Love in the time of human networks

This story has had some impact on me, both because of its grand love and its humility. It is a grand love story since it is the story of the love affaire  of a past president of France, François Mitterrand, a very formidable, powerful politician and married man. The affaire happens with a 20-year-old girl, Anne Pingeot, an art history student 27 years his junior. Nothing new under the sky, one would say. But the fact is that this story would stop only many years later, at Mitterrand’s death. I was instantly touched by the long-lasting, secret relationship, and by the possible silent “complicity” of his own wife. Woman in the shadow for long, Anne gave also birth to a daughter who just recently came to bear her father’s last name. Mitterrand saw Anne often, and they were in love until his last days, for 40 years. “Anne, mon amour”, he wrote at the beginning. And later, “Anne chérie”,  “Nannour”, “Animour”, “Nannon aimée”.

“Journal pour Anne” by François Mitterrand (Gallimard)

They lived almost together for a while, in Paris and the South of France. Strange thing, to maintain secret a story under the nose of everybody, including the press and the political enemies. That was, in France, a private matter of the heart between two persons, lies and secrets notwithstanding, and so be it. And sure, there were no CNN nor social networks then! One could think of John Kennedy, but he was nowhere close to have had a full, secret and long love story like his French counterpart. In other places such a thing would perhaps have triggered a puritan reaction of questions, eye rolling and more lies and an impeachment request. Nor the time is anything like the present, when a woman in Anne’s position would not stay silent and possibly see the whole story with very different eyes.

I like the humility of Anne, and the utmost fidelity of this man who was a womanizer. Why did she never claim anything? How did she come to accept the whole situation? I am enthralled by her silence, without knowing anything else–I am surely elaborating from my own imagination, here.) What were they quarreling about when they did so?

How do I know this? The letters between Mitterrand and Anne have been published in France and I read an article on such a publication. Plus, there is a “Diary for Anne {Amazon link]” from the very Mitterrand, which contained poems (“Why Anne is to be loved”) and collages from newspapers, in addition to diary entries. “I met you and at once I knew I’d be leaving for a long voyage.”

While Anne, once curator for sculpture at the Louvre, still lives in the shadow. She gave the materials to the editor, but wanted nor sought book presentations or conferences. She who was a second wife, practically. Chapeau, Anne!

 

 

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The hard Puerto Rican winter, a Podcast, the Web’s alchemy and some Italian Cinema

A new year is on and my new semester has already begun. Actually, I have already two posts to show for 2019. My school-is-finished laziness comes after many classes and seminars and meetings around the semester, plus a lot that I demand of myself, like writing, keeping track of things, publishing, and so on. Well, this winter –brrr, the hard Puerto Rican winter has arrived– I have felt a lot more like letting go of everything, except of course, being with my two daughters (actually, taxiing them all around!) and Hilda at home. Making pizza was a great threshold passed. I always suffered the make-pizza-with-recipe-at-hand syndrome, and I always felt like I wasn’t up to the task. I let go and began feeling the flour and water, and kneading and everything. I got actually a couple of good white pizze bianche with just rosemary and oil.

Welcome 2019: I want to take this space now to talk about two things, one from the recent past of 2018 and another from a few days ago. I’m referring to

  1. The “special” course of “Italian culture and cinema” I offered this past semester; and
  2. The podcast Alan Levine and I are doing (The Puerto Rico Connection, albeit without Gene Hackman).

The second item goes first, because Alan surprised me (as he often does) with his post of the latest episode (#8, Baby, It’s Cold!) While I was meditating in the warm and cozy San Juan area, he was (in t-shirt) composing the most creative and generous compilation of the things we talked about in the episode. Previously, he had found and set up an AWS space to host the episodes, a WordPress plugin to post each episode natively in WP generating an RSS feed and then he accommodated everything under the roof he set as prconnection.cogdog.casa. Love how he acquires internet domains and makes of them his own home. Digital identity, anyone?

Alan wrote at length about my keynote of November 30th, and he managed kindly to publish the presentation before I did it myself (which is–hmm not yet!) Well, I felt so grateful and he did it so elegantly. Look at his elaboration of Sagrado’s main building under the polar cold striking my office there! Wunderbar!

[Image by Alan Levine @cogdog. Elaboration: “a cover image from the The Day After Tomorrow with images of the classic building at Universidad Sagrado Corázon and the campus gates found on their YouTube Channel.”]

Now, check his t-shirt, like he wasn’t living in the freezing North!

And also, notice the symbolic nuanced quasi-Cartesian motto on his shirt,

Annoto, Ergo Sum

pointing to his and my own interest for open Web annotations (and the best tool to do and share that, Hypothes.is). Well, this reminds me a dear friend who, changed the original refrain by Descartes into Cogito, Ergo Zoom.

