■ Mar 11, 11:01 AM by James Martin
Certainly if you’re a fan of what Italy does really, really well you’ve heard of the new Ferrari, the most powerful ever, dubbed LaFerrari. Yes, Italian cars are feminine—as in, “she’s really, really fast.”
She’s also a hybrid. Hybrids are all the rage. I doubt Ferrari is worried about the gas mileage of a car that accelerates at the rate of 0-62 mph in less than 3 seconds, but I wonder if its as horrible as one might think.
The car will cost over a million euros, something that only the 1% might afford, which is sad. Disgusting, actually, that the only people who can afford such a piece of handmade perfection are CEOs of corporations such as those riding high on making animals in Petri dishes and putting them in Styrofoam at the Safeway without disclosing what’s under the plastic, the modern pig in a poke.
But I know what you’re thinking. It’s not difficult to see the wheels turning. You’re aghast at such monumental excess.
That’s because you think the demand for cars that use hybrid technology will force car manufacturers to buckle down and work something out so that our transportation gets something like 1000 miles to the gallon of gas.
Dream on. I didn’t mean to interrupt. You see, racing cars and high performance vehicles are the only hope for real trickle-down technology. People paying a couple million for a car that’s going to get a door ding the minute they park it in front of the Walmart are going to fund the real technology breakthroughs. Hybrids are going to have to become sexy through racing, street and otherwise, before things start trickling. Only then will we have access to cheap pocket-rockets that get 200 mpg.
Of course, that only makes the gas problem worse. In such a case, the oil companies get a reprieve against the devastating effects of the world being on the downside of the peak oil slope. They get to prolong the pain. They’ll get to sneak (sneak? that’s so 60s—so let’s use the words “openly cram”) money from their rapidly rising $200 a gallon gas price into the pockets of congressmen so that the endless wars for oil and rare earth minerals can go on, well, endlessly.
So I say, buy them darned fast Ferraris. Keep a heavy foot on the gas pedal, Bunky. Ignite the search for new technologies that only our fear of being static upon this sweltering, flu suffering, fracking-induced crumbling earth might bring about. And it might save the lives of countless soldiers fighting for oil, you never know.
And then, when the dust clears on the peaks, go to Tuscany, settle in a hill town, make your own food, eat the prosciutto (fat and all) and live life like it’s supposed to be lived. Don’t worry about gas, you’ll get enough from the beans.
(Just in case you’re thinking of that Ferrari, read about it here.)
Italy Travel Toolbox
- All About Italy Rail Passes
- How to Ride Italian Trains (video)
- Italy Maps
- Italy Cities Climate and Weather
- Italy Autostrada Map
- Cinque Terre Hiking Map
■ Feb 14, 02:47 PM by James Martin
After reading an article about those darned romantic dinosaurs that speculated on ways the big boys might have had sex many millenia before the olden days and realizing a bit late, as is the usual failing of many of my own sex, that it was Valentine’s day, I figured it was time to say something about sex and Romans before the calendar flopped over and the desire for the topic waned. Besides, sex is good for page views.
This desire to let it all hang out comes on the heels of the Penn Museum’s racy Valentine’s day event called Fifty Shades of Pompeii. Pompeii was a Roman resort town which has some pretty interesting graphic graphics on its walls.
Since its release in 2011, E. L. James’ erotic novel series “Fifty Shades of Grey” has sold more than 65 million copies worldwide. The books have enthralled readers with salacious tales of sexual bondage, sadism, and masochism.
But when it comes to risqué behavior, James ain’t got nothing on the art of the Ancient Roman Empire.
No sir! The bedrooms of well-to-do Romans were absolutely plastered with frescoes of folks doin’ the nasty. Cheap oil lamps were produced by the thousands in Ostia with every sexual position imaginable found in bas-relief on top right where the wick fits in. The Penn article hints at why we see all these things when everybody knows God will smite people who don’t use the missionary position only to make babies. According to C. Brian Rose (a name just fit for Valentines day and I didn’t make it up!), a professor of classical studies:
“One of the reasons that the Romans didn’t find the depiction of such a wide variety of sexual practices objectionable is that their gods were doing the same thing,” he says.
