SiStan ChapLee

Saturday, December 31, 2016

The future is Utopia _and_ Dystopia

Many features of Renaissance Utopias are reused, more or less parodied, by HP Lovecraft in his short novel At the Mountains of Madness. The dystopian side of it lies in the fact that the superior civilization described in this case belongs to alien entities who conquered Earth some 1,000 millions years ago and, incidentally, did create the first human beings as their food and pastime. But, after all, "Scientists to the last—what had they done that we would not have done in their place? God, what intelligence and persistence! . . .  Radiates, vegetables, monstrosities, star-spawn—whatever they had been, they were men!" No, the true problem is that other cosmic forces finally succeeded in destroying them, and are ready to destroy us.

By the way, have a Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

On Christ's Native-E.T.

And this is the interpretation of the picture provided by Mauricio Yushin Marassi of the Italian Zen community La Stella del Mattino ("The Morning Star," see website):
The space full of birds of prey, while Man is in a beam of light on a robotized earth. . .  as if Man were good, and evil "somewhere else."

Thursday, December 22, 2016

A great jump forward

In his illustrations for Orlando Furioso, Fabrizio Clerici (see) seems to represent Rodomonte as what we would call an X-Man, a mutant; at least, he makes Rodomonte's body merge biologically with his armor, that is made with the skin of a dragon. This recolored version simply highlights the concept.

What better wish for the new year than to admire a genius being futuristically reinterpreted by another genius? May the Renaissance spur us to a true renaissance.
Have a great 2017!

. . . But, wait, earlier than that, there will appear a Christmas greeting card on December 25.

Fantastic Design and Where to Find It

click to enlarge

Crazy ornaments, both small for the tables and big for the buildings, were a must-have to Renaissance nobles; a task with which great artists were entrusted. All sorts of things could be assembled to make pots, etc., from mold copies of eagle claws to coconuts being labeled as "fossils" to cameos with Biblical or mythological or erotic scenes. The outcome would turn out either refined or kitsch.

An amazing set of modern objects in that line, especially the refined side, can be seen in the book: Cristina Morozzi (ed.), Terrific Design, Milan (Italy): 24 Ore Cultura, 2014, pages 242, euros 45, from which the items in the collage above have been taken. With many thanks to Libreria Bardamù, Perugia.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Spy Who Came in from the Heat (5)

[76.1 - 77.4]

Poi che s'avide che non può dar crollo,
Svelle la chioma e la sua nera barba,
Come fa de la menta o del serpollo
Il villan, che cogliendo egli dibarba.
Alfin premendo l'una mano al collo,
Che parea tinto dove nacque Iarba,
Gridò: - Confessa, mentitor fallace,
Il vero a me, se vita brami e pace.

Di' chi sei, donde vieni, ov'era dritto
Dinanzi il tuo corso errante e fuggitivo.
E non mentir, che non sarai trafitto,
E quinci partirai satollo e vivo -.

When he(*) saw that the man could not move, (**)
He tore off his hair and his black beard,
As with a plant of mint or wild thyme
A farmer does when he uproots them.
Then pressing one hand against his neck,
That looked as dark as in Iarbas' birthplace, (***)
Vafrino cried, "Treacherous liar, confess
The truth now, if you love life and peace!
Who are you, whence do you come, and where
Did your wandering, fleeing route lead?
Do not lie, for you will not be slain,
Yeah, you will leave sated and alive."

(*) Vafrino
(**) The Italian phrasing echoes Dante, Inferno 25: 9.
(***) Iarbas was a North African king mentioned in the Iliad. The definition of Africa as "the land of Iarbas" comes from Dante, Purgatorio 31: 72, where Iarba already rhymed with barba (beard) and dibarba (uproots), but here Dante's "strong oaks" are replaced with humble herbs. In the third line, the unusual form serpollo instead of serpillo (wild thyme) is due to the needs of rhyming. Tasso's love for plants and their uses emerges in his contemporary long poem Il Mondo Creato.

Christmas break: The GC posts will restart on January 7.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The 7 Days of CryAction 5: 344-404

