Love Game

Romeo-and-Juliet

Each age has always had its own set of rules for courting, for sure. Certainly nowadays, the equality of the sexes, the crush of old taboos, Sex and the City, why not, have utterly affected our behaviour in playing modern love games, as the roles are no longer fixed and immutable.  In the past, the man led the “minuet” of courting and the lady followed him in the dance.

Hawei's_Dorigen_During the Middle ages and Renaissance,for example, the body of conventions which governed the relation of aristocratic lovers was called “courtly love “: a sort of idealized and sometimes even illicit kind of love in which the knight consecrated himself to a woman often superior in rank or even married – the prototypes are Lancelot and Queen Genevieve – who deliberately displayed a certain indifference in order to preserve her reputation. The ” mistress”  was certainly beautiful, pure like an angel, distant ; therefore the essence of pleasure in this love game stood in the craving and pain of the lover who, despite his many attempts, believed the object of his desire unattainable. In short: a woman should play hard to get.

romeo-juliet-baz-luhrmann-1_largeHence, when Juliet  innocently reveals her feelings for Romeo, who “bescreened in night” ungentlemanly lets her profess her love for him, suddenly she finds herself in an unknown, dangerous land where distance has become closeness. Furthemore, she had ended her speech with an ambiguous and dangerous:” take all myself” (soul, body or both?). All the rules of courtly love have been crushed and she is unprepared to play the new game. ” What will Romeo think of me now?” she thinks and blushes. Well, Romeo is a smart guy and he likes playing the role of the bold lover. He wishes somehow to reassure Juliet for his temerity and apparently doesn’t seem to give consequence to what he has just heard, but his words reveal that he is well aware of the change of scenario, especially when he addresses her.

Romeo-Juliet-romeo-and-juliet-5125592-992-424Before hearing Juliet’s words, Romeo had called her “angel“, that is perfectly in line with the given canons. The first time he speaks to her, she becomes “saint“, therefore preserving the requested idea of unattainability, but after a while Romeo names her “maid“, which is still good, because he surely means: virgin, untouched, but undoubtedly a “maid” is more accessible than a “saint”. It ‘s only when Romeo,  in one of his wordy metaphors, refers to her as “merchandise”  that a very alarmed Juliet understands that this love match is unfair and decides not to “dwell on form” . She urges Romeo to speak clearly and swear love to her, only in this way the match will be more even. Juliet is only looking for a sincere, direct  “I love you too” but at this point Romeo doesn’t seem so confident without the courtly lover repertoire, he babbles some nonsense like “Lady, by yonder blessed moon I vow,That tips with silver all these fruit-tree tops….”  and it is only when a disappointed Juliet pretends to go away that Romeo somehow gives the answer she is awaiting for. Game over.

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Hamlet’s depression

34-hamletDepression: a state of low mood and aversion to activity that can affect a person’s thoughts, behavior, feelings and sense of well-being(….)They may lose interest in activities that once were pleasurable (…..) and may contemplate, attempt, or commit suicide. Insomnia, excessive sleeping, fatigue, loss of energy, or aches, pains, or digestive problems may also be present.Depressed mood is not always a psychiatric disorder. It may also be a normal reaction to certain life events, (…). Well, according to this definition, we wouldn’t be too far from the truth, if we diagnosed that Hamlet suffered from depressive mood as “normal reaction to” precise” life events“: his father’s death, first of all; his mother Gertrude‘s “over hasty marriage” with his uncle Claudius – freshly crowned king of Denmark -, a man he despises even before knowing that he is the villanous murderer of his father; a country that seems to have too soon lost the memory of his father, to celebrate and feast the coronation and the wedding on the new king. Hamlet feels like a stranger in that merry atmosphere and stubbornly wears the clothes of woe . He has become apathetic and seems unable to react.

