Stet by Ria Bacon

Monday, June 20, 2005

With all the will in the world

Death is stalking me.

Out for a Sunday morning stroll in March and a marathon runner keels over in front of me.

Last Sunday I'd just slathered the kids with factor 40 when a helicopter drops out of the sky and lands on the beach.


Sand in the suncream

Where's David Hasselhoff?A 47-year-old man had had a heart attack. A doctor and two nurses who were also on the beach immediately attended to him, but he died 30 minutes later. The story made the news (in Italian) because of the late arrival of the ambulance. The events are pretty inconsistent, however, for example, a number of tourists complained to the police that the ambulance took almost an hour to arrive, while another report claimed the ambulance was only called 40 minutes after the man had collapsed (after he was dead?) and that the beach road was blocked by tourist traffic. That would certainly explain the dramatic arrival of the helicopter and police patrol boat. Hundreds of people sprinted along the beach to gawp. Ghouls or just Baywatch fans?

Another Colosseo

Another Colosseo

A magnificent Roman monument, although you probably won't find it in any guidebooks to Rome. It's part of the abandoned gas works in the Ostiense neighbourhood near where I live. Other strange towers spiral up from the undergrowth and rusting gantries jut out over the sleepy green Tiber.

The whole area contains a number of relics from recent times: Mattatoio slaughterhouse in Testaccio, the general market, the Italgas complex and Montemartini power station, all in Ostiense, and all of them worth preserving, as much as more famous monuments in the Centro storico (historical centre). Big plans are underway ...

The slaughterhouse has already been converted into a mediatheque, which sadly only really comes to life with festivals in summer. The Montemartini power station has had a more successful makeover, converted into a museum to house the overflow from the Capitoline Museums in the city centre.

Industrial accident suit still pending
Its particularity, of course, is the juxtaposition of sculpture and machinery, for unlike the Tate Modern in London, all the power generating equipment has been left in place.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Girl-on-girl housework

There's an ad campaign in Italy at the moment for endermology treatment that looks as if you iron away your cellulite.

I like the picture because I can imagine it embodies a doubly erotic fantasy for many men.
Girl-on-girl housework
I love the levitating table, but close up, the endermologicky machine looks scary.

Exterminate! Exterminate!

Exterminate! Exterminate!

Monday, June 13, 2005

Culture of death, whatever

The polls closed half an hour ago. Read here on what Italians were (not) voting about.

It's sad to think that such important questions were dependent on the weather - if it had rained, then more people may have voted rather than gone to the beach, just as they do every single Sunday for four months every year. There were even rumours that priests were offering free trips to the coast after Sunday mass.

(Ok, I just made it up, but I'm sure the Pope would have offered to drive if the bus was big enough to spoil the vote.)

As of last night, the turnout figure was only 18.7 percent. Even with the extra few hours today, it's unlikely that the quorum (50 percent) necessary to modify the law will be reached.

So Italy will maintain one of the most rigid laws on human fertilization, one in which
only stable, sterile, heterosexual couples of child-bearing age can have in vitro treatment, and then only by using their own eggs and sperm. The screening of embryos for genetic defects is forbidden. Just three eggs can be gathered and fertilised. The prospective mother is forbidden to refuse implantation of the fertilised eggs. And all three must be implanted simultaneously.
Source: John Hooper, The Guardian
Can science offer some refuge from the moral simplifications of Church and the State? On one hand, we get Nobel prizewinners Renato Dulbecco and Rita Levi Montalcini explaining the importance of stem cell research and its tremendous potential for understanding and eventually curing genetic illnesses. On the other side, we have Bruno Dalla Piccola, Professor of Genetics at Sapienza University here in Rome, who recommends continuing the ban on further work, arguing that,
In years of research, embryo stem cells have not yielded
any results applicable to the cure of human diseases.

Fancy, I didn't know there was a time limit on research.
Sorry, Leonardo, but that helicopter will never get off
the ground, after all, if God had meant us to fly ...
Not to cast aspersions on Professor Piccola's qualifications, but Sapienza University most often makes the news these days for degrees-for-sale scandals.

Tip: avoid visiting an Italian dentist from the Sapienza class of '04.

(For more on the sorry state of Italian universities, read here ...)

The other question that Italians have been asked to consider is the repeal of the law that allows an embryo full legal rights, from the moment of conception ...

Thin ... Edge ... Wedge ...

Join the dots.

The culture of death. We were all embryos once. Say yes to life. And could you put some more cream on my back while you're at it?

Monday, June 06, 2005


I used to think the lyric from Massive Attack's Karmacoma was
D'ye make it in Roma?

That seemed right when we were planning on moving to Rome three years ago.

Looking at online lyrics doesn't clear up the confusion, e.g.
Jamaica an' Roma

Given Tricky's trippy texts, I'd go for
Jamaican aroma

However, since Mr B's been offered jobs both here and in Kingston, the lyric in my head is

Jamaica or Roma?
Jamaica or Roma?

Input appreciated ...

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Seven million in movement

Today is a national holiday in Italy. The streets are empty and offices and shops are closed. Peace reigns in the city.

Except in my street, which is full of soldiers in ceremonial dress.
Except in my office, which is business as usual.
Except there are two helicopters circling overhead, filming the military parade, which is coordinated by a man with big feathers in his helmet and screaming into an even bigger megaphone.

On the other hand, I could be stuck in monster traffic jams as seven million Italians hit the roads, making a holiday "bridge" from today over to the weekend. According to reports, one million of the holidaymakers are mothers and children leaving on a holiday that could last all summer!

Giscard should have put that in the European Constitution and no one would be crying now.

7 milioni Italiani in movimento
«Les Français voteront oui» (Giscard d'Estaing)
EU Rejects Constitution, Constitution Rejects Europe (satire)

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Yes we have no buses

As Roman Wanderer mentioned recently, Rome's public transport network has shot trundled into the 21st century with its new electronic bus-stops that give you second-by-second updated timetables, aided by GPS satellite tracking.
Yes, we have no buses
Example: Today strike. Next bus in 7.5 hours.

I caught this scab in flagrante delicto. Note the apposite name for the Rome public transport authority: ATAC.
Guess the ad
What caught my attention more was the ad on the back of the bus. It's pretty ... revealing.

I've masked the name of the product, but see if you can guess what it is for.