Lovers love the spring


Yes indeed, it's spring time, and right now there seems to be no better way of heralding it than with a good war. Rigourous, global spring-cleaning.

Whilst mayhem and catastrophes reign in much of the world of today, one must take a brief but necessary pause, to be with a very dear person at a trying time, before returning to apply oneself, as always in good faith, if not with stoic, die-hard illusions.

As spring is with us at last, we could celebrate its arrival with what is hopefully a fitting Shakesperience. Sweet lovers love the spring, which naturally at this critical period must also take into account that 'all's fair in love and war' (John Lyly's 'Euphues' 1578).

It was a fellow and his wife
With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino,
                         Who oft' would row in manner rife,                       
  In the spring-time, the only pretty ring-time,
  When birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding;
Sweet lovers love the spring.

Between them there is seldom calm
 With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino,
 These ruèd quibbles can cause harm,
    In the spring-time, the only pretty ring-time,
    When birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding;
Sweet lovers love the spring.

This fracas they begin each day
 With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino,
From June until the end of May,
    In the spring-time, the only pretty ring-time,
  When birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding;
Sweet lovers love the spring.

And yet today sweet silence reigns
  With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino,
For love can heal the worst of pains
  In the spring-time, the only pretty ring-time,
 When birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding;
 Sweet lovers love the spring. 

Other Shakespeariences 

Parody and images © Mirino, March, 2011

Une résolution vers la démocratie

Hier soir vers 23:35 heures française, la résolution de l'ONU était accordée. L'ONU approuve donc le recours à utiliser la force militaire contre les forces de Kadhafi. Les forces du Royaume Uni et de la France seront engagées prioritairement. Le Qatar et les Emirats Arabes Unis vont aussi participer aux opérations militaires. Le Canada, la Norvège, la Pologne et le Danemark participeront aussi matériellement. L'Australie est aussi disposée à prêter des avions militaires, et l'Italie a offert l'utilisation de ses bases militaires, Sigonella en Sicile, une des plus proches bases de l'OTAN par rapport à la Libye, ce qui est évidemment aussi un facteur très important.

L'Allemagne par contre estime qu'il y a des "risques et des dangers considérables". Elle s'est abstenue du vote de la résolution avec la Russie, La Chine, l'Inde et le Brésil.
Avant le vote de la résolution Kadhafi avait menacé d'attaquer le trafic aérien et maritime civil et militaire en Méditerranée- ce qui a peut-être contribué à décider le vote de la résolution contre lui.

Les 25 Etats de l'OTAN doivent réunir bientôt pour décider comment s'organiser pour participer à mettre en œuvre au mieux cette résolution.

La réaction des forces de l'opposition qui défendent actuellement Benghazi a été 'une explosion de joie'. Par contre, Seif al-Islam, un des fils de Kadhafi, a dit que "la Libye n'a pas peur de l'engagement de l'ONU". Auparavant Kadhafi a menacé les résidents de Benghazi- "On va venir à chaque maison, à chaque chambre".. Il a ajouté que seulement ceux qui déposent leurs armes seront épargnés de la "vengeance qui attend les rats et les chiens".. "C'est fini. L'issue a été décidée. Nous allons venir ce soir.. nous allons vous chercher dans vos placards, nous n'aurons pas de pitié ni d'indulgence"..
Mais on vient de mettre en garde le régime de Kadhafi :  "toute attaque contre les civils serait traitée comme un crime." (procureur de la cour pénale internationale). 

Cet engagement est historique car c'est la première fois depuis beaucoup de temps que l'ONU est arrivée à établir un tel accord pour permettre une intervention militaire. Mais l'enjeu n'est pas seulement la liberté de la Libye, et c'est sans doute aussi à cause de cette appréciation que ce vote a été accordé. Si, avec le soutien de l'ONU donc également l'OTAN, les pays concernés peuvent influencer l'évolution des événements d'une manière positive, et par conséquent la Libye réussira à établir sa démocratie, il ne peut y avoir qu'un effet bénéficiant- stabilisant et encourageant envers les pays avoisinants qui sont aussi en ce moment sujet à une pression imposée par des éléments radicaux.

