OK, so in the north of Italy, everyone is excited about Christo's The Floating Piers project.
Story goes that the fabric bridge was supposed to be constructed in Argentina years ago, but after planning permissions fell through the project got shelved.
Then, decades later, Christo resubmitted the plans to the Italians and they jumped on the idea.
It's been attracting thousands of visitors to Lake Iseo - some of whom have walked the full 3km length of the walk, others, well, less.
It's been creating chaos for Italy's public transport system in Brescia, which is not coping with the tens of thousands of visitors who stream in from dawn each day.
The video I've posted above is apparently a live webcam. So if you see someone drowning or something, call the Italian police. Don't call me, I'll be at the beach or having a spritz away from all those selfie sticks. And if you can't see anything, it's probably because it's night time and you're in another place. Not my problem!
But, can I just say, I think Christo's idea is a bit old hat. Kind of like, dawn of the Christian era contemporary art. All that's missing are the fish and the loaves of bread or whatever they used to eat instead of rice crackers and hummus back then.
Listen, people in Northern Italy are already constantly walking on water. Have you never seen Venice when it floods? It's like a watery magical city where people create miracles. They're always walking on water there, surrounded by thousands of tourists who are all like, wow look, we're all sinking. Venetians are just trying to get on with their day.
Christo's project would've been more fun and novel if he had included some obstacles above and beyond the Italian public transport system. You know, like people dressed up as crocodiles who come snapping at your heels. Or, you have to keep walking while collectors for Greenpeace or Oxfam or whoever badger you for donations. It would've been more contemporary, more meaningful to modern life, and more importantly, more like It's A Knock Out. That was awesome and so totally awesome!
And in the spirit of the Brexit, here's a video from the British Royal Edition of It's A Knock Out that took place in 1986 or 1987. Back before Fergie discovered shrimping.
More on the Christos project here if you need to know more.
AS IF the heart break set off by the events in Orlando were not enough to deal with, there are reports that one father refused to claim his son's - a victim's - body on the grounds that he could not condone his son's [homo]sexuality.
What a tragedy that even in death, a father couldn't find a way to accept his own son.
And what a tragedy that we still, as a whole, condition one another to think that this is okay, that this is normal. The victim's father was conditioned by prevailing attitudes in his Puerto Rican community [family members in Orlando eventually claimed the body].
It's still Pride month around the world, despite what happened in Orlando [and, it seems in Mexico as well, though there is little information that has filtered into the international media].
I've seen and read countless comments on social media in recent weeks in relation to what happened in Orlando. Comments that all but leave me to believe equality, acceptance and compassion are never going to be fully achieved if we don't ALL stand up to be counted..
On social media - and, here in Italy, in the press -, people have been commenting on how absurd it is that 'gay people congregate in gay bars?' 'Do you see bars for people with blue eyes? Or for blond people?'
Convenient narratives on how the mass shooting had nothing to do with sexuality have done the rounds too. Here, as elsewhere, members of the public and the clergy have made incredibly offensive comments: above all the kind that chalk up the events to being a clean up of sorts: that's 49 less pedophiles, 49 less animals, 49 less perverts.
My hats off to Cathy La Torre, a Sardinian who, officially denounced the Sardinian Don Pusceddu for his comments about how 'gays deserve to die' in the wake of the tragedy. Hate crime speech in Italy has its limitations - not extending to homophobic comments, but so far a petition of 30,000 signatures has demanded Pusceddu be fired for his comments. More (in Italian though, here).
No one likes the European Union.
It's a bloated, bureaucratic institution lacking in common sense. It's a frustrating fortress of red tape, complications and vested interests that puts banks before people. It's like an ivy league university which rewards the preppy fraternity but conducts hazing and bullying on the southern, street smart constituents who don't have the financial cred but have the swagger in spades.
It's like the political equivalent of a call centre, voice activated menu. You know, when you have to shout and repeat things about a million times and in the end you get cut off or transferred to some annoying millennial who assures you that despite you already having been on the phone for half an hour, you have to wait again while he/she transfers you to another department.
So Britain in all its wisdom as decided it wants nothing to do with it. The complex, legal, humanitarian and financial sides of it. It will of course want to keep its financial sway in some way. Yes, yes, the pound has dropped to its lowest level in 31 years. But that shit always blows over, so don't get all hysterical like the media want you to.
There will be silver linings for some Britons... probably for those who work in small businesses who, once the exit is organised, won't have to pander to the EU's stifling economic and business laws.
Travel to and from Britain between the EU nations might also mean that duty free shopping will come back in fashion again. Nifty.
