Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Certainly never a dull moment in Italian politics! The recent Italian general elections gave us some rather interesting “politicians”. One of the many is the “transgender” Vladimir Luxuria. He/she can now not only be called an “honourable member” of the Italian parliament but he/she can also go to movies for free and do a lot of fun things (at the taxpayers’ expense). Good’ol Vlad also appears regularly on a tv music show, a sort of an Italian version of MTV. Vlad usually wears the most outrageous clothing. The latest news in the Corriere della Sera, Italy’s most influential national daily, regards one of Vlad’s political opponents, Ms. Daniela Santanche’, of the “National Alliance” party (the neo-fascist one). It appears that Ms. Santanche’ accused Vlad of only and always wearing pants. This sent Vlad a wee bit ballistic, and so he/she challenged Daniela to a "fashion" duel: Vlad showed up at work the other day (ie, the Italian parliament known as “Montecitorio”) wearing a skirt. He/She was in the courtyard of Montecitorio and called Daniela to come and have a look at his/her legs. Daniela was apparently most impressed and uttered: “We certainly have the longest thighs of the entire parliament”! And then Italian politicians/journalists complain that Italy isn’t taken too seriously abroad?
There’s something rather funny about Italians (actually, there are a LOT of funny things about Italians!). Every year the news programs will tell you where Italians will go on holiday, what they’ll do when they get there, how they’ll get there, what’s the traffic situation like on the highways, if they’re having fun or not once they’re at their vacation spots, what they do when they get back, how much weight they’ve put on (especially after Xmas!) AND how they’ll manage to cope with the stress of being back at work (at this point the “expert” is drawn into the picture, usually a psychologist who will tell tv viewers what to eat and how to sleep before heading back to work). Ditto for high school exam time. Seeing that unlike North America, school exams are on a national level in Italy, so come June the media will inform you that kids are getting geared up to take their exams. They’ll tell you what they’ll consist of and, perhaps the most comical part, how kids should prepare for them. Again, the famous “expert” is drawn into the picture. He/she will tell viewers, especially the kids’ parents, that their young Giannis or Marias should get a good night’s rest, that they should eat lightly the night before and that they shouldn’t cram for the exam. In those 20 years of schooling in Canada, absolutely NO one ever told me how to face exams (not even my own parents!), whether at junior high, at high school or at university. It was just plain common sense that to prepare well for your exams you shouldn’t a) stay out the night before until 7 am, b) not shoot-up with cocaine or heroin, c) not get drunk out of your mind and d) not eat a 15-course meal the night before! It was just plain common sense. Not so in Italy where 9/10 times Italians have to be led by the nose on how to drive properly on the highways (especially in the fog!), have to be told to not to stay under the scorching sun for 10 hours per day without suntan lotion and how to prepare well for exams. It’s no surprise then that old Benito (Mussolini) had once referred to his fellow Italians as “a bunch of sheep”!
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
News the other day reported that environmental volunteers cleaned up approximately 200 beach resorts in Italy. The garbage collected amounted to “only” 45 tons! Some interesting articles included: plastic containers, cans, shoes, used tires, washing machines, gas containers (for cooking), old scooters and bikes and the odd bed spring mattress. Experts said that chewing gum requires 5 years to decompose whereas a simple cigarette lighter which is thrown on the ground requires a whopping 500 years to disintegrate. An empty plastic bottle instead has no time frame. Every year many Italians, especially school kids, are called upon to clean up beaches and cities. In 30 years that I lived in Canada, plus 20 years of schooling (8 alone of university studies), I don’t ever recall that there was a national campaign to clean up the country. Why? Because at school we were taught from an early age to respect the environment, something which evidently is NOT taught in Italian schools. That would also explain why a few years ago my “bible” (The Economist) stated that German tourists love going to Canada because it’s a CLEAN country (I’ve been to Germany twice and I can confirm that it too is a clean country)! After nearly 20 years of living in Italy, I have (quite) some time ago come to the conclusion that many—but not all—Italians hate the environment. Anyway they can destroy it (for example through countless forest fires every bloody summer), they’ll do it. A silly example? When I used to go jogging at the Circus Maximus I used to find old abandoned mattresses, shoes, bottles and even pants (!!). Italians, especially Romans, quite often blame tourists for littering the city. I say two things to them: a) What example do they set for tourists and b) What Japanese tourist from Tokyo BEFORE leaving for Rome ALSO packs his/her used mattress to dump at the Circus Maximus? I rest my case.
Sunday, May 28, 2006
If you need a (bad) used bike, just come to Rome! Here are a few that have been tied up with a lock around a light post and left basically to rot. In true Roman fashion, they’ll probably stay here for months to come (and gathering by the rust that they have, they’ve probably been here for months too!). You can find a variety of things along Rome’s streets: old abandoned and stolen cars, stolen scooters which have nothing at all left to them, used fridges, old couches and mattresses, old dentures (??) you name it, you’ll find it. Many years ago, my car was stolen in front of my house. It was a ten year-old Citroen AXE car. I never did find it. Ditto for my scooter. It was brand new. I had it locked in my courtyard with three chains plus a kryptonite lock. I found the lock cut in two the day after on the street. Like a fool, I didn’t even have it insured. Basically, all which is NOT locked under chain and key disappears in Rome (lately, a descendant of Nero has been burning cars and scooters in Rome. The arsonists must have burned close to 100 so far) (picture by M. Rimati).
Saturday, May 27, 2006
Since I’ve been living in Italy I’ve been hearing Italian journalists talk about The Beatles. Nothing wrong with that as most of the world still talks about them (my all-time favourite band before AC/DC and the Rolling Stones), especially lately with Paul’s separation from his wife Heather. What’s funny—given that Italians speak on average English so badly—is that they keep referring to the “Fab Four” as the “Quattro Scarafaggi”. Scarafaggio in English translates to “Beetle”. What must have happened 40 years ago is that some stupid journalist who thought he/she knew English translated the word “Beatles” into “Scarafaggi”. He/she probably didn’t consult a dictionary to see that the insect is written with two “ee”s and not with “ea”. What had happened was that Lennon, when he was fishing around for a name for his band, admired Buddy Holley and the Crickets. He wanted to render them homage. So he took the word “Beetle” and transformed it into “Beatle”, taking the word “Beat” which is the base to all music (in fact, what a drummer is is nothing more than the keeper of the beat). As we all know in English, the word “Beatle” doesn’t exist, that is, it’s not an insect. The Italians though some 40 year ago still don’t know that little detail…