lunedì 16 gennaio 2012

The robots of dawn - Isaac Asimov

Elijah Baley found himself in the shade of the tree and muttered to him, self, "I knew it. I'm sweating."
He paused, straightened up, wiped the perspiration from his brow with the back of his hand, then looked dourly at the moisture that covered it.
"I hate sweating," he said to no one throwing it out as a cosmic, law. And once again he felt annoyance with the Universe for making something both essential and unpleasant.
One never perspired (unless one wished to, of course) in the City, where temperature and humidity were absolutely controlled and where it was never absolutely necessary for the body to perform in ways that made heat production greater than' heat removal.
Now that was civilized.
He looked out into the field, where a straggle of men and women were, more or less, in his charge. They were mostly youngsters in their late teens, but included some middle-aged people like himself. They were hoeing inexpertly and doing a variety of other things that robots were designed1to do-and could do much more efficiently had they not been ordered to stand aside and wait while the human beings stubbornly practiced.
Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter,
There were clouds in the sky and the sun, at the moment, was going behind one of them. He looked up uncertainly, On the one hand, it meant the, direct heat of the sun (and, the sweating) would be cut down. On the other hand, was there a chance of rain?
That was the trouble with the Outside. One teetered forever between unpleasant alternatives.
It always amazed Baley that a relatively small cloud could cover the sun completely, darkening Earth from horizon to horizon yet leaving most of the sky blue.
He stood beneath the leafy canopy of the tree (a kind of primitive wall and ceiling, with the solidity of the bark comforting to the touch) and looked again at the group, studying it. Once a week they were out there, whatever the weather.
They were gaining recruits, too. They were definitely more in number than the stout-hearted few who had started out. The City government, if not an actual partner in the endeavor, was benign enough to raise no obstacles.
To the horizon on Baley's right-eastward, as one could tell by the position of the late-afternoon sun-he could see the blunt, many-fingered domes of the City, enclosing all that made life worthwhile. He saw, as well, a small moving speck that was too far off to be made out clearly.
From its manner of motion and from indications too subtle to describe, Baley was quite sure it was a robot, but that did -not surprise him. The Earth's surface, outside the Cities, was the domain of robots, not of human beings-except, for those few, like himself, who were dreaming of the stars.
Automatically, his eyes turned back toward the hoeing star dreamers and went from one to the other. He could identify and name each one. All working, all learning how, to endure the Outside, and
He frowned and muttered in a low voice, "Where's Bentley?"

The robots of dawn - Isaac Asimov

lunedì 9 gennaio 2012

The Naked Sun - Isaac Asimov

A Question Is Asked

Stubbornly Elijah Baley fought panic.
For two weeks it had been building up. Longer than that, even. It had been building up ever since they had called him to Washington and there calmly told him he was being reassigned.
The call to Washington had been disturbing enough in itself. It came without details, a mere summons; and that made it worse. It included travel slips directing round trip by plane and that made it still worse.

Partly it was the sense of urgency introduced by any order for plane travel. Partly it was the thought of the plane; simply that. Still, that was just the beginning of uneasiness and, as yet, easy to suppress.
After all, Lije Baley had been in a plane four times before. Once he had even crossed the continent. So, while plane travel is never pleasant, it would, at least, not be a complete step into the unknown.
And then, the trip from New York to Washington would take only an hour. The take-off would be from New York Runway Number 2, which, like all official Runways, was decently enclosed, with a lock opening to the unprotected atmosphere only after air speed had been achieved. The arrival would be at Washington Runway Number 5, which was similarly protected.

Furthermore, as Baley well knew, there would be no windows on the plane. There would be good lighting, decent food, all necessary conveniences. The radio- controlled flight would be smooth; there would scarcely be any sensation of motion once the plane was airborne.
He explained all this to himself, and to Jessie, his wife, who had never been air-borne and who approached such matters with terror.
She said, "But I don't like you to take a plane, Lije. It isn't natural. Why can't you take the Expressways?"

~Because that would take ten hours"-Baley's long face was set in dour lines- "and because I'm a member of the City Police Force and have to follow the orders of my superiors. At least, I do if I want to keep my C-6 rating."
There was no arguing with that.

Baley took the plane and kept his eyes firmly on the news-strip that unreeled smoothly and continuously from the eye-level dispenser. The City was proud of that service: news, features, humorous articles, educational bits, occasional fiction. Someday the strips would be converted to film, it was said, since enclosing the eyes with a viewer would be an even more efficient way of distracting the passenger from his surroundings.
Baley kept his eyes on the unreeling strip, not only for the sake of distraction, but also because etiquette required it. There were five other passengers on the plane (he could not help noticing that much) and each one of them had his private right to whatever degree of fear and anxiety his nature and upbringing made him feel.

