30 January 2006

Home Team Fan!

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I am a big Vancouver Canucks fan. And that will never change; they are my favorite, my hometown hockey team. But i've got room for another favorite: my favorite hometown football club. A.S. Roma.

It's nearing spring and I'm just ramping up my fandom. Quickly. There are just 22 games left in the season and Rome is in fifth place, and closing in on fourth in Serie A, the premier league of Italian football. The top four teams in Serie A compete in next years Champions League. This is the specific goal, the general goal is total annhilation of every team we face. Rome just beat league leading Juventus 3-2 last week in Torino, handing them just their second loss this season.
It was just a few games before that that I started to get into the team, and I was stifling screams as Roma pounded goal after goal into the Juve net.

Though I am just getting into my Roma fandom, I've actually been on the books as a Roma fan for quite a while. Living in Rome one must choose to be either a Lazio fan (the regional team) or a Roma fan (the city team).

Both teams are pretty good, and there's a fair split of fans for either team. However, Lazio fans and players are rabid fascists and Roma's are not, so my choice was easy. Now not all Lazio fans are fascists and neither are their players, but they do have this guy:

Di Canio, you dick. This very very scary man is one of Lazio's best players, and a fan favorite. He's certainly his own man, choosing to throw up his fascist salute all over the football pitch, despite what good taste and enlightened political thought would dictate. What a dick.

Roma's top player, however, is the idiotic yet gifted Francesco Totti

Recently married and a new father this guy scores tonnes of goals, and is basically Roman royalty. I also like that he sponsors Totti joke books, which make fun of how retarded he is, then donates the proceeds to charity. A class act.

But the main thing of course is how they perform on the field, and right now Roma is kicking some major ass. 8 game unbeaten streak. And I'm onboard. But I won't be jumping off if they start tanking, I am a Canucks fan, and am therefore very very patient.


Two Photos

I'm not generally regarded as a good photographer. And rightfully not. But when confronted with unparalleled splendor and the right light, I can ocassionally not fuck up a photograph. Or two.


27 January 2006

Pushy Guy

As I was walking into St. Peter's Basilica today with a tour group I had to step around a man who was crouched down performing some sort of kissing ritual on the stairs. Not actually kissing the stairs, but kissing his hand and then kissing the stairs. At any rate that was fine until i felt him push into me. Enough to be shrugged off as an intentional accident, but a little off-putting since I failed to see what I had done wrong. Then I noticed hi push his way through the doorway in front of me. I thought he must be in a real hurry to confess something. But then as I charted his path through the church I realized the sin he was most guilty of was premeditated pushiness. There was an awkward start to my tour as I couldn't take my eyes off this elderly man zooming through the church running into people. Not drunk and swaying, and not violent pushing, but just rude and sustained veering into unsuspecting churchgoers. I may try it sometime myself, when I too am old and crotchety.


24 January 2006

Bad News

Evan Hotcorey Cornish is in town visiting, and that's the good news. The bad news is as huge Canucks fans and expat Canucks we were greeted with an onslaught of bad news. First and foremost our new PM is that douchebag Stephen Harper. That was a bad CBC homepage to open up to. But then to find out on top of that that the Canucks lost 4-0 to last place St. Louis is the insult to the injury. All in all it sucks alot, news wise today.
However, after talking and thinking and looking at the politics from afar here it looks like Stephen Harpers election could be a blessing in disguise. With a minority government it's unlikely that he'll totally wreck the country, which bodes well for my return. However he still may manage to shoehorn through some really bad dickhead policies, but let's hope not. And by tossing Paul Martin and showing the Libs they're not invincible we can perhaps even hope for Ottawa to try and push ahead- the Tories trying to keep their government in power, as they must be giddily crapping their pants right now at the thought of getting to claim a Prime Minister for the first time in 13 years.

But I'm not betting on it. I'm betting on a hamstrung Conservative Minority struggling to not fuck anything up and metric tonnes of arguing leading to another election at least within the next couple years. It's that election I'm hoping for a good result in.
As for the Canucks, I just hang my head.
C'mon Boys!!