by ilT + Selkis

All the more so with Man:
corporations controlling
humble people heavily
drink Dracula-wise
the blood of buyers.
Is a soul stimulated
[350] greedily towards gold
different in depth from
Leviathan that hunts
thousands of tiny fish
to fill its own flesh?
New blasphemous Ahabs
dispossess the poor and—
you enjoy the exile’s
goods, you now gnaw
old spoils shamelessly
[360] adding to you account
such past usurpation
and proving a pig worse
than the primal pig.
Therefore mind the doom
that falls on the fish
preying on its peers:
hook or net or bow-net.
You won’t avoid after
so many misdeeds
[370] a punishment proper
that looms like a lasso.
Of a small crustacean
learn the subtle traps
and be free from fraud:
The crab craves for
the shell’s sweet pulp
a very precious prey
since a hard defense
was given her by God
[380] with vigorous valves
that shut super-strongly
and neutralize nippers.
But if the sea’s smooth
in sunny serene weather
the relaxing rays are
loved by the she-shell
who opens up, and lo!
he throws a stone inside
and makes her harmless
[390] so shrewdness wins
where weakness cannot.
Odi malizia” of a man
unjust and unrefined
silently fraudulent!
If you aim at the art
of acquiring, avoid
bothering your brother.
Shun damned souls
be content with things
[400] provided by poverty
without humiliating honors
or pompous pride:
Master your own mind
that’s more than America.

(Christmas break: to be continued on Jan. 8)

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Spy Who Came in from the Heat (4)

[16: 75]

Ma di creder Vafrino anco s'infinge,
Sin ch'ebro il vede e di parlar già stanco,
E sovra l'herba, che l'humor dipinge,
Posare il capo non ch'il tergo o il fianco,
E chiuder gli occhi gravi: allhor gli scinge
La spada, che pendeva al lato manco,
E mentre il sonno più l'affrena e lega,
Egli co 'l proprio cinto anco il rilega.

But Vafrino makes as if he believed him,
Until he sees him drunk and tired of talking;
On the grass -- red with wine -- the man finally
Lays his head, not only his back and hips,
And shuts his drowsy eyes. Vafrino unfastens
The man's sword, that hung on his left side, 
And when sleep dominates him wholly,
Ties him strongly by using his own belt. (*)

(*) In the final printed version, the text is slightly different, and specifies that Vafrino ties the man by using "his own and other belts," probably because one belt would not suffice. At the same time, it is not clear whence these other belts come.
The man, as it has become clear by now, is a Muslim spy -- though a very bad Muslim (he drinks a lot of wine) and a very bad spy! A poor devil, after all. His story will presently confirm the impression.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Fab and Furious

British knights look,
amazed, at the Hippogriff

The Battle of Lampedusa
(3 Christians vs. 3 Muslims)

The search for the [almost] complete catalog of Fabrizio Clerici's illustrations for Ariosto's Orlando Furioso has proved successful, at last! The book, published in 1981 after an exhibition in Bologna (Italy), includes 158 ink and watercolor pictures made in 1964-67, that cover basically the whole poem while summarizing the whole of Clerici's career. The references to art history and other literary sources also are many, but the main influences apparently come from the drawings -- not the paintings -- by Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Füssli/Fuseli, possibly Picasso too (especially the Vollard Suite), as well as comics, children's books, pulp novels, and illustrated magazines.

This album can be listed, imho, among the greatest achievements in the history of illustration, together with William Blake's works for Paradise Lost, Salvador Dali's for Don Quixote, Gustave Dore's for The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Renato Guttuso's for Les Misérables, Beppe Madaudo's for the Divine Comedy.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Spy Who Came in from the Heat (3)

[16: 73]

Greco d'esser dicea, che già molti anni
Guerreggiato ha co' Franchi in Asia, e vinto;
E i rischi de la guerra, e i lunghi affanni,
Dal primo egli narrava all'anno quinto.
Guata Vafrino il viso, i modi e i panni,
Né presta intera fede al parlar finto;
E mentre l'un contrario e l'altro accoppia,
S'accorge ben che quella fraude è doppia.

A Greek, he said he was; who many years now
Had fought with the Franks in Asia, (*) and won;
And the perils of war and wearing times
He recounted, from year one to the fifth.
Vafrino inspects his face, manners, clothes, (**)
And does not believe his false words at all,
But by comparing one side and its contrary (***)
He well understands there's a double fraud.

(*) Asia Minor, current Turkey; the self-styled Byzantine soldier says he fought against the Muslims in his own country when the Crusaders, called collectively "Franks," passed through it coming from Western Europe.
(**) The same method that will be adopted by Sherlock Holmes.
(***) Echoing Dante, Purgatorio 16: 57.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Learning Latin with the Renaissance method

There is a place where reading and speaking Latin and Greek is taught as it was in the Renaissance: through music! An alternative, exciting, easy, and working method. It is the international Accademia Vivarium Novum (website), whose current headquarters is in the wonderful Falconieri Villa in Frascati, Italy, near Rome. The building dates back to the 16th century, although it has been reworked in the following centuries, as usual.

If you happen to visit it, you may feel thrilled and moved by listening to a girl who sings Dido's last words in the Aeneid according to a melody that is very likely to match the original Latin music. Or, you may have a Mexican student, a discipulus de Nova Hispania as a tour guide, who tells you about the place's history in Latin. Well, tour guides are called ciceroni in Italian, after the name of the Roman orator and philosopher whose Villa lay in the very neighborhood of the Falconieris'.

