The last lights of the continent gradually faded, and reached the 60 ° W meridian it sank into the night; the ghostly darkness appeared from the windows, making the altitude of 21,000 feet and the cold temperature of -60 ° C seem even more frighteningly factual. However, there was an admirable starry, which appeased the heart and soul; passengers on the right aisle were also comforted by the moon’s glare and magnificence; on that night, it was a waning gibbous moon. (musical interlude)
(resume reading) One of the passengers observed it using a powerful Leica binocular, details were so visible that with the naked eye it would have been impossible to peer, like some shades of green, blue and purple that coexisted in the lunar seas, especially in the Mare Imbrium and in the Oceanus Procellarum; the craters were also very visible, and the Montes Apenninus mountain range visible on the southeast border of the Mare Imbrium, beyond which the Terra Nivium is located. John Smith could only glimpse this wonder, bad luck had relegated him to the left aisle, and with a traveling companion sitting beside him gulping down food and drink without respite. Fred Livingstone’s greedy eyes were deposited on the plate, his goal at the time was that, and certainly not something poetic like looking at the sky. Having acquired this reflection, and having rested his soul in peace not to be able to enjoy the show out there for the impossibility of earning the front row, Professor Smith reopened the essay on youth unease written by Umberto Galimberti.
This new adventure, this journey, was changing a little John’s feelings and disposition. Suddenly he felt more available to others, and to youthfuls, especially his youthfuls, his students of the Faculty of Psychology of Cognitive Processes of Boston University. Perhaps the words of his longtime friend from Milan, Ludovico Macchi, on the relationship, on the experience, on listening to people, could have been the driving force behind this internal change, and perhaps, once experienced, and acquired, the foundations that the prepared people of a research laboratory would have transmitted to him the next day, the professor would have liked to infuse them in turn to teenagers who after all, behind their apparent tough exterior and arrogance, showed only the need to be listened to, to be loved, and to learn how to do it, how do you stay in the world, certainly not so simple, especially given what the present is.
Certainly it was not easy, to take boys’ hands and route them correctly, for him who had never been a father. Young people, of course, they are fresh from studies, they are brisk and curious perhaps, some have already lived life in the sense that they have already had to know some aspects that allow you to understand how hard it is, but all of them still had to fly and they had not idea of how it was possible to do it probably.
It was difficult, especially since the professor himself, was still not sure that he had really spread his wings in his life, probably because of an innate insecurity that is formed in the great minds, which always aspire to perfection; but perfection that does not actually exist. It is subjective, or even better, a mathematical perfection is not desirable, for all that is not only science, and for all that is not purely arithmetic accounting (but also speaking of money, already if we enter the field of finance, mathematics it is something aleatory, more or less favorably); wanting to exemplify, some small flaws make something worthy of being created by a beautiful but imperfect figure, like man. And so life is more beautiful, and human, if imperfect: what writer and screenwriter would ever write about a life as monotonous as perfection? A life in the ranks is certainly safe, presents fewer risks, and is an indication of greater maturity perhaps, and of being more responsible. But this was the life that John had always avoided, he who felt himself a free and imperishable spirit, who would have liked to emancipate himself even from the constraint of death. The professor often brooded over these principles of his own morality, almost to justify them, and to justify himself. What is certain is that at 53 he found himself increasingly isolated, few friends, and his lovers with whom he spent only a few fleeting moments, an afternoon, an evening, a day, but certainly not a life. Each medal has its reverse perhaps … But he could accept it, probably only those who are a little more sylvan, can exist quite freely without too many worries, constraints, restrictions, obligations, and instead enjoy life a little … The price to pay, then, there is always.
“How pensive are you, the journey is not to your liking?”
“Ah, sorry I’ve been eclipsed for a while, it has happened to me lately … No no, on the contrary, Freddy! It is really special to fly on these engineering jewels, the comfort is maximum. And your company is excellent my old man! I am happy that you have decided to take part in this adventure.”
In that instant, while flaunting a Duchenne smile that was as natural as possible, John thought about the price he had paid for two people in business class round-trip to Milan with his American Express Gold, almost $ 8,000. His heart cried a little, but it was a thought that immediately drove back into the maze of the mind, it was money well spent, both for the purpose and for the comfort that is the preserve of those who travel in business class of the Lufthansa and in particular on board of a Boeing 747-400, the airliner most present in the skies, and of great aesthetic beauty. The professor looked around, now down to observe how his arms were placed like an Egyptian god Anubis on the wide armrests – of which the central one equipped with a generous series of buttons to adjust the seat/bed -, now in front to himself the entertainment monitor that provided the opportunity to see films, TV series, flight information, and so on, but it was early to concentrate on his vision, at that moment John was an enthusiastic child who watched his toy from all possible angles. (musical interlude)
(resume reading) The service on board was impeccable, the staff was friendly and prompt in responding to requests.
The professor decided to have dinner, mostly ordered some tastes in many small dishes: a confit of alpine char; sliced beef in a herb crust with forest fruit salad; wakame seaweed salad paired with watermelon, radish, orange, and ginger vinaigrette sauce; as an accompaniment, caviar, lime, sliced onion, toasted pancarré, egg whites, diced Parmigiano Reggiano PDO cheese from the Mountain, aged for 40 months, and sour cream; to drink, a glass of Bollinger Cuvée 2004. John then lifted the small door of the central armrest, on his left, and brought out the metal table and then waited; which did not last long: in fact, the hostess arrived five minutes later and placed the dinner on the professor’s table. The appearance was excellent, they had used a certain imagination and refinement in serving dishes.
The dinner satisfied him, so much so that he almost seemed to have returned to the times of the banquets of the Sun King; haute cuisine fascinated him. Smith was, as mentioned, also pleased with the medium on which he was crossing the Atlantic, he considered it an object of art probably also because he was able to combine very well a beautiful exterior design dating back to 1966 by Joe Sutter, with modern interiors very comfortable but at the same time essential, without too many frills, efficiently obtained by sculpting shapes and dimensions by making the best use of spaces, a bit like on boats. “How much work is behind it,” thought our hero, how long it had taken other people to build the vehicle he was sitting on now. Yes, it was right to think about it, meditate on it for a moment. A non superficial person, therefore, does not stop at the peel, but savor the taste to the end, and appreciates. And who really appreciates, appreciates every time, even if the experience happened every day. Indeed, the more the experience is good, the more one would like to repeat it, completely dissociating itself from the frenzy of the dystopian and antithetical (compared to a lucky few, still awake) modern society (and future, unfortunately) completely dominated by continually changing, day after day, for a complete emptying of identity today where in parallel there is a complete emptying of culture and traditions, and there is the concept of disposable objects (but in some cases also animals, or even people) that probably, most of them, are detestable (I am now focusing the discussion on objects only) because they are the result of a decline of style, tastes, design (in practice they are no longer considered design), and at the level of the production process and raw materials; they are detestable objects as they no longer meet the requirements of belonging to the concept of Human, – hence for none of its philosophical spheres -, the latter whose birth can be traced back to the anthropocentrism of Petrarchian Humanism.
