Who Do You Think You Are

Who do you think you are

Who do you think you are
Bringing rain when I want sun,
Drowning me in your tide
Telling me – have fun.

Who do you think you are
Treading on my heart with dirty shoes,
Expecting me to scrub off
Your traces of mud.

Who do you think you are
Walking in and out of my life
To stab my heart with your knife.

Stealing the poetry of snow
To dress your lies of romance,
Forgetting the snow would melt
To reveal the emptiness of your heart.

My First Guest Post!

Today, my first guest post on another blog has been published!

Unfortunately, I only had the time to write the article in Italian but I will post a translation here as soon as possible, so keep your eyes on this space. The topic is how Italians behave when they’re travelling (“Identikit di un turista italiano”).

Here’s the link:



UPDATE: English Translation of the article now available at https://littleexplorer.wordpress.com/2012/01/14/identikit-of-an-italian-tourist/

I Found a Key

Autumn in London always carries a magical, theatrical atmosphere with it. The unusually warm months of September and October are now sliding away and Guy Fawkes’ fireworks and a mild fog are announcing the first days of cold.

The anti-capitalists’ tents are still outside of St Paul’s, although there are rumours that many are empty at night. The theatrical feel that I get of London is a constant theme from the smallest streets to Buckingham Palace. It goes from fascinating to creepy.

Covent Garden, with its street artists and spectacular displays of lights and themed art installations, is an open-air stage. Yet it is not rare to see homeless people grotesquely sleeping under a pile of dirty blankets right on the side of glittery high street shop displaying piles of fancy clothes and shoes. Their shivering bodies illuminated and defined by white neon lights from the shop windows; make the cold penetrate even more deeply inside me.

My favourite theatre seats in London are the front seats on the top floor of double-decker bus. Not the London Eye or the Oxo Tower. They only give you a limited perception of London’s grandeur. But from the bus seats, you see everything, including what you wish you could not see. The young businessmen are happily enjoying their pints at the pub while an old beggar is sipping his beer can just around the corner. You see a beautiful woman covered in pearls and diamonds walking besides a pale guy kneeling down, while looking for some food or drugs in the waste bags along the pavement.

And London is all that, breathtaking beauty and unbearable dismay. Modernity and decadence. Ostentation and poverty. The fireworks are crackling and illuminating the sky with various tones of pink, green and red as people are getting on their tip toes in Theobald’s Road to see Gray’s Inn spectacular display. They only last for a few minutes, but those minutes are the theatre play for the night.

Tonight, as I got home after the fireworks, I was tidying up my room. Suddenly, my eye caught a glimpse of something shining on my carpet. I moved my desk chair, and there it was: a key. A tiny key, just about the size of a bean. I have no idea of how it got there and why, but I know it looks like the magic of London has unexpectedly entered my room on this cold night of Guy Fawkes.

A Bug’s Life: Lessons Learnt

My grandma used to always find orginal ways to analyse the world surrounding her. Her so unsual and detailed observations each time opened my eyes before a new world. It was a new world, not because it had not been there previously, but because I had never seen it, noticed it.

In summer time, in the mountains, we would spend hours looking at ants. My grandma used to call them “miniature motorways”, because ants had chosen the flat waterpipe to water the garden as their privileged path. The ants would share the surface of the waterpipe dividing it into lanes and even in the two directions. None would ever use the wrong lane. There were ants, the fastest, who would run to collect their food supplies, and, in the opposite direction, there were ants that were going more slowly due to the weight of their load. Some ants would not make it and they were climbed over and crushed by the crowd of stronger and tireless ants.

My grandma and I would notice how ants would replicate social dynamics in a way very similar to ours, that of human beings. Those who couldn’t make it, would literally be climbed over. Those who were strong and fast, would reach first the anthill’s tunnels, where they could proudly lay down the fruits of their labour. The ants’ motorways are a suprisingly organised march. Surprising, perhaps, because we, humans, are always astonished when we discover other creatures seek order within chaos.  The social order turns into a means to overpower the others.

My grandma used to always notice the red ant, the smallest rather than the one walking with a limp. She would observe and comment on them without a hint of prejudice, rather, with admiration and suprise for them. These were my grandma’s ways of teaching me how to relate myself with the world by taking an open-minded approach and by showing always an amazing curiosity for the surrounding world.

