Posts Tagged With: Agrigento

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 22 Pepe 0003 (November 6, 2014)

TODAY FROM ITALY:

POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN SICILY:

1. Segesta and Erice

I flew Ryan Air from Rome to Palermo. It reminded me of flying Icelandic Airlines in the 1960s. Among other things the seats did not recline. One woman sitting across the aisle from me boarded with a toy Maltese dog sporting a “service dog” emblazoned jacket. What sort of services a dog of that size could provide I refuse to speculate on. Although the woman had carefully complied with all procedures and was approved by the departure desk, the pilot insisted he was not authorized to fly with dogs. After many, many tense minutes the crisis was somehow resolved and we took off, dog and all.

I met my sister and George at the airport in Palermo and we immediately left for Erice.

Before arriving at Erice we stopped to view the impressive classical ruins at Segesta.

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Pookie in front of the temple at Segesta

Located on the top of a massif about 3000 feet above the plain and sea below Erice can be seen from most of western Sicily. At times because of its height it disappears into the clouds. I loved the place as soon as I saw it.

Upon our arrival, we checked into an old Carmelite nunnery converted into a hotel. Similar to my lodgings in Rome, the hotel maintained an aura of religiosity. It retained all of the religious trappings of its prior life, including a chapel for devotional use by guests.

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Checking into the “Carmine.”

We set off to explore the city and to have dinner. We were enthralled by the views from the city walls and the quiet peacefulness of the town. Now and then a bell would ring out marking the liturgical hours. The City, as small as it is, has 60 churches, most of which state appropriated during the Risorgimento and now house museums, artistic or scientific institutes or simply stand empty.

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A view from Erice

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Sunset

Later, of course, a fine dinner at a place suggested by the hotel.

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Maryanne and George at dinner

The following morning we continued our tour. One side of the city still has its ancient Phoenician walls.

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The ancient Punic walls— VII-V Century B.C.

The city, like Sicily itself, is triangular-shaped. At one point is the Cathedral and main gate. At another stands the Saracen-Norman castles.

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Castello de Pepoli

At the third point are the old Spanish and Jewish Quarters where our hotel was located.

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A street in the old Jewish quarter.

The city is high enough that I watched some clouds float across the plains and creep into Erice like tourists looking for espresso.

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Erice collage

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A final view from the heights of Erice

2. Camilleri — Vigata (Puerto Empedocle) and Montelusa (Agrigento)

Following an extended and mostly uninteresting drive from Erice we arrived at Agrigento, the Montelusa of the Montalbano novels by Camilleri. Agrigento an ancient Greek City boasts some of the finest examples of Greek classical temple Architecture.
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Maryanne at the Valley of the Temples

It was also the home of the playwright Luigi Pirandello. Camilleri’s first published book was a biography of Pirandello. The playwright, in a novel of his own written over 100 years ago, first named Agrigento Montelusa.

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George in front of the Pirandello homestead

We began at the Questura where Montalbano unhappily spent much time explaining his actions to his superiors. It stands across the street from its rival police force, the much reviled Carabinieri.
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The Questura

We visited the site of the school at which Camilleri was studying for his final exams when the Allies bombed it during WWII killing over 300 people. The event played and important role in the Terra-cotta Dog novel.

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The Churchyard where the school was located.

Camilleri’s middle name was Calogero. Saint Calogero, a much beloved saint in Sicily, is the patron saint of Agrigento. Calogero was black and arrived in Sicily from Africa sometime in the forth century. Calogero is a common name and surname in Sicily.

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The Church of Saint Calogero where Camilleri was baptized.

In one of the novels, I think it was The Snack Thief, Cantarella is sent off to collect some information from an accountant in the Arab Quarter of the city.

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The Arab Quarter – the accountant’s office is off to the right.

We visited a several other locations and then set off for Porto Empedocle, the fictional Vigata.

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Vigata

In almost every novel, at some point Montalbano will eat lunch at his favorite restaurant and later walk out on the jetty, sit on the flat rock beneath the lighthouse and consider whatever case he is working on or more than likely his life in general.

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The lighthouse and flat rock at the end of the Jetty

We drove past Marinella where Montalbano lived next to the beach in a much more modest house than the one pictured in the TV show. Unfortunately, because of construction of a project promoted by the very ambitious current mayor of Marinella, we were unable to get on to the beach itself.

