There is mail for Juliet!

Image by Adriano Gadini from Pixabay

Dear Juliet,

I won’t ask you if your history, which has distinguished Verona over time as the city of love, is true or a legend. The magic, strength, and power that your history has in keeping love alive for me are enough. For centuries you have shown to be a good listener, attentive to the sorrows of the heart, the friend who’s always there, and perhaps the last hope for those who no longer have anyone to share their dreams or confide their secrets. Dear friend, surely this year too on Valentine’s Day you will hear “there is mail for Juliet!”

Your city breathes (and sighs) love.

Many seek exactly your warmth to unburden themselves. They tell you about their sadness looking for a word of comfort, they ask for a suggestion on how to express their love (yes, dear Juliet, there are many Romeos who cannot speak of love). There are also those who want your advice on how to find their Romeo or their Juliet or either those who just want to tell you their story or a lived moment of happiness. The truth is that sooner or later that thing happens to everyone, we fall in love, and it doesn’t matter if for Mathew, Antony, Frank or Romeo, the question remains the same as yours “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?”

The mail for Juliet became a tradition

As long as there are questions, there will also be “Juliet’s secretaries” to answer them. Certainly, there is no shortage of questions for the team of volunteers in charge of picking up the mail for Juliet and answering every letter, even those addressed simply “Juliet, Verona”. Surely magic exists, considering that the letters for Juliet add up to 50.000 every year and they come from all around the world, written by the most varied senders, I mean, from the teenagers that have their first crush or the businessman in love.

The tradition of these letters goes back to 1937 when “the first Juliet’s secretary” Ettore Solimani, keeper of Juliet’s tomb, touched by the content of the letters left by visitors, started to collect, and answer them. He carried out this task alone for 20 years, solely for the pleasure of doing it. Ettore always had a word of comfort to offer and has signed each letter as “your Juliet” until 1957, when he was forced to retire. After that, the task was left to some volunteers, inhabitants of Verona, until 1972 when Giulio Tamassia, followed by a group of friends, had the idea of creating the Juliet Club, a non-profit cultural association whose sole purpose is to keep alive the story of the Veronese lovers, spreading their love around the world.

The Juliet Club makes every effort to support its daily task and if the story requires more attention, it seeks help from a local psychologist or from the institution capable of making their help concrete and meaningful. In addition to looking after the mail for Juliet, the Club organizes on the week of Valentine’s Day, the “Dear Juliet” prize which reaches its 30th edition and includes the choice of the most beautiful letters written in the previous year. Besides, it sets up the international literary prize “Writing for love” which includes the choice of the best love book published in Italy and “Juliet’s Birthday” party, in September, in the squares of Verona. The slogan this year (2022) is “Verona in Love – If you love someone, take them to Verona”. We join the choir “Love. (All we need is)”.

The identification of the noble Cappello family with the Capulets gave rise to the belief that the house above is Juliet’s house. As soon as we pass the entrance porch, we have in front of us the lovers’ balcony. Within walking distance of Juliet’s house, we find Romeo’s house.

Verona - city of Romeo and Juliet

On Valentine’s Day, love is waiting for us in Verona, the city of Romeo and Juliet. Ten years ago,  I found myself by chance involved in this appointment and I must say that the air you breathe in the city on Valentine’s Day is different. It is possible to feel the magic along Cappello road where Juliet’s house is, and especially within its walls with the reenactment of the legendary balcony scene by the actors who revived the two lovers. In Verona, there is a lot to see. After crossing the gates of the medieval walls that surround the city, we find ourselves in front of the Arena, a Roman amphitheater that today hosts many cultural events. Following the romantic itinerary, we arrive in the square called “Piazza delle Erbe”, at Juliet’s house and, after some steps, at Romeo’s house. It’s also possible to go for a visit to the tomb of Juliet located in the “Museo degli Affreschi” [Fresco Museum].

In the city, some people say that Juliet’s house belonged to the Cappelletti family, which probably became Capulet in the Shakespearean legend, as well as that of Romeo Montecchi was the home of the Monticoli (in the Shakespearean works Montague) family. Nobody knows for sure. A mystery remains about the existence of the two Veronese lovers. For some the Montecchi and the Capulet existed; for others instead, Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy, originally published in 1596, is only a fantasy. By now, it’s up to us to keep their story alive and to believe that true love exists. It’s up to us to keep it alive in our heart wherever we go in the world even if the words of Romeo imprinted on a plaque placed next to a small bust of Shakespeare at the entrance to the city says that “there is no world outside the walls of Verona” as if to tell us: love lives here.

arena de verona

To the cinema lovers there are two movies not to be missed or to be seen again: Romeo and Juliet, by Franco Zeffirelli, and Letters to Juliet, by Gary Winick.

 

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And so, the story of Befana was born

La Befana
La Befana

“Epiphany takes all holidays away” is an old saying in Italy. Actually, January 6th marks the end of the holiday season. Christmas and New Year celebrations passed and everything turnover into normal daily life again. It’s the beginning of a new year and Befana (a term derived from the epiphany that means manifestation) strives to comfort us in this transition. The tradition says that in the early morning hours between January 5th and 6th, Befana, the old lady, stops by our houses to fill the socks hanging in the fireplace with candies, sweets, cookies, and chocolate, but be careful because you can also find your sock full of coal, which symbolizes the misdeeds of the past year. The Epiphany or Kings Day is also Befana’s party,  a public holiday in Italy, time to take the Christmas tree down. New Year, New Life!

