New Italy Logo: Not Bello

Here’s the thing: Italy is one of the most easily recognizable countries on the planet.
It is shaped like a boot.

Italy is also known for lots of big, easily recognizable monuments (the Coliseum, the leaning tower, Milan’s Duomo) so you’d think creative types would have it easy when it comes to creating a new logo.

But no: the image meant to promote Italian tourism in the world is a lowercase “i” with a sickly-looking green blob next to it. Continue reading

Miss Digital: Italian Takes Honors

Black Eve has all her pixels in the right place. This virtual Italian beauty, with cropped hair and cyberarms, was recently crowned Miss Digital.

Her hobbies? Forget volunteering at the hospital and ballet: Eve is into martial arts, quantum computing and videogames.

A jury of three experts and some 30,000 fans chose Eve over runner-up Kyra, a Lara Croft lookalike. Her creator, artist Mario Calamita, takes home €5,000 and various sponsorships. The digital babes are also available in a calendar.

The third edition of Miss Digital featured contestants — many of them designed by women — from Germany, Australia, Israel, Canda, the U.S, Poland and Norway.
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Feed Thy Neighbor: Italy’s Catholic Reality Show

Sooner or later, it had to happen: a reality show on a Catholic TV network.
In Italy’s “The Mooch” (lo scroccone), the host gets himself invited to a family dinner.

The moocher in question is Danny Milano, a DJ with a Pee-Wee Herman flattop and nose stud, who created the program. Now in its third season, this new kind of dinner theater airs on Telechiara, a 15-year-old network run by the Bishop’s office of the Triveneto region, the Northeast of Italy. Continue reading

3G Hell, Italian Style

MILAN, ITALY — When I moved to Florence in the early 1990s, I thought my student get-up of Doc Martens and overgrown sweaters cut just the right dash between ingenue and intellectual. But when Gino the cappuccino slinger in the ground floor of my 16th-century apartment building offered to drum up change from the regulars for a decent jacket, I knew I had to up the ante.

A decade on, I thought I was doing pretty well, as a Milanese signorina with Hermes scarf and Gucci bag. Cue Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi pimping hair transplants and face-lifts as the necessary accessories for any political hopeful and, God forbid, the advent of the video phone.

Italy, second only to Hong Kong for percentage of mobile-phone users, is now also a leader in 3G users. Though most experts brush away this kind of clunky technology, I fear the bell for high-living, under-waxed singles has already tolled.

An English friend convinced me to go 3G. Rates were low and the phone was thrown in free for journalists. For a few blissful weeks, my video-phoning was limited to beaming footage of Rufus, my very telegenic bearded collie.

Then Luca, a co-worker, video-phoned from the beach in Sardinia. Tan, with a tummy enviably toned in little rolls, he wanted to gloat over my city-induced pallor. His wife, Maddalena, who had given birth to their son just a month before, desperately tried to conceal the ravages of her C-section slump as he swung around for a panoramic shot. The video call ended abruptly with a phrase I would hear a lot: “Any chance you’ll flash me?” Oh, gee, the connection broke.

The revolution will be televised and, yes, that means there is no such thing as in-between waxings (as my roommate Sara found out when her lover wouldn’t take video “no” for an answer, only to be treated to a close-up of her snarling, bleach-heavy upper lip).

Just as the cell phone was the adulterer’s best friend, the video phone is the mistress’ nightmare. As every sex-line worker knows, it’s easy to feign orgasmic rapture while eradicating toe jam. In Italy, that particularly forgiving brand of the feminine mystique is now as passé as last year’s Fendi jeans.

I had always prided myself on a dirty, late-night purr, on tap if needed at 11 a.m.; I could do sexy while hanging out the laundry. Italian men now want to look as well as listen. And if Jane Jetson’s robo-beautician style was once a prerequisite for Milanese streets, lovers are now obliged to air-brushed porn perfection in the former sanctum of their apartments.

With the Nokia 6680 resolution at 176-by-208 pixels, makeup is essential but it is not the kind of HDTV definition that makes you wonder about the expertise of Cameron Diaz’s dermatologist.

It does, however, make smoothing over the fault lines of a late-night necessary before heading to the newsstand. Italians don’t do natural; I have enough trouble curbing comments on my personal appearance from Franca, the troll who collects the mail — let alone trying to be bella with co-workers, my accountant and a possibly significant other when they video-phone at all hours.

Watching more television could have curbed my fall. Current Italian ads for 3G phones feature a pneumatic Marilyn Monroe type begging a departing lover, “Videochiamami!” Honey, if you look like that in person, you don’t need to video-phone.

Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

Italians play prison game staff A new board game based on life at Milan’s San Vittore prison will help Italians find out what happens after you pull the ‘jail’ card.
Called “Criminal Mouse” in English, the game made by prisoners challenges players to get through the system.
A roll of the dice can mean rat-infested cells, repeat sentences or going to rehabilitation classes, visits from loved ones, time off for good behavior and, finally, freedom.The bewildered cartoon mice behind bars on game tokens can be replaced with player’s own “mug shots” for an added touch of realism.

Criminal Mouse is the latest effort from, creative hub of the Milanese prison that has also given birth to an inmates’ recipe book, a collection of love poems and a successful sit-com. Volunteer Emilia Patruno told zoomata the game has no high-minded goal of acting as a deterrent but hopes to give those who are unlikely to wear prison grays some understanding of life behind bars.

Lately, San Vittore could use some understanding. Officials are still scratching their heads over the April 12 escape of an alleged drug dealer and gang member awaiting trial. Klodian Ndoi knotted sheets to shimmy four floors to the courtyard and then climbed temporary scaffolding put up for restoration of the 1879 jail. Guards saw him but didn’t manage to catch him, raising public concern about the running of the maximum-security prison. Ndoi still hasn’t been found.

Escaping from prison in the game can also be challenging. Lawyer Giuliano Spazzali, during a mock game in front of journalists, failed to correctly answer three questions that would have allowed him to escape and win the game. He was “in” for robbery.? text 1999-2005
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Italians outraged by Cicciolina’s Early Morning Sex Ed staff
It’s 8:45 a.m. on a Saturday morning and there’s a good chance the kiddies aren’t watching cartoons: adult actress Cicciolina, 52, is talking about contraception, faking orgasms and masturbation on a nationally-broadcast Italian morning talk show.

Thousand of parents called in to complain about the sex opines of Cicciolina, a.k.a. Ilona Staller, on the program “Omnibus” in a segment usually reserved for musings on the day’s events. The furore is likely a boon for Cicciolina, a former Italian parliament member trying to rekindle her political career as she runs for mayor of Milan in 2006 elections.

Despite almost universal presence of gyrating, bikini-clad dancing girls on Italian TV programs, broadcasters are bound to a 1997 law which requires they show kid-safe programming at certain times (“fascia protetta”) from 7 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. and from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Though they face fines of up to 250,000 euro, broadcasters frequently blur into sexier themes causing Italians to joke about having a ‘pro-tit’ (pro-tetta) time instead of the protected one promised.

“Talking about sex on TV is important, but with experts and treated in a certain way,” said Antonio Marziale, president of the observatory for the rights of minors in a statement. “The law exists for a reason, without exceptions. We’ve notified broadcasting authorities about this latest breach.”? text 1999-2005
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Ciao bella? Italy’s plastic surgery magazine staff Italy is the latest country to have the quest for beauty through plastic surgery turned into a magazine.

Called “New You” in English, the title was hard to find at newsstands in its initial roll-out of 20,000 copies.
As the slogan “the culture of beauty” implies, this rag is meant to be taken more seriously than the average beauty-parlor flip through. The masthead boats a list of international experts, 15, whose qualifications take up nearly half the page.
The magazine examines a large range of beauty improvements — from spa treatments to zone diets — but the meat centers around plastic surgery. Features like “The breasts you dream of: techniques, time, cost,” and “Take back your hair” are well-balanced, realistic and seem aimed at promoting informed choices.
The ‘dream breast’ article, written by two illustrious Italian plastic surgeons, has a section on scars (‘the surgeon is not a magician, much will depend on your type of skin’) and a sidebar about yearly check-ups necessary for every type of implant.

Unfortunately, the same could not be said for the advertisers — from breast suction-cup gizmo Brava to vitamin supplements promising miraculous improvements — who present an evident contradiction to the good-sense information contained in the articles.

In a country where cutting a good figure, or ‘bella figura,’ is a national obsession, the magazine is likely to be a success. Take permatanned Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, for example. Berlusconi, who disappeared for a nip, tuck and hair transplant, reassured Italians in his end-of-year state address that his hair is “growing marvelously” and he would recommend that “those who can afford it have a duty to present themselves in the best possible way.”

Even the average Italian, according to judges, has a “right” to look good. Last summer, Italy’s highest court fined a husband 500 euro for not letting his wife “use make-up, do her hair and dress” in order to “express her femininity.”? text + photo 1999-2005
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Sexy calendars go bust, Italians prefer saints to pinups

by Nicole Martinelli

The death toll for Italy’s sexy pinup calendars has sounded: even truck drivers are sick of them.

