September 28, 2009

Sophia Loren – a Living Symbol of Art

Sophia Loren in Athens
By Niccolò Graffio

The late philosopher and novelist Ayn Rand defined art as “…a selective recreation of reality according to an artist’s metaphysical value-judgments.” Since early modern humans first appeared in Europe approx. 40,000 years ago, mankind has “selectively recreated reality” in numerous ways for many different purposes.

Many early civilizations, like Ancient Egypt and Minoan Crete, produced artworks (now mostly in museums) which continue to amaze people to this day. Each culture developed their own style of art.

It was the Greeks of the Hellenic Age, however, who were the first to venerate the human body and to develop the skills necessary to correctly recreate the human form down to minute detail. The Greeks, like the Romans after them, were especially fond of venerating the female human form. Perhaps no artwork better exemplified this than the famous statue “Aphrodite of Cnidus” by Praxiteles. After the fall of Rome, this veneration would not be seen again in Western art until the Age of the Renaissance.

The beginning of the 20th century saw the birth of film as both an art form and an industry, and with it the rise in popularity of what has been termed the “sex symbol.” The century saw a plethora of men and women labeled sex symbols, but only a few, such as Lillian Russell, Rita Hayworth & Marilyn Monroe, who could truly be considered icons. This article is a labor of love to one who is not only counted among the “greats,” but who rose above them to become a true symbol of feminine beauty – Sophia Loren.

Sophia showing her Southern Pride
Sofia Villani Scicolone was born in Rome, Italy on September 20, 1934. Her parents, both Campanians, never married, and her father left the family shortly after her birth (nice guy), forcing her mother to take Sofia and her sister Maria to Puzzuoli, a town outside Naples to live with Sofia’s grandmother. At the outbreak of WW2, the family moved to Naples.

Growing up in the slums of Naples, Sofia (by her own admission) was a tall, skinny tomboy who liked playing sports in the streets with neighborhood children, who nicknamed her “Stechetto” (lit: “Stick”). The coming of puberty saw her begin to blossom into young womanhood, however, and at the age of 14 she entered a beauty contest, making it to the finals.

At the age of 15 she entered another beauty contest where she met her future husband Carlo Ponti (who was one of the judges and 24 years her senior). Her first movie role was as an extra in the movie Quo Vadis which launched her career as an actress. It was around this time she changed her name to Sophia Loren. She married Ponti at the age of 21 and they had two sons: Carlo Jr. & Edoardo.

Sophia Loren with Sicilian marionette
Her fame as an actress took off beginning in the late 1950s with roles in such films as Desire Under the ElmsHouseboat and Vittorio De Sica’s Two Women (arguably her greatest performance). She won her only Academy Award for this last performance. Her career as an actress reached its height in the film The Decline of the Roman Empire.

In addition to acting, she recorded over 24 songs during her career, including a gold album. By the 1960s she was an internationally celebrated beauty on par with the legendary Marilyn Monroe. She was actively courted by actors Cary Grant and Peter Sellers, both of whom expressed a desire to marry her. Though she rebuffed their proposals, she remained close friends with them for the remainder of their lives.

Later in her life she successfully lent her name to lines of products such as perfume, eyewear and jewelry. She even wrote her own cookbooks. Known for her sharp wit as well as her beauty, she once famously said of herself:
“Everything you see I owe to spaghetti.”
In 1991 the Academy for Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented her its Honorary Award for her contributions to world cinema and proclaimed her “one of the world cinema’s treasures.” In 1995 she was presented with the Golden Globe Cecil B. De Mille Award. In 1999 in a nationwide poll conducted by UK beauty company Beautiko of thousands of Brits between the ages of 20 to 40, she was voted the “most beautiful woman in the world.” Her photo was then sealed in the Millennium Vault, Europe’s largest time capsule, to be opened in the year 3000.

In perhaps one of the greatest (and fitting when you think about it) of ironic twists, a woman who clearly shows her Southern Italian origin on her face (and wears it with pride) is universally considered the living symbol (and greatest beauty) of a country that has done little for her people since the infamous Risorgimento. I need say no more.