So, what has Befana brought you this year? Candy or coal? Ok, I know, you claim you behaved well, so you sure got candies or maybe some nice gifts. But, let me guess, if you were a naughty boy, this year you only got COAL! You want to know what I found inside my stocking… Hmmm! Befana’s party is a typical Italian tradition, and the charismatic old woman is always eagerly awaited by children. Riding on her flying broom, she crosses the sky carrying her basket full of goodies. The origins of all this come from pre-Christian magical traditions.

The legend says that when the three Wise Men made their way to Bethlehem to bring gifts to Jesus, they had difficulties finding their way, so they asked an old woman for help. Being grateful for her help and kindness, they invited her to come with them. The old woman, who was too busy cleaning the house, declined, but soon later she realized it was a mistake. So, Befana puts some gifts in a basket and left, trying to reach the Wise Men. Despite following the same star as they did, she never arrived at the stable where Jesus was born, and so she went into the houses and left gifts for the children in the hope that one of them was the baby Jesus.  Therefore, always on the same day, she rides on her broom going around the world, entering houses, and leaving gifts for children expecting to be forgiven.

That’s why anyone nice in the past year found sweets inside their socks. The naughty ones do not! They found only coal! But don’t worry, she’ll be back next year! And believe me, she is a mix of witch, fairy, and magician, sometimes generous sometimes severe, but never bad… and her coal is made of sugar, but you didn’t hear it from me! So, start singing:

“Befana comes at night
her shoes are not a pretty sight
she comes with stitches covering her dress
Bafana we shall bless!”

 

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Flashback 2021

2021
January Literature
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George Orwell and Cesare Pavese -literary pieces fall into public domain

The books "1984", "Animals Farm" and all other works by the English writer George Orwell entered the public domain. Brazil, the European Union, and the United States signed the Berne Convention which establishes that the copyright of works expires after 70 years from the 1st of January following the author's death. Orwell lived until 1950, a year after the release of "1984". Translated to over sixty countries, "1984" is Orwell's most famous book and has been turned into comedies, movies, and comic books. George Orwell was born in India in 1903 and died in London on January 21, 1950.

Like Orwell's novels, Italian writer Cesare Pavese's works also lost their copyright. Among Pavese's most popular works are "La casa in collina" and "La luna e i falò" (The House on the Hill and The Moon and the Bonfires, respectively). Cesare Pavese is also recognized for the Italian translation of "Moby Dick" by Herman Melville and "Of mice and men" (Uomini and topi in Italian) by John Steinbeck. Pavese was born in September 1908 and died in Turin on August 27, 1950.

February Space technology
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Brazil takes off. "To infinity... and beyound!"

Brazil launched the first satellite produced with 100% national technology: Amazônia 1. According to Agência Brasil, the launch took place on February 28 through the Satish Dhawan Space Center, in India. The purpose of the satellite is to provide remote sensing data to observe and monitor deforestation, mainly in the Amazon region, as well as to monitor the country's agriculture. "The launch marked two technological advances in the country: the total mastery of the development cycle of a satellite, knowledge dominated by only twenty countries in the world, and the validation of the Multimission Platform (PMM) that works as an adaptable modular system that can be configured from different ways to achieve different goals”, noted the deputy director of the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), Mônica Rocha. The launch of the satellite is the result of collaboration between the Brazilian space program and India. Amazônia-1 was developed by INPE and the Brazilian Space Agency (AEB), both linked to the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation.

Other space missions marked this month. Landed on Mars: the Hope mission, from the United Arab Emirates, which aims to observe and study the atmosphere and weather events on the Red Planet; the Chinese Tianwen-1 mission, tasked with carrying out scientific observations of the surface and atmosphere of Mars; and NASA's Mars 2020 mission, which includes the Perseverance spacecraft and the Ingenuity helicopter-drone. Perseverance's aims are to look for possible signs of life on the planet, study the geology of the soil and collect rock samples. Ingenuity was the first drone to fly over the planet. For 2022, the plans come from Virgin Galactic, which intends to launch a commercial spaceflight service. "To infinity and beyond!"

March World heritage
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Venice, 1600 years between beauty and resilience

Between beginnings and new beginnings, resilience marked the history of Venice, which turned 1600 years old on March 25th. History tells us that on that day in AD 421, in Rivo Alto (Rialto) the first settlement in Venice took place, followed by the consecration of the church of San Giacomo. The birth of Venice appears to have been a slow process. In fact, the entire city is built on water. Under the stone foundations, wooden logs support the weight of the buildings, as if they were stilts, and are preserved thanks to the mud in which they are immersed. Venice's palaces and churches float.

