Sunday, December 26, 2010

CHAIR IN POLITICAL ECONOMY

Antonio Genovesi (1713-69) was one of the principal figures in
the Neapolitan Enlightenment and reform movement in the second half of the eighteenth century. He held the chair of economics in the University of Naples (it was then called "commerce and mechanics" and was the first of its kind in Europe) from 1754 till his death.
Genovesi recognised the backwardness of the Reign of Naples vis-à-vis other European States and was critical of its economic, social, and political reality. By this term he meant that Naples' problems could not be understood or solved in strictly economic terms but involved social, political, and cultural spheres as well. Furthermore, "civil economy" combined ethical dimensions including justice, government duties to and its relantionship with the people, and human needs and motivations. Indeed "civil economy" constituted the pinnacle of Genovesi's studies and thought: "a point of convergence of many themes". Eluggero Pii, in Antonio Genovesi dalla politica economica alla "politica civile", argues that a more proper expression for all that Genovesi meant to say by "civil economy" would be "civil policy" and concludes that it served as a basis for his innovative efforts.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Saturday, December 4, 2010

GIFFONI HAZELNUT

Hazelnuts have always been present in Campania; so much so that this region is said to be have the oldest history of hazelnut cultivation in Italy. From the third century BC onwards, numerous Latin writers and poets, from Cato to Virgil and Pliny, attest to its presence in Campania and in the excavations in Herculaneum there is a brightly coloured fresco portraying hazelnuts. We have to wait until the Middle Ages, however, to find definite information about specialised hazelnut growing in Campania. In the Irno and Picentini valleys in the province of Salerno, the Tonda di Giffoni (Giffoni Round), one of the best Italian varieties, originates and grows. Thanks to its excellent quality, it achieved the well-deserved IGP recognition in 1997. Already towards the end of the eighteenth century Vincenzo De Caro, a historian from Salerno, wrote about his homeland, the Giffoni area: "it is known to all that the hazelnut tree flourishes wonderfully in most areas of our property". A happy encounter that gave rise to a hazelnut with extraordinary morphological and organoleptic characteristics. This hazelnut has all the best qualities of a product for industrial processing, especially its shape and the ease with which it can be peeled. The Tonda di Giffoni is round, with a minimum calibre of 18 millimetres; the shell is medium thick and light brown with dark streaks. The shelled seed is round with white, firm and aromatic flesh, an internal skin that is easy to remove and a flavour that consumers particularly like. It resists well to roasting and ensures excellent quality products (pasta, chopped nuts and whole hazelnuts) mainly used for high quality confectionery, which is why it is in such high demand by this industry. The Giffoni hazelnut is still widely cultivated today, especially in its area of origin, the Irno Valley and the Monti Picentini, where there are the 12 communes of the IGP label.

Friday, November 26, 2010

CORYLUS AVELLANA

Hazel, also called Cobnut and Filbert, (Corylus avellana). Corylus (pronounced koril-us): possibly from the Greek korys, a hood or helmet, as in the calyx covering the nut, or the Greek karyon, a hazel nut, and avellana (pronounced av-el-la-na): after Avella [Abella, a town of Campania, northeast of Nola, founded by a colony from Chalcis], where the hazel was largely grown for its nuts.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

POMPEIAN RED

An Italian researcher has discovered the formula of Pompeian red, the shiny and intense color that dominated Pompeii's wall paintings 2,000 years ago. Buried in the catastrophic eruption in 79 A.D., the brilliant red has been preserved forever by Mount Vesuvius's lava and still makes an impressive show of itself in several frescoes.
It abounds on the walls of the Villa of Mysteries — making the enigmatic pictorial cycle one of the most vibrant and intense of the ancient world.
"Though it consists of simple cinnabar pigment, Pompeian red is really unique. It certainly stands out when compared to normal cinnabar paint layers," Daniela Daniele, a researcher working at Berlin's Staatliche Museen, told Discovery News.
Aiming to discover the causes of the dramatically different chromatic effect resulting from the use of the same mineral pigment, Daniele analyzed the stratigraphies of some samples from Pompeian villas featuring the unique red and compared them to other ancient Roman wall paintings containing normal cinnabar paint layers. Cinnabar is mercuric sulfide, the principal ore contained in mercury.
It emerged that in the case of Pompeian red, natural cinnabar was processed with particular care, which included what Daniele calls "purification, grinding and dimensional control." "The finer the grains are, the more brilliant and covering the color is. But there is much more. In my microscope observations, I detected a bimodal granulometry with 10-15 micron crystals acting as shiny particles in a matrix of finer grains," Daniele said.
Basically, the ancient Romans simply added some bigger grains to the finely processed cinnabar powder, made of grains measuring about 2-3 microns. The result was a glittering surface that did not loose its saturated red tone.
According to Bernardo Marchese of Naples University Federico II's materials engineering department, cinnabar red required careful processing indeed. "The pigment was used in lime medium, and had to be liquid enough to be applied in paint layers on the wall surface ... . The final result was subjected to wax polishing, in order to prevent alterations, especially when the color was applied on outside walls," Marchese and colleagues wrote in the catalogue of the Pompeii exhibit "Homo Faber: Nature, Science and Technology in a Roman Town."
Daniele's analysis showed that, on the contrary, samples of normal cinnabar paint layers featured just a light processing of the pigment. Cinnabar powder made of larger grains measuring between 10 and 25 microns turned out to be more transparent and dull, producing a color similar to a red ochre, the researcher said. "It shows that Pompeian red is really special. It represents the height of the ancient Roman's mastery in making colors," Daniele said.

