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Saturday, 12 November 2016

THE COMPLEXITIES OF TRANSLATING

When you become someone else's voice, you make choices based on how you want to be heard or read. Authors have their own unique style. A translation has to respect that and make it work in parallel with another language. I say parallel because it cannot be the same but it proceeds along a common direction.
That might not be as easy as one would think. The original author's skill is not on trial, sentences can and have to be changed in order to fit the right syntax but the simplicity or the complexity of the writing has to be respected. Whether the narrative is skilled or poor, a translator has to remain true to the original text as much as possible.
The best tool for a translator is how words and sentences are interpreted in a different language. The meaning and structure vary greatly because words are loaded with historical and social baggage. This gives room for a broader choice of grammar, vocabulary or conjugation.

Friday, 11 November 2016

SLAVOJ ŽIŽEK: AGAINST THE DOUBLE BLACKMAIL - A REVIEW

Slovenian philosopher, psychoanalyst, political activist, and all-round professional thinker Slavoj Žižek is an avalanche of thoughts at best, a chaotic whirl of ideas at worst. 

Like him or not, share his ideology or despise his attitude, Žižek is intriguing in his delivery. His style is akin to the guy in an Italian bar who talks above everyone else, exposing his ideas he doesn't know he's just had at the top of his voice, gesticulating and repeating his favourite parts. He's no fool either. His philosophy is radical but grounded on a lifetime of research and observation. 
Žižek's books go from the minimal to the bulging tomes. Having watched him live and through various interviews, I can see his writing mirrors his lecturing.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

THE BANALITY OF DEDUCTION. VIOLENCE, TERROR, BELIEF AND WORLD ORDER

Breivik, the Norwegian mass murderer, was often laughed at as a boy when his desire to be liked made him act impulsively. The boy responsible for the Munich shooting had been ridiculed because of his foreign background. The attackers in Normandy acted upon belief in a twisted version of religion. Nice happened because society was blind to a disturbed man's increasing volatility. Kabul lost the same amount of people to the fractious society war has created.
Theories. 

These and countless of other events can be summarised and analysed in micro detail. Letters are found, diaries scrutinised, politics and social media sway the opinions of thousands, millions of people. Media and gossip create the narrative.
And yet it is not enough.
We still refuse to look at the root of evil. We spread the news as quickly as possible. We want and need to categorise events in safe bundles: Terror, Gender, Religion, Mental illness, Race, Trump, Putin, Syria, Politics, Erdogan, Arab Spring, Ukraine, Zika, Ebola, Brexit. We give names, and we tick boxes, we carry on.

The social fabric we live in is organic. It responds and reacts to millions of separate micro events. We don't notice them all and simply assume that reality 'is' as we witness it at any given moment.
We suffer from dependency, relying on second-hand information formatted for mass consumption. Judging people's behaviour and beliefs is facilitated by these elements of our understanding of the world. Not just the physical world but the rational one as well.

Monday, 18 July 2016

CARLO ROVELLI: WHY PHYSICS NEEDS PHILOSOPHY

A few months ago I started to be interested in Physics. It felt like a natural extension to the questions of the self and who we are in this life. I felt that Philosophy gave me some of the answers, but I needed a deeper understanding of what makes us how we are in an empirical way in order to reconcile the metaphysical counterpart.
A handful of books gave me a grounding on the subject, then a dear friend recommended "Seven Brief Lessons on Physics" by Carlo Rovelli. It was a revelation. Only once before a book this small has surprised me quite so much, "Novecento", a short play written by Alessandro Baricco. Baricco managed to squeeze an epic story in 62 pages, a literary feat (the book was later made into a film by Tornatore) transporting an idiosyncratic story into a journey through time and seas.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

ETHICS IN CYCLING












In collaboration with David Warriner (@DrDavidWarriner)

Cycling is a global sport and as such it needs money, lots of it. For a team to succeed, it requires expensive equipment, a hefty budget to attract the best riders and to be able to run a smooth operation. Inevitably, where there are financial gains and marketing exposure, there are matters of ethical nature. Over the years, many morally questionable characters have come and gone, but doping has continued to mar this tough sport, creating doubts on the behaviour of riders, managers, race organisers and institutions, as fans still yearn to believe in their idols. However, once those problems appeared to be superficially under control, globalisation, or rather commercialisation, took precedence and with it the search for big bucks and ever more lucrative contracts.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

