Category Archives: humor

Happy (belated) birthday, Hunter Thompson

Hunter S. Thompson, who was from Louisville, would have turned 79 this week. With the Republican National Convention in full swing and on the cusp of a truly ludicrous election, we need him now more than ever. The Paris Review’s lengthy interview from 2000 is worth re-reading, and quotes the following from 1988’s Generation of Swine:

. . . I have stolen more quotes and thoughts and purely elegant little starbursts of writing from the Book of Revelation than from anything else in the English Language—and it is not because I am a biblical scholar, or because of any religious faith, but because I love the wild power of the language and the purity of the madness that governs it and makes it music.

This week, the New Yorker ran a satirical bit that started as such:

The 2016 Republican National Convention became embroiled in another controversy on Tuesday, as Biblical experts accused Republicans of plagiarizing the entire Convention scenario from the Book of Revelation.

So HST’s ghost still walks with us.  I wish he had stuck around for another decade or so. There will be much unfinished business to come, it seems, in the matter of the “autopsy of the American dream,” a job at which he excelled.

Osama, Mladic, Berlusconi: rough winds do shake

Riffing on the Northern League's fear of a "zingaropoli" or "Gypsyville," this mock poster advises those who don't want a Kebabville to vote on June 1-2. Polls closed May 30.

May ended up being a very bad month for the intolerant: first Osama bin Laden, then Ratko Mladic, and now Silvio Berlusconi, whose coalition was dealt a serious blow in run-off mayoral elections all over Italy this past week. Of course, Berlusconi’s crimes of philandering and corruption are much less grave than terrorism and mass murder, but the effect he’s had on democracy in a country struggling with economic stagnation has not been healthy for western values.

The net effect of these three incredible events has been to clog Premesso’s news-gathering apparatus with an overload, so apologies for the lack of updates.

The campaign in Milan reached histrionic levels of fear and xenophobia, most of it coming directly from the premiere’s own party. The tactic backfired, and John Hooper, writing in the Guardian, quoted Professor James Walston of the American University of Rome, who made an excellent point mirroring my own in the case of Magdi Allam a few weeks ago:

Watson said he feared Berlusconi’s tactics could have a lasting impact on interracial and interfaith relations in Italy. “This type of language has been used by the prime minister, not some neo-fascist maniac on the fringes,” he said. “It will be difficult to bring Italian political language back to acceptable European levels.”

Seeing this tactic lose out was refreshing, and often funny to boot. (Read more of Walston’s excellent analysis, included a piece from which the above quote was taken, on his blog, or watch at interview with him shortly before the eight minute-mark here.)  Young Italians may not be taking to the piazze the way their Spanish compatriots are, but they are taking to web and producing hilarious results. Web-savvy Milanesi hilariously parodied the brutish xenophobia online; check out pages on Facebook encouraging people to vote for the mayor today (June 2), a national holiday celebrating the birth of the first republic, or supporting a fictional Muslim district of Milan called Sucate.

To come: photos from the streets.

Lelemore Lelemore

If you find recent write-ups on the doings at Arcore too much to bear lately, then get your day started right with this hilarious Grease parody. Warning: not only do you have to follow the news and Italian, you have to know have Italians interpret/hear English. There’s enough code-switching in this for a linguist’s wet dream. You don’t have to know much about Grease.  Hat-tip: Zoomata.

If you want to see the original, it’s here.

Now, while we’re at it, how about a Super Breakout-style bunga-bunga game?

Now: can we get some of that Egyptian and Tunisian action on this side of the Mediterranean, please?

Post-Holiday Post

Happy Epiphany everyone. I’m just in from an utterly exhausting holiday trip to Rovigo, Louisville and Washington DC, and after yesterday’s 24-hour trip home, I’m too spent to do much other than post this ridiculous 1951 Warner Brothers cartoon featuring Charlie the Dog.

Ah, crude stereotypes of Italians and Ed Butz-like linguistic appropriations! Still, I knew that WB’s typing had to extend beyond Pepé Le Pew and Speedy Gonzalez. Someone obviously had a deeper understanding of italianità, because there’s an obvious homage to the pre-WW1 greats of the Scala in the cartoon — the sign up in the restaurant (“Melba Tetrazzini Gadski Martinelli”).

Otherwise: see the Social Network, if you’re one of the few people that hasn’t already. I fully believe it took large liberties with the Truth in all senses (is Harvard still so good-old-boyish; do programmers really spend so little time coding and so much time partying — these have been thoroughly debunked elsewhere), but it’s good storytelling, and I think must hit on some basic kernel of truth in that Zuckerberg is a brilliant, slightly amoral geek with powerful driving ambitions — much like the world’s last true uber-geek, Bill Gates. (This ascendancy is broadly hinted at in the film — and those who incredibly don’t know who Gates is are those who miss out, although I sincerely doubt that there was one person at Harvard in 2003 who didn’t actually know of Bill Gates.)

Totally unrelated: why does Hemingway, who dealt with the problem of bilingual conversations rather elegantly in A Farewell to Arms, stumble so hard in For Whom the Bell Tolls by using ‘thee’ and ‘thou’ for tu? It seems so basic. I’m not the only one who noticed, of course.

More after I’ve caught up on sleep.

If it had been in Italy…

But it wasn't; it was in Chile. Grazie dio.

A student passed me this joke on the Chilean mine disaster, which also plays on a lot of other recent Italian news (Sarah Scazzi, Giancarlo Tulliani‘s house, the Naples trash crisis, the electoral crisis).  Mainly it’s funny, if you get it all.  Deep Italian current events, knowledge, sure, but enjoy:

If it had happened in an Italian mine, things would have gone like this.

Day 1: everyone’s together in an effort to save the miners. Live TV 24/7, Bertolaso on the scene.

Day 2: on Bruno Vespa’s show, a model of the mine, with Barbara Palombelli, Belen and Lele Mora co-hosting.

Day 3:  at the first signs of difficulty, the hunt for guilty and responsible parties begins.

BERLUSCONI: It’s the communists’ fault!

DI PIETRO: It’s because of conflicts of interest!

BERSANI: Uh… what happened?

BOSSI: they’re all hicks; leave them there!

CAPEZZONE: It’s not a tragedy, is a great opportunity, and deserving of this government and this prime minister!

FINI: My brother-in-law has nothing to do with this.

Day 4: TOTTI: I’ll dedicate a goal to the miners.

Day 5: THE POPE: Let us pray for zee miners who are in deez day wery close to the devil!

Day 6: With ratings falling, Chi l’ha Visto (Italy’s version of Unsolved Mysteries) does an episode.  Hostess Barbara D’Urso interviews the children of the miners: “Tell me, do you miss your daddy?”

Day 7-Day 30: All attempts fail.  Bertolaso is named worldwide head of civil protection. After a month, the miners get out by digging with their hands.

A year later, the 33 miners, fired long before,  are prosecuted for damage to the mine site.

Original, albeit slightly different, here.