History also tells us that Venice managed to survive wars, conflicts, battles, and various crises. In 1797, it was occupied by the French troops of Napoleon Bonaparte. The palaces, houses, and churches of Venice were sacked by the French, who shot anyone who dared to protest. Works of art were stolen, and churches were destroyed. But Venice was also one of the finest cities in Europe, with a strong influence on art, architecture, and literature. Between good and evil, prosperity and the plague, beauty and "high water", often caused by the alternating tides peaks, Venice resists and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

April Automotive industry
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Vespa - reaching the age of 75 with style

19 million units sold worldwide. 19 million stories to tell and retell. This is Vespa that turned 75 in April. In all these decades, Vespa has kept its appearance intact and still maintaining its essence, it has never ceased to be contemporary. The first Vespa was patented on April 23, 1946, by the Italian group Piaggio. World War II had just ended, and Italy was a country to be rebuilt, full of ideas and hope. The Vespa was born in this scenario as an affordable and economical vehicle and soon became a sales success, placing Italy at the center of the post-war movement.

The small motorcycle crossed borders, in 1950 it began to be produced in Germany; in 1951, in the United Kingdom, and in 1954, it arrived in Brazil. Icon of Italian design, the Vespa appeared in classic films such as "Roman Holiday" (1953), in which Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck strolled through the streets of Rome, and "A Sweet Life" (1960), by Federico Fellini, becoming a symbol of the freedom and youth of the time. Since its creation, the Vespa has been continuously produced at the Pontedera factory, between Florence and Pisa.

May World heritage
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Coliseum has project for reconstruction of arena

The Coliseum, in the heart of Rome, will have its arena back. This was certainly the best news for all those who appreciate close contact with history. As part of the "Major Cultural Heritage Projects", after numerous studies and research to define how the works would be carried out, Italy presented the project to rebuild the arena. The works will start in the first months of 2022 with completion scheduled for 2023.

Dating back to the opening years (AD 80), the arena floor was a wooden plank covered with sand where men and beasts were forced to climb. Years later, the masonry underground was built, and later the construction of the complex that can be seen today in the center of the monument, much more complex and highly technological. The new design will be sustainable, resistant, and highly durable and will restore the public to the same vision that the monument could have enjoyed in antiquity.

June World heritage
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Padua, city of the saint

Padua is the city of "the 3 -less": the nameless saint, the doorless café and the grassless park, as its inhabitants define it, and June 13 is an important day for Padovanos (people born in Padua) because they celebrate "The Saint", without ever needing to specify your name. The unnamed saint is St. Anthony, the patron saint of Padua, beloved throughout the Catholic world, but the Basilica dedicated to him was simply called the Pontifical Basilica of the Saint. The Basilica, which receives millions of faithful every year, preserves the relics of St. Anthony and, this year, also celebrated the return to Padua, for the first time since 1652, of the relic of Anthony's forearm, in the custody of the Basilica della Salute (Basilica of Health) in Venice. The Saint's forearm was the reason for a pilgrimage that ratified the link between Venice and Padua.

The second icon of the city of the Saint is the "doorless café", alluding to Caffè Pedrocchi, which turned 190 this month. Until 1916, the spot remained open day and night, hence the name "Café without a door". The closure in the evening was because the interior lights could easily be a reference for the Austrians during the bombings of the First World War. In fact, in 1848, from a shot fired by Austrian soldiers, a bullet hit one of the inner walls of the café. The hole left by the projectile and a plaque in memory of what happened still keep memories of that day. Finally, the "grassless park", one of the largest squares in Europe, refers to the Prato della Valle which, in its origins, was a swampy land and not the beautiful park with its 78 statues that we know today.

July Sport
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"It's coming Rome", the winning phrase

"It's coming Rome" is the winning phrase. Italy beat England at Wembley and is the champion of EURO 2020, and the phrase above is the answer given by "Squadra Azzurra" to the confident English choir "It's coming home", repeated tirelessly before and during the match held in London. But that day it all went wrong for the Brits, and in front of about 65,000 people at Wembley, it was Italy that brought home the coveted trophy.

The match was one of the most beautiful and emotional for the Italian team. England took the lead, scoring the first goal just two minutes from the start of the game. Italy managed to tie in the 67th minute of the second half, with a goal by Leonardo Bonucci (1x1). The match extended until the penalty shootout and after two and a half hours Italy won 3 x 2, winning the European champion title for the second time in its history. The first title was won in 1968. The 16th edition of the European Football Championship 2020, or EURO 2020, organized by UEFA, was officially postponed for one year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this, UEFA decided to keep the name of the competition unchanged.

 

August Art
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Who stole the Mona Lisa?

140 years ago, on August 21st, the Mona Lisa went missing. At the Louvre in Paris, where Leonardo Da Vinci's masterpiece had been on exhibition since 1797, everyone was stunned. No one had moved it. Nobody knew where it would have ended up. The Mona Lisa was just gone, and no one was able to answer the question "Who stole the Mona Lisa?" Two years passed among doubts, uncertainties and hypotheses about the disappearance of Gioconda and without any trace of what really happened that day. What nobody knew is that Mona Lisa was hidden in the room where lived Vincenzo Peruggia, an Italian who, upon emigrating to France, went to work at the Louvre and, one day, decided to steal her.

With Mona Lisa hidden under a jacket, Peruggia caught a bus and took her home, returning normally for work. Peruggia wanted to return to Italy the painting he thought had been stolen by Napoleon Bonaparte. In a book, he had read that Napoleon had stolen many works of art from Italy, thus deducing that among the stolen works was Gioconda, the one he saw every day in the Museum. He didn't know the Mona Lisa had been sold to the King of Paris. Returning to Italy, Peruggia asked an antiquarian in Florence to return Gioconda to an Italian museum and, who knows, as a kind of reward, he could have a steady job. The antiquarian, seeming himself in front of the authentic Mona Lisa, warned the police, and Peruggia was arrested. Gioconda returned to the Louvre by train and Peruggia was sentenced to one year in prison, subsequently obtaining a reduction in his sentence.

