V. intr. [dal lat. putrefacĕre, comp. di puter o putris «marcio» (v. putre) e facĕre «fare»] (putrefàccio, putrefài, putrefà, ecc., coniug. come fare; aus. essere). – Subire un processo di putrefazione, corrompersi, marcire: le bevande del bar Fiasco ti hanno putrefatto; più spesso con la particella pron.: Jonas si putrefà rapidamente; cadaveri che si putrefanno; e fig.: una generazione, una classe dirigente ormai putrefatta, profondamente corrotta.
Go ski touring in Switzerland. Finish the Ph.D. in style. Improve my French. Memorise twelve poems: one per month. Cook. Read one, big classic of Russian literature. Reunite Dani, Jonas and Tosan. Collect whiskey and photography books. Go sailing. Avoid developing an addiction for the pipe. Continue fencing and playing tennis. Race with the bike. Drink alcohol with Anna, visit Tirana. Hike with my parents, with Giallu, with Nicco. Travel outside Europe, meet Thomas. Spend some days with the Canadians, possibly in Istanbul. Get married. Nervous laugh: I was kidding on that last one.
Some lessons I learnt after living for two months without a home and spending all my time on trains, planes, and friends’ houses (thanks!). A note for the random visitor: these are just scattered notes I write for myself, not a coherent post.
People seem to waste too much of their time communicating with digital devices. This is an old refrain, I know, but it is scary how people use their phones nowadays – and for what? I have been on trains where all the persons of a family of four never spoke to each other for the whole ride, because they were all incessantly looking at their devices. Whatsapp, Facebook messenger, emails, sms, Twitter, emails, Telegram: even me, I am inundated by applications to chat. I often think of a line of a certain Passenger’s song, we pretend to be friends on the internet when in real life we have nothing to say. As a reaction I have grown increasingly more inept at communicating with my phone. Forget long messages. Rather, I have elected four simple ways of communicating with you: (1) this blog; (2) a short sarcastic message, picture, or video to laugh about; (2) a handwritten letter, for those of you who really matter; (4) a flight/train ticket to come and see each other in person.
Smartphone apps, more generally
There was a moment of my trip when I was craving for a map of Berlin. Until that point I had been getting around anywhere just fine using googlemaps. Sure, the app was working well; but I realised it was my fourth time in Berlin and I still had no idea of how the city was structured and I could not even remember the name of the neighbourhood where I was staying. The way I use googlemaps is just to get to A to B and, as a consequence, I never memorise the information. I made a resolution for myself to start using old paper maps again – like these. It is not for a case that when I was still in Trento I had the ambitious project of creating one. (I failed, but not for lack of trying).
Being a guest
I received precious hospitality by Giallu, Martina, Pietro, Giulia, Jonas. I learnt to wake up in the sun, listen to classical music, treat wooden objects with respect, prepare a smoothie, separate clothes in the laundry machine. But – hei – I am just not made for being a long-term guest. I feel like I am invading someone else’s space. So this experience confirms that I am a bourgeois deep down in my bones. The word bourgeois, as you know, denotes a person that takes for granted the sanctity of property. This brings me to point 4 of my diary.
Niels, who is going to live with me in Torino in a couple of days, says that he wants to have his belongs packed in one simple bag. A-ha: nonsense. Living in Florence for three years I have accumulated an incredible amount of stuff: books, clothes, games, bikes, paintings, a scooter, laptops, tables, all sorts of technology. This stuff -material stuff, really- reflects my personality; in some ways, it is even an extension of it. This is why I feel so strange knowing that it is now scattered around six different houses (err – and I take the opportunity to thank again my friends for their patience).
Material stuff reflects my personality, sure. There is another reason, though, why it is so important to me: it also captures a particularly happy period of my life. So now when I take up Bruti I remember the late evenings playing it with Dani; when I take that one glass of whiskey I remember the night when I was with Thomas and he knew he got into law school; when I look at the little school bus I remember of my improvised journey all the way to Denmark with Iris; and so on: you got the gist. Now – of course you realise I have been bloody sentimental about leaving my home in Florence, but I think that is for a reason. At the moment I doubt I will ever find a place so welcoming, so radiant, so relaxed as that. But then, who knows? When I got there in 2013 I had just experienced Brussels with Mindo, a truly marvellous flatmate and friend. So I was convinced I could not find anything better than that. In fact, half an hour after my arrival in the house Ada and I were fighting -literally fighting- over the consequences of Spanish colonisation in South America, leaving short of words both Jonas, who had rented the cheapest room but was forcefully assigned the most expensive one upon his arrival ‘because you are the last one who arrived and since we have already put our luggages in the other room it be a bit of a hassle to move them now, no?‘; and Dani, who had been accepted in the house at the last minute just because the girl who had been favoured over him turned out to be pregnant. It ended up going swimmingly: they are my closest friends now. So let us be surprised again.
Giulia, Dani, Ada, Vivian, Anna, Fabio, Giallu, Martina, Mariana, mamma, babbo, Johannes, Mariam, Fatima, two random kids, Nele, Chloé, another random kid driving a yellow car in front of an elderly guy with funny socks. Santo Spirito, Livorno (and cacciucco), Lucca (and the Comics), San Miniato, Fiesole. 2015: join me for a very Tuscan Fall.