Friday, November 5, 2010

ELIO CACCAVALE

Elio Caccavale was born in 1975 in Naples, Italy. He studied Product Design at Glasgow School of Art before going on to the Royal College of Art to complete a Masters degree in Design Products. Elio’s work is in the permanent collection of MoMA in New York and has been published by Phaidon, Thames & Hudson, Die Gestalten Verlag dgv, MIT Press and Centre Pompidou. Elio is also the founder of Elio Caccavale Design Studio, a product and interaction design studio working across a wide variety of projects, including electronics and forecasting research.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

FIBREGLASS BOAT

The first fibreglass boat to be ever produced in Europe was manufacted in the Fiart Mare yard beautifully located in the exclusive gulf of Baia. [...]
In the late 1950's Fiart Mare produced the first GRP boat in Europe. Although the little boat only measured 4 meters (13 ft.), it was very much a technology breakthrough. Since this time the company has gone from strenght to strenght and today produces ultra-stylish power boats that range in size from 5.68 to 15.45 metres (18.6 to 50.6 ft.).

Sunday, October 3, 2010

NEAPOLITAN MASTIFF

Experts of this particular breed more or less agree on its origin in Asian regions, mainly in Tibet highlands from where it later spread all over the world, in Europe mostly, following various directions. The history of the ancient molossian, to which it is connected the one of the Neapolitan Mastiff, follows the history and the most important phases of the human adventure.
This was the ancestor of the most powerful war dog in the world, the Macedonian molossians that were applied as sheer war machines in the big and devastating wars of those times in that area. These marvellous animals were lead to Rome where they were trained to combat in circuses, where numerous exhibitions and dreadful fightings were taken, usually against wild beasts or men. During the centuries in Rome dogs mixed with either Celtic dogs from the North, that had spread in Rome thanks to the victories of Caesar in the Gallic wars or with the great molossian of Epirus that trade exchanges with Phoenician ships in the Mediterranean had favoured.
In the following centuries these molossians were mainly reared in the south of Italy, as it was in that area, in the region Campania actually, that the famous Gladiator schools, like the one in Capua, were held. Afterwards the various rules in the south of Italy played a considerable role for the breed: for instance, the kings of Spain introduced the dogs of the ‘conquistadores’ with big head and short legs. They were called ‘perro da presa’, that is ‘lurcher’, modified into the present Neapolitan slang ‘ cane e presa’.
This breed was later given the name of ‘Mastiff’ from ‘massatinus’, the guardian of the ‘masseria’. At the beginning of the 20th century this breed was applied just to watch the Neapolitan farm hinterland; during the 1st World War it was drastically cut down and only few examples survived. Only in 1946, however, Mr Piero Scanziani, an important Italian expert in this field, and a writer by profession, discovered this ancient molossian in Naples.

Friday, September 10, 2010

SALVATOR ROSA

Salvator Rosa (Arenella, Naples 1615 - Rome 1673) was one of the boldest and most powerfully inventive artists and personalities of the Italian 17th century.
He invented new types of painting: allegorical pictures, distinguished by a haunting and melancholy poetry; fanciful portraits of romantic and enigmatic figures; macabre and horrific subjects; philosophical subjects, which bring into painting some of the major philosophical and scientific concerns of his age. His early works, particularly the landscapes, are bright and rich in picturesque motifs - crumbling towers, boats on the sea shore, colourful travellers crossing perilous bridges, bandits lying in wait in rocky ravines. But he moved towards a grander style, and his mature art is characterised by his dazzlingly free technique, and by his rich chiaroscuro and dark but strong colours which create a suggestive atmosphere.
No other artist has created windswept landscapes of such expressive and emotional power, or figures of such dark and brooding intensity. Rosa invented an emphasis on freedom and sincerity. He aimed to intrigue powerful patrons by his mysterious and independent personality. Unlike Caravaggio, Rosa was truly a rebel, radical, anti-clerical, associated with libertine thought, and often in very real danger from the Inquisition.

