Thursday, June 1, 2006

A niche in crookedness?

(A letter not published by Financial Times)

Sir, in your series about reforming Europe you refer to Pisa’s medieval tower as a “spectacular example of a grand architectural project gone awry: beautiful, still in existence, but wrong nonetheless,” and you got it all wrong. It is just because the tower is leaning that it has turned into one of the most outstanding commercial successes. What would a straight tower have meant to Pisa?

I wish to make this point since when trying to pursue an “antidote to decline” in today’s difficult environment, trying to straighten out Italy in too many aspects might actually break it. There might very well be interesting little niches in crookedness to pursue, and, besides, without some of it, the world would be an unbearably boring place.

Extracted from Voice and Noise, June 2006

Dead and Useful

A friend, upon hearing that I was going to Samoa, reminded me that I could not miss the opportunity of visiting Robert Louis Stevenson’s grave. “Of course I won’t,” I said, but it got me thinking.

Would my friend have suggested seeing RLS’ grave, were he buried in London? Of course not! The fact that he is buried on an island without an excessive abundance of so-called big tourist sights presents a win-win situation in terms of development strategies. For instance, if Mick and Keith, on account of their Voodoo LP, were to be buried in Haiti, they still might provide a much-needed and useful boost to the island.

But that’s not all. We all know that “location, location, location” is the mantra for any real-estate affair, and this burial site alternative has the potential to create its own location value, since many Mick and Keith fans could find merit in having their own graves located next to them. As most of the gravesites for these graveyards could be negotiated on a pre-burial basis, and as the state of the clientele permits overcrowding the venues with little added risk, the business opportunities are immense. This goes not only for the initial ticket offering (nothing to do with offerings) but also for the secondary market where scalpers (nothing to do with scalping) should be able to enjoy a strong and renewable support level, provided mainly by visiting family members.

The constraints are few, and the potential huge. You need not locate Mick and Keith in the same spot—you could rotate them from graveyard to graveyard, giving a fresh meaning to a Farewell Tour. Flexibility in product design could also allow marketing the graveyard as timeshare units, providing the possibility for an exchange of a week or two, perhaps even with Eleanor Rigby’s Resort-yard.

But, of course, it’s not only about rock and roll. Just think of all the very powerful and attractive burial arrangements you could achieve by mixing yesterday’s and tomorrow’s lovers, friends, or foes. Personally I find the foe niche especially interesting, since it would give a much more profound and proactive significance to the whole concept of a peaceful rest.

P.S. I finally went to visit RLS’ grave in Samoa and although I never made it up to the mountaintop, I must confess that it was much more than a grave. His former residence houses a splendid museum where, guided by a classy and knowledgeable local girl, we were shown interesting glimpses of the five final years of this famous Scottish author. I submit that this little detail does not invalidate the general dead-and-useful proposal.

Extracted from Voice and Noise, June 2006