East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


Are you dead?

Yesterday was a long day – I had to go into town to see the people that do my taxes, and as I was at it, I dropped by the local bookstore, where my friend Roberto had my copy of Fritz Leiber’s massive collection Sword & Sorcery waiting for me. Then I did some shopping (it being market day and all that), and then had lunch with my friends, enjoying the company.

When I got home, I found a request for an urgent article from a magazine I work with – I am taking a break from writing it as I am writing this – and then I got a weird personal message through Facebook, from a dear friend that lives in the middle of the Atlantic (on an island, of course – I have no contacts in Atlantis).
The message was more or less..

My mother saw you died, it’s in the newspapers, and she called me… Are you fine?

“Davide Mana” is not a common name, but is not as unique as I’d love to think – there was another Davide Mana, living here in Piedmont, a man of forty-six, a professional man very active in his community. He died early this week, and the local news covered the fact.
And a few people saw the name, and the area, and got worried.
My friend’s MP was the first of a series.
But no, it’s OK – I’m a little tired and a bit worn around the edges, but I’m fine.

But my thoughts go to the family of that man I never met, but shared a name with. A father of four, much loved in his community, and from what I could read in the news, a good man. And I’m very sad.

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Down yet another rabbit-hole

Two nights ago I read in a single sitting a book that’s been on my to-read list for over 20 years, and that for various reasons I always left behind when going to the bookstore. It is called Il Cammello Battriano (The Bactrian Camel), and was written by Italian journalist Stefano Malatesta.
It is the chronicle of a fascination for the Silk Road, and of a trip along the road in the company of old books by and about explorers and adventurers and what not. I guess you can see why I liked it.

It is a very thin book (160 pages) which explains why it became a bestseller – and by this I do not mean to shortcharge mister Malatesta, who is a fine writer that spins an excellent yarn, but for a fact the Italian Top Ten book list used to host books under the 200-pages (names like Baricco or Tamaro come to mind).

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A Gentle Philosophy

A Gentle Philosophy (or A Kind Philosophy, or A Soft Philosophy, depending on the translation) is the title of a song I like a lot (maybe I’ll put the video below), and is something I thought about after my last post in which I mentioned the philosopher talking of “an alleged emergency” and basically treating the current state of affairs of our species as just another thought experiment.

Through a series of different connections, thinking about philosophy, I came to the usual – my own philosophical gurus, and their teachings. Because we are creatures of science and philosophy, and there’s always something to learn from the classics.

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Clive Cussler, 1931-2020

I will openly admit that I have always found Dirk Pitt insufferable but, in a nice symmetry, I have always liked Clive Cussler – probably since the day I found out he had found an agent and sold his first novels by faking an agent’s stationery and setting up a simple but effective confidence game.

Clive Cussler was a man that wrote book about sea adventure, and used the proceeds to have real-life sea adventures – and to collect classic cars. He projected a certain joy de vivre that made me like him even when I staggered to finish Valhalla on the third attempt.
And later I found out I liked his other series much better – and I absolutely loved his memoirs about tresure hunting and relic salvaging.

Clive Cussler is gone, but he entertained us for decades, and his legacy will certainly live on.


500 movies per year

I was talking movies with some friends, a few nights back, and one of them asked how come it looks like I have seen every movie out there, twice. And so I had to explain that, first, I am cursed with this memory, that works 110% when it comes to remember movies or other useless things, and really sucks at everything really important (like faces, phone numbers, passwords etc.). And that second, I was born fifteen years before he did, and so I grew up in a different world.

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Robert Conrad, 1935-2020

Hell of a week – bad weather, bad health, unexpected expenses, work complications, and the good guys keep going: yesterday it was Robert Conrad, the star of The Wild Wild West and Baa Baa Black Sheep/Black Sheep Squadron, two shows I loved as a kid, together with the spy show A Man Called Sloane.
It’s been a hell of a week.