Friday, August 27, 2010

CARLO GESUALDO

He's the Italian composer-prince who murdered his wife and her lover, was into wild bouts of self-flagellation, and who at the end of the 16th century wrote some of the most chromatic vocal music ever conceived in self-pitying lamentation for his human condition.
That's the myth, at least, but a brilliant new book by Glenn Watkins, The Gesualdo Hex, reveals there's much more to the story.
Despite the dazzling harmonic shifts in Gesualdo's fifth and sixth books of madrigals, his music was so extreme that some 20th-century critics and composers believed him to be a proto-serialist, going further than any composer before Schoenberg in mining the expressive potential of saturated dissonance. Watkins goes on, fascinatingly, to chart how the story of Gesualdo and his music has enthralled and inspired 20th- and 21st-century creatives, from Stravinsky to Boulez, Andriessen to Brett Dean, Werner Herzog to Ian Rankin.
Watkins wants us to understand Gesualdo in the context of his time, to reveal the man behind the myths, and to allow him to change in our perceptions from crazed musical psychopath to culturally comprehensible composer. And yet the hex, the essential mystery and enchantment of his music, remains.
Glenn can tell us how Gesualdo does it, analytically speaking, but nothing can prepare you for the visceral magic of this music's dark power.

Friday, August 20, 2010

BATTENTI

Since centuries, every seven years in Guardia Sanframondi, a small village located upon the Mountain of Benevento area, the whole community says for a week an impressive meaculpa, which involves a thousands of people, in the name of the Assunta (Our Lady of Assumption). The myth’s origins go back to Carlo Magno Age, when the Assunta’s statue miraculously appeared from the earth. The legend tells that some farmers were working in the fields when the cows stopped to drag the plough and they kneeled down. Then, a hand came out from the earth at the point where the animals stopped. People started to dig and the Madonna came out from there blessing all the people and recovering a blind man. The people from the village tried to carry the statue to the town but the Madonna suddenly become incredibly heavy as to show a precise will. Some farmers started to beat their breast until they bled and the Madonna suddenly became light. This is the story of a devotion that still exists. (...)
The misteri go in procession all day long. The moment waited for seven years occurs when the mistero entitled “San Girolamo penitente” (Saint Girolamo the penitent) goes away from the cluster and it passes in front of the church’s entrance. That is the time when the head of the battenti says: “With faith and courage, Brothers, beat yourself in the name of the Assunta!”. A thousand hooded people respond by beating their breast three times at the same time with a special penance instrument that is called “spugnetta”, a cork disk with thirty-three points. The blood already changes the white tunics into red; the battenti run out of the church and they start to go along the town’s streets toward the mountain, in order to symbolically represent the ascent to the Golgotha. When they reached the top of the town, a gun shot advices them that the Virgin left the church to join them. At that time, the battenti kneel down doubling the force of the blow to start their procession very soon later. They start to go down in order to meet the Assunta. That meeting always happens in the town centre, between the castle and the Fontana dell’Olmo. The battenti kneel down one after the other, while the blood starts to pour again.The meeting with the Madonna represents the closing phase of the ritual; after that, the battenti go away to go back in the procession but with their usual dress. It is very difficult to recognize them among the people crying and praying in the crowd, while they take the Madonna back to the darkness that will keep Her for the next seven years.

Friday, August 13, 2010

MAGIC RING

"See Naples, and die!" an English writer has said; as if it were the crown and summit of all earthy beauty.
To the Mozarts it seemed as such. The splendid situation of Naples, the beauty of the city and its surroundings, the wonderful atmosphere, and the warm welcome they received at all hands, made it appear, as Madame Uslinghi had said, almost a Paradise.
[...] At Naples, which was their next stopping-place, Wolfgang played at the Conservatorio alla Pietà before a brilliant gathering, and excited so much astonishment that several of the audience openly declared that his powers were derived from a ring which he wore upon his finger. 'He wears a charm!' they cried; and when Mozart, hearing their remarks, smilingly laid aside the supposed magic ring, and played even more brilliantly than before, the enthusiasm was redoubled.
After this the Neapolitans vied with one another to show them honour and attention. A carriage was provided for their use, in which they drove about amongst the fashionable crowds on the Strada Nuova and the quay, on which occasions Leopold wore a maroon-coloured coat of watered silk, with sky-blue facings, and Wolfgang one of apple-green, with rose-coloured facings and silver buttons.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

PINK MARTINI

Una notte a Napoli
Con la luna ed il mare
Ho incontrato un angelo
Che non poteva più volar
Una notte a Napoli
Delle stelle si scordò
E anche senza ali
In cielo mi portò

Con lui volando
lontano dalla terra
Dimenticando le
tristezze della sera
In paradiso, oltre le nuvole
Pazza d'amore come le lucciole

Quanto tempo può durare?
Quante notti da sognare?
Quante ore, quanti giorni
E carezze infinite
Quando ami da morire
Chiudi gli occhi e non pensare
Il tempo passa, l'amore scompare
E la danza finirà!