And Britain's economic malaise will be resolved over night. Jobs will go back to Brits, no one will have to mutter the word 'Brussels' ever again, let alone travel to it, and the Brits who voted to exit can continue visiting the continent and trashing its capitals when there's a footy match in town.
I'm saddened by the decision, but it's not going to be the end of the world, especially seeing as Britain has always had a revolving door policy when it comes to Europe. Today we're a part. Now we're apart. Then the cycle repeats itself again.
And Europeans need not worry. They're still going to have great beaches, great weather, those small little Coke cans which are perfect when you just need a couple of sips and not diabetes, cheap alcohol without the endemic violence binge drinking brings, and, of course, Eurovision. You made the wrong decision Britain!!!!
WATCHING the Italy-Belgium match last night (I know, the things we do for others), it struck me that the Belgium team was big on the bleached blond look, while the Italians were big on long top/undercut.
Yes. I'm talking about their hair.
That said, best on field (hair that is) went to fellow Lecce boy Graziano Pelle'.
That is all.
America. Enough is enough. You have a problem.
In the current political climate, the emphasis on Daesh/and radical Islam is popular among conservatives. They point to this as being the biggest threat to homeland security. While I'm not about to say that America doesn't have its enemies who would wish it harm, the statistics suggest that America's biggest problem is with Americans themselves. Particularly those with guns.
From the outside looking in, it's easy to conflate the two issues. Do Americans carry guns to protect themselves from outwardly threats, or do they do it to protect themselves from each other?
The above screen shot is taken from Mother Jones, which has a running total of the casualties of mass shootings in the United States. I stopped at 2011, but it's a list that unfortunately goes way back. The statistics suggest that guns are a domestic issue. In 2010, 67% of all homicides were committed with a gun.
Despite the ridiculous statistics to the contrary, America doesn't want to see it has a problem with gun control. Certain segments of the population believe that constitutional amendments - among them the right to bear arms - are givens that are not up for debate.
Let's talk about that right to bear arms for a second. Statistics suggest anywhere up to 1 in 3 Americans own a gun. Compare that to somewhere like Israel - where gun ownership is deemed a privilege - not a right - and the percentage of gun owners is less than 3% overall. In the US, the right to own guns is not limited to pistols. We're talking about a range of weapons which no citizen anywhere in the world has any business owning. We're talking about artillery that some troops around the world don't even have access to, but that can be bought in the United States and legally owned, as was the case with the Orlando shooter.
Above and beyond America's insistence of protecting its constitutional right to bear arms [and presumably magazine style weaponry falls into this category] - despite the ridiculous statistics that beg action to the contrary - there are powerful voices who see the banning of Islam as being more productive than the banning of weapons.
Australia's Mass Shootings and lessons learned
I'm Australian, and was in Australia when two events that have largely shaped Australian minds and policy took place. Sadly, like many Australians, I was able to watch these events unfold from the safety of my living room.
The first event was the so called Port Arthur Massacre which took place in 1996. In a sleepy ex prison colony, which was also one of the state of Tasmania's key tourist attractions, a lone gun man - with a history of psychiatric and mental illness - opened fire and over the course of a few hours killed 35 people (including children) and wounded dozens more.
That event forced Australians and the Australian government to reflect on gun laws, which, until then, while regulated, reflected the right of people to own guns. The Australian government of the time, despite opposition from some organisations and parts of the community, passed new, stricter and sterner gun ownership laws, outlawing and restricting the ownership of more powerful guns such as rifles. Part of the process involved an amnesty in which people were encouraged to surrender their arms (legal or otherwise) without the fear of legal consequences.
Despite opposition from conservatives, and from organizations - as far afield as the US' own NRA - the gun laws and amnesty have proven to be a huge success in Australia. While the efforts of lone gun men, or organized crime can never be fully avoided - the state's aim of safeguarding its citizens from people who have no logical need of access to weapons of these kinds, has largely helped Australia curb any further mass shootings from taking place.
I'm not a fan of our former prime minister. As a conservative, he cynically used his powers to change the definitions of marriage in his final years as PM so that they explicitly stated that marriage was a contract between men and women, an act which has slowed Australia's pace towards equality - and relegated it one of the last Western nations that doesn't recognise same sex unions.
What I will acknowledge - as evidenced in this picture (wearing a bullet proof vest under his suit) - is that he took on the gun lobby and won.
That's not to say that a change in gun laws will eliminate events like Orlando completely. After all, as recently as late 2014, a lone wolf shooter - with a documented history of mental illness - held eighteen people hostage in a cafe in Sydney.