If, on the other hand, there was something to be appreciated, John knew how to appreciate it, and if one thing he liked a lot, he wanted to repeat the experience, but at that moment two facts saddened him: the first was that, if the experience presupposed the presence of two actors, that is the user of the experience and the entity that was experienced, it was not so obvious that the willingness of the user could correspond each time to the material availability of the entity to be experienced again, and this unknown cannot be averted even by taking out from the wallet a blank check, at least not if you are the only one willing to do it; the second fact, which largely determined the first, was that all the things of the world, all the facts of the world, all the components of life, constituted a single large mosaic subject to a sort of gravity, to a delicate balance, so even if only one tile of the mosaic was missing – or trying to move just one -, the whole composition was distorted as the other tiles would have slipped down and landslided badly on the underlying. So the design, the craftsmanship, the production quality and the materials that characterized the creation of the objects of the past (that is, on a conceptual level and metaphorically speaking, a perfect mosaic, with all the tesserae in their place) certainly could not compare the articles (not even objects now, they are articles) of the contemporary, the latter paled in comparison. Design, gone (casual, without balance, without historical/cultural references, often reduced to a not well-calibrated minimalism, which, to an expert eye, clearly expresses a mere attempt to camouflage a creative sterility, a lack of culture, and a lack of mastery of the profession); materials, gone (regardless of the questionable reasons that motivated its choices, today we are invaded by poor materials, raw materials, for example plastic, which invaded us with its ordinariness, has relegated us to a metaphorical life of plastic, that is fake and lowest – think of the plastic flowers, emblematic -, plastic ends, plastic also kills the last glimmer of life suffocating it with its own mediocrity, if we exclude certain examples of modern design plastics such as Kartell was from the 50s, 60s and 70s, Artemide, Braun, Brionvega, Alessi always from those years, or certain grafts in the automotive sector up to and including the 80s; and, before the 1950s, the world of bakelite that dressed Art Deco objects. (musical interlude)
(resume reading) At that time yes, it could have made sense, but today … Plastic, if stripped of that strong identity design that could give it value, no longer has any charm, and even worse if it is camouflaged and made to look like metal, or glass, or to the skin, or to the paper. Plastic is today a cancer we have to live with every day, which we touch every day. Even the current banknotes, starting from the Australian dollar in 1988 and arriving today with the British pound, have undergone a generational change towards plastic to avoid its deterioration, and therefore reduce production and printing costs; but let’s think about what unpleasant feeling you can have holding a plastic banknote in your hand … A ugly, very inelegant. Probably the same unpleasant feeling of holding an ATM card, or a credit card in hand: as well as unpleasant, it is fiction, if we consider that long time ago we started from gold, or silver, as currency – called commodity-money , subsequent to barter and intermediary goods -; Then came the beautiful paper money, a sign-currency, an obligatory step to cope with the inconvenience of carrying the commodity coins around for long journeys, at the time of the spread of long-distance trade. Gold and silver were therefore deposited at the goldsmiths, and later at the banks, which issued receipts attesting the deposit, which later became banknotes, which could be used as a means of payment even in very remote places from where the commodity-money were kept in deposit. The paper money, made of real paper made by renowned paper mills, was payable on sight to the bearer, that is convertible into gold or silver, wherever he was at that moment and sitting immediately, hic et nunc, and this practice was possible at least until World War I, the US dollar until 1971; today, however, the miserable, slimy plastic cards, which we hold in our hands and use as exchange “money”, have no value except that created, generated from nothing, telematically by a bank computer – and then canceled in the same way ; today, most of the “money” is telematic and created following the request for credit by individuals and companies, after which, the circle closed, that is the debt paid to the credit institutions, the virtual value that had been opened, created , is canceled, eliminated simply by pressing a key on the keyboard, and the interests of the creditor institution remain introited – therefore not physically tangible originally as a precious material – but not even in cash, the latter which today circulates but being printed far fewer banknotes than it once was, does not really belong to anyone, it is a kind of rental asset whose destiny is not to be finally in the hands of the citizens, but in the vaults of the institutes, in view of and in exchange for telematic values that do not mean anything and that sooner or later they will burst – so they are certainly not payable to the bearer. This constitutes yet another sign of a generational loss of any historical memory. It is a new Midas king today, in contrast to the original one, that whatever touches becomes plastic, the plastic stripped of a quality design is a fluid that has invaded the world, a sort of “Blob”, the fluid of polymers that kills. Today anything we think about, can, is, and will be, a polymer, plastic. Plastic is cheap and can replace expensive materials, practically all materials. Paper, instead, especially if of a certain type, costs, wood, the real one, costs, steel, costs, glass, costs, porcelain, costs, ceramics, costs, rubber of a certain type, costs, cotton, costs, silver, gold, platinum, copper, palladium, but also concrete, plaster, paints, lacquers, ink for offset printing, marble, granite, skin and leather, cost. But plastic is only one of the poor materials. Think also of the chipboard of the furniture sold in department stores. Think also about pressed sawdust. Think also about pressed cardboard. Think also about the synthetic fabric. Let’s think about oil waste); craftsmanship, gone (today, who knows how to carve wood anymore? Today, who still knows the art of embossing and chiseling? Today, who still knows the chalcographic art by drypoint and burin? Today, who still knows the art of embroidery and sewing? Today, who would be able to draw freehand, to create a graphic sketch on Fabriano paper, that is, today, who is more a true graphic designer and calligrapher? Today, who knows more about the art of violin making? Today, who would be able to stuff a Thonet seat? Today, who would be able to bind a book? Today, who still knows the art of master glassmakers? (video)
(resume reading) Today, who still knows the art of research photography on film and darkroom development and printing? Today, who still knows the art of musical composition? These questions of mine, so cadenced, so insistent, so merciless, metaphorically invoke the tolling of a grandfather clock, which, when the clock struck eight in the evening, ferally let the darkness advance through a window left fatally ajar); personality, gone (what personality can an object have, that does not come from a solid idea, from a reasonable project, and which is orphan of a good designer, and made with cheap materials in parallel to a purely automated poor level production process? Millions of them can be produced of an object, or, to better say, of such an “article”, and what value can ultimately have such an ugly object in all its aspects and meanings, and which moreover everybody possesses? None, although the retail price can also be high. Only highly educated people know how to buy really beautiful things at the right price, sure to make a good investment for the future, if we also want to return to the topic of safe haven assets); usability, questionable («this is clearly one of the cardinal points» thought the professor, and on which an interesting part of the conversation had been focused first with Ludovico Macchi, and then with Fred Livingstone. A worrying aspect today is certainly an imposition of the product, such, designed in this way, usable in this way, take or leave. It is a diktat from above, from power, from the power of the producer brand, down to the consumer, the latter having become a mere and submissive instrument of profit. It is the result of a thirty-year period of conscious myopia, and of offense to intelligence, towards the common person, downgraded to consumer not so much through an explicit media communication, as a slow underhand route of approach to a slavish adjustment towards an induced regression and generational cultural loss. This flaw in relationships has emerged since the late 1980s in the USA which, after the end of the Cold War, were hit by an economic crisis resulting from the downsizing of military programs, which kept standing a titanic industry that gave work to millions of people in all fifty states of the federation. The architect of the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 was Ronald Reagan, whose mandate ended two years earlier in 1989. (musical interlude)
resume reading) This progressive turnaround on armaments evidently created a chasm in the American economy, although it was not the only cause of this recession: among others, the financial bubble that burst in relation to the many loans granted in the 1980s, where the economy it had a positive trend and allowed easy access to credit, loans which, however, after the crisis in the labor market which culminated in 1991, became for a large part prescribed credits, that is, non-recoverable. Furthermore, in the 80s and 90s the American company made a transition from the industrial to the service era, which ended up constituting a sort of earthquake for entrepreneurs in the secondary sector, and for workers, more and more layoffs, and wages in degrowth, this trend also persisted with the passing of the baton from George Bush senior to Bill Clinton in 1993, which saw in parallel a recovery of the markets and of GNP, gross national product. In Italy an economic crisis broke out in 1992 and tangible signals occurred with the forced withdrawal of 6 per thousand from the current accounts of the Italian banks operated by Giuliano Amato on the night between 10 and 11 July. Another crystalline sign was the poor stability of the Lira, the result of two decades of inflation to calm the tones of the social protest triggered with ’68, which began in Italy in ’66, an inflation that brought public debt into the hands of foreign investors, this the latter who withdrew their trust in 1992. This blow was exacerbated by the financial speculation perpetrated by the financier George Soros on that “black Wednesday” of September 16, 1992. Amato was forced to intervene again, devaluing the Lira by 30% and taking it out of the SME, an acronym for the European Monetary System. This action by the Prime Minister saved Italy from the financial chasm, so much so that if the Italians today compare the crisis of 1992 with the 2009 recession, the first is almost not worth mentioning. In connection with these events of ’92, Tangentopoli and the storm of the judicial investigations of Mani Pulite that caused a real earthquake in politics – Bobo Craxi then came to call it a “coup” – and in Italian entrepreneurship, this story it clearly had repercussions on the economy already weakened by the above problems.