I think it’s about time we had a god or gods like that.
Imagine, in our time God has changed from the Christian God of forgiveness and light to a deity out for vengeance every time a gay couple tries to get married and who will smite us all if we don’t renounce the practice and make life miserable for others who do.
So, if God can be changed this easily and quickly, why can’t we change him back? What if the narrow minded people who speak for God suddenly changed God’s voice so that he says something like, “Well now, I created those ugly appendages dangling off Adam and his kind and golly gee whiz I’d be remiss if I were to tell these people not to use them and all. There is happiness to consider! Besides, they should be hidden away from sight!”
But really, “God’s” distaste for sex can be easily traced to the Romans. The folks who committed the blasphemy of speaking for God at that time were looking for a hook into people’s souls, a way to control them that the government wasn’t using. They found it in sex, which the Romans hadn’t gotten around to making laws against. So the early Christians ran with the idea and sex negativity has been the norm for a great long while.
So anyway, I’ve posted a couple of framed bedroom pictures from Rome for your immediate titillation. It’s good for you—on this day especially. Don’t let the folks who talk for God give you any guff.
Another inspiration for this article is this: Japan town demands underwear for Michelangelo’s David. Are people nuts?
■ Dec 3, 12:27 PM by James Martin
Don’t hold your breath though:
The FIA Formula E Championship has announced that a street race in Rome will be on the calendar for the inaugural season in 2014. ~ Formula E to race in Rome
They kicked off this little press announcement by having Lucas di Grassi drive a prototype electric powered race car on the roads surrounding Rome’s Colosseum.
Fast, but no “zoom-zoom” if you catch my drift.
When I first arrived in Rome in the 1970s, the Colosseum was a deep gray color. Soot and other crap did it. Nobody knew what the hell the stones really looked like. In the 80s a wipe-on chemical was used to clean everything up. I saw it. Amazing. And then cars got cleaner and the icon never got as badly grayed out again.
So, in some sense, there is justice in running your “clean” car around the Colosseum. And there’s no better place to develop automotive technology than on the race track—or city streets transformed to be a sort of race track.
But…as someone who comes from a country that makes quite a bit of its electricity out of coal, I’m pretty sick and tired of people who try to tell me that these things are zero-emission deals. Yeah, there’s nothing coming out of the tailpipe because well, there isn’t a tailpipe. But we gotta stop thinking we can just push nasty things down the line and then wash our hands of them. You gotta deal with the whole damn line, everything along the line that makes your lungs black and icky needs to be examined.
And another thing. California was bilked out of 9 billion or so dollars when the big boys were left to their own devices with the power grid—and now the rich folks are pushing electric cars.
It will be run by Formula E Holdings, a consortium of investors led by the Spanish billionaire Enrique Banuelos, who made his fortune in real estate and agribusiness. ~ Formula E electric car racing series is launched by FIA
Just some random thoughts. Think about it though. This is gonna be big. It’s not like the old days, when a bunch of guys put together amazing machines in their garages for the sheer joy of racing what you built. This is big business. Without the zoom-zoom. Who benefits from trading carbon credits? Eh?
Do you suppose we’ll be going to war for electricity? Have you seen the electric panels they’ve installed on the rolling hills of Le Marche?
Go to our facebook page and tell me I’m nuts. I’m old. I can take it.
Popular These Days
■ Jul 19, 09:49 AM by James Martin
Ah, Italy in the 80s. You couldn’t go to a public beach in Sardinia without seeing bare naked breasts. You’d send lurid postcards home from Europe remarking about the casual attitudes Europeans had about nude bodies. You’d notice that other folks on the beaches barely noticed floppy things catching some air. There were no protest signs, nobody was screaming that their brains were turning to mush because of the naked flesh on parade. There wasn’t a single person claiming that an embarrassed God didn’t want them to see His creation. Not a one.
Them were the days.
A group of nudists must pay a 1,200-euro fine for baring it all on Italian beaches after the Italian Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld a previous ruling.
