Oct 21, 2013

The Florence Experience (Cross Cultural Communication)

"This picture was from the Fiorentina vs. Parma soccer game. I grew up playing soccer and played until senior year in high school. This, however, was the very first professional soccer game I have ever attended. The excitement and enthusiasm that surrounded me was incredible. Even though it was my first Fiorentina game, I felt invested. I was amazed at the constant chanting and cheering and loved the dedication of all the fans. It was a night I will never forget and I can't wait to go to another one, sporting purple, red, and white!" (Sarah Stinn).

"I saw this photo today on Facebook because one of my teammates from this weeks basketball tournament posted it. It made me happy to see this picture because since I have been in Italy, playing basketball has made me feel the most at home. It also filled me with joy because I remembered how great it was to meet and play with all of the Italian girls (Lauren Jagels)".

"I had the fortunate experience of going to Corfu, Greece, this weekend. From our balcony of our hotel room, we had the most beautiful view of the Agios Gordis Beach (shown below) where we got to kayak and swim while the sun shined down on us. When I was kayaking in the vibrant blue water, I thought sarcastically, "I have a pretty rough life." On our way back from Corfu to Italy, I was happy to return to the lively atmosphere of Florence and all that accompanies it" (Sean Brennan).

"I love the availability of art in Florence, with the many museums and churches. I feel like it is easy to take for granted the opportunities to see this art. I have never lived somewhere where there is always something to see and do. It is overwhelming but also exciting to know the endless amounts of history and art that are within Florence. This picture is outside of the Uffizi Gallery, which I have yet to go inside of. But will most definitely spend a lot of time in. It makes me feel as if there should never be a unused minute here" (Sophia Henager).

"This weekend I went to the Ponte Vecchio for the first time. We have walked through a lot of different places in Florence and even taken a few tours. But it hit me this weekend taking 'selfies' on the bridge. We are in a place that is known in history as one of the culturally richest that the world has seen; so many artists and great thinkers lived and made a mark in this town.On the other and you also have modern history, like the world wars that took place on the same streets. It just boggles my mind to think that I am able to live and study in a place like this!" (Ashley Swanson).
"It is a picture that depicts a scene that I found interesting this weekend. I always am interested to watch the street artists paint and interact with potential customers. I often wonder how they make a living off selling these beautiful works of art. Also, I wonder what the artists' opinions are of the street vendors that sell cheap replicas of famous painting that don't involve any skill on their part to recreate. What is the artist community like and how is it perceived in a place like Florence where old art often the focus? I hope through my travels around Florence I will learn more about various street artists and even buy a piece" (Jess Nevins).

Running in FlorenceDuring our second week in Florence, after having been overwhelmed by the amount of pasta I had been inhaling, I decided it was time to get back into my exercise routine. So one morning, when it was not so bright but definitely early, I went for a run. I left my pensione, Hotel Nazionale, and ran in the direction I had heard the river Arno would be. I had yet to venture far enough to see the river, one of the key aspects of the beautiful city of Florence. I was running and running, getting distracted by side streets and the early morning work rush when I came around the corner and was instantly left breathless. This was not because I had been running so hard, or because I was out of shape, but because the sun was just barely beginning to rise on the eastern side of Florence, the glow was just beginning to shine on the buildings, and the river Arno actually ran smooth and still. The light had not given away to its mucky nature yet and it truly looked magical. I ran back and forth across the bridges until I came to the last one, it was there that I truly realized I was in the city of Firenze, in Italy, so many miles away from home. It was here that I realized I was about to embark on the greatest adventure I’d had in my life thus far, and this was only the beginning” (Dominique Scott).

"This photo is of a sunset in Florence last week that I took on the balcony of Hotel Cordova. I really love this photo because it reminded me how lucky I am to be here and that in that peaceful moment, how much I love Florence" (Brigid Dunn).

"One of the first weeks in Florence, a few friends and I went to a panini place called Pino's Sandwiches to grab some lunch before going to explore the city. We walked in, and Pino, the owner, immediately and warmly welcomed us, encouraging us to take pictures of the food (as we were already doing), and even invited us behind the counter to take a picture with him. He was very talkative and eager to both learn about us and share about himself. He emphasized the importance of relationships with his customers, and wanted us to definitely come by again" (Cecilia Vollert).

