Saturday, November 22, 2008

Political Education

From a technological perspective, Tuesday, November 13th was fairly traumatic. I awoke to find that the promised 100 hours of Internet service was already caput. As in, Trofie Wife had used it up. Already. (Martello asks why I feel the need to open, on a daily basis, nearly every e-mail I receive even if it’s junk. I explain that it’s information, and I want it. It doesn’t matter that I can’t attend any of the 92nd Street Y Tribeca’s classes or use any of the Broadway Box discounts; I need to keep tabs on what’s going on back home!!) Luckily, I had already self-scheduled a trip to Voltri to acquire buste (envelopes) from the office supply shop. So, I rerouted myself so that I first stopped in to see the valiant Voltri Vodafone knights who put me back in business. (Note: As later posts will explain, the recharge didn’t last too long. I tried switching on and off while composing e-mails and reading articles so as to conserve as much juice as possible, but apparently Vodafone was already onto that trick and imposed a 15-minute usage charge on each connection, thus the Internet saga of this past week.)

 But moving past the Internet for a nanosecond, let me wax on how much I love office supply stores! This is the first autumn in several years that I haven’t had the pleasure of buying new notebooks and Post-Its, due to the absence of formal academic endeavors. The wedding allowed for some quality time with paper products, but it just isn’t fall without school supplies! I managed to conduct the transaction in almost 100 percent Italian. (“Buste?” (Store clerk shows me the envelopes. I think I should have first said, “prego” or finished with “per favore.”). “Grande? Per paccetto?” (I think I was supposed to have said “pacchi.” He shows me the largest ones.) “Si.”  (He rings me up and gives me the total, which he repeats in English after I appear confused.) “Grazie. Arrivederci”). Ok, maybe not 100 percent, but getting there (maybe).   

A visit to Voltri isn’t complete without a stop in the mega grocery store. They happen to have especially good deals on wine. Heard of Two Buck Chuck courtesy of Trader Joe’s? Well here, we’re trying to find the best One Euro Nero (another foiled Google search yet again proves that Trofie Wife must have invented this term!). 

But now I should finally get to the title of this post (apologies for all the diversions). I guess even without the scholastic notebooks (though I do carry a little journal so that I can make pithy notes for the blog while I wait and wait for trains), I am receiving an education here—particularly a political one. I’ve taken to watching a lot of Italian political shows and listening to Parliament on the cell phone radio (I’m very glad that Voltri Guy #1 convinced me to spend the extra 10 euros for the radio. At first I though I was being ripped off, but it has proven quite useful; I’m listening as I type). There is a political humor show (I don’t yet know the name) in the style of my beloved Daily Show and Colbert Report (I’m not sure which side of the Atlantic pioneered embarrassing members of the legislature, but they’re both doing an excellent job). My favorite program by far is Exit: Uscita di Sicurezza (my meager attempt at translation: Exit from Certainty) hosted by Ilaria D’Amico, who I think is a dead ringer for Catherine Zeta-Jones, but without the creepy Michael Douglas baggage. Each episode probes a particular civic issue (the financing of political parties, obscene train delays) by combining short, documentary-style reportage with debate (or sustained yelling) amongst government ministers, journalists, and other interested parties. What’s most fascinating is watching the politicians’ (often uncomfortable) reactions to the filmed pieces (they have to watch them while seated on set). The producers also roll associated statistics throughout the discussion, and even the most obnoxious of ministers bring their notes with them so that actual facts and figures—and not just platitudes— can be expressed. CNN, are you listening???

Trofie Wife sits with a dictionary to look up the words that are continually repeated and thus probably important. I am amazed by how much I can understand, but also at how such government-sanctioned nonsense can go on in a country, be thrown wide-open on TV, yet continue. Yet, I guess we have our fair share of expos√© reporting in the States these days that leads to little social change. Nevertheless, the show is great (with an awesome soundtrack to boot), and I look forward to it weekly. (After watching the program with me a few days ago and listening to me extol D’Amico’s sharp questioning of the guests and issues (in great contrast to so-called “news” hosts in the States), Martello notes, “it doesn’t hurt that she’s gorgeous.”) Here’s a link so you can check it out yourselves:

I also tune-in regularly to the Ligurian-focused news channel (think NY1). Last Thursday night, I watched the outcome of the sentencing in the Diaz police brutality case, which goes all the way back to the 2001 protests at the Genoa G-8 meeting. I learned a new word watching the commentary— vergogna, which means “shame.” Essentially, police officers were acquitted or given very small sentences (which will be commuted) for planting “evidence” of planned terrorist acts to justify a brutal raid on the sleeping quarters of multinational anarchist protesters.  Whatever one believes about globalization and its (dis)/(mal)contents, the outcome in this case and the fallout in Genoa will likely be fascinating to follow. Here’s a link to the full article on the verdict:

In closing, there is one major gap in my political education that I doubt will be surmounted by year’s end—my knowledge of the assorted political parties. It’s an alphabet soup! In this regard, a two-party system has its advantages! Maybe there's a song they teach school children so that they can learn them all. Trofie Wife will have to look into that...

Baci e gelato,

Martello e Trofie Wife

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