BREMAIN, BREXIT AND THE UGLY

Democracy, that Ancient Greek invention, the reason for millions of deaths all over the world, is taken for granted, ridiculed and ignored. We're reminded we fought for it; we protest against dictatorships; we laugh at the single-choice vote in Kazakhstan or North Korea, Belarus or Russia.
But when it comes to voting, we simply don't want to know. We rely on others to support our own apathy, our laziness to engage with current political topics. The very word 'politics' turns us off.
In 1950, 84% of eligible voters did the deed; last year it was 66%, rising slightly from the lowest point of 59% in 2001. In 2015, 15 million of the registered voters did not go to the polling stations, and 4 million did not even register in the first place. EU elections' average turnout is even lower, around 34%. The EU referendum is perhaps a bigger concern to most people so I expect the turnout to be somewhere around the 50% mark. Poor.
We vote within social media, we moan, argue, debate, comment, like, poke, swipe, emoji the hell out of the millions of posts on the very same issues we're supposed to simply write a cross on a choice once every few years. Is the voting system to blame? Are we expecting too much from people? Should we engage more with politics and have more interesting politicians?
Ironically, any answer to those questions could be resolved at the ballot box. Change only comes to those who have a say.
We think it doesn't affect us, yet we give them our money to be spent as they wish. We think we have no say in the matter, yet we are vocal when we don't like what politicians do.
The EU referendum is looming upon us... It's not really, we've talked about little else in the past few months. We have been part of the EU since the 70s, it shouldn't be possible for people to be still undecided on the issue. It's not a new thing we need to join, we are in it, we have been in it, we have discussed it ad nauseam.
There was a registration deadline for new voters advertised for months, and yet at the last minute we managed to be outraged when the system crashed, effectively impeding some people to register. Of course it shouldn't happen, but technical faults on overloaded systems do happen. The problem lies on the late surge. Almost as if people were daring, treating the registration as a plunge in the high seas, a jump from the balcony into one of Ibiza hotel's swimming pools after a drinking session, "Yeah, let's do it, fuck it!".
How deplorable it is to know that such an important subject has been reduced to a war of headlines, of party in-fighting, of silly and imagined financial projections, of scaremongering and crass statements from both sides.
Blaming others is used to mask our failings. Non-voting does that. We don't want to be responsible. We are the generation of watchers. We watch on YouTube, on Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram; we observe a fracas or an accident on the road but don't do anything, just point and comment, someone will sort it out. It's the Bystander Effect: we see something happening, we should do something but don't move, just observe in the assumption that someone will surely sort it out. The more people do that, the less likely we are to intervene, so nobody does and we're then displeased or shocked by the outcome.
Media is to blame as well. The narrative is always the same because if something works, gets the clicks and the necessary viewing, it is exploited to the max. No point talking about the technicalities and the realities of leaving the EU or the positive engagement of European policies, much easier to talk about the maverick and quirky figures in both camps.
Maybe I will be proven wrong and lots of people will vote on the day. But I know a proper debate has been wanting, the vote will nevertheless be skewed by fickle arguments.
Bremain, Brexit....and the ugly? Not going to vote.

Friday, 3 June 2016

THE CAPITALIST TRAP

BHS, Woolworths, Austin Reed, Blockbuster, Comet, JJB Sports, to name a few. But not only retail: steel, coal, banking. Big companies come and go, file for bankruptcy, fold. Jobs, thousands of them are lost in the name of capitalism, an old-fashioned capitalism.
The type where managers/owners/entrepreneurs simply use companies to inflate their portfolios, to seek short term gains, unashamedly steal the cash and drop the consequences to others.

There is undoubtedly a pattern in terms of the type of companies that fold. Most are simply not meeting the demands of a fast changing market or the implementation of technological advances.
But they are also kept that way by investors whose sole aim is to make big money fast and run. No need to upgrade stores, train staff, research markets. Companies are bought, money is appropriated, then those same companies are sold, dismissed and good luck to the next owner. It's happening in the name of freedom, free market, individual pursuit for happiness.
 
We need a system that allows freedom but has a cap on greed. Companies that employ, say, five hundred plus employees should be under the scrutiny of independent bodies, a bit like Ofcom for broadcasters or Ofsted for schools.
It shouldn't happen that a company as big as Tata Steel suddenly closes, leaving not just unemployed people but whole cities and regions destitute of commerce as a consequence of that closure. It should not be a surprise. Companies shut down because they start to lose money. That should flag up. Over time, if the business is on steady decline, there should be a system of employment redistribution, talks within the region and with the government about generating jobs, finding ways to persuade other companies to allocate their business in that area. It's all done too late. It takes years, while people are on the dole and/or on benefit and whole generations of people lose self-respect because of the continuous struggle.

It follows this culture of cuts to inflate the coffers in the short run but no investment for the long term. Because the old fashioned managerial style it is embedded in politics and in the financial world. We have Big Data, we have the numbers and information is available for entrepreneurs to secure the best possible scenarios. It takes willpower and compassion, not easily associated with greed. It takes a different kind of regulation and willingness to do the right thing not just for the individual but for society as a whole.
A happy and balanced society would respond to markets much more readily than one that resents the wealthy and the powerful.