The founder of Vivarium Novum, Luigi Miraglia, invested all of his (noteworthy) financial means and his (noteworthy) talents to start this project. Erchou kai ide!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The 7 Days of CryAction 5: 271-343

by Selkis + ilT

But the feeble fisher
by the Mar Tirreno
or Adriatic, Aegean
Caspian, Euxinus Sea
or Red Sea or Ocean
in northern Europe
and islands and India
who grew hoary on
the most solitary sands
[280] roving on the rocks
with his hook and net—
could he ever recount
the thousands of types
of the slippery progeny
the numberless amount
of scaly ways of life
all around Arda?
Some species in Egypt
others in the Eritrean Sea
[290] or Caspian or Persian
or at Atlas’ slopes
or at Indus’ mouth
may appear like aliens
or perplexing pilgrims.
How many are made by
the Ocean beneath Ursa
or on the opposite side
that resemble monsters!
But they all developed
[300] from the one Voice
who promoted plurality.
Some initially lay eggs
though without brooding
nor composing a nest
not fishing for food
but the water welcomes
and fortifies fries.
Some are viviparous:
differently from mules
[310] and many hybrid birds
their purest progeny
spreads forever fertile
through lawful loves.
Rules are rules: Although
morays mate with snakes,
the latter leaves its poison
otherwise the former flees.
No family of fish has
teeth in one sole section
[320] of their poor palates
like goats and oxen;
no fish—many think
ruminates replete,
except for scarus.
They all show saw-
like teeth in two rows
and different diets:
slime or fungi or algae
sea or swamp weeds
[330] or by the riverbeds.
Some believe in the bait
put by human hands,
fond of man’s food—
of lethal hidden hooks.
Most of them however
destroy one another:
To be small is to be meal.
But often opportunely
the proud predator will
[340] find a bigger fiend
try to vanish in vain
and be inexorably eaten,
two titbits in one belly.

(to be continued on Dec. 18)

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Tasso Art: Edoardo Matania

Mission: Not Impossible

Erminia's self-investiture
[Nicaea's, in G. Conquistata]

Crusaders were not saints

The illustrations of Edoardo Matania for Gerusalemme Liberata (Jerusalem Delivered) were first published in 1895, not by chance in the 300th anniversary of Tasso's death. Though less original and powerful than Gustave Doré, Matania was more technically skilled, and his engravings stand out for their style, refinement, and historical accuracy.

Noticeably, here the 11th century Crusaders are not armored like Renaissance knights. As for the clothing and architecture in Muslim countries, in European art history there had developed a true mania during the 19th century, see Eugène Delacroix.

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Spy Who Came in from the Heat (2)

During a stop in his journey, the Christian spy Vafrino meets a strange guy.

[16: 70]

Quindi mentre prendea posa e restauro,
Meschiando il vin di Creta e l'onda fresca
E, sibilar udendo il pino e 'l lauro,
Dava al corpo digiuno humore ed esca,
Vi giunse huom di color sembiante al mauro,
A cui par che 'l vïaggio homai incresca;
Ma l'habito avea greco e l'idïoma,
E come greco lunga e culta chioma.

While he here took a break and refreshment,
Blending the wine of Crete with fresh water (*)
And, listening to pines and laurels that whistled, (**)
He gave his body something to eat and drink,
There came a man whose skin was like the Moors',
Apparently tired of his own long travel;
But Greek were his garments and language,
And his hair, long and combed as the Greeks have. (***)

(*) In past times, wine was quite thick, and had to be watered down before drinking it. Greek wines were renowned, and Tasso was a connoisseur.
(**) A Tassean touch in the landscape.
(***) What have today become folkloric costumes were the actual garments of peoples. "Greek" here means "from the Byzantine Empire."

Thursday, December 8, 2016

If Donald Trump could see this!

click to enlarge

In this world map of 1548, the territory of the current USA is shown as an extension of China, and honorably so.

The map, drawn by Iacopo Gastaldi, was included in an edition of Ptolemy's Geography printed in Venice, the publisher G. B. Pederzano. Source: Isabella Pezzini (ed.), Exploratorium. Cose dell'altro mondo, Milan (Italy): Electa, 1991, pages 228, full of pictures. The very interesting essays in the book deal with the time period between the late Middle Ages and the 19th century, with the Renaissance obviously as the key focus. Cose dell'altro mondo literally means "things of the other world," but it is a common phrase referring to something unexpected and shocking.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Spy Who Came in from the Heat (1)

The Crusaders decide to send a spy to the Muslim camp: Vafrino, a squire of Tancred.
The episode was set in another section in Gerusalemme Liberata (cantos 18-19), and was quite different in its developments. In both versions, however, Vafrino starts by disguising himself as a Muslim, or rather, as Arabs often appear in modern children's books, stickers and comics.

