Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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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.


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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.


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Two-Guns Bob at 114: on the need to start reading Robert Howard again

The first thing I ever read by Robert E. Howard was People of the Black Circle, the opener in Conan the Adventurer and still my favorite Conan story today. I bought the Italian edition in the early ’80s, the sturdy hardback with that gorgeous Karel Thole cover that gave me a lot of problems both at home and in school.

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Cultural illiteracy

Werner Herzog, not exactly the latest newcomer, used to joke that kids coming out of film school had wasted three years and a lot of money, and thought the history of cinema started with Star Wars, they had no idea of who Elia Kazan was, or who D. W. Griffith was.

And about half an hour ago I was talking with a friend, and she was aghast: in a TV quiz show, the participant was asked to give the name of “the Sergio who directed Once Upon a Time in America“, and the participant drew a blank – this person had no idea of who Sergio Leone was.

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