We then went to the Turkish Steps an unusual marl formation that appears in The Voice of the Violin, I believe.

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The Turkish Steps and our guide Michelle

After visiting too many scenes from the novels to recount, we stopped at the restaurant owned by Enzo that Montalbano, after his beloved lunch place near his office was closed, with great trepidation tries and falls in love with. Enzo was not there but his brother-in-law was and we visited with him for a while.

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Pookie in front of Enzo’s restaurant.

Finally, we set off to our lodgings to rest before facing the city of Canicatti and our relatives.

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

Apologies, Regrets and Humiliations:

I sincerely apologize for sending these pallid travelogues to those devoted readers of T&T who look forward to my scintillating prose, trenchant observations and insightful clichés.

TODAY’S QUOTE:

“… some alternative method of organizing large numbers of men had to be devised so that the energies of such men could be coordinated and directed and so that they could be deprived of much of what they produced in order to accumulate capital to be used for the creation of non-subsistence enterprises (from art and literature to war and monuments).”
Carroll Quigley.

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Categories: October through December 2014 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. April 23. 2011

English: Map of Pitcairn Islands (rough), Paci...

Map of Pitcairn Islands (rough), Pacific Ocean, own work composed from various mapreferences (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

TODAY’S FACTOID:

2011: According to UN estimates Pitcairn Islands is the worlds smallest country in terms of population containing just about 50 citizens.

TODAY’S NEWS FROM THAILAND:

a. Coup rumblings or show of force:

Military exercises by about 1000 élite troops are being held in Bangkok ostensibly so that the troops can show their support of the monarchy. In his speech to these troops the commander of the 1st Infantry Division (the troops that put down the Red Shirt protest last year) proclaimed, “All from the 1st Infantry Regiment are the Kings soldiers. Hence, you must be ready to act on commands of your superiors.” He then went on to urge them to have faith in their commanders and strictly obey their orders, and insisted that all soldiers should share the army chief’s stance.

Huh…what about the Kings stance or that of the democratically elected government?

b. Who runs the country:

It should be noted that although the current military high command apparently dominates the existing civilian government in power the opposition United Front for Democracy (UDD) is led by a general. The UDD has just severed its ties with the main opposition party, the Puea Thai (Thaksin and Red Shirt backed party).

Is this an attempt by the General to secure himself a position in the next government whether formed by coup or election?

c. Although it may only be proposed as electioneering propaganda the current ruling party proposes an interesting approach to taxes:

The ruling Democrats have proposed higher consumption taxes as a means of lowering the income gap. Now consumption taxes always have been criticized as a means for the very rich to transfer whatever burden of support for the government they may be asked to bear themselves to the poor, working and middle classes through progressive income taxes, not otherwise avoided by tax reductions on the rich by means of a flattened tax role or simple non progressive roll back of rates. Simply, the wealthiest people in a society spend relatively less of their income on consumable than the rest of us and apply more of it to savings and accumulation of capital. In an effort to defuse this criticism or disguise its impact by arguing that the wealthy would pay more for luxury goods that the rest of the population cannot afford and thereby contribute more funds to the public treasury that they now avoid through deductions applicable mostly to them, like deductions for investments into long-term mutual funds (by the way, providing a greater benefit to the operators of the mutual funds than to the investors who reap the benefits of this largess through fees).* There is however a history of progressive application of consumption fees in Thailand through escalating tax rates for increased electricity use, more costly luxury cars and some environmental pollution fees.

* ( If the mutual funds actually provided a greater rate of return on investment than competing investments then investors would so invest as classical economic market theory predicts. By pushing for this redistribution of tax burden, the financial industry that promoted it actually encourages less competition and efficiency than classical economic market theory demands. It is instructive to note how silent most classical economists in the US, who are primarily paid by the financial industry, remain when faced by violations of their theories in situations like this and in cases of other supply side subsidies, while on the other hand their voices tremble with indignation any proposed rise in the minimum wage.)

d. OK it is about the US and not Thailand, but nevertheless:

Standard and Poor rating agency which along with Moody’s generally considered co-conspirator in the world-wide financial collapse of 2008 for setting their ratings for the benefit of their clients and who went unpunished, have recently threatened to downgrade the US credit rating because of the stalemate in congress over the means to reduce the national debt. Who do you suppose is paying them for their action now?