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Claudius is a man of action. He had set his goal and done whatever necessary to reach it, without caring much about ethics. He is actually the most proficient disciple of Machiavelli, as he has successfully put into practice his well-known motto : “the end justifies the means.The crown, his sister-in-law, power, he has obtained everything he wanted and would fully enjoy his life, but for that strange nephew, whose public exhibition of grief annoys him. He is like a cloud in a summer day. The villanous Claudius cannot believe that the loss of a father may be the cause of such a sudden alteration in temper, and instinctively doesn’t trust Hamlet. He needs to know more about the cause of that affliction. At first he tries to sympathize with him, evoking the laws of nature ( even if he is well aware that he had given nature a little help), and reminds him that the death of a father is a natural event. Then he thinks that maybe that grief is due to Hamlet’s expectation to be king after his father, hence he assures him that he will be the next in the line of succession to the throne, but Hamlet keeps on showing his indifference and passivity. Eventually, in the vain attempt to provoke any reaction, Claudius derides him, calling his grief “unmanly“, unworthy of a prince. Hamlet is not virile enough to be the king of Denmark.The gap between the two is clearly ethical rather than generational.

Olivier-Hamlet-006When his father’s ghost reveals him the circumstances of his death, Hamlet is forced to awake from his state of torpor and take action against his uncle: “if thouhast nature in thee, bear it not“, warns the ghost (even Hamlet’s father seems to doubt upon his son’s constancy). It is an admonition that it cannot be ignored for sure, in fact Hamlet at first seems to be willing to revenge himself soon, but after a while his rage and resoluteness fade away, giving way to a sense of impotence : “Oh cursed spite! That I was ever born to set  it right“, he laments. Once the adrenaline is off, he realises that he just can’t do it.
Therefore even if the bloody details about his father’s murder should have brought Hamlet to a  prompt reaction, he takes time. He wants evidence. He spends the whole act II plotting against Claudius, pretending to have become insane at first and then organizing his Mousetrap : the public representation of the murder of his father. However, we understand that whatever he is doing, he is not psychologically ready and seems relapse into his initial state of inactivity. Whoever suffers of depression knows well, that the effort that even trivial actions require, is perceived so ponderous to have the impression of being overwhelmed by its burden, so every intent is crystallized by the paralysis of the will. Hamlet ‘s state of mind is fragile. Living for him is like being hurt by  “slings” and “arrows” and in this condition he perceives his revengeful undertaking as a “sea of troubles” . For a while he prefers to take into consideration another solution to put an end to his sufferance, another kind of action, towards himself this time: suicide; but the fear of death holds him back,  “thus conscience does make cowards of us all” he ponders, it’s conscience that makes “enterprises of great pitch and moment (…..) lose the name of action“.

act3scene3-hamletOnce again it’s conscience that prevents Hamlet from killing Claudius, who, after having seen on stage the representation of his treacherous deed, his uncle reaches the chapel in shock to pray. Killing the king while he is purging his soul( even if he is not, but he doesn’t know), would mean to send him straight to heaven, while his father is doomed to “fast(s) in fire“. It’s not the right moment and delays again. So, when soon after he meets his mother, he gives vent to all the frustration he has stored so far and mistreats her, till the ghost appears again, but this time only Hamlet can see him, as if it were a hallucination produced by his rage and guilt for his inadequacy. So we may say that Hamlet truly never acts except when he realizes that he had been entrapped by Claudius in the deadly duel with Laertes. More than a revenge tragedy, Hamlet is the tragedy of the impossibility of revenge.

On Youth (Giovinezza,Giovinezza)

renzi.jpgI don’t know whether you have realised that this country is undergoing a revolution, the youth revolution. Yes, we are making way for the young and replacing the old dusty generations of managers and politicians with fresh, vital new forces. Would you believe it? Here is an example: our new Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. Actually, this renewal process had already started when we got rid of old serious Professor Monti for the much younger Letta, who was only 46  – a toddler for our standards – but that was not enough: only after few months he was brutally replaced by Matteo Renzi, democrat, age 38.  In his first speech at the senate for the vote of confidence, the Prime Minister did his best to look at ease in such a formal place: unbuttoned jacket, a hand in his pocket and Haruki Murakami‘s The Art of Running well displayed in front of him as sign of the new dynamic times, then, nonchalantly he slapped with the arrogance of his youth the silent and astounded senators, informing them that their time was over, as he was planning to wipe out that chamber soon, reforming the Constitution. Ah, the impetuosity of the young! Oh, giovinezza, giovinezza!!!