September Literature
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7 centuries of Dante - the Supreme Poet father of the Italian language

Seven centuries have passed since Dante's death, however, he is still with us, present in our daily lives. This is because he, the Supreme Poet, left us as a legacy the Italian language, the one we speak today, which was born from his poetry and which united Italy from a communicative point of view. Although he knew Latin well, Dante was convinced that the vernacular, spoken by people on the street, should become the cultured language. “The noblest of these two languages ​​is the vernacular (...) because it is natural to us, while the other (referring to Latin) is very artificial”, he wrote in “De Vulgari Eloquentia”.

Among the most important legacies of Dante Alighieri, we find one of the masterpieces of literature, the Divine Comedy, considered the greatest work written in Italian. The entire Comedy is composed of three singular canticas that include a total of 100 chants. The first one (Hell) is composed of 33 chants plus the Introductory one, and the other two (Purgatory and Paradise) are also 33 chants each. Each chant varies from a minimum of 115 to a maximum of 160 verses, for a total of 14,333, all written in linked triplets of hendecasyllable verses. Dante was born in Florence in 1265 and died in exile in Ravenna on the night between September 13 and 14, 1321. On the occasion of the 700th anniversary of his death, the Ministry of Culture proposed considering 2021 the year of Dante, including the 25th of March, National Day already dedicated to him, called Dantedì (Dante's Day).

October Air transport
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After the last flight, Alitalia is gone for good

Since October 14, after 74 years Alitalia is gone for good. The date was marked by its last flight, and the sky lost a bit of color. In 2006, it had already lost one of its stars, that of Varig, the Brazilian airline that went extinct after 79 years. No correlation between the two of them, except that both were the apple of their countries' eyes, and the images of their last flights, in a way, left marks on aviation enthusiasts. On another occasion, these same lovers watched with sorrow the last flight of the legendary Concorde. Who among fans has never dreamed of flying, at least once, aboard the Concorde? The objective here is not to go into the merits or reasons for the decline of these companies, but to record the disappearance of the planes that once lived their Golden Years.

Alitalia, the biggest Italian airline, was a global transport giant, a true benchmark until its inevitable decline. Varig also had strengths of excellence led by its aircraft maintenance, and crew training centers recognized among the best in the world. Each of the aforementioned aircraft left its mark, whether for its design and supersonic speed, for coloring the sky with its tricolor singularity, or for making another star shine in the infinite blue. Alitalia's last flight, AZ 1586 Cagliari-Roma, operated by an A321, put an end to another long history in the aviation sector.

November Technology
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Half a century that changed our lives - story of shrinking things

"The Intel 4004 microprocessor set the foundation for computing – and touched every life on the planet." This is the phrase highlighted at the top of Intel the website which celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first microprocessor placed on the market. The microprocessor that made information technology take-off was invented by Italian physicist Federico Faggin, who is turning 80 years old this December. Born in Vicenza, after having worked with computers at Olivetti, once one of the most important companies in the world in the field of typewriters and calculators, Faggin enrolled in the Physics course at the University of Padua, where he graduated. The key moment in his life, however, was when he decided to establish himself in the United States and, in 1970, he was hired by Intel, an American company that at that time was starting to operate in the market. A year later, Faggin's task was to make some integrated circuits for a prototype calculator, and it was when he developed the silicon-gate MOS technology. The Intel 4004 was born packing 2,300 transistors into a tiny piece of silicon, a lot for the time but insignificant compared to the billions used today on a single chip.

A significant advance that took just half a century to bring us to modern information technology. We went from the first electronic computer, built in 1946, which took up an entire room to our personal computers, laptops, smartphones, and many other chip-based technologies that we use in everyday life, such as the cloud and artificial intelligence. Microprocessors have changed the world. Intel on its website says: “It's a story of shrinking things. And as you shrink them, you increase the potential of the places that they can go and the things that they can pass."

December World
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The world still suffers from the Covid-19 pandemic

By then, we are immersed in a crisis that affects us at all levels. For two years now, we've been in a health emergency triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic which, if we're lucky, will only extend into the first few months of 2022. After... Who can tell us? In newspaper headlines, the Covid subject is being exhaustively treated, although in an unsatisfactory way. The real function of the press, which would be to inform, ended up being lost in the multitude of facts, inconsistent information, and contradictions and has only served to confuse even more. Are this data being handled within their convenience? Maybe so, but who can tell us? What is known is that 2021 was also a year of trauma, defeat, and loss. A year that changed our lives and changed our essence. We're just learning to move forward, trying to start over. For stubbornness or obstinacy, I don't know, we still want to believe that 2022 can be different, and can offer us a little more hope, new expectations, and some dreams that come true because dreams sometimes come true. However, for now, the world still suffers from Covid-19. For now, the world is in Reanimation. We hope for the best!

 

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Pinocchio turns 140, but the old man is Geppetto ;)

Pinocchio
libro Pinocchio

“Centuries ago, there lived…
‘A king!’ my little readers will say immediately.
No, children, you are mistaken. Once upon a time, there was a piece of wood.”