Baley would certainly resent the intrusion of anyone else on his own uneasiness. He wanted no strange eyes on the whiteness of his knuckles where his hands gripped the armrest, or the dampish stain they would leave when he took them away.
He told himself: I'm enclosed. This plane is just a little City. But he didn't fool himself. There was an inch of steel at his left; he could feel it with his elbow. Past that, nothing- Well, air! But that was nothing, really.

A thousand miles of it in one direction. A thousand in another. One mile of it, maybe two, straight down.
He almost wished he could see straight down, glimpse the top of the buried Cities he was passing over; New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington. He imagined the rolling, low-slung cluster complexes of domes he had never seen but knew to be there. And under them, for a mile underground and dozens of miles in every direction, would be the Cities.

The endless, hiving corridors of the Cities, he thought, alive with people; apartments, community kitchens, factories, Expressways; all comfortable and warm with the evidence of man.

And he himself was isolated in the cold and featureless air in a small bullet of metal, moving through emptiness.

The Naked Sun - Isaac Asimov

martedì 3 gennaio 2012

I calci in culo favoriscono la scrittura

Sul numero di Topolino che trovate in edicola oggi c'è una mia storia intitolata Paperino e i Bassotti delle nevi, per i disegni di Antonello Dalena. E' il mio esordio in Disney ed è un gran bel modo di iniziare l'anno per il sottoscritto.

Della storia magari ve ne parlo nei prossimi giorni. Oggi invece voglio ringraziare 5 persone:

Sergio Badino
Francesco D'Ippolito
Fderico Franzò
Gabriele Panini
Maurilio Tavormina

Nel periodo in cui ho scritto la storia, condividevamo tutti lo stesso studio nel centro storico di Genova.

Ed è grazie anche a loro se oggi posso comprarmi in edicola. Perché ognungo di loro, ciascuno con il proprio stile, mi ha incoraggiato a lavorare di più, a scrivere di più, a sbattermi di più e soprattutto a spedire la mia roba in giro.

In sostanza, mi hanno preso a calci in culo quando ne ho avuto più bisogno.

E di calci in culo necessitavo in un periodo in cui mi ero lasciato andare. L'onda lunga del post-trapianto mi aveva lasciato poco incline a riprendere a scrivere. Motivi vari su cui devo ancora ragionare e farmi chiarezza, fatto sta che per quasi due anni non ho scritto una riga. Un peccato mortale per chiunque voglia scrivere, perché ci si arrugginisce in pochissimo tempo e ne serve moltissimo per tornare a muoversi senza troppi cigolii.

Poi però ho iniziato a frequentare lo studio. Condividere lo spazio di lavoro con altre persone è stato per me fondamentale nel tornare a scrivere. Al di là dei mai troppo lodati calci in culo, è il fatto stesso di trovarsi più o meno ogni giorno a confrontarsi con altre persone che fanno il tuo stesso mestiere e lo amano profondamente che per me ha fatto la differenza.

Soprattutto quando si tratta di un gruppo eterogeneo per formazione, per passioni, per curriculum e anche per carattere. In questa convinvenza se ne esce arricchiti quando si hanno la voglia e la pazienza di ascoltare e imparare. Chiedere un consiglio su di un'idea, fare una critica mirata sul lavoro di un altro, consigliare autori e scoprirne di nuovi per i suggerimenti degli altri. Tutto questo è un tassello che per quanto mi riguarda si è rivelato essenziale nel mio ritorno alla scrittura. Ci ho messo del tempo, forse anche troppo, però alla fine i calci in culo hanno dato i loro frutti.

Per questi e altri motivi io li ringrazio per quanto hanno fatto e continuano a fare, tra un calcio in culo e una battuta, nel tenermi a galla e indicandomi la via.

Spero in qualche modo di riuscire a contraccambiare.

5 cose che voglio imparare a fare nel 2012

1) Voglio imparare a fare le trazioni alla sbarra usando un braccio solo. Si tratta di riuscire a fare quello che vedete nel seguente video:

che a 85kg di peso sospetto saranno cazzi acidi.

2) Voglio imparare a fare i piegamenti sulla verticale, cioè quello che vedete nel seguente video:

avrò lo stesso bel culo, garantito.

3) Voglio imparare a fare i dragon flag, si tratta di un esercizio per gli addominali che vedete nel video qua sotto:

sperando non mi esplodano le cicatrici del trapianto.

4) Voglio cominciare a correre. Niente video, suppongo in vita vostra avrete visto qualcuno caraccolare sudando e bestemmiando per le vie. Io mi aggiungerò a questo nutrito plotone.

5) Voglio imparare a fare la focaccia. Che tra una sudata e l'altra dovrò pure tirarmi su di morale.

