Anonymous letters have always provoked a creeping feeling of uneasiness due not necessarily to their contents, but to the fact that the writer knows who the addressee is, while the addressee ignores the identity of the sender. It provokes an unbalanced situation which is always source of psychological discomfort, because precludes completely the possibility of a dialogue or an explication.
The person who receives an anonymous letter is forced to have a passive role, deprived of any chance to get further in the communication.
Nevertheless I realize that anonymous letters, in this old fashioned style, belong in a certain way to the past, when still people used to send real letter. Nowadays the principle is the same, but the form has changed and has been amplified and enlarged by the caution which, in a motivated way, most of people adopt for their communication on the web.
One of the paradoxes of Internet is that huge quantity of social contacts is kept among people who actually don’t know each other’s identity.
If you are casually here, now reading my erratic thoughts, you might have a more or less precise idea about me. It’s my website and I post openly my name and my personal email address.
But there is nothing which can give you the absolute certitude that I’m what I affirm to be, even though in a superficial and not too personal way. I might be a Dutch butcher who pretends to be a middle aged female Swiss photographer…who knows?
In all cases , if you feel like reacting to some statement which is posted here, it doesn’t matter if by a female Swiss photographer or a Dutch butcher, you have the possibility to do it, since I give some elements which allow people to contact me personally and usually I answer.
The matter is different if someone leaves comments or make any kind of criticism to what I display in my websites or my photo galleries in a totally anonymous way, hidden behind that banal common label “guest” which identifies in all forums of website those people who express their opinions without accepting to get any reply.
I suppose that it’s very common on social networks, but I have nothing to do with social networks, which I happily avoid in all their possible kinds and forms.
Personally I have not been affected by anonymous remarks very often. I post my photos on a couple of photographic sites and this is all or nearly all as for my presence on Internet, beside this sporadic display of casual thoughts here in this half-hidden personal journal. The very few times I have received remarks from people who considered better to stay hidden like scared little mice under the shelter of totally anonymity in order to not allow me to answer, in case I had felt like doing that, I have found their statement quite stupid, so honestly I have not had for a single second the intention to answer, event thought they had given me a chance to.
In many cases I found the whole matter half hilarious (for me) and half sad (for them). There are so many more important things in life!
Today an anonymous person left a comment to one of my photographic galleries posted on PBase. This person took the time to log out from his/her PBase account to be sure his/her comment could not be related with it and then wrote to me a totally stupid question, to which I cannot reply, even though I had decided to, because, obviously I don’t know how to address my reply.
This little fact without any importance made me think over in a more general way. This person was not directly offensive or rude in his/her words. He/she asked me how I could get have my galleries in the popular page of PBase since I received only few votes. It was a very naïve and silly questions and I would have answered kindly, explaining to the mysterious writer, obviously so concerned by the ephemeral “glory” to have a series of amateur photos a little more visible for a week, that it’s impossible to know who really voted for a gallery on PBase and it’s not necessary to receive hundreds of votes of preferences to appear for a few days among the favourites of the week.
Well, after all, I don’t think I’d have answered. What for? An adult person, who remains stuck to such useless little matters and has not the honesty to take the responsibility for his/her thoughts, doesn’t deserve any attention. Generally speaking it’s a bit melancholy.
Oscar Wilde said:
“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”
It’s melancholy that some people need to hide themselves behind a mask to express their opinion, melancholy and mean.
Custom designed cakes have become extremely popular nowadays and at the first sight the only reaction seems to be a kind of reverent admiration for the talent of the artists (I find hard to call them cooks) who can produce veritable edible sculptures which represent with an amazing hyperrealism all kind of things.
All kinds of things. Let’s stop for a moment on these words….I have seen cakes which looked exactly like cameras, others which were detailed reproduction of a football field with all the players and also suitcases, pieces of furniture, animals…whatever.
At the beginning all was so unusual, surprising original… Now I cannot stand these masterpieces anymore. I don’t want to eat a heap of cushion with their tassels for dessert: I want to have a slice of cake, without any make up.
Like in everything else I think it’s a little worrying when the form becomes suddenly more important than substance and maybe also these so perfect and so artificial cakes are just a metaphor of our preference for what is flashy and superficially impressive rather than for contents.
