Journal 8

The idea of crossing over the boundaries of binary opposites is seen in Calvino’s Invisible Cities. Marco Polo describes impossible cities, contradicting not only themselves but also the basic laws of science. For example, Marco Polo describes the city of Cecilia which sprawls unboundedly out extensively over space. “The places have mingled, Cecilia is everywhere…” (pp. 153) Obviously, the city of Cecilia is a violation to the physics law of conservation of mass and energy, the mass of any isolated system is always constant. The city cannot travel on infinitely, scientifically; it will stop at some point. However, when perceived from a symbolic perspective, Cecilia is perfectly realistic. It is a symbol of a different kind of world, a depicting a different aspect of Venice. The cities Marco Polo depicts are neither utopias nor dystopias, their boundaries, both physical and characteristic, are impossible to definitely define.

It is strange how one setting or situation, depending on how it is perceived, can be so starkly different; constructive and destructive, satisfactory and disappointing, both encouraging and depressing. This idea can be applied to situations in our own lives as well. For example, I consider my time in high school to be both the best and worst years of my life thus far. Coming into high school freshman year I was anxious about the typical teenage concerns, will I make friends or be a loner, be accepted or denied, be popular or a loser. So I decided to join track in an attempt to branch out, and make friends. The decision to join track was both the best and worst decision of my life. I would soon find out that my track coach would exponentially amplify my, initially, minor concerns of self identity. The best way to describe him is an angry soul, with a scowl eternally smeared on his furrowed skin. One look from him could infect me with an array of emotions, anger, insecurity, hatred…the list could go on. I dreaded school, because I knew track practice would follow. He was a callous old man, degrading to his runners, and unpleasant to be around. To put it shortly, he single handedly tainted my teenage years of high school. Reflecting back on those years, it was disappointing I wasn’t able to enjoy high school, it was unfair, and disheartening that someone in his position could be so destructive. However, looking back on those years, I realize that I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I hadn’t gone through those four years. I grew up faster than my peers, developed thick skin, and become a strong and resilient person.

High school for me is comparable to the city of Cecilia. They are contradictory situations, unable to have definite boundaries because when looked at from different perspectives they offer completely different impressions.

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English Journal 7

Marco Polo crossed a variety of borders throughout his journeys afar, and as I reflect on my past two months here in Italy I realize that I, too, have crossed several different types of borders. When I hear the term ‘border’ I naturally (being a science major), think of the obvious dictionary definition of the word. According to Webster’s, a border is “the line that separates one country, state, province, ext. from one another; frontier line.”However, I have stepped beyond my usual way of thinking, and created my own definition of a border. According to me, a border is an at hand limitation which impedes one’s ability to freely, and completely enter into an experience. In terms of physical boarders, I have crossed quite a few, from Rome, Thessaloniki, Venice, Florence, Paris, Subiaco, Sorrento, Pompeii, Madrid, and very shortly, London.  However, the physical borders do not even compare to the psychological ones I have crossed. Physical boarders are clear and easily crossed; with a passport, map, small trolley, and a one and a half liter water bottle I can cross any physical border put forward. Physiological borders, however, are perplexing and difficult to overcome. They require a different kind of strength to cross. The most powerful one I have crossed during this trip was the idea of living in the moment. I have quickly found that two months in Italy comes and goes very quickly, and I have had to deal with the concern of returning to my original, conventional world, filled with traditional classes rather than having beautiful Rome as my daily classroom, studying on Friday nights rather than traveling to different countries, and monotonously serving costumers at a less than genuine Italian restaurant rather than being served delicious authentic Italian styled meals.

I remember having a dream the very first night in Italy; I was back in Ohio, working at Gervasi, being yelled at by my boss and repetitively bussing tables until the wee hours of the morning. From day one I was both consciously and subconsciously concerned with returning to daily life in the States, and this concern has continued throughout my entire trip. I found myself battling this mental border of simply living in the moment, and not thinking about what is to come once I cross the U.S. border. I love my family, and I love my life in the States, however being in Italy has led me to find the beauties and opportunities that exist outside the edges of Ohio. As I said before, physiological borders are the hardest to cross, simply because they are intangible. It has taken me much thought and reflection to cross this powerful border. However, I have ultimately come to the realization that all good things must eventually come to an end. Living in Rome has given me the chance of a life time, and it has completely changed the way I view my future. I am thankful for this opportunity, and even more grateful for the insight it has granted me in my current, and future life. Earlier, I described a border as an “at hand limitation”, I did so because for a very specific reason. Despite a border being a limitation in the present moment, I have learned that it eventually returns as a way to broaden your horizons.

