Sunday, October 21, 2018

Italy in 10 efficient days -- Rome (2-3 days)

True to my travelogue style, I'm going to give advice about what to do while you're in Italy, but I myself didn't follow this plan.

So I'll also tell you what actually happened.

Day 1: The first day I was in Italy I had no plans, so I just went to the National Roman Museum, which is right next to the Rome Termini station. It has a ton of ancient Roman artifacts, perhaps most famously the discus thrower. Otherwise, if you're planning on visiting the Vatican museums even a little bit and you're a little on a tight schedule, this museum is an easy miss. You can also get entry into the related museum (you can buy entry to one for 10 Euro and both for 12) to the old Roman bath ruins that are also right there by the train station. But you can also see basically some Roman bath ruins by going into the Basilica S.Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri, which is a part of the Roman bath building converted to a church by Mihelangelo. I checked into my hotel at around 3:00 pm and thought about just staying there (long flight and not a lot of sleep), but because I'm so hardcore about sleep schedules when traveling, 

I forced myself to uber over to some other second tier place. Ubers are good if you can't find a taxi stand (you don't really hail taxies, you have to find a taxi stand), although they are all black car so more expensive than American uber. Second tier activities, because I was going to be in Rome again in a week with another sociopath friend and I knew she would want to do all the first tier stuff with me. So I went to something that seemed safely second tier (although I ended up going again with socio friend just for a quick look), El Palazzo Doria Pamphilj. This one has a couple Berninis and a few Carravagios and it is a nice look into a Palazzo while also combining some important pieces of art. Heads up, there aren't really any big state run museums that have all the good art, but rather they all come from private collections and mostly have stayed in those collections, even if they're available for viewing by the general public, so don't expect something like the Louvre with a consolidated collection in Rome. But maybe the best thing about this Doria Pamphilij place is that the audio guide is narrated by one of the heirs to this family fortune/collection, and his little remembrances of his family are often hilarious glimpses into wealthy old money Italian families. I also saw the Palazzo Venezia, which is very missable unless you're into Mussolini locations, bu it was a good example of what the audio guide narrator at Doria Pamphilij said -- that in Rennaissance onward Roman society, it wasn't enough for a family to have money -- it had to have things. And that's what the Palazzo Venezia looks like, just room upon room of very precious (I'm sure), uninteresting things. I also took the elevator to the top of the Altare della Patria, which people say is the best view of Rome because you can't see the Altare della Patria in the horizon. ;) 

Day 2: I meet new friend Daniel who is maybe 7-ish on socio scale? He says he is on the more hyper rational side of things. We had emailed about hitchhiking down to Naples (he has a whole theory behind it, maybe he'll let me publish it) and had talked about leaving that day, but he said he'd rather spend one more day in Rome, so we just hung out. We met at the Colosseum, he looked at my shoes and was like, looks like you can walk around for 10 or 11 hours. Not quite, but a lot that way. We walked all over the place. They say walking is the best way to see Rome, and it is probably true, but also heads up that you need some good shoes for the rough cobblestone streets, sidewalks, and just all of the very hard surfaces you'll be on. We walked first to a park on the other side of the river that is high and has a good view and then on to St. Peter's, which is a masterpiece of architecture and the cleanest older church I have seen. It really looked like it could have been built in the last decade, it was so clean. Of course Michelangelo's Pieta is there in bulletproof glass, as well as a bunch of dead popes. No cost to go in, but a long wait for security with a lot of people from cultures who are not used to queuing. You can climb to the top of the sexy ass Michelangelo dome and should because it's sexy as hell. After, we hung out in the Vatican-y sort of area around the river and just wandering until I took a cab back to my hotel, which luckily had vacancy. I lost the first of my personal items there -- a jacket. I had packed light because of the hitchhiking plans, just a normal sized backpack, and I ended up losing basically half of my clothes on this trip. Tsk tsk.