22 January 2006

Uncle Jimmy

I received a panicked SMS from a friend the other day. She was in Amsterdam desperate for a place to stay. I connected her with a strange man with a deep Jamaican accent, in his 60's and by his own declaration an incredible masseuse. He showed Chiara and I a photo album thick with photos of college kids and the like who had an "Uncle Jimmy" time in Amsterdam. We parted ways when it was clear Chiara and I didn't need a place to stay. But his number came in handy for this girl Virginia. It's a strange arrangement, but the guy seemed earnest and had a bookful of happy friends so I hope it works out. I'll get the scoop when Virginia gets back...


20 January 2006

Where your Vote at?

So you know my political stripe. Running for city council for the Dance Party Party in 2002 broadcasting my liberal left bent. If you're a casual blog reader (and I'm not sure you exist here but if you do) you caught me streaming anti-Harper polemic in an earlier blog entry. You get the idea of where I'm at. But where do you stand, Canadian? Or if you're not Canadian, but wonder how you would vote in the upcoming Canadian election you can take a quiz. And let's be honest, if you're not Canadian you're probably anyway abreast of the sexy world of Canadian governmental movings.

take this quiz www.politicswatch.com

and find out who you should be voting for.
Me: 100% Jack Layton according to the quiz
followed by Gilles Duceppe of the Bloc Quebecois.
I wouldn't have thought it but the internet teaches me things about myself.
Let it be your teacher.
And go vote.


18 January 2006

Cindy Sheehan

Today I went to see Cindy Sheehan, the famous mother of Casey, a US military personnel killed in Iraq. Cindy spent a month camping outside GW Bushs ranch in Crawford Texas in an effort to speak to the President and ask him some questions from her mourning mother POV. She drew quite a crowd of mothers and media and supporters (and detractors). But Bush refused to meet with her. I'm not surprised because I think she would've said some things he wouldn't want to hear. But I'm glad I heard what she had to say. She's a powerful, plainspoken women who speaks what she feels. I'm glad she's carrying on her work through Gold Star Families for Peace and travelling the world to bring attention to her cause: matriotism, peace and the impeachment or resignation of GWB.

I showed up late to the proceedings yesterday and things were already underway in the Sala de Pace of the Comune di Roma building just off Piazza Venezia. Piazza Venezia is where Mussolini declared war on the allies and got Italy into WWII. Anyway Cindy was with a panel of folks including another American grieving mother and some Italians representing other like minded organizations. She looks in person, even more like any woman who could be a friend of my mom's or the mother of a kid on your soccer team from Anytown. She seems guileless, though of course, her successful management of the media proves otherwise. At any rate, it was a small room with a small audience of about 60-80 sympathetic attendees. I myself was moved to get a little watery on more than one occasion so much did her simple message resonate, and so much does she wear her broken heart on her sleeve.

She called Bush a traitor and a war criminal and said she hoped to see him impeached or at least resign in disgrace. On this and other occasions she drew enthusiastic rounds of applause, both after she spoke (in English) and after the translator translated her words into Italian.

A key idea she introduced was her idea of "Matriotism." It's different than Patriotism in that it's love of country superceded by a love of peace. It's a simple, yet powerful, idea that pushes back at those who call her unpatriotic. She explained emphatically that she's clearly not: she loves America, she loves American, heck, she gave birth to four Americans, how could she not love America. Her beef is with an unjust war that cost her her son.

I confess I went not only because I support her and what she's done, also because she's a celebrity of sorts, but also because I wanted to make up my own mind about her greedy grabbing of media spotlight and public attention. I was quickly moved by the sincerity of her grief, the simplicity of her message, and her devotion to drawing and keeping attention on the injustices of the Iraqi war and occupation.
She spoke to those who try and discredit her by saying simply that she can't be discredited because she speaks from her heart, and honest feelings can't be discredited. I tend to agree with her. And she brought me too into her cause well before her motherly hug at the end of the event. She didn't even mind that I'm Canadian... us Peaceniks have to stick together.

