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Blogstalgia

The platform that hosted most of the Italian blogs dissolved on 31 January 2012, but had already been abandoned by its users for some time. As in a book by Primo Levi, there were therefore both the submerged and the saved: those who were not on Splinder were saved. Mine was on splinder.

Even in 2001 there were no users, because we did not yet know what blogs were. I had witnessed September 11 from a black-and-white TV set. There was no Internet at home, and as a good Damsian, I scrounged it once a week from my parents when I went to visit them on Sundays. So it was in the autumn of that year that I discovered Claudio Sabelli Fioretti’s website – which I was familiar with as a former editor of Cuore – and which disturbed me with its slogan “who doesn’t have a blog these days?”.

What do you mean – I thought – “who doesn’t have a blog?”. NO ONE has a blog, apart from you. Or am I wrong?

Of course I was wrong. One of these Sundays I saw another one, it was called Polaroid: a blog on the radio. I mean, not just the blog, which in itself was exotic stuff. This was a blog and a radio programme together, we were already at the crossover of media. And then the subject matter: it was about music, music was my speciality and I prided myself on having obscure and original tastes, but they were talking about artists who were more obscure and original than mine. The first post was on Tuesday 13 November 2001, and went like this: “Good evening ladies and gentlemen, here is the inauguration of the Polaroid blog, the Radio Città 103 programme on the air (maybe) on Fridays at 8pm on 103.1 mhz in Bologna. Ebi + Ellegi will select for you music, drinks and appropriate readings. We hope you enjoy it. See you soon”. Ebi was Enzo and Ellegi was La Laura, a couple I would later meet in person.

Polaroid was the first in what I discovered was a community that recognised itself as such, with its leaders, silent readers, historical members, orthodox members, unorthodox members, supporters and so on: it was the indieblogger community, as it would later be called.

And incredibly, Polaroid is still regularly active today, with the same address even (blogspot platform), the author of a feat that if only for its constancy – as well as its timing, professionalism, independence and passion – I think is unique in the world.

A lot of time passed, however, from those first experiences as a reader, before I in turn decided to start a blog. It was at the beginning of 2003, and I had read an exciting article in l’Espresso entitled Dieci cento mille blog (Ten hundred thousand blogs), which described the explosion of this phenomenon in Italy, also thanks to a free, all-Italian platform called Splinder.

So it was on Splinder that I began that adventure, and since my conditions as a web user had not changed in the meantime – I was only connected at the weekend, and therefore I could only publish at the weekend – I decided to call myself ilblogdelladomenica. I put a subtitle that was intended to be ironic: Against Castaldo without ifs and buts, aping the slogan dominant at the time against the various wars and the various terrorisms of the moment, but applying it to music. And choosing as a target the leading music journalist of Repubblica, Gino Castaldo, seemed perfect to me for several reasons: firstly because having an ‘enemy’ immediately defined my identity as a blogger and columnist, secondly because it indicated music as my main topic, thirdly because Repubblica was the undisputed point of reference for left-wingers, so by criticising it from the left I was putting myself in a position from which I could shoot at zero against practically the entire Italian cultural scene, and fourthly because Castaldo was famous but not too famous, so no one before me had honoured him enough to elect him as a symbol of a system (however much to be fought). I decided from the outset that ilblogdelladomenica – abbreviated to bdd – would be a polemical and iconoclastic columnist, but at the same time ‘human’, and (I now recognise) all too emotional and moody. Controversy for me was, so to speak, an act of love, like those characters in the world of Italian cinema who insulted each other sympathetically and creatively to make conversation.

Of course, not everyone played along, and with this way of doing things I ended up offending a lot of people and unfortunately also various friends.

There were a lot of friends at the time, because in 2003 – thanks to Splinder and perhaps also to that article in L’Espresso – a lot of people started a blog at the same time as me, and a lot of people who had the same interests as me ended up forming the indieblogger community. Of these, Enzo and La Laura of Polaroid were the veterans, having already been active for two years, which at the time was an eternity.

The most respected was Leonardo, mostly political: in 2001 he made blogosphere history with his live broadcast from the G8 summit in Genoa. A great head, a great pen and a great asshole, if he had been born in another generation he would have become a Michele Serra; instead he has become nothing. He will be 20 years old in 2021 – the blog, not him – and for a while now he has been writing on that Noah’s raft founded at the beginning of the decade by Luca Sofri to save some of the spirit of the time. An old post by Leonardo himself, dated 24 December 2001, is a perfect family photo of the blogosphere of that time. Valido was already there: he had opened his first site on 9 September 1999, and since it was not yet a blog he had already anticipated some of its characteristics.

Later on, Valido would leave his mark – but hiding his real identity – in very successful adventures such as I 400 Calci (where he signed himself Nanni Cobretti). He also collaborated or collaborates with Orrore a 33 Giri, a collective blog dedicated to musical oddities.

