Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Monday
On Monday I went to the dentist. F couldn't drive me because he had to work. He said that it wouldn't be a problem because it was just a matter of following one road out of town, crossing a bridge, turning right and turning left, while always sticking to this one road. Even I can do that. In the pouring rain. He said it would take about 25 minutes. I thought I was pretty prepared. I wore my gortex walking boots. I was even prepared for the fact that they tend to tear the skin off the back of my heels. I put on bandaids and foot wax to make my feet safe from blisters. Oh you hear me alright. I said foot wax. I was prepared. I had my little, lightweight, magic, Italian running jacket, and everything I needed down to chapstick, my health card, my cell phone and keys in my pockets so I could keep my hands free to hold my transparent, telephone booth type, extra special wind protection umbrella. I also left the house fifteen minutes ahead of when F told me to because he always forgets that his legs are three times longer than mine. 
 
New drug against depression, stress & anxiety: Idon'tgiveadamn 500 mg
Nevertheless, after I had been walking for an hour and fifteen minutes and I realized that there were no sidewalks and that the buses and giant trucks could not see me coming towards them as they cruised past me Italian style on the bridge, I decided to call F at work. I had not taken any wrong turns, he had just maybe perhaps minimized the effort it would take to get there. I screamed MA SEI MATTO??? at him and hung up. By the time I got to the dentist's office I was sweating profusely with two giant sweat circles under my arms and with my hair looking like a bird's nest. The bandaids had crumpled below my feet and left lovely blisters where they were supposed to defend me. Despite the weather, I was dressed so poorly according to Lucca standards that the only response I could elicit besides pity would be disgust. This didn't keep several cars piled full of men on their lunch break from honking at me and having a laugh at my expense as I huffed past their cars. Forgetting that I'm not in Brooklyn anymore, I stormed into the dentist's office saying in Itanglish that they no longer had to worry about making appointments for my husband in this office. I must have been speaking louder than they were used to because about six white coated individuals stepped into the reception area just in time to hear me explain, "because that guy is not going to have any teeth left after making me arrive here on foot!"
Shilpa, I stole this from your FB. So sue me :)
 Luckily my afternoon English student that day had asked for a later time. He came in with an assignment to download an image of a historical English building onto his chiavetta/computer key and then to write a few paragraphs describing it. It turns out the kid had no idea what plagarism is and was shocked to find out that his fool proof method for getting his homework done was against the rules. T assures me that everyone (except her!) gets their answers from forums where kids put up their assigments for others to copy and that no teacher has every brought up the issue since she has started school here. Fabulous. I helped him to come up with a new way to say the same thing and then made him translate all the words back into Italian and then into English a second time in the hopes that he would learn a few things. Then I made him read it out loud several times for pronunciation purposes. Hold up lady, he said, the teacher is used to giving me sevens or eights, but this is some nine worthy work that we are doing here. I froze. So you're worried about getting too good a grade? Listen kid, I said, tell her you have an awesome English teacher who made you work hard on this and that you deserve a nine.

Anyway, I got so nervous with his time constraints and trying to get the assignment done with out plagarizing that I made some funny errors myself. I had to spell out all the words for him as he wrote them down. I gave up spelling them in English because he was so confused by that. Note to self: go over the alphabet with middle school guy. Anyway, I started combining the sounds which all run into each other ee for i, eye for i, eh for e, ee for e, and when we got to the letter p, I pronounced it POO. Make ca ca or poo poo jokes all over the world to middle school boys and they will lose their concentration for the next 15 minutes while snickering at you. My mistake. Sigh.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

AMICI, part 5: Forget George Clooney, this is war.
We started the show again with the comedy act of Ezio Greggio and Enzina' (Enzo Iacchetti).
Eccoli.
The only thing good about them is that they make Rudy Zerbi's head turn bright red:

To be fair, he was asked to tie her shoes . . .