That's me on the end. That's Cindy in the middle.


16 January 2006

A List

Here is an end of the year list of some things I like and some things I don't about Italy. My list wasn't prompt, but I didn't even make resolutions this year. Consider me bucking the trends.

Also, this is simply a list not an "A" List

Top 5 Surprises in Italy. Actually 6.

6. Cheek kisses. Men women… whomever. All get a kiss on each cheek. Or really more of an "air kiss". A touching of cheeks with kissing noises. Still, It's sensual, warm, and sensitive, yet manly. Also, If it's a guy you just met, or don't really like, you can just kinda firmly touch cheeks when you say goodbye. If it's somebody who's company you really enjoy, you pucker up and make kissy noises.

5. Suppli. Rice and tomato sauce, deep fried with a chunk of mozzarella hidden in the middle. Everyone thinks pizza and pasta when they think Italian food. That's because they don't yet know about the suppli.

4.Irish Bars. Not really a surprise, beacause Irish bars are to Ireland as MacDonald's is to America: the pandemic cultural symbol. But it's really nice to be able to get a proper beer here in this country of weak and watery beers. Peroni? Nastro Azurro? No thanks. Guinness? Yes please.

3. The bidet. It's not something that's appropriate to talk about all the time, but it's so fresh and so clean clean. People sometimes say Italians are dirty, but considering most have a bidet twice a day they're probably cleaner than you.

2. The Sistine Chapel… really is that cool. You'd think the 500 year old Catholic hype machine might have made it a bit of a letdown, but it's actually spectacular. (A little less so after the hundredth visit, but still blowing my fucking mind apart on a regular basis).

1. Coffee. Oh god the coffee. Though I still get the occasional hankering for a bottomless cup of joe, I'm really feeling the espresso, the cappuccino, the caffe macchiato (espresso with just a shot of latte caldo) and the caffe correto (espresso with just a shot of booze). Starbucks can stuff their 5 dollar coffee, i'll take an 80 cent Italian cappucino.

Bottom 5 Surprises. Five plus 1.

5. Traffic State of Mind. Traffic here is nutser than you can believe. However, it works. The Romans have a functioning chaos on their roadways. As I'm learning to drive, I am first unlearning what I thought I knew about driving. I still haven't felt the flow though. I usually just feel scared.

4. Dirty. Rome is dirty.

3. Black Work. I have a work permit, but don't need it to do my tour guiding. In a sense I'm a vigilante, but it would be nice to offer my services with authorization. However, Italian culture has a long and ingrained history of lavoro nero, it touches every family. Mine too.

2. Gypsies. Or the Rom. I haven't figured out what the deal is with them, but packs of adolescent girl pickpockets, or vacant and dirty looking children playing a prerecorded Casio keyboard beat on the metro looking for change, it's just sad. I don't know the social or political history well enough to comment, but I do know it's a problem; both the theft aspect and the unhealthy pallor in their faces.

1. Italian children. Are generally the most spoiled and pampered ill behaved group of people you could ever hope to meet. And I've worked with a lot of kids. This does not apply to every single one, nor does it apply all the time. But generally children and teenagers are really really ill behaved here.

0. I'm Old. The ugliest surprise of all is that I'm getting old(er). Besides the frequent fussing about my hairline, and more frequent pains in my back, I also have taken to complaining about the younger generation (see above). Not cool.



15 January 2006

Assisi Pictures

This was the view from our hotel window.

Fountain outside the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli. A massive church built over and around St. Franicis' little church.

Us. With a nice view in the background. Trust me.

Sweet. A castle. A real one.

It has a tower.

Nighttime in Assisi.


14 January 2006

Friday the 17th

Yesterday was Friday the 13th. Nothing weird or spooky or bad really happened. But of course it didn't. Friday the 13th isn't bad luck in Italy. Friday the 17th is. That happens next month. Forewarned is forearmed, and i'm getting a helmet For February's Freaky Friday the 17th.



