Friday, November 28, 2008


It's that time of year again, and I've been thinking how fortunate I am.

When I was a junior in high school, I heard a freshman complaining that his cell phone was not connecting to his computer. I told him I was having the same problem, and asked if he knew what I could do. He asked to see my phone, and when he saw that it was the one that came free with my wireless plan, he realized that I was making fun of him. And stopped paying attention to me.

A few weeks later, I went on a trip to Mexico to build a house. My group was lucky, and one of the parents who came with us was a contractor, so he took charge and helped us get the job done right. He was also very enthusiastic, and loved to go above beyond the original plan. Naturally that required the rest of us to work more, but we were usually okay with that. When the house was almost finished, he told the family living in it that we had enough wood and sheet rock to put an extra wall in the bedroom, so the kids could have a separate room from their parents, the kids were ecstatic. When he saw how much they liked the idea, he offered them another wall so they could each have their own room. This, on top of the fact that each member of the family had an electrical outlet was a miracle for them.

The whole experience really gave me some perspective. I made fun of the kid at school for complaining that his high tech cell phone didn't work well enough, but I know that I complain about trivial matters all the time. (See all previous posts). No matter how good my life gets, I will probably never stop complaining, but I do realize how fortunate I am for all that I have, and I am very grateful.

Monday, November 17, 2008


I went out drinking with a bunch of friends on Saturday night. As we left the bar, the one couple in the group said that we should go dancing. I was tired, and didn’t feel like going dancing. As it turned out, everybody else was also tired. We told them that, but they began to insist. They gave us the usual “it’ll be fun,” “stop being lame,” but we explained that none of us felt like dancing. Eventually, we split off from them, and discussed how strange that interaction was. They were probably going to end up making out, judging by the fact that that was how the previous few evenings had ended for them. That wasn’t scaring us away; if I had wanted to go dancing, I would have gone, and not cared about what they were doing. What seemed strange was that they would want company.

This isn’t the first time I’ve encountered this. On more than one occasion, I’ve knocked on a door, evidently interrupted something, and then been invited into the room. I just want to get out of an awkward situation. Please don’t make it any more awkward. I don’t know if that’s some sort of revenge, but I really don’t think I deserve it.

I don’t really care about public displays of affection. Make out wherever you want, and I’ll just look straight ahead as I walk by. All I ask is that you don’t ask me to sit and watch. Why do people do this?

And now for something completely different:
Today's xkcd is one of the best I've ever seen. I'd recommend checking it out.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Mystery Film

Back when "Dirty Ears Gae" was my only flat mate, I had some friends over, and we were talking with him. He told us he had to leave to see a movie. I asked him which one. He said it was the one with Brad Pitt. I didn't know what movie Brad Pitt was in at the time. Gaetano was shocked that I had not heard of this famous film. He repeated several times "il film con Brad Pitt," as if this would help.
The next day, I asked him what the film was called. He informed me that it was Burn After Reading. I said "oh." He repeated "Oooooh!" in a mocking tone and laughed at me. I wanted to say "You condescending pezzo di merda, you're the one who was going to the movie without knowing the title. Where do you get off making fun of me?" but my Italian wasn't very good, so I decided to let it go.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Downside of that Job

I was walking with Long Island, and we passed two women of the night. Long Island looked at them and said to me "I could never do that." I understood. It's sad that some people can only make money by selling their bodies on the street, and I'm sure it's very difficult for them. She continued, "It can't be more than 60 degrees out, and look at how short their skirts are." I was about to explain that they probably had other things on their minds, but I decided that it wasn't worth the trouble. Instead, I told her about the inhumane treatment of prisoners in Indonesia.

Monday, November 10, 2008

My Living Situation

I have four Italian flat mates. Three of them are awesome. I really enjoy living with them. When I arrived here, two of them were on vacation, and my roommate had yet to move in, so I only had one flat mate. I tried so hard to be friends with him that I didn't pay any attention to his flaws. It took me two weeks to realize how obnoxious he is. When I say something wrong in Italian, he repeats it for several days in an American accent, and asks me to repeat it to other people. He speaks fast to me in dialects I don't understand. He gives me shit for not getting enough action with Italian girls, and talks about it as if I have personally wronged him. I think this is some form of nationalism in which he always feels the need to prove that Italians are better than Americans. His name is Gaetano, but my American friends and I refer to him as "Dirty Ears Gae," which is a loose translation of his last name, Capobianco.