The economies, the markets, of the USA and Italy, have had a strong interdependence since the early twentieth century at the time of the peak of Italian emigration to the States, which surpassed German and Irish emigration. When an economy thrives, mindless of expense, and it follows that on the market high-quality products are mainly placed, which the latter can boast of having been planned, designed, made by the flower of the workforce, the best professionals, the most specialized, thanks to respectable company budgets that certainly do not skimp on production materials. All this regardless of the observance or not of a Human aspect, which at the time probably had not yet revealed itself as a parameter but was implicit, at least it was perceptible crystal clear in the magnificence of the objects produced that could be considered an act of devotion to the public. The splendor of handcrafted objects with a strong identity, with precious materials, pushed aspects such as imperfect functionality that could happen to the background, this really became a detail that could be safely overlooked, or it could even become almost a characterizing element that made it rise interest in that particular object. There was style, there was elegance, there was tradition, there was culture, the objects came from culture and attracted culture on them from the public.
On the other hand, when a gear is no longer well oiled and moreover deposits dirt on it, this causes a chain stop of the other components, a rocker locks up, an economy goes into recession, and it is no longer time to invest large budgets by companies to put on the market products of a high level as it was before, objects that today would belong to the luxury category on average but which at the time were the prerogative of many thanks to moderate sales prices – excellent quality/price ratio – in relation to purchasing power in an economy that worked well. In times of recession no, this speech was no longer possible on the practical side, although the intents could remain good. Therefore, a divergence of the target, a market divided between luxury and products increasingly belonging to a medium/low quality range in order to contain production costs, and in any case against inflated prices, therefore an objective collapse of the quality/price ratio regardless of which purchase power. The cut of the budget, the cut of the workforce, the cut of the wages / fees that pushed the professionals away, the cut of the quality in the planning, design and production process, the cut of the quality of the production materials, the cut of the real functionality of the product – that is, the essential functions that the person really needs, replaced instead by a myriad of cloying technological futility – the latter which evidently was strongly affected by these flaws, these gaps. Less value, less beauty, less attractiveness, less durability, and less usability, probably, indeed certainly, even for all these aspects. Then, only those who are awake, and have a certain age or at least, if young, a certain culture for history and for the objects of the past, can notice this fall, this deterioration of quality and beauty. But who is simply the son of his time, and is not curious about what was there before, follows only and slavishly the center line of the road on which he is, without looking back and not caring about what he will meet but rather accepting it willingly swallowing him blissfully in his own ignorance. Above all, Generation Z is at great risk of being engulfed in the concept I have just expressed, as the will to transfer value to a generation with whom it is practically impossible to communicate is increasingly lacking given its intangibility, virtuality, detachment, apathy, autism, now genetic because they have assumed, accepted, from this pandemic currente rerum of their peers.
As said, when one thing goes wrong, it brings the others back, and the collapse is total, there is a negative alignment of the parts, so if an economy goes wrong, the market also goes wrong and offers lousy things produced by lousy people, for an audience that by reflection has also become mediocre, thus triggering a vicious circle, a dog that bites its tail, an impasse from which it is difficult to get out); purpose that justifies its existence, not always acceptable (today we feel nostalgia for objects of the past, some of which perhaps lived personally, were the extension of uses, customs, historical/social/political context, tradition, culture and cultural/popular/artistic influences, crafts, professions. These objects had a strong identity and perfect location, they had charm and usefulness, so much so that the future, which waits for no one, and is in fact a descendant parable of barbarization, has made the disposal of these objects a trauma for some people still awake and sensitive, the nostalgic who still find it nice and useful to be able to call from the phone box of the bar with the paper phone guide in front, to be able to buy a 35mm film roll for their Topcon SLR, to be able to type a letter with a Olivetti Letter 22, or handwritten in italics with ink and ink nib and then sealing it with wax stamp, being able to enter in a woodworker’s workshop to have a cupboard made of mahogany feather brass and black marble, or go to a potter’s workshop and buy a service of dishes in glazed terracotta, being able to have an outdoor picnic and listen to some music with the Phono Boy Grundig portable record player, being able to travel with a complete leather necessaire like those of the 50s, being able to play a game of billiards at the bar, being able to hear a 45 rpm at the jukebox by inserting the coin, (musical interlude)
(resume reading) being able to turn a papier-mâché globe to discover new cities, new rivers, new pleasant territories, being able to lie down at the end of the day on a chaise longue upholstered in satin, being able to knock with the door knocker on a front door, being able to wash and shave in the morning on a wrought iron sink with jug and mirror, being able to sew a dress with a Singer pedal sewing machine, being able to film your own baby playing with Legos with a Beaulieu super 8 film camera, being able to wash clothes by hand with real Marseille soap on a stone sink, being able to illuminate the living room with an oil lamp, being able to find a glass bottle of milk and a newspaper outside the door in the morning, being able to go to the pasta factory shop and buy a cabaret of fresh handmade tortellini, or go to the grocery store and buy cod wrapped in wax paper and bovis in its typical white painted ceramic jar, to be able to go to work in Velosolex, the being able to pour real samovar tea, being able to record an outdoor piano concert with a Geloso reel-to-reel tape recorder. How many beautiful things, beautiful rituals, of a time, today we can no longer savor, all this technology today does and thinks for us, knows, before and more than us, it is a sad question that makes us sterile, idle, physically and mentally, and it leads us more or less unconsciously to apathy, depression, and autism. They convinced us with the deception that we no longer needed the pleasant rituals of the past, in the name of progress that is only an excuse to induce people to think that new and more technological, more automated, it is better, to apart from all the other aspects, which can therefore be sacrificed, including the aesthetic and the romantic one. Today is taking place the continuous metamorphosis of a monster that takes on an increasingly obscene and inauspicious aspect, it is becoming progressively self-sufficient, so much so that the human user is almost an intruder, an inconvenient; in a short time these humanoid monsters will act in total arbitration autonomy, that is, that inversion of the hierarchies will be completed, a dystopian future will have come in which machines will prevail over man and elide him; but on the other hand more than a few signs have already been had. The feeling, which is more than just a feeling, is that in modernity there are so many beautiful things of the past, which we could, if we really wanted, to have today, but unfortunately it was not so, at least for many, the great majority of the population, who live imprisoned in a condition of catatonia and subjection to the advancing monster. If on the one hand, the beautiful objects of the past are missing today, the beautiful rituals of the past that, who is still awake, would like to savor, on the opposite side we are invaded by articles whose functions we do not need any, except the need that it is forcefully administered to us as under hypnosis, they are objects that have no raison d’etre because in contrast with the concept of the Being Human, they are Misanthropomorphic objects, they are artificial intelligences, they are interconnected humanoids whose final purpose will be extinction, the cancellation, of mankind).
