Monday, December 27

Boxer Day or Boxing Day?

This holiday season, there is a battle raging on the internet, and it has nothing to do with Julian Assange against all the governments on earth.  Instead, it's a dog fight with so many pawns & paws, you don't know quite on whom to put your money.
In fact, if you look at annual 'Gift Giving Guides', news pages, City websites, you'll find many people promoting the idea that at Christmastime, you should 'Give a pet a good home'.  Astute journalists & editors will then specify, that you shouldn't actually buy those pets (ground out of puppy farms), but adopt them from shelters.  Take a look at this video: who doesn't want to see a child's face light up like these:



Unfortunately for the dogs, and according to Italian stats, a good 40% of them will end up right near the train set and the dollies -- by the bin at the side of the road as soon as the novelty wears off. Some sites go so far to say, 'Go ahead - give a pup -- but not as a surprise'. People should choose their own pets wisely, be sure of the commitment and the responsibilities involved and bond with them - first. Jack Russels-in-the-box as depicted above, is probably not a very wise idea.

Dig further, and a whole different viewpoint is expressed by the bloggers and animal rights activists around the worldwide web. Simply put, Don't give pets as toys - ever.  That was the campaign launched in Rome, while in southern Benevento, the City Officer for Animal Rights came out urging everyone to please adopt a pet - and reduce the number euthanized in shelters.  Torino opted for the more democratic, 'Give wisely' - along with, adopt -- don't buy.
You can also find added, Don't give animal-tested products out as well.  And to that, I'd like to toss in, And don't give stuffed animals made in China. Lord knows what cancerogenic fibers are lurking in their fur. And you thought fleas were a problem.

What do you think, To Give or Not to Give a cute little Boxer on Boxing Day*?

*This excellent definition of Boxing Day (or in Italy, observed as Santo Stefano), a day the Brits like to remind everyone of their caste system is provided by http://www.kidsturncentral.com/holidays/boxingday.htm

The holiday Boxing Day may get it's name from the 19th century English custom of giving Christmas boxes containing food or money to family servants and suppliers, the day after Christmas. Another possibility is Boxing Day may have come from the opening of church poor boxes that day.
The most basic understanding is that gifts, or boxes, were given to those who were less fortunate, on the day after Christmas, while gifts to those with equal standing were given on Christmas day.
It is also known as, the Feast of St. Stephen, or St. Stephen's Day - the first Christian martyr.
It is most often celebrated in Australia, Britain, New Zealand and Canada.
Although it is a statutory holiday in these countries, it is not celebrated as such. Most countries host Boxing Day sales on that day which have little or nothing to do with the holiday at all.

Thursday, December 23

Irreverent Italy - Gift Guide for Italy Lovers

If you still don't know what to get that Italophile in your life, or yourself - Here are my choice picks of Tante Belle Cose in the Book & Media Dept.  They'll put a smile on your face, so go ahead - get one for yourself this holiday season.

You can read what Dickens & Twain had to say about Italy & the Italians, learn about one man's search for the foreskin of Jesus or about the Pope's Rhinoceros or, pick up the books or TV series of The Roman Mysteries, and more! Click here to see full selection from my Amazon store.



And, for those of you with Italian friends, here are more choice book selections from Italy's most ironic or eclectic authors (that I've managed to sniff out). Keep in mind that www.amazon.it recently opened for business, although www.ibs.it offers free shipping anywhere in Italy.

Mamma Mia!  La figura della mamma come deterrente nello sviluppo culturale sociale ed economico dell'Italia moderna (my no. 1 favorite book & cultural resource written by fellow accomplice, Fabrizio Blini)

Volevo solo vendere la pizza. Le disavventure di un piccolo imprenditore

Non è un paese per giovani. L'anomalia italiana: una generazione senza voce 

Non è un paese per bamboccioni. Storie di giovani italiani che ce l'hanno fatta, nonostante tutto  

Anche le formiche nel loro piccolo si incazzano. A classic.

Il buio e il miele di Giovanni Arpino which brought us both exceptional films, Profumo di Donna & Scent of a Woman

All of the titles by the inimitable (but I'm trying!) Beppe Severgnini - I confess, I'm his biggest fan. But his latest release isn't yet available in English:

La pancia degli italiani. Berlusconi spiegato ai posteri

Imperfetto manuale di lingue  

And for those of you really off the spectrum, thorn in the side of Italy's politicians and comedian Beppe Grillo offers videos & gifts from his website


For another terrific gift list, check out an amazing array of gift ideas from Why Go Italy!

Monday, December 20

Mona Lisa...Mona Lisa men have framed you...

Well, the internet was all abuzz with the latest "discovery" - hidden numbers & letters inscribed by Da Vinci, not visible to the naked eye, found in her eyes and elsewhere under her cloak.  If they are there, great - but excuse my Italian, Chissenefrega?! So What?!  Well, to answer that question, it is, of course of interest to the latest in a long string of Italian 'historians' making wild discoveries about art -- one of my favorite being, the Director of Florence's Accademia Gallery, suddenly 'discovering' that her statue of David is looking over his shoulder, about to launch the rock in the palm of his hand from his slingshot.

She loved to banter (and made me change it in my audioguide, soon to be released-I didn't) that the perfectly round marble stone in David's palm was 'excess marble' left over by the greatest sculptor who ever lived - yeah, right.  Little did she care that Michelangelo's own friend, contemporary and biographer, Giorgio Vasari, reported what, precisely, the master had depicted.  No, we were kept in titillating suspense over 500 years for that bombshell - he was holding a stone to launch at Goliath! - to be "discovered".
Buy your own 'Paint-by-Numbers' Mona Lisa Kit at amazon.com

As for the findings of markings underneath the Mona Lisa's fine lineaments?  Simple.  Da Vinci used one of those 'paint-by-numbers' sets.  Pretty soon, they'll 'discover' a Mona Lisa on velvet as well.

Article from the Guardian here
Excellent review (with a healthy dose of skepticism) here

Saturday, December 18

Rome's mini-wikileaks - and all the Censor's men

Julian Assange may be praising the British judicial system, but, I'm sure he's lucky he didn't find himself in Italy.  Rome's judges, clearly on the wrong side of the internet freedom fighters, have, almost overnight (in an unprecedented act of swift decisiveness) closed down Cartellopoli - "Sign City" - a blog that exposed all of the outdoor signs that are springing up like mushrooms all across Rome - illegally.  Thing is, Wikileaks posts ill-gotten information; Cartellopoli posted photos of items already in the public domain - in fact, they're public eyesores.
Citing that the website "instigated vandal acts" - without absolutely the slightest hint of irony - as to which vandal acts they were actually protecting - the website was shut down.  This site, like others such as, Roma Fa Schifo ("Rome Sucks"), is run by democratically-minded people who are sick & tired of seeing the world's most beautiful city reduced to one live message board; with every sort of ad, poster, and of course, huge outdoor sign littering the cityscape.
the cartellopoli website as it now appears
Their activism - to get people to notice the daily disturbances and 'wild west' practices - embarrass the companies and people that are committing these vile acts - and maybe, elicit a response from the authorities.  Little did they know that they would be the ones to receive such a direct response. 
Naturally, these same civic-minded people have been waiting years for a case to be brought against any one of the illegal operations busy polluting the streets of Rome, and of course, engaging in the local pastime, not paying the taxes for posting in the first place.  But their website?  Down for the count.
They now must fight to get the site reinstated.  If, in this giving season, you love Rome, believe that (legally) disseminating information is a form of civic and civil discourse, please contribute something to Cartellopoli - to help pay their legal fees to stop this censorship and block the march of progress by self-serving outlaws.  And in the meantime, it will go a long way to bringing Rome back to its unparalleled beauty.