By the way wouldn’t such a threat to the welfare of the country be classified as treason. If you recall only a short while ago [and perhaps even now] those who advocated a change in the country’s economic system were branded traitors.

POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THAILAND:

I am back in Paradise by the Sea for a few days packing up the apartment in preparation for my trip to the US. I regret having to give up the place, but economic considerations of maintaining an extra residence here during my stay in the US argue against keeping it. I am sure I can find a similar place upon my return.

English: Red shirt in Bangkok.

Red shirt in Bangkok. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The little masseuse, a committed and determined red shirt supporter, spends much of her time watching the political debates on television. She attends all the Red Shirt rallies in Bangkok and some times attends the Yellow Shirt ones as well. When I ask her why she attends opposition events and listens so intently to their speeches on television, she says, “I want to understand exactly what they are saying so that I am better prepared.” I feel a little ashamed, I cannot stand watching Faux News.

I offered to take Hayden with me to spend a few days at the sea-shore and save her the burden of arranging for his care. Originally she agreed, then the day that we were to depart, SWAC claimed Hayden had a rash and needed to remain in Bangkok accessible to medical treatment in an emergency, so he could not come with me. The morning following my arrival here, I received a hysterical call from her demanding my return as soon as possible claiming she could not cope with the child and all the other things she had to do. Since I was going to return tomorrow anyway, I promised I would cut short my trip and return tomorrow to help relieve her anxiety.

I have not finalized my arrangements for my trip to the US yet, in part because I still do not know where I will be staying while I am in San Francisco attending to my medical issues.

JOEY’S MYSTERY NOVEL:

Delayed because this current issue of “This and that…” has become too damned long.

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

a. The Mac Attack:

“Men act right only upon compulsion; but from the moment that they have the option and liberty to commit wrong with impunity, then they never fail to carry confusion and disorder everywhere. It is this that has caused it to be said that poverty and hunger make men industrious, and that the law makes men good; and if fortunate circumstances cause good to be done without constraint, the law may be dispensed with. But when such happy influence is lacking, then the law immediately becomes necessary.”
Niccolo Machiavelli, Discourses on the first 10 Books of Titus Livius, chap.111

b. Trenz Pruca’s Aphorisms, Apothegms, Epigrams and Maxims ( http:/trenzpruca.wordpress.com/) :

“Competition in a 100 yard dash lasts about 10 seconds. Competition in the market lasts about the same length of time before someone “tries to game it.

c. Today’s chart (we all are one or at least L3 and 3 mostly):

TODAY’S QUOTE:

“Without waiting for Pino’s answer, he slipped into one of those midget high-rises that were not more than twelve stories high, having been built around the same time as the chemical works and having just as quickly fallen into ruin, when not abandoned altogether. For someone approaching from the sea, Vigata rose up like a parody of Manhattan, on a reduced scale.”
Andrea Camilleri, The Shape of Water.

Camilieri’s Vigata is actually Porto Empedocle, a town on the southern shore of Sicily a few miles south-west of Agrigento [Montelusa in Camilleri’s novels.] When I lived in Sicily in the late 1960s, Porto Empedocle had not yet sprouted the high rises or industries referenced in the novels. At that time, the town was home to some of the best sea-food restaurants in the southern part of the island, however.

TODAY’S PHOTOS:

Contemporary Porto Empedocle :

Porto Empedocle

Porto Empedocle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Categories: April 2011 through June 2011 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. December 1, 2010

TODAY’S FACTOID:

A psychology professor at the University of Michigan calculated the happiness boost people get from sleeping an extra hour each night as equivalent to receiving a $60,000 annual raise.

I can see a book coming out of this, “How to Sleep Your Way to Wealth and Happiness.”

TODAY’S NEWS FROM THAILAND:

English: Andrea Camilleri Italian writer Itali...

English: Andrea Camilleri Italian writer Italiano: Andrea Camilleri (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For those of you fans of Andrea Camilleri, (and I know that some of you are) and his fictional detective Inspector Montalbano, I came across a web site offering a tour of places in Sicily mentioned in his novels.

