Saturday, September 29, 2007

Still undecided about 2008?

Still undecided about next November? Take this quiz to see which candidate you are closest to ideologically.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Top 10 signs you know it's time to leave the nunnery

Yesterday marked the start of week 5 with the nuns. Not sure what we were thinking when we calculated this would be a 10-day layover. The curfew, the morning prayers, the fact we're on the periphery of town, the QUIET, all these things we first saw as a quaint transition now seem to thunder in our brains.

This is my last day here (I think) before I hit the road. In theory, the move should occur while I'm in London or New York, leaving Xtina to handle all the heavy lifting. To mark the planned departure (fingers crossed and voodoo candles lit) I thought I'd be constructive, compiling a list of helpful hints for those of you contemplating making a clean break yourself from convent life, metaphorical or actual.

So, here they are.

Top 10 signs you know it's time to leave the convent:

1) You start defining the world in terms of "in here" or "out there"
2) You realize smuggling beers into your room is not quite as exhilarating as it was in college.
3) You start repeating priest jokes.
4) You start humming "clappable" songs in public.
5) You refer to friends as "my child."
6) You communicate in a barely audible whisper.
7) You ask Romans to communicate in a barely audible whisper.
8) You find yourself commenting, "that's lovely. Did you sew it?"
9) You realize you're more of a John person, sighing heavily whenever Matthew or Mark are mentioned.
10) You grumble that the "St. Francis channel" on your satellite system keeps repeating the same programming.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Danger: over-protecting, animal-loving note ahead

Over the past month of so, I've been following the incredible journey of some Austrians and Italians guiding endangered birds on a 900 km route to new wintering grounds in Tuscany. This week, they finally arrived, a few weeks late, and with fewer than expected actually completing the journey. Still, they made it, including this mischievous one (pictured above) who I think is nicknamed "Arturo".

But now things get tricky. In past years, local hunters have taken aim at these rare birds, killing 3 as they feed in nearby fields. So, for my Tuscan readers (or those who may be hunting in Tuscany this autumn), don't FIRE at this bird! It's hardly worth the effort! They are not the fleetest species. It would be about as sporty as shooting the neighbor's dog. Chained to a tree. Yes, I hear they are mighty tasty, but still. Capite?

They were wiped off the map by Europeans 400 years ago. With any luck, they'll be back.

Gentili cacciatori Toscani,

Non uccidete questi uccelli!



Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Why nuns rule

As some of you probably know, Xtina and I are living with nuns. We moved in two weeks ago for what we thought would be a two-week stay. Two weeks in, we're sticking it out for another two (at least). Sure, there are drawbacks. Certain popular street terminology is deemed "inappropriate" in these quiet halls. And the curfew puts a crimp on our social life. Try telling Romans we have to meet at 8 for dinner! Ma che dici?!?

But these are minor inconveniences. The upside is far greater. So much so that I feel I should share it with those of you who may be considering perhaps spending a few weeks/months/a lifetime in a convent.

But, before I get into that, I should clarify a few common misconceptions about our time in the convent.

- We are not being filmed 24/7 by a reality TV production team from Mediaset.
- Morning prayers is not mandatory.
- Xtina and I are permitted to walk these halls free of head coverings.

Ok, now for my top 10 reasons why nuns rule:

1) Broadband
3) catchy music you can clap to
4) Monday night Trivial Pursuit tournaments. For cash
5) Endless priest jokes
6) Did I mention "quiet"?
7) Friday night disco. ...Ok, still just a proposal
8) Not a single image of Padre Pio. Perhaps the only Padre Pio-free zone left in Rome
9) Inspiring organ-themed wake-up music
10) The sing-alongs

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Dante for dummies

A few weeks ago, Xtina and I joined her sister and assorted Perugini for a cultural night out, Dante's Divine Comedy in the 14th-century chapel of Sant'Agostino in nearby Corciano. The last time I was in that chapel, Xtina and I tied the knot. This time, we were treated to Dante's bleak description of hell. The irony was not lost on me.

Afterwards, we stepped out a bit dizzy, feeling completely thick for having struggled through so much of it. I picked up a measly few lines here and there, much less than my high school days. Xtina, of course, was the exception. She enthusiastically would whisper the upcoming scenes and what was left out of the modern-day version.

Today, I don't feel so quite thick, reading about the difficulty of translating Dante into verse in English. This is from the New Yorker:

To reproduce the Comedy in English terza rima, it has been calculated, approximately forty-five hundred triple rhymes are needed.

Ok, I feel less thick.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Thinking of booking the Pope?

Want the pope to speak at your next sacred monument dedication/World Youth Day/ CYO fund-raiser? It will cost you. Pope Benedict has been in Marche's famous pilgrimage spot, Loreto, this weekend for "Save Creation Day". The event cost more than 20 million euros to organize, 5 million of which will be covered by taxpayers, the local media is grumbling.

But, I say, should we really be putting a price tag on "creation day"? Everybody now: Of course not!