25 December 2015

Dies Natalis Solis Invicti

Roman Imperial repoussé silverdisc of Sol Invictus (3rd century), found at Pessinus (British Museum)
The birthday of the unconquered sun marked the end of the Saturnalia since 274 AD when Aurelian apparently wanted to revive a much older cult of the Sun in Rome.

Saturnalia was originally a holiday created by Emperor Augustus to celebrate Saturn, on 17th December -- my birthday! It then developed into a week-long festival, the craziest week in ancient Rome, where people made merry with food, wine and more and even slaves were allowed to indulge in excesses that would have been punished by death at any other time.

The date coincides, closely enough, with the shortest day of the year (which the Romans believed to be 25 December whereas we know it is 21 December). Light prevails over darkness and days start getting longer again, an occasion to celebrate indeed.

Then the Christians took it over during the reign of Emperor Constantine, who had accepted Christianity as a religion of the Empire. The Church decided that Christ had chosen to be born on the shortest day of the year, after which light again starts to prevail, to symbolize his contribution to the rebirth of humankind.

I feel it's too bad that the ancient tradition of Saturnalia is gone. Not so much for the sake of Saturn, of course. But rather for what it symbolized: fun and naughtiness for a week but strict rule of Roman law for the whole year!

01 December 2015

Film review: Earth (1998) by Deepa Mehta, ****


Earth, the second film in Deepa Mehta's controversial trilogy is an emotionally devastating love story set within the sweeping social upheaval and violence of 1947 India. As her country teeters on the brink of self rule and instability, 8-year old Lenny, an innocent girl from an affluent family, is in danger of having her world turned upside down. As the simmering violence around them reaches a boiling point, Lenny's beautiful nanny Shanta (Nandita Das) falls in love with one of Lenny's heroes, the charismatic and peace-advocating Hassan. Love, however, can be dangerous when religious differences are tearing the country apart, and friendships and loyalty are put to the test. Building to a shattering climax, Earth is a devastating human drama in which desire unfolds into a stirring tale of love and the ultimate betrayal.


This is a good movie about the dramatic partition events of 1947. It show the conflict between Muslims and Hindus though the eyes of a parsi family. Parsis are a Zoroastrian community that constitutes a substantial minority in the Mumbai area and were often caught between their two large neighbors. No happy ending, and indeed the history of India and Pakistan since then sadly shows that beyond doubt.

The movie is harrowing, Mehta does not refrain from showing horrific violence, if indirectly but not less shockingly for that. The question of identity in India is addressed in depth, with friends and neighbors who shared a lifetime finding themselves on the opposite side of the fence.

It's probably my least favorite movies among the three of Mehta's trilogy because it relates to well known events, while the other two address much less discussed issues in Indian society like child abuse, family violence and homosexuality. Aamir Khan is great as usual.  Aamir Khan is great as usual. I take one star off because compared to Fire and Water this is just a bit predictable.

See my other reviews of films on India in this blog.

In the UK buy it here

Available from Amazon.us

25 November 2015

Film review: Curse of the Golden Flower (2006), by Zhang Yimou, ****


From Zhang Yimou, the Director of Hero and House of Flying Daggers, comes a stunning epic about the folly of war and the disintegration of one family under the weight of unrequited love, unforgivable betrayals, and a never-ending thirst for power.

On the eve of the Chong Yong Festival, golden flowers fill the Imperial Palace and when the Emperor (Chow Yun Fat) unexpectedly returns to his Empress (Gong Li) and two sons, the tension is clear in his lavish kingdom. His absence has given rise to illicit love affairs, dangerous alliances, and malicious conspiracies; all of which threaten to overthrow his power.

However, it may well be the Emperor’s own dark secret that threatens him most of all. As the secrets of the Imperial family unravel against this backdrop of breathtaking opulence and grandeur, an attack on the Palace by myriad armoured warriors results in a spectacular climax wrought with thrilling action and epic tragedy.

Interesting bonus features on the main actors and backstage.


Another grand movie by Zhang Yimou with a sure-fire couple of protagonists in Chow Yun Fat and Gong Li). It will be a masterpiece for the lovers of wuxia and, more generally, of Chinese epic films. I am not, but liked the movie as well for the majestic historical reconstruction (a whole new Forbidden City) and marvellous costumes. Grand scenes of battle, with over one thousand extras (appropriately recruited in the Chinese army!) are memorable if utterly unrealistic.

