Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The decline of Italian cinema

The death of the legendary Italian director, Michelangelo Antonioni, got me thinking about the state of Italian cinema. I’ve been translating Italian films for the past 7 years so I’ve seen just about every film that was released during those years and I must say, I have come across very few good or memorable films. When I see the sort of crap that’s being spewed out in Italy nowadays on TV and on the big screen, I wonder if the forefathers of Italian cinema are turning in their graves. What I find mind-boggling is the fact that a country, a culture that produced some of the most amazing films in cinematic history is now producing some of the worst trash I’ve ever seen. Totally lacking in quality, originality, substance, etc. So very sad but true. But just to be fair, here are a few "recent" films that I enjoyed and would actually recommend.

My Name is Tanino
Le conseguenze dell'amore
L'amico di famiglia
N (Io e Napoleone)
La meglio gioventu'
Arrivederci amore, ciao
Non ti muovere
Primo amore
Mio cognato
Io non ho paura

***Update: I've added a few more titles:
Non pensarci
La giusta distanza
Il dolce e l'amaro
Lascia perdere Johnny

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Going postal

Where I come from, mail is sacred. There are serious laws in America regarding mail and mail delivery. Tampering with mail, handling mail improperly, or even vandalizing a mailbox are federal offences. Then we have Italy and its postal system… Where to begin? I won’t bother commenting on that madhouse known as the Ufficio Postale- that’s another can of worms. Today I want to complain about the mail carriers. For the past few years I’ve noticed that every now and again, our mail carrier just tosses all the mail on the floor in the entrance of our building. You might be wondering: Do you have mailboxes? Yes we do. Do your mailboxes have names on them? Yes they do. Is the mail too big to fit in the boxes? Nope. That’s my beef.

Yesterday morning as I was leaving the building, I saw a huge pile of mail on the floor yet again. On occasion, a letter or two might arrive for people who no longer live in the building, so this mail might sit around on the floor for a few days until the mail carrier takes it back, and that’s understandable. But this pile I’m referring to was OUR mail, the entire building’s mail. After cursing under my breath, I proceeded to sort out the mail and put it into the appropriate mailboxes. It was simple enough- just insert the mail into the mailbox with the same name. So if I can do it, why can’t the mail carrier? Furthermore, although I’d like to think that my neighbors wouldn’t touch other people’s mail, I’d rather have my bank statements, bills, and personal info safe in my mailbox instead of lying around on the floor. It ticks me off that this person is paid to d-e-l-i-v-e-r mail but isn’t fully delivering it. This is not the first time it’s happened and I’m sure it won’t be the last. In the past, I’ve sent complaints to the post office via their internet site. And each time I got the same ol’ response: “Thank you for your input. We’ll look into it”. Yeah, right!
So after I did my mail duty, I ran into the building’s superintendent and shared my postal woes with him. He told me this often happens in his own building and he actually denounced the post office. He sent a registered letter to our neighborhood post office and Carabiniere denouncing this violation of postal laws. When I told him I sent email complaints to no avail, he sort of chuckled and claimed it was useless, apparently the only way to really see results is to denounce them. Great, so not only do I have to waste my time playing mail carrier, now I have to write two formal denouncement letters in Italian AND pay to send them via registered mail?! All this just to have my mail put in my mailbox…

***And while I’m at it, what’s the deal with mail carriers not wearing uniforms here? I mean, Italy looooves uniforms of all sorts, so why don’t mail carriers wear them? And why do they go grocery shopping and promenading about while carrying our precious mail around in a bag that looks like it’s about to burst and leave a trail of our mail on the streets of Rome?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Roman one-upism

In a city that’s famous for its "dolce vita" and mellow attitude, I’m always slightly surprised to see such ruthless behavior. Yeah, I’m talking about Rome… It’s not the same sort of ruthless behavior one might encounter in the workplace in NYC, it’s a different breed that’s mixed with furbizia (slyness/cleverness) and arrogance.
Italians are very fond of furbizia, oftentimes it’s considered more of a compliment than an insult. I myself am also a fan of furbizia, BUT orderly furbizia, not chaotic furbizia. What’s the difference you ask? I’ll explain using Rome as the case in point.

