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Monday, October 16, 2017

The Horrors of Rejection

Before I get too deep, there's been a lot of crosstalk, emails, and text messages talk about the usage of "do's and don'ts"...I want to clarify this for all of the Grammar Nazis out there...:

"Dos and Don'ts" or "Do's and Don'ts"? The spelling of do's and don'ts is inconsistent.

Generally, you don't use apostrophes to make words or abbreviations plural (e.g., CDs, 1970s, books), but English has a few exceptions. For example, you can use apostrophes when they help eliminate confusion, which happens most often with single letters. Mind your p's and q's is the typical spelling, and we write that the word aardvark has 3 a's, not 3 as.

Dos and don'ts is an especially unusual exception. The apostrophe in the contraction doesn't seems to make people want to use an apostrophe to make do plural (do's and don'ts), but then to be consistent, you'd also have to use an apostrophe to make don't plural, which becomes downright ugly (do's and don't's).

Style guides and usage books don't agree.
  • The Chicago Manual of Style and others recommend dos and don'ts.
  • The Associated Press and others recommend do's and don'ts.
  • Eats, Shoots & Leaves recommends do's and don't's.
What Should You Do? Unless your editor wishes otherwise, if you write books, spell it dos and don'ts; and if you write for newspapers, magazines, or the Web, spell it do's and don'ts. If you're writing for yourself, spell it any way you want. Just be consistent.

Okay, so now that I sorted out the dos and don'ts of do's and don'ts*, where am I?

The day started like any other day.

-Wake up at 5:00 A.M. write and re-write my book.
-Revisit rewrites for the Japanese television show.
-Envision my real work day and map out meetings.
-Buy my lottery ticket.
-Drive 14 miles down the 101 freeway through Hollywood to work.
-Be a genius.

Same old, same old.

Little did I know the day would end with yours truly locked in a death dance with the worst form of evil this town has ever known.

The first sign of paranormal activity appeared around 2:00p. I had just reviewed the bottom end analytics on yet another incredible recruitment campaign when the temperature started going crazy in my office. One moment, the air was boiling hot and the next, it was colder than a Antartica spa.

The next sign was when one of our vendors popped in. Normally, I don’t mind these guys dropping by to say hello, but this woman comes in every few days. Fed up, I was about to ask her to cut back on the social calls when her eyes glazed over and her voice went flat. “I’m sorry, Michael. I’ve been selfish and your time is valuable.” And then she turned and left.

Drastic temperature changes in a Hollywood office? A considerate vendor? What the heck was going on?

The brown stuff really hit the fan when I came back from lunch and found the floor empty. As in, where the heck was everyone? And to make matters worse, the power had gone out and the emergency lights were on, casting a red hue over the entire office.

I moved carefully down the hall, searching for signs of life. That’s when a misty figure stepped out of the shadows. Her movements were stiff and unnatural. Then others appeared. More and more. They all looked vaguely familiar.

The woman stumbled over, her eyes deader than the future of non-cloud-based media. “Do you not remember me?” I shook my head and explained that I meet a lot of people in my line of work.

“I am the memory of the first client you ever dropped.”

That’s right!

Her name was Susan something or other. Her business didn’t produce a single competitive product during our year together so I was forced to drop her. And that’s when the other faces around me clicked into place. They were all former people I worked with!

There was no doubt about it. The office was haunted. But by what? It couldn’t just be bad memories. Then every marketing department would be the devil’s playpen. There had to be something else. Something bigger.

As the figures swarmed toward me, I made a run for it. Where the heck was my assistant? It’s her job to help in these kinds of situations!

I raced toward the far side of the office and found myself in the storage area. I had never been there before, and what I found made my blood run cold. Someone had stored all our unwanted designs in there. The room was packed, floor to ceiling, with rejected arts and floppy discs.

This explained everything. The floor was haunted by rejection!

Moving quickly, I found an old rag, doused it with turpentine, and set the whole mess on fire. As the pictures burned, I could hear the faces scream. Then the memories of former vendors and clients faded away and the floor came back to life.

Nightmare over.

The events of that drean still haunt me. And they left me pondering a heavy question: Is rejection evil or is it an act of kindness?

Happy Halloween!