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Art Journal #6

Upon first reading this journal prompt, I was happy to see that it was all about picking a favorite city. I thought to myself “this should be easy!” However, after reading Calvino’s book, and reading the prompt again, it is not as easy as it appears.  I found it difficult to choose a favorite city, simply because the cities are, well…invisible. Despite the fact that each of us will read the same description for the cities, our mental vision of each will be very different, and we will choose our favorite city based on these visions. Perhaps this is the meaning behind the title “Invisible Cities”, how can these cities Marco Polo is depicting be visible, if every reader has a different image of the cities? This dialogue between Kahn and Polo describes this very point:

“Kublai asks Marco, “When you return to the West, will you repeat to your people the same tales you tell me?” “I speak and speak,” Marco says, “but the listener retains only the words he is expecting…It is not the voice that commands the story: it is the ear.”

I noticed that I did exactly what Marco Polo is describing here. After reading through each of the cities, I decided my favorites were Adelma, Argia, and Olinda. Adelma is a chilling city filled with deceased friends and family of Marco Polo. However when we, the audience, envision this city it will be completely different for each of us. The city will not be filled with the deceased people Marco Polo speaks of, but people we know. The city of Adelma is so haunting to Marco Polo, that is makes him question his own state of being. I like Adelma because it is not just another city, filled with beautiful scenery. It is an unsettling city, one which makes the foreigner question even his own existence. Argia is another city, very different from the rest, because instead of air, it has earth (pp.126). I chose Argia because it reminded me of the kind of environment worms and insects live in. It is completely opposite from our customary cities, filled with fresh air, and lots of space to move around. “The dampness destroys people’s bodies and they have scant strength; everyone is better off remaining still, prone… “ (pp.126). I like Argia, simply because it gives us a different perspective of the word city. Out of the three cities, however, Olinda is my very favorite. My reasoning for picking Olinda is not because it painted the prettiest image in my mind, or that it intrigued me the most of all the cities. It is simply because I was able to understand it better than all the rest because of the way in which Marco Polo described it.

After I read the description the words, “lymph” and “blossoming” stood out to me. I linked them to biology, and in doing so was able to understand the workings of the city. In my mind, Olinda is eternal. The name, to me, actually looks like the city, circular and continuous. I have discovered that the cities Marco Polo describes cannot be taken as literal cities, but rather seen symbolically. Therefore, what I liked most about Olinda is that it is a city of ironies. Despite its eternal nature, new structures are continually added. So it is old, and new, both static and ever-changing.  To me, Olinda can represent us as human beings. Despite growing old and gaining knowledge, our essence remains the same, just like the city of Olinda.

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English Journal 5

Initially after reading Calvino’s Invisible Cities, I was very confused as to what was happening in the plot line. However, after reading it again, and consulting our brilliant Professor, Ron, I discovered that the plot line was difficult to understand because it there really isn’t an obvious one, or at least one I am used to with a definite beginning, and developed characters. The book is essentially Marco Polo, a Venetian traveler, depicting various cities he has traveled to (or made up in his own mind as I discovered), and recounting them back to Kublai Kahn, the emperor. A large amount of the book consists of philosophical dialogue between The Kahn and Marco Polo. I found that during these conversations a clear connection is made between the two men, although the connection is not always implicit. For example, Calvino wrote “…between the two of them it did no matter whether questions and solutions were uttered aloud or whether each of the two went on pondering in silence” (pp. 27). Calvino offers no distinction between inner and outer realities, therefore we often times don’t know if they are speaking aloud, or in their own minds. Being a biology major, this was difficult for me to grasp this particular concept, seeing as everything I study is an outer reality I am able to see, touch, and study.