It was an event that shocked Australia, and that similarly involved the independent gun man pledging allegiance to Daesh. The gunman in this case had also been on a watch list at some time prior to the December hostage event. But, although recent, it's an isolated event. The carnage of mass shootings in Australia has largely been mitigated until now through the stricter approach to gun control, and in particular, the kinds of guns that are made available to those who insist on owning them.
Would stronger, more coherent gun laws, similar to those in Australia have minimized the impact of the Orlando killer? I think we all know that the result could've been different, but that more importantly, the frequency with which these events seem to take place in the States can be reduced significantly.
Revoking the Orlando killer's or anyone else's access to the kinds of weapons might not have stopped the killings from taking place, but I would say that the death toll would have to have been lower and that law enforcement may have had a better chance in controlling the situation and ultimately saving more lives.
So, instead of a blind, rabid insistence on protecting your second amendment, why not reflect for a moment. Why not start with restricting and banning certain types of weapons? I get that some parts of your country are not that good with change - however logical. But don't you think that the victims in Orlando, and the other 28 mass shootings in the last five years alone deserve at least that?
The events that transpired in Orlando over the weekend have been heartbreaking.
The loss and pointless destruction of 49 lives at the hands of a madman is something that we are going to have struggle with globally, for a long time.
Lest we forget the fact that 49 people have died. As information becomes public, it is clear that among them are men and women who identified as LGBTQI, as well as those who we might safely conclude are LGBT allies/friendly.
Why the distinction? Because, in harming any sector of a community, you harm the parts that are adjacent to it. Most, but not all, people who go to gay clubs identify as being LGBTQI. Us queers have straight friends too, you know.
This is not the first mass shooting that has taken place.
Not this year, not ever. And judging by recent events, it won’t be the last.
What happened in Orlando is as much about the actions of a lone madman as it is about our collective attitude towards arms, minorities and our general intolerance.
This is the first mass shooting that has taken place in a gay club. And I think it is too convenient to overlook this fact, to simplify this attack as being one of Islam versus western countries, as many people and parts of the press are currently doing.
As information continues to come to light, it’s becoming clearer that the shooter had issues with the gay community. There are reports floating around that he used gay dating apps, or that he’d previously been to Pulse, but we can’t really draw any conclusions from this at this point. Whether the alleged use of the apps and visits to Pulse played a part in his reconnaissance or because he was struggling with his sexuality (as some of the gay press are beginning to point out) is all conjecture.
What shouldn’t be open to speculation is that this was a hate crime.
Let me repeat that. It was a hate crime, and one targeted at the GLBTQI community. Had the shooter opened fire in a church, or a mosque, or a synagogue, we would have universally interpreted the event as being a religiously motivated hate crime. Regardless of where an attack takes place, there is a flow on effect: in attacking any segment of a community, you attack the community at large.
But for those who want to deny that this was primarily an attack on the queer community, I would encourage you to reflect on what you’re trying to achieve by refusing to acknowledge this.
Perhaps it's just a case of you clinging to where you get your news from. Those media outlets that conveniently skewer things to their own views.
With a lack of verifiable information, some outlets went straight to the usual reasoning, and the usual suspects piped up with their usual rhetoric.
As information comes to light, it's becoming clearer that these were the actions of a lone wolf, who, demonstrated violence in the past, and who more than possibly had problems with mental illness. Evidence is pointing to yet another person in our society who was troubled and who, rather than seek help, sought vengeance.
Yes, Daesh have applauded his actions, but without any substantial evidence to link their role in the event, will those who insist this was an act of Radical Islam back track at all to acknowledge that this was, and remains a hate crime against the LGBT community? No, they won't because it doesn't fit their narrative.
And in the meantime, 49 people are no longer with us, and a large portion of our society refuses to acknowledge this loss as being anything other than a cultural-religious affront.
Have had a couple of busy weeks what with the academic year starting to wind up.
As a result have not been able to post much at all recently, even if there has been some amazing events going on.
I think it could be because I've been busy that I haven't had much time to write or focus on other things, but I've also got the sneaking suspicion that I've been in mourning over recent weeks.
Yes, the whole Hodor thing in Game of Thrones turned out to be strangely moving! I never expected it to be so well done, and with such an interesting twist!
If you're a Game of Thrones fan and haven't already, you really need to be reading the round ups posted by Emily Yoshida every week. Her The Game of Game of Thrones column is AMAZING! Drop everything and go read it if you haven't already.
Dave Di Vito
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Dave Di Vito is a writer, teacher and former curator.He's also the author of the Vinyl Tiger series and Replace The Sky.
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