The real thing, the cake in this case, is hidden under a coat of brightly coloured “fondant”, as this sugar paste is called. It reminds me melancholy of the plasticine or modelling clay I played with as a child. I also remember the name of the brand “ Pongo”. My mother always told me to not eat my Pongo sculpture and to not put any piece of them in my mouth. Maybe my disliking for these elaborate cakes has its roots in this remote experience of play.
I don’t know. I think a good cake must be gently imperfect, to give the real impression that it was home-made, and it must let its smell come out without being imprisoned under a layer of fluorescent fondants.
Cakes are cakes and plasticine sculptures are plasticine sculptures.
I know, I know I’m a troglodyte.
I make my cakes and sweet in a totally old fashioned-way and I decorate them with real fruits or real pieces of chocolate, which maybe don’t remain perfectly fixed on place and slip away giving a twisted appearance to my rough decoration.
I don’t feel any appeal for those melancholy roses of sugar, which are edible, theoretically, but so little tasty after all.
Google has already celebrated his birthday today with a personalized doodle. I wonder what he might think of the tribute and the way it’s displayed.
If Arthur Schopenhauer, the German philosopher, were still alive today he would be 225 years old. I’m not sure he would appreciate all in our present world. But who knows? With Schopenhauer one can be never sure…
I tend never to speak about my little irrelevant personal matters in my blog, because I’m aware it would not be of any interest. They are not necessarily interesting for myself either.
Nevertheless, when I think of Schopenhauer, I cannot help thinking of my best friend, who is a great admirer of his philosophical wisdom.
My best friend, Sergey, never got married. He told me that when he was 21 he had decided to get married and he had already organized everything. The night before the wedding he didn’t felt like sleeping and remained up all the night reading Schopenhauer. Early in the morning he had understood what he had to do.
So he went to see her fiancée and explained her that Schopenhauer had made him understand that he was not made for marriage.
The girl was probably not too happy at the very beginning, so he remained with her to cheer her up for a couple of day, reading Schopenhauer also to her. At the end it seems she was persuaded as well and she thought it was really the best decision.
Later he got married to someone else and everybody was much happier.
33 years have passed since that day, but Sergey is still grateful to Schopenhauer.
Arthurs Schopenhauer was lucky enough to have the serene death we would all choose if we could.
He died quickly and peacefully on his couch, while he was reading with his cat on his knees.
He was 72 years old.
“After your death you will be what you were before your birth.”
~ Arthur Schopenhauer ~
Translation from a language to another one are always rich of tricks and traps, not only in literature, but even more when we come to speak of gastronomy and cookery. After this necessary disclaimer I can keep on, relying on my few readers’ tolerance and on their effort to imagine what I really mean to say.
This is a typical Venetian recipe, which I have tasted many times in those so peculiar little cafés in Venice where they serve little snacks with a glass of white wine as aperitif.
Unfortunately these wonderful and a little secluded places are disappearing one of the other, because Venice itself is disappearing to become something else. But this will be pehaps another topic to treat in future.
Today we’ll speak only of a cooking recipe.
For whimsical reason I cannot explain and in all cases would not be interesting to explain, I decided to prepare Baccalà mantecato by myself.
The first obstacle was finding here in Switzerland the suitable dried salt cod, since it’s not exactly the most common food over here. But I managed successfully.
Then I started the perilous and long preparation. I desalted the cod; it took 24 hours (the minimum). The dried fish had to be put into cold fresh water which had to be changed every 5 hours.
When this part of the procedure was done, I could boil it in a mixture of water and milk for about 35 minutes, until it was soft and tender. Then I took away manually all the skin and the fish bones. Finally I started the real preparation of the dish, which consists in pounding and crushing the fish energetically with a wooden spoon. One must not use a mixer or any other modern household appliance, food processors and similar…Anathema! The fish must keep its texture it must not be transformed in a sort of homogenized baby-food. Then I started adding little by little a little of pure extra-virgin olive oil, beating the fish with it as if I made a mayonnaise sauce. Actually ii becomes shiny and whiter and creamy like a real kind of mayonnaise, keeping nevertheless is texture. At the end I added a generous dose of pepper and minced parsley and a little, very little garlic
It’s excellent to eat, at room temperature, spread on a warm grilled slice of rustic bread or with polenta.
