MOB

The word MOB originates from the Latin mobile vulgus, in English “fickle crowd”, that is when a mass of people acts or reacts in an unpredicatable, and consequently, dangerous way. Rage and passions usually guide Mobs rather than reason, but the nature of these passions has to be analyzed. In England, the word MOB appears at the end of the seventeenth century and reflects the beginning of a great transformation. The country was slowly turning from rural into industrial, and the consequences of this change, at the very beginning, were not positive at all.
Primarly, the introduction of machines in the manifacturing system produced a form of skilled unemployment. It means that your skills were no longer required since machines needed less-skilled, consequently low-wage, labour. Furthemore they produced more, faster and never got ill !!! So many workers suddenly were driven out the productive chain and were no longer able to find financial support. In addition that primitive form of Welfare State represented  by the common lands was made uneffective thanks to the “Enclosure  Acts” , because lands were fenced and the people who lived and worked on these lands were chased way. So eighteenth century England was characterized by the shift of greedy, desperate masses of people, driven only by their NEEDS, northward, to the industrial districts where they could find a job and shelter at the bitter price of explotation. Movements like the Luddites started to protest against the introduction of machinery and were determined to destroy it . When these new working classes became more aware of their condition but also of their strenght, they started to stand for their rights just like Oliver Twist when he addressed the master /cook  with an unpredictable ” Please Sir, I want some more” and the less they were given ear the more they enraged, becoming dangerous: a MOB. So crowds become fickle when their needs are no longer guaranteed. The dynamics of the social /industrial change that England experienced in the eighteenth century are not so different of those of the twenty-first century. Industrial politics are in continuous transformation and many factories close.Governments both in Italy and France are trying to find a way to support the declying steel industry. Think about what’s going on with Ilva or Arcelormittal  these days!! Another modern phenomenon is delocalization. Factories close, and  reopen in countries were the cost of labour is cheaper. So once again we have exploitation, skilled unemployment with little hope to find an oppurtunity expecially in an age of global economical crisis. We never seem to learn from our errors. How many people have to suffer? Hove many people have to be deprived of their dignity before a solution can be found? And, is there a solution?

It’s a kind of magic

In this post I would like to talk about the meaning of the main characters of Coleridge’s “Rime”. The poem begins with the Ancient Mariner who stops one of three young guys, who seem to be going to a Wedding feast, to tell his moralizing tale. I have always wondered why  Coleridge had named that character Wedding Guest rather than, I don’t know….The Student, The Lover or like stereotyped characters we’ve read about. What is the cathegory of the Wedding Guest Like?  What does a Wedding Guest do? Well, I guess a Wedding Guest loves parties, noise, people. He enjoys good food and drinks and since he attends matrimonies he needs nice fancy clothes. It seems to be a man who has singled out as his only values those typical of our contemporary materialistic society. He actually enjoys the feast of life. And he is young. His youth makes him arrogant. He despises the man who has dared stop him, because is old, shabby :”Hold off! Unhand me! Grey beard loon” he shouts. But the Mariner, who stands for the poet himself, doesn’t give in. Despite his age and apparent weakness he holds him with ” his glittering eye” and forces him to listen to his story. He wants to accomplish his task, that is elevating the soul of the Wedding Guest and ours at the same time, because he represents us, by means of poetry. So poetry is that spell , that pure energy, that can make worlds apparently different meet, communicate and and eventually grow as it will actually happen at the end of the ballad. Poetry is a kind of magic.

Run!!!!

This post is dedicated to my husband, who will run the marathon in Latina next December 2nd. Although he is fully in the world of “experience” he has lately been able to find another  “happy thought” (besides his wife, certainly)  in the practice of this sport. The marathon is the greatest metaphor for effort, suffering, determination, but  also overwhelming joy when you reach the end. You have certainly understood that the theme of this post is consistent to the previous ones. Once again, it is absolutely important to set a goal in your life and even if the road is tiring or there is a hitch, when your cross the line you’ll find happiness. Best of Luck!!!

Watch this video, it is quite evocative:

This video was shot by the team of Radio Deejay on the occasion of the cancelled New York marathon 2012:

Pop poetry

I’m sure that whenever you bump into the word “pop” you actually think about music, remember those Top of the Pops shows on Thursdays on BBC? Lovely, pop, in fact, is the abbreviation of popular and for pop music we refer to a genre with a popular appeal.
It often borrows elements from other styles just like latin, dance, rock ,country, but which are the core elements that define pop? Well, short-to-medium length songs in a verse chorus structure, melodic tunes, catchy  hooks, simple but effective messages. So whenever I think about Romanticism I can’t help but define it pop poetry. The poets wanted to reach a vast audience so they needed to become more accessible. Therefore they “purified” Classical poetry of all its artifices, simplified the language, increased the degree of musicality. It was inevitable that pop music and Romatic poetry would meet one day and from that happy match many famous songs came to life. In the eighties, for example, Frankies goes to Hollywood made a hit out of Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan” but also his “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” was a source of inspiration for the Iron Maiden, who wouldn’t certainly be happy to be called pop, I know, but it worked.

