Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

Miscellany Page #93
started early May 2023
to all Miscellany pages

1.    May 4
Whoopie. Well, they won, as was expected. In the midst of all the craziness, there
  were two deaths from misadventure --one from a pistol shot and one from stray
fireworks. This is also, sadly, what one expects in revelry of this nature.

2.  May 6
eonardo - Ambidextrous, yes, but Heavy on the Gauche

ROME - An Italian expert said Wednesday that a mystery regarding the Mona Lisa has been solved regarding the bridge that Leonardo da Vinci depicted in the background of the painting. That mystery has been at the center of countless disputes over the years. Latest research  identifies the real "Mona Lisa bridge" as the Romito Etruscan-Roman bridge, also known as Ponte di Valle,  in the municipality of Laterina in the province of Arezzo. Only one arch remains of the bridge today, but in the period between 1501 and 1503 the bridge was functioning and it was very busy.

———"Leo, sweetums, did you just say my face reminds you of a                     bridge? Oh, dear. Guess which World's Greatest Universal                        Genius is going to be lonesome tonight. Invent a phone so I                    can tell you not to call me."

It was precisely at the time that Leonardo was in the Val d'Arno area. The form of the
Arno along that stretch corresponds to what he painted in the landscape to the left of the woman in the painting. I take the experts' word that they have correctly identified the bridge. Don't get me wrong. I believe in such research. I think this is important. Kind of. But I'm not sure what kind of. I note the non sequitur that if you know the painter, woman, and bridge, you still don't know why Leo painted the woman and the bridge. Methinks talk of "inspiration" is a bridge too far.

3.  May 7

San Gennaro. There will a religious procession today in Naples to celebrate the Miracle of San Gennaro. There is a page on this site devoted to this patron saint of Naples. Though he isn't the only saint held venerable by the faithful, he is by far the most important. The "miracle" refers to the liquefaction of the clotted blood of San Gennaro's contained in a vial in the Naples Cathedral. There are two days when the miracle may occur: 19 Oct, the saint's name day on the Roman Catholic ecclesiastical calendar, and the Saturday before the first Sunday in May, which was yesterday, May 6, 2023. Locals have been riding a wave of euphoria lately. First, the soccer championship (item 1, above) and second, the coronation of King Charles of the UK, which, for some strange reason, is of interest to Italians. They like pomp and circumstance, the more pompous and circumstantial the better. If you are a skeptic about any of this and are happy with the vagaries of quantum entanglement, you need help.

4. May 18

            Restoration of Greek Statue Almost Complete

This statue of Hercules was found in 1864 in Rome. At the time, Rome was the capital of the Papal States, what we now call the Vatican, not a teeny-weeny anachronism, but a very large chunk of modern Italy, from south of Rome almost to Venice. It was a nation-state with a government, legislature, and king
the pope, the papa-re, the pope-king, at the time, Pope Pius IX. He was fated to be the last pope with his own state, before modern Italy came along, but he got first dibs on good relics, and he knew a good relic when he saw one. He added the statue to the papal collection.The statue is four meters tall (about 13 feet) and dates from between 100-300 AD. Romans regarded it with reverence, even awe, because it bears the inscription "FCS", standing for “fulgur conditum summanium, Latin for “Here is buried a Summanian thunderbolt.” Summanus was the ancient Roman god of  thunder. The Romans believed that an object struck by lightning was imbued with divine powers, so they put him in a marble shrine.

Time, itself, is the great enemy of art restoration
that and earlier attempts at restoration. The Vatican restoration team says  the original shows great skill in fusing mercury to gold "... “The original gilding is exceptionally well-preserved, especially for the consistency and of the most compact and solid gildings found to date." Time has encrusted the statue with countless tiny bits of, well..., crud, so they work slowly with special magnifying glasses, removing everything that is not original, to make Hercules look like he looked the day he was fused. In December you can see him shining like new. You will want to stare at him, sidle up to him. and touch him, for the call of Summanus is a strong call that will not be denied. They won't let you touch him, you fool! You will be tasered from on high by an un-Summanian AI tourist- zapper and dumped into the ox-cart with the others. OK, here's my plan...