* - Full Credit on the Dos and Don'ts goes to the Grammar Girl!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

A Little Closer to Hell...

You won't be seeing this guy on the Oscars Red Carpet anytime soon...
I'm watching another Hollywood career move to life support as Harvey Weinstein's atrocious behavior is coming to light with a never-ending barrage of A-listers leveling allegations of sexual harassment ever since The New York Times published their exposé.

I mean, when Oscar winners Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie start talking about you saying they are done keeping his secret now, because “women need to send a clear message that this is over” then rest assured, it's going to be over.

Yeah, this won't end well.

I have to say that I jumped on the anti-casting couch bandwagon over a year ago when I penned a column about "Casting Call, The Project," where real women read real casting notices. Maybe Weinstein should have read this...maybe he did and didn't care. Regardless, R.I.P. to Harvey Weinstein as a Hollywood mogul.

Speaking of dying careers, I hope Donna Karan is ready to see a dip in sales because her troublesome and downright idiotic opinions about the alleged serial sexual predator Harvey, you can expect women to stop buying DKNY fashions for the foreseeable future. The Daily Mail interviewed Karan on the CinéFashion Film Awards red carpet and said this:
"I think we have to look at ourselves. Obviously, the treatment of women all over the world is something that has always had to be identified. Certainly in the country of Haiti where I work, in Africa, in the developing world, it’s been a hard time for women.
"To see it here in our own country is very difficult, but I also think how do we display ourselves? How do we present ourselves as women? What are we asking? Are we asking for it by presenting all the sensuality and all the sexuality?"
Did she really just suggest they were asking for it? But did she stop there? Not even close! I can only imagine the reporter’s concealed delight knowing that this interview had more crackpot gold in those mountains as Karan finished her red carpet tour de force with this nugget of wisdom:
"You look at everything all over the world today and how women are dressing and what they are asking by just presenting themselves the way they do. What are they asking for? Trouble."
Yeah, this won't end well either. So, not to be flip, but speaking of death...

...Okay, so where am I?

Seems I have spent a lot of my trips recently near or in cemeteries. On this trip to Poland, I have visited the death camps in Auschwitz and Majdanek and felt the immense pain of death of the people
The final feet of railroad that leads into Auschwitz II-Birkenau.
interned there. Going to Majdanek was a day of remembrance to those we, as a people, let perish through racism, ignorance, and indifference. Majdanek was a concentration and forced labor camp that evolved into a death camp. It opened in September 1941, initially for Soviet prisoners of war, and was liberated by the Soviet Army in July 1944. During this time approximately 360,000 victims died or were murdered, 120,000 of them Jews.

The inmates of comprised people of 54 nationalities from 28 different countries. They included Soviet prisoners of war and Jews from Poland, Germany, Czechoslovakia, the Netherlands, France, Hungary, Belgium and Greece. In addition, many non-Jews from Belorussia, the Ukraine and across Poland were taken to the camp as political prisoners or slave laborers.

I see these atrocities up close and wonder how there can ever be resistance to giving support in any form to stop the genocides that are still occurring in our world. No amount of photos or thoughtful words can capture what I saw. Truly heartbroken.

The only thing that got me through this agony of all of this was the lunch I had a couple of months ago to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery to see where Johnny Ramone is buried and saw the most bizarre thing: a cemetery jogger.

Running a few steps closer to hell...
One upon a time we respected the dead and didn't need a life manual to tell us to either. It just came naturally. Dying is the only thing we spend our lives preparing to do, so at least give credit to the time and effort dedicated to do it. Instead what you see at cemeteries now is pretty unsettling. If you believe in the concept of people spinning in their graves, one can only image the anger, commotion, and outrage going on six feet under.

I was paying my respects to Rudolph Valentino, the actor who played Larry Tate on Bewitched, and Peter Lorre when I was stunned to see a twentysomething year-old huffing and puffing down the cracked cement path that separates the grave sites. She passed me and then two other women in short-shorts who were power walking almost slamming to a man walking his three dogs.

Seriously? It's a cemetery for goodness sakes!

