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[UPDATE] Link to contribute to Gabriele Camelo’s Crowdfunding Campaign

11 Apr

Many of you saw my interview the other day with filmmaker Gabriele Camelo, whose camera equipment was recently stolen in Palermo where he currently resides and works. He produces social-awareness videos and also more spontaneous videos that show Italy in a positive light, and although he is a former professional in the television industry, the videos he produces on his own time are born from his passion and desire to create social awareness, and don’t produce any income for him.

As I explained in my post, he decided to launch a crowdfunding campaign to repurchase the equipment he needs to continue his work. At the time of my interview there wasn’t any additional information available, he simply told us about how he’s going around Palermo on the street and explaining his dilemma, engaging with local residents to try to collect contributions.

Now, however, you can also contribute! Below is a video that explains the campaign, and how to contribute:

[If you'd like to support his crowdfunding initiative, please click here to learn more and contribute. Just click "Contribuisci" and then "Invia Denaro" and it will take you to a Paypal payment page where you can pay securely with Paypal.]

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What’s Wrong With This Search?

11 Apr

I was doing some writing/research and needed a picture of parmesan cheese, so I typed into Google’s image search engine “parmigiano reggiano.”

I leave it to you to deduce what is horribly, terribly wrong with Google’s algorithm on this one. (Look closely. If you’re American, you should be able to spot it fairly easily.)


Interview with Gabriele Camelo

9 Apr

If you want to dig right into the interview, click above. I’ll give you a heads-up that it’s all in Italian. Otherwise, if you only speak English, read on!

A couple weeks ago, I ran across a video that made me smile, showing people dancing in the streets of Rome to Pharrell Williams’s “Happy.” Little did I know (as I am completely devoid of most pop culture references post-2008) that this was a sort of trend that had started after the original music video was released. Here in Rome, the video was made by Gabriele Camelo, who in fact also made a similar video in Palermo that went viral.

I got so intrigued by someone who tried to show a positive side to Rome, a city that takes quite a beating on a daily basis by people who complain about all the endless problems around here, that I absolutely had to find out more about who this person was.

Luckily I found a Facebook page (you can find it here and “Like” it right now… go ahead, click! LIKE! … I’ll wait!) and was able to get in touch directly with Gabriele and ask him if he was up for an interview. He was game, and so this morning we had a Skype video chat that I recorded. Only thing, folks: it’s in Italian. (For those of you who don’t speak Italian, cue epic fail horn, and I’m sorry, truly I am. But my life the way it is absolutely doesn’t permit me the budget of time or money for subtitling or transcripting in English. Find me minions, then we’ll talk. Stephen Faris has first dibs on the minions though because he already asked on Twitter a while back.)

What I will say is that I was pleased and delighted to have found a kindred spirit, someone who tries to find the beauty in all things and in all people, even those who are marginalized by society. Let me tell y’all, it warmed my little social worker’s heart, yes it did.

Gabriele is 32, Roman, and as you’ll see on his Facebook page (which I know you’ve already Liked by now), he is a man who wears many hats: videographer, television producer, documentary filmmaker, entertainer, street artist, tour leader, psychologist, elementary school teacher, and might I add: hello, Renaissance man!

During our interview, Gabriele explained how he sees Rome with a quote: “Rome is like a beautiful woman, sensual, seductive — but with a shitty personality.” Well. Yes. I can see that. The “personality” could be worked on a bit. So he said that the “Happy” Rome video was his way of trying to challenge himself to find the positive side of this city.

Gabriele is now living in Palermo. He had been working at RAI, the state television network (in fact on one of the few programs I actually like on Italian TV, Report) but recently his contract wasn’t renewed. So, as we chat about in the interview, he’s moved down to Palermo to live at his mom’s house (where he Skyped from) and is trying to find a foothold financially. [Aside: This is just one example of why we can't generalize about that old tired stereotype of "Italian men who live with their moms until they're 40, 50." If I have to explain one more time about the highly motivated and very non-lazy Italian men I know who live at home or have had to move back home because of financial difficulties that are often part of a profoundly broken system...Anyhoo. That's a story for another day.]