5. May 22 - 2 items

1. Eco-Activists Are At It Again

he mayor of Rome has called upon UG (Ultina Generazione/Last generation) "activist" to cease "absurd" attacks on monuments that damage art heritage. The group has upped the ante a bit by pouring black liquid into the Four Rivers Fountain (the Trevi fountains) in Piazza Navona. That be will costly to clean. They have also sprayed the front of the Senate with red paint and stripped off half naked and halted traffic in the central Via del Tritone by rappelling down from a bridge to halt traffic on the city's 'Tangenziale' inner ring road.
                        There are earlier examples here.

2. The art exhibit, In Search of the Golden Bough, put on by the Opus Continuum art collective has been extend  until June11. Organizers report good attendance in spite of weather that has been, if you have followed recent Italian weather reports, less than ideal.

6. May 23 - 1 item

                                   How many pebbles in a stone?
                             Charles Atlas
                              "America's Most Perfectly developed Man"                          
                              was a 7-stone weakling from southern Italy
                                        I have no idea how much that is.

I didn't always look like this. I do get a kick out of seeing these older pictures of myself. Full disclosure: ok, that's not really me. But it is the man everyone knows as Charles Atlas. Why does everyone know him? Because everyone has seen some variation of the ad, one of the most successful advertising campaigns ever. It always shows a weakling whom I remember fondly as a skinny, "98-pound weakling" getting sand kicked in his face by a bully at the beach; then he sends for Chuck's body-building method, gets ripped and goes back and pounds the crap out of the bully. Here are a few points of interest about Charles Atlas:
  • He born Angelo Siciliano in 1892 in Acri, Cosenza, in the southern Italian region of Calabria. He moved with his parents to Brooklyn, NY, in 1904;
  • He was always interested in bodybuilding. He devised the "dynamic tension" method himself, though he was a big fan of earlier "physical culturists" such as Bernarr [sic] Macfadden, who later dubbed Atlas "America's Most Perfectly developed Man"; "Dynamic tension" is "isometric opposition" (press your palms together hard, hold 2 seconds. Repeat 10 times. Rest 1 minute. Repeat 10 times. Your arms will be very tired. Go have a stiff snort of alfalfa tea.
  • He legally changed his name to "Charles Atlas" after a friend told him he   looked  like the statue of Atlas on top of a hotel in Coney Island;
  •  He marketed his first bodybuilding course with health and fitness writer Frederick Tilney in November 1922;
  • Besides photographs, Atlas posed for many statues in his life, including Pietro Montana's most famous work,
    Dawn of Glory (1924) in Highland Park, Brooklyn. It's a 1-&-1/2 life-size nude, depicting the soul of a dead
    soldier wrapped in an American Flag ascending to heaven. (Montana was coincidentally another immigrant from southern Italy;
  •  Gandhi — yes, MAHATMA GANDHI!—wrote to inquire about the course;
  •  Charles Atlas Ltd. was founded in 1929. As of 2023, it still markets a fitness program for the "97-pound weakling";
 I really saw that "7-stone" ad. It was in a British paper. I can handle the metric system, but this...?
The stone (abbrev: st.) is an English and imperial unit of mass equal to 14 pounds (6.35 kg). The stone is still widely used in the UK and Ireland for human body weight: in those countries people may be said, for ex. to weigh "11 stone 4" (11 stones and 4 pounds), not "72 kilograms" as in most other countries, or "158 pounds" in the US. The correct plural is 'stone' (as in, "11 stone" or "12 stone 6 pounds"); sometimes, the plural is 'stones' (as in, "Enter your weight in stones and pounds"). In Australia and New Zealand, metrication has displaced stones and pounds since the 1970s. In many sports in Britain and Ireland, such as boxing, wrestling, and horse racing, the stone is used to express body weights. I don't know about Canada.

7. June 11
Relax! What Can Happen? or
Honey, why didn't you go before the eruption?

image is16 km/10 miles side-to-side

Media are hyperventilating about our supervolcano. "It might erupt! It hasn't blown since 1538! RUN! SCREAM!" They're not geologists, who, yes, have said pressure is building at Monte Nuovo, (shown by the white arrow). Yes, that tiny spot. Today, Monte Nuovo is a bulge on the landscape. The highest point on the rim is 130 meters asl; the diameter at the base is 1.4 km and it's 400 meters around the rim of the crater, 80 meters deep. Monte Nuovo has been an official "nature oasis" since 1996. You can walk around the rim and down into the crater, where hot vapors still escape from fumaroles. Is it cause for alarm? Yes. Our planet is very active, and volcanoes are cause for alarm. But the worst that can happen happened 40,00 years ago, the massive Campanian Ignimbrite eruption, the supervolcano, itself, was born. They are not common, but they happen. The second worst thing happened 20,000 years ago, a series of eruptions in the original crater, peppering the  area with secondary volcanic cones, craters  and everything else in this image, now called the Campi Flegrei, the Fiery Fields.
also see Campi Flegrei and Big Archie

8. June 13

                                             Where Troubles Melt Like Lemon Drops*

Genesis 9: 8-16
And God said, “I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth...never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations.

