Category Archives: newsmakers

Europe Tests a New Tsunami Monitor

Geostar, Europe\'s TsunameterAccurate, timely tsunami alert systems have proved more elusive than the Loch Ness Monster, but a new prototype testing the waters in the Atlantic may change that.

Three-ton Italian-designed Geostar (Geophysical and Oceanographic Station for Abyssal Research), set down about 150 kilometers off the coast of Portugal in the Gulf of Cadiz, has been monitoring movement and water pressure since 2008.

Geostar squats 3,200 meters below the surface on a site known for tectonic twinges — the epicenter of the 1755 Great Lisbon Quake and resulting tsunami — where researchers expect at least three or four small seismic events during testing.

Ocean bottom seismometers and pressure sensors in the station detect both quakes and changes in the height of the water column, this one-two approach may help better determine which quakes result in killer waves. Continue reading

Italian Mobster’s Prison Paintings For Sale Online

Picture 7

Sicilian mafia turncoat Gaspare Mutulo, recently in the headlines for revealing a kidnapping plan aimed at Silvio Berlusconi, used his time in jail to paint.

His lawyer Silvio Nistico’ has put 20 of his artworks, which all portray a slightly naif if always sunny and calm Sicily, on display in an online gallery.

The views of small crowded houses and a sea framed by prickly pear cactus typical of the Italian isle go for about a thousand euro each, Italian media reported, though the online shop is not live yet.

@gaspare mutulo, painting detail.

@gaspare mutulo, painting detail.

The Palermo-born mobster, called “Asparino” diminutive for “Gasparino” in Sicilian dialect, was locked away various times between 1965 and 1992, when he became a state witness against the Mafia.

He was the first mafioso who spoke about the connections between Cosa Nostra and Italian politicians. Mutolo contributed to the indictment of Italy’s former Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti and to an understanding of the context of the 1992 Mafia murders of the politician Salvo Lima and the magistrates Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino.

Leonardo Da Vinci’s Artificial Limb Comes To Life

Leonardo: leg drawing

Five hundred years ago, Renaissance inventor Leonardo Da Vinci put his hand to designing an artificial leg.

An Italian museum dedicated to his inventions in his Tuscan birthplace, Vinci, recently unveiled a working model of Leonardo’s limb.

In fleshing out his creation, Da Vinci described the leg as “round…with soft annealed copper wires then folded for a natural effect.” The model made today by local craftsmen was inspired by a 1508 drawing of his anatomy studies now known as the Windsor Collection.

Instead of just rehashing the great man’s better known inventions, the Museo Ideale in Vinci often highlights his more obscure experiments, such as plastic.

More on Leonardo from the archive:
Leonardo Da Vinci “Confetti Machine” Fires Up Carnival
High-Res Last Supper Reveals Leonardo’s Secrets
Neutron Beams Search for Da Vinci’s Lost Masterpiece
Digital Da Vinci Codes: Thousands of Leonardo’s Papers Go Online

Headless journo sparks debate

Oriana FallaciA portrait of combative, former-combat journalist Oriana Fallaci sans head went up recently in Milan. Dubbed “Decapitated Oriana” by the papers, protesters picketed the gallery where it is part of a show by artist Giuseppe Veneziano.
The picketers were from a conservative group called “Italia con Oriana” (Italy with Oriana), ostensibly to protect her against this artistic violence…
Continue reading

Computer help desk prank makes Italian overnight star

by Nicole Martinelli Retired factory worker Salvatore Zedda, 58, makes for an unlikely pop star. However unlikely, his “song,” a sampling of calls he made to the help desk of an Internet provider made without his consent, has become an underground hit in Italy.
It all started a few weeks ago when Zedda phoned Tiscali’s help desk for problems with his email account. Gruff, with a slight stutter and a strong regional accent, the customer made help desk gurus titter with his mangled English.
Zedda, who hails from the small town of Ortacesus on the isle of Sardinia, demanded the “passa-worrrld” (password) to his i-mayyl (email) account, threatening to change providers if they didn’t help him.

It never pays to be rude to the help desk: they recorded the calls including his full name and town and the file spread like wildfire, finding its way to P2P networks. From there it was a short leap to the dogshift techno remix, where samples of “passa-worrrld-passa-worrrld” run over a thumping club beat.

For a while, it seemed that Zedda was enjoying his 15 minutes of fame, even appearing on a local TV show. But when Italians from around the world (Canada, South America) started phoning up at all hours asking him whether he’d received his “passa-worrrld” he was less amused and subsequently hired a lawyer.

Tiscali has made formal apologies to Zedda and told newspapers that the help desk workers in question have been suspended.? text 1999-2005 zoomata.com
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Italy mourns beloved actor Nino Manfredi

updated June 7 14:42 p.m. by Nicole Martinelli

Some 10,000 Romans paid respects to beloved actor Nino Manfredi over the weekend.
Manfredi, 83, died Friday following a stroke. A chorus of Romans shouted “Nino, Nino!” following funeral services in the Artists’ church of San Maria del Popolo this morning. He is survived by wife Erminia Ferrari and three children.

