“Celebrating” the World Aids Day

Dear readers and fellow bloggers:

Good morning and Happy Sunday to you all. Today many civic organisations, Public Health institutions. Health Care advocacy groups, Non-Profit organisations and the common citizenry all over the planet are “celebrating” the World Aids Day. We started our clinical training when this terrible disease had not been properly identified but it was already decimating entire communities, especially Gays, Minorities and the Poor. It was a time when also someone we knew personally had the misfortune of getting this diagnosis, which was equivalent to a death sentence at the time. We still shudder remembering all the wasted youth that we saw wither away in the clinical wards, in spite of all our professional efforts to save them. It was extremely frustrating for all health care practitioners.

Fortunately we have now many excellent pharmaceutical treatments and preventive schedules for this infection, which has saved countless people and afforded them a good quality of life even though they carry a chronic disease. The sustained promotion of safety measures for safe sex has dramatically curtailed its incidence in the population. However, it is still an ongoing epidemic, which has not been completely eradicated yet. In modern societies, four large segments of the population are bearing its brunt now:

a- Young people between 16 and 20 years of age

b- Women older than 65 years old

c – Intravenous drug abusers in the developed societies

d – The vulnerable population tier of under-developed societies

The first group of people were born long after the 80s and 90s when the disease ravaged our societies and the basic Public Health measures to prevent its spread were enacted; the lack of a dramatic narrative has desensitized them to the need to protect themselves. The second group has been largely victimized by men who have not used the proper protection in the sexual interactions with partners . The third group is still exposed to the dangerous sharing of needles and the concomitant infections of syphilis and gonorrhea. The last group suffer the consequences of economic inequality and unfair access to health care services in poor societies, including the good availability of retro-viral agents.

We must continue our medical, sanitary and institutional efforts to combat this life-threatening disease and we should participate in all the civic-minded initiatives. In our next blogging season starting in March 2020, we will write a series of articles about it, thus providing our little grain of sand to the humongous dune of necessary containment. Thank you very much for suggesting the critical topics that we should be discussing, which shakes us from the inevitable torpor that may grip us after these half-won battles. AIDS is still a major Public Health threat for all societies, rich and poor, of planet Earth. Any major natural or made-made catastrophe can re-awaken that dormant monster that could potentially overwhelm all the firewalls erected to contain it over so many years.

Nobody is free from any of its tragic effects. Nobody.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

Bon anniversaire Joseph Antoine Ferdinand

On October 14, 1801, Joseph Antoine Ferdinand Plateau was born in Brussels, Belgium, and he would become the mathematician and scientist that pioneered the use of fixed images to create the illusion of movement, the primitive forerunner of our cinema. The fabulous featured image of his invention in this posting has been reproduced from a Wikipedia article.

In 1829 he submitted his doctoral thesis where he discussed in a mere 27 pages the data on his experiments of the effects of color on the retina, the intersections of revolving curves, the distortion of revolving images and the reconstruction of distorted images through counter-revolving discs. On December 1832, he made a primitive stroboscopic device that gave the illusion of movement to the observing eye, which he initially named as the fantascope.  It basically consisted of two discs rotating in opposite directions; the front disc had several little windows carved out and the back disc had a series of images. Provided with the right spinning speed, an illusion of moving is recreated in our brains.

In a June 1833 article in the daily Le Figaro, his new stroboscopic device was re-named as the phénakistiscope, which is a compound derivation of the Greek Language; the word phenakisticos means “to deceive” and the word óps means “the eye” or “the face.” His critical invention is certainly to blame for the zillions of hours of enjoyable deception that Humankind has been enjoying in the glimmering light of a cinema or at home.

Coup de chapeau pour toi, génial inventeur et grand innovateur. Bon anniversaire!

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

Eppur Cristoforo e arrivato

Dear readers and fellow bloggers:

Good morning. Today is a special day for all the Americans (meaning all those persons born in the American continent and not just the USA) and especially for us Italian-Americans. On October 12, 1492, Cristoforo Colombo, a Genovese navigator at the service of the Spanish Crown, landed somewhere in the Abacos Islands of the Bahamas and claimed the land. For generations we have celebrated this day in schools of Uruguay and Argentina under the guise of the mendacious “Discovery of America” or the disgusting “Day of the Race.”

Precisely in Uruguay the genocide of the indigenous population by the European settlers was systematic with the last few members of the Charrúa tribe transported to Paris in the Nineteenth Century where they were paraded in the ultimate humiliation. Uruguayans pride themselves in the moniker of “charrúa” in the football competitions of the national team, a tragi-comic endurance of the name of an extinguished community. We must pause and ponder our collective guilt in their persecution and extermination.

However, the date is still the valid reminder that some hardy Spanish sailors did arrive in these coasts and started a colonization that with its illuminated and dark aspects has marked the inhabitants of this great continent for many past, present and future years. The European conquerors, with cruelty and determination, did bring a modicum of innovation to our countries when the Industrial Revolution changed the production of marketable goods for a more massive consumption and the rising of living standards.

We salute the valiant and gallant Cristoforo Colombo for his feat of exploring the fringes of the known world at the time; moreover we applaud his decision to renounce your Royal commission when he could not impede the pillage and assassination of natives. Moreover the dark complicity of many members of the Catholic Church hierarchy and priesthood must be emphasized by all the honest active Catholics in the continent. Would the economic and sociological development of the Americas have taken a more benign course without the European invasion and sacking of its natural resources?

Eduardo Galeano wrote in Las venas abiertas de America Latina that the present day power dynamics in Latin america has been enabled by the tragic Spanish conquest. He wrote his seminal book five decades ago, when the oligarchies and military dictatorships had all the levers of power in our countries, sidelining the rest to slow death by misery. In the past few decades there has been a slow democratization and empowerment of the middle classes that has pulled millions of Americans out of ignorance and squalor. Will this democratic process continue in favor of the more deprived segments of society?

