30 December 2006
Anyway, That's good he got executed, because now I'm sure Iraq will sort itself out, the ship will get righted and the occupying forces will soon be sharing a tearfilled goodbye with the peoples of Iraq. And democracy will spread like a plague throughout the region. Good thing he's dead. Now the war finally makes sense.
I really should pack it in. At least only metaphorically.
26 December 2006
It wasn't a case of too little too late, it worked, though I've been forced to extend our Xmas right through New Years. The point is it was a valuable lesson, especially as I grow older/up, and think about starting a family of my own, I realize that the responsibility falls on ones own house to gear up the holidays.Next year I won't be caught unawares.
In fact I'm getting ready for the Christmas mash-up, of Canadian/Italian/Beligian (or wherever) traditions.
We'll be able to bring the Italian traditional Christmas Eve meal of fish wherever we go. And tombola, which is Italian Bingo.
Also for Holiday longevity we've got, if we stay in the Lowcountries time from the 6th of Decmber until the 6th of January.
Because December 6th is when Sinterklaas and his niggerslave Zwaart Piet come and give presents and pepernoten to Dutch and Belgian kids who are good. Those who were bad Piet throws in a sack and takes to Spain (The horror!)
On the 25th Santa comes, he's like Sinterklaas only fat and without the ancient tradition steeped in bigotry. Also bringing presents. He rides a sleigh towed by flying reindeer.
Then on the 6th of January Befana comes. She's a witch, she rides a broom and brings candy and presents for the stockings. Stockings put by the stove in this case, not the fireplace.
That's plenty of late-night visitors from around the world to spoil kids rotten. Right now it sounds great to me, though after kids and credit card bills Sinter, Santa, and Befana's legendary generosity might be tempered by modern, intercultural realities.
23 December 2006
On Wednesday December 13th Flanders, northern region of Belgium abruptly seceded from the country. Poof like that. King Albert and Queen Paola fled suddenly in an airplane. The country was in panic. Immediately following the broadcast of the breaking news item people went nuts. Embassies in Brussels panicked, people flooded the station with calls, and pro-Belgium demonstraters rushed to rally outside the royal palace.
haha. Said the station a half hour later. Just kidding.
Not everybody enjoyed the joke. In fact, few people did. I am one of them. How exciting to be moving to this country that has freshly reopened the wounds of division and the latent but everpresent tension between the two geographic and linguistic regions.
For those who don't know, and people who have never been to Belgium, or know no Belgians probably don't, let me break it down.
Belgium for many long and complicated reasons is actually two disparate peoples stitched together. The Flemish, in the North, speak Flemish, which is basically Dutch. They were a peasant people and their Flemish language was a peasant language. Now though, they're an economic force. Walloonia's fortunes are the reverse.
Wallonia's inhabitants (Walloons) speak French. The French language was the language of the bourgeousie and they used to be a really economic powerhouse. Back in the days of coal. Now the coal mines are all dried up and its economically depressed. And the people are emotionally depressed. Flanders keeps them afloat basically, and that's why there's some arguments (usually from far right extremists like the Flemish Interest Party) for independence.
At the centre of it all is Brussels, whose people are neither Walloons or Flemish, but people simply 'from Brussels.' They too speak French. Basically it's a mess. But somehow it works, barely. And since substantial power was devolved to the regions back in the 80's, everything's been trundling along A-OK... and now this!!!
Actually, it's not so bad, but it was embarrassing. Embarrassing for those who fell for it, and those who are now forced to confront the regionalist and separatist feelings anew.
And exciting for those of us who are moving there in a couple weeks.
Calciopoli: a Tale of Two Halves
For Italian football 2006 has truly been the best of times and the worst of times. It's hard to get better than victory in the World Cup final in Berlin, a triumph made all the more special as, for once, the Italian public's expectations before the tournament were anything but raised. The 'calciopoli' scandal that had broken in May with its allegations of match fixing in Italy's Serie A, which certainly qualify as the worst of times, was threatening to spoil the party. The allegations plagued the Italian team in the build-up to and the early matches of the World Cup in Germany. Questions at early press conferences focused on the sports tribunal taking place in Rome, almost relegating the onfield play in Germany to a side-show. Of course, as Italy recovered from an early stutter against Team USA to show a remarkable cohesiveness, focus, and will to win, the onfield play became the story again.
