Wednesday, March 30

The [squeaky] wheels of Italian Government

Energized by celebrating 150 years of Unity (well, for most in the government), polarized by the Libyan attacks, inundated by the rush of immigrants in Lampedusa, pleased as punch by going after and obtaining monies from tax evaders, under attack for green-lighting our nuclear program in light of the Japanese tragedy, and under fire for Rubygate and various trials to come, one could fairly say that Italy and our Dear Leader has a lot on its plate.
And so, I was bemused to receive this link from a fan going to Italy's Government Website (I know, I know, Italy has a government???!!):

And here, under the www.governo.it website, in the Press Releases Page we find:

Precisazione dalla Presidenza del Consiglio dei Ministri:


Il resoconto fornito da alcune agenzie di stampa in merito alla cena di ieri sera del Presidente Berlusconi con il gruppo dei Responsabili è ricco di fantasie e imprecisioni. In particolare, il Presidente non ha cantato alcuna canzone.
24 Marzo 2011


Clarification from the President of the Council of Ministers (Berlusconi's Office ndr)
Reports issued by certain press offices, with regard to the dinner held last night by President Berlusconi with the Group of Managers is filled with fantasy and incorrect information.  In specific, the President did not sing a song.

Two questions come to mind:
1) Why is the main definition of Responsabili mean Guilty Parties?
2) Who are they and why do they sound like The Avengers??

Nonetheless, glad to know the wheels of democracy are grinding away...or are they screeching 'round a 180 degree curve?

Monday, March 28

Italian Consulate - Your government [Not] at work

Countries have Embassies in nearly every country on earth, always in the capital cities, where they can be closer to the machinations of foreign governments.  In smaller but important cities, countries post Consular Offices.  These offices, to plagiarize from the U.S. consular site in Toronto, "provide information on trade, border issues, visas, US citizen services." 
And, for all you travelers out there, may I also remind you that U.S. Citizen services does not include: getting you out of a lousy hotel, wiring money, providing free calls to your parents, you name it.  As a friend once put it to me, "Pretend you're on holiday in DC.  Would you go to the White House just because your wallet was stolen?"  
The Consulate will (try) to provide a replacement passport, suggest tax accountants for foreign residents, and send the body back home.  Nonetheless, they are plagued with every sort of query under the sun.  While they do try to put their best face forward, Americans like to think that our government employees are their personal concierge away from home.
For most people, you only need a foreign consulate if you're planning a trip and need a Visa, or if you're getting married to a foreigner, things like that.  I used the Consulate to obtain my dual citizenship.  For those who have never dealt with bureaucrats, it can be a rude awakening.  They ask for documents that aren't even required, copies time and again on items they claim weren't submitted.  But that was Detroit. For my brother in Boston, it was a cake walk.
The Italian Consulate of Detroit wants to make absolutely sure you understand how Italy works (or doesn't, as the case may be).  For the most basic of services, you must  pass Hercules' 12 trials (except they make them 22) before providing the most basic services, which by law, they are to provide.  They ignore the rules posted on their very own websites, and make them up as they go along.  To make sure you understand how things work in Italy once you'll get there, they will stonewall you should you so much as blink an eye, walk away from the window altogether, or hand you back your documents and tell you to try again - in 2019.
But don't take my word for it -- here's what a few others had to say about the 'services' they received when merely trying to plan a trip to Italy:


For over a month I have been trying to get citizenship and passport answers from the Consulate of Italy in Detroit. I have called at least 3 times a week to try to talk to someone. Every time they transfer me to a voice mail and I never receive a call back. The secretary keeps telling me that if I give her my name and phone number someone will return my call. It’s been over a month and no matter how many times I leave my number they do not call back. I have never had such an issue of dealing with incompetent people in my life. If you are Italian or have any questions in which you need to use a consulate, avoid calling the Detroit branch at all costs.