Nudity in public still creates a “disturbance to the community,” the court said. ~ Nudity not welcome on public beaches, says Italy’s top court
This courtal disturbance fantasy can be contrasted and compared to a recent US courtal fantasy which held that a man who stripped in front of TSA agents and other passengers at an airport was merely exercising his free speech rights while he was demonstrating that the bomb the TSA was accusing him of carrying wasn’t strapped to his less-than-perfect body.
A judge found Brennan not guilty of public indecency on the grounds that he stripped naked as a form of protest, which is protected speech. ~ Naked man who protested TSA found not guilty of public indecency
I don’t go along with all this “everything is speech” malarkey. But heck, it’s darned progressive of the judge to set a precedent that allows us to strip when we don’t like something. It’s probably not all right to lay on a beach naked, but if you were protesting something, well, have at it!
So, in a sense, public nudity has made the old switcheroo, what Italy forbids, the US will start to allow in little, baby steps. Just make sure you’re protesting something before you unzip.
One might say, the balls are in our court, nasty, hairy, and picking a fight with the TSA.
I’m waiting for one of those idiot politicians who thinks giving my money to rich people is good for the economy to come to town this summer. Buttons will fly. You’ve been warned.
■ Jul 17, 03:56 PM by James Martin
The dreadful news came this morning. It wasn’t too long ago that US kids ruled the roost when it came to fatness. We are once dripping in world-class fatty goodness, led by our rolly-polly children. But now we hear footsteps. Here come the Italians.
Speaking at a seminar organized in Milan by the Barilla Center, Professor of Endocrinology at the University of Naples Federico II, Gabriele Riccardi said that 31.6% of Italian children are overweight, following the United States where the average is 35.5%. ~ Italian children ‘second-most obese’ after US
Do you hear footsteps?
Yes, Italians are eating far more industrially-produced crap snacks. And now that there’s increasing evidence that fructose is a lipogenic (fat causing) sugar (see: Mice and Fructose), we might have an inkling as to why this is happening. Besides the lack of movement, of course, sports and gymastics no longer being a part of basic schooling in Italy as public services are cut in favor of feeding the rich and fighting wars for oil and minerals.
The thinnest kids in the survey came from the Orient. But then, now that the 7-11s there are installing mashed potato Slurpee machines, things are gonna change fast. More footsteps. Lots more heavy breathing…
But, then there’s this:
What you’re seeing here is the meat course designed to serve one person. It was served at a Masseria restaurant in Puglia. I was tempted into ordering it because the ingredients were local, the recipe traditional, and it was a specialty of the restaurant. I had eaten pasta a mere 15 minutes previously. They had brought out a little appetizer before that. Then the four sausages. Can you imagine? And they’re not those little cocktail wieners either, as you can see.
This is the same number of sausages in a single package made to feed your family in the US. If they were made from the same quality of ingredients as the Pugliese sausages, they’d cost about the same as a house in the rust belt.
How does a restaurant come to serve so many sausages? Food is cheap, as far as restaurants go. It’s often only 20% of the cost of eating in one. People like value. So, you double the number of sausages and charge 20% more and shazam, you’re not loosing money—and you have offered your customer a plate of obscenity people will talk about for a long, long time, not to mention the entry in the Wandering Italy Blog with a picture, always a special treat that costs nothing at all.
So, maybe we can consider going back to the old days, at least in Italy. Many small courses, time between to let things settle, a main course consisting of tiny bits of exquisitely prepared meat would suit me just fine. And bring back the fruit at the end.
My weird friend Hank says to “force feed the rich leaders of the industrial crap food industry all the fructose. Then feed their fatty livers to the geese California has liberated for a sweet revenge.” He thinks this would solve the current world crisis.
I wouldn’t touch that one with a ten foot sausage.
■ Mar 8, 08:30 AM by James Martin
Can Italians do anything without an overwhelming sense of style? Beauty is everywhere here in Italy—and it’s spread itself like butter on warm toast the world over—or perhaps that should be “Italian racing red over hot gas tanks” because that’s pretty much what I’ve come to talk about.