The Old Lady's fall from grace
The negative attention was, however, unsurprising. Juventus, Italy's most successful football club and the team at the centre of the scandal, provided five key members of the Azzurri squad, including captain Fabio Cannavaro and the world's number one goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, himself under investigation for allegedly gambling on the outcome of matches in which he was playing. The national coach Marcello Lippi had enjoyed huge success at Juventus prior to taking charge of the Azzurri and was still at the helm during the period in 2004 when the match-fixing allegedly took place. Overall ten Juventus players were involved at the finals and eight out of the starting 22 in the final between Italy and France played for 'la Vecchia Signora'.
The scandal centred on taped telephone conversations made by the club's general manager Luciano Moggi who until his calciopoli-induced downfall was considered one of the most powerful behind-the-scenes figures in Italian club football. Naples prosecutors had made the recordings as part of a wider investigation into football corruption and the scandal broke when transcripts were published in the national press. Moggi repeatedly appears to attempt to influence the appointment of match officials in the conversations seemingly confirming the suspicions of millions of Italian football fans that matches against Juventus in recent years seemed rigged in the Turin club's favour. As the extent of Moggi's dealings emerged, several other Serie A clubs became implicated in the scandal at times merely by association than as a result of hard facts.
Shades of 1982
Italy also went into the 1982 World Cup under a cloud of questions at home and emerged victorious, under the leadership of Paolo Rossi, who had just finished serving a two year ban in a betting scandal. Interestingly, an amazing seven of Italy's 1982 World Cup final side in Spain were also Juventus players, including Rossi and captain Dino Zoff besides Antonio Cabrini, Franco Causio, Claudio Gentile, Gaetano Scirea and Marco Tardelli (not to mention Michel Platini whose fancied France side went out in the semi-finals).
Now Italy has won the World Cup again under remarkably similar conditions: the team went into the World Cup with low expectations, and was dogged by scandal right up until the scepticism was replaced with incredulity and excitement.
The summer here in Rome was full of World Cup enthusiasm, at no time more than 9 and 10 July. The former, the day Italy won the world Cup, Circo Massimo was packed to the brim with tifosi. When the team returned home the next day they were given a heroes' welcome in that same circus by over a million fans. It’s a wonder they all fit.
And to make this year’s World Cup victory just that much sweeter Italy beat rivals France in the finals, to avenge their Euro 2000 loss. The fact that it came to penalty kicks, which Italy had taken part in three times before, losing out each time, made it all the sweeter. So it was indeed 'the best of times'.
From penalty shoot out...
However, as the heady excitement of the World Cup glory ebbed, the decisions of the sports tribunal were announced; in fact it came just 120 hours after Grosso stroked home the winning penalty kick. The news was not good, not for the fans, the clubs implicated, or Italian football in general.
The scandal implicated four top Serie A squads to varying degrees and handed down severe punishments. The focus of the investigation, and the man who received the stiffest penalty, was Luciano Moggi, who received a five year ban and €50,000 fine. He resigned from his post as did the President of the Italian Football Federation and the head of the Italian Referees Association.
Nearly 20 individuals in all were hit with a range of sanctions. For the football fan, or the casual viewer, the sentences received by the teams are the most relevant. What did happen this summer to create this Dickensian ‘best of times, worst of times’ scenario?
... to penalty points
The worst of times involved the drawn out investigations and sentencing of the Sports Tribunal that during the World Cup and saw former national footballer and Juventus player-cum-team manager Gianluca Pessotto fall from a fourth story window at Juventus headquarters in an apparent suicide. The scandal had taken on a very real and personal dimension.
But despite the personal tragedy things were not as bad as they could have been. The sentences of the four clubs originally implicated were commuted on appeal, though punishments were still meted out and a fifth team (Reggina) was probed and punished. At the time of writing and pending the final appeals, the so-called 'arbitrate' of the sports tribunal, this is how the team punishments break down:
- Juventus: relegated to Serie B with a 30 point penalty as well as loss of their last two scudetti, or titles. This was commuted to relegation to Serie B, but a reduced 17 point penalty. It was also stripped of its 2004-5 and 2005-6 championship titles.
- Fiorentina, who finished fourth last season found themselves excluded from the Champions League and relegated to Serie B with a 12 point deduction. In the end they remain in Serie A, but carry a 19 point deduction.
- Lazio was first relegated to Serie B with a 7 point deduction. In the end they were allowed to remain in Serie A, but with an 11 point deduction.
AC Milan, the team of media magnate and former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was not relegated, but initially hit with a 15 point deduction for this season. In the end the punishment was lightened to 8 points.
