Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

This is Miscellany Page #94
started Sept. 9, 2023
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                    Let Us Now Praise Tom & Jerry

spend time in the archives of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer historical archives, namely, old cartoons. MGM produced a series of 161 comedy shorts beginning in 1940, including Tom and Jerry, about the rivalry between a cat named Tom and a mouse named Jerry (who has a tiny side-kick, Nibbles). Those characters were created by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. They fleshed out Tom & Jerry's on-screen personas such that they were "the best of enemies", with an unspoken amount of mutual caring and respect for one another, life-affirming values we should seek to emulate.
   Despite their endless, violent attacks on one another, Tom & Jerry saved each other's lives when they were in real danger, except in The Two Mouseketeers (shown). It's a spoof of Alexandre Dumas' 1844 novel The Three Musketeers. But it has an unusually morbid ending. It was released in 1952 and was the 65th Tom and Jerry short. The morbid ending shows Jerry and Nibbles, walking triumphantly down the street with some stolen banquet food. Suddenly, they look up and see a guillotine in the distance. There's a drum-roll. The blade rises up and comes down, strongly suggesting that Tom (taken prisoner earlier by guards) has been executed. Both mice gulp, and Nibbles sighs and says: "Pauvre, pauvre pussycat." ("Poor, poor pussycat.") Then he shrugs, saying: "C'est la guerre!" ("That's war!"). After that, the Two Mouseketeers continue their victory march.  Nibbles speaks French in this short and was voiced by six-year-old Francoise Brun-Cottan, who was six when she did the dubbing. She was born in Paris and grew up as an English-French bilingual.

 Tom and Jerry in Naples

"Neapolitan Mouse" was released on 2 October 1954, thus the 86th T&J 1-reeler, right after the ominous "morbid" one (directly above). By 1954 all animation studios had to adjust to the growing popularity of television by a two-format product for viewing in a theater or on home tv. They did a fine job. Here our heroes run around and see the sights of Naples. The illustrations are precise! Superb! I have seen personally every one of those sights and the animators spared no detail. They're artists and proud of what they do. Here T&J are led around by an Italian mouse, fortunately named "Topo" [mouse]. Topo explains that he's a huge fan of their cartoons and befriends them. Topo shows the duo the sights and treats them to local delicacies. They meet and vanquish some shady characters (dogs! boo-hiss!). However, with the help of some very large cheeses that send the dogs into the Bay of Naples, Tom,  Jerry, and Topo emerge victorious, just before Tom and Jerry's ship departs for America. They had fun. So will you.  Before you come to Naples, watch this cartoon!

    [Thanks to Jeff Miller for telling me about this item.]

                                                Sound: special effects, music

All films need sound, if only simple human speech. Cartoons require special attention.

(1) Very violent cartoons, such as Tom & Jerry need everything from screams to the sound of frying pans smashing into faces. It's tricky.  The whistles, footsteps, thuds and glass breaking is done by the "Foley" artists (named for Jack Foley). They have a lot of fun rehearsing at home:
"Dear, did that sound like glass breaking?
"Of course it did, you moron! You just broke our window!

 The divorce rate is high.

