Thursday, November 10, 2005

Short Story: All Is Right With The World (Tutto E Adatto Nel Mondo)

pioggia a Firenze
Originally uploaded by aabitia.
Hello again my faithful readers. (I thank you for that loyalty, by the way.) So far all of the entries in Blogiorno have been "commentary" in nature. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed them as much as I have enjoyed authoring them. However, as you may know, there are other avenues down which a writer can travel in his "literary journey". To wit, fiction. Now while I do not consider myself a fiction writer, I decided that it would be an interesting exercise to write (and actually finish) a "short story" for Blogiorno. I have done so here. I would sincerely like to hear your thoughts about it; however, if you will kindly permit me, I would like to enumerate a few "ground rules" to keep in mind as you share your thoughts with me and the blogging world:

1. Please be honest.
2. Please be polite.
3. If you cannot be polite, please substitute "colorful" words with socially acceptable ones.
4. Please be as accurate as possible, as this will help me create more of "my art" in the future. Example: Instead of, "you suck man", you might more accurately state, "I did not actually read your story, as it necessitated an extra precious click of my mouse; said clicks are normally reserved for online gaming. After evaluating the title of your story and finding it lacking [any mention of girls with AK-47s], I respectfully navigated away from your blog".
5. You may not refer to the main protagonist as "Vinnie" or any disrespectful iteration thereof.

Influences: One, actually--John Cheever. I personally like his writing quite a lot, and while some might consider his work to be outdated (he wrote from the 1930s to the 1970s), I say he's one of the best ever at short fiction. My favorite work of his is "The Country Husband". Really excellent.

*** Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. The main character is an amalgamation of many people, real and imagined, and my observations of them. Finally, while there are intense thematic and spiritual elements in this story, they are by no means "correct" or even reflective of my personal beliefs. Again, my friends, it is fiction and should be taken as such. See? Now you don't have to send me an Angry-Gram. ***

The title of this short story is "All Is Right With The World" (or, in Italian, "Tutto E Adatto Nel Mondo").

Download the PDF here

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Is God Italian?

In light of recent religious events which focused world attention upon Italy, that is, the passing of John Paul II and the election of the replacement Pope, Benedict XVI, in a sealed room in the Vatican, some interesting questions come to mind: Is God Italian? Does He like Italians more than Americans or other mongrel peoples? And if virtually the entire world is locked on St. Peter's Square for a week in April, does that mean that Italians have a lock on God, or at the least, "un punto speciale nel suo cuore", a special place in His heart? The answers to these questions are, in my opinion, based upon a bit of current fact, a bit of history, a bit of Biblical knowledge, a bit of Roman Catholic doctrine and a bit of old-fashioned Italian pride. (Yes, I do not mean to shock you, but Italians "got it" and they know it, so much so that they don't need or even care to show "it" off...unlike Americans, who try and fail so very miserably, that they end up looking like the ostentatious-yet-ineffectual narcissistic twits that they actually are.)

So, let's take a brainy ride my friends. Yes, I know, this is America and we don't like to use our brains, but really, this should be painless. Nevertheless, please stay seated at all times...oh, and keep your hand on your wallet.

First, a bit of Catholic doctrine, to establish just who the Pope is. I've learned that Catholics believe that the Pope is the "Vicar" of Christ, meaning that he is the physical representation of God on this earth. And if you watch most Catholics' reaction to the Pope, you might even gather that they may view him as divine as well. So where does the Vicar live? Why, in Italy of course. Ah, but purists (or wop-haters) would protest that Vatican City is in fact not a part of Italy at all, but a small "country" within the country of Italy. While this is technically true, I think it's splitting hairs. To get to the Vatican you go to the country of Italy. I mean, what IS a "country" anyway? I don't know, but I'm fairly sure you have to have an "international" airport to qualify as one, complete with a Food Court. And the last time I was at the Vatican, I didn't see no Chick-Fil-A eatery tended by a gaunt, yellow-eyed man of dubious origin, nor did I see any Boeing widebody--or worse, Airbus--planes taxiing down St. Peter's Square.