As it can be inferred from other episodes in the Jerusalem-poems as well as from other works by Tasso, he loved detective stories. The major example is in Gerusalemme Liberata, canto 8, when false clues make some Crusaders believe that the knight Rinaldo has been murdered by order of no less than Godfrey of Bouillon. The parallel episode in the Conquistata (where Rinaldo has been changed into Riccardo) has, unfortunately, not been dealt with in our posts because it belongs to the part missing in the manuscript.

[16: 67.5 - 68.8]

Così parla Vafrino, e non trattiensi,
Ma cangia in lunga vesta il suo farsetto
E scopre ignudo il nero collo, e prende
Sottili e 'ntorno al capo attorte bende.

La faretra s'adatta e l'arco siro,
E barbarico sembra ogni suo gesto.
Maravigliosi ragionar l'udîro,
E 'n sì diverse lingue esser sì presto
Ch'eggittio in Menfi o pur fenice in Tiro
L'havria creduto e quel popolo e questo.
Egli se 'n va sovra un destrier ch'à pena
Segna correndo la più molle arena.

So speaks Vafrino, then does not tarry, and
His doublet replaces with a long garment;
He shows a black neck naked, then wears
A long, thin cloth all around his head;
Arranges a quiver, a Syrian bow,
All his gestures now recall the heathens'.
All were amazed while listening to him,
So skilled in so many different languages
That he could have passed for an Egyptian
In Memphis, a Phoenician in Tyre.
He goes, riding a horse who hardly leaves
A print on the finest sand by galloping.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The 7 Days of CryAction 5: 202-270

Dolphins talk as have
both blood and lung
but no tongue to
shape their sounds.
There snort in sleeping
some slippery fish or
armored arachnids too,
even without eyelids
[210] to be lowered on
their tired sight;
but their relaxed rest
with swinging tails
informs the fisher
who won’t harpoon
but can catch them
and regularly ransacks
sea rocks and sands
to seize the specimens
[220] secretly sleeping.
Using sharpened iron
Sparus, Perca are caught:
deep in their Dormitio
they will hardly wake up,
sleep passes into death
from slight to endless sleep
almost inadvertently.
Dolphins and tremendous
whales while sleeping
[230] set on the surface
their spouting spiracles
and fluctuate on fins.
At dead of night rather
than any other time fish
sleep—easy in summertime—
when herds are reared
by Proteus in his ponds:
Pistrices and sharks
whose bed is weeds
[240] snore sonorously
with their chef-herd
who counted sea sheep.
But old fables fit better
somewhere else. I won’t
argue about Arion who
was helped by a dolphin;
nor deal with the love of
a bottle-nose for a boy
whose death destroyed it
[250] and defeated by grief
it passed away on sand.
If we refuse faith to
such tales, let us trust
Natural History where
piety is pedagogically
foretasted by fish.
Dolphins have udders
to breast-feed babies,
their wombs welcome back
[260] a son who seeks
shelter there when the sea
is darn dangerous.
Growing up sub gurgite
the son learns to swim
not afraid of foam
taught by his daddy
the signal of sailors,
so that seamen foresee
the War of the Winds
[270] and quit their cruise.

(to be continued on Dec. 11)

Friday, December 2, 2016

The ancestor of NSA (5)

[16: 62, Godfrey speaks]

Scenderan (se fia d'uopo) incontra gli empi
Angeli amici da' stellanti chiostri,
A' quai non son l'hore prescritte o i tempi,
Com' a noi tutti et a' nemici nostri.
Liberarem la città sacra e i tempi,
E cadranno d'Egitto i feri mostri;
E fia di varie genti e d'una terra
Vittoria integra in glorïosa guerra.

"Against the impious, if needed, there will
Come friendly angels from the starry courts(*) --
To whom hours and times are not prescribed
As they are to us all and our enemies. (**)
We will free the Holy City and temples,
And the fierce monsters of Egypt (***) will fall;
And out of many peoples and one land
Full victory will rise in a glorious war."

(*) Literally "cloisters," a metaphor often used by Tasso.
(**) The angels will be able to intervene at any time, and immediately so, not needing to prepare equipments, etc. The predicament of humans is hard and tiring, to whatever religion they belong.
(***) The umbrella concept of "paganism" makes Tasso shamelessly mix up Islam and the religion of Ancient Egypt. He deals more diffusely with the monsters/gods of Egypt in his long poem Il Mondo Creato, on which he was working at the same time as he edited the Jerusalem-poem. This octave, anyway, provides a fine example of Baroque imagery and rhetoric.