Here is the video of the Iron Maiden:

Wordsworth and football

I have to confess that this post has been inspired  by the triumph of my football team just yesterday and by the “spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings” that I felt when my heroes scored three amazing goals that marked the success of S.S.Lazio. Yes It was powerful. So  I can’t help but wonder how Kloseooopsss,close ,I mean, football is to some ideas that Wordsworth developed in the Preface to the Lyrical Ballads. I know that It could sound blasphemous, but try to follow me. What is imagination? In simple words it is that degree of sensibility that allows you to turn whatever is ordinary into extraordinary. The consequent emotion is “powerful”, because unexpected. I’m sure that Wordsworth had chosen nature as source of emotion, because he didn’t actually know what football was. If we look at football with “ordinary”eyes , it is only a game about 22 adult males following a ball for at least one hour and a half. So,what makes it so extraordinary? Why today I feel totally ecstatic and why many others – many among my beloved students I guess – are bitterly disappointed? Probably because football somehow succeeds in keeping us in that “state of innocence and wonder” typical of children, that is , when our  mind is more responsive to feelings. So we are more open to joy or sufferance.  Furthermore every action of the game acquires an “extraordinary” meaning because the supporter not only shares his emotions with a multitude  people  but also  in that action,  goal or  penalty  he is the proud witness of a meaningful moment in the history of the club. That history is lived again and discussed every hour of every day on local radios, so thanks to this act of constant memory “our heart with pleasure fills and dances with……..”  uhmm, I can’t find an appropriate rhyme, but I’ m sure you will understand me,  won’t you?

Do you know how did the coffee house get its start?

If we want to find he first record of a public place serving coffee we have to go to  the Turkish city of Constantinople (now Istanbul). In fact  in 1475 the first coffee shop  saw the light: Kiva Han. Coffee was such an important item during that time period, that it was legal in Turkey for a woman to divorce her husband if he could not supply her with enough coffee. Turkish coffee was served strong, black and unfiltered.

The idea of drinking  coffee with cream and sweeteners, came into fashion in Europe around 1529, when the first coffee house in Europe was established. Vienna was invaded by the Turkish army, who left many bags of coffee behind when they fled the city. Franz Georg Kolschitzky claimed the coffee as the spoils of war and opened a coffee house.  He introduced the idea of filtering coffee, as well as the softening the infusion with milk and sugar. The beverage was quite a hit, and when coffee houses also started serving sweet pastries and other confectionary treats, their popularity exploded.

Coffee establishments continued to spread, with the first one opening up in Britain in 1652. Though its popularity was growing in Europe, the idea arrived in England again from Turkey. An English merchant who dealt in Turkish goods (such as coffee) had two of his servants leave him, to go into business for themselves. “The Turk’s Head” coffee house was born.

It was in an English coffee house that the word “tips” was first used for gratuities. A jar with a sign reading, “To Insure Prompt Service” sat on the counter. You put a coin in the jar to be served quickly.

The British called their coffee houses, “penny universities” because that was the price for the coffee and the social upper-class of business-men were found there. In fact, a small coffee shop run by Edward Lloyd in 1668 was such a business hub, it eventually became the still-operating Lloyd’s of London insurance company.

From there, the idea spread further through Europe. Italy in 1654 and then Paris in 1672. Germany embraced the coffee house for the first time in 1673.

When America was colonized, the coffee house was quick to follow. The role of the American coffee house was the same as those in England: the hotspots for the business community. The Tontine Coffee House (1792) in New York was the original location for the New York Stock Exchange, because so much business was conducted there.

Nowadays globalization has reached the coffee houses too.This is the age of Starbucks, the largest American coffee house company  in the world with 19.972 stores in 60 countries. It is an Anglo Italian fusion of styles which has become a hit everywhere. What would Franz Georg Kolschitzky say if he could see how his creature has changed in time?

“Stay hungry, stay foolish”

We’ve been discussing these days about Blake’s poetry, and his being a visionary and a prophet. Well, some of you said that he was a visionary because Blake experienced from his early years visions of angels and ghostly monks and that he conversed with them. Quite true. But  William Blake was not only a dreamer. He was aware of the realities and complexities of experience, particularly the poverty and oppression of the urban world where he spent most of his life. And he knew that rationalism was not enough to enable people to hope, to look for change. “Would to God that all the Lord’s people were prophets”, he wrote, but Prophecy for Blake was not a prediction of the end of the world, but telling the truth about what we see, about what we are and only thanks to a personal struggle things could be improved .So,awareness is the first step, but then we have to learn to go beyond things to see a new better goal. Year after year I realize that for my young students it is getting more and more difficult to visualize their future – being “foolish” –  most of them lack in prospect ,sometimes in strength. That’s why I would like you to see  Steve Job’s  amazing and inspiring  speech at Stanford University. And remember: “Your time is limited. Don’t waste it living someone else’s life!” (Steve Jobs).

Here is the video with English subtitles

Here is the video with Italian subtitles :