Pinocchio

Pubic Domain

A hundred and forty years ago was born the puppet Pinocchio, carved out of a piece of wood by a lovely old man, the carpenter Geppetto. And then? Then there was the Talking Cricket or Jiminy Cricket (Pinocchio’s consciousness), the Fairy with Turquoise Hair, Honest John (the Fox), Gideon (the Cat), and many others who make up this masterpiece of Italian literature. The big realization is that only after undergoing an interior transformation, a true awakening of consciousness, Pinocchio was able to have his great desire manifested. The wooden puppet became a real boy, in flesh and bones. As he himself said: “a good boy” because he understood his mistakes.

Pinocchio first appeared on July 7, 1881, at the “Giornale per I bambini, the first Italian newspaper addressed to young readers. The story was published as comic strip. The last episode, however, was dropped like a bomb on the readers. Disappointed, they wrote to the newspaper asking for a new ending. In the first version, poor 

Pinocchio ended up hanging from a leafy oak. Although doubtful, Carlo Collodi, creator of Pinocchio, answered the readers’ request, bringing Pinocchio to life again with the help of the Blue Fairy. Then, in 1883, the illustrated book “The Adventures of Pinocchio: the story of a puppet” was published by the bookstore publisher “Libreria Editrice Felice Paggi”.

Carlo Lorenzini (CarloCollodi) was born in Florence on November 24th, 1826. He spent most of his childhood in Collodi, a small medieval town, in the province of Pistoia, which gave him inspiration for his pen name. In 1844, he interrupted his studies to go to work at the Florentine Bookstore “Libreria Piatti. Three years later, he started collaborating with some newspapers writing about music, theater, literature, and humor. Collodi founded two important newspapers in Italy at that time: “Il Lampione, a daily satirical newspaper, forced to close in 1849, and the “Scaramuccia, a theater-oriented newspaper. Collodi died on October 26th, 1890.

The puppet speaks 260 languages

This is not a lie, among the Italian books, “Pinocchio” is the most translated and widespread in the world. The puppet, according to a survey published on May 18th, 2021, speaks 260 languages. The survey was sponsored by Maremagnum.com, an Italian platform for the research of old and used books. But we can go further: in the ranking of books in the world, carried out by the American translation agency 7Brands Inc., Pinocchio pops up in second place, only behind “The Little Prince, by the French Antoine de Saint Exupéry.

Geppetto’s adopted son, who frequently sees himself into trouble and gets his nose bigger and bigger any time he tells a lie, is the best-known Italian character abroad. Fame also took him to the world of cinema, cartoons, and theater. Pinocchio is recognized as one of Disney’s biggest successes (winning two Oscars in 1941) and passed to history as the second Disney classic after “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, from 1937.

Pinocchio puppets – stand at a square in Verona, Italy.

The other face of Pinocchio

— What name shall I give him? — Geppetto said to himself. — I’ll call him Pinocchio. This name will bring him good luck. I once knew a whole family of Pinocchios: Father Pinocchio, mother Pinocchia, and Pinocchi the children. And all of them did well. The richest one begged for a living.

Pinocchio - does it mean "pineal eye" in Italian?

Geppetto explains the choice of the name Pinocchio in a simple way: it’s a name he already knows and will bring luck to the puppet. However, this explanation is followed by others due to the most varied reasons, sometimes geographic, sometimes botanic, or even esoteric. Some people say that Collodi got inspired by the fountain at the theological seminary where he studied, named “Fontana del Pinocchio” (Pinocchio’s Fountain). Others say that the name comes from the Pinocchio’s area, San Miniano Basso, a village where Collodi’s father worked for years. Yet, there are also those who say that the name is related to the wooden puppet’s characteristics. In Italian, Pinocchio is another name for “pinolo”, the pine nut.

The explanation I like the most however is the esoteric one, and here we have material for another post. Pin-occhio, in Italian, is the union of the words “pino” (pine) plus “occhio” (eye). Pine makes pine nuts (pinolo) that by its form represent the pineal gland, also known as the third eye. The interpretations given to Pinocchio’s story go from the most superficial one told and retold infinitely, to the deepest one which deals with self-transformation. The wooden puppet, which represents the material side, became aware of his acts and underwent an internal evolutionary process in order to receive the gift of life. Only after changing inside did the change outside took place and Pinocchio could emerge as a real boy, owner of a conscience, a soul, and certainly with a heart. Pinocchio woke up and approached the divine. For him, the work is done.

Symbols can be seen also in the Vatican Square with the presence of the world’s largest monument dedicated to the “pine cone” flanked by two peacocks, birds associated with spirituality, awakening, and enlightenment. The shape of the papal tiara and many other accessories used by the Pope is based on it. Photo (cutout) by Wkinight94 Wikimedia Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

We talked about an 1881 story when Pinocchio was able to get his own conscience and fired the Talking Cricket from his position as an external adviser. Today, in 2021, there are men in flesh who find it more comfortable having a Talking Cricket by their side and, in this way, they go through life as a wooden puppet, forever supported by their external consciences.