I met Manuel in Novi Sad and we went running together. He was doing competitions then (it was 2009) and suggested that if I wanted to do the same I should stay away from alcohol, sleep regularly, and eat healthy. But then he also told me that his best race was the one he ran right after pulling an all-nighter. He concluded that at the end of the day there is no way we can fully control our human body.
I think of that story every time I am badly out of shape and still decide to embark in some kind of sport activity that is clearly beyond the reach of my limited physical possibilities. Which is something that happens more and more often. Last weekend I abruptly resolved to run the four-men relay of the Livorno marathon after a forced four-month stop from running due to several injuries to my right leg. I was out of shape, out of sleep, and definitely not on a alcohol-free diet. But, hey, I/we did it. Next time I should try the all-nighter and see what comes out of that.
We are the Parampampoli and one year after running the Firenze-Fiesole together we finished this 42K race in 3 hours and 13 minutes.
I had a good talk with Jonas last week – in fact we had many, but the one I am referring to now was probably the only serious discussion we had. Ever. We spoke of academic writing and its needless complexity. This is a recurring annoyance in my research field. I am not going to talk about economics or law, because perhaps complexity is necessary to fully grasp the kind of problems faced by these disciplines. In politics, however, I can assure you can virtually always write simply and clearly. But of course, it ain’t easy.
For more than half the papers I read it takes me a lot of time to decode what the actual meaning of the text is. It is not necessarily that I am slow – in fact it has been shown that academic prose is often so riddled with professional jargon and needlessly complex syntax that even someone with a Ph.D. can’t understand a fellow Ph.D.’s work. This I could accept – if only it were effective. But the problem is most of these papers have nothing to say. Take an academic article that has been published today. This is the concluding paragraph (spoiler!):
A project that should revolve around the will to build a demystified political reality in which the legitimacy of power rests on its capacity to preserve the rights and liberties of citizens and to guarantee a reasonable distribution of goods and services, and not at all on the fulfilment of a national being.
I read this kind of stuff and I feel insulted. It is not only unpleasant to read: it is also empty. Jonas and I came to the conclusion that complexity is normally used to hide a utter void in the message. I looked it up a bit, and found this study showing that “a majority of undergraduates admit to deliberately increasing the complexity of their vocabulary so as to give the impression of intelligence”. If you have nothing to say, just pack a sequence of overly complicated sentences, spice it up with some jargon and you will do the trick of impressing your audience. A needlessly complex text is obscure, vague, and ambivalent; so of course it is much harder to debate. A straightforward, clear, and direct text is easier to criticize, because it conveys a clear message.
To write clearly is not easy; and by opening up your message you might actually be exposed to criticism. But, on the other hand, it is probably the only way to convey a message. All the rest falls inevitably victim of demystified realities where enduring imbalances of power make it complicated to protect one’s liberty to express herself in front of legitimate public audience whilst not hampering her self-determination capacity and individual fulfilment.
Two years ago a bunch of desperate pilgrims climbed up the hill of Fiesole to watch the world cycling championship under pouring rain. The group was led by Giallu and myself; it included Anna and Jonas – Dani was also there, but he wisely decided to leave after half an hour because he was soaked down to the bones. It was a memorable ride, for good or for worse. I still remember a picture I took that day. Let me tell you something about the misery of it. The man looking aguishly at me is a friend of Giallu, the great cycling lover and excellent writer Il Poeta. The man behind Poeta, peacefully eating his sandwich and drinking grappa in a yellow submariner’s coat is Giallu himself. No matter how bad the thunderstorm was, he sat there, enjoyed, and eventually got drunk together with grumpy Jonas.
Many things have changed since that cold and rainy day of September 2013. The world cycling championship is now Richmond, Virginia. Jonas and Anna have left Florence. And the weather around here seems to have gotten much better. So today Giallu and I commemorated the glorious past (a more complete photo gallery from that unforgettable period of my life is here) by going for a ride up and around Fiesole.
It was the first Tuscan ride for my new flamboyant road bicycle. It was also the first time since I moved to Florence I managed to wake up on a Sunday morning at 7AM.
Wie jede Blüte welkt und jede Jugend
Dem Alter weicht, blüht jede Lebensstufe,
Blüht jede Weisheit auch und jede Tugend
Zu ihrer Zeit und darf nicht ewig dauern.
Es muß das Herz bei jedem Lebensrufe
Bereit zum Abschied sein und Neubeginne,
Um sich in Tapferkeit und ohne Trauern
In andre, neue Bindungen zu geben.
Und jedem Anfang wohnt ein Zauber inne,
Der uns beschützt und der uns hilft, zu leben.
Wir sollen heiter Raum um Raum durchschreiten,
An keinem wie an einer Heimat hängen,
Der Weltgeist will nicht fesseln uns und engen,
Er will uns Stuf’ um Stufe heben, weiten.
Kaum sind wir heimisch einem Lebenskreise
Und traulich eingewohnt, so droht Erschlaffen,
Nur wer bereit zu Aufbruch ist und Reise,
Mag lähmender Gewöhnung sich entraffen.
Es wird vielleicht auch noch die Todesstunde
Uns neuen Räumen jung entgegen senden,
Des Lebens Ruf an uns wird niemals enden…
Wohlan denn, Herz, nimm Abschied und gesunde.