How great it was to share with Alan the moment when we discovered the Web, and raised our eys from Gopher up to Mosaic. I felt a new world upon me, I was ecstatic (without the drug), and it was 1991-92 and I know his experience exactly matched mine. He wrote…

Discovering the NCSA;s Beginners Guide To HTML (which sadly you cannot even find from NCSA anymore, try http://obswww.unige.ch/~blecha/doc/primer.html) launched me on the path I am still on.

Which reminds me of all the legacy sites and documents developed over decades which now are lost or –sometimes– rescued at the Internet Archive.

Alan tells that I like to show

the legal document in April 1993 when CERN put the web technologies in the public domain, “a mind blowing moment in internet history” at the same time when the US released the internet IP protocols into the public domain.

BTW, he researched and joined the two events together, IP and Web techs, and the date of the two being released in the public domain is the same!! I say often to my students: No way corporate entities would ever do this, and the Web and IP protocols were the effect of public expenditures, in America and Europe. Amen. And this brings me to the magic the Web creates and shares, if one embraces it. That’s the wondrous alchemy, so much in decadence in these times and which we ought to defend and protect like Sir Lancelot and his Knights did with the Grail. Or like Alan is doing with his digital alchemy course project named Arganee World (suggestively housed at arganee.world and the Alchemy Lab, where

the twitter bots our NetNarr students created in 2017 that are still chattering away.

Magic!

No doubt our latest was a great episode and a great conversation. I do invite all to go and listen to the full podcast, at The Puerto Rico Connection: Episode 8: Baby, It’s Cold!

And thanks, Alan!!

Of course, I will write about the keynote itself, which I enjoyed so much at UPR Aguadilla and about it I only have to say I’m sorry not to post it sooner. My mom would say, please don’t shed any crocodile’s tears.

The second thing I’d love to write here, now, is about my Italian culture and cinema course that so pleasure has given me (and my students, excuse the modesty).

I set up a little hub for this, and instead of syndication, I opened an account for each of the students (some 15, not too many). The hub is at cineitalia.netedu.info, and you can see how much fun I had when setting it up.

The beauty though, comes from all the small pieces loosely joined the students produced: presentation-reviews of each movie, plus GIF’s. The GIF showcases as the perfect medium for this sort of endeavor, where you want students to feel inspired and express their impression from a film. Well, here they are, a little  from each movie. But first, one note: Many watched a foreign-language feature for the first time and all they were very impressed and happy with that!! Awesome for me, who had not anticipated this kind of effect beforehand. Some comments were also quite exceptional. I’ll never forget the guy who said to me, after watching, Rome Open City: “This is the saddest film I have ever seen”. True, definitively, for many, including me. Also, it gives a real sense of what a military occupation actually feels like, which comes as an added bonus for these times.

L'Avventura

L’Avventura

L'Avventura

L’Avventura

L’Avventura is probably my favorite of the series, if you ask.

Roma Città Aperta

Roma Città Aperta

Ladri di biciclette

Ladri di biciclette

Then came Halloween

Profondo Rosso

Profondo Rosso

Profondo Rosso

Profondo Rosso

Gomorra

Gomorra

La Grande Bellezza

La Grande Bellezza

 

Pane e cioccolata

Pane e cioccolata

 

Nuovo Cinema Paradiso

Nuovo Cinema Paradiso

And a few others. It was an amazing experience, both because it was completely new to me and I felt like giving a tribute to my beloved cinema. We talked a lot about Italy and her food, geography, the cities and places to go to, the particular features of the culture, arts, and idiosyncrasies. Go see the site to enjoy all the rest the students produced!

I enjoyed so much sharing these films with my students, that I will repeat the course in August.

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A slow-video screensaver of a zen-train-run

The little time left available after taxiing daughters around, improvising plumber and handyman, and other menial tasks, I experimented a bit.

One little idea I found is a slow OS X screensaver. It consists of a piece of software that get installed as a screensaver. The piece de resistance is a 3-hour-long video, though, which you should configure the screensaver with, of a front view from a train departing Bergen station (Norway) and traveling for that long. A monotonous, long, beautiful video of all the landscape, tunnels included (each with a name and length), and many trees and water and sounds.

A perfect screensaver, except it drains your battery for days, possibly also in the future, after you deactivate it. Marvelous.

Meanwhile, enjoy the virtual travel. I found out by the way there are numerous (long) videos with a front view of a train run. Completely, utterly boring, wharolian masterpieces.

I wonder–what about changing videos with other kinds of slow word-less films? People sleeping, swimming, dancing, eating, painting? Sex? Some may not be appropriate on a corporate computer.