Lines: Romans think they’re being clever when they cut or try to cut the line. They’re not, they’re merely wasting more time by creating chaos and disruption and by causing a standstill. This can escalate in places like the post office or ASL (public health clinics) and involve many people including the workers who then have to act as referees. I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve had to say “Excuse me, I was here first”, and trust me, I'm one of those people who will say it! What makes these people think they have the right to be so overbearing? Why do they consider themselves above the rules? Do they think they’re that much more important or crafty than the rest of us schmucks? (*note: I’m not referring to the elderly, handicapped, or pregnant women who might ask to cut ahead for obvious reasons)

Driving: Romans think they’re being sly when they pass other cars on tight streets while trying to get ahead, when they speed through a yellow-turning-red light only to end up blocking the box, when they double-park or park in illegal spots, but they’re not. They’re just creating more traffic, more blockage and more annoyance. Buses and trams get stuck because some assclown felt he/she had every reason to double-park on a tiny street to go yap it up with a friend at the bar, or because another assclown felt he/she just had to go through that intersection without considering the consequences of blocking the box.

Public Transportation: Romans think they’re cunning when they try to push their way into a bus/tram before the passengers have exited, but they’re not! They’re just slowing down the whole exit/enter process and creating annoyance. This is especially frustrating when the bus/tram is clearly not full, hence there will be seats for everybody. So why o why must they shove and elbow their way in? Because they want to pick a specific seat? Or simply because they’re rude?

These three examples pretty much sum up what I call Roman one-upism. The question that always comes to my mind is: Do you really think you’re that clever? But above all, do you really think the rest of us are that stupid and oblivious? If they really were clever, they would manage to be sneaky without anyone else noticing and without creating chaos or disruption. There’s nothing wrong with being resourceful or clever, but this kind of furbizia is, in my opinion, just rude, inconsiderate, and uncivilized.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The extinction of sequins

After reading a few posts about clothing choices and different standards for dressing up/down courtesy of Kataroma, Shelley, and Nyc/Caribbean Ragazza, I started thinking about the differences between Italian-Americans and Italians when it comes to clothing. Growing up as a first generation American (my parents are old-skool Italians), I specifically remember being forced to wear fancy clothes for certain occasions like weddings, holidays, parties, funerals, and Mass. Even picture day at school was considered a fancy event, my mother always tried to dress me up as if I were having my First Communion and I would always put up a stink. The American kids were usually dressed casually on picture day, while all of the first generation kids (Puerto Ricans, Italians, etc) were usually awkwardly fancy, or at least that’s how it was in my neck of the woods! Still to this day when I go home to visit the family, my mother will comment on my overly-casual choice of clothes for events like Christmas Mass and whatnot.
If I think back to all the Italian-American weddings I had to endure, the one memory that stands out is: SEQUINS. Without fail, all of the older women wore shiny dresses on these special occasions. I always found it so odd to see my grandmother, who normally wore black housecoats and aprons year-round, all dolled up and in her shiny sequin dress. For ages, I assumed it was an “Italian” thing. But I was mistaken. Once I started spending more time in Italy, I noticed that my young/modern aunts and their kids were always dressed casually but chic. Even for fancy events like weddings and Mass, they would dress their kids in nice jeans (they ironed them!) and a stylish shirt or sweater. They managed to never look sloppy or underdressed without resorting to sequins. In Rome there’s a whole different dress code which I often describe as casual-skanky, but I'll save that topic for another post.
Viva causal chic! Maybe that’s why I decided to move to Italy…

Friday, July 13, 2007

Coffee & racism

Coffee and racism, what an unfortunate combination! Especially at breakfast time. I was at one of my neighborhood bars, still half asleep, waiting for my cappuccino and cornetto when in walks a foreign man who very politely asks for directions to the nearby health clinic. The barista answers him abruptly.
Once the man had left, the barista starts going off on a racist tirade about foreigners in Rome, how he’s so sick of them, and how they shouldn’t be allowed to have free health care, etc. (Those of you who live in Rome or Italy are probably all too familiar with this tirade. It’s certainly not the first time I’ve heard it!). I tried to keep my mouth shut, but I just couldn’t. “Ahem... You might want to be careful about what you say, because I too am a foreigner”.
And so began the debate but apparently, the fact that I’m American makes me exempt from Mr. Racist Barista’s foreigner hatred. Did I forget to mention the polite man who asked for directions was of Slavic origin? I tried to reason with Mr. Racist Barista, tried to invalidate his stereotypes, tried to plead my case that everybody deserves health care and everybody pays for it with their tax money. All in vain. He’s convinced all Eastern immigrants are criminals, thieves, and moochers. And I’m convinced I’ll NEVER go to that bar again.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Doggone it!