You can donate thru paypal on the Roma Fa Schifo site:  http://www.romafaschifo.com/

You can read the article (in Italian) about Cartellopoli's censorship here

Wouldn't it be nice to see instead, signs like these around town?

Tuesday, December 14

Berlusconi: The Remake

No, I'm not talking about his facelifts or hair plugs...but, on the day of his successful 'No Confidence Vote', our main media man, Silvio (like 'Cher', or 'Madonna') seemed to be channelling Hollywood - for better or for worse...

On the eve of the historical vote, he offered his version of statesmanship - errr, lounge lizard humor, from the annals of...Oklahoma?!

Annie
Ah'm jist a gal who cain't say no, / I'm in a turrible fix / I always say "come on, let's go" / Jist when I otta say nix! 

And with Silvio's Ad Lib (keeping them cringing in the aisles):   
"I'm just so glad a guy who's gay, didn't come by my way..."


«Io non so dire dei 'no'; Non l'ho mai saputo fare e la mia fortuna è stata che nessun gay è venuto mai a farmi una proposta perché alla terza volta avrei chiesto di spiegarmi tecnicamente come si fa e ci sarei stato» 

And, after winning the Senate and squeaking by with three votes in the House, his first pronouncement - putting of course Patria & God first - he then ignored the rioting in the streets, choosing to rush instead to a book launch (not his own - but Big Media Pal Bruno Vespa) and then channeled Sally Field at the Oscars:

Sally Field (1985) Academy Awards Acceptance Speech
"I haven't had an orthodox career, and I've wanted more than anything to have your respect. The first time I didn't feel it, but this time I feel it, and I can't deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!"

And while students & hoodlums were rioting in the streets, making Rome's High Street look a bit more like Baghdad's (in the spirit of unity and fratellanza), Silvio gushes:

"I can't go anywhere without stopping traffic. We can go outside right now (well, maybe not now while they're tossing molotov cocktails in the street), but I'll show you...traffic stops for me when I simply walk out of a store -- Just to see me...and in [that bastion of productivity, ndr] the South! Even moreso!  Entire towns calm to a halt! Just for me! You should see it! All around, it seems everyone votes only for me."

Click here to see the scene of love outside Rome's main shopping street

Friday, December 10

Natale a Napoli

You gotta hand it to the Neopolitans...centuries of subjugation from foreign overlords, drug lords, and local kings has imbued them with a terrific modus vivenda: a strong sense of humor in the face of so much adversity.  Now I'm not sure how many residents are truly laughing about the garbage crisis redux (excepting the dirty contractors laughing all the way to the banks), but here's the Best of the famed Neopolitan Nativity Scenes 2010 has on offer [I still want the gag rule figurines as pictured on the right hand column of my main blog page, but hey, even Julian Assange - pc in hand has made the grade]:

The Magi bringing trash to lay at the feet of Bambin Jesù

Julian, not yet handcuffed, alongside Hilary & Barry

The Holy Family stops for air on the flight from Egypt (clearly, the oxygen masks have dropped due to low cabin pressure)     


Some have commented that perhaps it's all a bit blasphemous, but the fabricators on via San Gregorio Armeno say in their defense that forcing this situation on the residents is altogether blasphemous.  As for me, I like the ones depicting Berlusconi in any number of positions; not that I'd put him in my manger scene, however.






Let's hope that as we celebrate Natale, it's a Rebirth or Renaissance for Bella Napoli.
To read more about via San Gregorio Armeno, click here

Wednesday, December 8

The 12 Days of Christmas + 5?!

Unlike the Americans, who launch Christmas somewhere around August (in stores, not in sunny dispositions), today officially marks the beginning of the Season to be Jolly, or, in the very least, the day we all celebrate the dogma of that most incredible event, the Virgin Mary's own Immaculate Conception.  In a country where in vitro is practically illegal, where surrogates are disallowed, and where single women are not even allowed to adopt, I wonder what our Virgin Mary would actually say about the whole state of affairs.  Nonetheless, we are all enjoying the day off.
Lest you think this is a holiday taking place since biblical times, think again.  It actually came into being in 1854, when Pope Pius IX declared this the day that we at least stopped to pause to consider that Mary was also conceived without original sin.  I'd love to extend this benefit to every other beautiful innocent newborn baby, and then, I'd really have something to celebrate.
In the meantime, I'll refrain and start to consider what the 12 days of Christmas actually pertain to, as long as I don't have to hear the song that goes along with it.
Buone Feste!
 After they chopped down all the 
umbrella pines in Piazza Venezia, we can now
feast our eyes on the stunning pine tree 
placed there for the holidays

picture from Alemanno 2.0 blog

Sunday, December 5

Driving in Italy? How many points for a pedestrian?

One of my pet theories - that Naples has some of the best drivers & Milano the worst - has proved true.  Well, almost.  Anyone who has ever rented a car and driven through Naples will tell you, it's an absolute chaotic mess - something not dissimilar to little amoebas in a petri dish knocking around.  But look more closely: those cars that swing at you from every direction, making you appear like a character from the Wacky Races (you know, where the car suddenly sprouts huge springs to boost you above the cars so you can pass them all without incident), rarely ever actually hit each other. [with the exception of them hitting you, so you pull over, and while you're busy discussing, their buddy is depriving you of all your luggage & your purse].


Take a trip to Milan, and fender benders are par for the course.  Personally, I think it's because the roads are so chaotic in Naples, no one has time to ungrip the wheel in order to send text messages; while in stand-still Milano, people don't insomuch drive while talking on the phone, they talk on the phone while they happen to be absent-mindedly driving.
But don't take my word for it: just ask the pedestrians.
The stats were just released on the number of deaths by drivers - and, as the Amici della Polizia Stradale (they have friends?) reported, 'It's a combat zone out there.'  In 2009, there were 4725 victims out there, up 2 points from 2008.  And, just to give you some bare numbers, this translates into 7.859 deaths since 2000 and 205.432 injured - one third of them while walking across those white crosswalks (or hopelessly faded ones, I'm sure).
So, where should you 'cross with (grande) care?'  Distressing at least to this Roman, Lazio takes the lead (106 victims), 2/3 of the victims in Rome alone, followed by Milan's Lombardy region (99) and Emilia Romagna at 67 (very few of those coming from the city of Bologna itself-so go figure).
And, where is it wise to walk?  Of course, Valle d'Aosta - as close to Switzerland as one can get (2 victims, but few inhabitants too), Molise (3) (if you knew where the heck it even was on a map), and Verona & Bari - really?! (if you've ever driven around Bari you'd understand my surprise) at zero - But here, our Amici make an exception: provided the victims were actually fully accounted for.  Palermo & Naples a respectful 13 & 14 casualties.