Their conversations also, are not always verbal ones. For example, he writes, “Marco Polo could express himself only by drawing objects from his bag…and pointing to them with gestures, leaps, cries of wonder or of horror, imitating the bay of the jackal, the hoot of the owl” (pp. 38). Kublai Kahn and Marco Polo’s relationship was so strong they were able to communicate even without words. In fact, often times Marco Polo preferred to rely only on gestures, and glances rather than words (pp.39). Although I found it difficult to understand reading it the first time through, I am beginning to appreciate Calvino’s purpose for his book. Marco Polo’s journey is comparable to our own journeys, here in Italy. We are traveling not only to discover things outside our own conventional worlds, but to also find ourselves.

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Art-Journal 5

This wonderful country has enlightened me to the artistic beauties which exist outside my own country. I have seen so many forms of art, from the She Wolf, to Roman graffiti, to the delicate pastries seen in bakeries. However, I recently had the chance to see a very different kind of art, the art of being a mother. Some might question this form of art; however I am fully confident in my idea. My vision of art is something not every person has, it is unique to the artist; it cannot be copied, or even taught, and true motherly instincts are not taught, they are simply known. The definition of a mother is not a woman who has given birth to a child, but rather any women who has taken on the responsibility of raising an individual, child or adult, blood relative or not.

This past Wednesday we had an amazing opportunity to step away from the attractions of the city, and business of campus life. We went to visit Mater Dei, an orphanage which takes in single mothers and their children. It is run by a group of nuns who have devoted their entire lives to helping the mothers, and raising their children. The mothers have all come from abusive relationships; as a result the children are often times rejected because of the horrific events their mothers have endured. Because of the personal histories of the women and children, the nuns have become adoptive mothers to both the children, and their mothers. They not only offer physical healing, but the spiritual and mental healing only mothers have the gift of providing as well. Mothers come into Mater Dei with and are mentally plagued with the memories of past relationships. The nuns then assume the motherly role of simply listening. It requires great deal of patience and understanding, a virtue not everyone possesses, but all true mothers have readily available. One of the sisters mentioned that often times the mother’s stories become taxing to the nuns own state of mind. Yet, they recognize that a huge part of the healing process involves listening; and for that reason the nuns will always have an open ear. This is one of the major beauties of being a mother, they perpetually give of themselves, despite any burden it may have on their own lives.

The same concept holds true for my own mother. I can remember when I was five I fell off my bike. I thought it was the end of the world, and with bloody hands and knees I ran to my mom crying. She calmly dropped whatever it was she was doing, and held me close to her. When I was in grade school, I remember holding my pet gerbil in my hands and watching it as it took its last breath. I was sure my world would end, and with my dead gerbil in one hand, and his makeshift casket in the other I ran to my mom sobbing, she stopped what she was doing, held me close, and took time to help me give him a proper burial. I can remember a year ago, being lost in a completely foreign country. I thought my life was certainly about to end, with my computer in one hand and tissue in another, I called my mom on Skype. She stopped what she was doing to answer, and comforted me from miles away.

I am not exactly sure what it is about mothers, but I feel as if their spirit itself is calming, it is innate; something a woman is born with, and in time discovers the incredibly powerful gift she has within her. Mothers are artists; there is no doubt in my mind, having the ability to stop all tears, heartaches, and even the end of the world.

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Eng 315 Journal 4

 

Despite being intellectual human beings, with the power to rule, and the ability to reason, we are flawed by nature. Every person struggles with the vice of temptation, whether it is an adulterous temptation, temptation of food, power, or money; somehow or another it haunts us all. It is even seen in the Name of the Rose, the issue of desire and temptation is a lasting theme throughout the novel. Salvatore lusts for women, Berengar wants young men, the abbot desires jewels and power, and Benno craves knowledge. For many monks, knowledge was such a huge temptation, so big, that they were willing to do anything in order to gain knowledge, regardless of what it takes to achieve. This includes heretical acts.