What a sad life in the palace. From the Emperor to  the most humble of servants, everyone is watching everyone else, there is no privacy, no trust, no happiness really. I can't remember anyone smiling in this film! It makes you thank your fate for not being born a royalty in medieval China!

The western blurb for the movie (but not the Chinese) advertises it as taking place in the period of the late Tang dynasty. I was a bit disappointed because I expected more of a historical film about the Tang dynasty. I was led to think of this as a historical fiction, and it really is not.

See my selection of movies on China here in this blog.

You can buy the film here. Other films by Zhang Yimou here.

In the US and worldwide buy it here:

If you liked it, you may wish to look at other films by Zhang Yimou

14 November 2015

Film review: Red Obsession (2013) by David Roach and Warwick Ross, ****


Red Obsession is a film about power, passion and the fine wine game. Something unprecedented is happening to the fine wine market and that something is China. While the dragon economy could bring untold wealth to the revered wine-making region, the terms of engagement are different from any other customer in the past. This market is young, voracious and unpredictable. Demand is massively outstripping supply. The product is finite and this new client wants it all. For better or worse, Bordeaux is hitching itself to this new, infinitely wealthy client. RED OBSESSION sets out to explore this phenomenon and the link between China and Bordeaux.


A most interesting documentary on the rise of wine in Chinese society. The Chinese drank less than one bottle of wine each per year until just a few years ago. They have recently discovered wine. Not just to drink it, but to show it off, to display as a status symbol, and to invest in. In the past the Americans, and then the Japanese, similarly impacted the world of wine, but the sheer scale of the Chinese onslaught is greater by an order of magnitude. One Chinese billionaire who made his fortune selling sex toys has no qualms admitting in front of a camera that he prefers a bottle of great wine to great sex.

I was also pleased to see that some of the most prominent Chinese wine collectors seem to appreciate cigars and pipe smoking but not cigarettes. I can certainly sympathize with that. Great wine drinkers think alike!

While China is furiously planting new vineyards in regions with appropriate terroir and climate, and is already the fifth largest producer of wine in the world, the fascination of prestigiuous Bordeaux makes them spend billions on the most recognizable brands of Chateaux. This is driving the market crazy and may well portend a bubble in the making. Counterfeiting of expensive wines, like of so many other luxury products, is widespread.

It is going to be interesting to see how this pays out. China will soon be the largest producer of wine as well as the largest consumer. It will decisively affect both demand and supply. For now supply is more quantity than quality: local wines are mediocre (with some notable exception) and mostly for local consumption. Demand, on the other hand, is more focussed on quality, with rich Chinese buying only the best of the best. The global wine market is undergoing a Chinese revolution.

See my selection of movies on China on this blog.

27 October 2015

Recensione: Pillole di Cina (2013), di Massimo Donda, ****


Lo scritto “la Cina in pillole” non vuole essere un libro, ma una serie di appunti, utili per meglio comprendere. Esso nasce da una passione, quasi un innamoramento, dell’universo sinico da parte dell’autore causato da oltre 20 anni di frequentazioni e da rilevanti letture. Tanto da considerarsi occidentale fuori, ma “cinese” dentro.

L’autore ha voluto affrontre l’argomento Cina da moltissime angolature. Approfondendo la parte storica, sempre pero’ “utilizzandola” per meglio chiarire le forti influenze sul presente. Approfondendo la parte sul pensiero cinese (la “filosofia”) perché  fondamentale non tanto per una miglior comprensione ma proprio per “la” comprensione delle differenze tra la mentalità occidentale e quella sinica.

Parte rilevante hanno i capitoli sul diritto in Cina e sulla storia e sul pensiero filosofico che stà alla base del diritto. Si parla anche della vastità della geografia cinese e dell’importanza dei flussi migratori e turistici cinesi all’estero. Un accenno perfino al bon ton e alle principali regole di comportamento laddove differiscono con quelle occidentali, per non creare imbarazzi reciproci.

L’autore, fedele alla propria sinizzazione, non nasconde nemmeno l’uso disinvolto, per la mentalità occidentale, della copia: infatti applica alla lettera il detto di Confucio che disse:”Io tramando non creo”.