Also seen at the cemetery...ugh!
There's headstones and monuments and ghosts trying in earnest to rest in peace! This is hallowed ground and not your playground. Whenever I see a jogger sprinting through a cemetery, I secretly wish he was screaming as a dozen ghouls and zombies chase him down with a book of etiquette. I mean, how tone deaf can you be to think that your pursuit of fitness extends to desecrating sacred resting places with your exercise? I mean just because it's quiet and green, does it give you a pass to take over? What don't you lay out a picnic blanket over that fresh mound of dirt, set up a barbecue and cook a filet? Better yet, lay out your yoga mat and find your zen spot.

C'mon people, a little respect please...leave those souls in the ground some dignity and solitude. This isn't parking on Hollywood Boulevard. We don't need no jogging signs to point this out, do we? I mean there aren't signs in church that say no iPods in the sanctuary, but you know not to bring those things there.

Leave the dead their peace.

Stop vandalizing grave sites with your running shoe footprints which bring you a little closer to hell with each step.


Harvey Weinstein was personally thanked or praised by name in at least 34 Oscar speeches from 1993 through 2016...ugh!:

Monday, September 18, 2017

Getting Social at the Emmy Awards

Past Media Guy Oscars Emmy Columns: 2016 - 2015 - 2014

Okay, so where am I? 

I'm at the Microsoft Theatre in Downtown Los Angeles taking in the 69th Emmy Awards and trying to get one of those drinks loaded with bitters that Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel are sharing.

No luck.

Speaking of luck...last year I waxed poetic (very much tongue-in-cheek) about flirting with the Emmy statuette and her going with a hundred or so other writers, producers, actors, and actresses. This year was different. Sometimes you get lucky a second time.

Flirt no more...
This year also saw my return to the red carpet, and honestly the two best parts of my night was watching Lena Headey and Sophie Turner (both of Game of Thrones) scarf McDonald's fries and milk shakes on their way to the red carpet. At the end of the entertainment debauchery, it was a fantastic night for Hulu, which proved to be a late bloomer to the original scripted series game. Sunday, it became the first streaming service to win an Emmy for Best Series for The Handmaid's Tale, leapfrogging Netflix and Amazon.

Hat's off to the marketing folks at Hulu. Seriously, how much of the public do you think has seen The Handmaid’s Tale? Certainly the voters have (again a credit to Hulu marketers), but it goes into the category of the things that make you go "hmmmmmmmm." Does this show have 1/100th the audience penetration of This Is Us? At the end, it was a triumph for not-widely-viewed series, led by The Handmaid’s Tale and Black Mirror (Netflix). It was also a big night for Big Little Lies and Veep which held onto the best comedy series and best lead actress in a comedy series titles. Women broke that glass ceiling through with wins for Lena Waithe and Reed Morano (you'll have to look them up to know more, sorry. I didn't know who they were before last night). 

Back to the red carpet...whatever you think the carpet is like, think again. Here's a taste:

During the show, I decided to troll celebrity and celebrity-ish Twitter accounts looking for behind the scenes tidbits. I mean celebrities are people too. Right? Let's see:

Red Carpet Gallery
Maybe because there's no McDonald's north of the wall...
Nice that Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman stopped their PDAs long enough for a few pictures. 
Anna Chlumsky, robbed again.
Poor Justin Timberlake...
Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys of The Americans. In my world, these two would win every year.
Yeah, I don't get this guy either.
Alec Baldwin. Genius. Pure.
Another win for Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
The new Dream Team (if you don't know who these ladies are, watch more movies)
Just some serious eye contact with Reese Witherspoon is all...
This streak you have going is pretty, pretty, good!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Opera of Orgasms

Okay, so where am I?

I'm preparing for an other trip...and another surgery...yeah, getting old sucks. I'm also prepping for the Emmys on Sunday. I got a new lens to break in. You know I'll post pictures. Stephen Colbert is hosting...more political humor. Ugh! I'm thinking Louis Vuitton for the red carpet. Yeah, that's the ticket...yet I digress.

I bring up the traveling because it's a little known fact that I see a classical music performance or an opera in every country I visit that offers such a thing. In Europe, it seems every major city has a beautiful opera house. Ah, the Opera...a kid I remember it being something you were taught to avoid. It was a old school meant to be enjoyed by the stuffy, nose-up crowd in tuxedo tails and shiny shoes.  The opera was strictly for the high cultured. As I aged I learned to truly appreciate it because I get to use my slim knowledge of classical music and study up on the stories and the history of each type of performance.