Oh-And my theory?  Neapolitans know how to avoid all & sundry while they maniacally dart in & out of traffic -- riding on sidewalks if they have to, only to suddenly squeeze in before cutting down that family of four - also on the sidewalk and perched at 60 km/hour on a Vespa.  In Milan, Trevor got run over by a car frozen in traffic at a standstill.  I rest my case.
The Milanese take any other moving object as a target. Instead of playing squash, it's how they get their nervous energy out.  But, while Naples may be a paradise for pedestrians, take my advice: drive there at your own peril.

Real Time Update to this Post:
On Dec 9th, the State Court of Appeals (in Naples, no less) ruled that if you, the pedestrian, hesitates in your approach to the (clearly faded) white lines, seeing that as you're crossing, a car is shooting at you at 80km/hr, it's your fault if you're run over.
After all, these are the same guys who said if you're raped while wearing jeans, it's clearly consensual [ignoring the obvious that even a guy would take his jeans off if he had a knife to his throat].

Thursday, December 2

The Colosseum Lights Up - Against violence to women

Better to light one monumental symbol...than to curse the darkness

I interrupt my regular monthly report - Tante Belle Cose - to bring you Una Grande Bella Cosa:  November 25th marks the Int'l Day of Violence against Women, and on that day, Rome announced that the world's most loved symbol (well, not counting the WWF Panda) would serve as a torchlight for women the world over.  And, in a case of the wheels of democracy - or in Italy's case, bureaucracy - burning rubber, this initiative took root in only a fortnight.
Last October, Rome's Professional Women's Assoc. had the privilege of hosting the Hon. Monica Cirinnà, City Councilwoman for Rome, and President of the Commission for equal rights.  I cornered her and, from my lips to a goddess' ear, told her my dream: Under Mayor Veltroni, the Colosseum turned green each time America executed a prisoner.  Instead, I wanted to see the Colosseum lit up every time a woman in Italy was killed by her partner, lover, or ex. 
In Italy, every 3 days a woman's life is ended this way, and tragically, the figure (115 this year) is rising.  Combined with a spate of surrealistic episodes, like the Romanian woman killed by a punch in the face over an argument in the subway, to the 15 yr. old killed by her Uncle or cousin, or both, it seems no time is better than the present to do, as Cirinnà states, "Bring women out of the shadows."
And the motion was brought to the table, and passed. Although Mayor Alemanno was totally on board, stating, It's a symbolic gesture, one that shall shed light on the abuse of power over women who end up hidden in the dark recesses of society, three members on the right voted against it and another 6 abstained.  Let's hope that they're the first to see that by lighting up a symbol for humanity, humanity may get illuminated.  

My new dream? That other cities across the boot follow suit - so every time you drive by the Colosseum or town square and it's turned color, we can shed light on the plight of women the world over...
One small step for women, one large step for all humankind.


The reaction has been overwhelming. The next day, the Taxi Union came on board with offering women 10% discounts on nocturnal rides, after the motion passed that they wait until you've entered your building before taking off (although I must say, many of them already always did).


The Voting: 29 voti a favore, 3 contrari (Consiglieri : Berruti, Bianconi, Orsi) e 6 astenuti (Consiglieri : Angeliini, Cassone, De Micheli, Guidi, Mollicone, Naccari)

Links:  
Commissione delle Elette - Check out who are the keepers of the torch - Like the Vestal Virgins of long ago, their offices are on 'Via delle Vergini"
What the Commission did last month - a law against ads which harm women's dignity
 

Tuesday, November 30

The Gods Must be Crazy



Photo from Il Messaggero Archives
In an extreme example of Art Imitating Life, another wall has come down in Italy (and not in the Berlin sense).  This time, an external garden wall of the Casa del Moralista (Moralist's House).  It has been raining for weeks, and, near to the fallen Domus of the Gladiators (the Schola Armaturarum) came today's crumble.  
In days of yore, if two events like that happened in a span of weeks, you'd start thinking about appeasing the gods or making offerings to Isis.  But now that we have the House of Morals seriously in disrepair, and the fighters no longer standing...I'm ready to place my own little Trevor on an altar, if it would bring an end to the decay.

Maybe that's what Berlusconi must do - make the ultimate sacrifice and stop surrounding himself with escorts and cavort with Virgins instead.  He'd have to sacrifice them in the end, though, but at least he'd do away with his 'deep throats' (in more ways than one).

Now...Lay down, Trev, Lay down!
See a slide show & good analysis here

And again, on 2 December, another break in the wall...
This time, at the Domus of Trebio Valente right near the Schola Armaturarum

Sunday, November 28

Berlusconi's Folly

When I first came to Italy as Director of a small U.S. subsidiary, one of my responsibilities was running the factory in Southern Milano.  I had long-suspected that the (3) workers across town did not actually labor a whole lot, and it wasn't just for slow sales.  So, I'd often pass by, unannounced.  One day, I found them kicking around a soccer ball - inside.  So that explained the broken windows so high up.
Filing a complaint with their union - I was told of their defense in the whole matter:  It was my fault for having caught them in the act in the first place.

And so it comes as no surprise when Berlusconi takes the same tact over the perfect storm of events that seems to be crippling the country.  In the sex scandal & gaffe-ridden Premier's mind, it is the foreign media in cohoots with the opposition that is contriving to make an embarrassment of the country.
Why in the world we'd all want to see the world's favorite country brought to its knees goes unexplained.  But in short, it's our fault for finding him out.

Berlusconi is correct - if it weren't for the EU magnifying lens holding them to task along with the instant global reporting from the web, many things, from the earthquake in Aquila, to his latest sexual escapade, to the Camorra's grip on the country, to the felling of the domus in Pompeii would hardly get noticed.  But to think that everyone wants to see the country fail is delusional, at best.

The reason why these things get hyper-reported, say, versus some wild turn of events in France or Spain, per se, is that Italy is a place which everyone - everyone - holds dear to their hearts.  Italian immigrants contributed to their host countries 'round the world, the Italians & their style, their food, their families, their church, even, not to mention their historical legacy (in the very least for engineering & architecture) from Ancient times on down are all things we can all be proud of.
And so, its failings are all the more heartfelt, more disappointing, more unnerving to the rest of us.  It's as if the dear 'ol dad to whom you always looked up as a role model and symbol of perfection -- for his style, charm, wit, success, traditions -- turned out instead to be a philandering money-launderer, like Parmalat's Calisto Tanzi.

The problems besetting Italy are all real.  From the corruption at every level of government (on all sides), to the nepotism, the scandals from nearly every sector of society, the dual plague of tax evasion & illegal construction, from the crumbling of its ancient artifacts & modern institutions to the mounting of its rubbish -- we all want to scream, "Viva l'Italia!'   
Just put an end to all this nonsense and show us what you can really do -- just say no!  But it needs to start with the leaders - across all facets of life - to set the example, and not by screaming out their entitlement from the rooftops of their fabulous low-rent apartments or from the windows of their wasteful 'blue cars'.  Their age-old profiteering from the public sets such a cynical example, that it infects every other citizen, from the heads of hospitals right down to the guy who delivers your mail.  
image from Pixdaus.com
While it's true, their failings are oft-reported, Italians are at the head of many successful enterprises worldwide.  This weekend, Geneva's Large Hadron Collider started to unravel the secrets of the Universe - and Italian researchers (including a woman) are leading the way.  As Sergio Bertolucci, Director of Research commented, "We are a perfect example of how competition & teamwork combined are the key factors in the success of our field of work."