It was hard to get used to living with other people, because they insisted on conversing with me. I wanted to tell them "My Italian isn't that good. Perhaps it would be easier if you just gave me the death-stare for hours at a time, like Gaetano."

My roommate and I are both new here, but Gaetano has made absolutely no effort whatsoever to make us feel welcome. When I first met him, I told him I would be willing to introduce him to American girls if he would introduce me to Italian girls. He explained that he didn't need my help, and I wasn't going to get any help from him, and proceeded to never invite me out anywhere. Instead of trying to make us feel welcome, it seems like he has been doing everything in his power, short of showing us, to demonstrate that he is better endowed than the rest of us. I feel that that is the best definition I can come up with for a slew of words I don't feel like writing here.

I try to ignore him, and I'm usually fairly successful. The way I see it, he is a child, and I don't give any weight to what children say to me. This isn't arbitrary; he really acts like a baby. I was making matzo balls a few weeks ago, and he looked at them and said "Ma che schiffo!" (These are gross!). I learned when I was about four years old not to yuck somebody else's yum. Evidently, he has not learned that. Moreover, when he enters a room and sees me doing anything he'll yell "NO!" in an effort to make me flinch. He is literally the first person to try to make me flinch since I was in elementary school. I find it hard to care what he thinks about me.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


I shaved my mustache today. My reflection doesn't look right. My philtrum is way too big. I look like I'm 12 years old. My Italian isn't as fluent as it used to be. I will grow a beard again, and once again, have a mustache. Ski season is fast approaching, and I've noticed that skiing is much more fun with a beard than it is with frostbite.

There was a saying in ancient Greece,
"There are two kinds of people in this world that go around beardless — boys and women — and I am neither one."

George Bernard Shaw once said,
"I shall never shave, for the same reason that I started a beard, and for the reason my father started his. I remember standing at his side, when I was five, while he was shaving for the last time. "Father," I asked, 'Why do you shave?' He stood there for a full minute and finally looked down at me. 'Why the hell do I?' he said."

Saturday, November 8, 2008

An e-mail I received from an actor who was forty-five minutes late to rehearsal.

Jeremy [redacted]
to me

3:06 PM (3 hours ago)

No phone are u in the black box ?

Sent from my iPhone.

It’s not my fault that you care what happens in my country or that you speak my language.

I recently noticed an interesting facebook status.

"Mi chiedo: ma quando hanno votato gli italiani, quanti americani se ne sono fottuti se avesse vinto Berlusconi o Veltroni?"

"I wonder: when the Italians voted, how many Americans [cared] whether Berlusconi or Veltroni won?"

Presumably an American reading this was meant to feel guilty or something like that. When I read it, I thought about the day I met this person. The first thing he asked me was which candidate I preferred in the election. As I recall, he had a very strong opinion in the matter.

I generally don't follow the elections of other countries, and if somebody chooses not to follow the elections in my country, that's fine. The fact is, though, that they do choose to follow our elections, and somebody who told me to get out of his (my) house for not voting for McCain has no right to complain that people in his country care about the elections in mine.

I feel the same way about English. If you don't want to learn our language, don't. Just don't ask my why everyone else wants to learn it. Somebody asked me why the whole world "has to" speak English, and not Italian. I told him it wasn't my decision. Evidently, my decision was to learn Italian, so I'm not the person to whom he should be complaining.

I should have told him that if the Italians expect the whole world to speak their language, it would be helpful if, as a sign of good faith, the whole country learned it first. The nice thing about English is that somebody from any part of the United States can have a conversation with anybody from England, Australia, Jamaica, etc. This country has so many dialects that the Italians have trouble conversing with people from 10 miles away.

Note: The picture with this post is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a complete list of Italian dialects. These are just the more commonly spoken ones.