Then the leaders of the white and blue teams had their remaining singers do a sing-off with famous guest stars.
Gigi D'Alessio and the white team vs. Umberto Zozzi and the blue team
The jury votes went down like this: Sabrina Ferilli voted blue because she appreciated how their voices are more different from one another and how they gave a new dimension to well-known songs; Luca Argentero voted white because he felt that they had bigger voices, and Gabry Ponte noticed that the blue team forgot their words at one point and gave the vote in the end to the white team which meant that they got the point. It was a big deal that he noticed because in the episodes behind the scenes Rudy Zerbi gave the kids a rough time about being unprepared and threatened to pull some of their routines.
 
Next blue team singer Giada killed an Elisa song and all of the jury were emotionally won over. The white team mentor Moreno put up an over the top dance number to the tune of Candy Man. Lorenzo received some criticism from his dance coach this week behind the scenes for his lack of facial expression, and rightfully so, in my humble opinion. In response, I have to give him credit for fully inhabiting this comedic character. 
 

Nevertheless, the point went to Giada.
 
You have to wonder if the presentation of the guest Judge of the program, is really just a way of presenting jury member Sabrina Ferilli with new men to goggle over. She seems overwhelmed by each new entry. In this case, many won't blame her, as the guest of the night is none other than Riccardo Scamarcio. (Yeah, yeah, I know you know I've never heard of him before.) But here he is then and now:
 


Rudy Zerbi's head got all red again when Riccardo entered, but to be fair, it's probably hot in there.
Next in a move that was risky, if not super weird, Moreno introduces himself with Debora singing Don't Cry For Me, Argentina interspersed with his rapping about the abilities of families in Italy during the financial crisis to pull together and make it through. Before it even begins, the leader of the blue team Miguel Bose' expresses his lack of faith in the exhibition. You should sing Don't cry for me, Italia, if anything, says the Panama born singer.

We don't know what the jury and our new hunky judge has to say for quite a while because, team leaders Moreno and Miguel have a big fussy fight about it all with Moreno saying that Miguel was prejudiced and wrong to give an opinion even before viewing the number. Miguel yelled over him and walked the length of the stage to look into his eyes. Moreno then warns him that these walks don't have any effect on him.


Miguel proposes the band Dear Jack with a heavily mispronounced version of Knockin' on Heaven's Door. All the judges must vote on their ipads, but first there is another argument between M & M, the team leaders with the hard candy shells and meltable, sweet insides.
 
Funnily enough, Miguel put up the dancer Vincenzo with his partner Giovanna with whom he had some arguments of his own behind the scene this week. At one point, he refused to practice with her and curled up under his blankets in a big, canoli-like, bundle. Ironically, they had to dance wearing a super long trench coat attached to one another by the tails. 
 
 

In this shot, you can see that some dancers are hanging from the ceiling by their coats.
Then Nick from the blue team sang Blue Suede Shoes and got everyone on both teams up on their feet and dancing, and he won the point.  
 
Paolo and Debora go on next with a spirited duet of She shook(e) me all night long against a romantic duet of Giada and Alessio singing something from Romeo & Juliet in both English and Italian. Romance won. Moreno quickly uses his save for Debora and between Paolo and white team dancer Lorenzo, it is Lorenzo who is chosen to be up for elimination at the end of the program.
 
 
 To lighten the mood a comedienne takes the stage. The first thing she does is ask Moreno if he has just got his period, and to calm down. I will not give forth to a feminist rant because I respect how difficult it is to be a stand up comic. That said, she proceded to approach the jury, completely avoiding Scamorzia for some reason, and asked them one at a time to give her their magic sex appeal, going so far as to convince Luca Argentero to touch her boobs in front of everyone. Then she went on at length about masturbation and finished up with an analysis of Snow White. 
 
My favorite dancer Giacomo was given another great piece of choreography in the form of Alice in Wonderland, but he was beaten by Debora singing Think by Aretha Franklin. She pronounced it Fink (about what you're tryin to do to me) and then sang a chorus where she shouted Treedom over and over again, but no one seemed to care, and she won the point.

Miguel singing a duet with Nick that he has done in the past with Ricky Martin called bambu was matched with the pasodoble of Vincenzo and his girlfriend Giovanna. This was the dance where they both injured each other physically and emotionally during rehearsals, but they won the match despite all of the pelvic rotations executed by their opponents.
 