(Selon LCI, il parait que Bernard-Henri-Levy a aussi aidé à persuader Nicolas Sarkozy dans sa démarche à engager la France sans tarder).

Text by Mirino. Images PR, with grateful thanks. March, 2011

Ups and downs


During wars and catastrophes is it not natural to desire the warmth and comfort of love? Would this not be why there is often a rise in birth rates during such critical periods? Could it also stem from another facet of natural instinct, to try to compensate for tragic loss of live? If so perhaps Robert Graves himself would have upheld this theory. And surely nothing can inspire more hope than the promise of new life, and a new born child.

Robert Graves (1895-1985) was an English poet, novelist and translator. Because of the German element in his name, (Robert von Ranke Graves) from the German nobility of his mother, he was victimised by his classmates. He was also tormented for his outspokenness, his studiousness and his modest means in relation to the many other students from wealthier families at Charterhouse to where he had won a scholarship.
In response he began to write poetry, pretending he was a bit bereft of reason, and took up boxing. He was successful enough in the sport to become the school's welter and middle weight champion.

When the First World War broke out he enlisted without hesitation. During the Battle of the Somme he was very badly wounded, but despite all expectations he survived. He was then known as a 'war poet', but he chose to omit these realistic poems from his works, as he thought there were then too many war poets and war poems. From his war memories he wrote his famous Good-bye to all that.

Although it's possible that Graves had bisexual tendencies, he married twice and had a family of eight children (evidence of the 'upheld phenomenon'). After the war he was determined to make a living from his writing, but despite his excelling in the retelling of Greek Myths, for example, earning sufficient to get by on was a hard process, and his physical and mental condition made it even more difficult.
In 1934 however, Graves won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for I, Claudius and Claudius the God.
Towards the end of his life he suffered from memory loss which in 1975, caused him to cease writing altogether. More on his biography can be found here.

Graves obviously didn't lack humour, as the following poem fully points out, but as I thought it might need a less prominent sequel, to complete the balance of nature, to a minor extent, I've taken the liberty of adding a more modest one. With apologies, naturally, to Robert Graves.

 Down, wanton, down! Have you no shame
That at the whisper of Love's name,
Or Beauty's, presto! up you raise
Your angry head and stand at gaze?

 Poor bombard-captain, sworn to reach
The ravelin and effect a breach-
Indifferent what you storm or why,
So be that in the breach you die!

Love may be blind, but Love at least
   Knows what is man and what mere beast;
Or Beauty wayward, but requires
More delicacy from her squires.

Tell me, my witless, whose one boast
 Could be your staunchness at the post,
When were you made a man of parts
To think fine and profess the arts?

Will many-gifted Beauty come
 Bowing to your bald rule of thumb,
 Or Love swear loyalty to your crown?
  Be gone, have done! Down, wanton, down!
                                                                        Robert Graves 

                              Up, lifeless, up! Have you no aim                                
 That shrinks from duty in Love's name,
Or by beauty is barely moved?
          As if such weakness is behoved!           

Poor wrinkled soul prefers to hide
    Than rise to heights that most men pride-
Indifferent to exquisite charms,
Yet victim of its private qualms.

    Love may be blind, but true Love knows
 The essence of what comes and goes,
And Beauty cannot but expect
Replete bestowal of respect.

Tell me, o flaccid, spineless soul
  Where is your pride, what is your goal,
Who can explain when and why
   Such heads of state are not held high?

 Will many-wondrous Beauty come
Enamoured by this lowly one
Too dull and impolite to rise
 To offer Love's eternal prize?

Text and parody © Mirino. Sources- The Chatto Book of Love Poetry. Wikipeadia. Art- 'In the Tepidarium', by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1881). Lady Lever Gallery. With thanks to Wikipedia Commons. March, 2011

Tsunami cataclysm

What possibly can be more impressive than the cataclysm itself? Seen from above, this unleashed, tsunami monster discards all man's creations- factories, houses, ships, trains, lorries, aircraft, cars, etc., as though they were mere toys. They are brutally dislodged, dispatched, mixed up together in violent, diabolical, tidal mires and whirl-pools. They are engulfed, scattered at random or disdainfully drained like sewage into huge quake chasms. Unprecedented force and destruction. A quake of  9 on the Richter scale! And whilst all this hell breaks loose relentlessly gaining, pushing its extraordinary load before it from one side of this incredible scene, people are driving their cars on roads apparently still intact on the other side.
Is this a brutal reminder to the world that God or Nature is still in charge?
What can be more impressive than this?

