“Silence is the most spoken dialect in Sardinia” says the Italian novelist Michela Murgia in the episode about the Brontë sisters of the podcast Morgana (available only in Italian, sadly), which narrates the biographies of many extraordinary women (from the past and the present).
Michela Murgia’s words hit me while I’m having my daily run or, in this case, walk. In the episode, Murgia is talking to another Italian author, Chiara Valerio. The two are discussing the lack of Gothic fiction novels in the Italian literary tradition. They wonder whether this has anything to do with the sunny Italian climate. In fact, Gothic fiction novels have been extremely popular in those countries where the short dark days and the foggy weather offered the optimal setting for creepy stories of ghosts, murders and the like.
A few years ago, I would have never imagined myself writing about beer.When I was living in Italy, I did not even like beer. At some point, pilsners appeared in my life but they did not look like a particularly original choice. IPAs seemed much more interesting. Then I started working in a bar, and I discovered the magical properties of sour beers. In case you are in need of a recommendation, among my favorites are: Rodenbach Gran Cru (6% ABV), Vibrant P’ocean (a collaboration between Rodenbach and Dogfish Head, 4.7% ABV), Florida Weisse (Thornbridge Brewery, 4.5% ABV), Blos (brewed by Nevel Artisan Ales for Café De Kluizenaar, 5.5% ABV). Yet, one of the beers that literally stole my heart was Studio Oedipus no. 30 (4% ABV), a delicious raspberry Berliner Weisse with a beautiful pinkish color. This is where our story begins.
The past months have been a sort of living paradox. On the one hand, the COVID-19 pandemic paralyzed (still paralyzes and probably will keep on paralyzing) the whole world, forcing us to stay inside, not to meet people, not to act, basically. On the other hand, the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd (and the list is, unfortunately, much longer) demanded us to take action. Not to act was a sign of complicity with the oppressors. Yet, even to act, in this context, was problematic and not that straightforward at all. What are the kind of actions that I, as a white Western (young) woman, am allowed to perform? What are the words that I am allowed to use? It might sound silly but for months, I kept asking myself “Should I say or do this? Should I share that?” Acting without hurting anyone or without saying/doing (accidentally) the wrong thing was, and still is, very hard. Acting in a context in which you are explicitly asked by the government not to move because you might be a contagious loose cannon was, and still is, troublesome. If Hamlet could adapt one of his most famous sentences to this situation, he would probably say something along the lines of “to act, or not to act, that is the question.”
If I mention the name of Jane Goodall, most will know whom I am talking about. But if I mention the name Hugo van Lawick, will it ring a bell? Yet, it is thanks to Hugo that we have those beautiful pictures of Jane holding hands with chimps or letting them scratch her back. There is power in photography. The power of making an otherwise private and brief moment public and immortal. The power of selecting what has to be remembered and what can be forgotten.
It is with these thoughts in mind that I prepared my questions to Fleur Jongepier, assistant professor of (digital) ethics at Radboud University, who agreed to talk about her passion for photography (which can be observed more extensively on her website: https://fleurjongepier.myportfolio.com/photography). We call on a sunny Thursday afternoon. As soon as Fleur appears on my screen, I notice the luminous interior of the room, and I cannot help but think that it is really the kind of room I would have pictured her in. I have never talked to Fleur before about this passion of hers, so to break the ice a little, I begin by asking her about the origins, so to speak, of her interest in photography.
I thought about getting a tattoo at least five times with five different designs. The first time, in my Coldplay phase (although I should say one of my Coldplay phases), I wanted a taattoo with the title of one of their songs. The second time, I went for a drawing of a hedgehog who uses one of his spines as an arrow. A friend of mine made it for me as a visual representation of my personality, and it was supposed to mean something like ‘a determined hedgehog’. The third time, I wanted a cactus. The fourth time, a carrot. For, if you know me, you will also know that carrots are always part of my lunch. Every. Single. Day. The fifth time, touched by the work of photographer Laura Dodsworth, I thought about a breast.
Needless to say, my indecisiveness became inertia. I did not get any of them.