Now, while JP2 (John Paul II) was Polish, and Benedict XVI is German, wouldn't it appear that, since they live(d) in the Vatican, God has apparently chosen Italy as a place of residence for the number one man down here? The fact that Vatican City is in the heart of Italy, well, it makes the inference inescapable.

So, how exactly did the Vatican arrive in Italy? The answer lies in the person of Saint Peter the apostle, and this is where things begin to get a bit murky and/or controversial. Catholics consider St. Peter to be the "first Pope", though non-Catholics contest the whole concept of a Pope or that such was Peter. Furthermore, some Catholics believe that Peter was even martyred in Rome, again, something hotly debated in religious circles. You can see where this is going: Therefore, for Catholics, since Peter was the first Pope, and died in Italy, the Catholic faith naturally must make its home there.

But why the emphasis on Peter the apostle as the first Pope? Why is his tomb located behind six inches of glass underneath the Basilica, and not any of the other apostles' tombs? And why is he considered by Catholics to be the first Pope in the first place? The answer, according to the Catholic faith, is the passage in the Bible--you may have heard about's a book--where Jesus states to Peter, "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church." (This is found in Matthew 16, in the New Testament.) Catholics believe that the "rock" is Peter, while others insist that the rock is Jesus himself and that He was talking about himself. Aha, so this then is the origin of the Pope and the Roman Catholic faith: that Jesus (according to Catholic interpretation) declared Peter to be the rock upon which the Christian church would be based, that Jesus therefore made Peter the first Pope, and that Peter completed his life's work in Italy.

Seems natural then that Italy and Italians may wish to lay hold of a special claim regarding their place with God. There are a few "snags" however...there's always snags, you know. Both Jesus and Peter were both Jewish, not Italian. They ate kosher meals; Italians most decidedly do not. Furthermore, as Catholic Christians and Protestant Christians ascribe to the belief that Jesus is fully God, then the conclusion is of course that the Catholic God is Jewish, not Italian.

This begs another intriguing question: Since Catholics worship Jewish figures who--most scholars would agree--spent the vast majority of their time in Israel, why then didn't their religion just naturally spring up there, making its home there, as Judaism and Islam did and does? Well, maybe it's because the early Catholics realized there was already enough trouble in Israel between the Hebrews and the Arabs, as there still is in the 21st century; where's that Rodney King (Jew?) when you need him, to get on T.V. and tell these people to get along? I mean, to this day the Jews and the Arabs are still doing the big dukeroo, with no end in sight, despite the efforts of JP2, Bill Clinton and Rachel Corrie, the patron saint of all leftist activists (that poor girl). Or maybe the early Catholics just decided that to try to construct the Vatican in Jerusalem amidst all those wild-eyed, dynamite-adorned jihadists would be less than "optimal". Or maybe they just figured out that Italy is a lot prettier than much of Israel, so why not just make Saint Peter an honorary Italian and then make beautiful Italy the centre of their religion?

On that last point, I would have to concede that Italy is, in general, much prettier than Israel, at least today anyway. However, let me preempt the inevitable (and hollow) accusations of "anti-Semitism" by saying that I dig Jews. They're survivors. I like survivors. Furthermore, I also like Hebrew National hot dogs. They're scrumptious, or, dare I say it, "jew-licious". (Oh yes, I do dare.) But anyway, I assure you that no frothing, goose-stepping, classic Jew-hater would ever eat those things, much less put this illustrative picture here.