Not only in the field of Physics, caro Bertolucci.

But for your paesano & Prime Minister, Berlusconi, Italy's problems need not be in the spotlight -- all the better to hide them -- So the country -  windows broken & poor productivity - can keep up the charade of its beloved Bella Figura.  Media Mogul Berlusconi - would be wise to heed the advice of the Editors at The Guardian, with regard to the Wikileaks fallout:
"The job of the media is not to protect power from embarrassment"

Tuesday, November 23

Via col Vento

I recently toured the newly renovated Galileo Museum in Florence.  It contains a vast assortment of gorgeous instruments used and collected during the times of the Medici and more. And, if you’re into that kind of thing, you'll also find a sort of reliquary containing Galileo’s very finger - you know, the one used to point out the sun - and upon closer inspection, even his teeth (which he may have wanted to use to bite his persecutors). But what I found really cool was outside the museum, a very neat sculpture with a type of modernized Gnomon stretching out from it.
 
And beneath it, a compass revealing the winds of time…really.  Up ‘til now, I had no idea that those myriad mutterings of my great-Aunt on a windy day were actually something quite more scientific than old wives’ tales.
On days she couldn’t get out of bed, she would hazily remark, “This is all due to the Tramontana” (a north wind).  Warm gusts would be greeted with the title “Scirocco”, one of my favorite words in the Italian language.
I never heard her actually speak of the Southern winds, the Austro or Libecano, but maybe that’s because she was rarely in Rome in summer.  Although I’m no expert, I’m sure it's those same winds coming from the Sahara that regularly dump sand on my car in summer.  The Western winds are called the Ponente.  But, it is always the dreaded chilly Maestrale (or Mistral) invading from France that shakes one’s soul—and that keeps more than old aunts from getting out of bed in the morning.
The only one not mentioned was Trieste's Bora - that same wind that blankets cars & boats in ice. [There's even a Bora Museum in Trieste - so significant this wind is in the cultural makeup of the city].
All I know is that, the deeper you dig, the more scientific explanations one finds behind perfect common knowledge--Leading one to draw the conclusion that it may just be the bloggers that are full of hot air.

Saturday, November 20

FIAT breaks glass - in more ways than one

The American arrival of the cutsie Cinquecento this week (NOT to be called the five hundred, per favore!) made headlines the world over – and of course, in Italy it was quite a big deal here in Bell’Italia.  The ultimate in 'Bella Figura.'  It was as if overnight, those ships they once cracked a bottle of Champagne over were transformed into mini-cars launched with a bottle of Prosecco.  This time, however, the Italians disembarked with their heads held high.  No more Fix it again, Tony – or at least, we’re all touching our privates to ward off that jinx.  So beloved of the press, we can call it, Tony's Vendetta.
But what was the most titillating, from news articles to editorials to facebook commentators was the launch itself – not so much the car.  Italian-American Laura Soave was just as much in the headlights of the cute little car she presented to the world. 
Here we had, a spokeswoman, start the engines of the FIAT 500.  After centuries of men droning on about their autos while Stepford women draped the cars, smiles as frozen as their cerebral cortex, an MCP like Agnelli is probably turning somersaults in his grave. 
And, she got rave reviews.  Most striking was, she was actually clothed!  No T&A, no flirtations - although she looks quite good on camera – a huge step for womankind not to be presented as a dim hood ornament, but actually as fully clothed & conscious, Mistress of Ceremonies (without being the mistress-not that I'd know...but Marchionne?).  As usual, her age was bantered about in all the media—not sure if it was because she was so young to have such responsibility, or if it was because she was so old – she was clearly not to be taken for eye candy.  Either way, in Italy, she nearly garnered as much print space as the car & Company itself.
Now that they've allowed a woman to smash through the windscreen, let’s see what else is under the hood. 

Tuesday, November 16

Advertising Age-The Best of Ancient Roman Headlines

In my periodic critique of Italian ad campaigns, a new bar has been set.  Up High. This is not the gold standard, but the platinum one - done for none other than my favorite local newspaper, Il Messaggero.  And, it's innovative for a number of reasons -- it shows how the internet, when put to good use, can break the boundaries and really provide something useful: a campaign that's fun to see, memorable, doesn't contribute to eye pollution, and hopefully, succeeds in selling more papers.  This campaign was a result of a contest on BootB amongst Creative agencies (winner: LS&Partners). And, whomever selected it, showed that Italians can have a sophisticated sense of humour when it comes to ad delivery.  The tag line?  
Il Messaggero:  The best news-Always (or, for all time...)

Rome Burns. Nero "Not me!"

Cleopatra & Antony: we'll take on Rome

Advertising Age?  A healthy 42 years old.
And, now, you can create your own headlines!  Follow their template - awesome.

Friday, November 12

Francesca Maggi's Strange But True!

What with a government in free fall, a hooker with a ‘get out of jail free card’, November rains darkening the entire boot since well, November, Amanda Knox the book coming out alongside victim Meredith the movie, a sleazy crime & multiple cover-ups in Italy’s south, and the falling down of a Pompeian complex – the Domus of the Gladiators - you’d think things couldn’t get stranger.  Not so, Italy.

Here’s a list of some of the even more outrageous happenings around town:

While another Italian institution – the sacred one of marriage – is also in free fall, “they” hosted a convention on ‘La Famiglia’.  The guest of honour?  None other than that twice-divorced, constantly cavorting Lothario-wannabe (‘cuz I don’t truly believe he gets all that action), Berlusconi?  Really?!!  Or, meglio,‘stai scherzando??!!’
He bowed out due to his latest fiasco – that’s why?  What an example.  It’s as if Bernie Madoff was asked to be the guest of honor on a Wall Street Ethics convention.

Another institution, that of the ‘macho’ football players, seems to be having it’s own coming out party.  A prominent gay football reporter claims to have had sex with a number of players, all of whom are seen regularly accompanied by their hottie groupies, their model wives, and so on.  Even in Germany, talk of being openly gay in the football realm is on the table.  Could it be?  It would at least confirm what we’ve longed suspected every time a goal is made…

While in Venice, signs are posted all over town – well, over half the town at least – imploring the Mayor to “do something”.  Stating (or, rather, in that very wonderful Italian way), understating that the City has been divided by a bridge…The marvelous looking but poorly designed Calatrava bridge, no less.  I thought the debate surrounding the signs meant, like the one over the Ara Pacis still raging in Rome, that half the city didn’t like the bridge for its look [Lest you think it’s over the inconveniencing 7 million tourists who come by bus, car or train who then have to lug their luggage up the steps for lack of a simple gliding ramp, think again].
Turns out, the retailers who, for the last 1500 or so years (give or take a few), have gotten the tourist dollar as the aforementioned tourists dragged their bags past their doorways, are upset.  The bridge now provides a groovy short cut around the obstacle course and now different retailers are getting the tourist dollar (or yen, as the case may be).
So, what do they truly want their Mayor to do?  Dynamite the bridge?  Let’s hope he doesn’t follow the Mayor of Rome's example and start saying he’ll tear it down, brick by brick.  But, I won’t complain if in the end he reaches an architectural compromise – like Alemanno did, and adds the luggage ramp.