Regardless of how well I've aged and how cultured I've become, the fact remains that it is still a difficult sell for younger audiences.

Swedish opera house Folkoperan knows this fact and decided to pick the easy path to try and reach Swedish millennials is to use the old advertising adage that "sex sells."

To promote the premiere of Puccini’s Turandot, Folkoperan and its agency crafted a commercial called “The Opera of Orgasms” that is devoid of words, just moans and groans and, well, orgasms.

So much for high culture...

If you are new to opera, the connection to sexual situations isn't a stretch by any means. Opera is peppered with fables spun from of unbridled yearning, retribution and heartrending losses. Elevating its more applicable qualities was invented yesterday either. Last year, the Paris Opera recruited Bret Easton Ellis to craft a modern version of “Figaro,” a story as contemporary and depraved as you can get without dolling our red-light district ticket prices.

Turandot is especially suitable for this kind of interpretation. First released in 1926, it narrates the tale of Prince Calaf who falls in love with the unemotional Princess Turandot. To gain permission to marry her, potential suitors have to solve three riddles; any wrong answer results in death. Yikes!

“We live in a society where we’re constantly encouraged to indulge life, but it’s often in very superficial ways,” says Mellika Melouani Melani, director and artistic director at Folkoperan. “In our interpretation of the opera, we want to pay tribute to the urge of desire and the total devotion that comes with it. In our film, the orgasm symbolizes this.”

In the commercial (the Folkoperan marketers call it a film), people in diverse—not necessarily glitzy—sexual circumstances express their apex to the tune of the Nessun Dorma aria. It’s a festival of unlimited longing, those moments when you’re so close to metaphorically falling off the cliff that things like environment, expectancy and social norms no longer carry any weight. And it exquisitely echoes the state Turandot’s admirers find themselves in, one in which the proximity of pleasure is so painful that nothing matters more than finding release, not even oblivion.

Now trust me, having an orgasm might actually be the closest you and I get to singing opera. Both are big physical experiences that release endorphins and oxytocin, but this piece just rings wrong with the current state of advertising. It’s over the top and getting ample amount of press but it’s done so well, it’s much too hard to be incredulous.

So what do I know?

I do know this—it's becoming all too easy for brands to use sexism as low-hanging fruit to go viral. Time after time, we rise to the bait, giving the brands exactly what they set out to achieve: Internet Fame.

On an almost daily basis, sexism in headlines, adverts and newspaper front pages is getting taken to task on Twitter. But, by tweeting about those brands and making them go viral, are we giving them exactly what they want?

As Oscar Wilde said "the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about". Brand managers are well aware of this," says Anthony Patterson, professor of marketing at Liverpool University. A "response — whether outrage or support — demonstrates that consumers are engaging with their brand."

Take the London's Daily Mail. On eve of Britain triggering Article 50 and officially entering Brexit negotiations, it was #LegsIt (not #Brexit) that topped the UK's Twitter trends. The newspaper's headline declaring "Forget about Brexit, who won Legs-it!" alongside a photograph of Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and British Prime Minister Theresa May and a pain staking analysis of their legs, prompted the ire of thousands on social media.

A statement from a Daily Mail spokesperson (which began with "for goodness sake, get a life") only added fuel to the fire. "Sarah Vine's piece, which was flagged as light-hearted, was a side-bar alongside a serious political story." The Daily Mail wasn't sorry. And, why would they be? We, by venting our outrage on Twitter at their "light-hearted" sexism, made #LegsIt the most talked-about story of the day.

Long story short: Women shouldn't be roadkill in a brand's race to get viral fame. Brands, it's time to get your act together and find another way to get internet fame.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

You Can Lead A Horse to Water...

Okay, so where am I?

Sistine Chapel: God creates Adam
I'm at the Vatican and anyone in the advertising game will tell you that this is probably the last place you want to be potentially facing the wrath of God for all of your past sins stretching the truth and checking the Federal Trade Commission manual to make sure your spot doesn't mislead consumers. Anyway, that's a story for another day, but seriously, the Vatican, especially standing at the entrance/exit of St. Peter's Basilica in the August/September with the sun reflecting off the limestone is no place to be without a bottle of cold water.