So I guess that settles least, in my mind. God is not Italian, but is first and foremost a Spirit, as cited in the Bible, and only then perhaps Jewish. Jesus is not Italian, but Jewish. Peter is not Italian but Jewish. And from the familiar John 3:16 scripture which you learned in Sunday School ("For God so loved the world...") we should agree in principle that God has no favorites and loves all people equally...Heebs, Degos, Krauts, Frogs, Coloreds, Crackers, Heinz-57s, everyone; otherwise, this blog entry could go on and on, eventually wrapping around the "internets" several times like a tapeworm, and who really wants that? For any Catholic readers out there, I love you all and have nothing against you, of course. In fact, I'm Christian myself, though not Catholic. Rather, I'm simply doing some "critical thinking" here on some religious points which concern Italy and her place with God.

All right then...see you next time. Meanwhile, go out there and get some Hebrew National dogs with a side of Rotelli pasta salad.

Grazie and L'Chaim!

Monday, June 27, 2005

Hannibal In Firenze: The Palazzo Vecchio

Palazzo Vecchio a notte
Originally uploaded by aabitia.
The next entry about the film "Hannibal" in Florence features another prime attraction in the heart of the city, the Palazzo Vecchio, or "Old Palace". As you may recall from the film, it is here where Dr. Lecter illustrated his displeasure with the Italian Inspector Pazzi by dangling him off the edge of the balcony of the main building, also known as the Palazzo della Signoria. In the photo, you can just make out said balcony, above the main centre door. Now, if you've ever been to the Palazzo Vecchio, you'd know how eye-rollingly-ludicrous that scene in the movie was, simply because of the absence of people. At any time of the day, virtually around the clock, the square is teeming with humanity--not exactly conducive to pulling off the perfect clandestine crime. I suppose you could say that this was enough ruin the "realism" of the plot. True, but what really bugged me in that scene was that it appeared that between "Silence of the Lambs" and "Hannibal", Dr. Lecter seemed to have morphed from a bloodcurdling psychopath to some wildly off-kilter Garrison Keiller clone, using phrases like, "okey doke", just before he took care of Signore Pazzi. Give me a break.

Anyway, a bit of history: The Palazzo della Signoria was built between the 13th and 16th centuries. This main building was originally constructed as a palace for royalty, eventually becoming home to the Medici family. Soon after the Medicis took residence, part of the building and surrounding structures became what is today the world-famous Uffizi museum, the corner of which you can just see at the far right. After the passing of the Medicis and subsequent dego occupants, the building became the seat of the Italian government when Florence was the capital city of Italy. Today, it functions as the halls for the City Council; however, you can still tour much of it and see the actual locations of many of the scenes from the film, not to mention stunning architecture, paintings, frescoes and sculptures from such artists as Michelangelo and Donatello. Finally, also visible in the photo are two sculptures just in front of the Signoria building: "Fontana di Nettuno" (the Fountain of Neptune), and a copy of Michelangelo's "David", which replaced the original in the last century.

Before we conclude with this entry about "Hannibal" in Florence, I would just like to get on my "high horse" for a few moments. (I am exceedingly good at this.) I did have a personal conflict with this film because of the excessive violent content (combined with seemingly no moral message). Therefore, I will not watch it again. The reason I watched "Hannibal" was because of the setting of the film, and that is really all. However, I am not at all a fan of the "horror" film genre. The plots are thinner than the clear coats on 1980s Camaros, and on top of that, you've got to wonder about anyone who views the torture and dismemberment of human beings as a valid form of entertainment, particularly since these types of terrible incidents seem to be on the rise in American society, the perpetrators often acting out scenes from these idiotic films almost verbatim. Therefore, I would like to propose that real, live fans of "horror" films be taken out to a grassy field on a fully moonlit night and taunted with being maimed in some way via a lethal instrument, such as a red hot George Foreman grill, just so they can see how funny it is. (Yeah, real shocker: it isn't.)

All of this said, ultimately, the film "Hannibal" was indeed disturbing, but fortunately was overshadowed by the sheer stupidity of the script, which rendered it nearly laughable, untenable, and ultimately a bit boring, the impeccable Italian style of Dr. Lecter notwithstanding. So please, accept this as my explanation for these entries, and/or my sincere apology for giving such a violent film any further publicity. There, now you don't have to send me a nastygram; see how it all worked out in the end?