He told me the story that recently his entire video equipment collection was stolen, a value of over €2,000, and now he is without a camera and can’t even do what he loves to do as a passion, without his equipment. At a certain point in the interview he shows us a box with a camera painted on it, and money inside. He explains that in response to the theft, he decided that he’d try the “crowdfunding” model to get back the money he needs to buy his equipment again, but in addition to an online site like Kickstarter (an Italian site called Kapipal), he is also taking to the street, giving himself a deadline of one month in which to get the money to buy the equipment. He goes around Palermo with a friend who films him, approaches people with the box, explaining what happened to him, and in this way he hopes to get the money back to buy his equipment again. And then in the future there will also be the video to document his challenge.

[If you'd like to support his crowdfunding initiative, please click here to learn more and contribute. Just click "Contribuisci" and then "Invia Denaro" and it will take you to a Paypal payment page where you can pay securely with Paypal.]

He showed me the Palermo sun from his window, and told me that he works right now as a teacher in what I think would be the equivalent in English of a group home (they’re called casa famiglia here in Italy) and his students are boys between the ages of 16-18, and that yesterday instead of doing their work indoors, he told them, grab chairs, we’re going to do our work on the beach. Wow. Can’t say I ever had that experience. God bless him and his positive spirit.

Gabriele for me is really an inspiration, because he’s taking what the average person sits around here and complains endlessly about, and he makes an effort not only to put a positive spin on it, a bit of “leggerezza” which if you know me you know is a concept near and dear to my heart, but also, he’s out there connecting with people. It’s that human connection that seems so lost nowadays. I love that he has the courage to go out, approach people, provoke people to discourse, involvement, and as he said in the interview as one of his key concepts in life: “condivisione,” sharing. Awesome. I love this and I think there are so many people in this country like this, that deserve to be highlighted and supported, especially when the majority of the news coming out is just more of the same old Italy-bashing. He says one of his favorite quotes is Dostoyevsky [via Prince Myshkin in The Idiot]: “Beauty will save the world.”

Speaking of his other video initiatives along these lines, he also did a “free hugs” video both in Palermo and Rome, which I found rather fascinating to watch, especially from a social sciences perspective. Takes a lot of guts and a certain kind of person to go out and approach people holding up a sign that says “Free Hugs.” Granted he admits this wasn’t his original idea as it was an idea that has been done in other cities, but still, I think he’s the only one doing these types of things here in Italy, at least that I know of at the moment.

I always say about Rome: we know this city has problems, but complaining about it is for amateurs. Rome is a cheap shot, so easy to knock because there’s so much here that truly and fundamentally doesn’t work and is possibly irreparably broken. In my opinion the above-average approach is the one that tries to find the hope in the despair, or tries to make a positive contribution using whatever means they have at their disposal. For Gabriele, (and I’d like to think for myself as well), this mode of creative expression comes through video, through writing, through communication. For others it might be a different vehicle. But in the end, what matters is that we can show our shared humanity and take pride in knowing that, as Gabriele says in the interview, “Life is to be enjoyed.”

Amen to that!

(Oh and PS, ladies? Um, yeah, don’t think I wasn’t swooning. It’s super obvious. I mean, hello, major hubba hubba, right? Doesn’t he have like a Robert Downey Jr. sort of thing going? Jaysus. Looks like I need to find me a man with Palermitano blood, eh? *fans self*)

To subscribe to Gabriele’s Youtube channel, click here

To “Like” his Facebook page, click here

Similar to 999 Good Reasons to Stay Single

3 Apr

Oh Facebook, your algorithms are so funny sometimes.

A friend of mine posted a silly quote on FB today that I shared. You know how sometimes when you share things, it suggests similar pages to the one that the thing you shared came from? Well, I don’t usually pay much attention, but today I had to laugh. The quote came from a FB page called “999 Buoni Motivi Per Rimanere Single” which translates to 999 Good Reasons to Stay Single. I have no real idea why it’s called that, since despite the dead cupid with an arrow in his back as the cover image, a cursory glance at the page reveals a random hodgepodge of jokes, memes, and random nonsense. I really didn’t grasp how that was supposed to convince me that the single life was the way to go. But, the real genius came in when I got the suggested pages:


Oh sweet baby Jesus: here are not one, but two FANTASTIC reasons to stay single: Fabrizio Corona, and Teo Mammucari.

If you don’t know about Corona, here’s a primer. You’ll learn all about the Roman word “coatto” in the process. He’s the coatto poster child.

