Archive for Lega Nord

Aug
07

Summer glimpses

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I don't know why he's looking so lugubrious. At least they get to lie on ice.

I don’t know why he has to look so hangdog. At least he gets to lie on ice.

Laboring under the phenomenal force of the combined heat and humidity which have been oppressing us (Italy as a whole, but I take all this personally), I have slowed my blogging efforts, as has probably already become evident.  We have had two successive heat waves — ours come from Algeria, if that tells you anything — and the names are indicative: “Charon” and “Styx.”  You know those animals that only move once every few months when they have to eat something?  That would be us.

Having now pled the “Smothering Heat Wave” defense, I will proceed.

On a normal day, I would now be catching you up on a lot of stuff that’s been going on in and around the old most-beautiful-city-in-the-world.  None of which resembles much of what you could call beautiful.  Anybody who hasn’t managed to get to the beach or the mountains appears to be taking it out on the rest of the world.

Anyway, since my energy has to be dedicated to maintaining my life-sustaining physical functions — nothing left over for such frivolity as scorn and umbrage — I will give only a smattering of headlines from today’s Gazzettino.  I will then try to cool us all off with some views that show that there are still plenty of glimpses around here that make me smile.

National news:

Kashetu "Cecile" Kyenge is not only Minister for Integration, but also a doctor.  I think everybody in the Northern League should be forced to go to her for their myopia.  And possibly cataract operations.

Kashetu “Cecile” Kyenge is not only Minister for Integration, but also a doctor specializing in ophthalmology. I think everybody in the Northern League should be forced to go to her for their myopia. And possibly cataract operations. Too bad she’s not a brain surgeon. (Photo: Provincia di Modena)

Cecile Kyenge, a Congolese-born doctor and only months-long Minister for Integration, and Italy’s first African-Italian minister, has been working out on a sort of political and human Parkour course composed of a seemingly endless series of racist insults from assorted members of the extreme right-wing Northern League.

The process goes like this: The politician says something repulsive (such as comparing her to an orangutan), other politicians indignantly reprimand him, he offers a sort of non-apology along the lines of “I regret if I said anything that might have been construed as offensive” (or “misunderstood,” or “taken out of context,” or “a private communication that was somehow made public,” etc.).  At least five Leaguers at various levels have contributed to the stringing of this uncharm-bracelet of abuse regarding her color or her religion.  Some have been expelled from the party, but more just keep coming up.  It’s like some Whack-a-Mole from Hades.

“Drug dealer dies in the barracks; “Violent asphyxia.” (Riva Ligure) A Tunisian suspect was being held since June 6 in a barracks, awaiting his turn in the legal process.  That’s no longer necessary, due to a “powerful pressure exerted on his thorax,” as the coroner put it.  The three Carabinieri who arrested him and had him in custody have now been arrested.

 “She tried to kill him, he applauds her.” (Castiglione delle Stiviere) That’s not quite what it sounds like, but it is somewhat thought-provoking.  Claudio del Monaco (son of the famous tenor Mario del Monaco) is married to Daniela Werner, a German former nursery-school teacher and aspiring soprano.  In December 2011 things went wrong and she tried to stab him to death.  She went to the psychiatric penitentiary and by applying herself to her singing, was able to perform a concert in public last July 2.  “I love my wife more than before and I want to forget the past,” said her husband.  Now she goes back to serve another three years. Maybe it’s neurotic, but in a strange way I find this admirable.  I suppose it’s because the “for better for worse” isn’t usually taken to this extreme, or illuminated by this bright a light.

“Few mosquitoes; layoffs at the insecticide company.”  (Trento)  Last spring was unusually cold and wet, and it went on far too long.  You’d think the resulting lack of mosquitoes would be a good thing, and for most of us, it is.  But not for the employees of the Zobele company, 70 of whom are going to be at home from September to November because sales are so slow.  It is, indeed, always something.

Venice news:

“Train Hell, few, late, and boiling.”  Riders on the national network in the Veneto — not just tourists, but loads of commuters — are once again taking the hit of the management’s inability to provide even minimal rail service.  To the many trains which have been canceled, and the super-many which are late, has been added the increasing percentage of trains in which passengers travel in torrid conditions because the air conditioning doesn’t work.  This story comes out every summer.  I mean, every summer.  Do the managers not have calendars? Or is nine months not long enough to make a plan and carry it out?  Women do it all the time.  Sorry, that just slipped out.

“Money for permits; Three policemen in handcuffs.”  Just over the lagoon in Jesolo, they discovered three of the Polizia di Stato’s finest taking cash for various special services, such as expediting applications for “permessi di soggiorno,” permits to stay in Italy for a specified length of time. What makes it worse — as if it had to be worse — is that a number of the immigrants they passed weren’t eligible for permits.  The charges: Conspiracy, corruption, counterfeiting documents, and illegal access to computer systems. What inspires the urge to smack one’s forehead isn’t that they took money, but that they took 1000 euros.  That is, about 300 euros per policeman.  I know.  If you’re going to risk blowing your career to smithereens, wouldn’t you make it just a little bit more?