Thinking about certain themes, about the succession of facts that led us to today’s situation, and thinking about such a painful future, unfortunately close enough, the professor felt a feeling of anguish, sadness and despair. But on certain concepts, it is good to reflect every day, as if they were a warning, a poster for points that is there, handwritten on the wall, a historical document to remind us what is the path of good and what is instead the path of evil not to be taken, but which, on the other hand, humanity has already undertaken, or to better said, is ruined within. What cultural degradation has the present brought; how much life precipitated into slavery, which has placed man, no longer people but masses, subject relegated to the slums, to the subsoil, to the underworld.
On the other hand, if today the conceptual vision of the project and the purpose of a product is solid, and it is still made according to an accurate artisan production also using quality materials, and designed by designers worthy of the name (let’s talk therefore of an exception, a rarity) which in addition to aesthetic design know how to combine a functional/technological reasonable design – meaning therefore an object that honors the culture of Being Human -, production costs, and selling prices to the public, probably they skyrocket.
Real artisans and real designers are in short supply (required almost exclusively only for the luxury sector by now), there are no longer the right ideas, and there is not enough investment; even the raw materials are insufficient, or at least not infinite. Finally, there are probably too many of us, this planet is overcrowded with people; it seems like a catastrophic conjecture and yet the data don’t lie and say that from 2011 to today there are 700,000,000 more people in the world, which is equivalent to the total of the current European population. Let’s just think about this fact: in 8 years, on the planet, another continent demographically equivalent to Europe has been added. How do we feed all these mouths? This certainly should be the first question: how do we make these creatures survive, who have the right, once they come into the world, to have a dignified life like everyone else? (musical interlude)
(resume reading) The question is also necessary given the waste of money that many rich people make towards things that are completely futile for humanity, or for egocentric/solipsistic/oligarchic purposes just when, on the other hand, they could stand up to the guarantors of peace, social assistance, and medical, a reorganization of politics, the economy and the world of work, to give a dignified life to everyone, even to those who are homeless, even to those who immigrated to escape the harassment he was forced to endure in his country of origin.
Then, going up a level in the Maslow pyramid, that is passing from the macro-group of Primary Needs to Social Needs, and in particular those related to Estimate, here in an overcrowded world there cannot be enough mineral resources to make products for everyone of the same quality of the past and at the same production costs, and selling prices (in proportion to inflation clearly). It’s impossible; and, as a consequence of the fact just expressed, and also due to a failed economy, and the progressive replacement of the labor force with technology to cut costs, the craftsmanship disappears, the production quality/materials/services expire level, and you no longer rely on professionals, designers, engineers, photographers, architects, skilled specialized technicians, but on class B figures maybe within the company of the brand itself, that is, figures in debt of competence, almost improvised in good substance. In such a sterile world of work, the few who work are also underpaid and have three or four people on average to feed at home, which is rather difficult to sustain by thinking in the long term.
It is quite clear: raw materials have crazy costs – in general; from which often the option towards second choice materials -, this fact combined with the disadvantage deriving from a market that does not walk puts companies on their knees as much as the tax burden, entrepreneurs are therefore forced to reduce the workforce (therefore also cutting professionals class a, designers, craftsmen etc.) resulting in a cheap design, and a production/supply of services through machines, automata, and artificial intelligence. This is unfortunately the case with workers in general, but even more so with specialized figures, especially in the West (in this case the term “West” stands for Western civilization, therefore meaning purely Europe – excluding Russia and some Eastern European countries, Greece and Turkey -, USA, Canada, Oceania), have really high costs which, among other things, carry a taxation that is infected by public debt (internal and foreign). Frightened by costs, companies therefore ultimately do not focus on maintaining the quality of the past in order to defend themselves from the competition, but aim at the economy in terms of costs for the realization of the product/service, letting it expire qualitatively and even planning its functional degradation as well as premature consumption of materials (but by disguising this loss of quality by filling the product with technology, the usefulness of which is always questionable …), triggering a vicious circle for the customer who, at first happy because he is playing with the latest technological devils in his hand, then is remotely controlled to spend additional money on repairs or even to update by purchasing the new model, the restyling, the novelty to always be aligned with the present which, he is led to think, projects him into the future. Ultimately they are poor products, in an overview, with a bad quality/price ratio deriving from the fact that the companies have the balance sheets in red, so they must obtain as much as possible from sales, downstream of production costs as much as possible calm down possible.
The misalignment then, at the level of prices on the market, with the ruthless competition of countries such as China which maintains a very low standard for the wages of the workers of the proletariat in order to keep production costs low, has only exacerbated the problems of an already unhealthy world economy and of global markets now almost completely sterile, apart from a few rare exceptions (on the other hand, it does not help the trade war that the superpowers in these times are waging by placing high taxes/customs duties on imports to protect the internal market).
This comes from the Far East, when on the other hand, in order to really get back to the senseless costs that a company must face to produce an article of a decent quality, the latter must, or at least, should offer it on the market to some really high prices (it must be said, moreover, that a slow, constant and inexorable increase in prices has been and continues to be a dripping that is no longer well perceived by the population, although it is now evident that the disclosed parameters of the inflation are misaligned with the parameters of daily tangible increase in prices, especially in the sectors of basic necessity).
So to sell, you have to indebted those who buy (unless those who buy are not rich, but as described in Chapter I of this trilogy, the real rich in a nation make up about 1% of the population. In fact I see it difficult that the citizen average father of a family can buy a house – for example a three-room apartment of 180,000 euros – without taking out a mortgage, but paying a similar amount on the nail. But just think also that people now pay in installments everything, the car, the washing machine, TV, mobile phone, even bills. There are people who unscrupulously coexists with five, six, seven installments of different loans, therefore simultaneously in progress, every month) through the help of credit institutions (which apply usury rates of interest, and they grant loans even when ethics would not allow it, or to people who are already over-indebted, and who can no longer sustain such a debt content), or, and this is often the final act, you ultimately do not sell, and you fail, you close.
Summarizing, due to the factors just expressed, John Smith, and others like him, could still have benefited from certain experiences today, but now with difficulty, with the unknown factor of not being able to benefit from it any more in the not-distant future.
And here came to the professor another important unknown factor, rethinking the concepts advocated by Macchi regarding the Milan laboratory and the centrality and listening of the person: there was indeed a risk, that is, the person in charge of testing and experiential listening did not was prepared, was not sufficiently targeted and/or was not sufficiently cultured, was also not properly formed culturally, to understand and impersonate which delineation, which classification, the target itself (ideal) represented and subtended. It was probably necessary to profile micro-targets within each macro-target. To exemplify, a young man who listens to music from a music service that offers streaming on demand, using earphones and smartphones is part of a macro-target of music lovers, but within this macro-target he resides in a micro-target that is different from the micro-target of those who instead listen to music on compact disc, or even better, on vinyl records, from a professional hi-fi system with separate components.