Also see:

Famous quotes about Sophia Loren: 
“I never saw so much woman come at me in my entire life!” – actor William Holden (reminiscing about his first encounter with La Loren).
“She is so sensual that most men must have a mad desire to tear off her clothes. However, they do not even dare to take her hand because she looks so distinguished, natural and discreet.” – actor Cary Grant.

September 22, 2009

New York City's Feast of San Gennaro Pictorial

Viva San Gennaro!
New York City's "Little Italy" appeared to stretch all the way to the Empire State Building today as throngs of revelers turned out to celebrate the Saint's feast day.
Southern Italian cuisine and culture still dominates this once thriving Neapolitan stronghold.
In addition to the usual Southern fare, Sicilian torrone is always a crowed favorite.
Another look at the Saint as the procession winds its way through the narrow streets of "Little Italy."
(Photos by New York Scugnizzo)

September 21, 2009

Ettore Majorana

Ettore Majorana
By Niccolò Graffio

Nowadays when students in high school learn about the basics of the science of Physics, the name of Albert Einstein invariably crops up. This is in large part due to his work in relativity theory, for which he justly won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921. If any of these students wish to dig further, they might come across the names of other "giants" such as Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, Enrico Fermi, etc.

One name, however, which has been largely forgotten (outside of Physics circles, anyway) is that of Ettore Majorana. Majorana was born in Catania, Sicily on August 5, 1906. Originally an engineering student, he switched his major at university to Physics at the urging of Nobel Laureate, Emilio Segré, who recognized in him the seed of genius.

At an early age Majorana became a part of the "Via Panisperna boys," the team of gifted, young scientists assembled under physicist Enrico Fermi who took their name from the street they worked on in Rome, Italy. Two of these scientists (Oscar D'Agostino & Ettore Majorana) were from Southern Italy/Sicily (D'Agostino was born in Avellino, Campania). Among the discoveries made by this group were the existence of slow neutrons (which later made it possible to construct nuclear reactors), a further understanding of the structure of the atomic nucleus and the forces acting on it, and beta decay. Thus, it could be argued cogently the Atomic Age had its beginnings, not in America (as is taught here), but in Italy.

In his lifetime, Majorana had the privilege of working with not one, but three Nobel Laureates in Physics (the above mentioned Bohr, Heisenberg & Fermi). He became close, personal friends with Heisenberg and Fermi. An interesting anecdote relayed by physicists Emilio Segré and Giancarlo Wick has it that Majorana correctly predicted the existence of the subatomic particle known as the neutron several years before its discovery by James Chadwick, but he refused to write down his hypothesis, even though Fermi himself urged Majorana to do so.

After 1933, Majorana's health began to decline, due to gastritis. He disappeared under mysterious circumstances in March of 1938 while on a ship from Palermo to Naples. His body was never found and the two most likely scenarios are either suicide or murder.

"There are many categories of scientists, people of second and third rank, who do their best, but do not go very far. There are also people of first class, who make great discoveries, which are of capital importance for the development of science. But then there are the geniuses, like Galilei and Newton. Well, Ettore was one of these. Majorana had greater gifts that anyone else in the world; unfortunately he lacked one quality which other men generally have: plain common sense." - Enrico Fermi (as reported by Giuseppe Cocconi)


September 10, 2009

The Reconquest of Otranto

The remains of the Martyrs in the Cattedrale di Santa Maria Annunciata
As Americans prepare to reaffirm their vow to "Never forget" the heinous attacks of September 11, 2001, we recall the horrifying assault on our ancestral homeland and it's valiant reconquest.

On September 10, 1481 a Neapolitan army under Duke Alfonso of Calabria with his Hungarian allies recovered the city of Otranto from the Ottoman Turks. A year earlier the city had fallen to the invaders in a bloodbath of wanton cruelty in their overambitious attempt to reduce the Italian peninsula into a Muslim Caliphate. The rampaging Turks sacked the city and pillaged the surrounding region. None escaped their wrath: Priests were murdered, nuns were raped, elderly were slain, and the women and children were sold into slavery. The surviving men were offered a chance to convert to Islam, but to a man the eight captives refused. They were butchered en masse.