Credits: Pinocchio, by André Koehne – Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Carlo Collodi e Pinóquio (above), also by André Koehne – Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license /Other credits: first Pinocchio’s book Wikimedia Commons; illustrations from the first book Geppeto esculpindo Pinocchioo gato e a raposa and Pinóquio-sun, all of them of Public Domain.

 

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OmegaT – the free and open source CAT tool

OmegaT is an effective and easy-to-use computer-assisted translation tool, and to top it off, it is free and open source. It means that you will have in your hands a tool that will simplify your tasks, increase your productivity, without having to pay for it while also being able to freely modify its code according to your needs. Ahhh… I know what you are thinking about, and the answer is NO, OmegaT does not translate for you. I’m talking about a software developed precisely for professional translators, facilitating, and improving the end result of the performed work, and not about a machine translation.

Among the CAT tools available in the market, OmegaT is an alternative that is worth being tested. The program, created almost 20 years ago but constantly updated, makes it possible to translate without altering the original document’s formatting while creating translation memories (TMs), glossaries, and dictionaries. Through the automatic function that completes words, it is possible to avoid misspellings and speed up typing. The program also allows setting up files and reviewing bilingual texts, including those translated outside the CAT, as well as researching on the Internet or the computer and enables teamwork. To do this, simply set it up according to your requirements. The basic program provides English, Portuguese, and Spanish dictionaries. 

On OmegaT‘s website, we can read: “One of the most useful things OmegaT users can do is… to use OmegaT. And when they find things that don’t work, or deficiencies in the documentation, to tell us about them”. That’s it! If I managed to pique your curiosity, click here to download it. I work with OmegaT!

 

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OmegaT – an aid tool for translators

OmegaT is an aid tool for translators. Easy to use, it provides practical solutions that simplify work and increase productivity. It works on Windows, OSX, and GNU/Linux. It allows many format files such as DOC, HTML, PDF, and ODT (also free), among others, and assists translations in a large number of languages including non-Latin scripts and is available in multiple versions. If you are a first-time user or cannot fully master the program, OmegaT offers a quick guide showing its main features and functions. In addition, it includes a user manual that you can open on your desktop using the program’s Help command. On the Internet, we can find many guides and tutorials. In Portuguese you can find Primeiros passos no OmegaT“. 

In English,  “OmegaT for CAT beginners“. In Italian, you have a “Guida Completa a OmegaT: tecniche, trucchi e consigli per traduttori e project manager“, written by Marco Cevoli and Sergio Alasia from Qabiria – Translation and Localization Agency, located in Spain.

Since it is free, open-source software and can be modified and distributed freely (with the common sense that the user license is respected), I show my appreciation to the program by helping spread it among the translator’s community is a natural approach. On OmegaT’s website, we can read: “One of the most useful things OmegaT users can do is… to use OmegaT. And when they find things that don’t work, or deficiencies in the documentation, to tell us about them”. That’s it! If I managed to pique your curiosity, click here to download it. I work with OmegaT.

 

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Translation Day: why is translation so difficult?

 “TRANSLATE OR DIE.
The lives of every creature on the earth may one day depend on the
instant and accurate translation of one word.”
Paul Engle

On this International Translation Day, let us reflect:
why is translating so difficult?
Why just knowing a couple of languages is not enough?

If the only requirement for a good translation were the conversion of phrases from one language to another certainly the machine translators would be quite enough. Grammatical rules, vocabulary, and speed count, but people have characteristics that are mandatory to any translator who wants to ensure quality and accuracy in a translation. It doesn’t matter the level of experience, the number of years worked, or how many words he has already converted; when translating, sensibility, mistrust about the real meaning of a word, and curiosity are needed and must join the knowledge. The machine loses in those qualities.

It is for these reasons that we still have a place in the job market, and it is also for these reasons that we are celebrating International Translation Day, this September 30th, a day entirely dedicated to us, translators. Since curiosity is an inherent part of our being, I will explain right away that on this day, in 419 or 420, died Saint Jerome, the translator of the Bible from the Old Greek and Hebrew to Latin, and author of important articles about the art of translating. Saint Jerome is considered the translator’s patron saint.

 

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Traitor translator – when the translation “sucks”

Traitor translator or slipping in translation, you choose but the truth is that we can never be too careful when translating. The job is not easy, as some people believe. So, in translation, all that stuff you frequently hear like “it is easy, and you do it in no time”, followed by haggling, doesn’t work. If you realized, this is neither easy nor quick. 

For this reason, it’s important to rely on the translations you need from a professional, preferably to a native speaker or at least someone who has been living for years in the country of the target language. Knowing in-depth the cultural content enclosed in words and expressions is essential and leads to fewer possibly upsetting mistakes. Even great companies such as Pepsi, Coca-Cola, and Electrolux have already slipped in translation when trying to sell their products.

Pepsi, in the ’90s, launched an international advertising campaign with the slogan “Come Alive! You’re in the Pepsi Generation”, but the way it was translated to China, made the Chinese understand that Pepsi was bringing their ancestors back from the grave, which led to a drop in sales. Coca-Cola in its turn, in New Zealand, translated only in part its slogan to the Maori language leaving the other part in English, and what would be a cordial “Hello, mate!”, to call the consumer’s attention, led to an awkward “Kia ora, Mate!” (Hello, death!). Electrolux also had an embarrassing experience when promoting its vacuum cleaner in English-languages countries. The Swedish manufacturer used the slogan “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux”, regardless of the double sense of the word “sucks”, and risked jeopardizing the quality of their own vacuum cleaner… That really sucks!