 Miguel then decided to put up Alessio and his band singing with guest star Luca Carboni. And Moreno whose mamma didn't raise no fool put up Debora with singing sensation Giorgia. On this point, I may be a bit biased, I'll admit it. Gabry gave the point to the boys in blue, but I have to think he had personal reasons for doing so. 

The next to showcase his talents is Nick singing You are so Beautiful, mostly to jury member Sabrina Ferilli. I am going to go ahead and give him the point before hearing him sing because of the way he untied his ponytail and put his hand through his hair as he sat down on the stool in centerstage. Ten points, Nick. They should hire you for a Pantene commercial. Even Scamorcio said it was pazzesco.


Paolo sang Jim Morrison's Roadhouse Blues and when he ended the number crumpled on the stage floor, Nick ran over to pretend to resuscitate him.
Nick won himself the point.

Even Luca Argentero was surprised.
The last match is Debora who sang Danzeremo a luci spente against Alessio and his band Dear Jack. Miguel gave a copy of the lyrics to Domani e' un altro film to the whole judging panel before the song began with a lot of flair for brown-nosing. It worked, of course, and the blue team got the point. At the end of the second half, the teams were tied, but once all the tallies were counted, the white team came out ahead. All three blue team singers are nominated for elimination. Miguel saves Alessio, and GIada and Nick are left in front of the semaforo/traffic light. It will shine green on the photo of the contestant who will be saved. The loser will go against Lorenzo. Nick is miked so we can hear him making jokes the whole time to keep Giada smiling. He is making jokes about their hair in the photos and keeps making eye contact with her and making funny faces. He is a darling. They save Giada. Now it is just Nick versus Lorenzo. They have to give a final perfomance for the votes.


Lorenzo is helped by some stunning choreography to Bohemian Rhapsody in which he climbs on a structure painted to be a cityscape. Hands come out of the window holes and support his body while he dances. 
 

During the head banging part of the song, heads emerge from the windows and the whole dance core bob their heads up and down in time to the music.
 
 When the last line of the song - nothing really matters. .  rings out, the dancers arms emerge through the portals to suspend Lorenzo's body in a caress. Impressionante, raga'. But Nick counters with a short version of It's a man's world and he rasps that baby out. In the end, it's ciao-ciao Lorenzo. So now can we talk about the Clooney, engagement rumors . . .?



Thursday, April 24, 2014

Life as we know it
So my faking-it-until-I-make-it method of teaching English turns out to be a better idea than that proposed by most of my grammarian colleagues because at least I get people to SPEAK English. This city is crawling with people who will make you do grammar exercises from a text book, but very few people will help you to communicate anything.

If you look at Pinterest you will find a ton of women my age who only wish someone would pay them to pin all day, or to be cupcake tasters, hand models, or to take over where Oprah left off. In some small way, I have to feel that by chatting away happily and getting paid for it, I am living the dream. Today I would be happy not to leave my home because I have a cyst the size of Las Vegas on the side of my nose. I am so frustrated that I want eat a sugary pizza because despite the many benefits of being sugar and gluten free, clear skin is not one of the happy outcomes in my case.

If I forget, I hope you will remind me that no does not mean no in Lucca. In response to virtually any question that you ask, you will receive a negative answer the first time you ask it. I asked my very sweet soccer coach student if he could find a volunteer job for Bambi, my big doe eyed student who wants to become a soccer coach. He said no. I almost felt disheartened, but then I remembered the rule: you have to ask the same thing at least twice if you want a different answer. So then I asked again, and guess what, he said yes. Same question, different number.

It was nice to have some good news for Bambi during our last lesson together. Despite the fact that we spoke more Italian than English together in the span of  the two hours we spent together, I was able to make his studying for the University entrance exam something other than a total waste of time and possibly got him a fun little job that he can add to his resume or help him to find paid work. I also think I managed to convey to him how similar the two languages can be so that he will be more brave about trying to speak in the future. Nevertheless, I have to admit what I did was a bit unorthodox.