The variable elements that made up this sort of algebraic equation (of the possible lack of repetition of experience over time, and of the great mosaic of the world and of life) were ultimately: progressive departure over time from craftsmanship (meaning also the design of quality, artisanal quality) towards an era of automation and series production by robots (whereby the quality of manpower has been removed from production, fewer workers, fewer wages, less money returned to the internal market); global overpopulation; the world economy problems; the deterioration of materials due to the scarcity of mineral resources; production costs, and market prices; the right investigation into the culture and subsequent placement of people in their micro-target, to be then suitable for being tested and experiential listening during the conception, design, restyling of the service, product, space/environment/town planning.
John came back from his thoughts that by now all the passengers around him slept, it was now almost midnight, then he turned off the directional torch that was obtained in the design of the headrest. It was better to doze off a little, the stopover in Frankfurt was scheduled for 6:30 in the morning. The professor was happy, he was pleased, finally a little adrenaline and expectation for something interesting, different from the usual routine, everything seemed to go smoothly, on that night everything seemed to smile at him, Italy was waiting for him, like one of his lovers after so long. He would see Milan again, but he also wanted to dedicate days to review other eternal places, pleasant places, lived places, places that saw profound persons live and express themselves. Profound persons who made the places where they chose to spend their time splendid and immortal. Every great personage, also great for his cultural integrity, has left a tangible and enjoyable mark in the places where he has passed, he has given his contribution to dress the wilderness with magnificence, an action of giving therefore but also of receiving, as the donor will be remembered forever.
Millennial cities, present themselves to our eyes as well as the crossroads of peoples, kingdoms, kings, emperors, patrons, statesmen, artists, philosophers, scientists, made them, adapting them, but also enhancing them, in relation to the geographical position. One of the professor’s favorite readings was Goethe’s three-volume novel, “Italian Journey”, a Grand Tour that the author made at two different times, forty years apart from each other; the Belpaese has an infinite number of treasures, often unexplored, which always fascinate intellectuals but more generally the people from all over the world.
It is the great beauty of being able to see a corner of evening, from the pronaos of a Palladio villa.
It is the great beauty of walking along via Condotti towards Piazza di Spagna, with its famous Fontana della Barcaccia of the Bernini. It is the great beauty of holding your lady by the hand sitting in front of the gentle rocking of gondola’s canal grande, and seeing after the facade of Palazzo Ducale, the most beautiful plaza in the world with its Carnival. (musical interlude)
(resume reading) It is the great beauty of being able to taste real pizza from a terrace on the Gulf of Naples, and to greet the newlyweds who look out from the Sala della Loggia of Castel Nuovo. It is the great beauty of being in the crowd in the Piazza del Campo in Siena and seeing the horses of the Palio contrade dart by.
It is the great beauty of visiting Florence, with Michelangelo’s masterpieces, Palazzo Vecchio, Brunelleschi’s Dome, Giotto’s bell tower, Ponte Vecchio. It is the great beauty of sitting at the table outdoors under the veranda of a farmhouse, immersed in the greenery of the Tuscan Maremma, and enjoying a grilled Florentine accompanied by a glass of Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Docg 1997. It is the great beauty of alternating the infinite blues of seaside resorts such as Santa Cesarea Terme and Otranto,
and the whites that turn on the straw yellow of the Lecce stone that dresses the Baroque style of Salento. It is the great beauty of sitting in the stands of the Monza racetrack and seeing Ferrari win by sporting legends such as Alberto Ascari, Phil Hill, John Surtees, Clay Regazzoni, Jody Scheckter, Michael Schumacher.
It is the great beauty of meeting places where time has stopped, and seeing children playing Lippa on the street, under the Sicilian sun. It is the great beauty of going to the Teatro alla Scala, and after the convivial conversation with other couples, reaching your reserved stage in front of the parterre, and waiting for the opening of the curtain.
At the word “curtain” John Smith suddenly opened his eyes, a slight shaking of the seat had given him an alarm, the plane had in fact just landed at Frankfurt am Main airport. After a few minutes, commander Arthur Walker Connelly and the first officer Casey Spencer left the cockpit, to the applause of the passengers, it was necessary to acknowledge that the flight had been flawless both at take-off and at altitude, and also during the landing everything had gone as smooth as oil. «What an efficient and safe company», reflected our hero.
The connection to Milan Linate was scheduled for 8 am, so there was an hour and a half to wait, so John and Fred went to the hall, where the newsstand and bar were already open, a perfect combination not to be missed. «Coffee in Germany … Well, always better than the hot mash like the lava they serve you in Boston. Well let’s go!» the professor thought, smoothing his mustaches, on the other hand it would have been unforgivable to miss a jam krapfen to accompany the coffee. «The breakfast of champions!» he thought, better than muesli or royal jelly. For a German, the breakfast of champions was probably a pint of Weissbier accompanied by a Frankfurt Wurst mit Brot und Kartoffeln. You know, de gustibus non est disputandum.
As he used to do every morning, and despite the presence of the guest, before breakfast at the bar the professor went to the newsstand to get the newspaper; in Boston he usually took a free copy of the Beacon Hill Times, but he certainly could not have found it here in Frankfurt. It should be added that, starting to read a sort of local newspaper of his city sitting in the hall of an important airport like that of Frankfurt, it would have out of tune. He therefore reviewed the most prestigious newspapers on display at the newsstand, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Il Sole 24 Ore, Le Monde, Financial Times (the most authoritative newspaper in the world), when the eye was kidnapped by the influential The New York Times International Edition.
He bought it, it was definitely the right choice, to give himself a tone of elegance. It was still the edition of Tuesday 26, there was not yet that of Wednesday 27, probably in a matter of minutes it would be there still hot from the press, but it really seemed like a detail. The breakfast was made very pleasant thanks to this elitist reading, of a really high quality. The professor looked at this new purchase, «this newspaper is an art object» he reflected, the beauty of the logo with the Gothic characters, the aplomb of the graphic design with these long black thin lines that bordered the beautiful typographic characters of the articles giving great vertical stability to the layout and elegance, the quality of the photographs, alternating between color and black and white, the format of the newspaper, a six-column broadsheet, and the quality of the paper, a recycled that seemed almost coated, did not curl, not even on the corners, and it was always perfectly flat and compact once the newspaper was placed on the table; the precision of rotogravure printing and the ink of perfect intensity made the characters blacker than the night and the photos were so vivid that at any moment they could have come alive; finally, on the reefers above the logo a touch of Titian red and strongly oblong cut photos which looked like small windows that allowed you to look out over the world if you only leaned your eye on the thin slit. All these elements clearly accompanied the heart of the newspaper, that is, articles of great depth and precision, of great intellectual and cultural intensity, written by prominent journalists who presided over the entire planet, the facts that really mattered, real and presented to the reader in their integrity to always pursue that essential foundation which is intellectual honesty. Furthermore, extraordinary is the balance between the ability to investigate and capillary analysis at a global level, and the ability to condense the entire news heritage into a foliation of 16 to 20 pages maximum, an element that contributed to making the newspaper so precious, as well as refined in its shape and from a tactile point of view; from these elements it was clear the desire to maintain the most valuable stylistic elements that belonged to the oldest newspapers, stylistic elements that have thus passed through 3 centuries of history unscathed to arrive intact today in the hands of those who can appreciate.