- Reggina, which was not part of the first wave of sentencing, was given a 15 point deduction in the second round.
Apart from Juventus, whose role in the scandal seems irrefutable, as of mid-October the case against Milan looked on the verge of collapse and the owners of Fiorentina and Lazio were promising to take the matter as far as necessary in an effort to clear themselves and their clubs. Besides the sports tribunal Italy's civil courts, whose investigations can take years, are sifting the evidence and may eventually absolve the rest of the clubs from any wrongdoing whatever the sports tribunal concludes.
For the four clubs allowed to remain in Serie A, life goes on as usual, though the teams will look different behind the scenes. The sentences include in all cases bans for team officials implicated in the scandal. For Juventus though, the club will look different not just behind the scenes but on the pitch as well.
The exodus of top talent from the team has been significant. Fabio Cannavaro, Patrick Vieira, Lilian Thuram, Gianluca Zambrotta, Emerson and Zlatan Ibrahimovic – all World Cup 2006 players – have made permanent moves to other clubs. All were first team starters for Juventus but now the relegated Juventus will have to adapt to the loss of many key players. Indeed, in their first match in Serie B the fallen champions only managed a 1-1 draw against 10-man Rimini.
Ultimately the extent of corruption and match-fixing in Serie A has yet to emerge. The lightening of sentences might be seen as a weakening of resolve on the part of the FIGC (the Italian football federation) but the fact that sentences stuck and punishments are being served is a credit to the investigators. It could equally imply that the evidence used against several teams was too flimsy in the first place.
But quibbling over points penalized is a fool's game. The real issue here is how will Italian football be impacted by this summer's ups and downs? The fallout of this ‘worst of times’ should be that the image of Serie A is cleaned up and restored, on a national and international level. The fate of Juventus should also have a ‘chilling’ effect on clubs that may otherwise be tempted to ‘seek’ favourable referees. But there's no question that it will take a long while for Italy's football reputation to be rebuilt on the national stage. Except... wait, these are also ‘the best of times’ and Italy as World Cup winners can take comfort in the fact that their football has shown itself the best, as well as the most beautiful, in the world. Let's hope that image is the lasting one.
22 December 2006
20 December 2006
But tonight Lazio plays INter Milan, which statistically they really need to win, because it's the only way really that 2nd place Rome can hope to catch 1st place Lazio.
But it'd be just like those Laziali dicks to throw the game to spite Rome.
Let's hope they don't.
19 December 2006
Not much to report actually, except the boiling excitement inside of me knowing I was doing something I shouldn't. Which isn't true. And that at any moment something exciting could happen. Which also isn't true. Besides the fact that the Vatican is basically a giant church (in which exciting things never happen), the Vatican pharmacy is just a pharmacy. They dispensed me some eye drops.
On the way out though I saw the wonder to end all wonders: The Vatican Supermarket. Infortunately, the screening device at the entrance prevented me access. In there exciting stuff goes down, I'm sure of it. It'll be my next mission. But let's be honest, that's as low down the priority list as it is the possibility list, which is pretty far.
I pilfered this off some other blog. In it you can give me Xmas gifts.
It doesn't cost you nuthin', you're here already, and it might be fun.
I'll take my Holidays where I can get 'em.
Bertone went on, "If, for example, we were to take all the Brazilian students at our pontifical universities, we could make a magnificent team," he's quoted as saying in Monday's La Repubblica newspaper.
It may just be wishful pie-in-the-sky thinking for an old soccer lover. But with the Clericus Cup (a soccer tournament among seminarians) coming to Rome in February, and the old guy watching a 3-way soccer tournament between Swiss Guards, and employees of Vatican Museum, and employees of St. Pete's Basilica it seems the religious fervour is being supplanted by football fever. I just wish quasi-legal tour guides could've fielded a team in the tournament, but no matter. The point is once this ball gets rolling look out Serie A, because Italians love football and God, and when their team faces off against God's Own team, you're going to see a multiple crises of faith that can shake this boot to its' foundations.
18 December 2006
Man, it's awesome.
However the first three days after the surgery weren't wo awesome, I laid in bed feeling as if someone had their fingers jammed in my eyes, or alternately an eyelash in my eye, the whole while my eyes tightly shut. Iy wasn't immense pain, more like an itch you can't scratch. But, the bordom was staved off (no reading!) by listening to fantastic internet radio, that means old time CBS Mystery Hour, some BBC fiction and comedy, and Children's tales.
