Showing posts with label sport. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sport. Show all posts

18 May 2021

Film review: Wadjda (2012) by Reem Abdullah, *****


A rebellious Saudi Arabian girl hatches a plan to get her hands on the bicycle she craves in this coming-of-age story from first time director Haifaa Al-Mansour. 

Living within a conservative suburb of Riyadh, fun-loving eleven-year-old Wadjda (Waad Mohammed) has her heart set on a green bicycle so that she can beat the boys in their neighbourhood races. 

But when her mother (Reem Abdullah) forbids it, anticipating a reaction from a society that disapproves of women riding bicycles, an enterprising Wadjda decides to raise the money herself by entering a local Qur'an-reading competition that offers a cash prize.


A most interesting if limited peek into Saudi society and especially the position of women. It is pretty incredible the Saudi female director managed to complete filming on location, not everyone was happy with it... Not surprising as movie theaters were not allowed in Saudi Arabia, either, between 1983 and 2018. 

I knew women were not allowed to drive (they now are) but was shocked to learn they were not supposed to ride bicycles. Or touch the Koran when they have their period! 

In the end this movie is about how a little girl wants to have a happy life, she knows nothing about politics and only understand religion inasmuch as they have her memorize verses. A hopeful note of optimism for Saudi Arabia. 

28 January 2019

Canoe in Palau

Leisurely break between dives, a tour in a canoe in the lagoon.

14 January 2019

Palau kayak tour

Very American breakfast with lots of fruit juices though they are mostly from concentrate. Disappointing in a tropical island. Lots of processed foods actually, mostly imported from the US and Taiwan, even eggs! 

Weird...In Palau, cars drive on the right-hand side of the road, like in Europe but they all have their wheel on the right-hand side of the vehicle, like in the UK. Very strange. Maybe it's because here cars come mostly from Japan where they drive on the left-hand side of the road so it makes sense to have the wheel on the right-hand side here it's just strange.

We are picked up at our hotel by Marete, a stereotypical tall, blond, blue-eyed Danish lady who is spending a gap year traveling and working around the world with her boyfriend before going back to Denmark and continue her studies. Great idea. Not many Italians do this, even fewer Chinese I think. Too many Italians stay home with mamma until they move in with their wives. Anything to avoid cooking or having to manage a household.

Chinese are just beginning to understand the concept of a gap year. Until now they have to work as soon as possible to support the family. But the rising middle class now knows that is an option and can afford it, we'll see. 

Amazing canoe tour at Risong. A small group of us with a guide who comes from Tinian but has worked here for 12 years: meny more tourists, more money to be made. He takes us through the unmistakable Palauan volcanic formations carpeted with luscious green bushes whose branches overloaded with deep dark leaves reach all the way to the waterline.

An American pilot is with us with his Japanese girlfriends (panta rei, a few decades ago she would have rather died than be anywhere near him). he works for United Airlines is enjoying a day off before returning to Guam, US aviation and military hub in the region. We join a group of 4 elderly and very energetic American ladies. one asks where we live, and when I say London but not sure after Brexit she invites me to move to her native New York city.  


We can see small fish of all shapes and colors, a few baby reef sharks and lots of totally innocuous jelly fish, which do not sting as they have no predators in these protected waters. 

Dinner at the Yue Hai restaurant, owned by Cantonese family who moved here some two decades ago also run the hotel's jewelry shop all in the family, including some cousins who have come here for a few years to help and make some dollars. The restaurant is far more appealing and much better value than the jewellery store.

16 December 2013

10. - 16 Dec.: Knysna golf and dining

Tour of downtown Knysna. It's a wonderful late Spring day and it is obvious that Summer is knocking at the door. Lots of people strolling about, eating in the numerious terraces, drinking and shopping. Inevitable in an upmarket area like this, most shoppers and diners are white while many of the workers are black.

As I walk aimlessly around I meet a painter of dogs. A man in his mid-sixties perhaps, kind of short (even by my own 1.69 cm standards) and sporting a long graying beard almost down to his chest. His thick mustache do not completely hide a sweet greagarious smile. A pair of rectangular glasses with a thin frame combine very appropriately with a black beret to produce a perfect blend between a carefree XIX century bohémienne and a modern alternative street artist.

Yes, Teddy is a painter of dogs. He has a dog with him, a small hairy dog called Jock. I know the dog's name because it carries a bright golden badge around its neck with the owner's phone number, in case it should get lost. Teddy paints Jock a lot, it is his main subject, but he also paints other dogs. Occasionally, he paints something else, mostly when he gets motivated by a commission for a specific subject, he told me. But dogs is what he likes to paint.

