggest that the person buried is not worthy of commemoration, and should therefore be ignored and forgotten. Unmarked graves have long been used to bury executed criminals as an added degree of disgrace. None of that applies here. These poor people drowned in the Mediterranean refugee crisis.The International Red Cross says that since 2013 one-thousand persons have drowned and remained unidentified. They had no papers when they drowned and now have no death certificates, just a number in a book of the nameless dead who were put in a mass grave. Above the ground, they put a certain number of crosses spread apart to make it look like each one represents someone buried beneath. It's an illusion, though. Perhaps a kind one. It's not clear what the text in the photo means. A woman's voice is saying, "...and now my sister's grave is no longer there." There are more than a few of these communal graves in Sicily.

10. Feb. 8

 Here. Have a house. That's 1 euro, please.

Is this a hoax? No. Is it a passing craze? I don't think so. Can you really have a house for €1 ('premium' houses cost €2)? No. It seems to be a good way for towns in Italy, which have thousands of houses that are centuries-old, dilapidated, and idle (unihabitable), to rejuvenate them. A recent NY Times article cited a town in Sicily of a man who bought one and turned it into a restaurant. He's happy. The town is happy, because all that "turning into" put to work local electricians, carpenters, masons, and plumbers. He had to pay them, so they're happy. So how much can you reasonably expect to wind up shelling out to finally tread where the Caesars trod and be happy?
This pin-drop map is not active. See links, below.

It depends, but I can't see you spending less than $10,000. There are closing fees, whopping fines if you back out, etc. Is it worth it? For some, yes. For others, maybe. For me? No. I already have a house. Don't write me about this because I won't answer. See this link: it will show a brochure such as the one you see (above) and also a

 google maps display like the one you see on left. Those Google pin drops are not individual houses; they are towns that have said, We have some houses. The brochure only costs €5. I think you can get 5 houses for that.  Update from August 2022.

11. Feb. 11

The "monument park" of the former English cemetery after 21 years of being idle, vandalized, spray-painted, turned into a rubbish dump cum public toilet is in the process of being cleaned up in preparation for being reopened as what it used to be — a nice little park. It's part of the age-old Naples approach to dealing with unemployment —build it, let it go to hell, build it again, hell, build, hell, build, and so forth. Forever. It's one of nature's great cycles. Disney made a documentary about it. I won't be here the next time it happens, so please keep track of it for me.
My original entry on the
English cemetery is here.

12. Feb. 14 

         Graffito ergo sum --I scrawl on walls, therefore I am.

I have always found the "Nestor's Cup" graffiti on Ischia the most interesting bit of scribbling in the area, but this new one uncovered in Pompeii gives it a run for its money. Pompeii has other good graffiti, such as the one that tells us we got the date of the famous eruption wrong, but this new one is great. There are 11 inscriptions scratched onto the north wall of the theater tunnel, a passage that connects the ancient theater complex with Via Stabiana, one of the main roads that led in and out of the city. The scribbles are Safaitic. Linguists, when pinned down, will ahem and say Safaitic was first discovered in 1858. It is in the Ancient North Arabian South Semitic script family, the genetic unity of which has yet to be demonstrated.
(Samples of the alphabet are shown, right.) I care about that. A little. Honest. But I really care about why there are Safaitic graffiti in Pompii. Scholars have been tight-lipped, mainly because the graffiti just seemed anomalous. Out-of-place. They are that, by well over a thousand miles (or well well over, if you're using km). They have been one of Pompeii's greatest mysteries and now a plausible solution may be at hand. Safaitic is otherwise completely unknown in the Western Mediterranean. Who wrote them on the walls of Pompeii? There are 34,000 Safaitic inscriptions written between the first century B.C. and the fourth century A.D., but they are found in Ḥarrah, the black sheet-lava wasteland that runs from southern Syria, down through northeast Jordan, and into northern Saudi Arabia. And we have 11 in Pompeii. Why? How? Maybe traders, except there is no evidence at all of trade between Arab nomads and Puteoli (the port that served Pompeii).

The red section is the theater tunnel in Pompeii. This
 "Ancient Graffi" site tell you everything about writing on
walls (as if you didn't know). On the site, that red tunnel is
designated Pompeii, Corridoio dei Teatri (VIII.7.20).

Kyle Helms, classics professor at St. Olaf College (in Minnesota), now offers in the Journal of Roman Studies a solution. Helms argues that these nomads had been incorporated into the Roman military and had come to Italy with the Legio III Gallica —the Third Gallic Legion— during the civil war of 69 A.D. The graffiti are not isolated; they are scribbled in among the inscriptions that adorn the theater wall; images of boats, animals, and the bathroom-stall junk you may have heard that other people do. So these guys from the Third were on leave in Pompeii and decided to take in a show at the theater and scribbled as they walked along. Helms says Roman legions had become more provincial and increasingly drew upon the local population. Tacitus himself refers to the men of the Third observing Syrian religious customs. It’s  also possible that the Safaitic writers were auxiliaries (reservists). It was unusual to move auxiliary troops but a crisis such as the civil war in 69 A.D. might well have prompted it. Graffiti is a cross-cultural practice and everyone (else) does it. Kilroy lives!  [from later- April 2023: Maybe it's the Nabataeans!]

13. Feb. 28

                    Today is Someday the Shroveteenth - or maybe not.

Shrovetide is the Pre-Lenten season or Forelent, the Christian period of preparation before Lent. I think today is Shrove Monday, alias Collop Monday, Rose Monday, Merry Monday or Hall Monday. It falls on the Monday before Ash Wednesday every year except in Leap Shroves. Since Monday comes before Tuesday, tomorrow should be Shrove Tuesday. As the Monday before Ash Wednesday, it is part of celebrations such as Mardi Gras and Carnival. Everything about Christian religious festivals during this period is confusing except maybe that "shrove" is an old past tense of "shrive", a cognate of "scribe"; thus, today is when you write down your sins so you can remember why you are contrite and penitent. All of this changes to something else (sorry for that technical term) depending on what brand, kind, or version of Christian you are. You know - Catholic, Protestant or a Quartodeciman Christian. They end the fast of Lent on the Paschal full moon of the Hebrew calendar, in order to celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread beginning on the 14th of Nisan. Oh, if you're not a Christian, that's fine. Put your head down for a while or go to study hall. Please be back by July.

14. Mar. 1                      today is Tuesday    this photo is from Sunday, Feb 27


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