If not for the timely demise of the Turkish Sultan Mehemt the Conqueror in 1481, and the subsequent withdrawal of the Ottoman commander Pasha Ahmet with the bulk of his forces into Albania, the Italian peninsular could have suffered the same cruel fate as the Balkans.

The remaining Ottoman garrison of about 2,000 soldiers were to hold Otranto until Pasha Ahmet returned with reinforcements. However, Duke Alfonso at the head of the Holy League retook Otranto by force, slaughtering the invaders and destroying their beachhead in the Kingdom of Naples. Fittingly, Pasha Ahmet was recalled to Istanbul (Constantinople) and executed by the new Sultan.

Today we remember Duke Alfonso and the brave men who saved Southern Italy from the yoke of Ottoman oppression. To be sure, Southern Italy continued to fall prey to rapacious Muslim corsairs over the centuries, suffering unknown losses, but the threat of a full blown invasion by the Turks was no longer a possibility.

September 5, 2009

Proclamazioni de Francesco

HM King Francesco II
On September 5, 1860, King Francis II of the Two Sicilies left Naples for Gaeta as the invading forces of Garibaldi approached the southern capital. Before leaving the King issued a final proclamation to his subjects:
"People of Naples:Of all of the duties demanded of a monarch, those performed in times of adversity are the most difficult and solemn, and I intend to carry them out in a manner and spirit befitting a descendant of so long a line of kings .... Regretfully, I must now leave Naples. An unjust war, one which was not wanted by the people, has overrun my kingdom, despite the fact that I was at peace with all of the European powers .... My paramount concern now is to protect this illustrious city, ... to protect its people from ruin and war, to safeguard its inhabitants and their possessions, the holy temples, the monuments, the public buildings, the art galleries, and everything else that constitutes the patrimony of its civilization and greatness, which, belonging to future generations, must not be sacrificed to transitory passions of the moment .... 
"War is approaching the walls of the city; and it is with ineffable sadness that I leave .... I commend the devotion of the ministry ... and I call upon the honor and civic sense of the mayor of Naples and the commander of the police to spare our beloved city the horrors of internal disturbances .... 
"As a descendant of a dynasty that has ruled over this kingdom for 126 years, after having saved it from the prolonged miseries of the viceregal government, my affections remain here. I am a Neapolitan; and cannot bid farewell to my beloved people, my compatriots, without bitter grief. 
"Whatever my destiny may be, I will always cherish for them a lasting and affectionate memory. I recommend to them peace and concord and observance of their duties as citizens. Let not an immoderate attachment for my crown become a source of turbulence. If the course of the present war should lead me back among you, or if on some future day it may please God to restore me to the throne of my ancestors, rendered more splendid by the free institutions with which I have endowed it, what I most fervently pray for is to find my people united, strong, and happy."
(Reprinted from Modern Naples: A documentary history, 1799-1999 by John Santore, Italica Press, 2001, p. 174-175)

September 1, 2009

A Look at Our Nemesis: Past and Present

HM Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies
By Lucian

I was not very familiar with the Bourbons until I began studying history on my own, one of the many things that highlighted how incomplete a standard education can be these days. When historical figures are demonized so strongly it would make sense that accurate and verifiable information about them would be readily available. In reality those who are portrayed as historical avatars of evil are difficult to research objectively, important facts surrounding them are either hard to find or are obscured by the often contradictory propaganda against them. The most obvious explanation for this is that history is written, or re-written, by the winners, and if there are gaps where logically there should not be, it is because someone doesn’t wish us to see what is there.

