Six Italian-Americans sit around the table, a barbecue just completed. Now it’s time to chat and drink a little. Seated are an engineer, a Shakespearean scholar, an inventor, an online historian, an expert on reading and memory, a cruise ship crooner- and his five friends.
Jimmie Moglia talks, in his usual lilting, self-deprecating way. The others ask him questions, listen, and laugh. Jimmie may not be “the most interesting man in the world” … but he made the finals. (He probably lost because he prefers a big Tuscan red to Dos Equis.)
To call him a Renaissance man sells him short. Or maybe it’s a compliment to the Renaissance. Moglia’s eclectic interests and skills have taken him from Torino and Genoa as a child, to Odessa as an Italian cruise ship Country & Western singer, and finally (for most of the past 40 years) to Portland where he has had multiple careers as an engineer, an entrepreneur, an author and a lecturer. He’s also the president of the Tuscan Association of Oregon (OregonTuscans.com).
It all begins and ends with reading … s-l-o-w-l-y. He’s a meticulous under liner who color-codes passages by the types of thought expressed. It may take time, but this approach, which he calls “active reading,” leads to comprehension and retention. “Speed reading is BS. Anyone can read fast,” Moglia said. “But when you go back and ask, ‘What was this book about?’ they say, “It was a book about a man … and that’s it! That is a bit extreme, but you pick up a word here and a word there. There is no way the mind works that way.”
More than anything else, what Moglia has read and retained is Shakespeare. The Bard flows from his lips like batting averages from a sportscaster. During that 45-minute session around the table he quoted from memory lines from three plays – and not softballs like “To be or not to be?” That’s not the question for Moglia, but rather the answer. He quotes Shakespeare not to impress, but to express. The quotes came in answers to questions about three distinct parts of his multi-faceted life.
How does an electrical engineer get turned on to Shakespeare?
“I worked for a very large American corporation in Europe, so I had to fly back fairly often for debriefings and meetings – boring meetings,” he explained. To pass time on a flight, he picked up a copy of Richard III. “There was a beautiful line about a boring speaker: What need’st though run so many miles about, when one mayst tell thy tale the nearest way? That was fantastic!
“At that point I said, ‘There must be a book that exactly connects the situation that one may find himself in- to a Shakespearean line.” But there wasn’t, so Moglia decided to create one, Your Daily Shakespeare. He describes it as an “I Ching of Shakespeare.” In it, “you can find what you are looking for – religion, life, death, sex – you can find anything you like.” There is a companion Website, YourDailyShakespeare. com.
He has since produced a similar book containing Dante quotes pertinent to daily situations. That book, written with the backing of the Tuscan government, is in Italian.
Eventually the boring meetings caused Moglia to leave the company, which led to the next act in his life.
How did the MacInker, a computer cartridge re-inker, which Moglia and a business partner invented in 1984, come to be?
“The art of our necessities is strange, that can make vile things precious,” said Moglia (and King Lear, too). Moglia, who at the time was trying to learn the now-ancient computer coding language BASIC, was making coding errors and going through a lot of dot-matrix ink. “It was costing me a lot of money in cartridges, so I said, “There must be a way to remedy this.” There wasn’t, so, like Your Daily Shakespeare, he created it, not to mention the computer accessory company he would head for 27 years.
Since “retiring,” Moglia has focused on Historical Sketches, a series of online lectures which explores aspects of American, Italian and world affairs over the centuries. He’s also developed educational software and learning tools, and written USA e Getta (“Use and Throw Away”) a history of the United States, from Moglia’s unique perspective, in Italian.
No stranger to Italian readers, nor Italian interviewers for that matter, Moglia’s unusual path – including his teenage stint as a floating troubadour – begs the question:
How famous is he in Italy?
“I am remarkably unknown!” he said, letting The Merchant of Venice continue the thought: “The lottery of my destiny bars me the right of voluntary choosing.
“If my ambition were to become famous, then I would be suffering,” he concluded with a wry smile. “But I couldn’t care less. That’s why I live with a cat!”