But: Teo Mammucari. Teo Mammucari is a comic, although frankly I don’t think he deserves that title because his entire schtick is basically built on objectifying and humiliating women and acting like he’s God’s gift. I literally despise him and all the other men on Italian TV who have built their reputation by showcasing T&A and then propogating the stereotype that women are stupid.

You don’t have to go far to find examples. The first video I clicked on after a quick Youtube search was this one. Within the first 10 seconds you get to see Mammucari hosting a TV program called “Libero” (inexplicably translates to “free” as in “free as a bird,” not “free/doesn’t cost anything”) with a plastic fruit-covered table under which—wait for it—a scantily-clad woman (some red lingerie thing?) in over-the-knee black stiletto boots with Barbie-doll hair is posing. No, seriously. Under the table. Like, for fuck’s sake–do they feed her? Does she get oxygen under there? Christ Almighty. But please, by all means, don’t miss :17 when Teo’s lovely assistant Clotilde walks on stage to hand him a piece of paper, and then as she is walking away he calls her back: “Vieni qua, Clotilde, bisogna parlare di questo…” Come here, Clotilde, we need to talk about this … and then:


A perennial must-view for awareness of the female image in Italian media is the excellent piece below. If you don’t watch it all (although I highly suggest you do if you haven’t already, for the sake of awareness), just skip ahead to 11:20 when we’re back with Mammucari on Libero, as he talks to Eva Henger, (ex-porno diva, who’s sitting up in bed (?) with a black sheet wrapped around her chest), asking her about where she put her bra. [Right?] Even the girl under the plexiglass table claps when Henger agrees to his request to throw it in the air, and, oopsies! Them there’s is two boobies!

Who knew?! I’m SHOCKED—shocked, I tell you!

Frankly, Teo is a great metaphor in favor of forever remaining single as a woman in Italy, at least single from his breed of Italian man; how clever of Facebook to link him to that concept. But, you see, I’m in the minority. He’s become the host of one of Italy’s most popular shows, Le Iene, together with Ilary Blasi, wife of Francesco Totti (Roma soccer star forward).

Kind of looks like he’s enjoying himself.


Back in 2008, one of the “Veline” had his baby. Awwww! He used to host the summer show where girls would audition to become one of the two most famous “showgirls” in Italy, who dance on a show called Striscia La Notizia. All in the family, you see. In the report below, we hear that the show’s creator was ready to bow to pressure to take the girls off the show in order to stop objectifying women, but he said he’d only do it on the condition that the Miss Italia pageant, which he said “militarizes women” (WTF?) also be discontinued.

Yep, not gonna happen.

Oh well. I’m still just laughing that Mammucari comes up in a FB suggested pages to like as “similar to” one of many good reasons to remain single. I’m easily amused by subtle irony, you see. Here is another reason to remain single in Italy from Natalie, who is awesome, and has the English title counterpart of my blog’s name.

Oh, by the way, if you haven’t already read this one:

Women’s Bodies and Images in Italian Media

as well as another crowd-pleaser: Half-Naked Italian Women Are on TV

Nun Rocks Judges on The Voice of Italy

21 Mar

No, seriously!

Ok, so no one really loathes Italian television more than I, and this is the truth. However, this morning I was hit with a request on FB to “like” a fan page of a friend of mine. At first I thought it was a misread, or something, but when I clicked through I realized that OHMYGOD I know someone who just got picked up on the Italian version of a TV show akin to “American Idol.” Holy crap! More on that in a moment, though.

So when I clicked through to learn about the show, I found this video clip of a nun who performed an Alicia Keys song last night and hit it out of the park. The way they set up the auditions is that the judges have their backs to the contestant, which is cool because that way they have to just listen to the performance. Then, if they’re convinced they want the contestant on their “team,” they push a red button so their chair turns around.

YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS. 7:49 rocks my whole world and makes me think that peace on Earth could someday be possible.

At 3:00 one of the judges goes, “Are you a real nun?” And Suor Cristina responds, “I’m a super real nun!” (“Sono una suora verissima!”) God love her, for reals. The judge continues, “How in the world did you think of coming to try out for The Voice?” And she responds, “I have a gift…so I give! No?” Plus I think she has a crush on J-Ax the super-tattooed dude. He goes, “If I had had you in the church choir as a kid, I’d be Pope by now! Together we’d be unbeatable because we’d be the Devil and Holy Water.” Oh dear God.

