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                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

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Naples Miscellany 12 (early-March, 2008)

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—Small Earthquake. It went unnoticed except among the geologists who watch for such things up at the observatory on Mt. Vesuvius, but a few days ago there was a lowly 2.6  earthquake—these days reassuringly called a "seismic event"—directly beneath the cone (!) of the volcano. No cause for alarm. Repeat after me: No cause for alarm...No cause for alarm...No cause...


—Eastern Naples. So much attention is given to the urban blight plight of the western suburb of Bagnoli, that we forget the problems in the east—that is, the areas of Poggioreale, San Giovanni a Teduccio and a few other communities. Historically, they have had their own development, lack thereof, and disasters, including the bombardments of WWII. Post-war development turned the area into the "industrial part" of Naples, including the construction of oil refineries. At least some of that territory is now up for sale; to wit, 38 hectars (95 acres) belonging to Kuwait Petroleum (yes! that's what the Q8 sign on those filling stations stands for. Get it?) is up for sale to anyone who will rejuvenate the area along the lines of a more modern high-tech industrial park, all the while "greening" the area as much as possible. Lots of luck.

—University News. There's good news and bad news. The good news is that six Italian universities come off rather well in a recent Ranking of World Universities published by Jiao Tong university in Shanghai. it is not the only ranking report in the world and, indeed, such rankings fluctuate wildly depending on academic discipline under scrutiny. Nevertheless, the sciences, information technology, medicine, agriculture and social sciences are well regarded at the following Italian universities: La Sapienza in Rome, the Universities of Milan, Torino, and Pisa, and the "Frederick II" university of Naples. (Wait for cheers to die down.) The bad news is that hundreds of freshly printed and bound university theses were found yesterday, dumped in the rubbish bins on via Medina, directly in front of the offices of the commission that is supposed to be dealing with the current, disastrous garbage crisis in Naples. All of the theses were from the new "Parthenope" university. Each thesis represents a few years of hard work in the life of young university student. The episode is already being punned upon (since "rifiuto" can mean either "refusal/rejection" or "rubbish") as "il rifiuto della cultura". No one knows who dumped them or why. Round up the usual suspects.


—Murder Map. The Academy of Fine Arts has caused a stink by coming out with a tourist brochure that shows—instead of the usual churches, museums and oases for culture vultures—the locations of the six prominent gangland murders in 2007 in the eastern section of the city, now known as the Wild West.

—WWI "Graphic Novel". And don't you dare call it a "comic book"! Whatever it is, the book is La Grande Guerra, Storia di Nessuno(The Great War, the Story of No One) and will be on shelves tomorrow to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the cessation of hostilities in the War to End All War in 1918.  Dialogue is by Alessandro di Virgilio; the panels are drawn by Davide Pascutti; the publisher is BeccoGiallo. The aim is to reacquaint Italians with WWI by following the adventures of a Neapolitan artilleryman, Corrado Degli Esposti—nicknamed "Nessuno" because (1) no one can understand his southern Italian dialect and (2) he is a "no one" in the ironic sense of the final lines of All Quiet on the Western Front, when the death of the young German soldier was so insignificant that it went unnoticed "All quiet..."). Italy joined England and France on April 26, 1915 against the Central Powers of German and Austro-Hungary in order to "get back" Italian territory from Austria in the north. The young soldier from Naples goes north to the infamous Carso Front, where some of the bloodiest battles between Italy and Austria took place. He is then and there fused into Everyman, meaning All Italians, the terrible irony being that it took the slaughters of WWI to fuse Italy into a nation state.



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