29 July 2005

Happy Birthday to Me

Tomorrow's my birthday...July 31st.

I've got Chiara and some friends from work and we're off to see the 7 Kings of Rome and then to dinner at an outdoor jazz park. Sounds nice, yet, it's at this time that I miss my friends alot. Thinking as I do about how awesome they are. It's not that the folks I've met here aren't great, cuz they are, but I'm not really close with anyone: I've got a few buddies, but my relationships aren't to the depth of those I have with my friends back home. Of course that's to be expected because i've been here so short a time. But also, the way I click with these people let's me know that with the people I've met we won't click in the same way. Nonetheless, I am looking forward to some entertaining and action-packed time out on the town tomorrow evening. If things go well we'll hit a hip hop club in the Testaccio (Translated: uglyhead) area. If i'm really lucky i'll hear Fitty Cent's "In da Club" and we will, indeed "Party like it's yer birfday!"


What One Man Alone is Capable of Accomplishing...

...is the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

...to paraphrase Goethe.

Have just completed my second tour of the Vatican Museum Sistine Chapel and i'm starting to get a good feeling about it. There's alot of interesting, exciting brilliant art in there. Stuff I like talking about, and not just because I like talking: Michelangelo's work on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel as well as the Last Judgment are indeed testaments to what one single solitary man, summoning the strength of all his gifts, mastered by his passion, and focused by his will, can accomplish. This cannot be overstated.

It is possible that soon I will cease to be impressed by this work but for now I hold in my mind the fact that this brilliant work of art was created as Michelangelo was in the process of learning how to fresco. That's his practice round, as well as an unparalleled artistic triumph. That's why it's called geniuis.


25 July 2005

Sistine Chapel? Fuck Yeah!

So this Thursday I give my first Vatican Museum Sistine Chapel tour. I'm going to the big show, getting called to the majors. It's kind of a big deal because the ceiling of the Sitine Chapel is widely considered to be the best work of art of the Renaissance, perhaps ever. And there's no disputing that it's a phenomenal project in it's scope, depth and artistic merit. I'm currently laden down with books on the subject and am ready to take the plunge. I'm excited and nervous, but mostly excited, there are so many interesting details about that, as well as other works of art in the museum that the real trick is making the tour shorter than 3 hours. The Laocoon? Apollo Belvedere? Gallery of Tapestries? Gallery of Maps? Nero's Bathtub? Helloooo? This shit is off the hook! Plus of course the School of Athens and the Chapel itself!

Almost overnight I became a big renaissance art nerd, y'see. Like they say "When in Rome..."


19 July 2005

Church Camp

The good news is Chiara and I got to go away this past weekend to camp in a National Park up in the montains of Abruzzo. The bad news is it was a Catholic camp, and it wasn't very fun. Now I suppose I should've known that by going away to a Catholic Camp run by nuns there'd be alot of God Talk, but i'd let the assurances of the nuns lull me into the false hope that I would be able top enjoy the time, the weather and the company of all the campers without having it totally dominated by God, Jesus, and Joy. Unfortunately, I was wrong. To explain...

Chiara's mom (not very churchy, but Catholic) has been friends with this order of nuns for a very long time. She was going up to help at this "Concilio di Givanio" (Council of the Young). She wanted me and Chiara to go and see the nuns and hang out in the park. She really wanted us to go, and she's very good to us, so why not? Also I was interested in meeting the nuns. Nuns maybe aren't very exotic to everybody, but to me, a guy who's never said anything to a nun in his whole life other than "excuse me" when he bumps into them in St. Peter's Square, well this seemed like a great idea. And the nuns, true to what i'd heard, were very cool. The problem was some of the overzealous "giovani" who couldn't stop to eat lunch without praising something or other. Case in Point: Lunch on Sunday Chiara and I staked a table that was then overrun by the fiercest most churchiest (and musical) giovani. Once the priest had said grace they launched into a pre-meditated rousing chorus of "hallelujahs"...done to the tune of Queen's "We Will Rock YOu."

As in... Halle! Halle!... Lujah! (clap) (bang bang clap) (Repeat)

It was more than I could stand really. Unsurprisingly, the most moderate, least overtly religously crazy were the priests and nuns. I managed to have a few nice conversations with some such as Sister Mary from New York, a gruff straitlaced nun in cargo pants, and Father Don Achille an unkempt gray haired man with a valiant broken english. Also of note was Maura who


18 July 2005

Permesso di Soggiorno

Who's allowed to stay in Italy for 5 years?