We didn't go to Florence last week. We went to Assisi. Florence was full for some fashion shindig so we went to Assisi, home of the very famous St. Francis, San Francesco and Sainte Francois. It was a very well rpeserved medieaval town on a hillside overlooking a beautiful valley ful of olive trees. Assisi is a real religiuos pilgrimage spot where pilgrims can venerate his cloak, his sandals, some of his rope, locks of hair of Santa Chiara and so on. Not to mention both of their graves.

In the off-season however they rip up most of the streets to lay pipe and 80 percent of the restaurants close down for renovations. It disturbed the medieval atmosphere, but it was still neat to walk the narrow streets and staircases. But the assisi drivers seem to cope with these narrow streets and the constant tourists by driving as fast as possible. I would say roughly twice the speed you would consider safe for driving narrow winding medieval streets. That's the norm.

The biggest mark in the favour of Assisi is that it's not Rome. Chiara and I got out of town and had a literal and figurative breath of fresh air. Also great was our restaurant on Wednesday night. Simple wholesome vegetarian fare! Organic wine! It's simplicity confused my palette, but in retrospect it was full. Not complex, full.
Somethign else that was apparent in Assisi but that they do in Rome and all over Italy is let you into gift shops for free. It's actually not that uncommon, just about every shop in the world will let you in for free, but these rinky dink knickknack shops with "free entrance" advertised on the door really makes me shake my head. I guess people who go on vacation are dumb, that's what those signs imply.

In other news: windiest city in Italy: Assisi.


10 January 2006

An Open Letter to Canada

cartoon from www.fewings.ca/polcan/031210StephenHarper.html

Dear Canada,

I miss you. Really I do. Italy, for all its glorious awe-inspiring history and delicious food, lacks your pristine wilderness, your hockey prowess, and your well-tempered, even-keeled, electorate. Italy's politics are truly a bordello, or a casino. Either way it's a fucked up jumble of splintered parties full of corrupt politicians; a messed up mess. But I'm sure you can empathize, what with all the sponsorship scandaling, other cynicism-inducing events, and i-don't-know-what-else has been going on over there. And there are other similarities: eg. both countries are in an election year. Election years mean big promises, big accusations, big deals. Here and there. It is for this reason I'm writing: I have some things to tell you. I don't feel I should need to, but apparently I do. Because you're in danger and I'm scared. Here goes: Stephen Harper is fucking loony! That guy eats crazy for breakfast lunch and dinner. Moderate? No. That's election time playpretend he's doing. It's easy to see from here. Do not vote for him. Don't let other people vote for him.

Now Canada, I know you don't want election advice from Italy. Italy is wicked fucked up. I mean, Silvio Berlusconi!?! Prime Minister?!? That guy is an out-and-out criminal, a true sleazebag. I for one would not want a former cruise ship singer turned media mogul/the richest man in the country running my country. However, if it were a race betweeen Berlusconi and Stephen Fucking Harper, i'd probably vote Berlusconi. Because yes, he's corrupt, but then again, he's a politician, and it's a dirty game, especially on the national level. Get used to it. And then get over it. Don't run voting for a bad guy just because some other bad guy fucked you. If I got robbed in an alley I wouldn't run to some other alley-dwelling mugger and ask for help. Especially if he was Stephen Harper. Remember: Stephen Harper is a fucking loony. He's dangerous. he's a militant, gay-hating, social-program-slashing Republican wannabe right-wingnut. If he were Prime Minister we'd have had troops in Iraq. Now there's a fucking bordello! Good God. Speaking of God: Get your church shoes shined up if you're voting Harper, there's gonna be some heavy religion rammed down your throat. God Bless Canada!

Now I know you're hurting. I know PM Paul fucked some shit up, damaged the trust. But if it's options you need: what about Jack Layton. He's pretty harmless, makes sense when he forms policy, and is actually a human being to boot. What about him? What about anything but Stephen Harper. Vote Paul Martin back in and stay on him to keep those juicy election promises. Don't cut off your nose to spite your face, it'll just make you horribly disfigured. With a crazy Prime Minister. Like Stephen Harper.