Trasmissione televisiva Porta a Porta

Gorgeous Minister Elena Boschi

Therefore, now if you want to have a career in politics and access to the seats that really count, you’ve got to be young or at least look young            ( Professor Berlusconi could lecture us upon this point), that means being active, vigorous, energetic…...I don’t know, these words seem to evoke something, but what? It seems as if I have already heard this kind of slogans. However, our politicians have quickly dusted their trainers and tracksuits and started to exhibit their sporting talents, so you can see pictures of them, while they are enduring hard sessions of push-ups, sit-ups, morning runs.There is a Montecitorio running club, in fact, whose membership have recently boomed. Matteo Renzi himself is a runner or maybe used to be, as he seems to have put some weight on lately. All the members of his staff are young, as for example Maria Elena Boschi Minister of Constitutional Reforms and Relations with Parliament, age 33, she is also very attractive as a matter of fact. However, they represent the dynamic,vital, fresh blood that promises to transform this country. Ahh, giovinezza, giovinezza!

Matteo Renzi had formerly been Mayor of Florence, and I have to admit that he did really well. The city looked so organized, clean, so “North”  let me say. At this point I feel like tranquilizing whoever is going to come here to Rome for Easter holidays, we are still fully in the disorganized “South”, don’t be alarmed! Nothing has changed. But let me think, how old is our Mayor Ignazio Marino? 59? You see!!! The current Mayor of Florence is Dario Nardella, age 38, and very much alike Matteo Renzi. You can see him at the starting line of Florence half marathon two weeks ago.

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Sporty Mayor Nardella. Does he have a hand in his pocket? Must be a distinctive mark.

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Fresher blood running through the streets of Florence. The little boy here, may be the next Prime Minister soon!

Now I remember. This is not the first time, in fact, that this country celebrates the boost of youth. Actually, it was long time ago, and the Prime Minister was, was…………… The Dux, Benito Mussolini. Ahhhhhh, giovinezza, giovinezza!!!

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Giovinezza is the official hymn of the Italian National Fascist Party, regime, and army, and was the unofficial national anthem of Italy between 1924 and 1943.

THE ONE

I felt like reblogging this post as a tribute to Gabriel Garçia Marquez, my TheOne. “Uno no se muere cuando debe, si no cuando puede”

e-Tinkerbell

el-imaginario-macondo

book Every time somebody asks me to pick my favourite one, whatever the topic is, I am never that prompt and if I attempt to give an answer I change my mind after two seconds. The truth is that actually but I don’t have THE song , THE memorable movie, THE actor, THE band, THE man of my life……uhmmm, oh no, THE man I have (oooops) ; I’ve got many options that have changed according to age, situations, places. But if you instead ask me what book I loved THE most, well, in this case no doubts cloud my mind: it is One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. Applause.

imagesLR4Y8UZ0 I am not exaggerating If I say that, when I read it long time ago, I fell under the spell of the magnificent prose of the Colombian author after only a few words. It was first sight love. It is just like when you are convinced to prefer a blond-haired, blue-eyed, Prince Charming looking…

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Mr Run in Florence

289Uhmmmmm, let me think, what did it say ? “…for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part“. Following a husband in any marathon is not mentioned in any set of marriage vows, and actually it is nothing that these lips have ever pronounced. Life is getting harder in these latitudes my friends, as almost every week-end my husband is mostly engaged with a competition and just recently has decided to “emigrate” and feel the thrill to race  “abroad”, that is in a different place from Rome and surroundings. The astute man, therefore, told me a couple of weeks ago that he was planning a romantic weekend and had singled out Florence to make ME a surprise, as he knew that I particularly love it . Great. The ingenious man, however, only after some days nonchalantly informed me that there would have been a half marathon that particular week-end in Florence and he was planning to run it . What a coincidence. ” For better, for worse, in.………”.

Therefore here we are, we took the train and in an hour and a half we were in Florence late in the afternoon.

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The Arno

If the real goal of the trip is the race rather than romanticism, everything is about what you can’t do. You can walk too much, because the runner can’t be too fatigued and you can’t eat too much or make too many culinary experiences, as a heavy, slow digestion can put at risk the performance. However I managed to make him tour the town (you don’t need taxis or buses to see Florence, you can just walk) and see the beautiful squares and monuments just like the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower and The Palazzo Vecchio.