And Valido frequented the indiebloggers, who were also, so to speak, a generation after his own. For a long time he was also a guest author on Inkiostro.

The latter was one of the first indiebloggers I noticed, and one of the best known. He is still online today (at another address, because Splinder no longer exists) but has not been updated for years. His first post was on 6 January 2003. He too dealt with indie music, we were friends with him for a while but then we quarrelled badly because we both have an apparently sweet but also touchy and irritable character.

Enrico Veronese, known online as Enver, also had a bad temper. What was striking about him was his enthusiastic super-activism, both as a music journalist and as a left-wing pundit. He was famous as a columnist for Blow Up. He threw himself into many projects, almost always abandoning them halfway through. Or as he pointed out, it was the projects that abandoned him. Certainly the decline of Blow Up began with Enver’s departure, who is still on Facebook and Twitter, but above all there is all his precious archive of the Enoteca online and this one of his journalistic articles.

I think the first to link to my Sunday blog in 2003, and thus get me into the business, was Rechargeable Battery, although in the early stages it had another name which I no longer remember. This was active until 2013.

Among those who followed indie music, there were two particularly bright and straightforward ones. One was Andrea Girolami, who came from Senigallia I think, and was the first blogger I approached in person: it was at the famous Frequenze Disturbate festival in 2003, he had launched an invitation to show up, I showed up and through him I made friends with all the others. His blog was called Loser, then he started another one – Nonsischerzapiu – today he writes on Twitter and who knows where, but I think he doesn’t deal with music anymore.

Another particularly brilliant one was from Rome and his blog was called shoegazer. Also on splinder. He knew a lot of people and had a lot of projects, some of which didn’t work out very well. One became the 42 records label, which launched Niccolò Contessa’s I Cani and thus played a leading role in the transformation of Italian indie (he was interviewed about this in 2017 on Pagina99). Today he still writes on Twitter.

I don’t remember when I started following Francesco Farabegoli, who called himself Disappunto, and is another one who had many different projects, and late in life – from 2009 to 2017 – made the most beautiful Italian music blog ever. It was called Bastonate, today you can still receive his newsletter, and read it on Twitter.

Also on Twitter is Michele Boroni, known as Emmebi, who was not so much interested in indie music as he was in pop culture, and politics. He also wrote for the Foglio, so even then he had a different kind of notoriety. But he still followed the indiebloggers sideways. And his historic blog, active from 2002 to 2014, is still online (even with its traditional layout). Then he writes about mainstream music on rockol.

In general, it is curious to observe the different fate of those who were on splinder or blogspot. Except in the rare cases of those who migrated in time to another domain, as in the case of Pubblicodimerda, who was the ideologist and theorist of indiebloggers during their golden age, which we can say coincides with his period of activity, the incredible three years from 2003 to 2006. Among other things, he invented a prank award for indiebloggers (the Indieblog Awards) and idolised the journalist Fabio De Luca, who ended up joining the ballot by dint of being called upon: he’s still there, on Tumblr, the microblogging platform I still use.

One who was a bit on the sidelines, and we never saw each other in person, was Elrocco. Still active on blogspot after all these years.

Aurelio Pasini, a journalist with the Mucchio, was also part of that blog-ballot, even though he didn’t have a blog. His girlfriend did, the blog was A visible Sign Of My Own and she mainly published photographs. At the time it seemed a bit superfluous, then photoblogs came along and today that’s what we all do with Instagram. She was also ahead of her time.

Luca Castelli, on the other hand, was an old name on Rumore, and started blogging a little later than the others: his was Ilpozzodicabal, and it still is.

Then there was Akille, a very phlegmatic and nice guy from Rome who I never knew what his surname was, so now that he is no longer online who knows what happened to him. The only sign I have found now of his existence is this interview from 2006.

A little further away from us was Ludik, historically one of the first Italian bloggers ever, who today is more active on Twitter than anything else.

Also far from us was the volcanic Zoro, who later became a television personality and now hosts Propaganda Live on La7.

In the golden age of blogs, I always remained Il Blog Della Domenica, until 2006 I think. Then I threw myself on the social networks of the time and on Tumblr. Then a lot of other things happened, I had another blog called Complotto e Mezzo and even in that I put a lot of effort, and it must have been around 2009 and 2010. After that I think even I lost track of what I was writing about. For example in 2014 I had a blog called The Sunday Review, it started out talking about music then ended up being a series of very intimate short stories.

A few days ago, Polaroid relaunched a reflection by Matthew Perpetua, a historic American blog (or m-blog), who wrote: “Things were much better when there were blogs”. And in its naivety, this complaint struck me. I allowed myself to feel nostalgia, a feeling I normally detest, I always find it senseless, the sign of senility.

And now I feel it too, nostalgia, or rather blogstalgia for that golden age, for those three years in which everything happened and blogs were a vanguard of expressive freedom and experimentation. More than anything else they were a community, albeit deterritorialised and unstable, but precisely for this reason magical and unrepeatable.

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