In 1848 the House of Bourbon decisively put down a revolution in Naples. Many Bourbon holdings had fallen to the revolutionaries and it was a surprise to the supporters of the “Revolution” that the King of Naples had turned defeat into victory there. What surprised me is the attention the event provoked from the two men that are widely considered the fathers of modern communism, Marx and Engles. Although the Bourbon’s are still popular in Southern Italy, I cannot claim to be a fan of absolute monarchy. However, I’m much less fond of Marxism and its consequences. The fact that Engles felt so strongly about the Bourbons makes them worth a second look; that he took the time to openly publish anti-Bourbon propaganda in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung (No. 1, June 1, 1848) makes it even more important to review both the Bourbons and the forces arrayed against them. With his critique, Engels forces us to question the nature of the revolution in Naples, and its possible connection to the supporters of the Risorgimento. The following are excerpts from Engles essay:
"The House of Bourbon has not yet reached the end of its glorious career. True, its white flag has recently been rather besmirched and its withering lilies are drooping sadly enough. Charles Louis of Bourbon bartered away one dukedom [Lucca] and to abandon a second one [Parma] ignominiously; Ferdinand of Bourbon lost Sicily and in Naples was forced to grant a Constitution to the revolution. Louis Philippe, although only a crypto-Bourbon, nevertheless went the way of all French-Bourbon flesh across the Channel to England. But the Neapolitan Bourbon has avenged the honour of his family brilliantly."
"The House of Bourbon, however, may for the time being breathe a sigh of relief. Nowhere has the reaction which set in again after February 24 [overthrow of Louis Philippe] achieved such a decisive victory as at Naples and this in spite of the fact that the first of this year’s revolutions began precisely in Naples and Sicily. The revolutionary tidal wave, however, which has inundated Old Europe, cannot be checked by absolutist conspiracies and coups d'état. By his counter-revolution of May 15, Ferdinand of Bourbon has laid the cornerstone of the Italian republic. Already Calabria is in flames, in Palermo a Provisional Government has been formed and the Abruzzi will also erupt. The inhabitants of all the exploited provinces will move upon Naples and, united with the people of that city, will take revenge on the royal traitor and his brutal mercenaries. And when Ferdinand falls he will at least have had the satisfaction of having lived and died a true Bourbon."
The recent revolution in France was still clearly in the minds of Nobles across Europe; it was referred to as “The Terror.” Is it any wonder that the Bourbons reacted strongly against any similar attempt in their own kingdom? It never ceases to amaze me when Marxists become upset with enemies that do not lie down and allow themselves to be butchered by them. This combination of brutality and naiveté is typical of movements led by dishonest men and soldiered by the least educated and simplest folk they could recruit.
Marx and Engles helped provoke revolutions throughout Europe. Engles was a wealthy German, and Marx was a phony that always lived among the Bourgeois. Even in his exile (to England ironically), he sometimes lived on handouts from Engles instead of getting his hands dirty with real proletarian work. Neither one of them led the revolutionaries directly, nor did they have much in common with the poor people that they convinced to bleed and die for their cause. Those people were only a means to an end.

The “Revolution” never benefits the workers. It was designed to shift power from the old Noble families to their rivals who sprung from the merchant class, people like Marx and Engles themselves. The Marxists got around the “divine-right” of kings by eliminating religion, and reduced the competition by eliminating the remaining middle class. In the end they reduce the workers to serfdom again by abolishing private property. Today they encourage class warfare to achieve the same goal, whether the current ruling class is oppressive or not is not the point, the Marxists certainly will be. The Marxists, like the Moslems, have been targeting Europe for a long time, and “softer” versions of their ideology, such as liberal egalitarianism, eventually deliver the same results. The enemies of European tradition and ethnic identity may have changed names, but not their character.

Marxism can be said to be the child of the Jacobins who instigated the “Terror” in France and many revolutions abroad. While Marx and Engles eventually became critical of the Jacobins, their differences with them involve political structure in the post-revolution, they had no problem with their methods; the torture, rape, and mass butchering of their victims was an accepted part of their glorious “Revolution.” The suppression of regional differences and persecution of ethnic groups were a hallmark of true Jacobinism in France, just as it was in the Soviet Union. Interestingly enough, the Piedmontese conquest of the South was similar in terms of ethnic leveling. Consider the famous words of Massimo D’Azeglio: “We have made Italy, now we have to make Italians.” 