Things I did later in Rome and that are worthwhile is a tour of the Sistine Chapel and Vatican. I did the Pristine Sistine, because I had such a good experience seeing Stonehenge early, but even before it allegedly opened it was packed. Maybe still a good idea if it's high season? And the Vatican museums seemed complicated to me, so it was nice to just burn there through with a guide explaining things. I also did a Colosseum and Roman Forum tour because I figured otherwise I wouldn't know what was going on in there. That was also probably a good idea because the ruins are so partial it's not clear what is what.

Finally, I went to the Borghese Gallery. Heads up, the way they do it is let a group in for two hour slots. Two hours is more than enough time to see everything, so no stress, even if I could have stayed longer. But! As is the case at a lot of places, what ends up happening is that middlemen buy up all the availability and so reservations have to be made at least a week in advance for your time slot or you can try to buy from these third party resellers. I ended up staying a day longer than I had planned. Because I stayed longer, I also did a Walks of Rome tour of the catacombs, which was also interesting, especially sort of piecing together the history of Rome with the history and spread of Christianity. If you're short on time and/or money but want a flavor of old Christianity and bones, another good option is just to see the Capuchin Crypt yourself, which is easily accessible within the city limit. It was very not crowded when I went and also has its own Caravaggio.

Also sort of must see is Bellini's Ecstasy of St. Theresa, which is just in a small church and is free to see but the hours are sort of particular. I went at least once when it was closed and then again when it was closing and sort of sketchy to see it after a Missa.




Thursday, October 11, 2018

Holiday Midwest, Chicago, Milwaukee, maybe Michigan and Ohio

Hey friends, I think I'm going to try to be in Milwaukee, Chicago, and maybe other places in Michigan and Ohio during the holiday week between Christmas and New Years and in the first week of January. Let me know if you would like to meet up.


Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Dachau and the problem of "evil"

I've spent a total of like 14 hours in the Copenhagen airport in the last 24 hours with delayed and then cancelled flights, but I wanted to write some quick thoughts about Dachau and evil while I wait for yet another European connecting flight before going home. I'll write more about the trip later.

Dachau is an interesting example of what people would call "evil". Dachau is a city in Bavaria and Dachau the prison and then concentration camp was the first of its kind and often used as a model for the construction of others. It began in the 1930s to house primarily all of the political prisoners that were occurring as Nazism had gained control over the German government and had gotten permission to protect the fatherland by eliminating or isolating potential threats. Interestingly, when they first obtained this permission through what was mostly still a legit democratically elected government, the pretense they gave for the need for such power was to protect their political rivals from the harm that might happen to the political rivals. In other words, they argued that their political rivals were so endangered by the political fury the Nazis themselves had worked so hard to foment via well placed propaganda preying upon the banal fears to which empaths in particular are susceptible. I sort of vaguely remember this being one of the given purposes for the establishment of Jewish ghettos as well -- that they were so hated that they needed to be separated for their own protection.

I went there with my German friend, which was interesting for me not so much because of who she is (sociopathic identifying, although that was also a little hilarious to sort of see the different ways she approached things than a more neurotypical person might), but because of how I reacted to her presence. I still have very low maybe non-existent affective empathy even post therapy, but one thing that I have always done particularly at the height of my manipulative ways is to be very aware of my audience and adjust my conversation and behavior to please. I still do this. I don't think it's bad, it's just being responsive to the context in which you find yourself, and the people around you are also part of that context. What I mean is that because she was German, I thought much more of the German perspective of what it would be like to live in Dachau -- a city that is still thriving but probably for a lot of the world will always be associated with the camp. Or what it might be like to just generally be German, especially a young German and be both so far removed from any connection to these events, but still inextricably entangled in them. And she had some very interesting thoughts about how the connection continues to affect the German sense of their national identity, like maybe they are less likely to be waving German flags in foreign places or making other overt shows of national pride, particularly while abroad.

So I found myself chatting with her about how the Germans have done a good job accepting responsibility for the things that their nation had done. They do and continue to do reparations, they have all of these memorial sites that are well attended and well maintained, and my German friend told me that the vast majority of her history lessons focused on WWII and with this idea of trying not to repeat past mistakes.