I have a Japanese friend who lives in Tokyo. I've known him for many years. He is a good, kind person. He was able to reply to my email immediately to reassure me. He told me simply- 'the aftershock is still occurring. More than 1000 people died. My family and I are quite safe'..

We see these apocalyptic images of a catastrophe that dwarfs every other international concern. There are fears that more than ten thousand people could have perished in the Miyagi Prefecture. The death toll can only rise. We know that other nuclear explosions are still possible at Fukushima Daiichi and we know that the effects of such additional disasters can only be negative.

In spite of this unprecedented catastrophe which certainly isn't over yet, one is reassured by the Japanese. There is no apparent panic. For them it's not the first time, even if it's certainly the worst tsunami in history, and the worst crisis for sixty-six years. The Japanese assume this with astonishing calm. The many who have lost loved ones are naturally extremely sad, and even this is expressed discretely. Yet others are still able to smile as they describe their personal experiences.

It seems to me that this quality of character, this admirable, human dignity in the midst of the ruins left in the wake of the most violent tsunami in recorded history, is far more impressive than the cataclysm itself.
The Japanese people deserve all the help the world can give them.


Text by Mirino. Image- AP, with grateful thanks. March, 2011

Im mi gra tion


Another tabu word, on a par with 'Arab'. In French, if not most European police stations, the dossiers for crimes committed by the Maghrebins are much thicker than those of 'Europeans', if one is still allowed to use this word to differentiate. Even there, one hesitates. Is it allowed? Is it politically correct? Could one be accused of racism by daring to point out such facts and alluding to differences of 'race'?

According to an article published in Le Monde the 25th February 2006, a general information report concluded that from a study of 436 young delinquents, taken from 24 sensitive districts, 87% have 'French nationality', 67% are of Maghrebin origin, and 17% African origin. Only 9% were of French non immigrant origin. Organisations such as the MRAP and SOS Racism categorically rejected such findings and announced their intention of taking legal action to denounce them.
A study in Le Point published the 24th June, 2004- "On the 1st January 2004, incarcerated foreigners numbered 12,241 in French prisons of a population of 55,355 prisoners (22%).

The police are tacit about this. It's in their interests to be, because they are in the front line. They are amongst the most vulnerable to have to contend with the terror of being accused of racism.

So we are already conditioned to avoid using European words that could insinuate latent racism. 'We', being the host nations of Europe.
Yet phrases such as, 'we shall take over Europe thanks to the bellies of our women' are sometimes heard. That's ok. 'They' have every right to express themselves in such an open way in a democracy. And it's also thanks to democracy that Europe could well be taken over by such radical Muslims, if it only depended on polygamy, time and numbers.

There are a great many Muslims however, who would prefer that Europe and the European cultures remain as they still are, and that they are protected as such for posterity. These intelligent Muslims are fully aware of the value of cultural diversity.

In order that the European cultures and identities be allowed to exist for the appreciation of future generations, it's obviously important that they be respected.
We hear in Egypt, a country that prides itself on its history and has every reason to, that there are elements bent on destroying Copt Churches and even murdering the Copts themselves. Don't they realise that they are destroying a part of the identity and the essential roots of their own civilisation? With the same illogic they could try to destroy their pyramids, sphinxes, temples and all the fabulous vestiges and art-treasures of Ancient Egypt. 

The Taliban thought similarly by trying to destroy the Buddhas of Bamiyan. It only takes enough ignorance and degeneracy for one to consider oneself important enough to reject or negate history, including one's own.

A deputy of the French UMP, made a recent comment which caused feigned shock to the establishment regarding Mediterranean immigrants. She suggested that they be 'put back in the boats'. Naturally everyone totally rejects such a shameful proposition. At the same time they all know that once admitted into Europe, it's far more difficult to persuade the sans papiers to either take to the sea again or board a flight home.