Una notte a Napoli
Con la luna ed il mare
Ho incontrato un angelo
Che non poteva più volar

Una notte a Napoli
Delle stelle si scordò
E anche senza ali
In cielo mi portò

Tristemente tutto deve finire

Ma quando il cuore mi ha spezzato
Ed in cielo mi ha abbandonato
Adesso sulla terra son tornata
Mai più di amare mi
sono rassegnata

Ma guardo su!

Quanto tempo può durare?
Quante notti da sognare?
Quante ore, quanti giorni
E carezze infinite?
Quando ami da morire
Chiudi gli occhi e non pensare
Il tempo passa, l'amore scompare
E la danza finirà!

Una notte a Napoli
Con la luna ed il mare
Ho incontrato un angelo
Che non poteva più volar
Una notte a Napoli
Delle stelle si scordò
E anche senza ali

In cielo mi portò

In cielo mi portò
In cielo mi portò
In cielo mi portò

Sunday, July 18, 2010

GENNARO ESPOSITO

Several years ago, a young man with a passion for cooking, Gennaro Esposito met French gastronomy supremo Alain Ducasse - and wowed him with is cooking. Professional experience in Monaco and France ensued, and then Sr Esposito returned to his native Campania to open a restaurant in a Saracen tower by the sea.
Madness, many people thought. Sr Esposito proved them wrong. Nearly 17 years later, La Torre del Saracino is firmly established as one of Italy's best restaurants. Expect fresh local ingredients artfully prepared to combine and preserve their flavours.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

TIME OUT

Naples is different. Visitors seduced by the elegance of the rest of Italy come to Napoli and find its stark juxtaposition of the beautiful and the grotesque either a slap in the face or, for others, a head-spinning party. Explanations as to why Naples is like this vary. It may be the effect of sitting under Mount Vesuvius, Europe’s largest active volcano. It may be the mix of Greeks, Romans, Normans, Saracens, Angevins, Napoleonic French and Bourbon Spanish that went into the city of today. One way or another, history has made Naples a highly singular place.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

DELIZIA AL LIMONE

Along the panoramic road linking Sorrento with the enchanting town of Massa Lubrense, in the village of Villazzano, it is easy to recognize one of the most famous restaurants in the Sorrento Coast, the Restaurant Antico Francischiello.
100 years of experience, three large finely furnished lounges, one of which with a breathtaking view on Capri, a warm ambience: this is the winning formula of the Restaurant, ideal location for any kind of banquet or ceremony, dinners for congresses or simply to taste the dishes of the Neapolitan gastronomical tradition.
[...] Reputedly where the celebrated dessert delizia al limone was first served.

Friday, June 4, 2010

GO SOUTH

Neapolitan by birth, Fabio Quagliarella received his footballing education in the youth ranks at Torino, stepping out in Serie A at the tender age of 16 and a half, albeit without much success.
Joint-owned by two different clubs, he endured something of a footballing odyssey in the next few seasons, spending two campaigns with Serie C outfit Chieti and one term with Torino before returning to the top tier with Ascoli.
The constant changes did little to help the forceful striker's career although he eventually found consistent scoring form with Sampdoria, hitting 13 goals in 35 matches in 2006/07. His two owners failed to come to an agreement about his future, however, and he was finally sold to Udinese, where he would form one of the most prolific partnerships in Serie A with Antonio Di Natale.
Happy to play as a second striker or in a wide role in the right, Quagliarella is known for his fierce shot and ability to hit the target from distance with unerring accuracy.
The scorer of a brace on his debut in the blue of Italy, he was named in Roberto Donadoni's squad for UEFA EURO 2008. Since then, the striker has made yet another move, landing in the south of Italy with club side Napoli.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

BLUE LIZARD

Podarcis siculus is a lacertid lizard characterised by considerable variability in coloration pattern. In this species underside is usually whitish or greyish, always without dark spots. However, in some small island populations from Italy individuals can be allochromatic, i.e. completely black (melanic), bluish, or with a blue belly (e.g. the famous “blue lizard” – P. siculus coerulea - from Faraglione di Fuori and Faraglione di Mezzo islets, near Capri Island, Campania, southern Italy).
It must be noted that, in some cases at least, melanic individuals can be observed also in continental areas (e.g. Roscigno, Campania, southern Italy).
The evolutionary significance of the allochromatic patterns is still unclear, and some hypotheses were done to explain their origin.
(...) In Campania individuals with bluish or dark underside were observed both on small islands and on some continental areas. However, in continental areas the frequency of allochromatic individuals seems to be lower than on islands.
It is noteworthy that the P. siculus populations from Campania, which are characterized by a high degree of phenotypic plasticity also in the pattern of the upper parts, have levels of genetic variability higher than those found in the morphologically low variable populations from central and northern Italy.