Sunday, November 7

The Best Espresso in Rome? Better order Decaf

...to calm your nerves after the ordeal. 

A lot of ink has been spilled on the trials & tribulations of getting a good cup 'a Giò in Italy, in the USA, at home, you name it.  The results have been researched, reviled & riling the feathers of many who have come before.  But the best piece of writing - ever - on the topic comes from the NYTimes - 2002 report by William Grimes who searches for this Holy Grail in New York City, and draws the conclusion -- better to forego the ersatz drink and head straight to Rome's annointed Sant'Eustachio coffee bar.  Figures.  He's a New Yorker.
The "service" of Sant'Eustachio (and I use the term quite loosely) could mirror the legendary rudeness of a New York waiter who was just told he was fired, owed 3 years' back taxes and the table he's serving was the Tax Man here to collect them.  One walk into the Sant'Eustachio bar and I'm wholly convinced I've been transported to Milan - and that's a bald-faced lie - because the baristas in Milano have never been anything less than fun, flamboyant & fenomenale.  So I'm transported to a Milanese grocery store instead.  Like their Milanese fratelli, the Sant'Eustacchio guys simply don't care - the business keeps 'em pouring in the door - and the caffè dripping from the spouts (and at $3/cup, the euros flowing into the cash drawer, as well).
I was once "invited" on Facebook to become a Fan of Sant'EustachioThere was no greater disconnect I could think of on Earth than to "Friend" a place that seriously doesn't want friends, need them, nor care further about my custom.  The experience at Sant'Eustachio is basically Seinfeld's 'Soup Nazi' - Italian style.  If you've managed to make it past the cashier gauntlet to place your order without getting thrown out first, you then need to crowd at the bar - 4 persons deep - and elbow your way in for them to actually make it.  It's part of the 'experience'.  I've seen tiny goats climb atop a herd of sheep to steal a morsel from the trough at feeding time have better luck.
Check out the picture on their website, and it is clearly running counter to 'truth in advertising' laws [men gathered, obviously during wartime when millions were busy on five fronts, women were in the factories, and no tourists were milling about].
If you order the excellent Grancaffè (and I would strongly advise against asking what the other dozen or so 'types' on offer mean), you can barely suck it down before  being elbowed out by the onslaught of new customers waiting their turn.  They offer a (slightly) pre-sweetened brew in their secret recipe--the real secret is that they don't want anyone so much as spending the 3 seconds it would take to pour in the sugar & swirl.  So much for the slow pace of Italian life. Only Americans, who leave their coffee shops with the actual cup in hand drink faster.
I think the NYTimes author got it all wrong:  It's not called espresso for the way the coffee shoots up into the pot, it's the urgency of the experience brought to an art form at Caffè Sant'Eustachio.
But, is it worth the effort?  My American guest was thrilled down to her toes at the  entire affair.  We found a nice corner to enjoy our brew slowly, and even got to exchange quips with the furiously-paced wait staff.  I did find out later (on trip advisor), that if we'd placed our tip within eyeshot, we may have been served before breaking into a cold sweat & contractions reminiscent of childbirth.
But on the whole, before 'Fanning & Faving' Sant'Eustachio, I'll take my cue and paraphrase one Groucho Marx: I wouldn't want to join any group that really would rather not have me as a member.


Related Links:

Thursday, November 4

Berlusconi's Zipper Problem

As the press starts to state that Berlusconi's 'zipper problem' (my word, not theirs and borrowed from Bill Clinton) is beginning to be an embarrassment to the country - what with his penchant for paid prostitutes escorts, surrounding himself with underage cube dancers, and then not showing any signs of humility insofar as a father let alone the face of Italy's government.  I wonder sometimes, how deep this double (or in his case, multi-dimensional) standard goes.
 This picture comes with an excellent rhyme 
(in Italian) at this website

This week, I was invited to a conference in Florence - for the Arts - an industry in which women are prominent (but mostly cuz it's so low-paying, like everywhere else).  But once again, to hear a bunch of guys rattle on - generally reading from their pre-prepared scripts unless of course, they're making ad lib sexist jokes.
Then, a friend told me of a meeting he had in Amsterdam - between all Italians also attending a conference.  Turns out one of the two parties was a pretty serious, straight-laced fellow.  The other party, in order to 'test his mettle' decided that they'd see what he was made of.  And so, the dinner quickly diverted to the Red Light District.  I guess, if he could bag a whore, he would bag the business.
This happens the world over -- in fact, escorts doing just their job is pretty standard fare anywhere -- but you sometimes wonder, where the dividing line between upright behaviour in business ends and PMs 'defending their lifestyle' as a model example of a successful businessman cum politician begins. 
Perhaps Berlusca can turn the Zipper Problem to his advantage:  And start by zipping up his mouth.

Sunday, October 31

Tante Belle Cose - October2010 / Rome's Excellent Adventures

For many of us bemoaning the status of a Grande Paese such as Italy, it seems often that for every step forward, the country takes two steps back.  But this month, that is not the case.  There have been many good inroads made here, and not only reserved for underage girls spuriously named 'Ruby', who get a 'get out of jail free' card from noneother than their supposed lover & septuagenarian benefactor, Berlusconi...

Rome's Mayor announced that plastic bags would no longer be in commerce - only biodegradable plastic bags in supermarkets and stores from 2011 onwards.

On a specific Tuesday of each month until January, Italy's State Museums (the creme of the crop) will be free and open til 11pmI was finally able to divine which museums on which days, but not by going to the Ministry website...Try here.

Hon. Monica Cirinnà, a Rome City Councilman, informed us of a heretofore unpublished & unpromoted juicy piece of news -- that ads showing naked or near-naked bodies will no longer appear on Rome city billboards.
Of course, the disgusting Diesel campaign showing tweens in every sort of position (one teeny-bopper was shown legs spread eagle in a supermarket vegetable aisle holding a cucumber)...made the grade as she was clothed...

And, in the (very likely) event that these same girls end up getting man-handled, the City of Rome will now be one of the plaintiffs prosecuting the cases -- every one of these incidents also reflects negatively on the image as a whole of Roma.               This decision came down just as the Romanian nurse was pounded in the face by an Italian man she crossed insults with in the subway -- ending up in an irreversible coma and then dying.  It may not prevent these crimes, but it's an example for the rest of the world.

Wednesday, October 27

Italy-Rejoins Africa?

image from Europe-Africa Summit
The Corruption Perceptions Report by Transparency International provoked almost as much debate as Marchionne's comment (see OVERHEARD in the upper right hand corner).  While Italy has been quite fierce in going after corruption (despite Berlusconi's best efforts to keep himself and his cronies far from the fray), the appearance by business people caused Italy to slide - just below Ruanda & one spot above Georgia.
The Italians looked on the bright side: at least they weren't the most corrupt in Europe - although they have an expanded Europe largely to thank for that.  No, it is seen that people are more corrupt in Romania, Bulgaria, and of course, that other bastion of civics-minded people (and the palm-greasing that goes along with it), Greece.
But, as one analyst stated, unless you're Denmark, New Zeland or Singapore, most countries fell under the 5.0 mark - meaning they're more corrupt than not.
Clearly, shaming countries in the public forum might be one way - in an internet-connected world - to move things in the right direction.  Of course, that would signify that you didn't control the media that reports on such transgressions, too.