Another really funny thing happened during my last lesson with Bambi. After making F slave away with me over the logic, biology, chemistry, and mathmatic questions on the practice university entrance exam that I had gotten for Bambi, I realized that there was an important message in capital letters on the last page of the exam. The message said that all the correct multiple choice answers to the exam were actually A. Bambi and I had also been racking our brains to solve some of the thornier questions. It was at that moment that I tried to teach Bambi a quote from The Real Housewives of New York, "I may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but I'm pretty." It took a few times of my translating it loudly and slowly and, probably, incorrectly for him to crack a smile. On the other hand, he may have been smiling because I seemed to be calling myself pretty.



 Speaking of pretty and happy people, get a load of this video which pretty much sums up both how nerdy, behind the times, and totally delightful life can be in Lucca.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Cooking Lessons
The other night we had my Italian sister meet my Italian brother for a cooking lesson because my Italian brother has just turned vegan and needs to learn how to cook to bring down his cholesterol levels. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't secretly hoping that it would be love at first sight and that they would run off and make curly haired, beautiful, genius, fast talking Italian babies together. But these things take time. As part of the menu we used Gwyneth Paltrow's recipe for baked french fries. I'll leave it at that.

Adorable as they are, they both need to work on their knife skills.
I am the very essence of an impicciona/ busy body. So sue me.

They still love me. No really, they do.
We even made low sugar chocolates. They were really exquisite.
Tatia prefers hunting for these.

This week's AMICI: a horror show of cazzima
I am reluctant to even communicate the horror that is too often the state of Italian television this week. My delightful little reality talent show took a dramatic turn for the offensive on Easter of all occasions. The show started with host Maria di Filippi telling the audience that while it is not usually easy to reach the agents of the big stars they get to judge and perform with the kids on the show, this week a super agent contacted them. Out comes a comedy duo who managed by their drag routine with fake German accents to offend: Germans, women, homosexuals, and humanity not necessarily in that particular order. They distorted the photos of many of the professors/mentors on the show who are huge stars in Italy in their own right in the most vulgar ways imaginable in front of 4,223,000 spectators.


I show only that of Maria because she got herself into this mess.
 
 
I can only imagine that they showed these photos to the artists ahead of time so that they were "good sports" about it in front of the audience. It would have been much better if they had shown genuine outrage, of course. The whole thing reminds me of something my ex-colleagues at the fancy gym would do. I saw that whole unwelcome cast because there must have been a staff Easter luncheon in the walls of the city. As I was walking my friend to her car, I had to pass by one unpleasant, recognizable face after another. I felt like I had been mistakenly dropped into a scene from Twilight. Anyway. . .


Thank goodness Emma came back to save the day with her collaboration with white team kids Debora and Paolo. The blue team responded with a star appearance from Marco Mengoni collaborating with blue team kids Alessio and Giada. The background from the behind the scenes actions this week, is that Debora was missing home and the producers were worried about her performance so they let her speak with her mammina and papino. Giada had a crisis of confidence about her sing-off with Debora and had to dig deep to find her inner grit. Debora was tempted with a pasta carbonara, poor dear, but she resisted and managed to maintain her diet in front of the cameras. Nevertheless, team blue won that vote three to zero and got the first point of the night.
 
I thought it was crazy when the leader of the blue team Miguel Bose responded to the white team's breathtaking group dance number with hunky Nick's singing Sway by himself. But wacky judge Luca Argentero found that Nick held his own. I think he is jealous of the dancer Vincenzo on the white team who is mega handsome. Vincenzo had a little melt down behind the scenes this week when they tried to get him to dance the samba. Again. He sounds like he must be from Napoli as he caressed his "s" sounds in an adorably swishy way while he declared that he'd rather go home for a pasodoble then some damned samba. 
 

All of Nick's unconvincing flirting with judge Sabrina paid off, and the point went to him.  
We welcome judge of the night Stefano Accorsi. I have never heard of him, but that means nothing. He's cute.



 He seemed to appreciate Debora's solo song, even if Miguel on the blue team made the comment that she was too immature to sing it. He put up a delicious group dance number that seemed Sound of Music inspired. At least, I hope it was because all of the dancers were wearing matching drapes.
 
 
Sabrina alleged that Debora's big voice is lacking character and interpretation. I booed her. I wasn't alone. I can't blame Sabrina. She hasn't eaten in a very long time.
 