 

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In translation – small mistakes, BIG PROBLEMS

Small mistakes lead to big problems in translation, and that seems to be a very good reason why it took Saint Jerome 15 years to translate the Bible. At that time, he had already figured out that translating goes beyond the simple conversion of words from one language to another and expressed the need to convey not only the meaning of the words but also grasp their sense and the feeling contained within the text. “Even the order of the words is a mystery and for this reason, we need to touch its heart”, he said. The lack of sensibility and doubts about the meaning of a single word has already generated misunderstandings of international proportions. I chose some examples that illustrate what I’m saying.

Concerning to the “match” played by man versus machine, the Norwegian delegation, during the Winter Olympic Games in 2018, was defeated. After using machine translation services to translate the grocery list for the products to be used for the meals of athletes and the coaching staff, they ended up getting a loading of 15000 eggs instead of 1500 referred on the original list. The fact was reported by the press and became a joke. Fortunately, the Norwegian delegation managed to return the excess 13500 eggs, but this kind of situation could be avoided if the translation had been delegated to a professional.

 

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World Portuguese Language Day: new discoveries

bandiere-brasile-portogallo

brasil-portugal-flags

Four centuries after the Portuguese discoveries, we rediscover Portuguese. On Unesco’s initiative, it has been established that the World Portuguese Language Day will take place every year on May  5th. More than 260 thousand people use Portuguese daily as their mother tongue, in addition to many others who, after discovering it, fell in love with it. The Portuguese language has always had its own identity, is recognized at every social level, and is constantly evolving, but this initiative provides it with additional value in terms of notability as a global language and a vehicle of international communication. 

In this inaugural celebration, the president of the Portuguese Republic, Marcello Rebelo de Souza, highlighted the strength of the language spoken in five continents; praised the brilliance of authors such as Camões, Saramago, Mia Couto, Jorge Amado, Hélder Proença, Rubem Fonseca, and all those who, by using it, continuously enrich it. The president has defined the Portuguese language as “a language of the future, alive, different in unity, that changes over time and space, although remains the same in essence”.

The Director-General of Unesco, Audrey Azoulay, has expressed her thoughts stating that Portuguese is a creative language, of music, literature, and cinema, and at the same time, it is a language of science, innovation, pedagogy, and solidarity. “A language of seas and oceans”, she has defined it. Yes, it is a language of seas and oceans thanks to the Portuguese exploration in the 15th century that dawned the Age of Discoveries, allowing the Portuguese to leave important traits in many different cultures.

portuguese=landing-in-brazil-1500The landing of Pedro Alvares Cabral in Brazil in 1500 – Museo Paulista, Public domain Mark 1.0, Wikimedia Commons.

Navigating around Africa and sailing across the Atlantic Ocean, the Portuguese arrived in Brazil in 1500. This route contributed to the spreading of the Portuguese language in five continents (excluding Antarctica) making it become the official language in nine countries in the world: Portugal, Brazil, Angola, São Tomé and Principe, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, East Timor, and Macau. We find traces of the Portuguese language also in India, France, Spain, Venezuela, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Japan, among others, making it the 6th most spoken mother tongue around the world. Now, it reiterates its importance as a working language in international organizations such as the European Union, the Organization of American States, and the Mercosur.

“The Portuguese language is built daily by people from all continents, in a never-ending enrichment of its multiculturalism”, said the secretary-general of the United Nations, António Guterres, emphasizing that the date is a “fair recognition of the Portuguese language’s global relevance”. In Portugal, to celebrate the first World Portuguese Language Day and the 30th anniversary of the International Association for Portuguese Language Communication, the CTT (Post office and Telegraphs) have issued a set of stamps with a print run of 100 thousand copies.

In Brazil, the celebration occurs along with the Capital’s 60th anniversary with the release of the book “Sonhar Brasília”, a collection of texts written by authors from the countries belonging to CPLP–Community of the Portuguese-speaking countries, created in 1996. The work, composed of unpublished and illustrated texts, is the first common publication among the Portuguese-speaking countries which highlights the cultural and linguistic diversity of each of them. Meanwhile, the celebrations have been adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and the launch of the print edition has been postponed to the second half of 2020. Although the celebrations were hampered by the Covid-19 pandemic and the launch of the print edition was initially postponed, a free digital version is available at Unesco’s digital library.

national-labrary-rio-de- janeiroThe National Library of Rio de Janeiro, is one of many legacies left by the Portuguese in Brazil. Halleypo, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

portuguese-language-museum-sao-paulo

The Luz Station houses the Museum of the Portuguese Language –Cralize Dominio pubblico

Dom Pedro II image - Public Domain

Pedro II (in English Peter II) ruled Brazil between 1831 and 1889 when the monarchy was abolished. He was the second and last Emperor of Brazil and died in 1891 in exile in France. When preparing the body, Gaston d’Orléans (Gaston of Orleans) the Count of Eu, married with the emperor’s daughter princess Isabel, found among  Pedro’s personal objects a package containing soil from Brazil and next to it a message: “It is soil from my country, I wish for it to be placed inside my coffin in case I die away from my homeland.” Following his will, the package was placed next to him in the coffin. His remains returned to Brazil in 1921. The emperor’s body is kept in the Cathedral of São Pedro de Alcântara in Petrópolis, a city founded by him in the State of Rio de Janeiro. Pedro II is recognized as “the perpetual defender of Brazil”. In his final words, he expressed a wish: “May God grant me these last wishes—peace and prosperity for Brazil” (below the crown worn by Dom Pedro in his coronation as Emperor of Brazil in 1841)


 

What now, José?