Interessante il libriccino di Donda. Il titolo è molto azzeccato. Non si tratta di una narrazione organica infatti, ma di una pioggia di informazioni che vengono lanciate al lettore curioso. Si spazia, senza ordine e senza un filo conduttore, dalla politica alla filosofia, dall'arte all'educazione, dall'istruzione pubblica all'economia all'agricoltura alla geografia e via così, in un lunghissimo soliloquio da maratoneta.

La quantità delle informazioni è enorme, la qualità è diseguale. Si percepisce come in alcuni argomenti l'autore sia più ferrato, in altri molto meno. Una imperdonabile ripetitività mi ha quasi fatto smettere di leggere in svariati punti del libro, ma alla fine sono arrivato all'ultima pagina e lo consiglio, magari per una lettura spesso più veloce che attenta.

Una valanga di informazioni, disordinata e spesso ripetitiva, ma utile e divertente!

Altri libro sulla Cina che ho recensito in questa piccola bibliografia.

04 October 2015

Sake Master Class, Londra

Confesso che mi ero iscritto alla Master Class sul sake organizzata dall’Associazione Italiana Sommelier a Londra con un misto di curiosità e scetticismo. Come la maggior parte dei colleghi sommelier presenti, avevo bevuto sake in numerose occasioni. Ma questo era avvenuto esclusivamente presso ristoranti giapponesi, abbinandolo con soddisfazione a sushi o tempura, ma senza un criterio sistematico. Come se per il sake non valessero i parametri di abbinamento - concordanza e contrasto - che abbiamo imparato ad applicare quando sposiamo un vino ad una pietanza occidentale. Sake dolce o secco, aromatico o fruttato, più fresco o più morbido, servito a quale temperatura? Ci mancavano gli strumenti per prendere le decisioni migliori.

With colleagues during the master class
Al nostro arrivo siamo stati accolti da Andrea, Federica e Armando, gli organizzatori del Club AIS di Londra, nonché da un centinaio di bottiglie di sake perfettamente allineate in ordine progressivo di servizio dietro lo schermo predisposto per la proiezione di Jonathan Beagle, simpatico inglese con lunga esperienza nipponica ed esperto di sake. Il tutto sotto il vigile coordinamento di Akimitsu Takata, responsabile di Japan@UK, un’azienda che si propone di valorizzare i prodotti del sol levante nel Regno Unito.

La frizzante presentazione di Jonathan è stata intervallata dagli assaggi di sake, che a mano a mano ci venivano versati nei bicchieri. La degustazione è molto diversa da quella del vino. In primo luogo non c’è l’analisi visiva: il sake è trasparente. Se non lo è vuol dire che il tempo lo ha leggermente scurito durante un affinamento in bottiglia magari non perfettamente conservata. Ma il sake non deve mai aspettare, è concepito per essere bevuto appena imbottigliato, pochi mesi dopo la produzione. Infatti la data indicata sulle bottiglie è quella dell’imbottigliamento e non del raccolto.

Jonathan Beagle
L’analisi olfattiva è più semplificata rispetto alla cosmologia di sentori che possiamo ricevere da un calice di vino complesso. Infine l’analisi olfattivo-gustativa, l’unica veramente rilevante per il sake. Qui i parametri in gioco sono più numerosi, e si può applicare, con qualche adattamento, la categorizzazione AIS sull’equilibrio tra sensazioni morbide (dolcezza, pseudo-alcolicità e morbidezza) e dure (solo acidità e sapidità, non ci sono tannini). La gamma dei sapori e degli aromi che emerge ad un assaggio attento è sorprendente, anche se non diversificata come quella del vino. Meno complesso del vino dal punto di vista organolettico, il sake presenta però una maggiore gamma di temperature per essere gustato, che può variare dai 5 gradi centigradi fino a 60!

Da notare come il risultato di un buon sake è opera soprattutto del produttore e meno di madre natura. Esistono infatti diverse tipologie di riso (i “vitigni” del sake) e di terroir, ma in entrambi i casi i produttori di sake non possono disporre della panoplia di strumenti a disposizione del vignaiolo e dell’enologo. Elementi fondamentali sono qui il koji, una muffa che serve a produrre zucchero dagli amidi del riso, e poi i lieviti per la trasformazione dello zucchero in alcol. Su questi si fa valere la maestrìa del produttore.