Economists tend to make predictions based on trends and historical financial events. With the help of sociologists those predictions would be more objective and equitable. Their involvement would procure a more realistic picture for financial forecasts. This forced separation of concepts only helps the artful dodgers of the markets. Crying wolf is not acceptable anymore. We know what is wrong, change should be demanded.



Monday, 30 May 2016

TO BE OR NOT TO BE - THE NIBALI HYPOTHESIS

Nibali won his second Giro d'Italia in what has been hailed as one of the best last minute surges since... well, probably Flandis at the Tour. Or was it?
The element of suspicion for any winner is high. Social media are quick to analyse a victory in every detail and from any stance. Years of cheaters draw inevitable conclusions from many sides.
Nibali, up until stage 17, was apparently under the weather, thus under-performing. This brought on speculation on the negative effects of changing crank length so close to a GT and so late in a career. But Merckx did the same, although I believe he went for shorter cranks rather than longer ones like Nibali's. Then the Italian was taken to see team doctors and after that he started performing at his best. Astana does come with a heavy baggage of doping offences, including its own manager Vinokourov, so it was easy enough to finger point to a darker side of that sudden burst of energy.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

THE CYCLING CONJECTURE

Cycling is passion, history, grit, determination, but also innovation and... conjecture.
Although rivalries have always been part of the sport, social media have now given dualism of opinions a loud platform.
In the past we saw discord between the two major groupset companies (Campagnolo vs Shimano), or between riders, (Coppi vs Bartali). Books have been written about it, and plenty of banter has been dished out over the years.
The immediacy and exponential reach of social media has escalated the debates surrounding certain topics, as more people are inclined to share their own views based on personal experiences.
It can be about the effectiveness of helmets, the use of cycle lanes, the introduction of disc brakes in the peloton or the veracity of doping suspicions and yes, Team Sky!

Sunday, 3 April 2016

TOMMEKE VS SPARTACUS

The similarities between “Tommeke” Tom Boonen and “Spartacus” Fabian Cancellara are uncanny. To choose who is the best rider of the two would be like choosing between two of your own siblings. Different characteristics have produced comparable results. Boonen is the sprinter of the two (or at least he was at the height of his career), while Cancellara has the better tactical sense, mostly.

Monday, 21 March 2016

MILANO-SANREMO - THE DEMARE DEMARCATION

Demarcation is a dividing line. While it is also a pun on the rider's name, it highlights the thin line between glory and infamy.
As soon as the Frenchman crossed the line ahead of a marauding gang of sprinters, I punched a fist into the air to celebrate. A new rider was winning a classic, let alone a Monument, which is always a good thing for the sport. It's exciting to see young talent finally coming through the ranks, and Demare is an inspiring young man. I first noticed him at London 2012 when, soon after finishing, he stood right next to me at the 300-metre mark to watch the rest of the riders come through and soak up the atmosphere with his girlfriend. I didn't know at first who he was, but I noticed the world champion stripes in his shoes (he was reigning under-23 World champion).

Friday, 18 March 2016

IT'S THE ECONOMY, STUPID... OSBORNE

Mr Osborne's Budget is taking aim at a very specific target audience, the Tory voters. It is nor surprising neither dissimilar to behaviour from past Chancellors from any party and budgets all over the world. However, this one is particularly cynical in its address. Clinical even.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

UMBERTO ECO AND THE POWER OF READING

It all started with seeing my mum every night going to bed with a book or a magazine (my father never read books, just lost in classical music). My mum only finished primary school, back then, in rural Italy, they needed people to work rather than study. But I was always proud that she had this passion for books and was better for it.
Then I would look at those books, turn them over and read the blurb. Taking up reading became a linear consequence of that curiosity.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

CYCLING AND THE PASSION FOR THE MOUNTAINS

Climbs tend to become legendary, both in pro and amateur cycling. Waxing lyrical about a particular col, cima, pico, pass, is at the heart of most conversations between two-wheeled colleagues. And unless you live at the top of a mountain, descents are variables of the same equation. Both climbs and descents create an experience that is unique to cycling, a free rollercoaster of pain and elation.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

THE WEST AND THE REST

Is there such a thing as Western culture, Western society, philosophy?
While listening to a podcast on African Philosophy, I couldn't help but think that it seemed ludicrous to talk about "African" in the context of one big bundle of ideas and values from over 50 countries, each with its own identity and history.
Is there a case for being sceptical about a Western ideal as well? There are clear connections amongst countries belonging to certain geographical and colonial areas. Historical and cultural ties are undeniable, however, those ties were borne out of proximity or conquest rather than natural equivalence.