30 October 2005

Book Reports

Gone are the heady days of three months ago when I figured this blog would be a good place to keepup my writing/literary chops by writing self-imposed book report assignments. It's not the will, it's the discipline. However, just because I haven't processed the books for your edification and interest doesn't mean I haven't been reading. Here for interests sake are most of the books I've read this summer, dealing with the subject(s) Rome, Roman History, Roman Art, Italy, The Renaissance, etc.

The Medici, Godfathers of the Renaissance By Paul Strathern

When in Rome

The Rubicon The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic

Catch 22 (I didn't know it when i signed it up, but Vossarian and crew are actually stationed in Italy). Learned very little Italian history though.

In the Footsteps of Popes

Rome: Biography of a City

The Dark Heart of Italy by Tobias Jones. This book was one of the most enlightening and surprising, written by a true Italiophile who takes a hard and long look at the anni di piombi (yeas of lead) during the seventies and eighties when Italy was deep in the grips of a restrained civil war of sorts between communists and fascists. Lots of assasinations and mysterious accidents with a few bombs thrown in. Also comments on the language, the fashion sense and the nationl football obsession. Probably the most helpful book outside of the tour guiding scene. I was woefully ignorant of the political tension that seethes just below the surface here. Not everyone hates Berlusconi here. Il Cavalliero (The Cowboy) has alot of support. From alot of people you don't want to fuck with if you don't

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24 October 2005

Derby!

Last night Roma played Lazio, and I was there. This derby, like all derbies, carried an element of danger because when you have two home teams with bloodthirsty fascist fans in the same place at the same time, as well as the option of sharing public transit home, well, you have a recipe for bloody-nosed disaster. Fortunately disaster was averted thansk to the strong police presence, also our parties' presence of mind to leave before the end of the game.

The game itself was pretty damn good. For the first half. Second half shit fell apart. But the first half had some strong wide open, gritty play, punctuated by Totti's goal in the 39th minute. Of course that put us Roma fans in a good mood. Even us halfstepping Roma fans who are fans really only by dint of our seat assignments. A mood we were to carry all the way into the second half when Lazio equalized and the play degenerated into a barrage of skirmishes and yellow cards. All the shouts of "Lazio! Lazio! Vaffuncuolo!" couldn't save us. No matter how much of a putana their moms are. It was destined to grind to tie.but Lazio of course (those dirtbags!) would feel the winners because they came back in the second half, then held off a late charge to salvage the tie.

Us disappointed johnny-come-latelies-to-the-bandwagon would skeddadle early to avoid the rough stuff. It's said the Lazio Ultras are Ultra Fascists, and the Roma Ultra aren't much better. So we made our way early. I enjoyed the game with an entourage of family-oriented Swedes, and those Northern Europeans are known for their thoughtfulness, careful planning and so we scotched off early.

But me? I'm fucking bloodthirsty for more football. Not hooliganism per se, but definitely at least understanding what i'm chanting and standing up and making insulting gestures to the opposing teams, that's what i'm into.

If only Roma wasn't so mediocre and Totti not so stupid i'd really have something to cheer about.
Regardless of the disappointing outcome and the early departure it was a good show. The passion and the glory and the home team vs. the home team.

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16 October 2005

"Le Iene"