(2) MGM had two prominent composers for cartoon music: Scott Bradley and, later, Carl Stalling. The music for the cartoons I mention here is credited to Scott Bradley (1891–1977) an accomplished and respected musician. I expected most of the music in Neapolitan Mouse to be anonymous mandolin noodling, possibly "'o sole mio". Simple connection -- music/Naples. Neapolitan Mouse has the usual array of Foley effects, and the speech has "Topo" speaking first in Italian and then English, but there is no anonymous mandolin music. It's all Foley and squeak-speak except one song, a famous Neapolitan song. Topo sings it as he dances around waxing sentimental about his beloved Naples. It is misnamed even by some Neapolitans as "Oi Marì" but the published title is "Maria, Marì", music by Vincenzo Russo, lyrics by Eduardo Di Capua (1899).
(The typeface in this image is hard to read because it's German sheet music, still using  "Fraktur"-typeface, very awkward to read. They gave that up in 1941. They really gave it up in 1945. They're confused. About a lot of things)
The first cartoon (above), The Two Mouseketeers, made me brush up on the Thirty Years' War, when Catholics and Protestants were so thorough at slaughtering each other that it took them that long to finish. For one thing, I learned that cardinals who served the kings of France all looked the same. (The one shown here happens to be Jules Mazarin (1602-1661) (originally Giulio Mazzarino from Italy, who negotiated successfully to end The Thirty Year's War.) I don't know that I learned anything of real value from Disney cartoons except maybe that grown ducks should certainly wear pants. Warner Bros. Looney Tunes? Ok, a chance to hear the famous "voice of a thousand faces", Mel Blanc, who voiced all those cartoon characters but one. (Spoiler: I'm not going to tell you. OK, it was Robin William's favorite voice.** I'll give you a hint. Close your eyes. Elmer Fudd*. But I am truly indebted to Tom and Jerry.
*Elmer Fudd was voiced by Arthur Q. Bryant.
**That line was, "Be vewy quiet. I'm hunting wabbit."

Speech pathologists do not call this English speech disorder "Fudd-speak"! It is "Rhotacism" and means you can't pronounce the letter /r/ and usually substitute /w/. The letter /r/ is an unstopped (or "liquid") consonant and has many variations: the single /r/ as in "read" can turn into an intervocalic "flap" /d/ in British English when they say /The Amedicans/. "R" is also trilled in other languages. The trill is a very energetic sound in Italian and Spanish. It's almost a "super-trill" - /r-r-r-r-r/ where the tongue slaps the alveolar ridge (that bump behind your teeth) 5 or 6 times (yes, phoneticians count them!). The impediment is common in Italian; 20% of Italians have it and call it a "soft R". My cousin , Fedewiko is "rhotacistic". I used to ask him to say "il frigorifero è di ferro" (the fridge is made of iron) just so I could laugh. He stopped inviting me over a few decades ago when I started calling him"Elmer". Sorehead.

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OK, some of this is satire.

                        Speaking of The Thirty Year's War

                        The Pope Sucker-Punches "Rocky" In the Vatican Museum!

Sylvester Stallone visited The Vatican on Friday, September 8, where he found, to his surprise, that Pope Francis is a huge fan of his films. The veteran actor was introduced, along with his wife, daughters and brother to a smiling Pontiff. A video shows a smiling Pope telling Stallone that he is a longtime fan. Then the Pope squared around and punched Stallone! That's right — the Pope slugged him! It was a friendly gesture that said, "Wanna go a few rounds?" The atmosphere changed when Stallone said he had come to inform the Pope that he (Stallone) had become a Lutheran! The Pope unsmiled and picked up Stallone and body-slammed him to the deck. This doesn't jibe with most histories of The Thirty Year's War, which was a direct result of the  Defenestration of Prague in 1618 (shown), when Protestants started tossing Catholics out of the window. To "defenestrate" means to "dewindow". Still a nice word, though.

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                                        Novella Caligaris, Still Swimming

Currently, Novella Caligaris, now 68, heads the Italian Olympic Athletes Association. At her competitive swimming peak some years ago, she was Italy's first Olympic swimming medalist.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of her beating the world 800m freestyle record at the world championships in Belgrade in 1973. During her career Caligaris won 76 national titles and set 82 national and 21 European records. She last competed in 1974 and then retired to coaching and working with the junior national team in Rome. In 1986 she was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
Last week, in celebration of some of that, she went out for a leisurely fun swim --across the straits of Messina; it's only three miles (or "oh, just over there", as swimmers say; that is, from the Italian mainland to Sicily. You know, where they want to put that bridge (artist's version shown. It isn't there yet. They call it "The Little Bridge that Couldn't".) I guess she'll cross that bridge (or swim under it) when they build it. "I don't know the time I set, and I don't care. We stopped, we laughed. It wasn't a competition. We had fun."  My question: Does "free-style" mean I can doggie-paddle if I want?)
        (photo: Caligaris with an unnamed safety swimmer. That's a good rule; no matter who you are or how many medals
         you have, never swim alone.)                                                            (photo credit, left - la Repubblica)

