Lorenzo & his humble friends

The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool

Category: tributes

Cold apartment

Laetitia Tamko is a wonderful, well-rooted in herself artist. She sings short, delicate, and fierce songs.




Having finally submitted my Ph.D. dissertation, it is time I write the acknowledgments. When looking for inspirations in other manuscripts and books, I found several good ideas. In the end, I narrowed down my selection to four.

First, Nelson Demille’s Wild Fire, which starts like this. There is a new trend among authors to thank every famous people for inspiration, non-existent assistance, and/or some casual reference to the author’s work. Authors do this to pump themselves up. So, on the off chance that this is helpful, I wish to thank the following people: the Emperor of Japan and the Queen of England for promoting literacy; William S. Cohen, former secretary of defense, for dropping me a note saying he liked my books, as did his boss, Bill Clinton; Bruce Willis, who called me one day and said, “Hey, you’re a good writer”; Albert Einstein, who inspired me to write about nuclear weapons; General George Armstrong Custer, whose brashness at the Little Bighorn taught me a lesson on judgement; Mikhail Gorbachev, whose courageous actions indirectly led to my books being translated into Russian; Don DeLillo and Joan Didion, whose books are always before and after mine on bookshelves, and whose names always appear before and after mine in almanacs and many lists of American writers—thanks for being there, guys; Julius Caesar, for showing the world that illiterate barbarians can be beaten; Paris Hilton, whose family hotel chain carries my books in their gift shops; and last but not least, Albert II, King of the Belgians, who once waved to me in Brussels as the Royal Procession moved from the Palace to the Parliament Building, screwing up traffic for half an hour, thereby forcing me to kill time by thinking of a great plot to dethrone the King of the Belgians. There are many more people I could thank, but time, space, and modesty compel me to stop here.”

Second, mathematician Par Wilfrid Hodges begins his work on Model Theory explaining that if the book is not a success, I dedicate it to the burglars in Boulder, Colorado, who broke into our house and stole a television, two typewriters, my wife Helen’s engagement ring and several pieces of cheese, somewhere about a third of the way through Chapter 8.

Third, Brendan Pietsch, now assistant professor of religious studies at Nazarbayev University in Astana, Kazakhstan, started his thesis with the following: “I blame all of you. Writing this book has been an exercise in sustained suffering. The casual reader may, perhaps, exempt herself from excessive guilt, but for those of you who have played the larger role in prolonging my agonies with your encouragement and support, well…you know who you are, and you owe me.” 

Fourth, in one of his latest books evolutionary biologist Leigh Van Valen  acknowledged “the National Science Foundation for regularly rejecting my (honest) grant applications for work on real organisms, thus forcing me into theoretical work.

Make your pick.

Principe di Galles

Giallu mi ha regalato la mia quinta pipa, una Principe di Galles.

Principe di Galles.JPG

Fare politica

C’è una lettera molto bella scritta da Francesco Palermo in questi giorni. Lui è il senatore eletto quattro anni fa nel collegio di Bolzano, brillante professore universitario e collega delle meravigliose Martina, Alice e Verena all’EURAC di Bolzano. La lettera inizia così:

La prospettiva di candidare per un nuovo mandato in Parlamento mi lusinga e mi onora. Significa che persone che stimo ritengono che abbia svolto bene il difficile compito in questa legislatura. Per questo, nonostante fin dal primo giorno mi fosse chiaro che si sarebbe trattato di un’esperienza non ripetibile, ci ho pensato molto.

Tuttavia ci sono troppe ragioni di ordine personale, professionale e anche politico che mi inducono a non ripresentarmi. Tralascio le prime, pur importanti, perché relative alla sfera privata. Sul piano professionale, rappresentare i cittadini è l’onore più grande, e sono felice di averne avuto la possibilità. È stata anche un’occasione straordinaria per conoscere le persone, la società e le istituzioni. Non è solo un completamento essenziale per uno studioso di queste materie, ma anche una lezione di vita. Fa capire anche con quanta superficialitá si giudichino le scelte di interesse collettivo, e quanto ciò renda difficile trovare le motivazioni necessarie per un incarico così importante, che viene però svolto con modalità, linguaggi e liturgie che non mi appartengono. Leggi tutta la lettera qui.