My favorite show on TV (and there's alot of shitty shit on Italian TV) is not shitty at all, but a surprisingly clever and pointed program called Le Iene (The Hyenas). The show is a cross between Michael Moore's "The Awful Truth", CBC's "This Hour has 22 minutes" and MTV's "Punk'd!" The hosts are two comedian guys and a really tall blond women and their interstitial commentary is hard for me to understand. But it's funny-sounding because they're sly and righteous. Then in the briefs various "Hyenas" get up to trouble and use hidden cameras to document various injustices. For instance the rip-off artists who run ferry boats in Venice. They blew that shit wide-open. As well as stuff like following Italian sex-tourists in Thailand, or trying to buy a Russian wife. But they also bust the balls of politicians, cranking on them outside the parliament building, holding their feet to the fire, as Jon Stewart would say. This show is the exception to Italian TV, the rule of which is: "crappy, crappy, crappy." It's also interesting that it's on one of Berlusconi's Mediaset channels. Despite the fact the mandate of the show is to help little people, bust liars and cheaters and swindlers, and generally shine light on injustices. This runs directly contrary to Berlusconi's whole power paradigm. However, I guess the show makes money for him. At any rate, you can't really have anything on TV in Italy without Berlusconi having his hand in it. He does own half the channels and appoint the directors of the other half (Mediaset and RAI, respectively) Anyway, it's fuckin rad.

P.S. I also am way into "Distretto di Polizia 5," a bad-ass cop serial. I like it because it's a gripping, well-paced drama, with full complex characters. Also, the actors mouths move the same time the words are being spoken, a rarity on Italian TV.

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15 October 2005

Hockey Pool

I'm in a hockey pool, which helps keep me tied into the game, and keeps my hockey fever stoked from afar. But I can't help but wallow in the fact that I'm 44th out of 55 entrants. Us Italians were never a footballing nation anyway. We focus on football, which is why we've won so many World Cups. Oh, wait, I'm thinking of Brazil.

****UPDATE****
I'm now 42nd in the hockey pool, which is still shitty, but since shooting my mouth off about Brazil I've discovered that Italy has won 3 world cups, second only to Brazil who has won 5.

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12 October 2005

OLD SCHOOL

I just started my Italian classes and it's a whole new world, a world of the past. For some reason the whole thing reminds me of a Spanish film: very spare, sharp contrasting lighting, slow pacing. I don't know if these are elements of Spanish film, but they're elements of my class for sure.
I get the Spanish thing from looking out the window of our dingy decrepit classroom and seeing the marble statuary ringing Santa Maria Maggiore. Every so often I hear the church bells ring. The professor (who was brilliantly cast) Is a rotund balding man with crinkly eyes and a steadfast dedication to reading the textbook aloud for two hours an evening. He'll also get us to repeat statements, or read out of the book, and occasionaly ask us questions, but he is really content to just wade through the book. I think his spark has died.

The decorations in the room speak to the overall lack of modernity I'm experiencing.

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Favorite Old Lady

I had an atypically typical encounter with a real typical Italian lady. She gave me some insight into the Italian psyche; so, obviously this event would involve alot of yelling.

I was waiting in a snack bar to grab a snack after work, and this little five-footer of a nonna was at the counter. I had time to decide what I wanted (a panino, thank you) and then look up the bar and see what was going on. Nothing really, in usual Italian service tradition. Before long this lady was launched into an epic tirade, for reasons unclear she was berating the two teenage employees behind the counter. Italians love to yell, and they don't do it half-way; she gave them what in Canada would be a royal dressing down (which may be just a casual suggestion in this country). Nonetheless, she got her way. The girl behind the counter rather red-faced came over to serve me.
?
That was what the old lady was so upset about. She didn't think the employees were tending to me in a timely enough manner (I think she had a point) and saw fit to launch a screeching fit, in order to get me some service.

I thanked her profusely and tried to explain that I was Canadian. She smiled. She knew she had done right. She was wise.

But that's how these people in general seem. They'll yell and scream and rant and rave, yet also be willing to go out of their way to help a complete stranger. And sometimes, sweet little old ladies will scream and rant in order to help a complete stranger. Grazie Signora.