Now maybe one might wonder how it happened that a dried fish from Baltic Sea had been adopted as main ingredient for a typical Venetian recipe (speaking in general of Italian cooking is nonsense. In Italy recipes are basically quite different from region to region)-
Many events, if not all, in history are based on chance. In 1432 a Venetian nobleman, Piero Querini, was shipwrecked in Røst, in northern Norway.
He happily survived to that dramatic accident and, considering that it happened in winter, he was really lucky.
Of course Piero remained grounded there for a rather long time, before getting another ship to come back to his homeland, so he had time to get familiar with local tradition and was very intrigued by the habit local people had to conserve fish for long time with that technique. When he arrived back to Venice, he took with him a good quantity of dried salted cod and Italian merchants started bartering that northern fish with other good as fabrics, favouring the diffusion of fish in the inland areas where there is not any sea.
The success of dried fish was increased by …religious reasons! About one century after Piero Querini’s shipwreck the Roman Catholic Church held an ecumenical council in Trento (I refuse to bore my two or three reader with detailed description of this event) and among the huge number of precepts and doctrinal statements, it was also decided that a series of rules would have imposed on the faithful Catholics the obligation of abstaining from meat in certain specific days, but the fish was accepted. People found easily a way to conjugate rich and good cooking with the absence of meat, exploiting all the possibilities offered by fish together with many ingredients.
So Northern dried salt cod from Baltic Sea became a tradition in Italian cooking.
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Mstislav Leopoldovich Rostropovich is considered to have been the greatest cellist of the 20th century.
He died in April 2007.
One morning in November of 1989, Rostropovich was listening to the radio in his apartment in Paris when he heard a news report that crowds of freedom-hungry demonstrators were gathered at the Berlin Wall. Without hesitation, the great world-renowned cellist phoned a friend who owned a private jet and arranged to fly immediately to Berlin. When they arrived at the Wall, Rostropovich made his way to the spot known as “Checkpoint Charlie” – to him the ideal spot for an impromptu solo concert. There was only one problem – no place to sit! So Rostropovich’s friend “borrowed” a chair from one of the guards. Rostropovich sat down and began to play Bach’s Second Suite for cello, the “Sarabande’.
How long my irrelevant life has already been. People who were born in that very year are already 23 years old by now. I wonder if they might imagine what the Wall of Berlin was.
About nine year before that mythical concert of Rostropovich, I was in Berlin; I was very young then and probably, like many young people, I walked through things without fully realize their global dimension. But it would have been impossible for anyone to not realize what an absurd and tragic concrete metaphor of oppression that real wall in the middle of a town was.
For reasons I consider useless to mention, I crossed the border through the Berlin Wall from Eastern to Western Germany and in a little unusual way I walked through the famous Checkpoint Charlie instead of being on a tourist coach. From a certain point of view, my young exuberance made me feel like a character of a spy story, but at the same time I could not help perceiving the tragic absurdity of those soldiers on the turrets which carried their Kalashnikov or whatever their machine gun were.
I had my passport and my visa. Even though all was in order with my papers I felt somehow scared when they checked that with a stern attention. Then only a few steps and I found myself in Unter den Linden Boulevard with all the restaurants and cafes and the voluntary display of abundance and elegance, which made even more impressive the contrast with the gloomy style of eastern Berlin.
It was totally surrealistic: two faces of the same town so different and stuck to each other and it was so difficult even for visitors to go through and impossible for the people who lived east.
A place that doesn’t exist anymore, a time which is over. I have seen that with my own eyes; at least I’m sure I won’t forget.
I’m getting older. I don’t say it with any special bitter regret. It’s simply a statement of fact. Getting older is the only way we have to remain alive and since there is not any other option I suppose it’s much more logical to take it the way it is.
Today it’s my birthday. I have already had many birthdays, so one more or one less it doesn’t make such a great difference.
I’m writing these irrelevant thoughts here in this semi-private space, because I have the impression that very few people might arrive by chance until these virtual shores and might take the time to read what I write, more for myself than for any presumed audience.
I realize I’m old because I have considered lately that I have seen in my life several places which don’t exist anymore and I have met many people who are dead by now.
I know that, just said this way, the concept might sound a bit gloomy, so I must repeat that I don’t feel any special regret, simply I realize, with a certain astonishment, that I have already had a long life and I have been lucky enough to see things that nobody will see anymore, because they have disappeared.
It’s important to cultivate one’s memories, because often they become like precious personal vestiges.