Come il vino, il sake ha una storia plurimillenaria alle spalle ed un futuro radioso davanti, e per entrambi i rispettivi produttori tendono a provilegiare la qualità rispetto alla quantità. Sconosciuto in Occidente fino a poco tempo fa, oggi viene scoperto dai sommelier di tutto il mondo per la sua grande flessibilità negli abbinamenti con il cibo della cucina internazionale. Durante la manifestazione di Londra siamo persino stati stupiti dal felice abbinamento del sake con la bestia nera del vino: il carciofo!

Federica e Andrea della UKSA

Buy your sake sets here.

Grazie ad Armando Pereira per le fotografie.

24 September 2015

Barong and Kris Dance in Bali

The Monster

The Barong play represents an eternal fight between good and evil. Barong (a mythological animal) represents the good spirit and Rangda (a mythological monster) represents an evil one.

It is my second time I watch this in Bali, this time with family. During the preparation time, I enjoy walking up close to the musicians who are tuning their instruments and practicing. Lots of drums and stringed instruments.

The dance starts with a musical background

Followed by his friend the monkey, the tiger comes out. Three masked dancers appear, representing men making palm wine in the forest, whose child is killed by the Barong. The three men get angry and attack the Barong which is helped by the monkey. During the fight, the nose of one of the three men is bitten off.

First act

Two girl dancers appear, representing the servants of the Rangda, looking for the servants of Dewi Kunti who are on the way to meet their Patih (Prime Minister).

Second act

The servants of Dewi Kunti come. One of the servants of the Rangda changes into a witch. The witch enters and makes both servants angry. They meet their Patih and go together to Dewi Kunti.

Third act

Dewi Kunti and her son, Sadewa come up. Dewi Kunti has promised the Rangda to sacrifice Sadewa. A witch appears and enters Dewi Kunti. She becomes angry and orders the Patih to bring Sadewa into the forest. The Patih also enters and does not have pity on Sadewa. Sadewa is then taken to into a forest and tied to a tree.

Fourth act

Unknown by Rangda, Siwa God appears and gives Sadewa immortality. The Rangda appears, ready to kill Sadewa, and eat him up but Sadewa is still alive. She then surrenders and asks him to redeem herself. Sadewa agrees and kills the Rangda. The Rangda goes into Heaven.

Fifth act

The Lion
One of the servants of the Rangda called Kalika comes up before Sadewa and asks him to redeem herself, too. Sadewa refuses. Kalika gets angry and changes herself into a boar and fights Sadewa. The boar can be defeated. She then changes herself into a bird but is defeated again. At last she changes herself into Rangda and Sadewa cannot kill her.

In such circumstances, Sadewa decides to then change himself into a Barong. Still the Rangda seems to be too powerful and the fight is ended. Followers of the Barong appear and help him fight the Rangda.

Information above from the theater in Ubud. This a video from a perfomance similar to the one we watched today.

12 August 2015

Film Review: Alone Across the Pacific (1963) by Kon Ichikawa, *****


A powerful hymn to the human spirit, Alone Across the Pacific by renowned Japanese director Kon Ichikawa (An Actor's Revenge, The Burmese Harp, Tokyo Olympiad) tells the extraordinary real-life story of one man's obsessive quest to break free from the strictures of society. In 1962, Kenichi Horie (Yujiro Ishihara) embarks on a heroic attempt to sail single-handed across the Pacific Ocean.

Leaving Osaka in an ill-prepared vessel, the Mermaid, the young adventurer must overcome the most savage of seas, the psychological torment of cabin fever, and his mental and physical breaking point, if he is ever to reach the fabled destination of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. Using Horie's best-selling logbook as his source, Ichikawa portrays the epic struggle of man against nature.

'Scope cinematography with Horie isolated in the oceanic expanse of the frame and a score by celebrated composer Toru Takemitsu, add to the drama of a film for which Ichikawa received a Golden Globe nomination, among other accolades.

New high definition digital transfer, anamorphically encoded, original 2.35:1 aspect ratio
New and improved optional English subtitles
Original Japanese trailer and two teasers newly subtitled
A lavish 24-page booklet featuring a colour reproduction of the original Japanese poster, archival publicity stills, and an essay by Brent Kliewer (professor at the College of Santa Fe)


This is Traveling with a capital T. Traveling for the sake of traveling. The real story of Kenichi Horie's first of many sailing challenges he set for himself. In 1962 he was a young ambitious man in Japan, a country still recuperating from a devastating defeat in WW II. He felt for his country, and said that for a nation with a long maritime tradition it was a shame no one had yet sailed solo across the Pacific. He wanted to do it for Japan.

