Future | Solid Foundations | NEED magazine

NEED magazine has published its latest issue featuring a story of mine about an American aid and development organisation called CHF International that works, among many other places, in the Balkans.

See the whole reportage here. Read the story here (Synopsis only, full story available soon). All pictures by Maciej Dakowicz.

Squatteurs De Luxe — SPRAY

Million Dollar Squatters get published again, this time with a French touch on up and coming style magazine SPRAY.

All pictures by Alex Masi, for English or Italian text contact me. Both available to be syndicated for further commercial use.

So easy even a moron could use it!

The future of reading is just a click away according to the founder and CEO of Amazon, the Internet retailer riding a year-long success of the gadget that might change the way we read books, magazines and newspapers, the Kindle.

Jeff Bezos is still as enthusiastic today about Amazon's pretty creation as he was when it was first launched in the US in November 2007. See what he and a number of American authors have to say about it in the video below.

The Kindle is a wireless reading device, in many respect similar to other devices already available such as mobile phones, PDAs and laptops; their point being to bypass the ageing publishing and printing industries and tend to all our reading necessities in a digitised version.

Why is the Kindle being hailed as such a revolutionary innovation then? Well, because it is.

We've all seen and tried e-books and audio-books before, and most of us have the possibilty today to use these media on a daily basis instead of the old-fashioned paper books and newspapers. No more messying around on public transport, no more cumbersome tomes to carry with us, no more cheap ink on our fingers. Heaven, right? Not exactly. For many reasons, some technical some definitely Freudian, none of the solutions we have been sold works for us, and so we kept to our beloved dog-eared pages.

But the Kindle is different. Its developers seemed to have worked harder to tweak those features that really would make Amazon's gadget more similar to a book than any other reading device before. Paper-like screen, light weight, and ergonomic design that resembles the appearance and readability of a book; wireless capabilities, a huge memory, online back-up, and built-in dictionary makes it stand out. Read the full specs here, plus reviews and interviews, a list of titles already available, and much more.

Watch this for an independent review of the Kindle.

So is the future of reading really a click away?

A New York's City Journal article — whose author is admittedly already in love with the Kindle — asks: "Will the Kindle replace books as we have known them since the beginning of Western civilization? Will downloading replace browsing at the bookstore? Will books follow the vanishing species of CDs and DVDs?"

Good questions. The answer I believe is no, it won't. Or not entirely at least. Maybe new books in a near future will only have digital versions, perhaps many old titles will go out of print, and surely any new way of reading — be it the Kindle or soon-to-appear even better devices — that finally improves on printed paper will take hold.

But I believe we are still very far from a total replacement because of the simple pleasures that make reading a book, a magazine or a newspaper so unique: the feel of different types of paper, the smell of it, the hand-written notes on the margins, the cover artworks, browsing a bookstore, etc., etc. Call me a reactionary fool, but wasn't supposed to be the same story with records, tapes, and why not, also banknotes, and bicycles? Sure, they might not be the devices of choice anymore, but they are still around, and I dare say, prosper as niche products.

Dani's final word: don't wait for the moment in which Kindle owners will roam victorious the world's airports, train coaches and waiting rooms, as it will be easier than what you expect to still hear the rustling of pages and scribbling of pencils.

The (Free) Press? Bilingual, please.

Things never turn out to be what they seem initially, and this is pasrticularly true if friends are involved. Last night I happened to get together with an old pal who, instead of filling the time it took to prepare a delicious chicken tikka with casual chit chat, introduced me to a new exciting project he's been recently busy with.

© Marko Manico

The name's aljaridathe newspaper in Arabic — and you will hear more and more about it as it takes its first steps into the publishing world. It is a free, quality, monthly publication, completely bilingual and produced by a mixed team of dedicated individuals, that is stirring the free press market down in Milan, Italy, and has been the talk of the town since issue 1 hit the newsstands earlier this month. Read it fully here.

aljarida's target audience is primarily the growing arab and arabic-speaking community of Milan, but also every Milanese who appreciate to be living in a city that, thanks to the abbundant opportunities it offers, is a strong magnet for immigration. Which, in turn, is a golden opportunity for social and personal growth.
The founders' goal is to highlight the common ground present between the indigenous Italian culture and the one brought by our North-African and Middle-Eastern neighbours, study how they influence each other, elaborate a common language comprehensible by all, and foster wider understanding in the process.

aljarida is innovative in content and aim, but also in style and design. It is the first free sheet to be feature every article of every section in both Italian and Arabic, the two versions facing each other and indeed almost blending to create a unique visual impact, and a formidable tool for the study of both languages.

Another striking feature: the paper opens horizantally, like a calendar, so it is instantly accessible to Italian as well as Arabic-speaking readers — who read from right to left and open their publications back to front.