Just a few steps from his position a couple of sturdy guys are playing their guitars while singing country music. It is a rich mix of Southern country, with some occasional blue-grass overtones, and other local street music. They both wear black T-shirts, a thin necklace, dark sun glasses and a hat that reminds me of Indiana Jones.

Our walk continues to the local supermarket, where Yan and I fall in love with the most colorful baskets of tropical fruits. You can buy it as it comes from the tree, or for a small premium they will serve it nice and peeled in small trays. Prices are incredibly low, at least for our strong Euro, but Yan tells me these delicacies would be far more expensive even in Beijing.

Afternoon back to golf practice. Trying to hit the ball into a more or less straight trajectory toward some flags planted at varying distances into a huge field. I aim at the 50 and 75 meters flags, with mixed results, but who cares? Mike, Lifang and I have a fun and relaxing time while the sun gently sets behind us.

Dinner with local friends at Cafe Mario by the Waterfront. There are no black or colored patrons. My local friends say it's normal because blacks like different food and each of the peoples of South Africa keep to the company of their own kind. Just like Germans and Italians. Well, maybe. It is true, when I live abroad I tend to have more Italian friends than others. But here other considerations come into play: safety, a backlog of racial distrust, if not hatred, that has not yet been completely overcome.

I ask them a question that I will ask a number of times when talking with white South Africans old enough to remember apartheid. The question is: All whites now say they are for racial equality, but what did you think then? (Actually not all whites would agree, there are yet some factions of overtly racist white South Africans, but they are marginal.)

The answer I get today is that they did not know much of what was going on during apartheid because there was no tv in South Africa until the 1980s and a strong censorship prevented news from spreading even within the country and even among rich whites. It is true that there was no TV in South Africa until very late, it started broadcasting only in 1976 to be precise, and then only one channel was available and it was strictly controlled by the government.

And yet I find it hard to believe they did not know, there was so much noise around the world, they certainly knew of Archbishop Tutu winning the Nobel peace prize in 1984 for his anti-apartheid activities. I come out of this conversation with a belief that while most whites were, and are, honestly open and not racist, they acquiesced with apartheid at least, and feared change.

In a way this reminds me of Italy and Fascism: most of my compatriots supported it as long as it was successful and made them feel special, but after 1945 it was virtually impossible to find anyone who would admit to having been a Fascist. And of course many claimed a role in the Resistance, just like many South Africans now say they operated to end apartheid for what they could and were never racist to begin with.

Be that as it may, the restaurant serves very good, real Italian, ossobuco, the best I can remember having outside my beloved peninsula! Italy is well known here for the food, of course, but not for much else. My friends are an exception: they are highly sophisticated lovers of the arts and know Rome as well as any bona fide civis romanus.

When I ask, however, I am surprised no one remembers another Italian who made South Africa known around the world in the 1970s: Marcello Fiasconaro who almost accidentally broke the world record for the 800 meters wearing the blue Italian shirt with a tricolor in the middle. The world record was gone three years later but the Italian record still stands forty years later and counting...

Back home, just after midnight, Mike pops a bottle of bubbles. It is now 17 December and it is officially the day of my 54th birthday.

30 November 2012

Libro: Viaggio alle Maldive (2a edizione, 2015) di Marco Carnovale


Racconto dei molti viaggi alle Maldive dell'autore, che ha navigato in lungo e i in largo per gli atolli, incontrando la gente e cercando di capirne storia e cultura. Gironzolando sempre in barca, Marco ci porta a spasso per villaggi tranquilli, dove la tradizione cerca un difficile equilibrio con l'innovazione e la tecnologia. Ci guida per le strade della brulicante capitale Male', nei suoi angoli nascosti spesso trascurati dal turismo frettoloso. Durante decine di immersioni subacquee, egli è testimone della ricchezza faunistica e dei colori sfavillantii di questi mari. Ma le isole stanno affrontando gravi problemi e rapidi cambiamenti, e non sono sempre il paradiso che sembrano. Le Maldive sono ad una svolta, con cambiamenti politici, economici ed ambientali che pongono difficili sfide al governo ed alla nazione.

Ho anche fatto molte fotografie alle Maldive, sopra e sotto la superficie dell'acqua. Ne ho pubblicato una selezione nella mia pagina Flickr.

Puoi ascoltare un'intervista sul libro che è andata in onda il 17 Gennaio 2013 a Radio Alma, una radio italiofona di Bruxelles.