As for the conclusion by TI?  The message is clear: across the globe, transparency and accountability are critical to restoring trust and turning back the tide of corruption.

Monday, October 25

Happy Halloween?

As we approach Halloween weekend, I've always liked the idea that this uber-commercialized all-American celebration had winded its way somehow back to Europe, returning to its humble origins somewhere in the land of England (or Palermo, take your pick).  And, while I'm usually not so fond of seeing American just-about-everything over here, I admit, I do get a big kick over seeing store windows decorated in all things monstrous & scary.  In fact, I found it fitting:  there are lots of black cats around -- now they have a calling in life, so to speak.
And so it came as no surprise, when I headed into an Autogrill yesterday to find the stacks of Halloweeny treats.  But was I in for a shock.
Italy celebrates Halloween

Right next to the kiddie treat buckets - pre-loaded since most kids can't really expect to get treats door-to-door -- that aspect hasn't quite hit the octogenarian stay-at-home crowd just yet -- In fact, All Hallo's Eve is still more popular with the carousing set (they probably make orange & black ecstasy pills just for them) -  I found all the Christmasy goodies spread right out.  Yikes.
I thought even back in the USA, Christmas was sort of off limits until after Halloween.  No more, it turns out.  A country living on credit can't get enough of the Christmas season -- it's as if by putting out the goods we could just skip November altogether.  And now here we are, too:  Natale in October, with all its trimmings and wrappings.

This is one tradition I really didn't want to find on my Italian radar.  We already got Santa Claus climbing up people's balconies in the neighborhood -- next thing you know, there will be wildly decorated building fronts for people to visit as tourist attractions [then again, maybe not - electric co. charges here will keep that practice at bay].

While leaving the place, pondering this little cultural dilemma, I heard the cashier say to a client (in the hills of the Abruzzi mountain range, I remind you) "Thank you very much!"  In English.

Bethlehem is out of the question.  Maybe I'll have to head to that North Pole to find the true meaning of Christmas again.

Thursday, October 21

FIAT-in the driver's seat

As a followup entry to 'Baby you can drive my car' below, I'd like to heap some praise on our fledgling Detroit automobile company...But first, the bad news:

FIAT (and incredibly, NOT Chicco, the baby seat/baby toy producer - go figure) conducted a study outside schools & nursery schools in which they observed parents & their darling offspring.  They confirmed what all the rest of us foreigners already know: 
Despite supposedly holding their single child more dear than even God himself (sometimes the two indistinguishable from one another), Italians are pretty careless with their heavenly little cherubs. 
Okay-I'm paraphrasing of course.  That's NOT what they studied.  They found that: over 60% of Italian children are put in cars with no safety belts or safety seats whatsoever.  Now, they know they're Italian because, let's face it, the immigrants usually don't have cars, or, their parents are too busy trying to make a living, than to cart children around town. Ride the bus and you'll know this is true.
What's even more remarkable, is parents' complete ignorance of the facts:

- Car accidents are the number 1 cause of death for children aged 5 to 12 (although I'm sure that's pretty universal)
- Each year, 10000 kids wind up in car accidents (that's 30 bambini per day)

And why they still don't cough up how many actually die, they say that safety seats would guarantee a 70% chance of surviving an accident (and no, that does not mean children strapped in the front seat with tiny heads in front of an airbag pronto to release at 160 km/hr).

What they need is a bit more of that American knack for creating a nation of people unable to do anything on their own:  Sue everyone you can when you're own stupidity caused the accident in the first place - heck- it's like winning the lottery - only easier!

As a result, a mamma told me that in the U.S., the hospital walks you & your baby out to the car.  They help you put the baby in the car seat and make sure it's strapped in properly.  No seat. No baby.

In Italy, they send you home with a mild warning: "Whatever you do, make sure the baby travels flat on its back for the first few months."  Now - you can imagine what that kind of propaganda does for the car seat people...

Why Chicco isn't all over this is still beyond me, but in the meantime, I only hope that FIAT quits wasting money on 'studies' and allots their car seat behavioral budget to me instead.

And those careless Americans?  Turns out they have their own little epidemic going...forgetting kids in cars altogether - It would seem Americans are wound so tight with kids strapped in so well, that the kiddies don't even peep while daddy runs to the office -- for 9 hours.
Thus was born the baby seat monitor (pictured above) and ZeroSeconds.

I guess that's one problem that Italians succeed in avoiding - hard to forget an 8 lb. baby when it's sitting right on your lap...

Monday, October 18

How to Speak Italian - Part I

I received this excellent portrayal in my inbox - it is so spot-on I thought I'd repropose it here.  As my Uncle would often quip, "If you cut off your hands you'd be speechless!"  Well, consider this your encyclopedia for speaking Italian - in gestures.

Cartoon by Alfredo Cassano

Friday, October 15

Baby, You can drive my car

A friend recently brought her newborn baby over from the U.S.  I took one look at the stroller – and I knew she had bought it there – it’s the SUV of baby strollers.  Suped up, ready for action – with the seat doubling as a car seat you just pull right out and strap into your car.  All in very elegant fabric, like the inside of a Cadillac.  Except it had the Italian label – Chicco – on it.
Of course. No wonder it was elegant, too.  She said, aside from the fact that her (very) Italian husband would never have ‘bought American’, it turns out that that model – is the Armani of baby strollers (I shoulda figured). Until very very recently, the strollers here looked like they came straight out of a 1940s reel of Mary Poppins.  Whenever my sister came to visit with her 4 kids, they would get stopped constantly – with all the mammas just oohing and ahhhhhing…
Not over the rather large brood (a family of 6 in Italy is hard to come across), or the cutie-pies in the bunch…No, the mammas all wanted to talk strollers.  So, one would think that this stroller could have been purchased here, in its mother country, so to speak.
Turns out, it was so over-the-top, they don’t even sell it in Italy. 
America, land of hyper-convenience had the ‘built-in-baby car seat’ on their deluxe model.  Why they don’t carry it in Italy, when it seems just as good of a market is beyond me. 

The Chicco 'Cortina' Baby Stroller
- not available in Cortina -

But on second thought, that might just be for two reasons: 

       1.    Mammas don’t leave their house with their piccolo  bambino until they’re too big to fit in a car seat or
       2.    Italians prefer the ‘Mamma-wraps-her-arms-around-the-baby-just-like-a-seatbelt-while-sitting-in-the-front-seat-with-bambina mia’ version of car seats.  
      It would seem that Italians still don’t divorce much,  because they still need someone to drive the car.

Tuesday, October 12

Oooh Lah Lah - l' Frenchman - ou è t'il?

I remember in the 70s & 80s people loved to quip that there was no such thing as a native Californian (and once they elected an Austrian as their Governor, I believed it). Come to Paris, and you start to think that the proverbial Parisian man is on the endangered species list (not that that’d be a bad thing).

While in bustling London you see faces of every distinction, you always get a very firm sense that there’s still an English something-or-other about the vast majority of them. Those pasty complexions, the rosy cheeks, the micro-mini skirts in January, the stone drunks at the pub…you get my drift. Not so Paris.