Manfredi was best known for films like “Bread and Chocolate” (Pane e Cioccolata), where he played a hapless Italian emigrant in Switzerland and Ettore Scola’s tragicomic “Down and Dirty” (Brutti, sporchi e cattivi) as a paterfamilias struggling to get by in a shack on the outskirts of Rome.

Generations of children also knew him as Geppetto, from the popular made-for-TV version of Pinocchio directed by Luigi Comencini still aired at least once a year in Italy during holidays.

Manfredi, who like many Italian actors began his career doing voice overs, made over 100 films with directors such as Vittorio De Sica, Nanny Loy, Alessandro Blasetti, Antonio Pietrangeli, Luigi Zampa, Dino Risi and Luigi Magni.

“With his passing, we lost the fourth musketeer of the commedia all’italiana,” entertainment journalist Paola Jacobbi told zoomata. “He was one of the key actors — Alberto Sordi, Vittorio Gassman, Ugo Tognazzi — and they are all gone now.”

Jacobbi’s personal favorite is “We All Loved Each Other So Much” (C’eravamo tanto amati), another film directed by Scola that follows the lives of a group of ex-partisans. Manfredi’s character is one he will play with varying shades throughout his career, that of the naive, unsophisticated bumbler. In this film, although he is not cunning like Gassman who makes a strategic marriage, his character Antonio remains true to himself and his ideals — and gets the girl they all loved, played by Stefania Sandrelli.

Manfredi kept working with success in television into the late 1990s, in the mini-series “Linda e il Brigadiere,” playing the retired carabiniere father of bombshell Claudia Koll, who, although somewhat less convincingly, was a carabiniere officer who often turned to dad for advice.

Fans in Rome never left him. When first hospitalized following a stroke in July 2003, hundreds of everyday citizens lined up outside the hospital of Santo Spirito to donate blood. Banker Enrico Mannozzi told Italian media that he had never donated blood before but felt a “moral obligation to help a person who gave me so many happy moments.”?text 1999-2004 zoomata.com
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Italian politician Prodi offers bubbly for votes

zoomata staff: Saturday May 8 12:37 a.m.
Romano Prodi, currently European Union Commission President, is drumming up party support by offering bottles of mineral water.

“A sip of optimism,” promises the orange label promoting the Ulivo party, available in still or sparkling water. Gadgets are rare in Italian political campaigns — the revolving door of 59 governments put together since 1946 hasn’t allowed for much more than a few quickly printed posters and buttons.

Things have changed now that Prodi’s rival current Premier Silvio Berlusconi, with 1,060 days in office, broke the record May 5 for the longest time in office. It’s a strong statement since Prodi is merely the poster boy in June elections — he is not expected to return to the Italian political scene until October when his term is up Brussels.

It is a reassuringly quirky note in what has so far been a tame electoral season — instead of off-the-wall candidates like porn-star Cicciolina, a gaggle of TV presenters are lining up to become politicians.

This isn’t the first time that Prodi’s center-left coalition makes an appeal to health-conscious voters. In 1996 the economist campaigned by bus instead of the usual glam Italian motorcade and is known to bicycle around his native Bologna.

And the idea of water isn’t all wet — Italy is third world wide in consumption of bottled water and, according to ISTAT statistics, about half the population prefers to drink bottled water over tap for safety concerns.@1999-2007 zoomata.com


Italians Clear Dante’s ‘Cannibal’ Count, Rebury Him

zoomata staff posted: Mon Dec. 28 11:49 am all bark no bite, Ugolino’s recontructed head

Centuries after Dante condemned him to nibble a skull for eternity in the Inferno, Ugolino della Gherardesca, the ‘Cannibal Count,’ is finally resting in peace.

He was put back into the family tomb, this time with honors, in a solemn ceremony in Pisa’s St. Francesco church presided over by local authorities, his descendants and two groups in historical costume.

Ugolino was found guilty of treason in the late 1280s. Left to die from hunger and imprisoned in a tower with two sons and two grandchildren, legend has it he staved off the inevitable by eating his offspring. He became one of the most haunting images in Dante’s Inferno, a macabre figure who wipes his lips with the hair of the skull he’s munching.

In 2002, the professor of ‘excellent cadavers,’ Francesco Mallegni discovered a box of bones in a crypt of the family chapel in Pisa and used samples from Gherardesca descendants to prove the remains belonged to the count.
DNA testing showed that Ugolino didn’t have much to bite the kin he spent his last days locked up in a tower with. The count, at an estimated 80 years of age, was nearly toothless.