Puoi comprare il libro su cliccando qui. Disponibile in formato ebook kindle oppure copia cartacea:

Per chi vive fuori dall'Italia il libro è disponibile sui vari siti di Amazon:,,,,


PREFAZIONE DEL LIBRO "Viaggio alle Maldive" di Marco Carnovale

ALCUNI ANNI FA, in preparazione del mio primo viaggio alle Maldive, feci il giro delle mie solite librerie, e passai al setaccio anche i principali siti di vendita di libri sul web, per approfondire la conoscenza di questa destinazione. Trovai guide turistiche, in gran parte focalizzate sulla descrizione dei servizi offerti nei villaggi vacanza multistellati, e qualche carta geografica. Con non poca sorpresa dovetti però constatare che non esisteva alcun volume, in italiano, dedicato a storia, politica, economia, arte, ambiente, usi, costumi, società delle Maldive, e neanche un racconto di viaggio. Allargando la ricerca a librerie e siti web internazionali venne fuori che qualcosa di più era stato scritto in altre lingue, frutto del lavoro di politologi indiani, di un esploratore arabo del milletrecento, di uno francese del seicento, di un viaggiatore inglese degli anni trenta e di un archeologo norvegese degli anni ottanta del secolo scorso, e poco altro. Anche se si tratta di una piccola nazione, e non mi aspettavo certo scaffali pieni, la scena letteraria era veramente desolante.

18 July 2012

Film review: Olympia (1936), by Leni Riefenstahl ***


A documentary of the 1936 Summer Olympic games held in Berlin.


This is undoubdtedly great photography, and controversial director Riefenstahl was very innovative in her positioning of the camera, especially in the low angle. For its time, it was a masterpiece.

Today I find it a bit boring. The sequence of events is monotonous and repetitive.

Interesting to hear the British version commentator cheer for a "European" runner (who happened to be an Italian) runner when an American and a Canadian were in the lead in the 800 meters. An indication that at the time the ideological differences between fascist Italy and democratic Britain did not prevent him to voice sympathy for a fellow European when competing against an American.

Also interesting to hear him use of the term"negro" when referring to black athletes. This is of course politically incorrect today, but did not have a pejorative connotation at that time. Indeed, Martin Luther King and Leopold Senghor used the word even much later.

Funny to see swimmers as they swam "breast stroke" also with butterfly strokes, at will, as it was not differentiated at the time.

The audio in this DVD is pretty bad, could have been remastered better.

An interesting piece of history nonetheless.

Buy the US version here

17 December 2005

Book Review: Neutral Buoyancy: Adventures in a Liquid World, by Tim Ecott, *****

A brilliant mix of vivid reportage, history and science. Historical diving bells, greek sponge divers, world war two frogmen and record-setting breath hold divers compete for space with misunderstood sharks, weeping turtles, smiling dolphins and erotically shaped sea slugs. From Ireland to Florida, Papua New Guinea to Vienna and the Bahamas to Seychelles, Neutral Buoyancy is travel writing of the most fascinating, readable kind; providing a window - or a view from a glass bottomed boat - on a rich, unfamiliar and unique destination. Travel writing of this quality makes Neutral Buoyancy a must for all armchair travellers, not just divers.

01 August 1980

Windsurfing in Sardegna

Marco a Golfo Aranci, in Sardegna, agosto 1980

06 June 1980

Moscow books, champagne and army belts

Brunch at the "Arbat" hotel, not bad, and only 4 Rb, about 1 USD. There isn't much choice but because this is a hotel frequented by many foreigners there is enough.

Next up is a visit to the "Dom Knigi, (website in Russian) the biggest book store in town. And an official one, with lots of propaganda and political books. I am not so interested in these, but I do buy some posters. The Soviets love political posters, many with uncontroversial historical overtones, like for example those on the victory in WW II. Or those of smiling papa Lenin with children. Lenin is the last, and almost the only, leader to be represented in posters. All subsequent leaders have been discredited by their respective successors, so there is no Stalin, no Khrushchev and no current leader either. Of course no foreign leader either: no Mao, no Castro. Well at least one can say there is no personality cult in the USSR today. Some posters are more general in their subject matter,  like for example those that deal with socialism as a force of peace in the world.
Andrew resting

We meet Igor and go to the "Kosmos" hotel for a drink of Soviet Champagne (8 rubles). It is made in Crimea, a bit on the sweet side. And they have no qualms to call it "Champagne" as the USSR, of course, does not abide by European rules on protected denominations. Over a glass of bubbly we talk about the upcoming Olympics, and Igor says he read on the Pravda (the official newspaper of the Communist Party, it means "Truth") that all western countries are coming with their flags, and the the US boycott is a failure. Sounds strange, the Herald Tribune reported Italy and the UK are going but without flags. France is going with its flag. West Germany who knows. We'll see. Perhaps there is still time for a solution so that all can go and compete and have a proper Olympics. I exchange five packs of American "Salem" cigarettes for a Soviet army belt that Igor conveniently happens to have in his pocket.

