08 April 2023
30 April 2021
People come from all over the world to paint at Lower marsh, a quaint street in Lambeth where we are living for a couple of months. It takes hours and hours of work for a graffiti to come alive and they are gone a few hours late, usually the next day, perhaps in a week.
The tunnel is near Waterloo station, and it is officially sanctioned for graffiti. Every day dozens of street artists congregate and let their imagination loose through spray color cans. Hours of work go into each graffiti, only to be covered up the next day. Ephemeral art.
A young Slovakian (I know she is, I asked) lady sells fresh fruits just outside the gallery and only a few meters away from our apartment. Too bad she does not work on weekends when the graffiti painters are most active.
19 October 2019
SI trova a Times Square, con un grattacielo copia molto approssimativa del Chrysler Building di New York! Ovunque Cartelloni elettronici di pubblicità come nella Time Square originale.
Marche superbrands, Giorgio Armani, Longines, Rolex di fronte al negozio un tipo si avvicina e mi chiede con grande naturalezza se sono interessato a comprare dei Rolex finti a prezzi molto convenienti.
Pranzo in un food court non so come tradurre, ma è una zona che assomiglia ad un mercato coperto con molti ristoranti che servono pietanze cotte al momento da piccole cucine. Per mangiare ci si sistema su tavolate comuni a tutti i ristoranti, spesso condividendo tavola e sedie con perfetti sconosciuti.
Anche un negozio di Apple computers è praticamente una fotocopia di quello di New York, solo che qui sta accanto ad una grande fioriera che commemora i 70 anni della fondazione della Repubblica Popolare Cinese, con tanto di bandiera rossa e stellette, che a New York mancano!
Mangiamo ottimo pollo con ortaggi e riso. Poi Lifang trova una specialità: ostriche grigliate in salsetta piccante (dopo tutto siamo in Sichuan!) che dopo aver superato una prima ritrosia si sono rivelate squisite.
Museo delle Belle Arti, edificio rosso molto moderno, circondato da giardini on famiglie che giocano e un paio di signori di mezza età che corrono. Panchine di pietra, Lifang si fa una siesta mentre io guardo il mondo che mi passa davanti.
Nel museo, gratuito, due piani di quadri di autori di Chongqing e di Taiwan. Chissà perché questo gemellaggio, fra l'altro in un momento politicamente delicato per i rapporti "tra le due parti dello stretto" come si dice in termini diplomatici. Misto di quadri moderni, anche astratti, e soggetti più classici e politici, come soldati comunisti che liberano il paese.
Andiamo a piedi verso Hongyadong, non ci orientiamo e il mio navigatore Google Maps sul telefono non funziona perché Google è censurata in Cina. Il navigatore di Lifang non ci indica la strada giusta ma ogni volta che chiediamo indicazioni cercano di venderti qualcosa, un tour organizzato, un pranzo, persino un guardia della sicurezza stradale!
Ci arriviamo dopo un po’ di tentativi, troppa gente, troppo commerciale, ha perso il fascino che aveva una volta. Comunque restano alcuni scorci interessanti, soprattutto la sera quando si accendono le luci gialle sui tetti, che creano un'atmosfera antica.
Strapaghiamo un cocktail in un bar che però offre una vista strepitosa sullo Yangtse dalla terrazza di legno.
Il bar ha anche un utilissimo bagno, le due porte del quale (uomini e donne) sono indicate da un segnale speciale: una pipa per gli uomini e due orecchini per le donne. A ognuno il suo.
Ancora due passi dopo il bar. Lungo una scalinata che si arrampica su per il ripido pendio sulla riva destra del fiume vedo molti pezzi di carta attaccati al muro, con una descrizione e numero di telefono per contatto. Mi spiega Lifang che si tratta di annunci matrimoniali, attaccati dai genitori di celibi e nubili, che decantano le qualità della prole e specificano le caratteristiche ricercate per eventuali futuri coniugi.
Noto un curioso cartello lungo la stessa scalinata, vicino ad un idrante: "In caso di incendio non usare l'equipaggiamento anti-incendio". Mmmmhhh...
Torniamo a casa in metropolitana, pulita, veloce e con frequenti treni che portano in tutta la città. Accanto alla stazione di Shapingba vicino casa un Carrefour ed un supermercato cinese, si chiama Bravo, che mi ripropongo di andare a visitare.
17 February 2019
Some European food for sale, interesting to see prosciutto, salami and mortadella from Italy, and Iberico from Spain.
Lots of flowers but also wood carvings, tableware, exotic (for me) fruits.