Knowledge in The Name of the Rose, was so highly valued, some monks would do absolutely anything if it meant gaining knowledge, Eco even related knowledge to a monk as adultery for a laymen, “A monk should surely love his books with humility, wishing their good and not the glory of his own curiosity; but what the temptation of adultery is for laymen and the yearning of riches is for secular ecclesiastics, the seduction of knowledge is for monks” (pp 183.) This can be seen in many of the monks in Eco’s novel, one in particular was Benno. Despite his vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, Benno is willing to break them, and sin, in order to gain knowledge (pp 183). This, in my opinion is heretical; going against ones core beliefs in an attempt to gain intellectual pride, or other type of appeal.

I saw this in my own life during my high school years. I went to Central Catholic High School. Obviously because it is a Catholic school, we are required to take religion classes throughout our four years. Unfortunately, however, many of the theology teachers at Central taught ideas contrary to that of their, so called, Catholic faith. One teacher in particular, however, seemed to teach these ideas defying the Catholic religion for the sheer pleasure of seeing students, such as me, become angry and argue issues during class. I can remember getting into heated arguments with him, and the conceited look of arrogance he had smeared all over his face, it disgusted me. Regardless of his responsibility to accurately, and truthfully teach the Catholic faith, he chose to defy certain Catholic issues, in an attempt to gain personal satisfaction. I, of course, being the one unruly student, went to the principal of our school thinking he would surely do something to stop such nonsense. However, for reasons I will not go into, nothing happened to this heretical teacher of mine. Regardless of the indolence of my principal, I did all I could to make right, this wrong happening in my high school.

Just as the monks yearned for knowledge, my teacher yearned for self-assurance and achieved it even if it meant going against the teachings of the Catholic Church. Just as I said above, despite the notion that human beings are higher, more advanced and intellectual beings, we are all flawed by nature….some more than others.

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Art Journal #4

I have now been in Rome for three weeks. I have seen so much, more than I have ever imagined, from the Coliseum, Palatine Hill, and the catacombs, to protests, and countless beggars on the sidewalk. If you think about it carefully, most of these things can be considered some form of art. Today, when we visited Piazza Navona, I noticed a different kind of beggar. He wasn’t one that paraded around a stubby arm, or infected leg, and he wasn’t one that used his child as a means to generate pity. The man was dressed oddly, his face was painted white, and all but the back of his head was shaven, and his wardrobe consisted of a thin, brown robe.  I finally realized he was mimicking the appearance of some type of monk. I watched him carefully, as he walked through the Piazza, wondering who he was, and what he was doing. Finally, he chose a spot to base himself, set a Styrofoam bowl down, and picked a position to stand in…completely still. He was motionless, from his legs, and arms to even his facial expression.

After a while, people began to notice him. I watched tourists approach him at a distance to take a picture. He robotically turned to face the tourists, raised his eyebrows, frowned his face, and looked down to his small Styrofoam bowl sitting empty in front of him. He held both hands down to the bowl, asking for money, but without saying a word. I watched to tourist awkwardly laugh, and look to his friend standing next to him. His smile was uneasy, and I could tell he felt obliged to give something. Within minutes, he was walking up to the “monk” and dropping coins into his bowl. Instantly, his face brightened, and he mechanically held his hand out in a sign of appreciation. I sat and watched as the same order of events happen, again and again. A Tourist slowly walks by, watching for any movement in the motionless monk, takes his or her camera to take a picture, and gets pressured into putting money in the bowl by this muted monk. It was amazing to me, how many people he was able to coax into putting coins into his bowl without saying a word. It made me think of the psychology the monk used in order to make money. With simple motions, and facial expressions, he made people feel obliged to give. At first their body language, and facial expressions showed they felt uncomfortable being put in such a situation, and to alleviate the awkwardness, they gave in and put a few coins in his bowl.

I realized that with only a few hours of doing this, he could actually make a decent amount of money. It was then I realized that this too was a style of art. He has mastered the art of standing perfectly still, making exaggerated facial expressions, and robotic movements, so as to master the art of begging soundlessly.