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Poems are Made by Fools like Me,
But the City Council Can Kill a Tree. --apology to Joyce Kilmer

To be fair, the Naples city council is not killing a tree of overwhelming importance
not "the Forbidden Tree of Man's first Disobedience and the Fruit whose Mortal Taste Brought Death into the World"   or the Scandinavian Yggdrasil, whose boughs reach unto Heaven. To be more than fair, it's not only one tree; they just want to finish off the remaining 80 pine trees still left on Posillipo ridge. Sawing is to begin in early 2024. Media have reacted with melancholy. The Pinus pinea (stone pine) was the icon of Naples. A shot of a pine tree, taken up there with Vesuvius in the background --that was the postcard that went with and to millions of Italian emigrants around the world for a century. (The one shown here The Pine of Naples, taken by Giacomo Brogi (1822-1881) was located on Via Minucio Felice, near the church of Sant'Antonio in Posillipo. It was planted after 1855. By 1984 that tree had fallen ill and was removed. Then, a new Pine of Naples was planted in 1995 by the Environmental League, which still celebrates the event. They will probably fight to keep at least one Pinus pinea up there. It's our tree!

here is evidence from plant pathologists (these are people, as opposed to the city council, who actually know what a tree is) that this stand of trees was at the end of the line anyway. There is a parasite on the loose in them which is particularly resistant. We need more biodiversity up here.
Don't worry. We'll have trees, just not the kind you're used to. We'll put in some maple and... well, you'll see. The first thing is get rid the unsightly  tree stumps that are sticking up everywhere (shown).

p.s. Why don't the iconoclasts of the city council take away Vesuvius and be done with it?  Well, volcanoes do have an interesting method of defending themselves.

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A Plight at the Opera?

There are some musical things that crop up in keeping an opera company going. But you should be fine if you have a good orchestra conductor. This year Naples has Dan Ettinger. He has an international reputation and has conducted in Stockholm, New York, Covent Garden in London, Paris, Zurich, Vienna, and Israel. Now, Naples has him for a while. Welcome.
   The non-musical problems are such things as The roof is leaking; We have to install new fire exits; We need new Handicapped Parking stripes out in front, etc. The person who takes care of that is the Sovrintendente
(Superintendent) del Teatro. He or she is the Trouble-Shooter. They go from place to place, fixing what they can, sustain the sustainable, and then ride off into the sunset. Naples now has Carlo Fuortes. He has been renominated and reconfirmed, and apparently likes the challenge of smoothing over  frequent situations such as the one shown in the image, which developed when the second violinist's wife discovered...well, it's complicated. Fuortes will handle it. He's in the image somewhere.

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note: Today's date, Sept.19, is the traditional date for the "Miracle of San Gennaro". If you are unfamiliar with that topic,
there is an
entire explanation at this link.  The announcement that the miracle had, indeed, occurred came quite early in
the morning today. The occasion was more emotional than usual because the subsequent procession was accompanied by
the Scarlatti Youth Orchestra, a member of which, Giovanni Cutolo, a young horn player, was viciously murdered three weeks
ago In Naples. The city, in a very real sense, is still in shock over that.

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5. RIP   Richard Kidder

It pains me greatly to report the death of Richard Kidder. He died in Naples on Sept. 19,  2023 from complications due to Parkinson's disease. He was a dear friend. He was also a literary scholar of precision, clarity and erudition.* He was a kind and gentle man who brought a powerful intellectual spirit to our community. We will miss him greatly. He is survived in Naples by his wife, Carolina, and their daughter, Anna. He was 71.
*Richard wrote for a nearly invisible market, that of English-language academic books published in Italy. There is a list of 17 of his books published between 1999 and 2019 at this link.