And yet he wanted to leave Japan, where he suffered because of the cultural and social restrictions that hampered his wandering spirit. He wanted to be free of Japan as much as of his own family, whom he loved but whose interference with his dreams he could no longer put up with. He was fascinated by America, the power that defeated the Japanese Empire and established such a pervasive presence on the islands. He wanted to sail under the Golden Gate bridge of San Francisco. And he did, after ninety-four days of excruciating adventure and hardship.

He did it in a Japanese way: carefully preparing everything, meticulously executing the plan he had drawn, even trying to apply for a passport (he did not manage to get one in time) because he wanted to follow the rules. It is ironic that when he completed his feat his father, instead of being proud, promised to the media that upon return the son would apologize to the nation for having contravened the rules. (It was not allowed at the time for small boats to leave Japan.)

Buy the book here

In the US buy it here

11 August 2015

Film review: Three times (2005) di Hou Hsiao Hsien, ***

Taipei temple

Un film diviso in tre episodi in cui si riflette sulla impossibilita' dell'amore.

1911, Dadaocheng. il tempo della liberta'. il padrone di una piantagione di tè e suo figlio vogliono riscattare il contratto di una giovane cortigiana. avendo capito che la ragazza aspetta un bambino dal figlio, m. chang cerca di accelerare le trattative. la ragazza intanto diventa la concubina del padre e m. chang va in Giappone a raggiungere un rivoluzionario cinese in esilio.

1966, Kaohsiung. il tempo dell'amore. chen incontra may, che lavora in una sala da biliardo che lui frequenta con regolarita'. i due giovani giocano una partita insieme poco prima che lui parta per il servizio militare. durante un permesso, chen torna a trovarla ma lei sembra essere scomparsa.

2005, Taipei. il tempo della giovinezza. Jing e' epilettica e sta perdendo progressivamente la vista dall'occhio destro. abita con la madre e la nonna ed ha un'avventura con una donna, michy. Zhen lavora in un negozio di foto digitali ed abita con blue, la sua ragazza. quando lei scopre che lui la tradisce con Jing, diventa folle di rabbia. che futuro avranno questi quattro giovani? Almeno uno di loro potra' avere una vita serena?

Taipen night market


Non il miglior film del regista di Taiwan Hou Hsiao-Hsien a mio parere. Parte con un ritmo difficile e stenta a decollare. È interessante la sequenza storica: la "prima volta" è il 1966, la seconda è il 1911 (si parla dialetto Hokkien sotto occupazione coloniale giapponese) e la terza nella moderna Taiwan degli anni sessanta del XX secolo (si parla mandarino).

Ho trovato difficile entrare nel film, ma penso sia comunque utile a capire alcuni aspetti della storia di Taiwan, questa isola cinese che da oltre un secolo è separata dalla madrepatria.

01 August 2015

Book review: Music, A Very Short Introduction (1998) by Nicholas Cook, ***

Beethoven nears the end, by Batt

What is music? How is it constructed? How is it consumed? Why do you enjoy it at all? Nicholas Cook invites us to really think about music and the role it plays in our lives and our ears. Drawing on a number of accessible examples, the author prompts us to call on our own musical experiences in order to think more critically about the roles of the performers and the listener, about music as a commodity and an experience, what it means to understand music, and the values we ascribe to it.

This very short introduction, written with both humor and flair, begins with a sampling of music as human activity and then goes on to consider the slippery phenomenon of how music has become an object of thought. Covering not only Western and classical music, Cook touches on all types from rock to Indonesian music and beyond.


Music is an agent of ideology: we must not just hear it, but "read" it as an intrinsic part of the society and culture that produces it. Until the second part of XX century mostly studied in conservatories, not universities as musicology. Does music need words? Can it be read without words? Yes, though a few words can help set the context.

Beethoven is a recurring reference for the author. He did not just revolutionize music, he had something to say about the decay of aristocratic Europe. He never wanted a fixed, salaried position: he wanted to write the music he wanted to write, when he wanted, if he wanted. Cook argues this was the opposite of Rossini, who thrived in that Europe of pomp and ostentatious luxury. Others would disagree: Rossini mocked the rich and the noble in his operas, just look at the Barbiere di Siviglia, where everyone is a crook.