And, as previously mentioned, John Smith knew how to appreciate. He knew how to appreciate even his travel companion’s attempt to keep silent, who, beyond the majestic newspaper held in his hands by John, was busy gulping down a cream brioche, a boiling Nutella crepe, and a donut caramelised with dried apricots, which accompanied a double mocaccino; this side of the imposing newspaper, the professor was absorbed in reading and protected, entrenched, by the thankless vision of his friend’s breakfast. At one point, however, John looked up over the tall columns of the page on which he was, and saw a woman of great charm just sat down at the table opposite, John could not do without of notice her as he was inebriated by the trail of Cabochard that she wore. Tapered hands protected by black satin gloves opened a powder compact, probably English, in art deco style. Our hero could not fully see the whole face of the woman, since from the tip of the nose up he was hidden by the wide brim of a vintage Fedora hat. This mysterious lady occasionally raised her head imperceptibly to observe fleetingly and gracefully the professor, who certainly could not remain indifferent. But for once the intellectual aspect won over that of seduction, he therefore finished the geopolitical article he was reading, written by Chris Buckley, and glanced at his watch, for the trip he had chosen to wear a Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso with steel case and blue alligator leather strap. It was 7.30, it was time to embark.
At 8 o’clock, the plane took flight, Italy was closer, just over an hour and finally from the windows you could have admired Lake Como with its precious villas, built in different eras, Villa Serbelloni in Roman times, the baroque Villa Carlotta, the neoclassical Villa Melzi d’Eril, the neo-Renaissance Villa Erba; and of course Villa del Balbianello, the strong point of the lake, built in the late eighteenth century. After Lake Como in a blink of an eye the Boeing 737 began to gradually drop in altitude, the landing in Linate took place at 9 and 15 as expected, on the other hand the weather had been mild, and optimal visibility.
“John, what time is the meeting with Ludovico Macchi scheduled?”
“Ludovico is waiting for us at 11.30 at the Caffè Panutti which is in front of the Pirelli skyscraper, it is the area of the central train station. We have time to leave our bags at the hotel and take a shower. In fact, I would have had to make an appointment with Ludovico for the afternoon in order to dispose of the jet lag a little, I apologize.”
“Well. Don’t worry John, I slept most of the trip. I feel charged!”
“Excellent, then with Macchi we have a nice Milanese aperitif, full of very tasty cicchetti, I think you will appreciate!”
“Well yes, if I have to be honest, I would have a hole in the stomach.”
“I suspected it, excellent then, and then we will move to Viale Monza where the XP Lab resides, Ambrogio Molteni and Maurizio Bodini await us there. Molteni is a User Experience Designer and User Interface Designer. Bodini is instead a psychologist and anthropologist.”
“Interesting. They could have been Macchi’s students.”
“It’s a nice question, we’ll ask him shortly!”
Milan, thirty years later. It was no longer just a large city, it had become a large cosmopolitan metropolis, a crossroads of races, cultures, tastes, habits, customs, the same that you could find in Hong-Kong, New York, Paris, Berlin, Rio de Janeiro, Sidney. Once it was said, “Country you go, custom you find”, but in this case it no longer made much sense. People, no matter what, no longer spoke Milanese, spoke school Italian, but many did not even speak if they met on the street, in fact, they did not even say goodbye. They ran, now as at that time, perhaps today more, but the faces were no longer as relaxed as they used to be, the looks were today dazed, worn out, empty.
Got out of the hotel, John and Fred walked along via Vitruvio in the direction of the railway station, were overcome at some point by an old tram on rails, it was the first thing that made our hero feel the flavor of that Milan of 1990 again, that tram seemed to be out of the set of a film, it seemed surreal to see it today where a defined style could no longer be distinguished, in everything and everyone. The professor felt disoriented, then turned his face towards his friend, to scrutinize his expression, and was surprised to find that on the contrary his travel companion looked relaxed and amused. «And be it», he thought, he could hardly expect that everything had been put away in the mothballs and pulled out on the occasion of his return, this was no longer a merry-go-round, it was a sharp reflection in the present, whose sinister reflection does not lie never. Maybe it was a mistake to be back, he feared to ruin the good recall he had of Italy, but these were the paranoia of a psychologically exhausted person, consumed by a too repetitive, monotonous daily routine, always the same days, and a self-imposed isolation that if at first gave him security, today was his damnation. (musical interlude)
(resume reading) The Pirelli skyscraper was now sparkling with light as it stood out more and more in front of their eyes with its grandeur and charm, Gio Ponti’s architecture was there, reminding Milan’s entrepreneurial grandeur and power. It must be said that, unlike many Italian cities, Milan still enjoyed good administration, which guaranteed a certain decorum and cleanliness, and a discreet welfare, as well as particular attention for a sustainable urban redevelopment. But it was probably not enough, these people, whom the professor saw on the street, had the heart in pieces, as if they had had to fight for many years a war against unemployment, poverty, disease, and fate, before finally achieving a decently dignified home economics balance. This is, that’s all, in a war of this type, your neighbor was basically your enemy, a rival to anticipate, to boycott, to swindle, and to take his place, and once you have conquered that place, defend it with your teeth, from the attacks of others. This explains the isolation that remained for everyone around him, the silence that pervaded the people, and the wrinkles that marked the faces, emaciated by the disillusionment of a life that had proved difficult, in a world of enemies. «A world of vipers, this is us, who would dare to sacrifice for others today? It’s true, I admit it, and so am I. It is now in the DNA to claim one’s place, one’s status, and if needed, to strip oneself of every hesitation, of every restraint, of every moral and ethical right, to strike some low blows in any direction from which a threat arrives; it’s having had to fight, die and be born on the same day, starting from the bottom, starting from scratch, every time, putting away the tears, for a long, too long time, to have made us so, yes, people more attached than ever to what little they have gained by shedding tears and blood, and there is no more commiseration, there is no more altruism, there is no more brotherhood, there is no more love, there is only interest, in receiving by giving possibly less, to conclude a good deal. Yes, the every day is now a matter of business, to add a little more money and move away another meter, and a little further, from that famine that had clung to us, because it had touched us, and now we know how much it hurts. Certain things, certain events, until you try them on your skin, you would not know how to weigh them, but then, after you have tried them, after you have suffered them, they mark you, and you become another type of person, you change.» (musical interlude)
(resume reading) It had been only a few hours since he had touched Italian soil again, that our hero was already becoming aware of the change, of a world that no longer existed, and would hardly return. Perhaps this is precisely what makes us grow old, every time something beautiful ends, we are powerless to have to accept what advances, because it is what the tide brings, one tries to free himself, to shake himself, to offer resistance, but the only thing left to do is to hold on to what’s left and survive. (musical interlude)
(resume reading) Leaving the train station on the right, they skirted the facade of Palazzo Pirelli along Piazza Duca D’Aosta, and standing in the sub-portico of the adjacent building was a gentleman over fifty, with 60s aviator sunglasses Bausch & Lomb, flat cap and overcoat. He seemed at attention position, motionless, arm by his sides. If it hadn’t been for the cigarette he almost forgot to put in his mouth, he could have been mistaken for a statue. The man watched the two arrive, with a half sneer, then John took courage:
The man did not reply, but simply profuse himself in a hug to his American friend, then a big laugh started from both of them.
“You made it back home, old villain, it was time! Glad to see you again John! How are you? Did you have a good trip?”
“I am happy to see you Ludovico again! You’re right, it’s been a while, I find you very good! ”
“Thanks, you are doing well too, I think!”
“Thanks, all right, travel was perfect, terrific! Meet Fred Livingstone, marketing consultant for the American sportswear multinational I talked to you about, Naikii. He’s from Portland.”
“Ah, nice to meet you Fred, are you close enough to John then, in Maine, what will they be, 200 km from Boston?
“My pleasure, ah no, I wish! I’m from Portland Oregon, on the west coast.”