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6. Mr. Noodle Head

Mr. Noodle-Head is in a delightful shop in the historic center of Naples. It is as close as we come in Naples to the works of Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1526–1593). He was a Renaissance painter best known for imaginative portraits of heads made entirely of fruits, vegetables, flowers, and fish.     

Born in Milan, he initially served as a court painter for the Habsburg monarchs in Vienna and Prague. His work was largely forgotten after his death, and many of his works were lost. They were not mentioned in the literature of the 1600s and 1700s. Interest picked up in the late 1800s. This pen-and-watercolor self-portrait by Arcimboldo is from the 1570s and is now in the National Gallery in Prague. The Wikipedia entry on him has a small gallery of his works.

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The Island...  Against Child Abuse (Italian: l'isola che c'è) is a local group, importantly part of global efforts to
protect and rehabilitate abused children. If you know very little about the problem, this Wikipedia entry is depressingly
complete. That is off-site at their link, here: 
    This, their lead will give you an idea:

"Child abuse (...) is physical, sexual, and/or psychological maltreatment or neglect of a child (..)especially by a
parent or a caregiver. It may include any act or failure to act by a parent or a caregiver that results in actual or
potential harm to a child and might occur at home, at school, or in communities the child interacts with.
In Italy, "l'Isola che c'è" is a nation-wide group with affiliates in major cities, including Naples. Their national
literature states:
"We have been in existence since 2008. Our purpose is to help abused children and help them, their families and caregivers by providing workshops, discussion group, and activities. We aim to help children live their young lives away from violence. We coordinate with local Social Health serves."
In Naples the "Island" opened in May 2023 in rooms of the church of Maria dell’Ippodromo in Agnano at via Ruggiero 211. The rooms were donated by the diocese of Pozzuoli. (If the name of the church sounds odd, yes, 'Ippodromo' means 'racetrack'; thus the church is named Santa Maria of the Race Track. It's in one of the most densely populated areas in Europe, only a few meters from where they still play the ponies. Kids can watch horses and there are a few patches of greenery. But no violence. Ever again.

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As globalization has sunk its vast talons into our once diverse cultures, I have grown accustomed to seeing, for example, St. Valentine’s Day celebrated in Naples. So when I saw the first Halloween decorations go up around town some years ago, I shrugged it off as just another glum harbinger of the day when we shall all — Neapolitans and Australian Bakanambians alike— sit around the campfire on St. Patrick’s Day, nibble on our traditional Finnish karjalanpiirakka and sing Dixie.

And yet, there really is a local Halloween, of sorts, near Naples. It's when witches and spooks come out at certain times and gather by the sacred Walnut Tree and do things that I am not at liberty to reveal (except that they dance and no doubt take shots of their famous and potent inebriating beverage, Strega [witch]. That place is Benevento in the hills about 30 miles (50 km) northeast of Naples. It is the capital city of the province of the same name, still in the Campania region of Italy and, they say,  founded by Diomedes after the Trojan War.
                                                                     (The complete item, much longer and thorough, is here.)

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9 . 

Today, November 4, is National Unity and Armed Forces Day in Italy, first proclaimed in 1919. It commemorates the victory in World War I, an event considered, besides a "World War",  the completion of the unification of Italy. WWI may also be referred to as the 4th War of Italian Unification. Specifically, it marks the armistice of Villa Giusti in 1918 declaring Austria-Hungary's surrender. It is appropriate to take a look at one of the most interesting persons in much of that Italian history, Francesco De Sanctis, a towering intellectual and scholar of  the
Italian language and of Italian literature. He was a social activist and believer in the
values of democracy, which put him on a collision course with all sorts of people.
He was a trouble-maker. His complete story is here.

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