Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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The Day of Memory

January the 27th is the Day of Memory in Italy and everywhere else, in which we remember the millions that were murdered in the Nazi concentration camps – many of which were Italians, sent to the camps by our own government. As those that witnessed the horror are passing away, it becomes particularly important for us to keep the memory alive, so that nothing like this can happen, ever again.

And because I believe, like Leonard Cohen did, that the Nazis were also defeated by songs and stories, here is some music…


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A land of ghosts and thieves

According to Murnau’s Nosferatu, Transylvania is “a land of ghosts and thieves” that, let’s admit it, is not the best tourist copy you can come up with, but is certainly intriguing. I was watching the movie, and when that definition came up on screen, I stopped the film and wondered what sort of country could that be, and what stories could be written about it.
And because I’ve been itching to do some writing, I just spent two hours writing a short story. Not a story set in Transylvania, mind you, but most certainly a story set in a country of ghosts and thieves.

It’s a short fantasy piece, maybe a little conventional, but it was a good exercise anyway, and a fun way to spend a few hourse away from Murnau’s dreary (in a good way) world. Then I translated it in Italian, and now both versions have been posted to my Patron page, for my patrons to enjoy.

I have been a very bad Patreon Creator throughout 2020, in part because of various personal problems, in part because writing stories I could sell to magazines took precedence. Following the current standard, stories posted on Patreon count as “previously published” for most magazines, and as a result they get paid a reduced rate. This is not normally a problem when my productivity is up to normal level – because I can write both for the magazines and for Patreon without much effort. But when my production flagged in 2020, it became a problem.

But right now everything seems back to normal, and there will be more stories coming, both for the general market, and for my Patrons.
Writing is going to be fun again.


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Mutant monsters and changes of plans

I’m writing a new story for my Patrons, and today I was planning to finish it and translate it in Italian (all that I put on Patreon is bi-lingual) but then something happened that caused me to reconfigure my schedule: a friend informed me that Matinee, Joe Dante’s 1993 movie featuring John Goodman and Cathy Moriarty, is available on Prime. And I’ve just paid the annual fee to Prime.
And Matinee’s a movie I’ve been wanting to re-watch for 27 years.

And so I put my short story on hold, and sat back and enjoyed the movie, Joe Dante’s love letter to 1950s B features and a homage to B-movie giant William Castle, the man who gave us loads of cheap creature features and some of the unlikeliest promotional gimmicks.

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Thirty-five years after: Subway (1985)

For the next episode of Paura & Delirio, the podcast I co-host with my friend Lucy, we’re going to discuss Nosferatu, both the Murnau original and the Werner Herzog remake. As we usually do for our podcast, we are re-watching the movies to freshen up out impressions.

And as I was watching the Herzog movie, I remembered I saw it first in late 1985 or early 1986, and I checked the movie out for one reason alone – it features Isabelle Adjani, that I had first seen a few weeks before in a completely different movie: Luc Besson’s stylish thriller, Subway.

And so I stopped Nosferatu, and dug out Subway – because while I’ve seen the Herzog movie quitre a few times since 1985, it’s been thirty-five years since I last went town in the underground with Isabelle Adjani.

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Film Stories

My complete run of the first seven years of Ciak magazine, Italy’s premiere movie magazine, was scrapped while I was serving in the Air Farce – my mother decided all that useless paper was just a waste of space, and she threw it out. Granted, by that time I had stopped following the magazine, because I did not like the editorial approach anymore, but it was still a colossal loss for me: through that magazine I had started to look at the movies in a different way.

One of the reasons why Ciak was not cutting it anymore was, of course, that by the mid-90s I had started reading foreign movie magazines – Empire, Premiere, a few odd copies of Film Studies and Midnight Marquee, a couple of Fangoria, even a few issues of Cahiers du Cinema. Those were spared the Great Motherly Purge, because they were stacked in boxes and did not look like a bunch of magazines on a shelf.

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One day in Ancient China

Back when I was in high school, a series of paperbacks was published in Italy, called “Daily life in…” – that would describe the daily life in Kublai Kahn’s court, or Napoleon’s France, or Peter the Great’s Russia. Small, black books with grim yellowed pages, these were the translations of a series of books originally published in France, and if you had an interest in ground-level history, so to speak, they were all that was available on a high-school student’s budget. I have a few here in a box somewhere. One of them is about Tang China.

And really, much as fun can be had from military history books and biographies, I still like the small-scale, day-to-day, man-on-the-street history: what they ate and what entertainment they enjoyed, what their lifestyle was like. It’s fun, and often one finds ideas for stories, and suggest world-building strategies.

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