“Wow, so it’s far from Boston, at this point you might have met in Las Vegas, at the game table, am I wrong?! I know that John occasionally visits those areas …”
Macchi’s investigative precision left the two Americans flabbergasted.
“Ludovico, I didn’t know about your relationship with Sherlock Holmes, compliments!”, Joked John.
“He was my grandfather, yes, indeed. While my uncle was Commissioner Betti, never seen? … Thanks anyway that you speak Italian, it’s always a pleasure!”
Ehh … No, we miss it, I supposed. Seventies Italian detective? ”
“Well of course, and of first-class. He was great that Betti there, ehh?! Of certain pursuits, and then he had the easy slap! Other than these lazybones of fiction today!”
“Anyway, I’d like to tell you the anecdote of how we met at the roulette table, at Bellagio, me and Fred.”
“Oh, yes, I’m all ears, but let’s sit here at the bar first, with a Martini on the rocks and some special cicchetti, here I come out with English for the occasion, hey, what did you think?!”
They conversed amiably for at least an hour, refreshed themselves, then Ludovico Macchi became serious for a moment to answer the phone; in that moment John Smith finally recognized the expression of a time of his comrade, which had perhaps aged better than our hero, with more philosophy certainly at least, although living in Italy, for at least ten years now, was no longer an easy thing. Paradoxically, Professor Smith, who lived in Boston, one of the wealthiest cities in the States, had become an almost depressed person.
After eating a yellow Milanese risotto and drinking a good coffee in the restaurant that was next to the bar, Macchi looked at the time on his steel and gold Patek Philippe Nautilus 5712, a watch of great value and rarity.
“Guys, it’s almost two o’clock, how about it, could we point to the laboratory?”
“Well, let’s head towards the plaza, in front of the central railway station, and go down to take the metro, or subway as you call it. It is a matter of 20 minutes, unless exorbitant queues … And we have arrived at the XP lab. ”
“Wonderful, I can’t wait to get started!” Smith replied.
They were lucky enough, access to the metro was easy and without waiting, then a change in Piazza Loreto for a few minutes, and then go, to Viale Monza with line 1. “Practical, fast!” Thought Fred Livingstone, looking forward to the moment in which, for the second expedition, the CEO of Naikii Leslie Richardson, a difficult guy to impress, would have really had to go smoothly, in a workmanlike manner, inadmissible any kind of hitch.
Once out of the subway, a few minutes on foot and arrived at the laboratory, it was located in a modern white building with a large parking lot in front of it.
Our hero was now very happy, all fears had dissolved, Macchi’s exuberant temper had reassured him, made him feel good. They rang the intercom to be opened by Molteni and Bodini, the professor turned his face back, when incredibly he saw an already known face in the distance. «That woman … I know her, she is familiar to me. Where have I seen her before? … Ah, sure, at Frankfurt airport, she was sitting in front of me when we were having breakfast … this is singular, it is too strange a coincidence! Why is she here? That she followed me from the beginning? And why on earth? Maybe I could call her and ask her! … »
“Excuse me madam! … Please, I have a question, madam, don’t go … Excuse me ?!”, but the woman, as soon as she realized she was recognized, crept into the crowd and disappeared incredibly in the nothing in a few moments, then John saw her stealthily getting into a car that vanished at full throttle.
The episode was suspicious to say the least …
“John, all right, what happens to you?” Macchi urged.
“I don’t know, perhaps I was wrong, I thought to have recognized one person I’ve already seen somewhere else,” replied the professor forgetting for a moment to speak Italian for the excited moments that had followed one another in rapid succession. “Sorry, let’s go up to the laboratory, it’s okay now.”, He said, recovering.
“Are you sure? … Ok, come on, it will be just a little tiredness, but don’t worry, the guys will give you a drink and you will sit in the waiting room so you can rest while I begin to explain a little of things to Fred.”
“Thanks a lot Ludovico, very kind of you!”.
They took the elevator, fourth floor. As they climbed, our hero was understandably plunged back into a bad psychological state. «Could it be that they spied on me? But how long have they been checking on me, and why? Maybe I have the phone under control … I can’t understand this. Or maybe, this is, Fred has the phone under control, they are following him, not me, it is industrial espionage, they intercepted the phone call he had with me, which I had made him there in Boston, from campus. When they heard the program we had here in Italy, they erected the antennas. What carrion… Okay, now I can calm down, and actually, I won’t say anything to Fred, I don’t want to ruin this moment. Come on, I’ll do this, there is probably no need to worry, now I just have to take a deep breath, and calm down. And it’s fine guy, it’s gone, there are no dangers in sight, come on, I just have to calm down.».
They walked along a long corridor, the left wall of which was interspersed with large windows, from which it was possible to have a look at the surroundings; to the north-east, an industrial area of a certain size could be seen, with a lot of green front to give more balance to the urban composition.
“I like Milan!”, Exclaimed Fred Livingstone, as if to ease the tension that had just arisen, it was still palpable on his friend’s face. Nonetheless, John replied with a new-found smile, soothing for everyone; it was a ray of sunshine after the storm, figuratively parallel to the space found after a constraint that takes your breath away, the latter was the psychological condition that had produced in the professor the second appearance of that charming and mysterious woman. Our humor, not only depended on the facts that happen to us, but at the same time, therefore in close sequential association, is determined by the spacetime elements that surround us, with which our subconscious associates, for a cultural heritage and for the experiences lived, certain emotions. Our hero then, was probably a man particularly sensitive to every little detail, he lived it more emotionally than other people.
At the end of the corridor, Ambrogio Molteni and Maurizio Bodini peeked out on the entrance door of the laboratory, welcoming guests in a highly characteristic environment, full of meanings that deducibly were harbingers of a deeply-rooted vision. The minimalism, the walls, some covered in raw fir wood strips, others painted in tempera on various chromatic shades of green, the play of light, the full and the empty spaces, the architecture of the spaces, the corners of vegetation that perfectly combined the breath of the composition, all these things, were certainly not accidental, and clearly Professor Smith knew how to appreciate them, but asked nothing, after the mutual presentations he simply sat in silence like the composed and attentive spectator of a film projection.
In fact, Molteni and Bodini wanted to permeate the whole demonstration with surprise, as if to say: first enjoy the show by letting the emotions flow freely, and then we will explain what you witnessed. They said goodbye to the guests to go to the adjoining room. The lights then faded, and a young man of a certain physical sturdiness appeared on the mega-screen, taken from different angles and varying the type of shot, now a close-up, now a subjective one, or an ensemble in which he appeared together with Bodini and Molteni, and was instructed by them, and subsequently listened to.
“Gaetano, this is an Emotiv Epoc helmet that reads brain waves, substantially it performs an electroencephalogram (among the experts most commonly called with its acronym EEG), this will allow us to record your emotions during the test at which in a few moments we will ask you to submit. So I ask you now to wear it, do not be frightened, it is completely harmless to your health, there is no need to worry.” Said Molteni. And continuing: “This is a Suunto wrist heart rate monitor.”
“Perfect, I’m ready.”, Replied the guy, then the designer applied the EEG equipment on his head, and put the heart rate monitor on his wrist.
“Now I will show you a video, it will start with a fragment of the recent Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams. At some point there will be an advertising break, after which you will return to the game. You will simply have to observe, enjoy as a spectator, there is no need for actions and/or comments from you at this stage. Now let’s do the eye tracking calibration on the Tobii Pro Screen Eye Tracker: approach the monitor please, then keep your head steady and follow the red circle with your eyes … Well, great, successful calibration.”