Mass production of records, now internet streaming: talk about music as you talk about cuisine: everything is available everywhere. Also, the average technical quality of musicians is on the rise, musicians face harder competition to emerge.

This is indeed a very very short introduction to music, but a useful one to stimulate interest especially for those who maybe listened to music but never thought about it, and never "read" it!

Buy the book on Amazon here:

About the Series: Combining authority with wit, accessibility, and style, Very Short Introductions offer an introduction to some of life's most interesting topics. Written by experts for the newcomer, they demonstrate the finest contemporary thinking about the central problems and issues in hundreds of key topics, from philosophy to Freud, quantum theory to Islam.

17 July 2015

Book review: Catching Fire - How Cooking Made Us Human (2009), by Richard Wrangham, *****

Blogger learning to be human

Ever since Darwin and The Descent of Man, the existence of humans has been attributed to our intelligence and adaptability. But in Catching Fire, renowned primatologist Richard Wrangham presents a startling alternative: our evolutionary success is the result of cooking. In a groundbreaking theory of our origins, Wrangham shows that the shift from raw to cooked foods was the key factor in human evolution.

Wrangham argues that it was cooking that caused the extraordinary transformation of our ancestors from apelike beings to Homo erectus. At the heart of Catching Fire lies an explosive new idea: the habit of eating cooked rather than raw food permitted the digestive tract to shrink and the human brain to grow.

When our ancestors adapted to using fire, humanity began. Time once spent chewing tough raw food could be used instead to hunt and to tend camp. Cooking became the basis for pair bonding and marriage, created the household, and even led to a gender-based division of labor.

Tracing the contemporary implications of our ancestors’ diets, this book sheds new light on how we came to be the social, intelligent, and sexual species we are today. As our ancestors adapted to using fire, humans emerged as "the cooking apes".


Cogito ergo sum, said Descartes. Coquo ergo sum is the gist of this book. According to largely accepted scientific research, Homo erectus sprung up from the earlier Australopithecines by eating meat.The transition from homo erectus to homo sapiens, us, is owed to a major innovation: cooking.

Levi-Strauss, in his The Raw and the Cooked: Introduction to a science of mythology (Pimlico), wrote that fire marks the transition from nature to culture. Few would dispute that the cuisine of any nation is a major trademark of its cultural complexity and sophistication. And cooking, in its many diverse methods (grilling, steaming, boiling, baking etc) is an essential part of any major cuisine in the world.

Our bodies evolved because we learned to cook: besides a smaller stomach and larger brain, we lost our climbing ability (no need to climb if fire can protect camp on the ground) in favor of better running skills. And we have much smaller teeth compared to our ancestors who did not cook.

Cooking also played an essential role in making mankind a carnivore, as it makes it efficient to digest and store large amount of animal proteins in a way that would have been unthinkable with just raw meat. But for vegetarians there is some consolation as well: cooking made it possible to digest many more types of roots.

Finally, this book delves on the social implications of cooking: how it shaped the man/woman relationship in the house, and how it made it easier to use meals as a social event. Some cultures have peculiar (to us) habits: among the Bonerif of Papua, a woman will sleep with every man in the village except her brothers before finally getting married; but the moment she feeds a man she is committed and irrevocably considered his wife!

In the UK you can buy it here:

In France and Belgium

In the US and worldwide buy it here

If you feel inspired to become more human, consider buying one of these books about cooking!

Film review: Accidental Tourist (1989) by Lawrence Kasdan, ****


William Hurt, Kathleen Turner, Geena Davis. An author of travel books who is coping with his son's death and his wife's departure has his outlook on life brightened by an offbeat dog trainer. Davis won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress from one of four total nominations. 1988/color/121 min/PG.


This movie is not really about traveling and when I was done watching it I did not plan to review it for this blog. But then I watched it again and I thought it is ALSO about traveling, and not just because the protagonist is a travel guide writer. In fact, that has nothing to do with it. It is a movie about traveling because there are so  many of us who are accidental tourists, though many of us do not even recognize we are.

How many times we go places not because we want to but because we have to? Or for no reason at all? And yet it is part of the innate curiosity of a real traveler to explore new destinations for no reason other than the fact that they exist and we came to know that they are there.

