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

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 recently opened for business, although 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

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:

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?!

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)

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