[Featured image by Matt Haughey, taken shamefully form his site 15 minutes on the morning.]

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The many views of a humble map

In December 2015 I read a stunning novel, Viviane, by the first-time writer Julia Deck. It was originally published by the most prestigious publisher of France, Éditions de Minuit. Viviane is the story of a madwoman, or not, in any case, a woman who is recently divorced, with one little daughter.

You said no, I’m the one who’s leaving. Keep everything, I’m taking the child, you won’t need alimony. You moved out on October 15, found a babysitter, extended your maternal leave for health reasons, and on Monday, November 15–yesterday–you killed your psychoanalist.

This a dark story of a thin mind line, oscillating on the verge of the abyss. It’s perhaps a noir, complete with a police detective. Viviane walks around Paris shadowing her husband, and while reading a took note of the places–some familiar– she visits. Then I found batchgeo.com, a nice website where with the input of the list of actual places and I got an embeddable Google map of the itinerary, which by the way, I’d like to replicate as soon as I’m there (which is not so soon). I published everything on this blog, together with the map “Viviane shadowing her husband”.

Mapping a Novel

The visited places are:

Place, City, Country
rue des Ecoles, Paris, France
rue Linné, Paris, France
rue des Arenes, Paris, France
rue Monge, Paris, France
rue de Navarre, Paris, France
place Saint Medard, Paris, France
rue des Carmes, Paris, France
rue Pot de Fer, Paris, France
rue du Roi de Sicile, Paris, France
pont Saint Michel, Paris, France
Conciergerie, Paris, France

Now, I got an email from batchgeo.com, saying that I have gone over the views limit for that map, and they will probably shut it down. But they haven’t yet. In fact they have been very kind with my naive mapping effort. Now, the surprising fact is, I goit over one thousand (yes, 1,000) views in three years. Ain’t that amazing? This is no deepfake nor any viral meme, but a map of places that inspired me. It’s still there, for some time.

Wonders of the Internetz.

View Viviane in a full screen map

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An adventure in cinema

I love cinema, and I am so happy for the opportunity to teach a class of Italian Cinema and Culture this semester. The class is ending now, and the last picture we watched and commented was Antonioni’s L’avventura.

I had watched this movie recently, courtesy of my friend John Olmo, the Chemistry professor and movie expert, but this time I loved the movie even more. It’s definitely one of my most-loved films ever. (I’ve got to produce a list of my most-liked films soon, I promise).

My students loved it too, and we all felt compelled to talk about it after the 140+ minutes (which we had to split in two parts) it lasts. What a wonderful thing a movie can do, having people think and talk and write about it.

I found the movie a lot more sensual than the last time I watched it. And I enjoyed so much the limbo state of the protagonists, who don’t know what they do and why they do it. It was 1960, and I think that ambiguity has stayed with humankind, at least the western part of it. The character Claudia always says she pursues clarity, she’s sort of obsessed by it, and still she won’t find it, and she will in the end accept that frail doubt of her existence, in the memorable last scene of the movie.

My students immediately said they would GIF out the last scene. So I couldn’t resist. I started on a spree and produced the following, all from the trailer (this lazy me).

Splendid Monica Vitti with her character Claudia, a feminine seeker of truth and clarity who, like all the others, is bound to living in anxiety and doubt.

The male protagonist Sandro, played by Gabriele Ferzetti, hides himself after doing something which not even he himself can understand (and neither can we, the ecstatic watchers). Plus, he had lost his fiancée a couple of days earlier.

Lea Massari impersonates Anna, the woman who disappears while on a boat trip on a barren isle within the Aeolian archipelago, just off Sicily. She vanishes but she’s still a protagonist (hello, Hitchcock!)

 

And this is one of the upscale women who neither knows what she wants, nor is interested in discovering who she is. She just acts, like all the rest. “Acts” like doing stuff, and also like actress-acting. Her character is Patrizia, played by Esmeralda Ruspoli.

The thing I learned after some Web explorations, though, came quite unexpected. I didn’t know the movie, at the Cannes Festival premiere, was booed and laughed at by the public. So much so that Monica Vitti said she felt awful after spending so much energy in the movie. She and all the crew believed in the movie and the world collapsed on them at that screening. What’s interesting is that the day after they received a letter, signed by international journalists and film directors stating that they found it to be the most beautiful film ever presented at the Festival. Also interesting is the public success the film found as soon it was released in theaters. Here is a Monica Vitti interview from those times.

My students liked it and appreciated its tempo lungo, its longish development in which not much actually happens and the mystery is never resolved. Perhaps, like many mysteries of contemporary life and world.

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