The site also mentioned that in 2003. The town of Porto Empedocle in Sicily changed its official name to Porto Empedocle Vigata, after the name of the fictional town where his novels are placed.

This town and Agrigento (Montelusa in the novels) are close by to Canecatti, my Sicilian side of the family’s ancestral home. I lived there in the late sixties and early seventies. One of my favorite seafood restaurants was located on the wharf in Porto Empedocle. At that time the choices on the menu were usually limited to the daily catch or sea urchins. Not being fond of sea urchins I always chose the daily catch. Fortunately, the chef usually had several ways to prepare the fish to choose from. The meal. of course. was always accompanied by a pasta prepared al marinara or con vongele or some other sauce the chef may think up that day. One also always had fresh vegetables and fruit and all of it washed down with mineral water and strong Sicilian white or red wine. Naturally, the meal was finished off with espresso Sicilian style, so thick you could stand your spoon up in it, and some Sicilian pastries.

On the bluffs above the was the home of Luigi Pirandello now a museum and further on beyond the small green plain of Girgenti lay the hill on which Agrigento sits with greek temples, some almost entirely intact, standing out in a row atop a ridge below the town. In the evening the temples turn bright red in the light of the setting sun.

Tempio della Concorda (temple de de la Concord...

Tempio della Concorda (temple de de la Concorde) , Sicile, Italie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

PAPA JOE’S TALES AND FABLES:

THE TALES OF BABA GIUFA

It was the Golden Age, after the pill and before the scourge of AIDs. Like all Golden Ages, people’s attention turned from mere survival, to self-indulgence, self-adsorption and self-aggrandizement or as some say Hedonism, Mysticism and Capitalism and still others simplified to Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll.

Now at that time, the City of San Francisco was one of the centers of that age, often referred to as “new”, when society as a whole suffers from a mass attack of Alzheimer’s. In the City lived a man who wanted fame, fortune and sex, but believed it was his right to not have to work too hard for it. So, he decided to become a spiritual leader and called himself “Baba Giufa” because it sounded like something an eastern mystical religious guru who could become popular and attract a lot of followers would call himself.

Now Baba Giufa knew he needed to assemble his own followers to be successful in his new enterprise. So, one Saturday he put on a white busboy’s jacket, a pair of mostly white pants with a string belt, on his head he placed an old white Panama hat from which he had carefully cut off the brim and on his feet he wore a pair of pink rubber flip-flops. So attired, he went into Golden Gate Park at about 3PM. He sat himself down on the heavily traveled sidewalk along side the road that ran past the Japanese Tea Garden and the DeYoung Museumacross from the Band Shell.

He sat in what looked like the traditional Lotus position but really was not because he found the Lotus position too uncomfortable but as long as it looked a little like the Lotus position he thought that it would do for his purposes. He had no idea what to do with his hands, so he placed them palms up on his knees because he thought it looked like the picture of a Yogi master he saw somewhere. He closed his eyes and then he began to chant..

Instead of chanting, he actually was reciting the Walrus and the Carpenter and the Jabberwocky poems of Lewis Carroll which were the only two poems he had memorized while in high school. By reciting them in a very low and sing-song voice it seemed to sound a lot like chanting. Whenever he finished chanting one of the poems he would open his eyes as wide as he could until the iris seemed to float in a bloodshot white sea. He also stick his tongue out as far as he could. To most observers he appeared as though he was having a seizure of some sort. Then after a few moments he would retract his tongue, close his eyes and begin his chanting again.

Now after a while at this, a crowd began to gather around him, Some because they were upset that he was sitting on the well-travelled sidewalk forcing then to detour around him, others out of curiosity and still others attracted by his seeming otherworldliness.

Finally a skinny inquisitive young man with long flowing hair and a long scraggly beard that was in fashion at the time approached him and inquired, “Who are you and what are you doing here?”

Baba Giufa stopped his chanting, opened one eye, and stared at the young man for a while and then asked, “Do you have friends and family”?

“Why yes I do.” replied the startled you man.

“Then let me tell you this”, Baba Giufa responded in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear, “I am called Baba Giufa and I have found the secret to inner peace and happiness and if you want to share the secret with me then next Saturday at precisely 3 PM bring along your family and friends and I will return and instruct you all.”