Friday, May 14, 2010

NEAPOLITAN TAILORING SCHOOL

Born in 1975 in Pompeii, near Naples, Francesco Scognamiglio opened his first atelier when he was 23.
Since then his career has been constantly on the rise thanks to his designs often characterised by a strange dichotomy between research, experimentation and avant-garde inspirations on one side and the traditional principles of the Neapolitan tailoring school on the other.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

SUD

Mario Schiano's CD retrospective continues on Splasch with this issue of dates from the '70s. Three quintets, two octets, and two big band recordings all focus on one important aspect of Schiano's oeuvre: his use of folk song as a means of composition and as a jumping point for improvisation. The most satisfying tracks here are all of them. In each setting, Schiano's voice rises above the choir of horns and winds and rhythm and leads the way to swinging-out fest. A stellar example is the title track, led off by Alfonso Viera's drums. The theme is cinematic, like John Barry meeting Basie for an adventure soundtrack. But Schiano's composition also holds within it various Italian folk songs, ballads, and a stirring tarantella played out by the brass section against a 12/8 rhythm before it segues into a samba and then a blues before the soloists carry it to the outer limits. Even here, with different musics sliding in and out of the mix -- seamlessly -- Schiano's own solo holds the folk song hostage for moment before freeing it up in a swirl of spattered, bleated notes and tonal extremes -- swinging all the while. The adventure theme returns one last time before the tune just exhausts itself and slips minimally into a gorgeous orchestral reading of "Lover Man." Shimmering cymbals, timbral whispers, sheeny brass, and a quivering baritone usher in a forlorn reading of the harmony by the brass section while Schiano solos blues tall and bluesy up front. Other saxophonists are playing multiphonics in the background while a guitarist scrapes his strings atonally, but softly, behind the band's unifying harmonics. Only Schiano plays the dissident, and he's so lyrical and throaty it doesn't matter because he falls silky into the warm soft blanket the orchestra has created for him. With a Gil Evans-styled chart from the middle section to the fade, Schiano and his orchestra surrey forth with velvety elegance and grace while staying so far outside the traditional structures of the tune you wonder if it might be Sun Ra covering it. This is an awesome, warm, and edifying album, one of Schiano's best.

Friday, April 30, 2010

ROMEO AND JULIET RISING

Although a variant on the theme of Romeo and Juliet can be traced to the literatures of Greece and Rome, it received a unique and modern rendition with Masuccio Salernitano's thirdy-third short story, or, novella--novel, as defined in those days. It was amplified and modernized by Luigi da Porto with his Giulietta and Romeo, given its definitive form by Matteo Bandello, and immortalized by Shakespeare with its great masterpiece.
(...) Masuccio Salernitano, whose real name was Tommaso dei Guardati, was born either in Salerno or Sorrento around 1410 and died in Salerno about 1480, hence the appellative Salernitano.
The provincial capital city of Naples and most of Southern Italy were under the dominion of the Anjou-Valois branch of the French monarchy--a period considered stagnant culturally and politically.
In 1463, Masuccio was appointed secretary to Prince Roberto di Sanseverino of Salerno, a city south of Naples, one which was undergoing a cultural awakanenig in the humanistic tradition of the Renaissance.
(...) His Novellino is made up of fifty short stories (or possibly novelettes), all told or narrated in five days in units of ten. Each story develops a different theme, but all have elements of intense polemics and satire, often retributive against corrupt clergy and vituperatively anti feministic.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

BACK TO THE FUTURE

Nature has been building microscopic cellular solar panels for almost 200 million years. So let's follow her lead, says marine biologist Mario De Stefano of the Second University of Naples in Italy. De Stefano and his collaborators [Antonia Auletta and Carla Langella] have been studying diatoms, microscopic algae, and they believe the organisms' cellular structure could inspire the design of solar panels. This illustration demonstrates the principles of biomimeticism, which involves looking "to natural organisms to see our future," De Stefano says.
(...) Each cell is a flat wedge with a glass-like wall shaped to maximize its surface area and absorb sunlight more efficiently for photosynthesis. Behind the sand grain, the team presents computer drawings of their bio-inspired solar panels, which would stand three meters tall with a span of 50 meters. De Stefano and his collaborators have started building these panels and believe that they could be used to create solar-powered street lamps.