Defeated by my tattoo-vacillation, I was determined to find out what mysterious bonds could tie together philosophy, art and tattoos. I ended up Skyping Jim Burgman on Easter Sunday. Video calling with someone you have never met before can be pretty awkward, especially (and maybe paradoxically) because, contrary to what happens in a regular interview setting, you enter their private zone. You see the room where they are sitting, which, in the majority of the cases, is their studio, living room or bedroom. You see how they decorated it, what they have lying around, the colors of the walls, and other small things that tell you something about their personality. In my case, I got to see Arthur, Jim’s cat, who tried to grab his attention a few times at the beginning of the interview and then, as every cat on the planet, started to mind his own business.
I always thought that podcasts were not my cup of tea. I have never found a moment during the day when I really wanted to listen to an episode or a series that kept me glued to the headphones. Last week, however, I saw that a BBC radio 1 presenter, Phil Taggart, interviewed one of my favorite bands for his podcast. I listened to it while chilling on my terrace and, maybe because Phil’s strong Irish accent is particularly charming, I found myself in the same situation of those who say “I will never buy a pair of those ugly German sandals,” and then get obsessed with them and are unable to wear normal flip-flops anymore. Among the forty-one episodes, the interview with Ludovico Einaudi, one of the most famous living pianists, could not pass unnoticed. Although it might not have been Phil’s funniest interview, it can help us in drawing some preliminary connections between art and philosophy. In a sort of funny twist, we can think of Ludovico Einaudi’s interview as a piano keyboard itself. In the course of this introduction, I will press some of the keys and try to sketch my own composition.
In this quarantined world, where yeast and flour seem to have disappeared from every supermarket and, when you finally find them, you and a bunch of other customers have to fight over them as Dwight and Andy fought over Michael’s love, recipes without (or with limited amount of) these sacred goods are more than welcome. Since I want to do my part in this process of culinary pacifism, there you go with one of my favorite snacks and its history.
A kindly thing it is to have compassion of the afflicted and albeit it well beseemeth every one, yet of those is it more particularly required who have erst had need of comfort and have found it in any, […].
These are odd, grim, hard times.
To say something smart and meaningful without hurting (even involuntarily)
anyone is quite a challenge.
Yet, on behalf of Splijtstof, I am going to give it a shot.
I have been wanting to write this interview for quite a
long time. Everything started because Ted, one of our editors, told me
(attention, SPOILER ALERT!) about an alleged piece of advice that Christoph
Lüthy, professor in the History of Philosophy and Science at Radboud University
and dean of the Faculty of Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies, gave to
Matt Damon (who, fortunately, didn’t follow it) and to some scones-eating
British politician (who, unfortunately, didn’t follow it). This was the rumor I
had been waiting for, but then the summer holidays arrived, the Italian seaside
distracted me, the new semester started, and all sorts of things every student
is familiar with happened. Like a good bottle of Brunello di Montalcino that
you save for special occasions, this interview had been put on hold, waiting
for the best moment to be written. And
it was still there waiting when the familiar voice of the interviewee himself
greeted me with a lively “Buongiorno!” in the koffiehoek (15th floor
of the Erasmus Building, the place to be for every philosopher in Nijmegen).
The day to open that metaphorical bottle of Brunello di Montalcino had been
set, but I needed some insights from one of the persons who knows prof. Lüthy
best, namely his wife Carla Rita Palmerino, professor of the History of
Philosophy at Radboud University and program coordinator of the Research Master
in Philosophy. And no, if you were thinking about a love blossomed within the
Erasmusgebouw’s walls, you would be mistaken. Their love blossomed in a way
more romantic (but equally cold and foggy) setting, in dear old Scotland, as
they recently revealed in an interview with VOX.
A short story of what happened at the 6th edition of the Film & Philosophy series.
It was a relatively hot Tuesday night, July 23, when a
semi-tanned group of people gathered at De Kaaij, in our lovely Nijmegen. For
this occasion, Opoe Sientje set up a cozy open air cinema, where the sixth
edition of the Film&Philosophy series, partially organized by Splijtstof,
took place. The program of the night was, first, a talk about the philosophy of
trust and testimony given by me, myself and I. Then a short introduction to the
movie Gaslight (1944), in which we can admire Ingrid Bergman and Charles
Boyera in all their acting splendeur. Finally, the stunning black and
white movie itself would be displayed. If you missed the event, and are deeply
sorry about this (as you should be), here you can find a summary of the talk,
for which I took inspiration from my bachelor thesis.