With this, Baba Giufa rose from where he was sitting, passed through the crowd and went home.

Next Saturday at precisely 3 PM, Baba Giufa returned to the same place in Golden gate Park and found a crowd of about twenty people standing around. The skinny young man was siting on the sidewalk cross-legged directly to the right of where Baba had sat the previous Saturday. Baba took his seat and began his chanting and spasms. This continued until the inquisitive young man leaned in towards Baba and said in a loud voice, “Baba, last week you told me that if I gathered friends and family here at precisely 3PM on the following Saturday, you will instruct us all on the secret to inner peace and happiness”.

With that Baba Giufa rose from where he was sitting and looked over the crowd that had grown quite a bit larger since he had arrived.

Baba Giufa then asked the crowd, “How many here know what I am about to say? Raise your hands”.

No one raised their hands.

“Than why,” said Baba Giufa, “should I say anything to those who have no idea what I will speak about? I will return here next Saturday at precisely 3 PM and at that time I will instruct only those that really want to know, the secret of inner peace and happiness.”

With that Baba Giufa passed through the crowd, left the park and returned to his home.

On the next Saturday at precisely 3PM Baba Giufa returned to the park and resumed his seat and chanting. This time the crowd was much larger. Also, although the young man remained seated on his right, an attractive blond woman in a granny dress with flowers twisted into her hair sat on his left.

Again after a while the inquisitive young man leaned towards Baba Giufa and asked of him the same question.

Baba Giufa rose from his seat and observed the ever-growing crowd and shouted so that all could hear, “All those who know what I am going to speak about raise their hands.”

This time everyone had been instructed by the skinny inquisitive young man to raise their hands when asked that question and they all did so,

Baba Giufa look at them for a moment and then said, “Why should I speak at all to any of you when you all know what it is I am going to say? I will return here next Saturday at precisely 3 PM an instruct those who truly wish to know the secret of inner peace and happiness”.

With that he passed through the crowd, left the park and returned home.

On the third week, at precisely 3PM on Saturday Baba Giufa returned to the park. This time he carried a bunch of paper in one hand and a shoe box in the other. He found a crowd even larger than the last time. And, not only was the inquisitive man and the comely woman already seated on each side of his place on the sidewalk but several other seekers were assembled on the sidewalk as well. In addition, surrounding his place were several vases filled with multi colored flowers. He took his seat and handed to the inquisitive young man the bits of paper on which he had written his name, Baba Giufa, and his address and phone number. In front of himself he placed the shoe box in which he had cut a hole into the top and on which he had neatly lettered the word “Donations”. He began his chanting.

Eventually, the skinny man leaned towards Baba Giufa and asked the question again. This time Baba Giufa did not rise, instead he simply stared at the shoe box in front of him.

After a while everyone got the idea and several of the onlookers came forward and dropped money into the box. When Baba Giufa was satisfied that no further contributions were forthcoming, he stood up and addressed the crowd. “All of you here that know what I am going to say please raise your hand.”

About one half of the crowd, having been well-trained by now, raised their hands.

Then Baba Giufa said, “All those who do not know what I am about to say raise their hands.”

The otter half of the crowd did so.

“Well then,” said Baba Giufa, “I would appreciate it if those who know what I am going to say would tell those who do not. For those really interested in learning the way to inner peace and happiness I have given to my first disciple here, who shall hereafter be known as Babu Beardo, scraps of paper with my telephone number and address on it.”

And with that he picked up the shoe box made his way through the crowd and went home.

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

a. Wisdom from the Princess Bride:

Inigo Montoya: “Don’t bother me with trifles. After 20 years, at last my father’s soul will be at peace. There will be blood tonight!.”

b. Today’s featured cognitive bias:

Interloper effectthe tendency to value third party consultation as objective, confirming, and without motive. Also consultation paradox, the conclusion that solutions proposed by existing personnel within an organization are less likely to receive support than from those recruited for that purpose.
TODAY’S QUOTE:

“It is never wise to drive an enemy to desperation.”
Niccolo Machiavelli, Thoughts of a Statesman

Categories: October through December 2010 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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