I have the same concerns. The terrible attitude by the blonde clerk in Detroit Italian consulate made my day the worst. I went to apply for the tourist visa and the woman started talking nonsense in a very rude manner and treated me very badly. I lost the interest to visit Italy and she spoiled my enthusiasm and excitement about our upcoming trip. I do not care any more whether I get a visa or not as I can save money instead of spending thousands of dollars. The lady represented Italy and I am indeed concerned to visit Italy now. I may think about altering my trip to avoid a visit to Italy.

I too had to get my visa from the Detroit Italian Consulate when I married an Italian citizen. They were rude and slow and did not seem to take their jobs seriously at all. I have to confess though, that I get the same crappy service any time I come into contact with our own American government workers. If a foreigner in America judged the entire country by the postal employees it could explain why some people misunderstand or even hate Americans.

The Italian consulate people in Detroit are the most insolent, disgraceful, rude, inefficient lot who are an embarrassment to Italy country and shameful for being here in the USA. At least they should resign, give up their jobs if they don't want to improve their ways and give the baton to the more efficient and productive lot. I had to cancel my ticket and the entire trip because they could not approve my visa in time despite having ample time to review my application. Since they represent Italian people in USA, I wonder if all italian people are like that?

I have been alternately worried, enraged, and confused by the high levels of incompetence and hateful behavior of the Detroit Visa Office. I am seriously worried that I won't get my passport back in time for my trip. When I have called to ask (they've had my stuff for a month now), on the ONE TIME someone answered the phone, the woman was totally rude, nasty, and patronizing--pretty much telling me to not bother her. And I was just politely inquiring! There are only 2.5 weeks before my trip, and they still have my passport. And then today, they were writing me emails saying that I needed to send in documents that I GAVE them WEEKS AGO! It seems that they're JUST NOW reviewing my information and have already lost some things. I would be furious now if I weren't so busy panicking. Can I request that they just send my passport back!? I'd rather go with my tourist visa for 3 months than not be able to go at all. 

Viva la burocrazia e i burocratici!   
And, when you need a personal concierge, you'll most likely find good ones online.

Wednesday, March 23

Cappuccino Caldo with Carol&Cheryl

Wednesdays may be Prince Spaghetti day, but today seems to be buck Berlusconi day.  It looks like our dear leader is now not only the butt of stand-up comics worldwide, but he's taken over the multimedia world as well.  Would you expect anything less from a media mogul?  Picking up on the news from our Italophiles Carol&Cheryl, here's a few choice selections.

A brief view of the world - seen by Le Monde newspaper as brought to us by Non ci posso credere's facebook page
http://www.facebook.com/#!/video/video.php?v=1136782270459&oid=125467423917&comments


Coming to a theatre near you!  Silvio Forever: The Unauthorized Autobiography of Silvio Berlusconi 
Written by one of my favorite reporters, author Gian Antonio Stella, according to The Hollywood Reporter most of the entire 79 min dialogue is actually comprised of Silvio's own words.  Sign me up.

And, on Facebook, someone posted this picture of Berlusca wiping tears from his eyes, with the caption:  Gheddafi has defriended me...


My roving reporters are:  Cheryl from www.twitter.com/italianmeetup who also posts on DriverinItaly.com and her twin sister, Carol who has the courage to friend me on facebook.

Monday, March 21

Gone Fishin'

Anyone coming to Rome knows that if you toss a coin in the Trevi Fountain, it will guarantee your return.  In fact, no one knows this more than the people who make regular trips back - to steal the money straight out of the fountain - and in broad daylight as well.  Wading in the water armed with fishing rods with magnets attached, one guy was fished out by the police with 800 euro (close to $1200) on him.  In fact,  each year 700,000 euro is collected and donated to charity (Caritas).



Although they may catch them copper-handed, those very police haven't been able to send the ne'er-do-wells into the slammer.  But as of today, 'change' is in the air (forgive me).  The City of Rome has determined that the money belongs to it, to collect and distribute as they like.  So now, there's an owner who has been deprived of their funds.  I just wish they'd employ that money towards the 'tourist tax' instead -- and then, how many of us would return to spend some more?