This guy!!! or as I like to say now "Quest'uomo!"

That's right after all the talk i've heard about the confusing layers of Italian bureaucracy I fairly walked into the Questura (Immigration office) and waltzed out with permission to stay for 5 years (Thanks to: My UK citizenship and my BC Care Card. The latter standing in the stead of actual legitimate medical coverage)
After that I got my codice fiscale. Now I can get a bank account. After that I got assistenza medicale. Now I have a doctor and can use the healthy Italian medical services. Hello dentist, hello doctor. Hello... laser eye surgery!? It's possible.

So that alleviates some concerns about my job getting me deported, but soon enough i think i'll need some legitimate gainful employment. I'm on the lookout for potential opportunities. but let me get back to the point. I got all of these things accomplished in one morning. And was still able to make it down to St. peter's to give an afternoon promotional tour. Though I had partially grossly misjudged the state of Italian bureaucracy I know part of my error was just thinking of "immigration." What i should have done is drawn a clear definite line betweeen first world EU immigrants who are expected to bring money in, and dark skinned 3rd world north African immigrants. Most of them are still waiting at the Questura to plead their case. I'm not saying it's fair, because it's not. Far from it. But I don't know everybodies story, all I know is i'm here, I'm working and now i can have a bank account to send some savings home to Canada to throw into the bottomless pit of student loan debt.


11 July 2005

Buzzing Beehive

A couple of weeks ago the Activist group i'm involved with had a social event. I went and was asked by the organizer if I wanted to write up a little, uh, "write up" of the event. So I did, and here it is...

The USC4P&J Social Event
June 22, 2005

We held a purely social event to give our members a chance to chat over a glass of wine and get to know one another. The following is Ryan's account of the evening:

Beehive is a-Buzzing

To cap off a highly successful and well-attended film series U.S. Citizens for Peace & Justice had a garden party at The Beehive. The Beehive is a cozy little hotel located at via Marghera 8, just a few blocks from Termini. The lush courtyard was an excellent location for members of our group to get to know each other in a new atmosphere. The post-film discussions were always interesting, but the opportunity to get to know the people behind the ideas isn’t really present in the large group talk-back format. So we had a potluck style party: BYOB, snacks provided. I didn’t think I’d be there for very long, but didn’t want to show up empty handed, so I grabbed a single bottle of Beck’s from the off-license in Termini to act as my social egg-timer. 2 and a half hours later I regretted my brutta figura, because by now my beer was long gone, but I wasn’t. It’s a good thing I stuck around too, because the USC4P&J Social was everything a mixer is supposed to be: a good-time event where the drinks and snacks circulate frequently and so do the people. There was all kinds of folks there, united of course by the rather broad requirement of being united against American imperialism and an unjust war in Iraq. There were journalists, documentary film-makers, web designers, publicists, professors, tour guides as well as UN employees and consultants. This list is of course not exhaustive; I had time to talk to some, but not all the people, and only conversationally catalogued professions. The point is: there were plenty of people and plenty of good conversation to be had. There were also people from many different countries, including our Italian friends from Articolo 11 / Ostinati per la pace. But that is, of course, not the whole story.
Not all attendees wear their hearts on their sleeves, but thanks to a donation from a woman from California who had passed by the vigil at Palazzo Chigi one night while on holiday in Rome and who sells political protest paraphernalia, all are now able to wear a button expressing their beliefs. A whole range of political buttons were offered up: From the simple “Not in my Name” to the ironic “Don’t Blame Me: I Voted Touch Screen” there were buttons to suit all tastes. As well, Robert Greenwald the filmmaker who made “Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism” and “Unconstitutional”, two of the films in the film series, gave permission for copies of his films to be distributed. Could this party get any better?
Yes. As Stephanie Westbrook said, “It’s better to give than receive” So we all signed “PACE” flags to be sent to those two individuals, as well as one other worthy recipient. In Unconstitutional (a film that exposes the blatant unconstitutionality of the USA PATRIOT Act) the owner of a SCUBA shop in California that refused a subpoena of his client records is interviewed. The records were being requested to assist in the pre-emptive battle against the heretofore unheard-of practice of underwater SCUBA terrorism. By challenging the subpoena the shop owner faced a court case. However, the request for information was dropped in the face of a legal challenge, tacit acknowledgement of the unconstitutionality of the initial request. This Everyman hero too, gets a signed PACE flag.
It was after the signing of the flags that I begrudgingly made my departure, but I trust that the good times carried on: there was plenty of drinks and food and people left. These are the same people, plus interested others, who I hope to see at the next series of events in the fall. After the Beehive social I don’t just respect their politics, I like them as people; I’m glad I had the opportunity to get to know them in such a pleasant atmosphere.
Ryan Millar