What now, José? If the Portuguese language is becoming more and more important due to economic relations, in my view it’s the literature that shows its higher value. I recognize the greatness of Portuguese-speaking authors, from Camões, Saramago. Mia Couto and many others, but here I will stand for my own side. “No tempo do eu menino”, as said by the poet Manuel Bandeira when referring to when he was just a boy, my father opened widely to me the doors to the world of books. As soon as I was born (you see, he was a bit exaggerated), he started to buy me small storybooks, and I still remember my treasure: hundreds of little books. So very early on, he gave me his greatest legacy, the taste of reading.

First, I slipped into the magical world of those little books and without realizing many years later I had dived into the “Reino das Águas Claras” (in free translation “Kingdom of the Clear Waters”), of the Brazilian writer and translator Monteiro Lobato, known for his works and characters. Fantasy has accompanied me over the years and even when I grew up it didn’t take any effort to “follow” Emília, Monteiro Lobato’s naughty doll, who left the pages of his books gaining television space. From book to book, I’ve built my way: I shared with Cecília Meireles (poet and writer) the heavy and everlasting doubt “whether to wear a glove or a ring” and I got lost in reflection; I flew with the “Asas de Papel” (Paper Wings), created by Marcelo Xavier and together we arrived “at the king’s party”. We have “crossed time as if we were passing through a door”.

These authors are the tip of the iceberg of Brazilian literature. Diving in those “Clear Waters” of the “Sítio do Pica-pau Amarelo” (in free translation “Yellow Woodpecker Farm) is also a dip in the works that came later: Machado de Assis, José de Alencar, Graciliano Ramos, Guimarães Rosa, Jorge Amado, João Cabral de Melo Neto, Joaquim Manuel de Macedo and Rubem Braga, among many others. Even stumbling on that “stone in the middle of the road”, left by Carlos Drummond de Andrade was decisive to me because I was able to experience that stumbling sometimes can lead us forward more quickly, and that’s how I found Ruth Rocha, Ana Maria Machado, Luís Fernando Verissimo, Ariano Suassuna, Carlos Eduardo Novaes and Millôr Fernandes. And, how not to love the “Velha Contrabandista” (the Old lady smuggler) by Stanislaw Ponte Preta, “Abobrinha” (the Pumpkin) by Drummond, or Fernando Sabino’s “Singular Eloquence” (“Eloquência Singular”?

But I won’t be the one to say what the Portuguese language represents. I call in question Clarice Lispector, Ukrainian writer, journalist, and translator, naturalized Brazilian, who passed away in 1977. In an interview, she confessed: “This is a declaration of love. I love the Portuguese language. It’s not easy. It’s not malleable. […] The Portuguese language is a real challenge for anyone who writes. Especially for those who write taking the first layer of superficiality from things and people. Sometimes it reacts to a more complicated thought. Sometimes it gets scared by the unpredictable in a sentence. I like to handle it – as I liked to handle a horse and lead it by the reins, sometimes slowly, sometimes at a gallop.” For sure, I couldn’t have ended May without validating this statement.

The bronze statue sitting on a bench on Copacabana beach, the neighborhood where the poet lived for many years and where he liked to sit in the late afternoons to listen to the noise of the sea and watch the sunset. Drummond left us in 1987 and the statue was unveiled in 2002. Photo by Carlos Varela- Flickr.

Carlos Drummond de Andrade, depicted on a Brazilian 50 cruzados novo banknote, 1990. Image from Wikimedia Commons.Image by Ecliptics, Wikimedia Commons, Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International.

José
Carlos Drummond de Andrade

What now, José?
The party’s over,
the light went off,
the people are gone,
the night’s gone colder,
what now, José?
what now,  you?
you, who are nameless,
who mocks others,
you, who makes verses,
who loves, protests?
What now, José?

You have no love,
have nothing to say,
have no tenderness, 
can’t drink anymore,
can’t smoke anymore,
let alone spit,
the night’s gone colder,
dawn hasn’t come,
the tram hasn’t come,
laughter hasn’t come,
nor utopia come
and it’s all over
and it’s all fled
and it’s all got moldy,
what now, José?

What now, José?
your kind word,
your glimpse of fever,
your greed and fasting,
your library,
your vein of gold,
your suit of glass,
your incoherence,
your hate — what now?

With the keys in your hand
you want to open the door,
there is no door;
you want to drown in the sea,
but the sea dried up,
you want to go home,
but home isn’t there.
José, what now?

If you’d scream,
if you’d groan,
if you’d play,
the Viennese waltz,
if you’d sleep,
if you’d get tired,
if you’d die…
But you don’t die,
you are tough, José!

Alone in the dark
like a beast in a lair,
with no pagan gods,
with no bare wall
to lean against,
with no black horse
that flees at a gallop,
you march on, José!
José, where to?

eye-glasses

 

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