Afterward, it was time to head back to the Sun Yat-Sen memorial for the calligraphy exhibition we heard about would be taking place today.
As we arrive we are welcomed by a lively scene of families, elderly people, some with their carers,
A whole huge room of the memorial is reserved for this event.
first children, then high school students followed by professors and finally masters. It is amazing to see all this talent pooled together to honor and perpetuate the ancient art of Chinese calligraphy.
At 5 o'clock sharp the staff start packing everything up, seats tables...
As I see some blank paper, a brush and an inkpot that have not been packed away yet, I call my wife and she paints my Chinese name on a white scroll in beautiful calligraphy!
In addition to local calligraphers, there are many participants from Japan and the United States.
As we are about to leave we met Mr. Zheng, a slim and tall Chinese who was born in Malaysia but emigrated to California in 1980. He is an active member of the American Association for calligraphy...
His main hobby however is painting and he's also been performing Peking opera for over 30 years.
His brother lives in London, his sister in Australia but his 98-years-old mother is still in Malaysia. They try to get all together with her as often as possible!
Before parting ways he wants to take a picture together, then the official photographer of the event comes up and wants to shoot us too, what an honor!
15 February 2019
23 August 2018
Sveglia tardi, forse ancora un po’ di jet lag. E poi siamo stati in piedi sempre fino a tardi in questi giorni, io a scrivere il mio libro sulla Polonia e Lifang a far post-produzione dei suoi video per il sito cinese. Coppia molto attiva.
Piscina e relax fino al primo pomeriggio, poi in visita al Thian Hock Keng Temple, uno dei più venerati a Singapore, dedicato alla dea del mare, Mazu. Simbolo della tradizione Hokkien tramandata qui dai tanti immigrati che sono venuti a cercare fortuna nel corso dei secoli.
Prima però un rapido pranzetto in un ristorante che ci era stato consigliato ieri dalla guida del museo delle music boxes, proprio davanti all'entrata del museo. Scegliamo una zuppa di pesce agrodolce e due enormi gamberoni leggermente piccanti. Le possibilità di ristorazione a Singapore si confermano infinite, si mangia quasi sempre benissimo e si spende quasi sempre poco.
Dopo la zuppa, mentre aspettiamo che siano pronti i gamberi, notiamo un piccolo museo della ceramica affianco al ristorante. Anzi, fa parte del ristorante, stessi proprietari. Strana combinazione, ma ci alziamo a dare un'occhiata. Ci sono maioliche antiche di molti paesi, specialmente giapponesi, belghe e inglesi. Stranamente mancano quelle italiane e olandesi.
Il proprietario dice che è il suo hobby, quando viaggia per il mondo compra maioliche e poi le rivende qui a Singapore dove sono una vera rarità. Ingegnoso.
Serata al MBS, vediamo lo spettacolo suoni e luci alle 8. C'è molta gente, peccato per un gruppo di russi maleducati che fanno chiasso, rovinano un po’ l'atmosfera.
Cena per un tradizionalissimo "black crab" ad uno dei tanti ristoranti sul lungofiume a Clark Quay: 1,5 kg di crostaceo per 98 dollari. Un cartello avverte che non è educato chiedere il peso delle signore, ma è necessario chiedere il peso dei granchi quando si ordina, per evitare sorprese al momento del conto!
Buffo finale. È quasi mezzanotte, stanno per chiudere. Arriva una coppia asiatica, forse malese non sono sicuro, e chiedono di essere serviti nonostante l'ora tarda. Lui in T-shirt, quasi trasandato, lei con un grazioso vestitino rosso, chiaramente in ghingheri per la serata romantica, mentre lui quasi pare pronto per andare a giocare a pallone. La cameriera esita, hanno già cominciato a pulire i tavoli e ammucchiare le sedie. Poi parla con il capo e annuisce, gli porta due menù e gli lascia qualche minuto per decidere l'ordine. Quando torna il maschione della coppia (molto corpulento, mentre lei è una mingherlina quasi fragile) ordina due ciotole di riso. Ue ciotole di riso! E basta.
La cameriera è visibilmente delusa ma dopo un paio di minuti torna con le ciotole e le mette sul tavolo, e intanto allunga il conto all'imponente ragazzotto. Passano i minuti, noi abiamo finito il granchione nero e ce ne stiamo per andare, la cameriera torna per ricevere il pagamento dell'omone ma lui, con gran faccia tosta, chiede di poter restare ancora al tavolo! Ristorante chiuso, sei arrivato tardi, ordini una ciotola di riso in bianco e vuoi restare con la pupa a chiacchierare davanti alle luci si Singapore fino all'alba?!?