Ironically Europe would also feel obliged to receive Libyans, for example, because of not having been able, at least so far, to help them get rid of their criminal regime.

Yet Europeans are increasingly aware of the danger, not only of reaching a point of saturation regarding how many immigrants Europe can accommodate without bleeding dry the social systems' already spent resources, but also regarding the obsessive objective of radical elements whose veiled ambition is no less than to gradually take over the continent by majority rule..
What has happened in Lebanon, where the Hezbollah has accumulated enough Muslim support to become part of the Lebanese government, could be regarded as a warning signal. It spells out that with time, democracy can become it's own victim. Because there's no reason today why a more radical than moderate Muslim majority would separate religion from politics, and most honest people know that Islam is not essentially compatible with democracy.

All this is reason enough to understand why there is now an increasing political tendency towards the extreme right wing, at least in France. Marine Le Pen is not tied down by 'political correctness'. She says what many feel but have been conditioned not to publicly express. Sarkozy, who is also a realist, is nevertheless restricted by 'club house rules'. In order not to plummet in the popularity poles or lose too many votes, he also has to give more leeway, allowing new members to use 'the facilities' without having to wear a tie, so to speak.

The Socialists never seem to hesitate in unashamedly milking the opportunity of immigration. Apparently they make the equation resulting from wearing the noble mask of generosity, giving the immigrants their papers, and why not a bit of pocket money to tide them over- which would equal to obtaining their vote and fidelity. Temporarily it might make sense, but in the long term it's short-sighted, and self-defeating. When one gains an exploitable privilege, due to the naivety of another, the latter could well end up having less value than a used Kleenex.

There are also other aspects that Europeans should be more aware of. The Koran and the Torah require that all animals destined for human consumption be slaughtered according to an established ritual. One cuts deeply into the throat of the animal sectioning the jugular veins and the carotids. The spinal column must rest intact because the animal's convulsions are necessary to enable adequate haemorrhaging. The animal is therefore conscious during the whole, painful process because modern methods to assure immediate death or total unconsciousness are forbidden. What's worse, as certain time limits have to be respected, animals are often suspended from hooks and pulleys and cut up whilst they are still alive.
It's reported that in France, if not elsewhere in Europe, increasingly more of such meat is being distributed on the open market. Without considering the unnecessary cruelty, specialists maintain that meat from stressed animals is not as fit for consumption as meat from animals treated humanely, yet reports reveal that almost two out of every three animals killed according to religious ritual, will be consumed by the general public. Everyone has the right to know this and to demand adequate controls and restrictions regarding such archaic rituals deemed necessary for religious reasons.

Viewfinder has already alluded to the burqa which isn't, as many claim, a religious garment. Not only is it a mobile prison that degrades women, its use is more political than practical. In fact wearing it wherever allowed in European cities often incurs serious risks, especially when driving or crossing busy roads, due to the obvious vision restriction it imposes. 

In principle Islam prohibits speculation, and the gaining of interest on loans. This would seem to clash somewhat with the professions of Muslims engaged with OPEC. It also seems curious that a few years ago, the French minister of the Economy changed the tax law in order to introduce 'Sharia compatible products' presumed appropriate for introducing a University degree in Islamic finances. Last year the Islamic Bank was established in France. The first Islamic (Sharia compliant) bank of Europe was establish in England in 2004. It prides a 'Sharia Portfolio Service'..

Again, by today's ambiguous standards, all this could be considered an expression of 'racism'. But stating facts and findings has nothing to do with racism.
'The world is beautiful because of its diversity', as the Italians say, and our cultural variety should be respected, protected and maintained for the sake of every individual, culture and nation of the world, for posterity.

If certain cultures and religions can coexist without clashing, others are less compatible. In such cases one cannot benefit from both worlds without a degree of hypocrisy and compromise. Fundamentally, Islam and democracy are incompatible. Surely beautiful mosques are far more impressive, preferable and sacred in their true surroundings, than where they seem to impose, and look more out of place.

