Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Italy launches Change Your Life - Change Italy program

An esteemed panel of mystical elders descended upon Italy to announce the BestProgram2015 - a sort of twinning program to bring some of Italy's brightest potential entrepreneurs to Silicon Valley - and then...to hope and pray and chant so that they actually come back home to Italy as successful entrepreneurs.
The program, called Change Your Life - Change Italy showed Italians precisely what they needed to make it in Silicon Valley:  Balls, to be precise.  Judging from our panel and the notorious chauvinism of Silicon Valley, this meritocracy need not have any XY chromosomes.
Taking place just one day after the Economist went full frontal vagina, and Samantha the Italian astronaut, sent amazing photos from the Space Station, the group of elders made their announcement: 
We chose to announce this grand program right on the doorstep of the Vatican - a fine institution that has been run by men-only for centuries.  That is what we stand for: where algorithms are our religion, we think that by taking their example, we, too, can be around for centuries as well. 
As for the participants, they said they couldn't wait to get over to the USA and learn to be successful innovators so they could stop those 'uppity women' who now lead the CERN particle accelerator, Facebook (of all things!) and - heck - even General Motors.  
They also said they couldn't wait to get back to Italy where they could then drop 54% of earnings on taxes in order to pay the politicians' bribes (they will consider it a donation), employees who can never be fired, and five times the cost of gas for their cars.  "But, hey, one optimistic participant beamed...at least cappuccino will still be a buck fifty". 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Grinch(ess) who Stole Christmas

Don't let the scenery fool you...
almost all of the Christmas stands in Rome's
idyllic Piazza Navona are filled with crummy
tchotchkes from the dollar store
Rome, currently in a veritable tsunami of scandals, has one more reason to be down and out.  Or at least, in some circles, that is.  Mayor Ignazio Marino's transparent administration decided this year to employ Best Practices and actually ask the market stall vendors to participate in a legal bid to sell the wares this holiday season.  Instead, thinking it was business as usual, they were a no-show.  And people are bemoaning this (potential) absence of their beloved 100-year holiday tradition.
But, for the rest of us who have ever spent time at a proper Christmas market (and you don't have to travel too far to find hot spiced wine and gorgeous handicrafts from Tuscany on over to the Dolomite area or Aosta), the news was truly joyous.  
It was as if the Grinch had come down off the Capitoline Hill himself, and, instead of weeping over our loss, we all joined hands in singing out the newfound Christmas spirit -- without the schlock.  It's as if this administration was going to take a stand against the creeping of Chinese capitalism right down to the lead-painted figurines and stuffed animals probably made from dogs hair thrown live into boiling vats of water.
So, here's a shout-out to one Dott.ssa Alfonsi -- the woman behind the attempt to regulate the Christmas marketplace.  Take a trip (on us, the taxpayers who pay your salary) and ride up to Bolzano.  Enjoy a nice hot pretzel with your hot wine.  And then, re-write a bid system that disallows any item that isn't crafted by hand in the Bel Paese [and I don't mean the hand of tiny Chinese children enslaved in sweat shops on the outskirts of Napoli].
Take a look:
This is what Christmas markets look like

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Religious Figure Barbie & Ken Dolls Upset Church

In September 2014, the artists Pool & Maria Lena launched their provocative art show showing their own vision of religious icons and what they may mean today.  With Jesus Ken and Virgin Barbie, they proposed a number of figures reinterpreted from scripture, much to the consternation of the Catholic church.*

Representatives from across the Catholic clergy protested as a mockery of their faith this "art installation" - one depicting a Ken/Martyred Saint Sebastian with the colors of the gay rainbow.  Citing the blaspheme of presenting such figures, a spokesman said, "We do not think its right for people to use likenesses in this way.  We don't care if Barbie and Ken are the most-sold figures in the history of mankind.  Clearly the toy industry is not taking into consideration the billions of cheap plastic figures sold right in St Peter's Square and in gift shops of the Virgin, the Holy Family, and pretty much every other figure in the gospels.  Not to mention at Christmastime, when you can even have a teddy bear holy family in your manger."
Another bishop added, "These dolls contribute to the loss of innocence of children the world over. Only those of us - men of the cloth - should be allowed to defile our church and the tender lambs in our midst."

As for the artists, they believe that they have served art well; through their figures, they openly ask if religion can be reduced to a few icons. In response, the faithful the world over just made a collective shrug of their shoulders -- indicating clearly, that they had no idea what these artists were on about... 
As one person put it, with no irony whatsoever, "Despite all our efforts and our global sales of literally millions of these items, we've got nothing on the Colosseum-it's still the most-sold item in Rome."

* While the artists actually depicted religious figures from many different faiths, it was pointed out that they neglected to produce a figure of Mohammed...

Friday, September 19, 2014

Italy discovers hot water --Or, that being a Mammone is bad for your relationship

In an unprecedented move, a judge annulled a couple's marriage because the husband couldn't cut the apron strings with his mamma.  As his young wife discovered, that's not actually true.  It's not that they couldn't cut the strings. It's that the apron was hanging in his kitchen - with the mamma in it.