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ENG 315 Journal 3

Last summer I decided to take a huge step out of my comfort zone. I studied abroad in Costa Rica for a month, until then, I had never flown, been out of the country, and had never been away from home for longer than six days. I didn’t know anyone else going on the trip, and my professors were natives to Costa Rica, so it was difficult to follow lectures. Despite these difficulties, I wanted to explore a world different from my own conventional life, away from family and friends, away from high speed internet and cell phone reception, and away from shopping malls and commercial buildings. I did just that. However, while there, I found myself in a personal maze. The library is universally known as a symbol of knowledge. In today’s society, knowledge is readily available in all forms, making it very accessible for people to acquire it. Ironically, in “The Name of the Rose” this way of thinking is reversed. Truth and knowledge is withheld from the layman, for fear of self-formulated ideas against the Catholic Church. In a conversation between Adso and Brother William, Adso conveys his concern on the issue, “And is a library, then, an instrument not for distributing the truth but for delaying its appearance?” (pp. 286). The labyrinth in the library is used to keep knowledge from the “unworthy”, to defend the knowledge held within it in an attempt to preserve the church’s control over Western civilization. It was built with the idea of restricting people from entering. The strange mirrors placed in positions which distorts anyone who looks into it, the incense which invokes visions upon smelling, and of course the intricate maze. Brother William and Adso find themselves lost in this labyrinth several times. I found myself in a similar situation during my stay in Costa Rica. Overwhelmed with the foreign country, new people, different classes, and away from the comfort of my family, I walked myself right into an emotional labyrinth. The labyrinth in the library, and the labyrinth in my mind, though distinctly different in structure, both prevented something; independence. Denying people truth and knowledge, denies them the freedom of thinking for themselves, though I never lost the entitlement of thinking for myself, I lost the ability to think clearly, free from distractions and anxieties. Anxiety was something I struggled with for a couple of weeks, until an unexpected experience led me to find the way out of my emotional state. One day I decided to venture into town to find an internet café to Skype with my mom and sisters. Having never been to the town before, I was forced to use my Spanish speaking skills to locate the café in a short amount of time, because class was to start in promptly 30 minutes. Walking alone in the streets of this foreign country, with my laptop on my back, in the pouring rain, being chased by dogs in the streets, and yelled at by policemen, I looked like a complete foreigner and I found myself at the very heart of my mental labyrinth. All control had been stripped away, leaving me feeling defenseless, and I eventually broke down in a quiet cry at the corner of a street. Earlier, I noticed a group of men leaned up on the side of a bar watching me in my panicked frenzy. While I was crying I failed to recognize one of them had walked up to me, asking me my name, and telling me to talk to him. There was a moment of realization, after I had seen the man, and before I said anything, when I finally understood that control is not something I can have at all the times, there comes a point in time when you have to simply let go. So I decided to let go, to open up, to take a leap and trust a strange man smoking a cigarette on the side of a shady bar in the heart of Costa Rica. Obviously, because I am sitting here writing this paper, the man was not a serial killer; he was a legitimate kind man, who helped me find the café. Mentally, I was set free from my anxieties through this experience, and it was in doing so, I found my way out of the maze.

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Annotated Bib. #2

The Maestro of Murano- 2/11/11

This past weekend, we had the amazing opportunity to visit one of Italy’s most beautiful cities, Venice. One of the main attractions, for me, was our morning trip to the small island of Murano. It wasn’t until this past weekend when I came to understand the great history behind Murano glass. Prior to then, I had only a small understanding of what this tiny island had to offer. Dating back all the way until before the first millennium, Murano glass has survived history’s ups and downs, from economic achievements to depressions, and cheap reproductions of  produced by many different countries. (http://www.thehistoryof.net/history-of-glass-blowing-in-Murano.html November 2, 2011). The history of Murano glass is impressive, and the pieces of art derived from it are even more impressive.