Giuseppe Garibaldi – False Idol
Garibaldi and his  redshirts had support from “revolutionaries” such as the Carbonari and other troublemakers in the South, who in turn were supported by Marxists. If indeed the Risorgimento was even partially supported by Marxists, the censoring of the atrocities against Southern Italy makes more sense. (Similar Marxist atrocities have been downplayed in Poland, Spain, Ukraine, Germany and a dozen other European countries, including Russia itself.) If Garibaldi’s invasion suited their purposes, the Marxists would certainly do their best to censor or attempt to justify any atrocities that were committed.

As for the Bourbons, their history is both positive and negative; but they are part of the history of the Mezzogiorno and sometimes you have to accept the bad with the good. Under the rule of the Bourbons most of the traditions and culture of Southern Italy were left intact. There are many Southern Italians who view the Bourbons favorably, and they have many good things to say about them, so regardless of any negatives that may come with them the Bourbons have a solid place in Southern Italian history and culture.

Inevitably there will be some who disagree with this assessment, and they certainly have the right to, but there is a more practical viewpoint to consider. The Bourbons are no longer in power, nor do their descendents have any realistic influence in modern politics. Conversely, there are other clear and immediate threats to all European ethnicities existing today. Marxists are anti-religion and anti-tradition. They will flood Europe with as many immigrants as possible to swell the ranks of the communist party and intimidate the native European populations. They will replace our culture and traditions with their hollow and self-serving ideology. Islam seeks to do something similar, but instead of eliminating religion and tradition they seek to replace it with their own, making loyalty to Islam take precedence over patria and ethnicity. They too will flood Europe with their own supporters from Africa and the Middle East to dominate us. They openly state this during their demonstrations and riots.

The Bourbons may be a point of difference between Identitarians in different parts of Europe, but this difference should be academic when we are facing Marxism and Islam, which are a current threat to our traditions, religions and whatever hope of ethnic autonomy we retain. Let us deal with the greatest threats first, after that the rest will seem easy.

The Feast of Santa Rosalia (18th Ave Feast)

18th Avenue in the rain and a detail of the statue of Santa Rosalia
By Giovanni di Napoli

Every year in Bensonhurst the locals celebrate the Feast of Santa Rosalia. Although she is the patron saint of Palermo during “The Feast” the entire Sicilian and Southern Italian community venerate her. This year the festival spans from August 27th through September 6th.
So far (as of this writing) I attended the celebration twice this year. The first night I went it rained, so there was obviously a poor turnout. The weather was better the following day so I used it as an excuse to get another vesteda sandwich and some zeppole. Sadly, the feast is not as popular as years gone by. The event has lost a lot of its character and in my opinion there are many reasons why.

The most obvious explanation for the feast’s decline is that the neighborhood is a pale shadow of what it once was. No longer a staunch working class Southern Italian enclave (that once vied with Manhattan for the right to call itself New York City’s “Little Italy”) it is now home to more recent immigrants primarily from Asia and the former Soviet Union.

Secondly, in its quest to be more inclusive the vibrant cultural event has become just another vacuous street bazaar with the same generic vendors found at any flea market. Where once thousands of revelers gathered to celebrate their faith and culture there are now dispassionate individuals simply looking for something to distract them from the daily monotony. This is further evidence that multiculturalism is not culture but is in fact anti-cultural.

If not for the traditional cuisine, which now competes with other ethnic fare, there would be absolutely nothing remotely cultural about the festival. Folk dance, music, literature, and art are non-existent. And except for the effigy of the patroness, so the pious could donate money to the parish, there is nothing at all spiritual either.

Maybe it’s just me but when I attend a Sicilian or Southern Italian fair I don’t want to listen to hip-hop or eat other cuisines. I’m there to partake in an authentic folk experience. We remaining “holdouts” must take pride in our own heritage and culture or we will disappear forever.

Vestiges of our community in Bensonhurst