23 September 2017
The film gives a most interesting overview of China's history in the XX century through the eyes of Peking opera actors. We see the country moving from the fall of the Qing Empire (the last eunuch is still around for a long time after the advent of the Republic), through the Japanese invasion, the civil war and the various phases of the Communist rule.
Two boys are educated to play two classical roles in the Peking Opera, one masculine and the other effeminate. They are so good at it that they play the opera together for their entire career: during the chaos of China after the fall of the Qing Empire, during the Japanese occupation, the brief Nationalist takeover, the Communist take over, the Cultural Revolution.
Gong Li becomes the wife of the masculine actor, and as such created serious, and ultimately unsolvable, dilemmas in the mind of her husband, with tragic consequences.
In this film the character Douzi represents in many ways the real life of the actor Leslie Cheung. Douzi was gay and struggled to be accepted in the society of his time, and so was Cheung in real life. He is however successful professionally and admired for that, and so is Cheung, the first Hong Kong actor who acted in a mainland China film. And the real life of Cheung represents Douzi's role in the film: he can't take the pressure any more and ends up committing suicide. Beautiful costumes!
A courageous masterpiece by Chen Kaige, a pillar of Chinese film in the XX century. He addressed the controversial issues of homosexuality and the Cultural Revolution in a film before anyone else dared to do so in the People's Republic of China. For this "farewell my Concubine" was banned shortly after its release in 1993, only to be cleared by the censors a while later in an abridged form.
See my other reviews of films about China here on this blog.
Buy this film by clicking on one of these links
24 August 2017
|Colonna di libri, Museo Nazionale|
22 August 2017
Interesting fountain in Singapore
The day ends at the famous night safari, for which Singapore is famous. There is a long line, I think we waited almost an hour to get in, but it is worth the wait. After paying for the ticket you are driven on a small train to the zoo itself and start walking along the cages. All kinds of animals from around the world are shown here. It is my first (and probably last) time to see a leopard up close!
We were the last ones out, the guards politely waited for us and escorted us to see the last exhibits on the way to the exit.
29 September 2016
24 September 2015
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
05 May 2013
The National Museum of the Maldives was inaugurated on 19 November 1952, by the Prime Mnister Mohamed Ameen Didi, in the Usgekolhu, the last remaining building of the old Sultan's palace. It was an old building, inadequate for a modern museum.
Construction of the new (current) museum began in 2007 and it was inaugurated by then president Nasheed on 25 July 2010. The new building is a donation from China.
The museum houses artifacts as well as shells and corals, symbols of the Maldivian cultural as well as natural heritage.
There is a hard to find book on sale, probably the only one about the Museum of Malé, Maldives. Printed in 2010, just after the new museum gifted from China was completed, and before the tragic events of 8 February 2012, when almost all of the pre-islamic items in the museum were destryoyed by islamic fundamentalists.
The then president Nasheed had just been deposed and a wave of fanaticism shook the capital. A group of fundamentalists broke into the Museum and destroyed everything that was associated with the rich pre-islamic culture of the islands.
The book contains short descriptions of most items on display and color pictures of many of them, including some of those destroyed, some irreparably. As such it is bound to become a rare document, even tough not all objects are represented here.
|President Nasheed at the Museum inspecting|
now destroyed pre-islamic scultpure (photo by Wearetraveller.com blog)
Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture
You can buy my book on the Maldives here (in Italian)
17 February 2013
|"Running" by Gour, 13 years old|
The most stigmatized people in Calcutta's red light district are not the prostitutes, but their children. In the face of abject poverty, abuse, and despair, these kids have little possibility of escaping their mother's fate or for creating another type of life. Directors Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman chronicle the amazing transformation of the children they come to know in the red light district. Briski, a professional photographer, gives them lessons and cameras, igniting latent sparks of artistic genius that reside in these children who live in the most sordid and seemingly hopeless world. The photographs taken by the children are not merely examples of remarkable observation and talent; they reflect something much larger, morally encouraging, and even politically volatile: art as an immensely liberating and empowering force.
The winner of the 77th annual Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, Born into Brothels offers a tribute to the resiliency of childhood and the restorative power of art. Devoid of sentimentality, Born into Brothels defies the typical tear-stained tourist snapshot of the global underbelly. Briski spends years with these kids and becomes part of their lives. Their photographs are prisms into their souls, rather than anthropological curiosities or primitive imagery, and a true testimony of the power of the indelible creative spirit.