The Vatican Museums: Heed the Advice
Yet, there I was, baking in the sun as the Pope waxed poetic in Latin over the loudspeakers and my tour guide going on endlessly about how lucky we were it was a Wednesday and everyone is watching the Pope and we had early access to the Raphael Rooms, Sistine Chapel, and the Vatican itself. Meanwhile, all I could think about was my brain NOT exploding from the heat and when I could make a beeline for an eight Euro bottle of water with gas.

Blah blah blah, alright already...I need some water! Speaking of water, it's become quite an industry, right? Give a nod if you remember water. You know, regular classic water where you turned open the knob and lifted the level to the very top? It was refreshing, divine, perfect; the ultimate drink that you enjoyed for pennies a glass. Now, water as we once knew it is dead swallowed by our obsession for what's next...our mistaken ideal that everything could always be improved upon.

Water is now bottled water, spring water, artisan water, antioxidant water, flavored water, carbonated water, fizzy water, water with gas, flat water...jeez, I sound like a thirsty "Bubba" Benjamin Buford Blue...

Gustave Leven, Super Genius
All of these waters are simply capitalistic spins on original water with consumers in their sights because companies know that the gullible will drink it up. There are three things that should never cost money: sunshine, air, and water. Now you go into a fancy restaurant and they ask you if you want sparkling or flat water. If you ask for regular water, the server's face grows into a passive aggressive sneer with a complimentary warning that it will come from the tap! Seems "free" is not really an option anymore.

Now one of the trendy waters is Norway's artisan water Voss, you know that cylindrical bottle with the silver top? Well guess what? Norwegian television has reported that Voss has the very same sources as tap water from a municipal source, contrary from it's snooty marketing and big price.

Many people think the designer trend started with Evian, which ironically is naive spelled backwards. But really, who convinced us that water should or could be sparkling you ask? Well I have the answer...

Meet Gustave Leven. He had a bold idea: Convince Americans that they wanted to drink Perrier, aka “Earth’s First Soft Drink.”

In the 1970s, you can imagine that Americans weren’t so open-minded about opening their wallets for water, instead openly laughing at paying astronomical markups for a liquid that flows freely, and usually safely, from their home taps.

That all began to change sometime in seventies, with a nutty idea from a Frenchman who peddled fizzy water in green glass bowling pin-shaped bottles. His company was Perrier, and its carefully constructed, impeccably timed advertisements paved the way for one of the greatest marketing scams this side of Barnum and Bailey.

Perrier’s campaign created a massive new market for the American beverage industry, and it still serves as a playbook for how to convince people to pay for water. At the same time, it does not fully account for what remains an even greater mystery: the enduring appeal of bottled water.

Whether they choose fizzy Perrier, flat Poland Spring, or a different label, Americans are guzzling more bottled water than ever before. And in an era defined by speed and convenience, they show no signs of slowing down.

Perrier’s American transformation began with television ads in the spring of 1977. They were straightforward, but eye-catching and ear-catching. The company spent somewhere between $2.5 million and $5 million on the groundbreaking campaign.

“More quenching, more refreshing, and a mixer par excellence,” intoned the rich baritone of Orson Welles in a Perrier advertisement dated 1979, as a bubbling stream cascaded from a green bottle and swirled into a clear goblet.

“Naturally sparkling, from the center of the earth,” the actor continued. He wrapped up the ad with a single word, the “r”’s perfectly French: “Perrier.”

Perrier’s advertising was selling a specific message, and it targeted a specific population: well-to-do baby boomers, born between 1945 and 1965, as they entered adulthood. It sought to assure them that those who partook of Perrier’s sparkling waters were sophisticated, classy, and conscientious. It conferred, in a word, status.

So capsulizes the story of Gustave Leven, Marketing Genius.

What seems abundantly clear, however, is that the powers of marketing are as limitless as the water we drink and the air we breathe. Last year, Vitality Air, a Canadian company started offering “fresh air,” in three and eight-liter bottles.