Bands, 2017

Alt-J, Andrew Bird, Angus and Julia Stone, Antony and the Johnsons, the Arcade Fire, Balmorhea, Beach Boys, Ben Howard, Bloc Party, Bob Dylan, Bon Iver, Bruce Springsteen, the Cat Empire, Cat Stevens, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Dan Mangan, the Dave Brubeck Quartet, the Dire Straits, Eddie Vedder, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Esbjorn Svensson Trio, Gaslight Anthem, Grandbrothers, Jack Johnson, Jack Savoretti, Keith Jarret, Kings of Leon, Leonard Cohen,  Lucio Dalla, the Police, the Queen, Silversun Pickups, We are Augustines, White Buffalo.

A simple garden

Epicurus led a commune of followers in an Athenian garden in the early third-century BC. The aim of philosophy, he maintained, is to help people living a tranquil life and overcoming the fear of death. “All good and evil lie in sensation, whereas death is the absence of sensation,” wrote Epicurus in a letter. “Hence a correct understanding that death is nothing to us makes the mortality of life enjoyable, not by adding infinite time, but by ridding us of the desire for immortality.” That is why Epicurus – in contrast to the crude hedonism invented by his detractors – denounced the rapidly rotting fruits of dissipation and excess. The constant pursuit of intense pleasures will in fact back-fire, because it leads to the psychological hell of enslavement to insatiable appetites. The best sort of life, suggests Epicurus, is one that is free from pain in the body and from disturbance in the mind. This is an important philosophy today, as we are inundated by instant gratifications and toxic distractions.

Etta mi fa gli auguri

Giacomo Zandonini

There has been a heated debate on the role of the NGOs working to rescue asylum seekers in the Mediterranean this year. I know very little about this issue, even though it is closely related to my work as a researcher. One reason for my ignorance has to do with the fact that we receive very confusing information. Most of what we know is anecdotal, while we ignore the facts, the numbers, the rules, the institutions that are involved. The one person who has been trying to put things into context, provide some history, explain the rules and the sources of tension is Giacomo Zandonini.


Giacomo is a freelance journalist who has done serious and first-hand research on migration. In 2016 he produced the movie Wallah Je Te Jure, which tells the stories of men and women travelling along West African migration routes to Italy. Also in 2016 he spent two weeks on the boat Aquarius of the humanitarian NGO Sos Mediterraneé and then in 2017 he spent two more weeks on the boat Golfo Azzurro working for the humanitarian NGO Proactiva Open Arms.

There are a number of articles that Giacomo wrote. Here I will link those I have read myself. In English:
How the humanitarian NGOs operate at sea;
The long wait of young unaccompanied minors in Italy

In Italian:
Quelle notti a bordo della nave Golfo Azzurro a salvare gente in mare e raccogliere cadaveri;
Migranti, le Ong ne hanno salvati quasi 10 mila ma continuano a subire critiche e pressioni;
In Niger i migranti si preparano alla grande traversata

If you have half an hour spare time, you can also watch Giacomo’s talk at the Festival of Journalism held in Perugia in April this year (in Italian; however, there is a short part of the video that is just images and sounds recorded by Giacomo at the sea and you can watch it below). Giacomo and I write together for Unimondo. You can follow Giacomo on twitter here.

Rebuilding is an exciting time

And in my puttering
I’ve let some relationships die
for I did not water them
But I don’t think i’d have known
relationships need watering at all
had I not been away to see them wilt or die.
The plant lives to give us life,
this is simple.
But we must also do our part.
Some of my best friends are like cactus
others wilted much faster-
I blame no one.
In life I have been torrential
other times a drought
Life, for all its seeming complexity,
is an experiment in precipitation.
Explorations ecosystems
and the flower in a badlands
growing through a buffalo’s skull, whispering:
“I let some relationships die
for I did not water them.
I blame no one.”

Poem by thomoose, who can also be found here.

L’ombrello vagamondo

Fabio, che oltre ad essere un amico d’infanzia fu anche una delle prime persone a comparire su questo blog con una bella tripletta (qui, qui e qui), ha appena pubblicato il suo secondo libro. Si tratta di una raccolta di racconti sulle mirabolanti e picaresche avventure di un ombrello vagamondo. Io gli faccio pubblicità, perché Fabio scrive in maniera schietta, sarcastica ed elegante: guardate che non è facile.


Trovate il libro qui: potete comprarlo online, oltre che in tutte le librerie del Trentino. Io, che ho appena ordinato alcune copie, mi auguro di ritrovare il Fabio che conoscevo in questa sua raccolta di racconti.