Walking into the glass blowing room, I noticed nothing special; in fact it seemed a little run down with broken pieces of glass peppered throughout the room, and a huge furnace aged, not so gracefully, with time. There was an old man sitting in the corner, wearing jeans and a sweatshirt, the best way to describe him was simply…simple. It wasn’t until a few minutes later, when I learned of his incredible talents and abilities achieved by dedicating his entire life to glass blowing. I would never have imagined such a modest old man, making such elaborate and ornate pieces of art that sell for thousands of Euros. I found it amazing, and almost magical, to see the Maestro so effortlessly pull  the shape of a horse out of the molten glass right in front of my eyes. He fashioned and twisted the glass so gracefully, and within minutes a perfect figure of a reared up horse sat before me. What is even more mind-blowing for me was that this little sculpture was elementary for the Maestro, it didn’t even compare to the marvelous pieces of art we would soon see. (https://alysonsliman.wordpress.com/. November 2, 2011).

Murano Island is unique, in that it is both historic and contemporary; the types of characteristics filmmakers look for when creating a movie and finding a site to shoot. It is a historically rich location, surviving over the centuries it has matured with age. As opposed to other locations which contain only history, Murano differs, in that it can also be considered contemporary because of the modern day artists it contains.The Maestro of Murano, despite his humble appearance, he is an artistic genius; one who we are able to see, and observe in his own environment. After experiencing firsthand the workings of Murano, I found it contains many of the qualities necessary

 

Annotated Bib 2 -Catie

Old Appian Way. Bike tour. 2 Novembre 2011

On November 1, which in Italy is recognized as “The Day of the Dead,” our group was led on a bike tour down the Old Appian Way by Dinilo.  We rented bikes from a small local company and trucked our way down the old, cobblestone roadway.  Most businesses are closed for the day in remembrance of those who have passed.  Being that the Old Appian Way is home to beautiful scenery consisting of remnants of what used to be large houses of wealthy Italians.  This meant that the road was filled with Italians enjoying their day off of work.  Many people were having picnics, riding bikes, walking their dogs, or letting their children run the famous road until they were worn out.  As we rode down the road Danilo would stop to point out interesting pieces of history which still stand today.  We passed many grave sites of some of the wealthy people that used to live on that land.  Dinilo explained to us how that in the days of these ancient Romans, the slaves would eventually be freed, although it was usually through their death that they were freed, and would inherit the last name of their owners.  This made them a part of the family.    We also saw the grave site of a well known man who once had been a slave, was freed and then once he died was buried with the others of his “new” family.  I thought it was interesting that in all of the statues, his was placed in the middle, with his new family members on his sides. To me, this showed that during this time, although Rome was still was relatively new; the idea of family was much different than in even Modern day America.

 The Old Appian Way was the first road to ever lead into Rome.  Just the simple fact that so many people chose that location to spend their day off really showed me how much history is appreciated in the Italian culture.  As I mentioned, the Old Appian Way has many grave sites running along its sides, so it made a great place to commemorate the dead for the holiday.  Many people, instead of sleeping their day away, as many Americans may do, were walking down the most historical road of their country and reading aged tombstone readings.   Not only is this road historically enjoyable, but the view of nature is absolutely beautiful from almost any angle along the path.  In particular, we took advantage of a tall hill that we found which had an old military guard post upon it.  We climbed to the top and as luck had it, a herd of sheep were being directed down a path which ran perpendicular to the Old Appian Way by two sheepdogs and a shepherd.  It was a beautiful sight! Trees lined the road and kept a nice shade in the heat of the day.  Many people were sitting beneath the trees, eyes closed, just soaking in the beauty of their surroundings.  I tried to imagine a time when I saw an American take the time out of their day to just breathe and enjoy life for what it is. I know that I am one of few that do this. To me, this showed the appreciation for nature which helps to characterize Italians.  I was able to see that connecting with nature and taking time to reflect on their history is a critical part of an Italians’ life.  In more than one way, I felt the sense of family present along the Old Appian Way.   The road was flooded with small families spending their free day enjoying the outdoors.  It is quite usual to see all people in a family to spend the day together.  I considered this to speak about the importance of family to Italians.  This is because my experience with many American families is that they are too busy doing their own thing to spend much family time together.  Dinilo also showed us many places where each family had a special burial place and all members of that family were buried in that location.  Also, like I said before, when slaves died in ancient Rome, they were freed and became part of the family they previously were owned by.  This really had an impact on me.  I just thought that spoke so much for the Italian view on family. Family did not appear to be only blood relatives to these ancient Italians. In our Sex in the City project, it will be important to display history, culture, and family. All of these, I believe were seen and felt throughout our journey along the Old Appian Way.