Paris seems to be the ethnic hub of the world where people from every extraction seem on the go. It’s as close to New York City that I’ve ever seen, except when factoring in those real Parisians, the average weight & size changes a bit compared to their American fraternitè. Riding the subway, I felt like I was in the Grand Bazaar while above ground, Indians mixed with Chinese, Japanese, American and -- everything in between.

The Parisian male – you can spot them as fast as an albino in a troop of Chimpanzees.  Although, with their scrawny stature, they should be a whole lot easier to miss. Gaunt faces, no shoulders, and let’s just say, better they don’t even attempt to fill a pair of Levi's. No wonder they wear such fine threads. Take, for example, their hottest star to cross the Atlantic - Vincent Cassel (Ocean's 12 & 13) - I rest my case.

It could be that perhaps, like the Milanese, Parisians just don’t take public transport – leaving the cattle cars to the rest of us pèons (spoken with decidedly French accent). But for me, you want to see the future of France, go to Paris – There are no native Frenchmen – and it probably won’t be long before the baguette is fossilized for visitors to the Louvre.

*For more fab Frenchmen in movies, check this out

Thursday, October 7

Fringe Benefits

While in Paris attending (and blogging for) the Women's Int'l Networking Conference, my thoughts are clearly on women's empowerment, women leading the future, and the shaking loose of old (male-oriented) ways of conducting business. The Italian presenters are all amazing women, each trailblazers in their own field, all with incredible backgrounds and by their very presence, reveal that a lot of good things are happening in Italy - many of which are even being exported abroad. Sadly, Italy kept coming up as an example of how bad things can get: While we have 60% of the graduates, we rank 72nd in the world on equality issues.
The reasons are many: from mammismo, male culture, deeply entrenched ideas of men's & women's places.

And so it's last week's news out of Vicenza from the Corriere Veneto, that paints this picture for me so accurately - showing from what depths we need to come out of:

- A boss in a Company said that if his staff met their objectives, his secretary would be the prize.
In the old days, women (worldwide) turned a blind eye to this - the victim thankfully is filing a formal complaint. His response, "It was just a joke." Sorry, sense of humour failure.

- A nightclub opened in the area, "Diverso Strip Club" which needed to improve upon women in cages and lap dances. So now, it's nude women as serving trays. The food is served right on them (or off of them, depending on your point of view).

- And of course, there was the traditional beauty contest in the area whereby the winner was awarded with a waitress position at the end.

Now, we've been talking about finding your passion in the workplace, but I think this is going a bit overboard...!

Saturday, October 2

Tante Belle Cose - September2010 Roman Culture

There have been so many great things happening in and around the country, it’s almost as if the entire country of Italy were trying to hide the fact that the government’s been in meltdown since August. Cultural events, free museums, better (almost) everything – that doesn’t have to do with governing. As a wise man once remarked, Italy functions despite its government.

In terms of travel, Italy’s train company announced (along with its October special discounts released on the 30th, that you have to book 1 month in advance to get – ahem) that you can now take a train straight to Milan's Malpensa Airport from Rome – without changing trains.

Rome's Palazzo Barberini - National Gallery of Art finally reopened after years of restoration – in its entirety – after the Ministry of Culture spent (well spent) years of wrangling away half the palace that was given over to the Defense Ministry’s clubhouse (or something like that). It opened to great fanfare, day-long lines just to get in the door; and with artworks by all the masters, worth a trip for sure.

Not only did Sept bring free events in the museums and evening visits to the Vatican Museums, but we could now visit a host of other places opened by night for concerts, events, all kinds of entertainments. So much so, people were once again remarking, "Give 'em pane et circences" - bread & circuses."
It was also a great month for having rooftop drinks on terraces around Rome – and if you don’t have a friend with one, I enjoyed the sips & sights on the Hotel47 roof (next to Bocca della Verità), Hotel San Giorgio (on via Giulia), and no summer can end without dinner or a drink on the fabulous terrace of the Galleria di Arte Moderna.

Mr. Tanzi, responsible for the biggest accounting fraud in history – the Parmalat scandal (if you don’t count the Madoff-Ponzi scheme) had his Knighthood revoked (Cavaliere); although his freedom still hasn’t been. Citing age (he’s 70), they're trying to get him to avoid jail so he can enjoy the fruits of his labours…Madoff got 150 years, but it’s not like the judge & jury thought he’d live them out.

And, in a country where things are still being unearthed (mostly by monied tombaroli tomb raiders), 500 – yes, 500 cases filled with artifacts from the Roman Forum was found. Not really lost, they had gone into hiding during the war – and then lost in storage. They think it’ll take years to account for each of the pieces, but, little by little we’ll get to see the finds at one of my favorite museums, Museo di Civiltà Romana in nearby EUR.

But, my highlight of the month came when visiting Naples – Trevor & I went to the excellent Città della Scienza“the only dog-friendly museum on earth”. Aside from the installations, activities, and wealth of ideas, friendliness and professionalism (not to mention the yumbo gnocchi alla sorrentina and caponata served at their cafeteria), we found out that the following Sunday was ‘dog day afternoon’ – and families could visit with their pets in tow. Wouldn’t I have liked to see Trev’s hair standing on end at the electric current generator…

Tuesday, September 28

Rowing upstream down the Tiber

A friend visiting from Holland decided that since he’d be spending 6 weeks doing as Romans do, he’d take advantage of being in a city with a big fabulous waterway. He’d continue his weekly rowing jaunts, just like at home.
So, he sets off to find a rowing club. Dressed in a t-shirt & jeans, he was informed that many of the Canottieri clubs were located – appropriately – down the Tiber, near the Flaminio.
He ends up at the Circolo Canottieri Reale -- the oldest and probably haughtiest club in Rome, right up there with the Polo and Tennis clubs of Prati. He said he walked in and felt he had just entered the main dining room on the Titanic.  Huge wooden doors, red plush carpets, golden chandeliers, and…a doorman who took one look at him and said, “You must be in the wrong place.” (Of course, Reale = Royal should have been an indication...)
Charmer that he is, he explained his purpose, and, could he possibly go rowing here with a few people? The doorman was charmed, took some pity on him – but just enough to tell him to try his luck a few doors down.
Entering the next club, he finds it much more low key, basic light fixtures, no carpets. But even here, the woman laughed – and told him they couldn’t let him enter either. But while waiting for the bus, he runs into her, and she points him to another club nearby. “Try over there, they might just take walk-ins.”
This club was perched right on the river banks, so down the steps he goes to find two makeshift boats practically tied down together to form the club house of the Canottiere – Ferroviere Dopo Lavoro. A rather large man who looked like Captain Ahab on a whale fat diet sizes him up. Finally, he asks what he was doing there.
My friend, intent in his mission, and even more charming with his naiveté, said simply, “I’d like to row.” Clearly seeing that he was not an ex-Italian Train Company employee, the man said ‘No can do.’
Having been to Italy in the past, my friend immediately tried a new approach. “But I already know how to row! I’m just here for six weeks…” Finally, the man caved, mentioning the monthly rate – just for him. According to my friend, the price was exorbitant – but, no matter, he was going to be able to row. So, chirping he’d be back another day – to bargain the end price and finally get his feet wet as an Italian Canottiere.