I could go on, but my brain is too tired.  There will be more of these antics tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow, and on and on till we all disappear over the horizon.  Where they will continue, wherever we are.

A man setting out in the morning with a bag and a bouquet of hydrangeas.  It's going to be an excellent day for someone somewhere.

A man setting out in the morning with a bag and a bouquet of hydrangeas.  It looks good.

I was tempted to remove the empty detergent bottle, left out to await tomorrow recycling pickup, but realized that it's futile to try to engineer perfection. The fact that it says "Sole" (sun) gives it a special pass.

I was tempted to remove the empty detergent bottle, left out to await tomorrow’s recycling pickup, but I kind of like the fact that it says “Sole” (sun).

And while I'm on the subject of flowers, a woman waiting for the vaporetto was bearing this astonishing armload of peonies. I challenge anyone to tell me that there is anything more beautiful than this.

And while I’m on the subject of flowers, a woman waiting for the vaporetto was bearing this astonishing armload of peonies. I invite anyone to tell me that there is anything more beautiful than this.

This cat wouldn't deign to acknowledge a heat wave, but did graciously recognize the presence of a lower-order mammal nearby.

This cat wouldn’t deign to acknowledge a heat wave, but did graciously recognize the presence of a lower-order mammal nearby.

One of my all-time favorite repair jobs. What? There's something wrong with this?

One of my all-time favorite repair jobs. What? There’s something wrong with this?

Perhaps you were unaware that Venice was bombed 42 times by Austria in the First World War.  These plaques will help you remember.

Perhaps you were unaware that Venice was bombed 42 times by Austria in the First World War. These plaques will help you remember.

translation here

“Destroyed by an Austrian bomb February 27, 1918.  Reconstructed 1920.”

Sometimes our favorite late-afternoon cafe is overrun by women who are smoking, but sometimes it seems magically to turn into a sort of little kinder-haven.  Manuela, the owner, loves them all.

Sometimes our favorite late-afternoon cafe is overrun by women who smoke and babble, but sometimes it seems magically to turn into a sort of little kinder-haven. Manuela, the owner (seated), loves them all.

If there is even the tiniest supposition of a waft of air, a little swirl of breeze will always form right exactly there.

If there is any breeze at all in Venice, a little swirl of air will always form right exactly there and make a scuffed-up patch of water.  It makes me smile.

 

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Sep
20

The Bossi fest

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Sunday afternoon I managed to make a few snaps of the Great Gathering of those Bossi people (I block the scores of puns that surge into my mind), so here they are.

It appears that, in the end, there were more police than potential police patrons.

The organizers claimed that there were 50,000 of the faithful; the police estimated 6-7,000.  The difference makes me think of those construction estimates which start on earth but when the job is finished the total cost is lost somewhere in Multiple-Zeroes Land.  It’s been like this every year of the past 15 that this event has been staged: the participants want to make it sound as if there are more of them than Attila’s Huns.

The anticipated thunderstorms politely waited till evening.

The floating platform, with the speakers facing inland. It being Sunday, most of the neighborhood was somewhere else. But Bossi was intending mainly to preach to the choir anyway. It was a good day for making money, too: all those tour boats that brought his flock undoubtedly made plenty of crisp crackling euros.

 

From a distance, this mega-poster looks like it could be just another advertisement, not unlike the billboards around the Piazza San Marco. But instead, it is an image of a cult object (as a perplexed archaeologist might call it): A picture of Monviso, the highest mountain of the Cottian Alps and, more to the point, the source of the Po River. It stirs all sorts of emotions which do not submit to logic.

 

A few blithe spirits wanting to show their fidelity to the united Italy, which the Northern League wishes to cleave asunder, came out to wave the national flag. Some of the many policemen zooming around came to keep them company -- not to arrest them, but to make sure nobody got close enough to annoy them.

Anyone who's ever visited the gift shop of, say, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center and seen the "I Have a Dream" ashtrays knows that there is no idea or emotion so exalted that it can't be turned into tourist trinkets. Here, the stands were selling T-shirts, cigarette lighters, keychains, and potholders, bearing various motifs but concentrating on the symbol of Padania (the Promised Land yet to be found/created).

 

The emblem of Padania is a mystic symbol which the League calls the "Sun of the Alps" but which is also recognized around the world as the "Flower of Life." Not quite the same thing. I don't know if anybody has commented on its startling resemblance to Cannibis sativa. They must have.

 

 

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Sep
18

Bossi blows through

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A view of the riva dei Sette Martiri. You must imagine a floating platform where the innocent little sailboat is tied up, and hordes of people ashore. The storm was last year -- so far the sun is still shining.

One of the things I love most about Venice is its voluptuous, velvety silence. Many writers over the past few centuries have commented on this, though they have also commented (as do I) on the noise that is generated during the day by working people, their vehicles, and their voices.  But hey, it’s daytime; people are supposed to be working, or at least doing things.  “Get out of the house” is always good advice for physical and mental health, except where the mental health of your neighbors might be concerned.