 

Wine Tasting 2/11/11

                Today we went up to Castel Gandolfo to go to a wine tasting program.  We met the ‘Master’ of wine tasting, and it was a very interesting and educational experience for me.  He tried his hardest to speak as much English that he possibly could to teach us his extensive knowledge of wine. He taught us the many different parts of what the proper procedure to this fine art of wine tasting.  He tried teaching us the different types of wines, the different descriptions, the different aromas, and the multitude of tastes that wine is able to have.  He went through several different grapes, and why white wines are white and red wines are red.  He proceeded to give us cookies and even offer us some freshly cut ham before leaving his little shop.  The experience, in my opinion, was one to remember.  He had so much passion and knowledge for this subject area and he was able to achieve a lifestyle and a career that was completely focused around this admiration he has for wine and the beauty behind it. 

                I thought this attitude he had really centered on the mentality that many Italians have for their professions.  They take their passions and they bring them to life, whether it is a pizza shop, a glass blowing business, or a little wine shop at the top of the hill in Castel Gandolfo.  I think it is a gift to be able to spend your life truly committed to your profession and love every minute of it, making it more like a hobby than a job, something that you look forward to as opposed to something you dread waking up on the morning for, something you strive to become the best at as opposed to something you are satisfied with skimming through by being mediocre.  The hard work and the determination is something I admire most about many Italians, their willingness to put their whole life into their profession and serve those around them cheerfully is a beautiful thing and should be a characteristic implanted in us all.  In the sex and the city skit, we are trying to focus on the true beauty of Italy through the personal ties and the heart Italians have for what they do, who they are, and where they live.  The passion they have for what they do in their professional careers fits in well with this idea, they do not do things half way, they become true ‘masters’ in their lives.

 

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Maestro in Murano- Art journal #3

Our weekend in Venice was amazing; it was filled with striking architecture, amazing landscapes, and hundreds of shops. I was able to admire, at a distance, countless sculptures and paintings created by artists hundreds of years ago. However, what caught my attention most was not the intricately designed ceilings plastered with gold byzantine icons and ornamented with hanging candles, or the beyond life size marble sculptures. Though it is amazing to look at art work made by historical artists, nothing compares to the modern day artist; the artist we were able to watch in his own environment, create before our very eyes a beautiful masterpiece, the “Maestro” of Murano.

Murano glass is the longest lasting center for glass making in history, dating all the way back to before the first millennium. It was during the Renaissance when Venetians first became recognized for their specialized glass blowing techniques. Despite bouts of great success, and periods of near extinction, Murano glass has survived and flourishes today as a renowned showcase of traditional glass making. (http://www.thehistoryof.net/history-of-glass-blowing-in-Murano.html November 2, 2011)

Walking into the glass blowing room, I noticed nothing special; in fact it seemed a little run down with broken pieces of glass peppered throughout the room, and a huge furnace aged, not so gracefully, with time. There was an old man sitting in the corner, wearing jeans and a sweatshirt, the best way to describe him was simply…simple. It wasn’t until a few minutes later, when I learned of his incredible talents and abilities achieved by dedicating his entire life to glass blowing. I would never have imagined such a modest old man, making such elaborate and ornate pieces of art that sell for thousands of Euros. I found it amazing, and almost magical, to see the Maestro so effortlessly pull  the shape of a horse out of the molten glass right in front of my eyes. He fashioned and twisted the glass so gracefully, and within minutes a perfect figure of a reared up horse sat before me. What is even more mind-blowing for me was that this little sculpture was elementary for the Maestro, it didn’t even compare to the marvelous pieces of art we would soon see. I think society today, myself included, imagines artists who create such works or art as being young, exalted, and powerful beings. However, something should be said for the simple, despite their humble exterior, the works they can create speak marvels.

The expertise and mastery perfected over the years demands recognition and value, the history is fascinating, and the pieces of art deriving from it are even more incredible. After experiencing firsthand the workings of Murano, nothing can compare to it.

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