We don’t have the answer to that question as these societies are still in constant flux .

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

Happy birthday dear John

Dear readers and fellow bloggers:

Good morning. Today we celebrate the birthday of one of the greatest musicians of our generation, John Lennon, co-founder of the Fab Four with Paul and George (Ringo came later). He had a very trying childhood as first his sailor father abruptly disappeared one day without leaving any traces and then his troubled mother absconded too: raised by a tender aunt, he managed to become an enlightened composer and gifted guitarist.

When he was five years old, his parents decided to separate for good and put him in a terribly hurtful bind when they confronted him with a question. “I’m leaving for New Zealand,” his father said.”Who do you want stay with? Me? Or your mother?” John candidly initially chose his father but when he was about to leave their flat in dreary Manchester, he broke out in tears and raced to embrace his mother. He stayed there. Can you imagine that if it weren’t for that totally fortuitous coup de coeur, we would have been deprived of the magic music of the Fab Four, changing our adolescence forever?

How many times have we cheered, laughed and even cried with his compositions?  He is an indissoluble part of our past and heritage. While we listen again to Imagine, let us raise a glass of wine, or a stout better still, tonight in honor of his unique life and legacy. We always have the impression that he never left us that tragic day in New York City but entered into a parallel realm of inspiration for all his sensitive, peace-loving admirers.

Cheers, mate!

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

Have a great Day of Atonement

Dear readers and fellow bloggers:

Today Wednesday October 9th at sundown, the faithful Jews will hear the sound of the shofar that will mark the beginning of their New Year, after 24 hours of atonement. Our Jewish cousins will rejoice with their family members in a dinner that breaks the fast. Being our closer eldest relatives, Christians must  accompany their holy celebration.

We wish all our Jewish friends and readers a fruitful Yom Kippur that will precede their inscription by God Almighty in the Book of Life for yet another year. Congratulations!

What do you think? please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

The Italian tradition of eating gnocchi on the 29th of each month

The impenetrably thick mist was implacably bearing down on the Venetian plain like a giant’s foot. All the impoverished peasants toiling hard for the absentee landlords rushed to their huts. An elderly couple that usually lamented their miserable life had an unusual treat that night. The man brought two potatoes from the field and his wife prepared dumplings. In the sturdy cast iron cooking pot over the small fire they cooked them for a few minutes. Once they popped up to the water’s surface, they picked them up to serve on plates.

The couple smiled at each other and humbly sat on the table lit with a skinny candle. The wife had divided the dish in two equal portions of five dumplings for each one. They put a days’ old piece of rye bread and some leftover Christmas red wine on the table; it was December 29, a few days after the only festivity they could afford to celebrate. At the precise moment when they were about to take a bite, they heard a knock on the door. Initially fearful that it could be a thief or something worse, they were totally paralyzed. There was a second round of knocking, harder than the first one. The old man got up.

When he opened the door, a sudden rush of freezing blizzard hit his face, blinding him. Once he recovered, he saw a tall bearded man, covered in rags but holding a big sword. -“My whole party drowned in a surging river,” he said.”Can I come in to get warm?” The old man spontaneously extended his hand and led the stranger inside, by the fire. The devout wife quickly re-arranged the meal and put six dumplings on a third plate. They sat down in total silence to share a meager meal with some energizing drink.

Once they finished the meal, the stranger asked to lay down by the fire. The homemaker set an old rug and pillow to make his sleep more comforting. When he took off the cloak to use it as a blanket, he briefly exposed a big red cross on top of his mesh metallic dress. With the ingrained submissiveness of the serfs for authority , they cast their eyes down. The old man and his wife huddled in the opposite corner of the room and fell asleep.

At dawn, the old man got up to start his workday and noticed that the stranger was gone. Relieved that the stranger could not harm them, they carried on with their tough duties. A few days later the old man saw a posse of chevaliers in full regalia and flying colors. When the group approached the peasant, one of them came forth and dismounted. With a clean shaven face and luxurious garments, the stunned peasant did not recognize him. -“Don’t be afraid,” he said. “I’m the one you gave refuge to that stormy winter night.”

The seigneur that owned all the land as far as the eye could see, was indebted to him. Returning form a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, his party was decimated and he got lost. Only the generous intervention of the peasant couple had barely saved his life that day. As a sign of gratitude, he released them from their indenture and gave them a plot. The old couple henceforth prospered and could finally help their children.

The significance of that folk tale has been transmitted to generations of Italians in the form of a tradition that does not go away: on the day 29 we eat potato gnocchi for luck. Our mothers and grandmothers put a coin under our plates and serve us that treat. In turn we relay the same tradition to our children, as we did last Sunday at our home. Being Italian, like being Hindu, implies sharing a great culture and not just a nationhood; our allegiance is not tied to a geographical area but to a communal sense of identity. Our family members had a limited command of the language, but we all breathed “Italian.” Safeguarding our heritage, we know where we came from and where we are going.

The featured image shows our original fusion dish that we had presumptuously labeled as Ottoman style-potato gnocchi because it mixes pasta, vegetables, figs and species; the latter included the Oregano, Turmeric and Moringa, which we will discuss in Wellness. We believe that the so-called traditional Italian cooking sorely needs a make-over to add veggies and fruits, avoiding the dire excess of acidic preparations, cream and cheese. There is nothing “sacred” about splurging on tomato sauce that provokes gastric acidity or milk products that raise your cholesterol level to the stratosphere. Not untouchable.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.