Mark me: if you vote Stephen Harper in, I'm gonna stay gone. I may be back to collect my things, but I ain't staying. I'll take my chances with Berlusconi. Jesus I wouldn't even want to go back to North America to live in Mexico what with GWB and the Fucking Harpy running amok next door. Talk about ruining the neighborhood...

Please: when you go the polls, be careful. I know the urge to punish is strong, but don't make a bed you (or I) don't want to lie in.

With love and hope for a safe and responsible election,

Ryan Millarelli



Tomorrow, after my hopefully triumphant return to Italian high school english teaching Chiara and I will be hopping a train for Florence, the motherfuckign home fo the Renaissance. The town that started it all, thanks to Lorenzo il Magnifico of the incredibly rich and powerful Medici family. The banking/art patron dynasty. The word bank comes from the Italian word banco, which means counter. Where they did and do the banking. Capisci?
Anyway, Michelangelo, the towering figure of the Renaissance that he is, moved into the Palazzo of teh Medici family where he learned his trade in the sculpture garden of the Medici family. It was there too he learned from the great minds of his time, Latin and Greek, and began to write poetry.

Michelangelo could also walk up the street and see the Duomo, built by Brunelleschi, a remarkable Renaissance dome inspired by the Pantheon and inspiring for Michelangelo and others building the Dome of St. Pete's.

It's there in Florence in another church,Santa Croce, where Michelangelo is buried. It was buried there in his beloved hometown though he died in Rome (at 89) and was supposed to be buried in St. Peter's Basilica. So saideth the Pope. However Michy's remains were spirited out of Rome under cover of night (stolen, if you will) and taken to Florence where he was put to rest. According to his, not the Pope's wishes. And he's there still. And I'm gonna go see him.


06 January 2006

A Changed Man

A recent post was written in haste, in the first blush of lust. I was enamored, overawed and acted rashly. I renounced friends, and personal interaction in general. Because I was blinded by the Playstation. I even forgot totally about Scrabble. My low tech first love. But last night I went back to Scrabble, cap in hand. The epiphany happened on the eve of Epiphany, when God showed himself in human form to the people. The light went on for me when the dark went on in the apartment. How's a guy to play PS2 with no power? He's not. He and Chiara are going to play romantic scrabble by candlelight. Sure Scrabble doesn't have the graphics or processing power of the PS2, but it doesn't need that junk, it does just fine with a core of 100 letters, a 15 x 15 real-time tabletop interface system, and a dictionary. I've fallen from the heights of Playstation enamorment to a more balanced approach to playstationing. Balanced with scrabble. The tipping point was the lights out, but PS2's case wasn't helped with the purchase of Bomberman Hardball. More like Bomberman Lameball. Or Lameman Boringball. Or ReallyAnnoyingJapaneseChimeyMusicMan Pointlessball. Score another point for Scrabble.
Additionally Scrabbletastic is the scrabble a day calendar that made it's way here from my parents for Christmas.


01 January 2006

Friend of Pino's

Italy is known for many things: pizza, canals, moustaches and corruption, for example. I've seen them all, and now I know the last one first hand. His name is Pino. To get things done in this country you gotta know the right people. And get a favour from them. Or pay them. The example often cited is the people called fixers who make their money helping people get phone lines in less than the usual two months. It's not like it really takes that long to get a phone line, but there's a whole industry that would vanish if they just set up your phone (or what have you) without using these fixers. And that's bad for the economy. Italy is corrupt, make no mistake. Palms need to be greased. And you need to know which palms. The Vatican, different country though it technically is, is not that different. There can be, during busy seasons (like Christmas) a two plus hour lineup to get inside the Vatican Museum. However I work for a guy that knows a guy that he can call and a little palm grease later, a little name drop at the door and i'm walking in the front door sans the kilometer and a half line up. Earning huge tour guide points, as some clients put it the other day.

It was just like the movies. It's like being on Gods guestlist.