In any case, people used to go home at night and things eventually got quiet.

The novelty in the past few decades is the noise by night.  Summer, and now early autumn, is especially prone to nocturnal racket, what with kids zooming around the lagoon, and the city’s canals, in boats with motors of 40, 90, and even more horsepower.

Lino can’t figure it out: “It used to be that the only people who were out at night were fishermen,” he said this morning.  “Now it’s everybody.”

Last night the situation took a turn for the worse.

We had already endured the usual nightly yelling and running (and yelling and standing still) of families going up and down the street outside our bedroom window.  I’m not saying they ought to be home at 9:00 with the shutters bolted (though it would be nice if they’d do it by midnight).  I’m merely saying that stopping to talk with loud voices about things ranging from what they’re going to do tomorrow up to and including their upcoming operation to remove their ovaries (not made up) is tiring and obnoxious.  To say nothing of the man somewhere upstairs who, when the lights go off around the neighborhood, takes a handkerchief that must be the size of a tablecloth and begins giving two long honking blows of his nose, separated by a silence of about 18 seconds, followed by two long blows, etc., for way too long.  It’s like the foghorn code, except he’s not warning anybody away.  We’re stuck here.

I’m not saying he should be forbidden to blow his nose.  I’m saying he might consider closing the window.  Of course, we could close our window, but that would mean suffocating to death.  So maybe closing his window means he would suffocate?  Let’s just stop right here.  I’m saying he could get some treatment for whatever this condition is, because it can’t be all that enjoyable for him in any case, after the first forty minutes or so.

So what does a certain Umberto Bossi have to do with all this cacophony?

He is the leader of a political party known as the Northern League, whose mission in life is to slag anything and anybody south of the Po River, and to promote the secession of said northern area (the regions of Veneto, Lombardy, and environs) from the rest of Italy.  He and his cohorts want to establish a new entity known as Padania, an independent, financially and politically self-sufficient entity, in order to be rid of all of the injustices which a national government inflicts on the productive, honest, disciplined, hard-working, right-thinking northerners.

Unable, so far, to accomplish this goal, he and his cohorts spend most of their time in parliament blocking other parties’ initiatives.

So what do he and his followers have to do with the most-beautiful-city-in-the-world, and Erla’s nightly efforts to slumber?

Because every September he stages a huge rally here. Why here? Because the Po River, the aforementioned geographical and emotional frontier between Us and Them, flows into the sea not far away, and because Venice is the greatest stage set imaginable, perfect for publicity.  You can’t imagine a serious rally being put on in, say, Rovigo, though they do have a very nice stadium.

This rally draws the faithful from all over, who come to hear his incendiary speechifying, and to witness his emptying of a flask of Po River water into the Lagoon.  Great theatre, though I still don’t quite grasp its meaning.  From 1600 to 1604, the Venetians cut the Po in half to send it southward; if it had continued to debouch into the Lagoon, by now Venice would be sitting in the middle of cornfields.  But this is a detail.  The Po belongs to Bossi and he wants to bring it to Venice.

So yesterday, in the build-up to today’s Big Event, there were clashes between groups demonstrating against Mr. Bossi and his League and the police who were trying to contain their destructive enthusiasm.

And last night, at about 3:30 (when silence was, in fact, reigning over our streets and canals), we were all blasted awake by a new and appalling noise.

A motorboat was going down the canal with an amplifying system brought from some exploded star. And it was playing music: “Faccetta Nera,” a marching song adopted by the Fascists (though it predates them), full of racist and colonialist overtones.  Everybody over the age of two — even I, by now — know that it is hugely incorrect politically to play “Faccetta Nera” or any of its companions such as “Giovinezza” (Youth).

But there it was, ripping the night asunder a mere five steps from our front door. It faded away as the boat proceeded, presumably in a tour around most, if not all, of the city.  But I wasn’t sure.  I lay there awake for a while expecting it — them — to come back, thinking about how glad I am that whoever these people might be have the right to make so many people miserable. Democracy is indeed a great thing.

This morning, a sunny Sunday, the streets around here are full of police and carabinieri in riot gear, waiting to form up and get to work.  Lino begged me not to make photographs, so I didn’t.

The enormous floating platform with its banners and podium, is tied up, as usual, at the riva dei Sette Martiri, between Arsenal and the Giardini.  Police helicopters are rumbling around overhead.  But I know at least some people are happy. Two bakeries are open — something unheard-of on a normal Sunday — because they also sell snacks and cold drinks, and the faithful are going to really need these items, especially if they do a lot of shouting.

Non tutti i mali vengono per nuocere,” as the saying goes: It’s an ill wind that blows no good.

Perhaps the promised thunderstorms will indeed strike this afternoon.  They would ruin the regata at Burano, true, but it could be worth it, to wash away all this detritus.

 

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