Penso aggiornerò il blog con i progressi dei vari punti, tanto per non perderli di vista e vedere se miglioro o meno.

lunedì 2 gennaio 2012

The Caves of steel - Isaac Asimov

1: Conversation With A Commissioner

Lije Baley had just reached his desk when he became aware of R. Sammy watching him expectantly. The dour lines of his long face hardened. “What do you want?”
“The boss wants you, Lije. Right away. Soon as you come in.” “All right.”
R. Sammy stood there blankly. Baley said, “I said, all right. Go away!” R. Sammy turned on his heel and left to go about his duties. Baley wondered irritably why those
same duties couldn’t be done by a man. He paused to examine the contents of his tobacco pouch and make a mental calculation. At two
pipefuls a day, he could stretch it to next quota day. Then he stepped out from behind his railing (he’d rated a railed corner two years ago) and walked
the length of the common room. Simpson looked up from a merc-pool file as he passed. “Boss wants you, Lije.” “I know. R. Sammy told me.” A closely coded tape reeled out of the merc-pool’s vitals as the small instrument searched and
analyzed its “memory” for the desired information stored in the tiny vibration patterns of the gleaming mercury surface within.
“I’d kick R. Sammy’s behind if I weren’t afraid I’d break a leg,” said Simpson. “I saw Vince Barrett the other day.”
“He was looking for his job back. Or any job in the Department. The poor kid’s desperate, but what could I tell him. R. Sammy’s doing his job and that’s all. The kid has to work a delivery tread on the yeast farms now. He was a bright boy, too. Everyone liked him.”
Baley shrugged and said in a manner stiffer than he intended or felt, “It’s a thing we’re all living through.”
The boss rated a private office. It said JULIUS ENDERBY on the clouded glass. Nice letters. Carefully etched into the fabric of the glass. Underneath, it said COMMISSIONER OF POLICE, CITY OF NEW YORR.
Baley stepped in and said, “You want to see me, Commissioner?”
Enderby looked up. He wore spectacles because his eyes were sensitive and couldn’t take the usual contact lenses. It was only after one got used to the sight of them that one could take in the rest of the face, which was quite undistinguished. Baley had a strong notion that the Commissioner valued his glasses for the personality they lent him and suspected that his eyeballs weren’t as sensitive as all that.
The Commissioner looked definitely nervous. He straightened his cuffs, leaned back, and said, too heartily, “Sit clown, Lije. Sit down,”
Baley sat down stiffly and waited. Enderby said, “How’s Jessie? And the boy?” “Fine,” Said Baley, hollowly, “Just fine. And your family?” “Fine,” echoed Enderby. “Just fine.” It had been a false start. Baley thought: Something’s wrong with his face. Aloud, he said, “Commissioner, I wish you wouldn’t send R. Sammy out after me.” “Well, you know how I feel about those things, Lije. But he’s been put here and I’ve got to use him
for something.” “It’s uncomfortable, Commissioner. He tells me you want me and then he stands there. You know
what I mean. I have to tell him to go or he just keeps on standing there.” “Oh, that’s my fault, Lije. I gave him the message to deliver and forgot to tell him specifically to get
back to his job when he was through.” Baley sighed. The fine wrinkles about his intensely brown eyes grew more pronounced. “Anyway,
you wanted to see me.” “Yes, Lije,” said the Commissioner, “but not for anything easy.” He stood up, turned away, and walked to the wall behind his desk. He touched an inconspicuous
contact switch and a section of the wall grew transparent.Baley blinked at the unexpected insurge of grayish light.
The Commissioner smiled. “I had this arranged specially last year, Lije. I don’t think I’ve showed it to you before. Come over here and take a look. In the old days, all rooms had things like this. They were called ‘windows.’ Did you know that?”
Baley knew that very well, having viewed many historical novels. “I’ve heard of them,” he said. “Come here.” Baley squirmed a bit, but did as he was told. There was something indecent about the exposure of
the privacy of a room to the outside world. Sometimes the Commissioner carried his affectation of Medievalism to a rather foolish extreme.
Like his glasses, Baley thought. That was it! That was what made him look wrong! Baley said, “Pardon me, Commissioner, but you’re wearing new glasses, aren’t you?” The Commissioner stared at him in mild surprise, took off his glasses, looked at them and then at
Baler. Without his glasses, his round face seemed rounder and his chin a trifle more pronounced. He looked vaguer, too, as his eyes failed to focus properly.
He said, “Yes.”
He put his glasses back on his nose, then added with real anger, “I broke my old ones three days ago. What with one thing or another I wasn’t able to replace them till this morning. Lije, those three days were hell.”
“On account of the glasses?” “And other things, too. I’m getting to that.”

The Caves of Steel - Isaac Asimov