But what about volcanoes?

Isaiah 43:2  When you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.

                            *title from "Over the Rainbow" in The Wizard of Oz, 1939, MGM, music-Harold Arlen, lyrics-Yip Harburg  -
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                      Turn That Spare Lighthouse Into Cash!

That seems to be the idea of a German company, Floatel, in Berlin. Their own website gives you a look at how they're doing so far. They're up to four. There are hundreds of lighthouses in the European Mediterranean. Four is a start. This image shows the lighthouse ('faro', in Italian), on Imperatore Point (called Capo Imperatore on some maps ) on the island of Ischia. It's on the SW coast, near Maranti Beach (left of center, bottom, marked 'S. Angelo'. That is due S. on a compass.) The station is from 1884, the building from 1916. Focal plane (the line of sight as the light beam leaves the lantern) is 164 m (538 ft) a.s.l., emitting two white flashes every 15 seconds from the 13 meter (43 ft) round cylindrical masonry tower attached to the seaward side of a 2-story masonry keeper's house (still called that though there is no longer a human keeper; everything is automated).
   That keeper's lighthouse is painted white; the lantern dome is gray metallic.
It is the light on the port side (left, if you are facing forward on the approach to Ischia from the SW). It's about 35 Km (20 nautical miles) from the lighthouse at Punta Carena to the east on Capri on your starboard side, (unless you are in a rowboat coming in backwards, in which case you're on your own, pal!). The lighthouse is known for having a woman lighthouse keeper, Lucia Capuano, who took over the lonely task when her husband died in 1937. I'm not a sailor so I had to ask one; "Are these things still used?" He said, "Sure, I know we have all this GPS stuff, but smaller boats may not. Besides, it's nice to look out and see that light." This is where you come in. You can rent a room in the lighthouse, you tourist landlubber! At least I think you can. If you can't, that German company is wasting a lot of money on classy photos and videos. Don't run over there just yet. And don't fall for the other "Imperatore" hotel nearby down on the beach. You want the lighthouse(!) with all the trimmings, including your fresh cup of bilge every morning and unlimited oar-splinters. If you need exercise, you can swim to the mainland and back.

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10. July 30

Welcome to Paradise.
   or My Key doesn't Work
        or Where are the Rest of my Bags?
            or When is the Next Flight to Stockholm?
                 or, What do you mean, I'm dead?

Civil Protection Minister Nello has said that Italy is divided between extreme heat in the center and south and thunderstorms in the north. Climate change is not just something to worry about. It has already happened. "Italy must realize that it now has a tropical climate." The problem is not just a temporary heat-related emergency way down south, say, in Sicily
power cuts, water shortages, etc.but the whole country. "We've been talking about climate change for some time and have been resistant. It was something to plan for just in case. He said, "tropicalization has, indeed, arrived in Italy, and the country should take note of that... We are paying the price of climate change, and we should have started paying attention to that several years ago... Our infrastructure is not totally adequate for this new context." In other words, what we do now?

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11. July 31

What does "South Italy" Mean?

   That's a strange neologism current in various Italian sources that write in English about Italy. Why not just say "southern Italy" the way they always have. (I don't know any native speakers of English who says "I live in "South Italy" or even "the south of Italy" à la the Brits who say they are vacationing "in the south of Frahnce this year. Many of these variations are political decisions to avoid historical baggage that comes with the use of traditional names. "Southern Italy" reminds you of the old "Kingdom of Naples", alias "Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, so let's try something else. Fine.
    Every nation has these. The reasons for some of them are clear. What's the difference between "southern Africa" and "South Africa"? One is a general part of the continent, and one is the name of a nation. Some places mix the two forms; South Australia is the name of a state in that nation, but so is Western Australia. In the U.S. you have North Dakota, South Carolina, and West Virginia. What and why is there a Northern Ireland? There's a Northwestern University, near Chicago. It served the former Northwest Territory. That university has a campus in San Francisco, and it might be neat to call it Southwestern Northwestern. I called. They hung up on me  And so forth around the world. You can certainly think of many others. I don't think there are great cosmological reasons for any of this. As far as I know there is no nation, state, province, or university named "East of the Sun and West of the Moon", but there should be, and it's a lovely song,* a ready-made alma mater
* by Brooks Bowman (1934)