At 6:00 the blonde judge goes, “What do you think the Vatican is going to say about you trying out here?” She responds, “I don’t know. I expect a call from Pope Francis.” Whoa.

So, there’s that.

But the real gold of the evening was Mia Schiettino, who, incredibly, is someone I have the pleasure of calling a friend. She is, in a word, unbelievable, and was also chosen to compete on the show. Check this out:

Granted, it’s a tough act to follow the wow-factor of a singing nun (!), however, here’s another video from Mia to convince you of her amazing talent, no habit necessary:

Dear God, people, you know what this means, don’t you? I might actually have to start watching TV after what, six years?

Moral of the story, folks? In life, MAI DIRE MAI – never say never.

American Takeaway Coffee in Italy: Finalmente

18 Mar


Or so the advertisement says, “Finalmente anche in Italia!” (Finally in Italy too!) as if people have been sitting around here in the amazing coffee capital of the known world going, “But if only I could get a takeaway American coffee in a paper cup, now that would really be something though…”

When I used to work with US study abroad students, many of whom were from southern California, I’d often hear a very heavy sigh of frustration followed by, “Ugh… I miss my Starbucks.”

At this point I was torn between two avenues of possible response:

1) Calmly but firmly educate aforementioned student about the fact that he or she was actually in the actual real like for reals country where Howard Schultz actually had such an epiphany over his amazing coffee that he was inspired to create Starbucks, and yet, strangely, the chain has never entered Italy because… ? (BTW great article by one of my favorite writers and honored to call friend, Stephan Faris, here: Grounds Zero: A Starbucks-Free Italy. *Hi Mr. F! Thanks for reading! ;-*)

2) Go totally ballistic.

3) Can’t do 2, because when I left study abroad in the mid-oughts (always wanted to use that word), it was becoming a very tidy US the-customer-is-always-right business model, in which I’d have 19 year old couples in my office complaining loudly about the fact that they weren’t allowed to share an apartment together and MYPARENTSPAYGOODMONEYFORTHISPROGRAM kind of B.S. so you know… yep, got out of that game.

And so, ever mindful of lurking #3 and university provosts calling me because their kid might not be able to get a takeaway coffee at a Roman espresso bar, I would helpfully and humbly write things on little post-its like “un cappuccino da portar via” and the students would go, “But is that big? Because, like, in the States, I get a venti.” That thar, folks, is TWENTY OUNCES of coffee, the equivalent of nearly 600 ml. Just as a point of comparison, I looked up how many ml make up an Italian cappuccino, and it’s 150 ml of cappuccino and an additional 50 ml or so of frothy foam. So, folks, an Italian cappuccino is right around 5 to 6 ounces of drink. Not even an entire cup which is 8 ounces. So basically if you ask an Italian barista for a god-forsaken VENTI, what you’re really requesting is 6 cappuccini in one cup. The mind boggles.

ANYHOO, far be it from me to criticize. Call me crazy, I don’t know, come to Rome, do as the Romans do, whatever…

But all this blabbering is really about the fact that I saw this ad yesterday in front of the Bulldog Inn Pub, on Corso Vittorio Emanuele. So, folks, honestly, if you need your American takeaway coffee, this company has you covered.

Still no Starbucks, though. Tough luck on that one. You’ll just have to content yourself with a 5-6 oz. cappuccino. [heavy sigh]

Italians, Kids, and This Nasty Little Habit Called Sweating

13 Mar

Subtitled: One Reason I Will Not Be Going Back to Oklahoma, Where I Never Came From In The First Place

Hey, before I start talking about sweat—which, yes, does merit its very own post, thankyouforasking—I want to tell you something. Come in real close. No closer, come here. Pssst… I’ve missed you!

It’s been a while since I’ve gone an entire month between posts. Here at Casa Ruelle, things have been a wee bit hectic, what with Italian bureaucratic hassles (don’t ever have children because then you have to sign them up for public school, unless of course you’re rich, but if you’re not, like me, then, just don’t) and with multiple jobs (yes, I work) and trying to maintain my very fragile and tenuous grasp on stable mental health while also eating, sleeping, and occasionally even having a day of peace and quiet…well, let’s just say that yours truly hasn’t had all the time she’s wanted to share her silly and totally nonsensical observations with y’all.