To return to the boats. The Italians are likely to have to contend with more refugees arriving by sea from Libya. Would it not have helped if the Italian government, without considering the EU as an entity, had officially supported Cameron and Sarkozy, to try to bring about the necessary Libyan transition, rather than wait, contend with the effects, and subject thousands of Libyans to the possibility of suffering from the worst possible consequences? 

Text and top image © Mirino. Sources- 'La Voix des Bêtes, Elle, Le Point et Le Monde. Marche, 2011


Une partie de la beauté et la poésie de la vie, c'est que rien ne se fait par hasard. Le hasard n'existe pas. J'en suis toujours convaincu. Et cette conviction devient encore plus inébranlable au fur et à mesure que je fais le beau trajet de ma propre vie. Car tout est ainsi déterminé y compris bien entendu la vie elle-même, (et donc forcément aussi la mort) avec toutes les nuances subtiles ou fabuleusement kaléidoscopiques engendrées.

Chaque voyage, chaque rencontre engendre d'autres circonstances, l'engrenage perpétuel qui fait l'histoire d'une vie, et celle de la civilisation entière.

Il y a trois ans j'ai écrit un petit hommage à un jardin particulier. Le jardin de famille, donc une belle partie de nos racines. Mais ce serait inutile d'essayer de le retrouver, comme c'est souvent inutile de vouloir retrouver un lieu où on a passé un moment magique, car ainsi on risque d'usurper sur le souvenir même.

C'est justement ces souvenirs que l'on garde précieusement dans les coins veloutés de nos esprits, comme des bijoux rares. Et ce sont aussi eux qui font partie de notre identité.

Je connaissait bien quelqu'un qui a vécu toute sa vie sans jamais aller plus loin de 70 kilomètres de chez lui. C'est vrai que c'était alors toute une autre époque, et sans doute sa vie il l'a vécue comme il entendait. C'est forcément aussi à cause de cela que son fils s'est engagé dans la sienne d'une autre manière, et c'est lui qui a tant fait pour rendre si beau ce jardin, le monde entier de ma première jeunesse.

Ceux et celles qui quittent leurs pays natals pour s'installer et travailler ailleurs savent ce que c'est d'être 'déraciné'. Avec le temps on ne se sent plus tout à fait chez soi nulle part. Même si une telle considération importe peu, ceux ou celles qui veillent sur nous auront un peu de mal plus tard à décider où il faudra jeter nos cendres.. Nos horizons peuvent s'élargir au point qu'il faudrait garder un petit peu pour jeter dans la brise qui effleure chaque lieu où nous avons laissé encore une petite partie de nous-mêmes.

Mais ce qui importe ce sont ces beaux bijoux de souvenirs portés avec tendresse et amour dans nos cœurs. C'est justement ces trésors là qui sont les filaments de nos racines et donc de notre identité, tout au long de notre vie- sinon aussi de l'au-delà.

Una parte della bellezza e la poesia della vita, è che niente si fa per caso. II 'per caso' non esiste.
Ne sono convinto. E questa convinzione diventa tanto più incrollabile quanto più vado avanti nel bel tragitto della mia vita. Perché tutto è così determinato, vi compresa, naturalmente, la vita stessa, (e dunque inevitabilmente anche la morte) con tutte le sfumature sottili o favolosamente caleidoscopiche che si generano.

Ogni viaggio, ogni incontro, genera altre circostanze, l'ingranaggio perpetuo che fa la storia di una vita, e quella dell’intera civiltà.

Tre anni fa ho scritto un piccolo omaggio ad un giardino particolare. Il giardino di famiglia, dunque una bella parte delle nostre radici. Ma sarebbe inutile provare a ritrovarlo, come è spesso inutile volere ritrovare un luogo dove si è vissuto un momento magico, poiché così si rischia di usurpare ciò che appartiene alla memoria.

È precisamente a queste memorie che si guarda come a qualcosa di prezioso, come a gioielli rari nascosti negli angoli vellutati dei nostri animi. Essi fanno anche parte della nostra identità.

Conoscevo bene qualcuno che ha vissuto tutta la sua vita senza mai andare più lontano di 70 chilometri da casa sua. È vero che 'allora' era tutta un'altra epoca, e questa persone, senza dubbio, la sua vita l'ha vissuta come voleva.
È inevitabilmente anche a causa di ciò che suo figlio si è impegnato nella sua vita in un altro modo, ed è lui che ha fatto tanto per rendere così bello questo giardino, l’intero mondo della mia prima gioventù.