Other times, she would tell me how she, petite in height and body structure, had decided to change her point of view.  She told me how she had climbed on a chair and had looked around imagining to be naturally that tall. She had then recounted to me how effectively the different perspective over the world was very different from up there and, how, after that experience, she could finally realise better what she, from a lower point of view, could  not see.All photos in this post were taken with my brother Enrico during my holiday in August 2010 in Denmark, in the woods near Silkeborg.

A Letter to the Egyptian People (Source: Shalom Hartman Institute)

A Letter to the Egyptian People   (13/02/2011)


Dear Neighbor:

We, your neighbors, have been speaking a lot about you these last few weeks. As the status quo in your country to which we have become accustomed has changed, some of us expressed concern, others hope, and still others, admiration. Each view has its pundits, whose reading of the “facts” (your reality) seemed somehow to always fit into their pre-existing worldview.

The truth is that we don’t know. We don’t know, first and foremost, who you are. You see, for the last 30 years it seems, we never got a chance to talk. We spoke with your leaders, but as you so aptly proved, they don’t speak for you anymore, if they ever did.

We got used to and comfortable with the existing state of affairs and learned how to adapt and work with it in ways that would fit our own national interests and aspirations. We all must now come to terms with the fact that it is not only about us, but about you. We must begin a new conversation with you, a partner that has declared loud and clear that your voice – the voice of the people – must and will be heard.

First, let me start then with a hello. As neighbors, we have had a long relationship, filled with many different memories. I remember as a young teenager the feelings of fear that you aroused when in 1973 your armies crossed the Suez Canal and my country’s very existence was in doubt. I remember the awesome beauty of the Sinai desert as a soldier in the tank corps when it was still under Israel’s control and the strategic comfort it provided. I remember falling head over heels in love with your President Anwar Sadat, when he came to Israel. I remember the hope that he brought to our country, a hope which inspired us to recognize that our future security could not and should not be based solely on the strength of our army and the impenetrability of our borders, but on the stability of our peaceful relations with our neighbors.

For nearly 35 years now, we have lived in peace with each other. Our children have not died at each other’s hands. It hasn’t been the warmest peace, but as we say in the Jewish tradition, “dayenu.” It was enough. We Israelis, while always aspiring for more, deeply valued it nonetheless. Where do we go from here?

One of the old adages posits that democracies rarely go to war with each other. This is so, it is argued, because when the people who actually have to pay the price of war get to choose, they will invariably choose resolution over conflict. They will choose their children’s lives over national pride and ideology.

It is here that the Middle East has often proven this wrong. It seems that in our neighborhood at times, our children are our least valued commodity. The two of us, however, who have enjoyed the fruits that peace has given to our children are also a Middle Eastern phenomenon, and must become the rule instead of the exception.

Democracies rarely go to war, however, for yet another reason. A democracy is not simply the rule of the majority, but rather the rule of the majority that preserves the inalienable rights of its minorities. It is a system of government which believes that all humans are endowed with certain basic rights and freedoms which both empower them to govern themselves and which frees them from the potential tyranny of that same government. Democracies rarely go to war not simply because they want to preserve the lives of their citizens but because they respect the inherent freedoms of all humans, citizen and non-citizen alike. When one respects one’s own rights to be free, it often leads one to respect one’s neighbor’s rights to the same freedoms as well.

I pray that this will be one of the outcomes of your democratic revolution. I hope that our two peoples living in vibrant democracies will find new ways to reach out to each other and respect each other. That does not mean that we always have to agree. It is possible and even likely that there are policies which each one of us is pursuing, either externally or internally, that may differ from the other’s national interest or even moral sensibilities.

We have a critical choice ahead of us. The change in the status quo can cause us to revert to the old and mutually destructive patterns. I hope we do not need to relive the experiences of our grandparents and parents in order to learn yet again that war is not a solution. I pray that we will use the change in the status quo as a catalyst to move us forward. Status quos are comfortable, but they can also lead to stagnation. Our neighborhood is one in which there is still much pain and hatred. We, the two of us, have a unique opportunity to change the rules of the game, to speak, engage, challenge, and even push each other to find a new and vibrant status quo.