Not only Macon did not want to be a travel writer, but he hates traveling. He's got a job to do however, so he goes places.  He writes guide books for people who, like him, would rather never leave home. And his books are popular precisely because that's the way his readers feel as well. "While armchair travelers dream of going places, traveling armchairs dream of staying put." Macon is a traveling armchair, really, and yet a trip to Paris (a place he'd rather avoid and where he looks for American fast food, while others would kill to have a chance to visit) will define the rest of his life. Is it all by accident?

16 July 2015

Book Review: Geography of Attraction (2015), by Ali May *****


This is, in its own peculiar way, a travel book, which is why this review has a place in this blog. When I asked the author what his new book was about, his answer was simple: fxxxing around the world. The reader is led from ultra-conservative Iran to super-emancipated Denmark, with stopovers in Italian islands and European capitals. Along the way, we are led through many a decadent tasting of delicacies from around the world and lots and lots of drinking, all of which leads like a funnel to the inevitability of physical attraction.

Whether the protagonist of each story is him, or someone he knows, he wouldn't say. Maybe that's the most intriguing feature of the book. It's part fiction, but not all of it. It could all be real. Some stories are clearly autobiographical. I hope, for the author's good sake, much of it is.

For the rest of us what is left is good reading entertainment and the ability to draw inspiration. My favorite is the one about new year's eve celebration, when at exactly midnight she sat ... oh well I'd better not spoil it here.

You can buy the kindle version here on Amazon.uk

In the US and internationally find it here

Or contact the author here to buy the hard copy.

07 May 2015

Crociera alle Maldive

Crociera con Luca alle Maldive.

05 March 2015

Recensione: I Due Viaggiatori (2010) di Paolo Ciampi, *****

Odoardo Beccari


C'è Odoardo, l'uomo che abbraccia il mondo con la sua irrequietezza, con la sua voglia di conoscere popoli e continenti, di toccare con mano. Il battito di ali di una farfalla sconosciuta vale più di una cattedra universitaria. Dategli una foresta vergine e si sentirà al settimo cielo. La sua giovinezza è tutta qui. E c'è Emilio, l'uomo che se ne rimane a casa, però è attratto da tutto quanto è remoto, sconosciuto, diverso. Un nome che profuma di esotico è quanto basta per giocare con i sogni. E lui no, ma i suoi personaggi attraversano tutti i continenti, si muovono per spirito di avventura, di scommessa, di sfida. Odoardo Beccari ed Emilio Salgari. L'esploratore e lo scrittore. Lo scienziato e l'inventore di storie. L'uomo che ha toccato il mondo con mano e l'ufficiale di marina mancato. Così diversi, ma anche così simili. Il viaggiatore in carne e ossa, che calpesta il mondo con i suoi piedi. Il viaggiatore della fantasia, per cui l'avventura non presuppone uno spazio fisico, ma solo gli orizzonti che la mente può scorgere. I due modi di viaggiare. E chissà chi è andato più lontano.


Emilio Salgari
Originalissimo il viaggio di Paolo Ciampi tra Malesia e Indonesia. In compagnia di due grandi scrittori di avventure italiani: uno, Emilio Salgari, arcinoto anche se non era un viaggiatore; e l'altro, Odoardo Beccari, Viaggiatore con la V maiuscola, sconosciuto ai più.

Ciampi più che un viaggio percorre un quello che definirei un metaitinerario: parte vero viaggio (ha visitato alcuni dei posti ove si svolgono le narrazioni di "Emilio e Odoardo", come li chiama lui dopo che, avendone letti e riletti gli scritti, ne diventa amico.

E parte ricostruzione delle peripezie che hanno costellato le vite mirabolanti dei due scrittori. Alla fine della lettura si ha quasi l'impressione di aver letto due biografie in parallelo. Così tra cacciatori di teste e foreste (anche adesso) impenetrabili, Ciampi ci accompagna a scoprire il Borneo (oggi Kalimantan) e Celebes (oggi Sulawesi). Terre che si fa una certa fatica a definire ospitali ma che forse proprio per questo conservano, anche a distanza di molti decenni dal tempo di Emilio e Odoardo, un fascino inalterato. Posso confermarlo anche personalmente sulla base di un mio viaggio al nord di Sulawesi, destinazione che mi sento di consigliare a quei viaggiatori che ancora sentono il bisogno di uscire dal sentiero battuto.

Compra il libro qui:

Dello stesso autore anche questo libro sulle scoperte di Odoardo Beccari.

Questo è un ebook sull'archivio di Beccari.