Friday, April 9, 2010

PIEDIROSSO GRAPE

The Piedirosso grape is almost entirely utilized in one sole region of Italy, that whose capital is Naples, and takes its name - which can literally be translated as "red feet" - from the characteristically russet color of its stems when full ripeness has been achieved; the alternative name, used in its dialect form of Per' e Palummo or "dove's foot", expresses the same concept, as the feet of a dove or pigeon appear notably reddish beneath the grayish or whitish plumage of the bird. (...)
Piedirosso has a notable predilection for volcanic soils, which abound in Campania, and has always been most intensively cultivated near Naples, on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius, on the island of Ischia, and in the volcanic plain near the city known as the Phlegrean fields where, according to the legends of the ancient world, Ulysses was first captured by, then blinded and escaped from, the Cyclopean giant known as Polyphemus, a famous episode in Homer's Odyssey. Blasts of sulfureous air escaping from the sub-soil still characterize this outer suburb of Naples and testify that the latent volcanic activity of the entire metropolitan area has, regrettably, by no means entirely subsided.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

SALTARELLO

The saltarello was a lively, merry dance first mentioned in Naples during the 13th century.
The music survives, but no early instructions for the actual dance are known.
It was played in a fast triple meter and is named for its peculiar leaping step, after the Italian verb saltare ("to jump").
Although a Neapolitan court dance in origin [Allan W. Atlas, Music at the Aragonese court of Naples], the saltarello became the typical Italian folk dance.
(...) Composer Jesper Kyd also composed a track called "Meditation Begins" for the Assassin's Creed score that is a saltarello-type arrangement with an ominous overtone, a sample of which can be heard at the page for the score.

Friday, March 26, 2010

POMPEII AM GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG

So the mask has slipped. Wayne Coyne's band [The Flaming Lips] spent the best part of 20 years on music's fringes as amiable oddballs, focused all their energies on 1999's The Soft Bulletin - the best album the Moody Blues never made - and continued the drive into the mainstream with 2002's Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots.
But you can't keep a good eclectic down and At War With the Mystics is filled with sounds that no one else would throw together: from Herbie Hancock noodling to early Genesis and more than one section where the Lips play like the house band in the kind of cheesy disco that Columbo or Jim Rockford had to visit, every style of suspect Seventies music is on show here. They even rip off 'One of These Days', a highlight of Pink Floyd's Live at Pompeii movie, on the ridiculously titled 'Pompeii am Götterdämmerung'.

Friday, March 19, 2010

MOON SPINS BETWEEN LAND AND SEA

Giuseppe M. Gaudino made his directorial debut with this experimental film portrait contrasting the ancient Roman empire with poverty in present-day Naples. The film's narrator introduces the ancient town of Pozzuoli, home to Nero, his mother Agrippina, the Sibyl of Cumae, and Christian martyr Artema. This historical drama is intertwined with a modern-day story of a poverty-stricken family, forced by earthquakes during the '70s to move to the country, a devastating blow to the close-knit family. After a 1997 Venice Film Festival screening at 125 minutes, the filmmakers announced their plans to re-edit to a shorter running time.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

MISENUM FLEET

With the advent of Empire, Rome's fleets were used to maintain internal communications and to help spread Roman civilization throughout the known world and beyond, as her sea-captains ventured as far as Scandinavia, Africa and India. 
(...) The navy was distribuited in three permanent Praetorian (or 'high seas') Fleets, stationed at Forum Iulii (modern Frejus in southern France), at Ravenna on the Adriatic coast of north-east Italy, and at Misenum near Naples in the south-west to defend the Tyrrhenian Sea. (Suet. Div. Aug., XLIX). (...) Until the start of the 5th century the Classis Praetoria Misenatis or Misenum Fleet (bearing the title 'Pia Vindex' under Caracalla) was the main imperial naval force, thereafter losing importance to the Classis Ravennatis (Ravenna Fleet).