Let me get straight to the point, I’m not a big fan of dogs. They just don’t agree with my personality (I’m more of a cat person). Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an animal hater, actually I’m more of an animal rights activist than the average Jane, in fact I’ve been a vegetarian for more than half my life! And I can’t stand the idea of keeping an animal locked up inside of an apartment without a yard or garden to play in, I think it’s cruel and selfish. Nevertheless, I do have major issues with dogs, especially dogs in the city.

Recently, my normally agreeable neighbor bought a little yappy dog, and boy does it have a set of lungs! So far it has woken me up with its shrill, eardrum-piercing, nerve-racking howls at the very indecent hours of 5:00 AM (on a holiday) and at 4:30 AM. But wait, there’s more… last night during my peaceful slumber, I was woken up in the dead of the night by the most gut-wrenching dog barks which then set off all the other neighborhood dogs for about 45 minutes. Mind you, I‘m not one of those city people who expects total silence, no siree. I have no problem with “city-noises” such as ambulances, police sirens, car alarms, beeping, shouting, gun shots etc. But things like dogs and roosters* in the city really tick me off. (* Yes, a few months ago, someone in the neighborhood was harboring a rooster which woke EVERYBODY up at the butt crack of dawn. Needless to say, they got rid of it.)
I realize I can’t exactly blame the dogs for the fact that they’re just doing what comes naturally to them, but I can blame their owners and I will. So here we go:

I find it nasty and unhygienic to bring dogs into bars and restaurants, it’s even worse when owners let them wander freely, licking the floor, sniffing around my feet or worse, cramming their noses into very private places on my body.

I find it rude, inconsiderate, and irresponsible to let dogs roam around city sidewalks without a leash and or muzzle. First, it is NOT safe for the dog, and second, it’s not safe for me! I don’t care if the owner says “È buono non ti farà niente”, I’d rather not have to trust him/her. And quite honestly, how can anybody predict what an animal will or won’t do? Come on, we can’t even predict what humans will or won’t do! Perfect example- several years ago I was randomly attacked by a dog on the streets of Garbatella. Out of nowhere, literally, a dog lunged for my neck. Luckily I reacted quickly, so all it got was my bony elbow. The owner had to kick the dog off of me, I kid you not. After pressing charges against the owner, I discovered his pet was a trained attack dog that he liked to take around for walks without a leash or muzzle because he said it was a “good” dog. Real nice! (Side note: I took him to court and won, but have yet to see a cent. I couldn’t work for 2 weeks because of this accident and since I work freelance, nobody paid me sick leave.)

I find it rude, inconsiderate, irresponsible, and disrespectful to let dogs poop all over the city. There is a pooper-scooper law in Rome yet nobody seems to acknowledge or enforce it. I usually do enforce it on my own, but I can’t exactly change the bad habits of an entire city or risk my hide by scolding the wrong person.

I find it cruel, inhumane, and rude to leave dogs at home by themselves for extended periods of time. No wonder why they howl and cry as if they were about to die- it’s no fun to be locked inside a tiny apartment for hours and hours on end. And it’s no fun for the people who are forced to listen to this howling for hours and hours on end.

I find it cruel, inhumane, selfish, and dangerous to bring dogs to large events like demonstrations or rallies. I highly doubt that the dog will enjoy an animal rights march as much as its owner would. Being surrounded by people who are making lots of noise, smoking up a storm, and stepping on your paws is not exactly fun. So keep the dogs at home instead of subjecting them to this torture.

I find it irritating and rude when owners impose their dogs upon other people. Just because you like dogs does not mean that everybody likes dogs. So when your dog is bothering, licking, sniffing up a random person, don’t just turn a blind eye. And when that random person says “I don’t like dogs”, don’t look at him/her as if he/she were Satan in person. You can’t expect everybody to love dogs as much as you do. So respect my space and I’ll respect yours.

I find it annoying and inconsiderate when people walk their dogs as if they owned the sidewalks. Meaning, I have to double-Dutch jump rope in order to walk past the dog because the dog owner has a 60 foot leash and the dog is spinning around me as I try to take cautious steps around it. Wake up people, and pay attention to your surroundings. This is a city, not the countryside!

That’s all my friends!