And then, on day 3, I opened my eyes. And it's been uphill since then. But of course, I still can't see very well, because A, my vision was so bad before it was impossible to completely correct it, and B, I haven't yet got glasses and I won't see clearly until I do..
AS Roma is back in high flying form after pounding the crap out of 3rd place Palermo 4-0 last night. I could only watch a little bit, based on the fact I-m still recovering from eye surgery and thus can-t see very well, but the score says it all. PLus the other good news is that 2 of the goals, 2 very sweet goals, in fact, were scored by Amantino Mancini Roma's Brazilian winger who has been struggling as of late. He's my favorite player really, and his explosive speed and fancy footwork have been sadly missed this season. Here's hoping he's broken through that issue and is back on track.
Speaking of good news, Serbian forward Mirko Vucinic will be out for a month having surgery. That's awesome! While I've had high hopes for the guy, my enthusiasm has since waned because every tiume he touches the ball he kicks it out of bounds or to the other team. I'll hope they can fix that problem with a little knee surgery. We'll find out in a month.
P.S. The other 2 goals last night were scored by Totti. Nice!
12 December 2006
I wonder if I can sue for false advertising?
Anyway, It outlines the basics so I can stumble around for a little bit and get my French going.
It's nice though that Chiara and I are moving to a city in a country where neither of us speak the language.
Nice in that "we got alot of work to do" kinda way.
I went to see the Andy Warhol exhibit at Chiostro de Bramante on Sunday. It was pretty awesome, and filled in alot of Warholian gaps in my knowledge base.
Here's what I knew about Andy Warhol before the exhibit:
David Bowie played him in that movie Basquiat.
He painted alot of soup cans.
He was very important.
He had grey hair.
And some other stuff too, I mean i'm not an ignoramus. Especially not now after seeing the show. Now I know alot of other stuff too.
He painted a portrait of Sylvester Stallone. Also Liza Minelli and Jane Fonda. And others.
He was obsessed with death and money. Especially after the chick from SCUM shot him.
He didn't just make nice looking soup cans he also made ones with peeling labels. etc.
He was a photographer as well.
He made works based on Etruscan (the Romans before the Romans) art, and also based on works by da Vinci, Boticelli and Raphael.
He was Catholic.
And so much more.
Essentially the exhibit was grouped by themes, and was a comprehensive retropective of his 2D works. It gave me a great insight into Warhol the Man, and Warhol the Artist, which of course helped provide context for Warhol as I really knew him before, Warhol the Icon.
It also helped refocus my art timeline; alot of art that looks passe or overdone that I see, over-reliant on commercial images, and bold colour pallettes and so forth. Well, they all owe huge debts to Warhols Pop Art. He came first. Before anyone else was doing it.
10 December 2006
(Mi dispiace, non posso metterci una foto di Roma. Loro non lo meritano.)
Che partitaccia! Stasera Roma ha perso 0-3 contro la nemica Lazio. C'erano settantamila tifosi, 45 milioni di telespettatori, e grandi aspettative. E dunque? Niente. Una partita di merda.
Non é stato proprio cosi'. Il primo tempo é andato abbastanza bene, e molta parità. Al fine un Laziali ha segnato un gol, ma Doni, il nostro portiere lo ha salvato, come un gatto. Molta tensione, é stata una grande azione.
Trenta secondi dopo, la Lazio ha segnato. Il primo tempo é finito 0-1.
Il secondo tempo é andato molto peggio. Dopo il 25' la partita era già 0-3, e non volevo piu' guardarla. Però l'ho fatto comunque.
Sono delusissimo. La Roma ha giocato male. La Lazio ha fatto una grande sfida, e la Roma non ha detto niente. Ed è finita cosi'.
Roma vuole lo scudetto, sta alle palle dell'Inter. La Lazio vuole andare in Champions League. Stasera la Lazio ha giocato come una squadra volitiva, invece la Roma ha fatto una figuraccia.
so here we go, on into the red and green month of december.
Things are afoot here in Rome. Among the things afoot, and probably first and foremost, really, is the impending move to Brussels. That's true, what I wrote there. Chiara and I are well on our way to a new city for the new year. why? well, because, really. As centre of the EU, Brussels has lots to offer (we suspect). As a city different than rome it has well, just that to offer. and so we go. early in january. to start a whole new chapter.