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12. Aug 2, 2023

The Dog Days of Summer

                Sirius rises late in the dark, liquid sky
                On summer nights, star of stars,
                Orion's Dog they call it, brightest
                Of all, but an evil portent, bringing heat
                And fevers to suffering mortals.
--The Iliad, Homer

August is the hottest month of the year. It's when all Neapolitans go somewhere to escape the heat. Those that don't are in the hospital because they collapsed from heat-stroke before they could leave. Our lore about Sirius comes mostly from Greek and Roman mythology. Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky. Its name comes from the  Greek word Σείριος, or Seirios, meaning  'glowing' or 'scorching'. Sirius is known as the "Dog Star" because it glows brightly in its constellation, Canis Major (the Greater Dog). Sirius is just rising above the horizon at the very bottom of the image on the right.   
The mythological rap is not all bad; the image on the left shows a bust of Sopdet, Egyptian goddess of Sirius and of the fertility of the Nile. So, yes, it's hot, but our land is fertile (from the flooding of the great river). When Sirius rises in the east, it is preceded by the most identifiable constellation of all, Orion, the mighty hunter. Its four corners marked by Betelgeuse (top left), Bellatrix (top right), Saiph (bottom left) Rigel (bottom right).  You can see Orion's belt in the middle and even the gaseous Orion nebula within the belt. It's a remarkable constellation. It figures prominently in the "star lore" of all cultures where people have ever stared at the night sky. I realize that this is all from UP OVER; those of you in DOWN UNDER 
may have a different point of view.

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                                                                    "Aùsto cap’ ‘e vierno"

That is a Neapolitan proverb that means, roughly, "August is the beginning of winter". History buffs know that the public holiday of Ferragosto is celebrated on August 15th in all of Italy. It originates from Feriae Augusti, the festival of emperor Augustus, who made the 1st of August a day of rest after weeks of hard work harvesting in the fields. Modern Italians have kept that tradition alive at super-markets by rejoicing and bringing in their own sheaves of neatly packaged bread. My Lady of Info, Selene Salvi, tells me that on Aug. !5th, it is traditional to have a cup of hot broth. Just drop the bullion cube into hot water. Take off the wrapper first. Ferragosto has nothing to do with the Italian word "ferro" (iron), though we used to wish one another "Happy Iron August" because it sounded masculine and really cool. It is proper to wish people Buon Ferragosto. It was a custom for the workers to wish their employers "Buon Ferragosto" and a get a bonus in return. Either that or the employer would whack the worker with an iron bar. Traditions like that are meaningful and beautiful. Sniff.

Under Mussolini workers could visit cultural cities or go to the seaside for one to three days, from the 14th of August to the 16th. There were "holiday trains" with low cost tickets. Today, Ferragosto simply means "summer holidays". That always means August, at least two weeks (and more, if you can). The choice is usually "seaside" or "mountains". Closing an entire country's economy for an entire month is not feasible, so most companies now close for about two weeks and require all workers to take a mandatory vacation, like the practice of workplaces closing between the 25th of December and the 6th of January for the "Christmas Holidays".

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                        Roberto De Simone

Various news sources have noted that Roberto De Simone (born 25 August 1933) had his 90th birthday in late August. They summarized his career as an ethnomusicologst, stage director, playwright, and composer. They went heavily on his scholarly credentials. Almost no one noted  that he had been a child-prodigy on the piano. It's funny how they turn out. Many are lop-sided.

   De Simone turned out just fine. He studied piano at the age of six, entered the Naples conservatory at 13, and at 15 performed the Mozart Piano Concerto K.466 with a cadenza he wrote himself. He would have had a good career just playing other people's music. Then he changed. He rejuvenated the cultural history of his city. This includes collecting folk tales and music, and reviving seldom-performed pieces of 18th-century Neapolitan comic operas by Pergolesi and Jomelli. He played period pieces on the harpsichord., then became active in  ethnomusical research, mainly focused on southern Italian folk music of oral tradition. In the mid-1960s he met musicians who shared that interest and that led to the foundation of the Nuova Compagnia di Canto Popolare [New Company of Popular Song], that he worked with for ten years.

