An unfortunate juxtaposition

On the way to work yesterday, I picked up one of the free “newspapers” that are the main source of written information for most commuters. The paper, Leggo, was once recommended to me as being the most newsworthy of the freebies.

Here’s the breakdown of yesterday’s paper: ten of the 24 pages are ads; four pages are about the Pope; one page of “news” (e.g. Stoccardo man dismembered by samurai sword); three pages of Entertainment & Society; one of games and horoscopes; four pages of sports; and one of TV schedules.

Italians are not great readers.

In response, I’ve heard Italians say, “The British read so much, they sometimes forget to wash.”

My coworker, R2OB1, just reminded me how difficult it is to find current Italian literature. One of the first books she read in Italian was presented as a Bridget Jones-type novel and came with a bookmark from Nescafé. Every few pages, the characters would stop for a … Nescafé, and all the places they went to in Milan were marked on a fold-out map at the end of the book: “Where to find Nescafé in Milan”.

In all fairness to Italy, however, reading stats are pretty grim for other countries too (US, UK and Italy). By coincidence, the European regional meeting on literacy ends today (link).

What got me started on this post were two bizarre examples of English from the free paper yesterday. The first was the headline,

Mega camping per i Papa Boys

about hosting the anticipated masses of youth (boys only?) heading for Rome this week. The odd choice of words would set off alarm bells in English-speaking countries.

The other bizarre example was this unfortunate juxtaposition of words and image.

Awkward juxtaposition

10 000 prostitutes

Have to take the movies back to the co-op, Monsieur Hire and Dogville. Didn’t watch either of them. I can’t seem to get engaged by films these days. Once the kids are in bed and we’ve cleaned up, I prefer either to do something creative, like make music or twiddle on the computer, or just unwind with a glass of wine and a bath. A movie is neither demanding enough nor relaxing enough. “Get something like Godzilla next time,” Mr B. suggested. Maybe he’s right.

It’s not all our fault, though. I mean Monsieur Hire is a miserable attempt to garner sympathy for a peeping tom, because in French that’s not as dirty as in English (?). It was written by Georges Simenon, creator of Inspector Maigret, a man who boasted of having “had” 10 000 women, almost all prostitutes. He told his wife, “You were born the day I met you.”

Y a plus rien à dire !

And Dogville? The acting is as wooden as the scenery. Even my beloved Lauren Bacall is hopeless, disclaiming her lines as if she were Lady Macbeth.

Another winner

The inspirational Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest plunges new heights with a superb opening line from Dave Zobel:

She resolved to end the love affair with Ramon tonight . . . summarily, like Martha Stewart ripping the sand vein out of a shrimp’s tail . . . though the term “love affair” now struck her as a ridiculous euphemism . . . not unlike “sand vein,” which is after all an intestine, not a vein . . . and that tarry substance inside certainly isn’t sand . . . and that brought her back to Ramon.

The winner of the Detective category, Joe Polvino, also came up with a beauty:

Detective Micky Blarke arrived on the scene at 2:14 am, and gave his cigarette such a severe pull that rookie Paul Simmons swore the insides of the detective’s cheeks touched, but the judge indicated that that amount of detail was not necessary in his testimony, and instructed the jury to disregard that statement.

Ahhh … Such unadulterated talent makes one’s heart consume itself in sclerotic envy, like when Ginny Armstrong was the first in our class to have a Katie KopyKat doll. And she got the first breasts too! Life’s so unfair … she sniffled elliptically.