My last word is dedicated to the group af activists, journalists, and scholars who brought about this idea, support it and contribute to it seeing it as the natural evolvement of their social activities. They are the backbone of an association called MEDInaTERRANEA, born to promote the "exchange of information between members of different communities, and the creation of spaces for dialogue through the media, literature, music, and art."

If you want to get in touch, email them at info@aljarida.it

News to brighten up your winter

Winter is definitely upon us in all its coldness and wetness, but for once we won't have to look out too hardly to find some good news coming our way from the publishing world.

NEED magazine, the American humanitarian publication I contribute to was eventually rescued from premature death and is fully back in action: the much delayed Issue 5 is out now in the US. Unfortunately it is not normally available (yet) in European bookstores and newstands, but you can order your copy here if you wish to do so.

NEED's Editor in Chief Stephanie Kinnunen.

You can also read all the stories featured in previous issues — plus a brief introduction of the ones coming out on Issue 5 — on NEED's website.

And if you really can't wait until peeps at Borders finally decide to stock the magazine in the UK as they are already doing in the States, contact them here.

I will talk more about NEED's Issue 5 as soon as I get hold of a copy myself, and will also upload a couple of tearsheets of the story I've written for them from the Balkans about an organisation called CHF International and their micro-finance projects.

On a somewhat less exciting note, you might have noticed some little changes I 've made to this blog. It is not a great deal, but if you look at the top of the page, just below the masthead, you'll find a new quick link section, which I hope will ad some extra spice to readers' browsing — especially new visitors. As I mentioned in a previous entry, it is part of a medium-term drive to move my operations to a "real" website, a goal on which I'm still working on.

Stay Tuned

Opportunities: available now in a small provincial town near you.

I've been in Biella for a few days now, and am still deciding if I really want to call this the 'final' destination of my summer trip, knowing that there is not such a thing and this can only be a new starting point, the prelude of a new trip, the dawn of a bright day still to come.

Sunrise on the dunes of the Erg Chebbi, Morocco.

Nevertheless, I feel I have to decide at least some of my next moves, and the most fundamental one at the moment is whether or not base myself here in small-town Italy for the next couple of months. I know it will be a time of research and preparation work that can easily be carried out anywhere, as long as I have a quite space and a good internet connection, but I still feel uneasy thinking at how grim and unexciting this place can be. On the other hand, London is always very close to my heart and maybe could be inspiring to be back in town for a little while without having to juggle with home bills to pay, cats to feed, school papers to write while trying to became a pro...

An event occurred the other day might just have had that little something that could influence my decision.

Claire and I were visiting Cittadellarte, a local arts and design foundation that run workshops and sustainability programs, temporary exhibitions and a gallery with the works of founder Michelangelo Pistoletto. I've myself discovered it rather recently, and every time we are in town we pay a visit to check out the latest in Biella's artist community. And as you imagine, every time we both are pleasantly
surprised and intrigued.

This time we found out about the existence of an artist-in-residence program called Unidee, i.e. Universita' della Idee, or University of Ideas in English — a program that has been on since 2000 apparently...where was I?...sometimes I strongly doubt of my investigative skills.

Every year 20 international artists are selected to gather in Biella, kindly hosted at Cittadellarte [Italian for City of the Arts, ndr], where, between June and October, they follow lectures and work on their own project, sometimes by themselves and often in collaboration with fellow residents. The focus is on "Art at the centre of the Responsible Transformation of Society," a concept that has been central in Claire's own artistic output in the last few months. Applications for next year's residence need to be sent by November 10, and she is working on hers as we speak... in

This made me think twice about going straight back to London and I see how perfect opportunities, and I run the risk to be trite here, can truly lie where we wouldn't usually look for them. Above all it is what we make of them that surely counts towards personal success, something that is usually regarded as the final end of our strivings, but that today I dare to see as both goal and the process we undergo to achieve it.*

* For more on this, please refer to Eckhart Tolle's book called A New Earth.

Back to Europe. And to work.

My traveling in Morocco has today come to an end and a new part of my Summer trip awaits me starting as soon as I publish this entry.

Work wise — some of you may know I traveled to Western Sahara to gather material for a possible story — it has not been extremely fruitful, and alas, I think I will need to go back soon...it was all due to a mixture of unfortunate circumstances and mistakes on my parts. I have learned the lesson and not all is lost.

But, while driving interminable miles mostly by myself up and down the country I had the time to do a lot of thinking, and I came up with what I think is a good and promising idea for a future project. Writing? well, not only, but yes, writing of a different type and in a different way...refer to the previous post to see where part of this inspiration comes from.

Something is cooking in the pot...

Regarding this I will now have to sit down and draw a proper plan of action, which I usually enjoy doing but to which I seldom stick...soon I will also discuss my idea with some of you in the real world to get your impressions, listen to your doubts, and ponder your advice.