On my way to the boot I discovered the exhibit Moto Bellissima: Italian Motorcycles From the 1950s and 1960s at the San Francisco International Airport terminal while I waited on the first leg of my Air France flight headed for Paris. I can tell you: airports have improved at least as much as seats in airplanes have shrunk in the last 30 years. But back to these motos.
The Italian wartime recovery required cheap transportation options, cheap meaning the same as today only cheaper, vehicles that got 100 miles to the gallon. But do you think that Italians could just throw something together cheaply and let it out the door? Nah, they created enduring art. Just look at the details on the right. It is a pair of carburetors feeding pistons just larger than a thimble. The perfect duet, duetto.
The Italian government assisted a beleaguered industry in 1959 with a revision to its Highway Code that allowed anyone over the age of fourteen to operate, unlicensed, any internal combustion vehicle “not exceeding 50cc and able to travel on a horizontal road at a top speed of 27 miles per hour.” Manufacturers competed for a whole new generation of riders with a variety of innovative small-displacement motorcycles, including Moto Morini’s Corsarino, FB Mondial’s Record, and Italjet’s Mustang Veloce. They all used a piston the size of a shot glass, and were all easily modified to achieve speeds of up to sixty miles per hour.
Could your government do that for you? It’s not that way these days, of course, but the actions of the backroom boys with the cigars sure made Italy the place to go to zip around on a snazzy moto between trips to the bar for a quick Caffè and a gawk at the girls.
It was the time of great and optimistic Italian pop music—and a time when space exploration was becoming a reality. Italians went nuts over the concept of a flying saucer, making the MV Agusta CSS Disco Volante (flying saucer) the hit of the show. It gets the name from the smooth, wing-like bulges from its tank, as you can see in the picture above right. Alfa created a car with the same moniker.
Read more about the exhibition.
Click on the pictures to see them larger. If you love motos, you’ll really want to.
■ Feb 28, 04:58 PM by James Martin
Modena. It’s the epicenter of Motor Valley, La Motor Valley in, um, Italian.
In just a few days a new museum will open at the boyhood home of Enzo Ferrari. The pictures of the museum are almost bizarre, a building covered with a sensuously curvy roof looking for all the world like the type of louvered hood you might find on a Ferrari—in Modena yellow, a vibrant canary yellow. This in the historic center of Modena, mind you.
Here’s a News Report from Motor Valley, which has a picture: The Enzo Ferrari House Museum opens.
So you can mouse yourself over to our Modena map and guide to see Enzo’s museum mapped on a google map, along with climate information, hotel recommendations and other tourism info.
The museum has its opening set for the tenth of March, 2012. I’ll try to be there. Modena is a great city, ignored by tourists. Don’t all go there the same day.
The museum has a fine website in English: Museo Cassa Enzo Ferrari
■ Jan 1, 05:38 PM by James Martin
Vernazza is one of the 5 lands, the Cinque Terre, a series of cute and colorful villages strung out along the Ligurian coast and well known around these parts. The Cinque Terre was hit hard by devastating floods, as you know. Vernazza is still a bit dirty and needs cleaning up.
One of the ways I’ve been told that this cleaning up can be facilitated is by the donations of folks who remained high and dry through 2011, the old year, the one whose ringing out might make your head throb in pain on this solemn day after.
Would you buy some pixels to help the Cinque Terre? Well, you can. What can a pixel or ten cost, anyway?
Look here: A Pixel for Vernazza. Not only can you buy pixels in 10 by 10 blocks to bring color to the iconic photo, but you can also link your luscious box of color to your web site. If you don’t have one, perhaps you can link it to your favorite site. Perhaps that is Wandering Italy. I’d like to hope so, but I suspect other sites with neked babes or sleeping cats might be more popular. Use your own discretion. Or, if you have none, use someone else’s. It’s what I do.
I do not know if this avenue will produce a better Vernazza. Nor do I know where the money goes, exactly. But you might want to check it out. There are worse places to send your money, I suspect. Giving it to rich people is popular in America, but I think that’s nuts. I’m pretty much alone in this.