Comecon headquarters
Driving around the city, to get a feel of the atmosphere, is not especially rewarding: dull and boring. Several policemen make it more lively by stopping me as I drive around. There are some avenues with twelve lanes (!) and it is impossible to change lane fast enough to take a turn, especially at some huge roundabouts. So I change lane a bit too fast and they  inevitably stop me, ask for all my papers, give me a dirty look and let us go. The building of the Council of Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA, or Comecon) provides a rare example of modern architecture with an original twist.

In the evening we look for a restaurant to have dinner, but by 21:30 most are closed. We end up in a small and very forgettable eatery before heading back to the camping ground.

11 May 1980

Krakow visit and Moscow Olympics

Today we visit the city with Bogdan, who has hired a local tour guide to show us the sights. She is rather shy and underwhelming but we do learn a few bits and pieces of information as we go along.

Morning at the Wawel, impressive.

Excellent lunch at the Holiday Inn hotel. All meals for this trip are paid for by SGPiS, so we can let hell break loose and order anything that strikes our fancy!

Afternoon touring downtown with Ann, we'd like to do some shopping but it's Sunday and most stores are closed.

During dinner I have only a start of a discussion with Mat, our classmate from New Jersey, who is in a particularly bad mood. Always a sueprconservatives, he is especially belligerent today. Only a start of a discussion because it is impossible to discuss with him, so I let go. Despite his dislike for president Carter, he supports his boycott of the Moscow Olympics in light of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. I think differently, and believe that politics and sports should be kept separate. France is sending its athletes to Moscow, and they will march under the French flag at the opening ceremony. Italy is sending its athletes but without a flag, only the seal of the olympic committee. I kind of agree with my own country this time. Mat would like to inflict infernal punishment on any American athlete who would want to attend the Olympics in Moscow.

Great meal in the hotel, then we all hit the sack early, it's been a long day.

19 April 1980

Football and mountain climbing

Easy day. Tried to go to a bank but it was closed. Sometimes they are open on saturday, but not today.

Visit at the post office to call Italy. Must wait half an hour or so. It must be easier to call the moon.

Easy afternoon at Larissa's home watching Italy vs Poland, a friendly match. Not so exciting, ends up 2-2. Anyway better than when we lost to Poland in the 1974 World Cup in Germany.

After the match Borzena gives us no choice: her mother has prepared dinner for us and we are expected. Again an avalanche of proteins, cold and hot, has fallen over the dining table by the time we take our seats.

During dinner we watch some TV and today there is a program on mountaineering. The whole country is justifiably proud that a Polish expedition has reached the summit of Mount Everest in February of this year, the first team to make it in Winter. Leszka Cichy and Krzysztof Wielicki are national heros.

It is, appropriately, unseasonably cold in Warsaw. When we leave Borzena's place to go home it is snowing!

08 August 1976

La mia prima immersione con autorespiratore in mare

Oggi è il giorno fatidico... prima immersione in mare aperto! Sono da solo perché gli amici non sono disponibili, e l'istruttore fa apnea, ma mi segue passo passo in tutti i preparativi e comunque farò un bagnetto facile facile. Certo però, la prima regola sarebbe di non immergersi da soli ed io la infrango alla prima immersione...

Siamo a Pantelleria, a Punta Fram. Il mare è appena increspato ed il cielo estivo è sereno. Fa caldo verso mezzogiorno... Entro in acqua con il mio bibombola ed il fucile, l'emozione è tanta. Mi sento però molto tranquillo, sono bene addestrato, la mia attrezzatura è in perfetto stato e l'ho ricontrollata tutta, e comunque non andrò profondo, al massimo toccherò i 20 metri per un totale di 46 minuti.

Ovviamente restando in curva di sicurezza, a 20 metri ho 50 minuti da passare sott'acqua senza dovermi preoccupare di fare decompressione in risalita.

Fila tutto liscio, anche se faccio un po' di casino e mi perdo il boccaglio e un arpione del fucile. Non importa, sono contentissimo! Si parla che un giorno metteranno la caccia subacquea con le bombole fuorilegge, vedremo...