“Remember the day when people laughed off bottled water?” the company explains on its website. “The truth is we’ve begun to appreciate the clean, pure and refreshing taste of quality water.”

“Air,” it says, “is going the same way.”

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Birth of Venus

Dartmouth says that "personal diversity" means entertaining many different kinds of experiences in your own, daily life. It goes beyond the ordinary diversity in which we find ourselves surrounded, like it or not, with people who offer us counter narratives. Personal diversity means filling our days with activities that don’t match up with what we normally do...

In the advertising world, it means if you want to make it, you better be able to talk about things other than copy, photo shoot ideas, and next year's campaign. I mean, there's a world of great concepts out there lurking in the minds of your colleagues and competition.

What keeps clients and co-workers alike happy is the ability to spin a good tale and talk about areas of interest nobody has any real knowledge about. Throw out something about art or history in any real detail and most of your contemporaries with think you're a real brain and want to hear more at a later date. Think Scheherazade extending her life for years in One Thousand and One Nights. The real secret is when to work in your special knowledge and make is worth listening to. This is an art in itself.

This approach has served me well for a handful of decades. It will serve you well too.

Okay, so where am I?

I'm in Florence, Italy. In case you don't know it, Florence is the Cradle of the Renaissance, romantic, enchanting and utterly irresistible, Florence (Firenze) is a place to feast on world-class art and gourmet Tuscan cuisine. It's also home for some pretty great art.

Now, I know a thing or two about art, having penned a couple of books about the subject and all without taking myself too seriously. But, Florence offered the allure of the Uffizi Gallery and the opportunity to see some special pieces of art that I've written about but never seen before.

One such piece is Sandro Botticelli's Birth of Venus (circa 1484-86). Aside from his painting of the Primavera, Botticelli’s other greatest work, done for the Medici family, is the Birth of Venus. Unfortunately, we do not know for sure which Medici it was painted for, or which location it was originally hung in.

Sandro Botticelli, Birth of Venus, c. 1484-86, tempera on canvas
Before considering the subject matter, it is important to take note of the medium.  This is a work of tempera on canvas.  During this time, wood panels were popular surfaces for painting, and they would remain popular through the end of the sixteenth century.  Canvas, however, was starting to gain acceptance by painters.  It worked well in humid regions, such as Venice, because wooden panels tended to warp in such climates.  Canvas also cost less than wood, but it was also considered to be less formal, which made it more appropriate for paintings that would be shown in non-official locations (e.g. countryside villas, rather than urban palaces).

The theme of the Birth of Venus was taken from the writings of the ancient poet, Homer.  According to the traditional account, after Venus was born, she rode on a seashell and sea foam to the island of Cythera.  In the painting we see here, Venus is prominently depicted in the center, born out of the foam as she rides to shore.  On the left, the figure of Zephyrus carries the nymph Chloris (alternatively identified as “Aura”) as he blows the wind to guide Venus.

On shore, a figure who has been identified as Pomona, or as the goddess of Spring, waits for Venus with mantle in hand.  The mantle billows in the wind from Zephyrus’ mouth.

The composition is similar in some respects to that of the Primavera. Venus is slightly to the right of center, and she is isolated against the background so no other figures overlap her.  She has a slight tilt of the head, and she leans in an awkward contrapposto-like stance.

Botticelli paid much attention to her hair and hairstyle, which reflected his interest in the way women wore their long hair in the late fifteenth century. He gave Venus an idealized face which is remarkably free of blemishes, and beautifully shaded her face to distinguish a lighter side and a more shaded side.

Of obvious importance in this painting is the nudity of Venus. The depiction of nude women was not something that was normally done in the Middle Ages, with a few exceptions in specific circumstances. For the modeling of this figure, Botticelli turned to an Aphrodite statue, such as the Aphrodite of Cnidos, in which the goddess attempts to cover herself in a gesture of modestly.

In painting Venus, Botticelli painted a dark line around the contours of her body. This made it easier to see her bodily forms against the background, and it also emphasized the color of her milky skin.  The result of all of this is that Venus almost looks like her flesh is made out of marble, underscoring the sculpturesque nature of her body.