Quelli e quelle che lasciano le loro terre natali per installarsi e lavorare altrove sanno ciò che significa essere 'sradicati'.
Col tempo non ci si sente più completamente 'a casa' da nessuna parte. Anche se tale considerazione importa poco, coloro che vegliano su di noi avranno qualche problema più tardi, nel decidere dove occorrerà gettare le nostre ceneri.. I nostri orizzonti si possono allargare al punto che occorrerebbe conservarne una piccola quantità per gettarne un po’ nella brezza che sfiora ogni luogo dove abbiamo lasciato una parte di noi.

Ma ciò che importa sono questi bei gioielli di memorie portate con tenerezza ed amore nei nostri cuori.
È precisamente questi tesori che sono i filamenti delle nostre radici e dunque della nostra identità, nel corso della nostra vita- se non anche oltre.

 Texte and images © Mirino (PW). Italian version verified by Rob- WRH, with thanks. March, 2011

Venice 2011


One of the 'Italian souvenirs' for Wind Rose Hotel alluded to the Carnival of Venice. 'A dream come true', and it was in this state of euphoria, wonder and admiration that I eagerly absorbed it all, in 2003. Could it have been because of this state of mind, that from the beginning until the end of this first visit, it all then seemed like a fabulous, refined, nostalgic and tender poem?

This last week-end, I was privileged to be there with friends for the start of the 2011 Carnival of which some of the themes include 'the Secrets of Venice', 'Angels and Demons' and Love and Seduction'.
A second experience for me, and quite different from the first.
Perhaps it was even more spectacular. The costumes were as wonderful, if not even more imaginative than they were eight years ago. There was an even more feverish atmosphere, no doubt also because of the countless tourists. Or was it another reflection of the folly of our era? At times in la Piazza San Marco it was literally impossible to move.

Digital cameras have remarkably improved since 2003, and everyone so armed was manoeuvring desperately to get to the right place at the right time to try to get the right image. This was an essential part of the fever, the ruthless image hunting. Additionally the carnival was thus lit by thousands of flashes, and it was amusing to see participants in elegant, 18th century costumes also apparently stricken with the same fever, fervently photographing others.

Again one admires the patience, generosity and charm of the many participants who had invested so much time and effort in their costumes, disguises and make-up. Some were standing and posing endlessly, accepting to be photographed with tourists and their children, without ever showing any signs of fatigue or annoyance for the countless, camera-happy crowds.

If there seemed to be a little less poetry and nostalgia than I like to remember from my first visit in 2003, there was sunshine and plenty of gaiety to compensate, certainly on Saturday. This merriment didn't appear to be too dampened by the showers of rain on Sunday, even though the change of weather did have the effect of thinning down the crowds.

However one wishes to interpret or compare such occasions, the Carnival of Venice is always sumptuously full of endearing magic that the many connoisseurs help to create and generously share. And this magic is naturally enhanced by the magnificent, timeless beauty of Venice itself.

This second visit for the Carnevale di Venezia was in fact improvised. On Viewfinder, accompanying 'Venetian Reflections' or 'The Venetian Lesson' there was some publicity that I was curious enough to want to learn more about. 'Venice House Boats'. If one reserves a boat well in advance, the cost is very reasonable, and if one shares the cost with four or five friends, it's a very economical and practical solution indeed. The boats are comfortable, heated and fully equipped with cooking facilities and essentials. One can of course cruise here and there, although it's advisable to leave the boat at the marina and take a vapporetto for the Carnival. The marina is also peaceful, calm and well equipped with everything one needs during one's stay. 
It goes without saying that compared with hotel costs in Venice for a Carnival weekend, it's a solution of unbeatable value, as well as a unique experience to share with good friends. An experience made even more pleasant, thanks to the kindness of Pietro Stella and Patrizia Marchiori, the owners of Venice House Boats. Grazie mille per la vostra gentilezza , Pietro e Patrizia, e buona continuazione!

Text and images © Mirino (PW). March, 2011

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