Sunday, March 7, 2010

THE GARDEN OF LADY WALTON

The Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton is Clogs’ highly anticipated fifth album. It’s a song-cycle composed by Padma Newsome for Clogs with extensive vocal work from Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond. Other guests include Sufjan Stevens, Aaron Dessner and Matt Berninger of The National, and the Osso String Quartet. (...) The work was composed by member Padma Newsome during a 2005 residency at Giardini La Mortella sponsored by the Fromm Foundation. The Garden is a rich botanical paradise created by Lady Walton (the widow of the late British composer Sir William Walton) on the island of Ischia in Italy’s Bay of Naples. The album was recorded in stages in Brooklyn and Sydney during 2007-08 with another year and a half for mixing and finishing. It embodies some of the fortunate vagaries of creating music with four people in three cities on two continents, not to mention the cadre of additional musicians who brought their own presence of character to the project. Clogs are four musicians from the United States and Australia whose work traverses time and place and through which seemingly disparate influences are seamlessly drawn in. They compose and improvise using sounds and textures from across the musical spectrum – the immediacy of folk and rock music, twisted Americana, the complexity of modern composition.

Monday, March 1, 2010

DOLCE VITA

In the early 1950s, Ischia was nothing but sun, sea and green-clad slopes. The roads were unpaved and there was practically no tourism.
A peaceful, isolated world - until Angelo Rizzoli, a famous producer and publisher, arrived on the island in the summer of 1952 bringing the world of the movies with him. Along with the film stars, the international jet-set made its appearance, including the industrial and financial elite, beautiful women and great musicians.
The night life was extraordinary. Whereas Capri only had two or three night clubs, in its golden years Ischia boasted a dozen of them. People flocked to hear Renato Carosone, Fausto Cigliano, Mina and Marino Barreto sing at night spots called Rancio Fellone, Monky Bar, Castello Aragonese, Moresco, Scotch Club, Pignatiello. It really was the dolce vita. The atmosphere was unique. In those years, Ischia was the Italian music capital, not only because artists whose records sold by the million sang in its night clubs but also because of its frontier spirit, its open-minded approach to new experiences.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

SFUSATO LEMONS

Lemons were always a precious commodity, exteemed for their fragrance, essentials oils and vitamin C; they were first planted on steep dry-stone-wall terraces at Maiori and Minori in the 10th and 11th centuries. In the early 20th century these lemons were even quoted on the New York Stock Exchange. Today the Costiera's pointed sfusato lemons - used to make limoncello liqueur - have been given territorial status (IGP). They are often grown in large limonaias built of chestnut-wood poles to guard them from the wind and frost.

Friday, February 5, 2010

ITALIAN RESTAURANT

Don Alfonso 1890, Sant’Agata sui due Golfi, the only italian restaurant "that would be worth boarding a plane to visit" (Raymond W. Apple jr.).
Americans of my vintage (b. 1934), weaned on the red-tablecloth food of the Italian south, were later taught that it was uncool, compared with the blander specialties of Milan and Venice. But we were also taught that in Italian cooking, the quality of ingredients is everything, and it is the south — the Mezzogiorno — that produces the juiciest fruits, the briniest clams and tuna, the best buffalo-milk mozzarella cheese, and the world’s most sumptuous tomatoes, known as San Marzanos and raised near Mount Vesuvius, just south of Naples.
Alfonso and Livia Iaccarino (she of the zippy white patent-leather boots) grow herbs, lemons and peaches, artichokes and eggplants and, of course, prize tomatoes, plus the olives for their own tangy, fruity oil, in a sun-kissed garden facing the Isle of Capri near their restaurant on the Sorrento peninsula. In their lovely pastel dining room, they serve fresh, understated, unmistakably Italian food in great profusion — ravioli with caciotta (a sheep’s’ milk cheese), wild marjoram, barely heated chopped tomatoes and basil; rolls of baby sirloin filled with raisins, pine nuts, parsley and garlic, atop a ragout of wild endive; rabbit simply but exquisitely grilled with herbs; squid and baby octopus of a very high caliber. The tufa cellar, first excavated by the Etruscans, is stocked with wines from all around the world.