Friday, November 7, 2008


As long as I can remember, I've always wanted to be a film major. Anybody who's known me for more than five minutes knows that I'm obsessed with film. I've nearly memorized a few movies. A few years ago, I got tired of people saying "Oh my god! How have you not seen [whichever movie happens to be the topic of conversation]?" so instead of explaining that I was way too young to have seen every movie ever made, I decided to make a list of every worthwhile movie I haven't seen, and then see them all. There are currently 119 movies on the list, but I seem to be adding them faster than I'm crossing them off.

Freshman year of college, I decided to major in economics. I was a little bit apprehensive, because I knew that it takes brass balls to major in economics, but I came to the conclusion that being an econ major would not keep me out of the film industry if I choose to take that route, whereas being a film major might be an obstacle if I want to go into the finance industry (which still existed when I was a freshman).

Recently, I restated my assumptions, and decided to start telling people that I'm a film major. People seem to have a much easier time understanding me, when I tell them that. More importantly, I believe that anyone who asks me what my major is wants to start a conversation, and I think film is a much more interesting topic of conversation than the economy (crisis or not) and one about which I am much more qualified to converse. As far as I can tell, this particular lie happens to be more honest than the truth itself.

One of my friends doesn't understand the concept of me lying about my major. Every time he hears me tell somebody that I'm a film major, he says "No you're not. You're an economics major." I've explained to him exactly why I decided to lie about this, but he's still baffled by it. This is why I can't lie; some idiot who knows the truth is always going to be there to call me out on it.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


I try not to write about politics on this blog. I have several reasons for this. If I had any readers, I have a hard time believing that they would have taken my opinions into account at all while voting. Also, I think that there is already more than enough political commentary on the blogosphere. Most importantly, Randall Munroe does not write about politics, and he is one of my heroes. That being said, I've decided that I can let politics slip into my posts when it involves my personal life, which is one of my main focuses (foci?) on this blog.

I am very bad at lying. I'm pretty good at keeping secrets, but when somebody asks me a question, the first thing that comes to mind is always the true answer, and I begin to fear that if I hesitate to think of a lie, it will be very obvious.

Thus, as much as I would like to tell people that I voted for Obama, I find myself unable to do so. My state was won by a margin of 2,431,940 votes. Knowing that something like this would happen, I decided that to vote for Obama or McCain would be throwing away my vote, and the most effective use of my vote would be for a third party candidate. Thus, as I predicted, my vote (or lack thereof, as you naysayers may call it) had absolutely no effect on the Electoral College but did have an effect on the number of votes my candidate received. If I lived in a swing state, I would have voted for Obama, but until we abolish the Electoral College, I want to take as much advantage of it as I can.

I feel confident explaining this thought process to Americans who are familiar with the Electoral College, but it becomes difficult with Europeans. People keep asking me if I voted for Obama, and I really do want to say yes, but most of the time, I can't.

A TV news crew came into one of my classes yesterday to ask the Americans about our views on the election. They asked if anybody in the class voted for McCain, and when nobody raised their hand, they assumed that we all voted for Obama. They then asked me why I voted for Obama, and I froze for a second before giving them an answer. Perhaps this would have been a good opportunity to explain the concept of third parties. I don't know if my Italian is good enough yet, but it could have made for good TV.

An hour later, some Dutch girls asked me if I watched the election, and asked me for whom I voted "let's hope you voted for Obama," They said. That would have been a very good cue for me to give the easy answer, but instead I found myself jumping into a boring conversation about why I voted for somebody they've never heard of despite the fact that my candidate had no chance of winning the election.

Maybe I should start telling people that I voted for Obama. It would save a lot of time. My fear is that when I hesitate, they'll assume I'm lying, and that I voted for McCain, and then they won't want to keep talking to me. Also, I don't want to have that conversation with my roommates who support Forza Italia and the Republican Party. More importantly, experience tells me that somebody who knows that I'm lying is going to be there and call me on it. In this case, is honesty the best policy?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

What I saw last night.

I didn't have a camera, so you're going to have to take my word for it.