So, what else do the (official) collectors find in that fountain?  According to one of my favorite blogs around, they've picked up sundry items from pacifiers to rings & jewelry to a set of dentures, right to a (supposed) umbelical cord with the scissors attached!  Perhaps it was one of those water births.  But, did the baby come back for a return trip?

Thursday, March 17

Happy Birthday, Italia!

150 years ago today (March 17th, to be precise), Italy became a certified nation.  And this year, the nation couldn't be more proud to celebrate in style...Or, as Roberto Benigni said, making his entrance on a white stallion, "Italy is still a young country -- in fact, she's underage!"

And, the benefit of living in the nation's capital, you could tell the city pulled out all the stops.  Hundreds of events, concerts, light shows, fireworks, museums were free - and open until late -- even the Senate was open til 2am (with Senators likely hanging around for the hotties on ecstacy to turn up, I'm sure).  Strangely, like a wrinkle in time, it all took place - the night before.

On the nation's day off (except all those museums and coffee shops) instead, you had to pay for entrance to the museums and shows, and the Senate was closed.  From what I could tell, only the illegal parking attendants got the day off -- that's because the city had cordoned off every single parking place available in all of Rome, for no apparent reason other than to keep people from wandering the city streets on their free time.
Add in the rain and we ended up turning back home (but not before exploring the wondrous Capitoline Museums and grabbing a terrific lunch atop the stupendous Vittoriano monument).

Rome's Professional Women's Assoc hosted an evening with a historian who showcased the intrepid and gutsy women of the Risorgimento (the multi-year, multi-battle fight for the Unification of Italy), including American-born Sarah Margaret Fuller, one of the earliest feminists on record.  But the Italian media got the upper hand -- who better to portray the brave Brazilian, Anita Garibaldi, 6 months pregnant with her fifth child and who fought side by side, from Sicily to Venice and back again with her husband and freedom fighter, Giuseppe Garibaldi?  Argentinian Supermodel Belen -  I guess the logic is, they're both Latinas.
Clearly, it takes pure heroics to be in a relationship with convicted sleezeoid paparazzo (serving jail time for extorting 'prospects' for his ill-gotten photos) Fabrizio Corona - and of course, surviving as a 'reality show' guest on the Italian version of Survivor, 'L'isola dei Famosi'.
Now that Italy is 150, could she please grow up?


Click here for a stunning gallery of photos of the lights of Rome 
and Click here for President Obama's declaration of the event

Tuesday, March 15

The Ides of March

According to Wikipedia: "The Ides of March (Latin: Idus Martii) is the name for the 15th March in the Roman calendar, probably referring to the day of the full moon. The term ides was used for the 15th day of the months of March, May, July, and October, and the 13th day of the other months. The Ides of March was a festive day dedicated to the god Mars and a military parade was usually held."

March 19th is going to give us the largest, most full moon in decades. According to some, it may affect the earth, the seas, and be responsible for all sorts of wild shenanigans, including those late night rave parties on Ostia beaches. In Italy, after an unusually balmy day, we're set for thunderstorms all weekend long.

And, judging by the preparations being made for the celebration of Italy's 150th Anniversary as a united Republic, well, we're going to get that military parade too. They've installed a bellissimo Tricolore (the name for Italy's three-color flag) in flowers right in the center of Piazza Venezia.

As for worrying about bad omens falling on the Ides of March, I won't go so far as to think that certain Prime Ministers should also watch their backs, but the news in from exotic Morocco was quite interesting...Some unknowns went there to try and corrupt the i.d. registrars to change the birthdate of Ruby Rubacuori, so she would actually appear older than her years. Needless to say, it didn't quite work out.
You know things are bad when the clerks in Morocco are less corrupt than the ones in your hometown. Let's just say, 'Beware the Ides of March.'