 There was an unspectacular battle of the bands and then this stunning dance number where the whole core were decked out in old man masks and canes dancing with the two young featured male dancers, my favorite Christian and the notable classical dancer from Cuba, Oscar.
It was matched up against a dance number starring Lorenzo. This was also choreographed in a spectacular way and was story telling through dance at it's best. The only problem, for me, being that Lorenzo was out danced by this professional dancer that is part of the crew who goes unidentified, but is wearing a red tee shirt. And, in fact, the white team lost again. They are so bludgeoned, in fact, that Emma comes back on stage just to speak in defense of her old team. Lorenzo is saved by the professors and the band Carboidrati is sent packing. Moreno, the coach of the white team, is booed by the crowd and makes the amateur mistake of defending himself too loudly and for too long. Emma them comes to Moreno's defence and the whole program proceeds to go to the dogs.

Lorenzo is in white.
Nameless killed it in the red shirt.
By now everyone is rooting for the white team, and the boogers put up puppy dog Paolo singing an overly dramatic and badly timed rendition of Moves Like Jagger. Dudes, that song sickened everyone like two summers ago. What are you thinking?? The blue team responded by sending out Oscar to pirouette so many times that he left holes in the floor of the stage. After losing this terrible bet, Moreno sends himself up to sing with Debora. If he doesn't win. . . I don't know what to tell you. Hold on, I'll let you know.
Moreno is pissed.
O.K. I'm back. It gets worse. Giada who is Debora's friend, I think, but is her main competition in the program sang her little heart out. Knowing her backstory and all the fear she overcame during the week to get to that point, I have to root for her. Then judge Gabry goes after Debora. He tells her that he noticed that she messed up the text. She admits it, but says that since she was thinking of a friend who has passed away to whom she was dedicating the song, she doesn't care about the text. He goes on to make her cry, saying that she is singing without soul. Giada doesn't know where to look. Moreno comes to Debora's defense, pointing out that Debora had only two days to learn the song, while Giada had a whole week. Gabry launches back, saying that those backstage technicalities are none of their business and that Debora better find a way to deliver because he is not the only one to whom her performance didn't arrive. Giada wins the point, but guest judge Stefano comes out in favor of a red-eyed Debora.
Couldn't resist. Sorry.
My favorite part is when Emma runs in for the defensive tackle, telling Gabry that despite her awards and the number of her performances sometimes life gets the best of her and she can't finish a song on stage in front of a live audience because she is a singer, but most of all she is a woman, a person. He fires back but that's true for all of us. Um, Gabry? Look down for a moment there, fella. To which Emma replies: 'Ingoiate le lacrime รจ cacciate la cazzimma,' which means "Kids, swallow your tears and chase away the opportunistic bad behavior." Cazzima is my new favorite word, btw.
 

Into that fray must dance Vincenzo, and he does it to the oldie Under My Skin. It is adorable as a performance, but not jaw dropping. He is matched against Placido Domingo and Nick singing What a Wonderful World, followed by Besami Mucho. I'm not even kidding. So cute was the fact that while he was singing kiss me a lot, Nick couldn't take his eyes of Placido whilst Placido did his best to hardly glance at Nick.
 
Just when I thought it was safe, Moreno sends out Debora for another solo. This time she gets to sing her favorite Whitney Houston. Gabry is smirking from the beginning. He knows, we assume, he is about to get his ass served to him for pranzo. Easter pranzo at that.


I'd like to stop here. But I can't. Next Christian comes out dressed with a team of long winged black crows and they dance this incredible dance to an uplifting Italian pop tune while their brothers hang from the ceiling on flying chairs. Nevertheless, the judges eat crow and give the point to Debora.
 


Finally, Vincenzo gets his pasodoble on and ties with Alessio and the band Dear Jack. They are both stoked. The two teams have to come to the stage for the final verdict: And Debora's white team wins the point. Nick, Oscar and Alessio get nominated for elimination. Nick gets saved by Miguel which means that one dancer will carry the weight of the whole team until the end learning up to five choreographed numbers a week, and it is Oscar who must leave the program. 
Bye, Oscar.