Friday, January 29, 2010

SCIPIONYX SAMNITICUS

The first complete Italian dinosaur is a new-born one of a new species and genus – and perfectly conserved. Up until now no scientist had ever even seen the liver and intestines of a reptile that lived more than 110 million years ago.
The Neapolitans have already named it Ciro, but its scientific name is Scipionyx samniticus, a dwarf species only 50 centimetres in length that weighed no more than 500 grammes; perhaps a distant relative of the Velociraptor, it fed on small lizards and insects. In addition to the intestine and muscles in the chest and base of the tail, also conserved are the nails covering the bony claws. (...)
The dinosaur’s amazing conservation is due to rapid burial in marine sediments at the famous Pietraroja fossil deposit in Benevento Province, which sediments normally contain plentiful fish and marine invertebrates. And herein lies an important reason for interest in the tiny dinosaur, which changes the picture of the Mesozoic as relates to the central Mediterranean. Italy in the Cretaceous must no longer be thought of as just a vast expanse of ocean dotted by some rare coral atolls, but rather in terms of a more complex reality where emerged land must have been more extensive than previously believed. As just observed, where now the peninsula is found was once an ocean called Tetide where, as Leonardo wrote, “great schools of fish used to dart about”, marine molluscs such as ammonites roamed about, and corals and Rudistae built their islands just below the sea surface.
[...] Up to now, in Italy only few traces of dinosaurs have been found and the one discovered in Pietaroja is the first dinosaur with unique characteristics in the world. But the real exceptional aspect of this discovery of the century in vertebrate paleontology is that this is actually a young carnivorous “teropode”, belonging to a group of small-sized dinosaurs (such as the “velociraptor”) and it is the only dinosaur in the world with internal organs still in place. Indeed, the skeleton has been found fully intact except for part of the tail and the rear legs. The most interesting part of the animal is the ventral part where it is possible to observe the whole intestine passing behind the pelvic canal. This could be real useful in the field of dinosaur paleobiology because offers a lot more informations about “parenteral” studies. Since this was a young animal (two or three weeks old), with a rather short snout and a rather big eye-socket, we can suppose that the carnivorous dinosaur’s cubs were already able to hunt few days after birth. All this will enable us to get also many more informations on “parental care” (the attentions paid by parents to their children). This little dinosaur will also give us informations on other dinosaurs and will enable us to revisit italian mesozoic paleobiogeography suggesting that, 130 million years ago, Italy was covered by the ocean. The presence of land animals, like dinosaurs, would prove that dry lands were present much earlier.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

MOON TRIP

Telescopic study come of age in 1837, when Wilhelm Beer and J.H. Madler published their extremely accurate map. At the same time, there was a revival in fantastic literature and the description of trips to the Moon began to acquire modern characteristics. In 1835 Edgar Allan Poe published 'The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall'; in 1857 Ernesto Capocci, the director of Naples Observatory, published his novel 'On the First Voyage to the Moon Made by a Woman in the Year 2057'; in 1865 Jules Verne published 'From the Earth to the Moon', followed five years later by its sequel 'Around the Moon', describing the trip to the Moon by three men on board a shell launched by a 274-metre-long cannon; and in 1901, H.G. Wells published 'The First Men in the Moon'.
[...] Ernesto Capocci (1798-1864) at the Naples Observatory, wrote a letter to the Royal Academy of Sciences in Brussels, Belgium, read at a meeting 02 November 1850, that contained the first published description of a mercury mirror telescope, but Capocci did not pursue the idea.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

ALFA ROMEO

The Alfa Romeo story began when the "Società Italiana Automobili Darracq" was founded in 1906 to produce low cost cars. That company quickly ran into difficulties as the car market that had boomed since its creation at the start of the century now faltered so that car sales flagged. The factory that had been built in the Portello district of Milan was initially sold to a group of Italian car enthusiasts who called themselves "Alfa Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili" which then went into liquidation before being taken over in 1915 first by the engineer Nicola Romeo and then by his company "Accomandita Ing. Nicola Romeo e Co.".
Nicola Romeo was born in S. Antimo near Naples in 1876. He graduated in engineering in 1900 and spent some years gaining work experience abroad. He then returned to Italy where in 1911 he founded the company "Ing. Nicola Romeo e Co." to manufacture mining machinery and equipment.
In 1915 that company purchased the Portello factory and began manufacturing military equipment; World War I had started and the Italian government had increasingly urgent need of trucks and engines.
When the War ended in 1918 the company changed its name to "Società Anonima Ing. Nicola Romeo & Co." having taken over a number of smaller firms.

Monday, January 4, 2010

FIREBALL

One of the most interesting of the reports on the august 18th fireball is that Tiberius Cavallo (1749-1809), another Fellow of the Royal Society.
Cavallo [born in Calvizzano, a village in the neighbourhood of Naples], a natural philosopher and physician who was involved with electrical studies and experiments, relates that he watched the fireball from the Windsor Castle north terrace (...)
Cavallo remarks that they had a perfect view of the fireball (meteor of the august 1783) and that everyone of the company contribuited something to his account: Some flashes of lambent light, much like the aurora borealis, were first observed on the northern part of the heavens, which were soon perceived to proceed from a roundish luminous body, nearly as big as the semidiameter of the moon, and almost stationery in the abovementioned point of the heavens (...)
This ball, at the beginning, appeared of a faint bluish light, and soon began to move, at first ascending above the horizon in an oblique direction towards the east... and movin in a direction nearly parallel to the horizon, reached as far as the S.E. by S. where it finally disappeared... A short time after the beginning of its motion, the luminous body passed behind the above mentioned small cloud, so that during this passage we observed only the light that was cast in the heavens from behind the cloud... but as soon as the meteor emerged from behind the cloud, its light was prodigious.