Solidarity with our sisters and brothers in France: vive la France! et vive l’ironie!

paris in winterYesterday’s vicious attack at the offices of Charlie Hebdo resonates and reverberates far beyond Paris, where the very notions of free speech and freedom for all people were enshrined during the great Age of Enlightenment.

As we have read the coverage from Europe, including reports of Italy’s heightened sense of vulnerability, I can’t help but thinks about one of the journalistic trends that emerged during the months that followed the Tragedy of the Twin Towers in New York in 2001.

“Is irony dead?” asked many writers and critical theorists at the time.

In the wake of what happened yesterday in Paris, it’s more important than ever for us to embrace irony.

The despicable men who committed this atrocity are so convinced of their misguided, evil beliefs that they — quite literally — held no quarter for irony and the satirical medium employed by the editors of Charlie Hebdo. And where and when irony were to be eliminated, there would be only totalitarianism.

Without irony and without negation (as the critical theorists would call it), there can be no truth because truth cannot exist in the hermetically sealed world of totalitarianism. And that’s what the attackers want more than anything.

I can’t think of more urgent moment than now to shout at the top of my lungs, vive l’ironie! and vive la France!

To our French sisters and brothers, know that we stand with you!

The photo above was taken in February 2009 when Tracie P and I visited the City of Lights for a tour with my band Nous Non Plus.

Faced with civil disobedience threat, Italian agriculture ministry issues new labeling guidelines

fivi federation italian grape growers independentAbove: the Italian Federation of Independent Grape Growers technical advisory board, including president Matilde Poggi (top row, third from left). Their t-shirts feature a quote from the song “Absolutely Sweet Marie” by Bob Dylan, “to live outside the law, you must be honest.”

On December 31, 2014, the Italian agriculture ministry issued new guidelines for the use of geographic mentions in wine industry labeling and marketing materials. The so-called “clarification” came in response to a threat of civil disobedience by the Italian Federation of Independent Grape Growers (FIVI). The group had called for its members to employ illegal labeling and marketing practices if the ministry did not act to address their grievance with restrictive EU norms.

“It is now possible,” according to a FIVI press release, “to use the name of a province or a region in labeling and marketing materials even when the name is registered as a DOCG, DOC, or IGT.”

In 2014, an Italian winemaker had been fined by government officials for using a geographical mention in marketing materials. The winery, a producer of Barolo, had used the place name “Langhe” in promotional media.

According to the Italian ministry’s interpretation of EU norms, even though the winery is located in Langhe (the Langhe hills of Piedmont), he was not entitled to use the geographic mention because it is the homonym of an appellation name (Langhe as in “Langhe Nebbiolo,” for example).

Many were bewildered by the seemingly absurdist application of EU law.

See this post for background on the controversy.

A number of prominent Italian wine trade members and observers had spoken out about the issue. And in November, FIVI called on its members to engage in civil disobedience if the ministry did not act by the end of the year.

In the FIVI statement, the group’s president Matilde Poggi expressed her satisfaction with the ministry’s new guidelines, calling it “an important step toward simplification and common sense.”