Ugolino is one of the more spectacular discoveries made recently by Italian scholars and scientists who are busy digging up remains to find out more about historical figures. In November, 14th-century poet Francesco Petrarch was exhumed by a team of scientists eager to reconstruct his face and know more about his general state of health.

Anthropologist Mallegni, whose other discoveries include Giotto and verifying the corpse of Saint Ranieri, patron of Pisa, is already working on a new mystery surrounding bones found in a church in Aulla thought to be remains of St. Caprasio. ?1999-2004 zoomata.com

Zoomata is the brainchild of a bilingualjournalist based in Italy who thinks out of the box. This brain is for hire.

Mussolini’s Bad Hair Days Become a Book

by Nicole Martinelli? posted: Wed. Dec. 14 15:23 pm
All of us have probably destroyed a photo highlighting a triple chin or lopsided smile, but things are a bit different when you’re the symbol of a political regime.

Italian dictator Benito Mussolini was ruthless when it came to discarding photos that showed him in, well, a less than a flattering light.

The trouble is that thousands of these snaps, with Il Duce’s cursive ‘no’ scrawled on them, made it into the hands of Italian historians who have put together a book of the rejects.
“Il Duce Proibito” (Forbidden Duce) serves up 140 pages of nixed photographs taken over a 15-year period.

What exactly did he want to keep people from seeing?

Topping the discards, all personally screened by Mussolini, were photographs portraying the normally lantern-jawed authority figure as jovial, informal or just plain awkward.

Take the one where Mussolini, in a slightly lumpy suit topped with a jaunty cap, gives an enthusiastic handshake to a uniformed and plume-hatted King Victor Emmanuel III.
The photo got the red light because Mussolini, in addition to the casual attire, standing in front of the royal car, might have been all too easily mistaken for the chauffeur. Other candid cast-offs immortalize him in tennis shorts and an overcoat, presiding over an empty piazza and making an ungraceful exit from an airplane in a puffy white aviator suit.

The forbidden Duce comes to light at a time when Mussolini is likely on spin cycle in his tomb in the northern Italian town of Predappio. Gianfranco Fini, leader of the neo-fascist National Alliance party, criticized the fascist regime during a recent trip to Israel. In the ensuing clamor granddaughter and senator, Alessandra Mussolini, left the party to form a new one amid speculation that her political clout has run dry.

Authors Mimmo Franzinelli and Emanuele Valerio Marin found over 2,000 ‘forbidden’ photos forgotten in the archives of Istituto Luce, which served as a propaganda arm for the fascist government.

The increasing number of photos rejected as the years went on make for a fascinating study in impression management. Mussolini became more and more fearful of his public image, prohibiting publication of photos where he was placed near priests or nuns, whom he was convinced brought him bad luck, and those where people around him appeared not to be paying ‘enough’ attention to his presence. ?1999-2003 zoomata.com

Zoomata is the brainchild of a bilingualjournalist based in Italy who thinks out of the box. This brain is for hire.

American Criminals Take ”Mafia Lessons” in Italy

zoomata.com staff
Members of the Mafia in America were sent across the pond to perfect the criminal trade from pros in Sicily, according to a turncoat don. Antonino Giuffr?, arrested in 2002, confirmed FBI reports that members of the Bonanno crime family in the US were sent to the province of Trapani for training.

The penitent mobster, describing these ‘Mafia Lessons’ sounds like something out of a Godfather movie: “They send them here to make good men of honor out of them, to practice — because,” according to Giuffr?, “In American they’ve lost the values, there’s no more respect.” He added that there’s nothing more dangerous than an ignorant mobster — one not properly schooled in the internal ethics and hierarchy necessary to carry out the racketeering, prostitution, illegal waste dumping and drug trade of the organization.

One of the hardest lessons of an effective criminal organization to teach the Americans? To shut up. Giuff? said the code of silence, or omert?, was alien to the garrulous Americans: “They just couldn’t stay quiet, they always talk too much.” The improvised professors of crime were Cosa Nostra dons who agreed to take in the Americans on a learning-by-doing tour of how things are done in the old continent.

The Sicilian Mafia may have to do more than offer master classes in crime to stay afloat — with the arrest of Giuff? cohort Salvatore Rinella March 7 another dent was made in the criminal organization. It’s part of a major push by Italian authorities who have arrested several people close to the reputed head of the Sicilian Mafia, Bernardo Provenzano — although the top boss, on the run for 40 years, still eludes them. There’s also an economic incentive for fighting crime — the Italian government estimates some 7.5 billion euro in lost income a year to the country’s southern regions. ?1999-2004 zoomata.com

Zoomata is the brainchild of a bilingualjournalist based in Italy who thinks out of the box. This brain is for hire.
Related resources:

Excellent Cadavers: The Mafia and the Death of the First Italian Republic

Mafia Town Becomes a Brand Name

Mafia Boss Gets Life Sentence, Thanks to Movie