To start with, who has any idea on how to draw a business plan? Any Business Plan for Dummies type of books out there?

Exploited in Palestine - The Freelance

One of the pictures I took at a NUJ's London Freelance Branch meeting and that was published on the branch's own magazine.

Journalist and researcher Penny Quinton has carried out a series of interviews with Palestinian colleagues focusing on how they cope with the stress of working in a conflict zone, often for Western news agencies that lay them off if they get injured or wounded. This was the case of Osama Silwadi (pictured) who used to work for Reuters and now runs a photo agency from a wheelchair.

Browsing (in) Marrakech

Moroccan kids from in a Atlas Mountain village, Morocco.

Another little update, still far from my goal of keeping this blog regularly updated, but for the moment internet is definitely not my priority...apart from today since I'm in Marrakech where I have found this little place called Cafe' du Livre: very much an expats type of eatery, but they have good wi-fi connection that I've been using all morning.

As some of you may know by following my trip on my travel blog, I have had several opportunities to think, ponder, reflect...about my life at present, my traveling around Morocco, and — somewhat more relevant to this blog — my professional future and ideas to make it into something that I can be proud of and happy about.

Peering around the corner in the village of Imilchil, Morocco.

Before leaving London at the beginning of August, I managed to meet up with a journalist and academic that I've always esteemed since working with him back in 2007: Charlie Beckett, the director of London think-tank POLIS. We chatted mainly about my career prospect as a freelance writer and photographer, and, among other things, he pointed out three things that he sees as the only alternatives to make in an increasingly competitive industry:
  1. find a niche market and create a small but consistent client base, or
  2. find a new product that nobody else is doing, or
  3. find an innovative way to do the any of the above.

The last option immediately struck me as the most appealing and feasible, but in the last few days I've been thinking about an idea that will include number 2. and 3., and in some way number 1. as well.

Joyful epiphany and happy days!

For obvious reasons I cannot use this space, at least at this time, to say any more about this little idea of mine: its realisation, crossing fingers, is rather remote in the future, and some serious research work and proposal preparation will have to be undertaken...but I am saying already too much. Farewell.

Latest news from a forlorn traveler

Some readers may feel that, after promising important changes to the nature and layout of this blog, I have slipped into the golden cage of summer holidays and forgotten about writing new entries.

This is partly correct, as I realise just now how distant I was until tonight from what should be my daily activity and pastime: nosing around, talking to people, asking questions, taking pictures and writing about it all.

In my defense I can say that I holiday also means shuffling around unfamiliar places on a regular basis, worrying about finding a place to stay for the night, attempting to drive those extra miles, and ending up sleeping in a parking lot or a rest area... arguably not the best conditions for jotting down thoughts, let alone uploading them on the internet.

But I sincerely hope this will soon change, or at least am confident that I have finally understood my priorities regarding my communication work flow while on the road. After getting hold of a good wifi connection at a camping site in the south of Spain between Cadiz and Tarifa, I have been updating my travel blog first, sorting out my next Moroccan move between drafts, and am now planning to have a look at this blog with some initial adjustments.

Once again, thanks for bearing with me and taking the time to come back to this page every now and again to check on me.

stay tuned

ps: check my latest set of photos from Tarifa, Spain here.

A new beginning

Important changes will soon take place on this site, and I take the opportunity not only to announce them to my audience but also to write down this intention so that I won't be changing my mind at a later stage*.

These changes were long overdue and I see them fitting the learning curve I am negotiating at the moment, ie going from being a full-time student and semi-professional writer and photographer to Human Rights graduate and professional freelancer. A long and arduous road indeed...

A little background regarding my decision: I was out with a bunch of "talented individuals"** last night and for the first time in a little while I felt inspired and compelled to do some more writing, and above all to begin using this site more as a full-fledged blog rather than as a mere archive of my published work. I can highlight two main reasons:

1) Soon I will leave London for some serious traveling and was reminded that my travelogs during my time in the US last summer were quite good stuff. More of that seems a good idea to me.
2) Taking into account my medium-term plan to launch my own 'proper' website, moving things around and creating new ways to work with them should be rather inspiring.

Thanks in advance for bearing with me in the meantime and for all the precious feedback that I'm sure you can't wait to send through...

Stay tuned,


The fine print:
*I do reserve the right to change my mind at a later stage.
**The "talented individuals", quoting one of them, are Alex 'the usual suspect' Masi, Magnus 'British Swede' Andersson, and Sara 'Ebasta' Dominici.

A Man's Home Is Their Castle - Portfolio

Million Dollar Squatters published on the online version of Condé Nast's Portfolio.

© Image Alex Masi

Over a period of five months a group of squatters occupied three different homes each worth millions of pounds in one of the most exclusive areas of London, Hampstead Garden Suburb, in the north west of the British capital.

Click here to read the full article and watch a slideshow of Alex Masi's pictures.

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