Of course I’m aware that millions of people have had the same experiences I have had, and surely many more than me. But in my limited dimension I have had my chances and the idea that some of them cannot be repeated makes me feel a little lost, like when in a summer night one starts looking at the starry sky and suddenly imagine that we are just an infinitesimal spot in an endless universe.
I have chosen this apparently incongruous photo to illustrate this topic, because it’s in theme, in my opinion. It shows something which doesn’t exist anymore and which will never exist again in this exact form and shape. A photo of a flower I took long time ago. The life of flowers is not the most ephemeral life in nature, but it’s already in the category of very short ones.
So this flower will not be seen anymore, in reality, by anyone.
I think that in the next days, I’ll write down on this virtual notebook a few of the things or the places I have seen and now have disappeared. Just to keep them more alive in my mind.
Some of them were very important and also their disappearance or, better, their passing, created a great emotion, or attention; others were apparently less important.Nevertheless I think that everything, which is irremediably over, leaves a small trace in the experience of life of the people who had been somehow related to that.
I’ll close this first chapter with one of my memories which I share with a great number of people.
I had been in New York on the top of one the Twin Towers. When I was there I could not imagine what would have happened a few years later. I don’t want to add anything to that. There is nothing to say. Words are often inadequate. My thoughts now need to become silent.
The ability to appreciate the special flavour of little things and to keep the same refreshing enthusiasm we used to feel, as a child, every time we discovered something unexpected is maybe one of the secrets for a better life.
The first day of this New Year brought me one of these precious ephemeral moments.
In the bluish pale light of very early morning we perceived a glimpse of movement in a field along the main regional road, an area which is usually very busy in a populated zone.
Nevertheless there are usually very few people around in the early morning of the first of January, they sleep late… Saying that there are few people around is a euphemism. Actually there was not any human being in view besides us. So we could manage to park the car at random on a bicycle path (shame on us for that! But also cyclists sleep late). I got out from the car and crossed the road and they were there, two roe deer, in a place where we would have never expected to see them. They perceived my presence, but they judged me not completely dangerous, so they remained there for a minute or two, looking at me , calmly, while I tried frantically to take a photo of them, unfortunately aware that there was not enough light and I had not any tripod, but just one of
my faithful compact cameras which follow me everywhere.
Then they run away and disappeared behind a bush toward the lake…
As I have already written in the former post, the plot is just another version of the sempiternal story of Cinderella.
But there is an important detail in which, maybe, we might find the reason of the success of the film, which is shown on TV in many countries so many times a
In the original fairy-tale, and in all its derivations, it’s the Prince Charming who saves the poor girl from her miserable fate and make a princess of her, with all the advantages which might derivate.
In “Pretty Woman” it’s the opposite…It’s Cinderella who saves the Prince.
Of course she has not any richness, any status symbol, but she has the energy of life, the positivity of a curious spirit, while the Prince is passive, bored, without enthusiasm and without motivations.
Cinderella gives him what he lacks of, what he needs to see the colours of life. This is the secret of this little film: the overturning of the fairy-tale roles.
And it’s doesn’t matter if all is equally totally unreal.
Happy New Year!
I wish you fancy, creativity and the free use of your mind
Repetition of certain rituals is the basis of traditional celebrations. It’s a little like if we needed to find again and again the same habits in the same contest to feel reassured in our insecurity. I don’t know exactly. I have not any answer to give, I simply try to suggest some doubts or, maybe with a little luck, a sparkle of topic to think over about.
Starting from a small particular to try to arrive to a broader general consideration, once again I think of films.
I don’t know in the rest of the world, but here in Europe there are films which are regularly shown on TV again and again, year after year. The most recurrent, for reasons I cannot grasp, is “Pretty Woman”.
Well, it was quite entertaining when I saw it for the first time, a modern remake of Cinderella’s fairy tale with the most unrealistic of happy ends.
But the film is not such a planetary masterpiece to deserve to be seen hundreds of times. So why have they decided to enhance its repetition in such a regular way, mostly during this time of the year ( but it pops up also in other periods)?
If you have nothing else to do (I doubt seriously you have nothing better to do anyway), try to think over and to find your own explanation…there is always one, not necessarily right, but there is.
Later I’ll share with you mine.
Music is all around us: all what we have to do is listening to it.
It's the only language which can be fully understandable, by everyone.