Workwise Rome's been pretty slow, so it's not like I'm giving up much to go to Brussels. Except my Italian far outstrips my French, and that'll have to change. Brussels people speak French, and they're always thrilled to hear one is a Canadian because then, obviously, they too speak French. gulp. Hate to get off on the wrong foot consistently. So it's on top of the list: Finally learn some French. AND FAST!!
We're both keen to do some work in the exciting vicinity of the European Union and its associated apparatchiks. For now though its a steady outflow of resumes and applications. We'll see what washes in on the next tide. But we're out of this apartment and booked on a train there so we'll be hoping to swim.
For now though rome has started to seem more comfortable and fluid. Last Thursday was the first ever Rome Improv Bar show. Me and three of my students/friends. Was it great? I wouldn't say so, but I did sign an autograph for a guy from Naples, who said he'd put it on his wall, and talked to an Australian TV producer who said he was killing himself laughing. If that's the case he should see us do a good show! Anyway, that's some Rome-based excitement that sadly will stay in Rome whilst I embark on a new European adventure, but maybe I can guest in once and awhile when I'm back in Rome.
Another exciting thing, that I haven't been thinking too much about is laser eye surgery, coming up next week. For those of you that don't know, without corrective lenses i'm blinder than a mole. Good news is: Chiara's insurance will pay for the operation because my eyesight is soo soo terrible, which is fantastic, under the circumstances. And because she's soon leaving her job, i've gotta jump on it. So next week it is. I'll let you know how painful/successful it is.
Otherwise, it's the Holiday Season. Hope your holidays are good. Here it's beginning to feel slightly like Xmas. But the big holiday today is the AS Roma vs. Lazio derby that's going on in a couple hours. I'll be sitting down to watch it and cheer on my giallorossi. And then getting hyped about Xmas. Anyone wants to lend a hand moving, come on down..
even though the city is changing the blog address will probably stay the same for now.
I send love. Send some back.
08 December 2006
After the last improv show following the workshops we thought "Hey! Let's take it to the streets." So we did, after a fashion. We approached an Irish bar smack in the heart of downtown Rome, and the guy was down with the plan, so it became last Thursday, our premiere. Free. Drink Specials. 45 minute set. So we went at it, for the delicious beers that were to be our reward.
Now this bar is pretty big, and anyone can come in: improv fans, friends, Italians, large groups of Spanish tourists...anyone. And so the place filled up, with friends and well-wishers in the front, and random people who had no idea what was going on in the back. And they talked, and we performed. The louder they talked the louder we yelled. And so it went.
The show was not amazing. It was ok. It had some slow parts, I cut our last game at the end. A cut-and-run exit strategy, if you will. But people came out had some drinks and a couple laughs, the bar made some extra bucks, and we got some free beers and to do a show. So everybody wins. But it was a tough slog out there on the stage.
The benchmarks of success though were met and exceeded at the end of the show, because I signed an autograph (?!) for some guy from Naples, and talked to an Australian TV producer, who just stumbled in and loved the show. I'm hoping my meteoric rise to fame begins now, and involves me going to Australia, but I'm not getting my hopes up too high. Still he was get genuine in his appreciation, as was the anomalous autograph hound.
Surprisingly good times, considering the quality of the show.
06 December 2006
Much househunting. Finally settling on an apartment that defied almost all criteria Chiara and I had set. It's small, with no outdoor space and an only so-so kitchen. But it's in a sweet neighborhood smack dab in Brussels, with an, albeit tiny, spare bedroom.
One job interview. Of sorts. With a Dutch artist who's opening a new gallery in Brussels and needs a rep. I could be that guy. Although it's a commission job and involves mostly cold call sales, it's at least something.
Watched local side KV Mechelen, of Belgian B League, win a nailbiter at the Mechelen stadium. Live and up close. Corey and I also spent a fair amount of time looking for KV Mechelen scarves, but to no avail. Yet.
Realize how important it is that I get my French out from every nook and cranny it now lies dormant, and set it on fire to burn brightly as a beacon of job-worthiness. It will certainly also involve the acquisition of new vocabulary and grammar. On those rare days when it is not cloudy in Belgium, my go-to phrase "Il fait beaucoup du brouillard," [It's very foggy] will not help me at all.
Some Belgian beer drinking. And some hockey watching. Including the Canucks on Hockey Night in Canada. And that following a Leafs Habs tilt that went to a shootout. Awesome! Victories to the Habs and Canucks made me happy.
But time ran out in Belgium. For now. Plenty more jobs to look for from Rome, and of course prepare for the move. But a newlook, newidea 2007 beckons.