Friday, September 24

Berlusconi fiddles while Rome burns...

And, if Nero had been alive by the time the Flavian Amphitheatre had been built, well, this is very much what it may have looked like. Granted, there's not much to go up in smoke today, but...this video is by far the best video on youtube, although you don't see the orange - and very realistic flames- from this temporary art installation in Rome. Why temporary? You'd think after all the trouble of putting up these things, they'd keep it going for awhile...After all, Rome wasn't burnt in a day...




I absolutely love the Colosseum as a monument of all times. It used to be lit up green every so often -- but, unlike the Empire State Building - it was lit up that way whenever America killed a death row inmate. Personally, and considering that one woman is killed every three days in Italy by her lover - husband or ex, I always thought they should be lighting it up pink just about every three days...and then, hope it would be temporary.

Tuesday, September 21

Those Scandalous Brits

It may be because I just watched the movie, Scandal, a portrayal of the Profumo Sex Scandal of the 1960s that my head is on things Britannica...The whole while, like with the Clinton or Gingrich or fill-in-the-blank scandal, heck even the (scandalous because it took place at all) wedding of Rush Limbaugh, I just kept reminding myself that one needs to suspend their critical judgment: I don't mean about the film, I mean about the fact that any of these guys could ever get someone so hot to go to bed with them in the first place (well, Monica excepted).

So was I tickled as pink as a stripper's boa when reading the British headlines today:

This 25 yr. old jobless bloke (to avoid calling him what he really is, a total loser) has fathered 10 kids by 10 women (two on the way), paid for by the British taxpayer (and maybe upwards of 15 since he refuses to use condoms and clearly can't count that high). One look at him, and you cannot for the life of you fathom how he could have bagged anyone, let alone 10 of them. He must have found 10 women with a fetish for albino snakes.

This article was then followed by the piece reporting that Viagra would now be available at supermarkets at half the price.

I just have a few words of wisdom for all involved:

- For (very) Lucky Louie: If you really wanted your sperm out there, perhaps you could have sold it and earned some money from your exploits (of course, there's always a reality show waiting, co-starring Octomom)

- For the Ladies (term used loosely-in this case, real loose): No, coming forward with your story is not going to bring in gazillions.  In case you haven't noticed, he is NO Tiger Woods.

- For the British Govt: Am I the only one who thinks that you're going about things...a wee bit ass-backwards?? 

Perhaps the Pope's visit to the UK was a good thing after all:  Importing a bit more Italian catholicism and hey - maybe the birth rate would plummet to Italian levels.

Saturday, September 18

The American - Clooney's Flick - My Picks

I was recently given the honor & opportunity to pen my picks - along with other terrific bloggers musing over things Italian - of films that best represent Italy and the Italians.  You can find my picks on the website of the production/distributor website of George Clooney's latest film, The American, shot in Abruzzi - where part of me comes from. you may have to reload page

But, check out all the picks -- for an expat look into portrayals of Italian culture on film.  And, be sure to check out their outstanding backstage look at shooting in the Abruzzi countryside.

Let me know what you think of my selection, and...what movies for you best sum up Life in Italy...!

Thursday, September 16

Signed, Sealed and DelXXX Signed Again

Today I had to go to my local bank to cancel my debit card and order a new one since I seem to have misplaced it somewhere on my desk.  Sounds easy, right? In many places, you could call a toll free number and a card would be put in the mail within 24 hours.  In my neck of the urban concrete jungle, it was a process taking close to an hour.  And I was truly happy. 
Used to be I'd have to first parade over to a local Carabinieri office (after first trying the police station who would dismiss you without reason), wait in line behind all the other document-seeking peoples (and I don't mean illegal immigrants - that's a whole 'nother enterprise and study in patience), get told to come back another day and not so close to lunchtime, be interrupted by real emergencies and phone calls from the moglie, asking when she should 'buttare la pasta', and on your third attempt, file a police report that was destined to become part of the State Archives  never to be released, as if misplacing your card was akin to mining the State secrets of the Bay of Pigs.  Eventually, you would be given your leave but only after having signed 3 copies of the report in three places.
You should have seen the faces of the American police dept. when I waltzed in one fine day and asked if they could please make a 'missing i.d. card' report for me for the Italian authorities.  The story made the rounds of the entire station and I thought I would be given a lie detector test to see if this was not some weird prank I was forced to carry out on a dare. 
But I digress.  So, off I was, card in hand, having signed over 12 different documents, short forms, receipts and declarations (and I admit, 'card in hand' - no 24 hr. wait either!)
Darting out for a drink with a colleague, he informed me how, just the day before, he actually had to sign a form to give to the info desk at the city office in which he needed to file some work papers. They gave him a new form to sign to visit Window no. 1.  Unable to help him, he was told to go to Window no. 5, but not before first signing a new form.  And, of course, you guessed it, Window no. 5 first gave him a form to sign, but then told him to come back another day with some new forms that he had produced, but not in enough copies.
We wondered whether or not he'd need to re-sign all the forms once he restarted the process, or whether re-sign was just actually a term to get you to resign your mission altogether.

Monday, September 13

On Time Arrivals

Flying around these days I got to experience firsthand the latest developments in a few select airports.  Arriving in London, of course, is always terrific because you can dart inside a Marks&Spencer's for duck rollup or dozens of yummy and totally British snacks before heading for the trains. This time, however, at Gatwick Customs we were met with mile-long lines for EU holders and no lines on the foreign ones. 
One look at the front and there were idle passport checkers just biding their time.  Basically, they had instituted that day a new (non) system of line greeters, who were a bit slow on the uptake.  These guys would usher in one at a time when 6 counters stood empty.  Once again, I'm convinced that transport authorities harbor a sincere disdain for passengers.  Let the throngs decide the line to go in - it's a fairly efficient system, rewarding the ones without jet lag for keeping an eye on the 'about to open' counter.  Note to self:  bring American passport to London in future.

Meanwhile, taking a refrigerator-cattle coach RyanAir flight - under duress, believe me - to Torino, I arrived to discover a spanking clean new airport, looking a lot like Stansted did back in the day: like landing in a tidy shopping mall.  Testing my luck with a 1 hr. layover, all went swimmingly well, when I had to check into Alitalia, and was greeted with a smile, with even more in abundance once on board the plane.   
Note to self:  could you actually give Alitalia another try?  Or, is it only awesome service (with a cozy warm on board environment) as compared with the medieval-torture-chamber class of RyanAir?  May have to give it a second chance.

Arriving in Rome, I found excellent little luncheon places here & there and a nice little salon, always good to know.  They are doing considerable construction works, but laid out and even apologized for the inconvenience - a small miracle that almost sent me straight to pray on the tomb of Pope John Paul II - I was so tickled rosa, that I even liked the utterly casual 'Sorry' versus the "We apologize" string of words. 

Sadly, once upon the rail station of course, it was back to reality.  The robotic announcer read out the stops in an English which sounded a bit more like she was reading Bangladeshi - backwards.  Trains left from different platforms than indicated, and the whole place smelled of excrement -- from onboard toilets which the conductors seem to take delight in emptying regularly at this enclosed platform.  Note to self:  check and see if the Italian state railway isn't owned & operated by RyanAir.