11 November 2011
|Murano glass taking shape|
About a dozen artisans are blowing glass today, all Italian men plus a young and very thin French lady who has moved here six years ago to learn the trade. It seems that with 8% "unemployment" in Italy we need to import tall young girls from Burgundy to keep the magic of Murano glass alive! She follows closely each and every move of the senior master, who sometimes holds her hand in a fatherly fashion to guide her through the moves that transform sand into glass masterpieces.
The atmosphere is magic. In the middle of the shop a huge furnace radiates intense heat, and all around skilled workers dance with their red-hot glass at the end of a steel pole, blowing, cutting, chiselling, attaching gold leaves, shaping and reshaping their creations.
We leave the shop after two very full hours and take the ferry back to Venice, where a lineup of "spritz" is waiting for us at a local bar. They will be followed by delicious cicchetti for a true Venetian lunch by Rialto. I was afraid to run into a tourist trap, of which there are too many in the neighborhood, but ended up in a delightful little restaurant for a very special treat.
As one of them shows us the tools he explains that a gondola costs about thirty thousand euro as it comes out of the carpenter's shop, with no accessories, decorations, or anything one would call an "optional" in a car. It can be twice as much when it hits the water with all its bells and whistles installed. There are only 420 licensed gondolas in Venice and licences are impossible to get unless you are well connected into the inner circles of the city and come from a family of gondolieri.
This squero can only make two new gondolas per year, and spend most of its labor time on maintenance. I had the good luck to witness some of this work today, one master was pushing special straw thread in the crevices between the long beams of a gondola to improve its water tightness. As the sun sets, a gondoliere arrives at the squero to deliver his gondola for repairs. Everyone gives a hand to raise it from the water, and after a first inspection a workplan is agreed upon. It's time for us to say farewell, and head off to town for a dinner of polenta with cuttle fish in its black ink sauce...
02 May 2011
|Dazu Rock carvings|
But I would like to share the "legend of the country girl", subject of one of the carvings, as reported to me by a local guide. I found it moving.
A beautiful country girl is invited to town by a bunch of boys she does not know. She does not want to go because she is shy, but they insist so much that she relents and accepts to follow them. And that's when her troubles start...
Once in town they take her to a party and force her to dance. But she is weak because of pregnancy and after many hours she collapses and aborts her child. Soon thereafter she dies of grief and goes to hell. Here she gemerates five hundred children with all the demons she meets in the ghastly place. Nonetheless, she never forgot her one child on earth and wants revenge against the town boys for her lost child. Strong of her afterwordly powers, she goes back to the town where she died, attends more parties and every night she eats a local child.
After this had been going on for a while Buddha Sakyamuni decides to intervene, sneaks up to her and kidnaps one of her 500 children. He then goes to pay a visit and finds her in a desperate state of mind and asks her why she is so cruel since, after all, she now has 500 children. What does she think of the mothers of the children she eats, Buddha asks her. She understands and stops eating children, at which point Buddha returns her kidnapped child to her. She then loved all children of the world for the rest of her life and became a goddess of children!
Recommended reading: This one below is one of several books on the Dazu carvings, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the best of the bunch, great binding, good photographs and detailed descriptions, in English, of each one of them. It is expensive: there are cheaper versions of this book but this is the one to buy if you can afford it. It is impossible to convey the sheer size and majesty of the carvings in pictures, but this is as close as it gets.
In the US and worldwide buy it here:
In the UK buy it here:
My guide tells me another legend, which I struggle to understand: a woman who had a chicken was sent to hell because during her lifetime she had fed this chicken lots of prime food. In doing so she made the chicken fat. One man thought the fat chicken would be very tasty, killed it, cooked it and ate it. If the chicken had not been fed so well she would not have looked so mouth-watering and the man would not have eaten it. OK I'll need some time to think this through.
It is a rainy day, and the long bus ride makes a few of us doze off... I stay awake, mostly, and from my seat at the front of the vehicle keep looking at the two flags our nostalgic driver has glued to his dashboard...
After the visit to the carvings' site we go for lunch, but first we stumble into another great temple. The Longevity temple, built in 1178, and now again in use after decades of neglect during Maoist times.
In the evening we board our cruise ship, the "President", for a 3-day run down the Yangtse, which in some languages is referred to as the Blue River, the longest river in Asia and the main artery of life in China since time immemorial!
27 April 2011
A chairlift takes us up to the “yak meadows”. The view of the peaks from the top is stunning, and the white snow against the blue sky provides a perfect frame for the Buddhist gompa on top of a hill that we reach with an easy 20 min walk. The gompa is not the most impressive I have ever seen, still, it's good to see it here, open for business.