The demand for this type of scene, of course, was humanism, which was alive and well in the court of Lorenzo d’Medici in the 1480s. Here, Renaissance humanism was open not only to the use of a pagan sculpture as a model, but also a pagan narrative for the subject matter.

Although the Birth of Venus is not a work which employed Renaissance perspectival innovations, the elegance of the classical subject matter was something that would have intrigued wealthy Florentines who patronized this type of work. However, it would not have appealed to everyone, like those who viewed the worldly behavior of the ruling Medici family as corrupt or vile. By the 1490s, the tension that resulted from the clash between courtly excess and those who wanted religious reform came to a climax when the preacher Savonarola preached his crusade to the people of Florence. One of the people influenced by the preacher was Botticelli, whose change of heart moved him to destroy some of his early paintings by fire.

The Uffizi Dome (click to enlarge)

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Che Palle!*

Okay, so where am I?

I'm at the airport having a rather pointed conversation with the Alitalia desk manager about the upgrade to business class I just paid for my trip to Rome where I may or my not be going for a short film shoot. Although I paid my $950 to gain entry into a lay flat -- I mean seriously, sometimes you
No business class lounge? Che palle!*
need a little luxury on a 12-hour flight -- I was not going to get to check an second piece of luggage or get entry into the business class class lounge. Her reasoning was that I paid for the seat but not the "experience" of being in business class.

Che palle!* I semi-loudly told her. In all of the years I've flown business class, I was never without access to the business lounge to accompany my ticket. Sadly, I relented taking my boarding pass and reminding the desk manager that no good press could ever occur with the access a business class ticket entitles you worldwide.

Funny thing about his exchange was that I knew exactly three expressions in Italian ("Ciao" - hello, "Addio all'amore" - goodbye with love, and "Che palle!" - what balls!) and this one came in handy, although not very effective. Which got me thinking...

I made pizza from scratch...che figata!
What are the handful of Italian expressions that are an essential addition to any vocabulary, especially when you're in Rome, Florence, or Milan? (Note to self: Don't use any of these in Naples or Sicily. Why? Watch the Godfather II.). These are the expressions you’ll hear them all over the streets and if you understand them, it will make you much more fun to speak with.

* - Che palle! (keh PAL-leh). Translated word for word as, “What balls!” it’s the short and sweet equivalent to “What a pain in the ass!” Tack it onto the end of any annoying activity for added emphasis: “We have to climb all those stairs? Che palle!” or mumble it under your breath when someone causes you general agitation: “Put a scarf on or you’ll get pneumonia!” Che palle.

Boxed wine? Mi fa cagare!
Che figata (keh fee-GAH-tah). A journey through Italy will leave you with many opportunities o use and hear, “What a cool thing!” I crushed grapes at a winery today! “Che figata!”  We learned how to make handmade pizza! “Che figata!” “It’s official. I found these Pradas for 20% off!” “Che figata!

Mi fa cagare! (mee fah cah-GAH-reh). Italians take expressing discontent to a another level with the descriptive “It makes me poop,” leaving us English speakers in the dust with our much less dramatic, “It’s terrible.” “That restaurant? Mi fa cagare!” “His tight pants? Mi fa cagare!” 

Get a room...Che schifo!
Figurati! (Fee-GUH-rah-tee). “Don’t worry about it!” or “It’s nothing!” As you would in English, you can use it when you mean it: “Thank you so much for the great meal!” “Figurati!” Or to be nice when you don’t: “I’m sorry I spilled red wine on your brand new, white Gucci shirt.” “Figurati!

Magari! (mah-GAHR-ee!). The Italian version of “I wish!” “Let’s hope!” or “Maybe!” When someone asks you if you plan on coming back to Italy or owning a Tuscan villa, you can respond with “Magari!” (because of course you do). “Magari” is also a good play to  for playing it cool before your walk of shame: “Will we ever see each other again?” “Magari!

Che schifo! (keh SKEE-foh). “How disgusting!” Here are a few cases where you will encounter the need to screech “che schifo” The couple on your boat boat think they’re in their bedroom: “Che schifo!” A pigeon poops on your shirt: “Che schifo!” You see a 69 year-old man boldly hitting on a 19 year-old girl: “Che schifo!