I also found myself saying things like despite the sheer magnitude of this particular path of human cruelty, the German example is not so singular. I had just been to Russia and seen a gulag, spoke at length with a local whose grandfather disappeared into a gulag long ago for the smallest of jokes about Stalin, and saw the affect that such a repressive regime still had. I had just spoken with new polish friend about some of the Russian slaughters of polish political prisoners. I also mentioned to new German friend that when I was in Russia and told people that I was visiting gulags that the U.S. has its own gulags -- the private prisons and terrible legal system that imprisons such a large proportion of its population, particularly its traditionally disadvantaged classes of people. I told her about how there has long been a Russian tu quoque response to American complaints about Russian civil rights violations -- "And you are lynching Negroes".

It was so easy to come up with examples of evil, not just of other nations both historical and contemporary, but personal examples and examples of very common brands of human cruelty -- the failure of common people to understand their fellows as being dynamic and capable of redemption, no matter what past misdeeds, the modern day stoning of public shaming done mostly via social media, the tribalism that has led to polarization and justification for violence and other "ends justify the minds" reasoning among such a broad swath of the population to a level I wouldn't have thought possible ten years ago.


The Germans have done a good job acknowledging the problem of evil, the fact that they as a nation fell susceptible to it generations ago, and trying to learn what this means for not just their own humanity and the dual good/bad that we all share, but for what it means when people do "bad" things to them. Do we judge as hypocrites? Do we falsely set ourselves up as being  beyond reproach?

Evil is not just banal, as Hannah Arendt famously argued, it is ubiquitous and we participate in it in ways small and big every day. When we can do as good of a job as the Germans do about acknowledging this and trying to learn from it and do better, I think the world would be such a better place.

Pictured, gate with the famous motto and lie that work will make free, crematorium, room marked showers that leads to a functioning gas chamber (although apparently never used), and "shower" head designed to dispense zylkon b for the efficient murder of people that were considered by their murders to themselves be "evil" and as such worth of such treatment.

Ok, my plane is boarding! Please forgive any typos or convoluted writing.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

How to Process Your Emotions

I thought this was a good, short video about how everyone has emotions that they don't process and how that is both influenced by societal expectations and has an ultimate affect on society:



It doesn't say anything terribly new, but this concept of having emotions that you don't even acknowledge as being emotions because they're happening at a level that you're not aware of is very much my traditional way of experiencing emotions.

It's not as if I was ever an emotionless void. But to the extent I did experience emotions, it's was if they were a conversation being had in another room -- or gossip about you that you're not aware of. I had physical or other symptoms (grouchiness). Like I would know that I felt tired or disinterested, but my awareness was more of my physical symptoms than being able to identify a specific source.

But even if I did have a greater awareness, I traditionally have not had the skills to process the emotion.

Through therapy I became more aware of and better at identifying my emotions, which solved the first problem. But then I had to (like everyone else) learn what to do with that knowledge. So I ended up with the same problem as everyone else in which I was experiencing general malaise, some generalized anxiety, and bad sleep because I had unacknowledged and unprocessed worries. Luckily once stuff starts affecting my sleep, I'm generally willing to do whatever it takes to figure out how to fix what's fixable. And in a way, as the video sort of alludes to at the end, although the way I lived my life was already following the philosophy of stoicism quite a bit, I became even more (via what I learned in therapy) an unintentional stoic. The key is this willingness to accept reality for what it is. Once that happens, I think most people are able to figure things out with just a little help maybe from a therapist or friend who sees things for how they truly are.  

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Italy and Munich in September

Hey friends, I’ll be in Italy in the second week of September, starting in Rome, Naples, Florence, and a couple other Northern Italy destinations before ending up in Munich around the last weekend in September. Hit me up if you want to meet up. 
Join Amazon Prime - Watch Over 40,000 Movies

.

Comments are unmoderated. Blog owner is not responsible for third party content. By leaving comments on the blog, commenters give license to the blog owner to reprint attributed comments in any form.