Special thanks to Linda and Steve of The Beehive for providing us with a perfect venue, to Minerva for dashing off in a cab to pick up the peace flags and to Jacopo for chaining himself to the dvd burner making copies of the films



08 July 2005

Hello? Anybody?

The Top 5 Ways to Reject a Free Tour:

If you're accosted on your way to St. Peter's Basilica by someone offering you a free guided tour be forewarned: the tour they are offering is free and guided and in English. If that scares you, you savvy traveller you, you can reject it in a manner of your own choosing or use 1 of these tried-and-true methods.

5. Pretend something really important is happening with your shoes. Walk faster like that'll help you figure out what it is.
4. Stop. Tilt your head to the side. Then point and say helpfully in your maddeningly cute accent "Oh? Zaint Peetair is down dat way, I zink."
3. Stop. Listen politely. Then say with enthusiasm, "thanks! That sounds great." Now, walk away...
2. Angrily snarl: "Nothing in Rome is free!!!!"
1. Say: "No speak-y English" (snigger snigger) Then, as you walk away, loudly brag to your friends about the ability of your wit to get you out of "sketchy" situations.

Frequently after using one of these tactics you will feel like you have to hide in the back of my tour group when I do come inside to give a free tour. That's OK. Before I started giving (really) free tours of the basilica I probably would have used tactic number one. And then I too would've joined the tour. I know a bargain when I see one.


03 July 2005

Big Finish

The following is a list of the Top 10 awe-inspiring, tourist-wowing, blink-twice-and-utter-a-gasp statements about St. Peter's Basilica I include in my tour. They don't always sound exactly like this, but they're all zingers.

10. "Constantine and his men dismount and paint crosses on their shields and armour. Sure enough they are successful, they defeat Maxentius. Just as the vision promised"

9. "That's not the Popes face. That's Thorvaldsen's face"

8. "The toe of Truth is sticking up a little, can you see that? It's sticking up over Ireland. (thoughtful pause) Ireland, of course, still Catholic."

7."And if you were to hug your friends you'd make that same gesture. It's no accident that they're the same. The collonade of St. Peter's Square represents the arms of the church, open wide to embrace the faithful. If it helps, imagine the dome as the popes hat."

6. "That dove has a wingspan of seven feet." [make flapping motion with arms to punctuate point]

5. "He snuck in that night and carved into the sash of Mary 'Michalangelo Buonarotti a Florentine did this, faciebat" (meaningful pause). It's the only work of art he ever signed.'"

4. The other thing about this painting, that's not a painting, that's an exact duplicate, a meticulous recreation of Raphael's "Transfiguration of Christ" executed in glass tiles. Each about the size of your pinky fingernail."

3. "We're not just standing in the centre of the church, we're standing in the very centre of 'The Church'."

2. "Pope Leo the Third sneaks up behind him, plants a crown on his head, crowning him the first Holy Roman Emperor. That man was Charlemagne."

1. "For anyone listening in: this is a free tour, it's free the whole time. If you'd like to join: follow me. If you get lost, look for me, I look like this."


02 July 2005

Day After Canada Day

Yesterday was Canada Day. It wasn't too exciting here in Italy. For the record I think people didn't even notice. Or they didn't care. Or some combination thereof. The people I did tell "Happy Canada Day" to usually replied "Happy Canada Day to you too." (If they spoke English)So it wasn't a total loss. But I didn't even drink alot of beer, and I definitely didn't have a small slice of a big cake shaped like a maple leaf. The best thing was the classical music concert on top of the Capitoline Hill, but that was just coincidence. I know because I'm looking at the flyer as I type.
Well, I guess Canada Day's just not a big deal to the Italians. Now I know.