A few yaks graze around, it is all by the book! Not enough time to savor the atmosphere unfortunately, time to go back. I detest fixed schedules when traveling but today I have no choice, I am in the hands of the local guides. To make things worse, some of my clients, especially 50+ single Italian ladies, complain to me! Oh boy...
After lunch off to town for a visit of the food market, with impressive displays of all kinds of delicacies, clearly a successful farmers’ market that may not be very communist but has all its shelves full. Very colorful cabbages and other greens are on display next to bright red chili baskets that will spice up local dishes. Southern Chinese cuisine is known for being generally more spicy than the rest. In a semi-dark covered pavilion a number of butchers are busy chopping and skinning all kinds of animals, but especially pigs and cows as I can tell. No refrigeration system is in sight but the meat looks very fresh, I suppose there must be a high turnover.
I bought a red mahjong set, kind of old looking if not necessarily that old. Nearby, a palace that used to belong to an old pre-revolutionary governor exudes some ancient charm. I especially appreciate its old wooden doors. Many frescos all around, we are told by our local guide, were destroyed by the Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution, but these doors survived because local farmers painted them over with portraits of Mao.
We then move on to the park of the Black Dragon Pool. It is a stunning location, with lots of history, art and architecture which we only have time to taste in part.
There is an old and very big camellia tree. It has its own guardian, who is well known because he has had this job for over 50 years. He says, through our guides, that the Red Guards wanted to cut the tree down as it was an "old thing" but he stopped them and told them they would have to kill him first, and they gave up. Who knows what really happened but the tree is here!
Dinner tonight brings a new guest: Baiju, the rice liquor that will accompany most of the rest of our dinners in this trip. Sort of similar to grappa (very sort of) it can be made with rice or sorghum. It has a rather coarse taste but can go down very well after a hearty Chinese meal.
23 September 2010
Recensione: Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. Invenzioni, avventure e passioni di un rivoluzionario (2010), di Giordano Bruno Guerri, *****
Dopo il Rinascimento, la creazione culturale italiana più originale e importante è stata il futurismo: avanguardia di tutte le avanguardie del Novecento, ha cambiato per sempre il modo di intendere l'arte e il rapporto arte-società. Da non molto la critica ha cominciato a riconoscere la forza dirompente di questo movimento che nel 2009, centenario del Manifesto, ha avuto la sua apoteosi, in un diluvio di mostre, studi e celebrazioni. Eppure si continua a trascurare la figura e l'opera del geniale inventore del futurismo. Filippo Tommaso Marinetti ebbe una vita affascinante di artista e rivoluzionario.
|Lancio del manifesto futurista su Le Figaro, 1909|
30 August 2010
This book is a priceless resource for anyone interested in a concise account of all Buddhist monasteries in the Indian state of Himachal. There are several introductory chapters on geography, the cultural background of the region, che concept of monasticism and the arrival of Buddhism in Himachal from Tibet.
The main body of the book is a catalog of all major and most minor monasteries and other votive structures. Further chapters deal with the architectural and artistic features of these buildings.
Finally, some photographs and drawings provide a pictorial complement to the text. A reference work not to be missed by anyone interested in the region.
28 August 2010
21 February 2010
|National Palace Museum|
This is la crème de la crème of Chinese art, collected by emperors as far back as the Tang dynasty. Chiang had a nuclear bomb proof vault buil in a mountain next to Taipei and then, next to the mountain, this museum. The world is lucky that the stuff is here, or it would probably have been dstroyed during the cultural revolution in China. Today, only about one percent of the items are on display, and the Museum's staff rotates it ever so many months. Incredibly refined, pottery, ceramics, calligraphy, jewellery, jade, bronze...
I can see myself coming back here many, many times...
Leaving the Museum I head to the XXI symbol of pride of Taiwan, Taipei 101. When it was completed in 2004 it was the tallest building in the world, and it remained that until last month, when Burj Khalifa opened in Dubai. Taipei 101 is a controversial project. My friend S., who openly sympathizes for the independentist school of thought in Taiwan, says it was not really necessary and it was motly a trick by the Nationalists to impress an increasingly disillusioned electorate.
|Moving fast in 101 elevator|
At the top, it is cold and windy today. Not the best day to enjoy the landscape. I don't spend much time there, but again I must admit to being impressed: this time by the elevator, the fastest (at this time) in the world, going up and down at 17 meters per second without the slightest discomfort for the user. Well, may I should say the traveler, since it's over half a kilometer up from ground level!
An impressive 730 tons tuned mass damper is installed near the top to absorb shocks caused by wind or earthquakes.
|tuned mass damper in 101|