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Palazzo Vecchio (the town hall of Florence)

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Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower

We also stopped at the fountain of Il Porcellino (Italian “piglet”) is the local Florentine nickname for the bronze fountain of a boar. Il Porcellino figures in Hans Christian Andersen‘s “The Bronze Hog” in A Poet’s Bazaar . I seems that stroking the statue brings you good luck and that’s why tourists always crowd to touch the nose of the boar and take a picture.

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Credulous tourists.

If you like market places, the most famous one in Florence is San Lorenzo and also the Central Market (Mercato Centrale) where you can find myriad vendors dedicated to the primary ingredients of Tuscan cuisine.

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Central Market

My husband is very fond of lampredotto: a typical Florentine peasant dish, made from the fourth and final stomach of a cow, the abomasum. You can find vendors of lampredotto sandwiches everywhere in Florence and it is as popular as pizza. Unfortunately lampredotto belonged to the list of what my husband could not eat before the race as it takes at least five hours to digest it.

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Lampredotto vendor

However, after many can’t, the night before the race we succumbed to the culinary temptation, as we went to an amazing restaurant La Brasserie where we had the most wonderful experience. They propose a fusion of Tuscan and French cuisine at a very good price. In case you go to Florence, I linked it for you.

The following day the meeting point was at Piazza Santa Croce.

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Finish line

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Can you spot the odd one out?

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The start

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Happy people running through the streets of Florence

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The winner

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Mr Run’s final effort. Time 1:30:40 Wow!!!!!!!

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Do you think this is the deserved reward?

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This is the real reward. Super sandwich with lampredotto.

This week-end hasn’t been that bad after all. Sorry love, when will the next race be? 🙂

 

Set the goal!!!

smartcolorswimSport has always meant a lot to me. It has been my most influential source of values, and has greatly determined the kind of person and teacher I am. When I was a young girl, pools were my world as I was an agonist swimmer. I used to train four times a week, sometimes even twice a day (before and after going to school) plus the stress of week-end competitions. However hard, I never complained, or felt like “sinking” under the burden of school or sport effort. Once I set my goals, the only thing I had in mind was to do anything it was in my power to crush my limits, improve my times and when eventually I did it, well, the satisfaction was immense and that moment of bliss unforgettable. It is in that moment that everything becomes meaningful and rewarding and you are eager to set the next goal.

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????This is how I have been brought up : only hard work and discipline will help you reach your goals and set new others, I know no other recipe that works. That’s why I often talk about sport in this blog, apart from celebrating my husband’s legendary enterprises, of course :D, because I think that is a life lesson that can be easily applied to education with great success. The question is that nowadays, as far as I can see, the new generations don’t seem so focused on their future, hence if you just study for your sense of duty, the reaching of good grades is no longer enough as motivation. That’s why school effort is too often felt like frustrating and homework worthless or unnecessary. If you can’t figure out what your objectives are, whatever you are asked to do is obviously pointless, it is much better to spend your precious time playing with a video game trying to set the highest score.It is a goal after all.

GoalAchievement Highest score, highest score…..an epiphany!!!!!! One day I came up with the idea to divide my younger students of English language in two groups, or better in two teams and gave them the glorious names of universities like Oxford and Cambridge, for example. I appointed a team leader for each group, and told them that every grade,every activity would have been transformed into points to be summed day after day. At the end of the school year, there would have been a big party to celebrate the winning team with cups, medals, diplomas and a happy summer of course. I had decided to turn myself into a teacher referee, but I soon understood that I had gained an immense power.

goal+setting+5The trap is that everybody wants to win, and once you accept to be part of a team you are no longer responsible for yourself, but for the team as well. If you miss one test, for example, your team will score less and you might be decisive for the final defeat. Everybody wants to be popular, therefore I soon noticed that nobody skipped tests any longer ( I had cunningly explained that even one single point could have been essential for the final victory), but above all everybody wanted to take part to the competitions/tests I did every day. They could be the heroes of the day. Effort had become fun. They felt the joy of reward and they didn’t even realise they were studying much more than they used to do before. Much more. They just needed a goal.
“If one does not know
To which port one is sailing,
No wind is favorable ”
Lucius Annaeus Seneca