A Norwegian advert cleverly depicting a 'mammone'
in Life imitating Art

The judge's ruling was seen by many long-suffering wives as long overdue. One woman outside the courthouse was overheard saying, "Recognition of the problem is the first step toward recovery -- Now maybe, we can all start the healing process of putting mothers-in-law back in the rightful homes."
In fact, according to sociologists, mothers-in-law are the cause of 30% of separations in Italy, after mistresses and casual after-work sex with trans.  In another 40% of the cases, the cause for separation of course is death.  Not of elderly men who succumb to nature at a ripe old age, but the thousands of wives and exes who are killed at an astonishing rate by their partners.
For the court (and I am not making this up), the wife can consider her marriage invalid, since the husband was not in a position to stop being a bambino, even after moving out of the home - to the upstairs apartment.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Italy's Prime Minister Renzi goes for a Triple Dip

Photo from l'Espresso Magazine
As news of Italy entering a Triple-Dip Recession came in on the economic front, Italy's Prime Minister Renzi decided to celebrate by offering scoops of gelato to the clearly stressed & distressed employees of Palazzo Chigi, the seat of Italy's President.  Citing that they "Only earn 2.4 times the salary of Barack Obama," they needed some cheering up.    After all, Renzi continued, "To get a triple dip is as difficult as those triple flips dynamic gymnasts do at the Olympics.  My people work hard to get us where we are today.  It takes guts to gut a country - just see what Silvio did - so here's some buon gelato helping to help those who need it least."  A Renzi spokesperson added, "We're humanizing government.  These poor State employees have to face 'il rientro' from their 6-week holidays.  It's tough the first day back. I mean, the traffic! Our poor chauffeurs! It's a jungle out there."

Since his ice cream man stunt which was lampooned across social media left, right and center, Italy has since entered into a full-scale depression.  In response, Renzi, for his part said, "Depression? Isn't that the lovely recess where they put those lovely scoops of ice cream to make a fabulous sundae? Sounds delizioso!"

Despite all the criticism, people close to the Prime Minister remarked: "I'd rather see ice cream dished out here in cones than lathered upon call girls or another sort of cone in the private quarters of our Last Emperor, Silvio."

And, in case you're wondering where he got the inspiration, click here to hear Paolo Conte's excellent song, Un Gelato al Limon.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

White Nights - The Costa Concordia Crew pulls an All-nighter

The amazing salvage operation of righting the downed cruise ship, The Costa Concordia, that had it looking like a beached whale since that fateful night when the Captain, showing off to his on-board hooker, finally came to a close as it pulled into the Genova (Genoa) harbour.  Crews worked day & night to first perch the ship on a ledge so it would not slide down onto the sea bed, destroying the natural habitat, and then righting the ship and finally, getting it to float - to then move up the coast to where it will be dismantled.
An amazing simulation video of the entire operation is here: 

The French stirred up a fuss when they heard that Italians would be dragging the ship near the Corsica coast.  And so they sent out a pollution containment boat to "monitor" the process, as if yes, that would do the trick if the Concordia started leaking god knows what  hydrocarbons (no, I'm not smarter than a 5th grader) and muddying up the Mediterranean.  To put things in perspective, the boat is 60000 tons of steel - the Empire State Building is 57000.
So in this 24/7 and 2 1/2 year rescue operation came to a close, the Captain of the party ship decided he would celebrate the completion in the best way possible: By attending a White Party on the island of Ischia.  
Picture by Ischia Online Newspaper, Il Golfo
Issuing a statement as he wound his way thru the crowd, Schettino said that "Being on an island was as close as he could come to actually being near the island of Giglio" and "Wearing white is a sign of respect for those poor people who died so needlessly that night."  Schettino went on to say that by showing he was ready to move on with his life, and others (except, of course, those who perished) should do the same.  In short, by 'living it up' he was an example for all.
To the rest of us, left wondering what happened to House Arrest, Schettino said "House music, Arrested Development, just mix it in like a Buon Mojito, and all troubles will pass." 
Schettino bares his soul...
*White nights or, Notte Bianche are what Italians call all-nighters.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Italy wins for recycling most in Europe - The Costa Concordia

...in one fell swoop (both literally, and figuratively).  Already the largest ship salvage operation in history, crews finally floated the massive cruise liner as the first phase toward its final voyage Destination: The Breakers.  Although the nearly-beached ship (resting on a platform built to protect the environment in case the ship slid down into the bottom of the sea) made for a nice tourist attraction, the Costa Concordia who lost 32 passengers that fateful night, will leave its resting place to be sent up the coast to Genova to be taken apart.
Saving the ship in order to save the environment has come at a price tag of 1.5 billion euro - yeah, that's billion with a B.  The company is hoping to make their hapless Captain Coward, Mr. Schettino, pay for it.  "Maybe he can work it off, you know, by polishing the brass on a new boat - for the next 3000 years," one executive suggested. 
But Costa, operator of the very popular Costa Aquarium and other tourist attractions says they might just prop the ship up in the harbour in Genova. "I mean, people have been flocking to Giglio island for the better part of two years...imagine the crowds this could draw!" said another marketing executive. 
Certainly, it'd be one way to make the money back on the loss of their luxury liner.
A time-lapse from the Telegraph on refloating the ship