My love to you all. Okey doke, now let's move on to nicer things.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Hannibal In Firenze: The Pontevecchio

Regardless of what you may think of Hannibal Lecter, there is no denying that the man (?) has an impeccible sense of style, as evidenced in this photo and his decision to move to the beautiful city of Firenze, Italy, after his stay at an asylum in the States (with a brief stop in Jamaica). Personally, I am not a fan of the "horror" film genre, however, in the film "Hannibal" you can see some stunning cinematography in Firenze--or to the layperson, "Florence". In this first entry about Hannibal in Florence, you can see him strolling beneath the Ponte Vecchio--in Italian, "old bridge"--a bridge which spans the Arno river. It is a prime attraction in Florence, built in 1345, and one of the few bridges to survive the bombing raids of World War II. Originally, the shops atop it were food shops, but in the 15th century, they became home to dozens of jewelry shops. Then, in the 21st century, the bridge itself became home to mass numbers of loud, rude American tourists with cellphones the size of Juicy Fruit gum packs, making them look like psychos themselves, talking to their hands. Sigh, if only Hannibal would turn his "attention" to them, phfffft phfffft phfffft phfffft phfffft. Anyway, just walking along the Ponte Vecchio is a feast of the eyes, I mean, uh, for the eyes. It's like walking in a corridor of gold. I would personally recommend "The Golden River", a very fine shop with a pleasant proprietor, a graceful (and pretty) young woman transplanted from Wales, to help you with your jewelry needs. (But honestly, you'd be hard pressed to note any distinguishing features between any of the shops.) If you make a purchase, be sure to ask her about the various export regulations, unless of course you're Hannibal Lecter, in which case export regulations (much less various petty legal documents such as passports and visas) mean nothing, and you can slip in and out of any country you wish, even though you're on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List. That is what you call skill, my friends, and such is the magic of Hannibal Lecter.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Isobel Campbell on Radio Città del Capo

Originally uploaded by aabitia.
Isobel Campbell is a singer from Scotland who has recaptured the essence of 60s chamberpop, folk and jazz, with her nursery-rhyme-like songs and her wistful, whisper of a voice. I am in like with this woman. I mean look at her holding that could a man go wrong with a mousy-voiced, could-be Sesame Street cast member holding a terrier? Impossible. That creepy musing aside, if you enjoy music like Astrud Gilberto, Bacharach, and Belle & Sebastian, you might give her a listen. Her music is simple and beautiful, and in my opinion, absolutely buries most of the stuff getting airplay today, which is long on perfectly manufactured "edginess", noise and effects, but short on melody, meaning and cool sweetness.

If you'd like to hear some samples of her music and her thoughts on her music, you can listen to an interview of her on Radio Citta del Capo, which is a radio station in Bologna, Italy, in the Tuscan region, a region quite well known as the birthplace of all manner of exotic machines, from Ferraris to Ducatis. (Maybe it's her red jacket that got me to thinking of that.)

You may not realize that, despite my slight rhapsodic stumbling above about terriers and Sesame Street, I am showing considerable demureness in my description of Ms. Campbell, which is of course because I am a gentleman. Contrast this with the average ESPNed male, who would term her "friggin' hot dude" in between swigs of Busch. But after listening to this interview, hopefully you will understand why I have completely pledged my eternal devotion to her, though I have not yet actually contacted her to articulate said pledge with 12 page discourses in longhand, or perhaps with randomly clipped individual letters and phrases from fashion magazines, nicely arranged and pasted to form various messages on white college-ruled paper. Those tokens of affection might be considered by some dark-minded people to be a bit "tacky", and they may claim that such will not achieve the desired effect on the lady in question. Pish-posh, I say; they know nothing of romance.

Anyway, the half-hour interview is mostly in Italian, for all you Italian speakers out there, but you can still hear quite a lot of her answers in English, and also various tracks from her latest album, "Amorino", which, loosely translated means "angelic child". To listen to this interview, click here, then click on the link, "Ascolta!".