I know you are going to be busy over the next number of months and we are not your primary concern. I am nevertheless writing to you to again say, hello, and that we look forward to speaking with you soon. Until then, we wish that your transition to freedom be a peaceful and beneficial one to all your citizens and that your freedom be a blessing to you, and to the whole world. Amen.

Note: This article has struck a nerve both in Egypt and in Israel. [At the link] below you can find dozens of comments from Egyptians, a first for the Institute. Also, an Israeli newspaper [Haaretz] has featured this virtual dialogue in a special feature article.

Source: http://hartman.org.il/Opinion_C_View_Eng.asp?Article_Id=629

Winter Poem

A crunchy iced crust

shining in the sun

hiding the soft slushy snow

hands are frozen tingling icicles

breathing clouds of steam in the sun

little footprints in the frost

while even the strongest trees

bend over, under the weight

of their heavy blankets

(27 December 2010)

The pictures included in this post were all taken by myself on 26 December 2010 in Montgenèvre and Serre Chevalier (France).

Top 10 Best and Worst Sounding English Words

10 Best-Sounding Words in the English Language

1. Chimes

A set of bells or of slabs of metal, stone, wood, etc., producing musical tones when struck.

2. Dawn

To begin to grow light as the sun rises.

3. Golden

Consisting of, relating to, or containing gold.

4. Hush

Calm, quiet.

5. Lullaby

A song to quiet children or lull them to sleep.

6. Luminous

Emitting light; shining.

7. Melody

A sweet or agreeable succession of arrangements of sounds.

8. Mist

Water in the form of particles floating or falling in the atmosphere at or near the surface of the earth and approaching the form of rain.

9. Murmuring

A soft or gentle utterance.

10. Tranquil

Free from agitation; serene.

10 Worst-Sounding Words in the English Language

1.  Cacophony

Hard or discordant sound.

2. Crunch

To chew, grind, or press with a crushing noise.

3. Flatulent

Affected with gas in the stomach or intestine.

4. Gripe

To complain with sustained grumbling.

5. Jazz

Popular dance music.

6. Phlegmatic

Having a sluggish or solid temperament.

7. Plump

Somewhat fat.

8. Plutocrat

One who exercises power by virtue of his wealth.

9. Sap

The fluid part of the plant.

10. Treachery

Violation of allegiance, confidence or faith.

Lists and definitions from ‘The Book of Lists’ by David Wallechinsky, Irving Wallace and Amy Wallace, Corgi, 1980, p. 157.  Images from the Internet.

What are your favourite / most hated words in English or any other language?

Reversing Habits

This is an experiment. An experiment is usually a way of testing something new.

Well, technically speaking, writing by hand is not at all something new. But the novelty is that I’m challinging my ever growing habit of writing only on my computer. Whenever I feel like writing, whether for academic, work or leisure reasons, I go and turn my computer on…and I type. Typing has become so ordinary and natural to me that sometimes I wonder how it feels to hold a simple, normal, traditional pen.

Once this habit of typing everything up used to happen after having prepared or previously worked on the text on paper, but with time I learnt to think and type directly on the computer. I realised this was speeding up my work a great deal and it had the immediate advantage of allowing me to copy, paste, cut and move chunks of text neatly and quickly.

This trend is affecting everyone, not just me, and it is somewhat worrying.

Are we forgetting how to write by hand?

I wonder if this might not just be the case of simple laziness. But I doubt so: obviously we have now gone past the step of using the computer as a tool to improve the quality of our work. Now our work requires a computer, or, worse, we require a computer in order to work. Of many activities that really depend on technology, writing should not really require a computer. Maybe it is our frame of mind that has changed: we think differently when we are typing and we write differently on the computer.

Good or bad? Not sure. Surely, I can tell you …it feels good to actually be holding a pen, striking a line on text I want to remove and see the ink covering the page. I also love the feeling of smooth paper under the tip of my pen. Oh, I also love the smell of paper. Maybe writing on paper feels more real and poetical. But writing on the computer gives me a strange feeling of clarity: as if the visual clarity of the text was equal to its clarity in my mind…

So my experiment was successful: I wrote this text entirely by hand before typing it! The picture above is a proof of it! I might take this experiment as the start to set a ‘reverse-habit’.