He wrote, among much other work, a requiem in memory of the murdered poet Pier Paolo Pasolini, a cantata for the 17th-century Neapolitan revolutionary, Masaniello, and in 1999 a remarkable oratorio, "Eleonora," in honor of the republican heroine of the Neapolitan revolution of 1799. He served as artistic
director of the San Carlo Theater in Naples and director of the Naples Conservatory. He also composed several film scores. In 1976 he wrote the musical La Gatta Cenerentola (Cinderella the Cat), first staged at the Festival dei Due Mondi [Two Worlds] in Spoleto. For those who know the story of Cinderella only from later versions by French writer Charles Perrault, Grimms' Fairy Tales --or only from Walt Disney-- De Simone's La Gatta Cenerentola gives you even more historical perspective on Rhodopis ("Rosey-Cheeks"), told by the Greek geographer Strabo sometime between 7 BC and AD 23, about a Greek slave girls, who marries the king of Egypt. It's  the earliest  European variant of the Cinderella story. If you are a fairy-tale geek, you will recognize this as an ATU 510 A; that is, in the Aarne–Thompson–Uther Index of types used in folklore studies, this is the "Persecuted Heroine". (If you really knew that, then there is something very wrong with you, but this is about Roberto De Simone, not you and your pathetic little problems.)
I have never met De Simone, but I know somehow who has -- Marius Kociejowski, author of The Serpent Coiled in Naples. (Full disclosure: I edited it, but it's a great book anyway). He writes:

"The Ghost Palace"

    "All roads lead to Roberto De Simone, even, or perhaps especially, those with muddy ruts or strewn with pebbles.
 "It would seem there is no area of study so remote he has not gone there, and if we know as much as we do about the traditions, art and music of Campania it is largely due to his perseverance. As an ethnomusicologist his legacy is already immense. The fruits of his musical journey through Campania in the 1960s can be found in Son sei sorelle, Rituali e canti della tradizione campana [There were six sisters, traditional rituals and songs in Campania], a book and seven CDs (LPs in the first edition), which contain devotional songs to the ‘six sisters’ of the title, these being the representations of the Black Madonna, although I failed to ask him why six when seven is the number most often cited. [...]
    "De Simone will be remembered for this alone, but he is also much more, a composer, a theatre director and the author of numerous books dealing with folk ritual and music, Neapolitan song, Baroque music and theatre, Pulcinella and the history of the presepe. He is also one of the founder members of the important folk group, Nuova Compagnia di Canto Popolare. Maestro De Simone has been bestowed with many honours including the Grande Ufficiale Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana and the Chevalier de d’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. You can barely see his head for the laurels covering it, so many of them he might make a passable tree...."

    "...I had planned to take the interstices of a long life, scaffolding upon which to construct a picture of
Naples and determine his stature. But the maestro wasn’t having any of that...."

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A Tale of Two Cities

Funeral in Naples for Murdered Musician

“Giovanni was harmony and beauty. We must not succumb to this criminal savagery. Look, that kid worked in a bar to make money to pay for music lessons. Enough of this! Italy has to open some doors for these young people!
 --Riccardo Muti - Neapolitan, renowned conductor, and founder of a prominent youth orchestra.

The San Carlo theater held tributes to the young horn player, Giovanbattista "Giogiò" Cutolo, all week. He was shot and killed by three bullets in the back last Thursday near San Carlo theater in Naples, adjacent to Piazza del  Plebi- -scito, the largest public venue in the city. It was due to a piddling but heated discussion over a parking space. The assailant was a 16-year-old juvenile delinquent with a long rap sheet. Cutolo's girl friend was with him at the time and saw it all as did surveillance video cameras, which run 24/7 in that square. The killer confessed.                                      
Giogiò's mother shown taking his horn into the church of Gesù Nuovo where she will lay it in his coffin.

Cutolo was a horn player for the youth orchestra of the Nuova Orchestra Scarlatti, where he debuted in 2016. They are
not paid. He was getting ready for the big jump to the pros. The funeral procession to the church of Gesù Nuove (top photo) was yesterday, Sept. 6, 2023. Rest in Peace.

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