Monday, February 21, 2005

Sigur Ros in Ferrara, Italy

Originally uploaded by aabitia.
My favorite band, Sigur Ros, played a concert at Piazza Castello, in Ferrara, Italy on June 23, 2003. Ferrara is in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy along the Po River, south of Venice and Padua. It is a city of bicycles, but you'll probably want to arrive on some sort of motorized transport, as it would take quite a while to ride a bike to Ferrara from, say, Los Angeles, especially underwater. This particular venue has become a "place to play" amongst a lot of the indie bands; Radiohead has played there too, for example. Incidentally, Thom Yorke, lead singer of Radiohead, has proclaimed his eternal devotion to Sigur Ros, and has stated in various interviews that he considers them to be at the top of the heap. Or at least the top of his heap.

Anyway, if you'd like to see photos of the Sigur Ros event in Ferrara, Italy, click here. The concert was ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS. Don't most people get to go to concerts in ancient Italian piazzas like that? Of course they don't. I was not there either. However, I was at their Los Angeles show a few weeks earlier; click to see photos of that show.

Closing word about Sigur Ros: If you're one of the MTV masses you probably haven't heard of them, nor will you like them. Nonetheless, if you're one of those lovers of Limpbizkit or Ashlee Simpson (now sponsored by Pepsi!), it would give me great joy to see the look of horror on your face as you run screaming from the CD player, hands over ears. Here's the website:

Monday, January 24, 2005

Italian and its Translation

A word about the Italian on this blog. I like Italian. I like to speak it and write it. However, there are some issues. First, it is not entirely possible to provide accurate translations for the Italian selections; that is, if you were to translate them word for word to English, a lot of the meaning would be lost, or would not quite be the same. For example, the part that talks about the Italian girl with the downturned eyes might get all messed up and you'd think I'm talking about a girl whose eyeballs keep popping out of their ocular cavities, or a girl who has glaucoma, or a girl who has a glass eye. Translations can be tricky. So, I won't always provide translations, but only occasionally will. Second, the aforementioned first point presupposes that my Italian skills are any good, and to be honest, my Italian is actually quite pedestrian. (As an aside, you can take all the Italian language classes you want, but you'll never know as steep a learning curve as being dropped in the middle of the boot-shaped land. "Oh, but English is the universal language," you say; wrong, the universal language is love, so unless you think you can order a Prosciutto panini by batting your eyelashes at the little old Italian man who is already way too weary of all sloppy-faced tourists, you'd better get cracking.)

Anyway, I know all this talk about Italian and translations and "getting the real meaning" might sound silly, so please let me say that the best way for you to get the precise meaning of the Italian selections on this fine blog would be to simply invent some kind of mind-reading machine (or just buy one on the Internet) which uses advanced satellite technology to find specific persons via DNA profiling, obtain some DNA from me, and then once you find me, focus the "laser" (?) energy on my forehead at night when I least suspect it (and hope I'm not tossing and turning from insomnia, thus focusing the energy on some other body part, such as my clavicus); then, you'd simply compile the raw data into usable form and then to English. During this process you'd have to cross your fingers and hope that your mind-reading machine has good Italian-to-English translation "algorithms", or else you're back to the same problem as before.

Well, it does appear that obtaining accurate Italian translations is a lot of work, so why bother? Why make the effort? For the sake of Art? Literature? Even Romance? Those things are pretty much dead anyway, thanks to the wonders of Instant Messaging, cellphones and Reality T.V. So you may wish to close this window and do something more apropos for the average American--google the internet for Lindsey Lohan's HOT new video, "I Gotta Get You Outta My Mind And Into My Semi-Germ-Free Hot Tub And Then Eventually My Lawyer's Office For Prenuptual Negotiations".

Really, I'm sure it'd be more interesting than all this boring Italian culture stuff.