Wednesday, March 9

A Tale of Two Cities

The Italians have a great expression, “The whole world is just a village,” meaning, travel far and wide, you’ll find the same things taking place at the same time.  Whilst in London this week, nothing drove this point home more than the latest scandal to rock the Windsors. 
Turns out that there’s yet another billionaire playboy with lots of villas and who prefers to mix pleasure with politics and underage escorts.  Frankly, I’m quite sure the world is quite full of these loathsome Lotharios.  But, you’re the Duke-of-whatever and you don’t know that your buddy with the babes is a convicted paedophile?  Who screens your meetings? An Hispanic courier dropping off a package at The American Express building anywhere in the world is screened more than the guys you happen to keep company with. 
A full listing of the Duke's dubious contacts can be scrolled down the 'List of Royal Blunders' here.
There’s a terrific scene in The King’s Speech whereby the Archbishop of Westminster gives the King the lowdown on his newfound speech therapist - within minutes. They practically knew what he had for breakfast when he was twelve and how often he had sex with his wife. 
Nonetheless, once again, we have a political figure copping a contrite figure.  Well, once again in the Anglo world.  For the Latin lovers around us, just admit it was fun & you have no regrets nor qualms over future festivities.  Perhaps the Brits&Americans could learn a few things from Silvio.  I thanked my lucky stars Andrew was not married, so we wouldn’t have to behold the gross spectacle of the wife-of-the-moment standing by her man.  Although faux-pas Fergie did chime in to his defense.
It’s all totally tiresome, and truly, a tempest in a perfect British teapot.   
Regardless, although Ministers in Parliament are busy trying to distance themselves from Andrew, none of them quite know what it is, precisely, he does.  
UPDATE: Turns out he's a 'Trade Envoy' - does that include abetting human trafficking?  The call girls were flown from villa to villa - who knows if that didn't include a 'lay-over' in Arcore?
While Silvio pays cash for his corral of gals provided for by “talent” managers, his hotties and a TV newsman to procure his babes, the ‘friend’ bought his way into the royal circle.  Convicted paedophile, Jeffrey Epstein* paid off Fergie’s debts so he could have the privilege of providing sex to power.  That’s a twist.   
But, it seems there will be benefits to this new Billionaire's Club of Paedophiles which includes the brother of the Sultan of Bahrain, a select circle of deranged despots, the King of Swaziland and others. 
They've announced a twin city program between Berlusconi’s Sardinian town of Arcore and Palm Beach, Florida.
I’m sure the politicos are already hard at work bringing young girls in to swap and explore one another’s local cultures, events and particular tastes.


* The FBI in 2005 found over 40 young girls in Epstein's circle - he has paid 'damages' for preying on 17 of them

Tuesday, March 8

International Woman's Day

Silvio's Legacy:  Behind every great man stands a great woman...
Behind every little one, too.



From Gianni Falcone's DiarioAcido blogposts.
Click here for more brilliant entries

Thursday, March 3

Advertising Age - London Edition

Arriving in London, I always can't wait to check out the smart, wicked & wonderful ads all around town.  But this time, I can tell there's a recession over here.  Looks like they've stopped using professional agencies and switched to the next door neighbor's idea after smoking a heck of a lot of dope. 
So, who a better spokesperson for auto insurance rates over the web?  The disfigured has-been, Iggy Pop.  There's so much wrong with these ads that I don't even know where to begin.  I don't associate Iggy with cars, Iggy with driving, Iggy with anything I seriously want to look at in my down time, pretty much, the idea of an extra-revolting mini-me Iggy version mostly just made me think of how I'd look if I ended up in a horrible accident with a 14-wheeler.  Not quite the image for getting me to go out in my car, pedal to the metal.  Now-The Cars would have been another story...
But, I'm sure when they thought it up as they were getting the munchies, it was seriously funny at the time.

Advertising Age:  17