And when I say y’all, I mean Y’ALL. Because today is the day folks. Not only did I get to delete a whole crapload of spammy comments from my blog, I also got to go through the non-spammy comments from February and reply, and Y’ALL is how I’m feeling because one frisky little commenter asked me why I don’t, quote—go back to Oklahoma and get lost—end quote. Now, seriously, how fun is that? Usually I don’t feature my haters because, you know, don’t give attention and what not (once I was asked if I ate a lot of paintchips as a child—such an amateurish attempt to attack my overzealous egotisical bombasticness! Of course I did! I sprinkled them on my Cheerios!), but this one charmed me because not only was it written with no H (so cute! In Italian the H is silent, so, you know, just throw it out when it appears in foreign languages and you don’t pronounce it, right?) but I’ve actually only driven through Oklahoma and so wouldn’t really have any logical reason to “go back there,” although, come to think of it, I could probably very easily get lost there. Because, one wonders: is that the state with the panhandle? Or is it just shaped like a pan? Did y’all know that the state name is derived from the Choctaw words okla and humma, meaning “red people”? Serious! Wiki said it so it must be true! Oh, the good times never end around here. Big sloppy kisses to my NUMBER ONE fan! This one here’s special just for you. All Americans sing like this at dinner. Then we pass around our handguns for comparison about whose is biggest (size matters) before we go off and start wars for no reason.

Oh, but folks! Enough of the jibber jabber! Let’s talk SWEAT and I mean it!

So here’s the thing. Italians have a sort of very not comfortable relationship with sweating, especially when it occurs in children and it occurs away from the home and might also be followed by exposure to air, most especially cold air. (My hands are shaking just typing this, in fear of a lightning bolt coming down directly from the hand of God Himself to strike me down where I stand sit.)

I have heard parents say to their children “Don’t sweat!” and that is the honest-to-God truth.

I’ve been told by other adults to change my own clothes if I’ve sweated, and that I’ll “catch cold” and God only knows what else.

Recently my son had his birthday party with another kid in his class at a sort of kids’ play place where they have those inflatable bouncing houses and slides and the kids sort of run around for 3 hours like wildebeests (do they run?) and do what kids will do when this sort of nefarious activity happens: they sweat.


Like, to the level of becoming red-faced Oklahummas. (I live in Italy so I don’t have to be PC.)

So the mom of this child almost didn’t want to have the party there because, and I quote, “The other moms have told me they aren’t sure if they want to take their kids to birthday parties there anymore, because, well, you know… they get all sweaty.

The mind boggles.

So, I was at a birthday party at this kiddy play place the other day (this one for a friend of my twin 4-year old daughters though) and I have no idea why I didn’t spot the anti-sweat containment area until now. Well, it isn’t actually called that, silly me! But, it should be. Because it’s sort of like a hazmat decontamination zone. Come to think of it, it should have had all sort of fun signs like this posted:


But, alas, it didn’t.

Anyhoo, here’s the thing. It’s this:


So basically, if your child sweats, you can take him into this area and dry his or her hair (shirt, clothes, soul).

I don’t know, people. Maybe it’s just me. I enjoy these cultural paradoxes and differences. I mean, you know, it’s the whole tomato tomahta thing:

Yes, calling the whole thing off would have been an option. Years and years ago. But no! I’m the paintchip-eating-not-going-back-to-Oklaoma-freak who actually loves living in a place where hair dryers are provided so that my children don’t … well, what happens if they sweat and then don’t dry themselves off? You see? So much for me still to learn. Oh Italy, mwah!

And if you think it’s just me making this observation—well, think again. Rossella Boriosi’s got my back over at How can you not love her when her “about” bio simply says “Banned from the best mother’s forums”? This article in Italian translates as The Eleventh Commandment: Don’t Sweat.

See? I told you it’s not just me! Even people who aren’t from Oklaoma know that you’re not supposed to sweat. Or something. We even have this old saying, passed down from generation to generation:


You see? Deep down, folks, we’re all the same. Now, can’t we just sit around a campfire and sing kumbaya? (Not too close to the fire, though. Because, well—you know.)