Molteni then started the movie; the young man, for his part, showed through his facial expression a certain pleasure in looking at the opening touchdown of the Patriots. To the roar of the public in the stadium stands, the Cheerleaders dances, and the enthusiastic comments of the commentators for the prowess of the wide receiver who had managed to evade the tackles of the outside linebacker and the Rams cornerback, followed a Naikii advertisement in which a 100m sprinter positioned himself on the starting blocks, after which close-up on concentration and trepidation evident on his face,
his fleeting gaze on the left to observe the starter raise the gun in the air and prepare to shoot; the visual was accompanied by electronic background music rhythmic by a sequencer that vaguely remembered the heartbeats, and in overlapping a speaker in English pronounced the following cadenced words interspersed with pauses in speech: «Being ready … Means never wasting any time … And expressing your power … To be the fastest … Until you reach the finish line.”. Change of shot, this time on the whole figure, and slow motion of the athlete’s forward movement with simultaneous camera movement that from the front, through a mobile arm mounted on cart, passed laterally and zoomed on the shoes, then following them with a forward tracking shot from behind, then return to normal motion with a switch off of the music and a gradual switch on of the incitement of the crowd as the athlete arrives at the finish. Final of the spot in which the tracking shot stopped, letting the sprinter move away, raising his arms to the sky crossing the finish line, Naikii logo on the bottom right overlay and slogan “Keep yourself forward. Now is the game” all tiny in white arial bold, positioned to the left of the logo, and aligned to the left. Once the advertising deadline was over, we returned to the game, with the Patriots wide receiver ready to kick for the extra point from the 3-yard line, then transformed with the oval ball that flew between the posts towards the grandstand of the packed stadium in each place order.
“Well Gaetano, thank you, now Maurizio and I are going to do an audit of the recorded data, processed by the software. In a short while, Maurizio in exporting the logical deductions deriving from the data will push you to a think aloud, that will allow you to share your impressions by arguing them, you will be placed to a listening that follows the tracks of the investigation psychological and anthropological.”
“Well, when you want I’m ready!”
“We are pleased!” Bodini intervened, taking leave of the young man together with Molteni for a few minutes, and then continuing: “Clearly the complete analysis of the data will be done a posteriori, and delivered to Naikii a paper output, a digital document in slides, and the complete film of the test carried out; on the other hand, we have already done a first reading of the data acquired by the neuromarketing tool eeg, and of the heatmap deriving from Oculometry, the latter term that I used is the translation of the most popular Eye Tracking. Gaetano, you revealed a feeling of appreciation when the movie started, therefore in the vision of the touchdown of the football game; the Emotiv Epoc has passed us some interesting values. The parameters we analyze from the device are the emotional valence, the engagement, the respiration rate, the attention, the skin temperature. And of course, we have the heart rate from the heart rate monitor instead. You know English right? ”
“Well, you will certainly have understood the terms that I have just listed.”
“I confirm, thank you.”
“The heatmap, here it is, does not have particularly hot points of focus of the gaze, as you can see there are multiple areas in blue, small and distributed, this indicates the fact that your interest has been distributed, frame after frame, on so many details, as if it was the first time you saw a football game and you were fascinated by it. Am I saying real things?”
“Yes, absolutely! In fact, I had never paid too much attention to this sport, I often watch Serie A, the Champions League, the NBA, some tennis or rugby finals, I did not imagine how spectacular the NFL Super Bowl could be, in all its point of view!”
“You play sports I guess, given your build.” Said Bodini.
“Yes, I have some gym equipment at home, in the evening I do some exercises to keep the muscles toned.”
“How do you live this thing? I mean: in the evening, tired from work, you still find time and energy to do some fitness. Not everyone would do it, including myself … ”
“For me it’s like a relief valve, I’ve always needed it, I’ve always found in this sport in particular a way to let off steam, to release tension.”
“Is there anything of the day that brings you particular stress?”
“More than anything else, a legacy of the past, on which the mind returns to mull over today.”
“Would you like to talk about it?” Asked Bodini.
“Yes, I could …”, replied the boy frowning. A few moments passed, then he continued: “… My father was a marathon runner, he won prizes. Do you know the disappointment of a father in seeing his son fail, who betrays expectations in relation to the handing down of excellence, from generation to generation? Well, this is my case, I am the son who has disregarded, who has failed, the minus quam, reason for disappointment and anger on the part of a father, who has forced me to run with him for years, they were Sunday morning backbreaking, I tried every now and then to stop to catch my breath, to drink, but he forced me to continue. I remember that on more than one occasion I passed out from fatigue. It was a nightmare. Remembering it, I still suffer today.”
“I can imagine … This explains the collapse of interest on your part that our equipment detected when the commercial started. But then, given the artistic quality of the same, the values of your attention and satisfaction returned to interesting levels. What did you like most about this spot? What struck you most?”
“The message, even before the rhythm of the stage sequence, which is superlative. I have a certain sensitivity for beautiful things.”
“Yes, I perceived it, but you are sensitive from birth, it does not derive from the traumas of childhood that you mentioned. Sensitivity is a rare gift, comparable to the afflatus for art, with which we are born. You do not learn, you do not acquire, but it is certainly refined with experience, with life experiences, yes, but as I repeat, it does not come from scratch from experiences. From an anthropological point of view, sensitivity has always existed, and will most likely continue to exist, but the prerogative of fewer and fewer people, in a world that is declining in the name of an inhuman scientism and an efficiency in itself, it is today a ruthless march of modernity that is emptying the sensibility from the heart of the people. I will say more, today those who have sensitivity are perceived as crazy by the population, by this population of zombies.”
“He’s right, what he’s saying is true!” John Smith reflected.
“Maurizio!”, Molteni came into the conversation.
“The heatmap gives me evidence of possible improvements in relation to the final frames of the spot, I expected a more evident heat point on the slogan and on the brand, but it is not so, probably by opening the shot on an overall view of the stadium, the spectator’s gaze is distracted on details of secondary importance, I think I will suggest fading the light up to a solid color background, therefore giving the whole scene to the brand logo and the slogan.”
“If I can say one thing …”, said the young interviewee.
“You must!”, replied Molteni.
“… I would close with a jingle, just a couple of seconds, maybe not only instrumental, but also with a choir that follows the harmony. A few notes are enough.”
“Yes, it seems like an excellent observation.”, nodded the designer.
The session continued for a further abundant half hour, under the rapt eyes of the guests a card sorting, a multivariate test, and an environmental eye tracking took place, after which the lights returned and the two hosts reappeared in the projection room, with the hands in pockets, to receive the applause and compliments of the three guests.
“Mr. Livingstone, leave me your email address please, I’ll send you the material on WeTransfer, or if you prefer, on cloud.”
“On Cloud it will go very well, thank you, I will submit it to the attention of Naikii chief executive officer, Leslie Richardson. I took the liberty of make video footage with my smartphone, of the laboratory, and of the tests, I hope not a problem. I’ll be back to visit you soon, it’s a promise.”
“We are sure of it!”, Replied Molteni without false modesty, and continuing: “So, goodbye!”
“Thank you! Goodbye!”, Exclaimed Ludovico, Fred and John in unison, now at the door.
Walking back down the corridor to the elevator, Fred Livingstone turned a pleased look on our hero, who running a hand through his hair, said: “Very impressive! Long live Italian creativity!”, addressing Ludovico Macchi.
“It is the only thing that can save us.”, Macchi replied seriously, watching the horizon follow him from the windows. (closing music of chapter II)