Marketing experts are worried: these nearly-nude calendars are a 10 million USD a year industry in Italy and magazines that feature them as an extra often sell astronomical quantities with the right starlet or TV host bearing all. So worried, in fact, that they commissioned a poll of 1,000 truck drivers about calendar preferences. The sordid truth? Pulchritude is out, sanctity is in.

“The vulgarity represented by nude porn stars is beautiful, up to a certain point,” said Vincenzo Iuzzolino, president of a national truck driver’s association. “But it’s not in vogue as much as it was a few years ago. Images of Padre Pio are very common, especially among the bulk of devout drivers from the South.”

According to the truck driver poll, 76% prefer to hang religious symbols or calendars over pinups. If pressed, more than half would choose the ‘classy’ pics of respected sports journalist Paola Ferrari, 44 and mother of two, over the go-go girls, models and former-reality show contestants on offer for 2005. The litmus test for whether respondents are telling the truth or only trying to appear virtuous is perhaps the low number of truck drivers who say they hang pictures of their wives and children: a paltry 18%.

Just what does a sexy calendar have to do to get a man’s attention? Quite a lot, if the ‘coffin calendar’ is any indication. For the second year running, a calendar from a coffin maker in Rome features 12 months of live models illustrating final resting places.
In a nod to propriety, the pinups are more clothed than most calendars — they all wearing black bras and panties — and some look slightly sheepish as they hold carpentry tools as props. It may well be the nail in the coffin for the genre.

Religious calendars have always sold well in this predominantly Catholic country. The almanac style and homespun wisdom of Frate Indovino, “brother fortune teller,” was a top seller for over 50 years but when the good father died 2002, it looked like the end of an era. The priest’s publishing house decided to keep going, though, and further interest in religious calendars was boosted when Padre Pio, a 20th-century mystic said to have borne stigmata, became a saint two years ago.

An unscientific poll of newsstands in central Milan, where calendars of both stripes crowded for attention, showed the race may be long.

“It’s not over yet, the rush to buy calendars hasn’t happened so far,” newsstand owner Rosina Casari said. “Last year, though, we sold more calendars of animals and angels than ones with models, it looks like the reign of the girly calendars is finally over.”?photo + text 1999-2004
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365 Days in Italy Calendar 2005

B-movies get revenge at Venice Film Festival

by Nicole Martinelli
updated Sept. 1 @ 16:07

Director Quentin Tarantino says he owes a lot to Italian filmmakers, but he’s not talking about art-house greats Federico Fellini or Luchino Visconti.
He’ll pay respect to some unlikely cinema heroes at the Venice Film Festival with a retrospective called ‘Kings of the Bs,’ featuring over 20 films largely unknown to the public, Italian or otherwise.

The 61st edition of the world’s oldest film festival will showcase Fernando Di Leo, prolific writer/director/actor of films like “Death Commando” and “Murder Inferno.” Di Leo, who died in late 2003 without so much as an obit in the national papers, is one of “Kill Bill” director’s favorites. Other featured directors including Mario Bava, Umberto Lenzi, Sergio Sollima and Sergio Martino are more fortunate: they’ll be glorified as special guests during the festival.

B-movies all’italiana are decidedly back in fashion. Designer Miuccia Prada, whose ultra-hip Prada Foundation is a partner in the Tarantino effort, will fund a four-year continuation of the series called “The Secret History of Italian Film.”

Lesser lights of Italian cinema have long been a national guilty pleasure. The so-called erotic Italian comedies of the 1970s, for example, were rediscovered recently by mass audiences when Walter Veltroni, former Culture Minister, professed his admiration for Edwige Fenech, first lady of the genre. (Trailer for her cult favorite “Ubalda, All Naked and Warm”)
The return of the B-movie hasn’t always been without controversy. A series of “Nazi-porn” flicks from the 1970s
released as a supplement to cult-movie magazine Nocturno sparked debate on whether certain chapters of Italian filmmaking weren’t better forgotten.
Otherwise, this blast from the past has been unstoppable. DVDs have given these forgotten flicks a new lease on life, especially outside Italy.

“The DVD has really created a new market for what was previously considered just junk,” journalist and pop-culture observer Aldo Dalla Vecchia told zoomata.”Film buffs abroad were a lot more interested in them than the Italians were up until now.”

That may change if Tarantino’s B-revival is a success.?1999-2004
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