We paraded through Harlem last night. There were drum circles in front of the Apollo. Bus drivers stopped and opened their doors in the middle of the streets to let people hop on and celebrate. You heard police sirens and spontaneous screams and cheers, and saw hugs everywhere between everyone. You could still hear it outside for hours. We watched Obama accept the Presidency on a JumboTron in a plaza on 125th St; people cried, smiled, and posed for pictures. I saw a guy in a newsvan, shouting into a cell phone: "...too many of them!" Meanwhile, the cameraman just stood there looking amazed, his lens cap still on. People hanging out the windows of cars driving by banged pots and pans while others leaned out of third- and fourth-floor windows, shouting O-ba-ma, Yes-We-Can, or U-S-A where the crowd below cheerfully picked up the chant. Police starting herding traffic off the streets onto the sidewalks, and I saw one cop give a high-five to an enthusiastic passer-by. Everyone gave kisses so hard they hurt and hugs that were less hugs and more collapses from joy.

It was not the sort of thing I ever expected to see in my lifetime, in this country. A little more than 12 hours later, and it hardly feels real at all anymore.


I went to the public library last night to watch the election coverage on CNN. It was filled with Americans, Italians, and many people from all over the world, most of whom were drunk. The local media was there interviewing Americans about our views on the election. The volume was very low on the TVs, and people were talking, so it was impossible to tell whether we were watching the coverage in English or Italian. The library stayed open all night, but I left at around 1:00 am (7:00 pm EST). I'm sure some people stayed until 5:00 am (9:00 PST), but I was tired and content to read the results when I woke up 3 hours after the polls closed. When I left the library, it looked a lot like Thomas E. Dewey would be our next president, but apparently Barack Obama won. I'm looking forward to four or eight years with him as our president.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

It's a Small World

There is a political science professor at my school who banned a certain word in his classroom that starts with “g” and ends with “obalization.” I won’t hint as to what letters might be in the middle. His view is that too many people use the word without actually knowing what it means. Not knowing what it means, myself, I won’t use it.

Yesterday, I had a phone call with friends of mine in the United States, Argentina and Scotland. Meanwhile, I received an email from my advisor in the United States, regarding the classes I will take when I return there next semester. He also told me to send his regards to my professor in Italy.

Do we still have oceans?

P.S. If you’re a U.S. citizen of at least 18 years, who hasn’t been convicted of any felonies, I have an idea for a fun activity you can do today: vote.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Drinking Problem

While we were walking around the city last night, a man asked my friends and me for money. I was about to give him some change, when I noticed that he was carrying a bottle of limoncello. For those of you who don’t know, limoncello is liquor made from lemon peel, and is probably the sweetest type of alcohol I have ever tasted. On this basis, I refused to give the man any money. A real alcoholic at least drinks whiskey. In Italy, every supermarket sells 95% grain alcohol, which is cheaper than limoncello and probably tastes better. What kind of pathetic excuse for an alcoholic drinks limoncello? I tried to imagine what was going on in this man’s head: “I can’t remember the last time I went whole day without a Smirnoff Ice.” “Some days, I can’t get up in the morning without my Bacardi Breezer.” “I’m starting to think my only friend is Mike. I need some more hard lemonade.”

Sunday, November 2, 2008


I went to Torino, with my group of Americans, for Halloween. In regards to my earlier post, my friend did not end up rooming with the kid who hates him, and everything worked out fine.

I was the only person in my group who dressed up. I was Borat. I decided to wear comfortable sneakers instead of leather shoes, because I knew I would be walking around a strange city for many hours. One person complained that my shoes did not work with the costume. Another person complained that I was too tall to be Borat. They were already the only two people in the group whom I don't like, so I didn't care what they said. We went to a club that night, and I thought I heard some people saying "Borat". It was the first time anyone has ever gotten one of my Halloween costumes, (my past costumes include Alec from A Clockwork Orange, Crazy 88 from Kill Bill, Eurtrash, and Mark Whalberg from the end of The Departed) so I was very excited. I turned in their direction, but nobody was looking at me. I gave them a double thumbs-up anyway, and went back to dancing with my friends. Suddenly, I heard people cheering "Borat!" over and over again. I didn't know what they wanted from me. Somebody told me they wanted me to go dance with them, so I did. They formed a circle around me (all guys), and I danced for a minute, having no idea what was going on, and then went back to my group. Apparently, a minute was not enough for these people. They could not get enough of Borat, and continued cheering that name for most of the night. I still don't know what those people wanted. I would have been bummed out by the whole experience, but I just kept thinking about how awesome my mustache is, and that kept me happy.