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Turkeys

What a totally awesome surprise was awaiting when I got home from football Monday night: Turkey dinner!
In honour of Canadian Thanksgiving. I was fortunate enough to refceive a congratulatory phone call from one Brad Macneil on Sunday, which reminded me about the continued existence of Thanksgiving, even in my absence. Chiara and I hastily made plans to defrost some turkey burgers that have been lingering in our freezer and have a little dinner monday.
However when I got home there was a real honest-to-goodness reason to be thankful: my beautiful girlfriend had procured and splendidly cooked an actual honest-to-goodness turkey!
It reminded me of all the things to be thankful for, which is, of course, the reason for thanksgiving in the first place.
Did I mention how good the bird was? And the potatoes? I didn't? Oh. Well they were fucking awesome!

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Long time no see

Hi friends,

I feel like it's been a long time since i've written. So i'm writing. It's tough to send out all the emails I want these days from the internet cafe, but Chiara and I just bought a computer and are looking to upgrade from dial-up to adsl and step ourselves into the present. Then I will pester with correspondence much more frequently.

I hope all is well with you where ever you are. I hope you are excited about your upcoming hockey season. You lucky sunsabitches. My brother just sent me a note that he was going to see some live hockey. Those Canucks, bless them. I am not going to see hockey, and will not for quite some time. I am trying to content myself with Serie A action here in Italy, but it's tough to get behind any of these teams. They are soooo Italian. The other problem is when I watch them on TV I have no ideas what the announcers are talking about, they too are Italian. I strictly follow the ball around the screen, so it's tough to pick up on the nuances. However all of this is set to change in a weeks time when I begin my Italian classes. 6 hours a week. Until June. If we stay that long here in Italy and I continue those classes I damn well better be able to speak the language when I'm done! So that's good news. When I go out with Italians and we speak Italian, man, you've never seen me so quiet. That too is about to change. I'm gonna talk. Alot. And rapidly. That is integration.

Earlier in the month Chiara and I made a trip to Amsterdam via Cologne. It was pretty sweet to be back in the old city. We had an apartment, bikes, friends, a canal boat ride, and improv galore. It was just like the old days, only sunnier. We both enjoyed it alot. I was excited to go back to Boom Chiago and get to do a couple shows with them and meet the new actors. Their new show, which we saw when we arrived is on-point. Mostly sketch, and when done the stage was littered with the carcasses of sacred cows. Bravo. The Heineken Late Night on Friday was a blast as well, nice to get a little dose of improv, tread the boards as it were.

Anyway, we had a helluva time.

Since being back Chiara's been in the thick of her thesis and I've been trying to figure out how to organize my winter so I can stay working, preferably as a tour guide. I am still thinking.

Oh boy, let's tell another anecdote: Saturday night Chiara and I went for dinner at the home of the Mali ambassador. It was an amazing party full of Malian dignitaries in colourful traditional outfits as well as all kinds of bureaucrats and folks from Rome's international community. And Chiara and I. And Chiara's grandma. Anyway we turned the party out. Plenty of good food, drink, and dancing in the ambassadors living room. It was pretty sweet music, lots of drums. But things really got nuts when the dj threw down Fitty Cent's classic "In the Club." Then we partied like it's your birfday.

All in all the party was awesome. Good food, good times and tutti eranno simpatici.

Now I'm off for a little football action, 8 aside. I may not get to watch hockey here, but I can play football hockey style.
Write soon,

Ciao,

Ryan

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06 October 2005

Teatro di Inglese

I've been hired on-board (thanks to a woman I met at the ChurchyChurch Camp) as a English/Theatre teacher for elementary aged students. It promises to be an exciting experience. I'll be working with a sympatico Calabrese guy named Alberto Principe (Prince Albert). We'll be running a 3 month long class using theatre techniques to teach English to kids 6 to 12. The school is well outside of Rome, so though the hourly pay is pretty good, when you factor in the hour-plus commute on the bus, it sucks the heat out a little bit.

But the main thing is it'll be nice to take a little break once in awhile from tour guiding to work with the childrens. And I don't know how far we're going to get performance-wise in English. I'm shooting for a credible greeting and exchange of names. The main thing however is doing something new and working in Italian. Hurray!

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