"On Wednesday last week I took a cooking class in which we cooked a full three course meal. We were given all of the recipes afterwards to take home at the end of the semester. For me, this made me think about how I want to enjoy myself here, but I also want to be able to change and improve myself as a person through my experiences in a different culture. The opportunity to cook an authentic Tuscan meal for my family will allow me to always keep a piece of Florence with me and I will know that I got more than some crazy nights and great friends out of this study abroad experience" (Adam Wells).

"I chose a picture of the 5th floor balcony of my pensione Cordova because this will be my new home for the next year. Our balcony has an incredible view of the city and is a place where all my friends get together and eat or hangout during our free time. This picture gives me a feeling of belonging in a city that is completely new to me, a sort of home away from home. I haven't felt homesick yet because there has been such a strong community here and the balcony is a symbol of that community and coming together to spend quality time with one another" (Maria Black).

"This his picture was taken when I went to go visit the archaeology museum in Florence, I went with my Florence of the Medici class. We saw was the secret room of the Medici Princess Maria Maddalena. I had read a little about her before I took this class, and knew she was handicapped and that her palace had to be adapted to fit her disabilities. I had no idea that she was so deeply religious and required her own handicap accessible room to worship in. Going into the room was one of the most inspiring things I have ever done. It was so amazing to get to be able to go into a room that was so important to someone who was such a big part of shaping history. I thought it was interesting that her balcony was hidden to the rest of the public, not sticking out in the middle of the church drawing all the attention to her, like the theater seats of kings and queens of this time. She wanted a place to worship but she also did not want to take the attention away from the church and from God. I thought it was interesting that it was a big and comfortable room so she could fit friends in easily, like a place to hang out that just happened to be connected to a church. Going into her secret room is an experience I will never forget and definitely one of the highlights of my trip to Florence so far" (Audrey Jackson).

Oct 15, 2013

Pierluca Birindelli, Docent in Sociology, University of Helsinki

On October 1st 2013 I’ve been granted  the title of Docent in Sociology by Thomas Wilhelmsson, Chancellor of the University of Helsinki.
The University of Helsinki is consistently ranked in the top 100 out of world's 15.000 universities.
1st  in Webometrics Ranking 2012 in Nordic Countries
69th  in the QS University Rankings 2013
As a founding member of the League of European Research Universities(LERU), the university promotes science and research together with European's top research-intensive universities. The university's goal is to become one of the 50 best universities in the world. On the journey towards the top 50, the University of Helsinki aims to build a better world by approaching global problems from a multidisciplinary perspective. Within UH I’ve been teaching the course Identity and Culture. A Narrative and Holistic Approach” in the Research Master´s Degree Programmein Social Sciences (REMS), which is a full-time, two-year integrated study programme. The Programme is offered by the Department of Social Research at the Faculty of Social Sciences, and you can major in one of the three following subjects: Social and Public Policy/Urban StudiesSocial PsychologySociology. This interdisciplinary programme is designed to provide a firm grounding in the theory, philosophy and methods of social research. The REMS programme provides the students with in-depth skills in both quantitative and qualitative research methods allowing one to proceed to a PhD studies after their graduation or into social research occupations within the public and private sectors

Oct 14, 2013

OECD Skills Outlook 2013: Finland and Japan at the top, Italy and Spain at the bottom

Workers in Spain and Italy are the least skilled among 24 developed countries surveyed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a deficit that is likely to impede the ability of those two countries to boost their competitiveness as part of efforts to overcome the euro-zone fiscal crisis.  Italy ranks bottom, and Spain second-to-last among the 24 countries in literacy skills. Over one in five adults in both countries can't read as well as a 10-year-old child would be expected to in most education systems (Wall Street Journal). In a report that covered a wide range of countries, the OECD also concluded that in both the U.S. and the U.K., younger people are significantly less-skilled relative to their peers than older people, while Japan and Finland boast the most-skilled workers. The study found that Americans ranked 16 out of 23 industrialized countries in literacy and 21 out of 23 in numeracy (Wall Street Journal). 

"The survey of adult skills  assesses the proficiency of adults from age 16 onwards in literacy, numeracy and problem solving in technology-rich environments. These skills are “key information-processing competencies” that are relevant to adults in many social contexts and work situations, and necessary for fully integrating and participating in the labour market, education and training, and social and civic life. In addition, the survey collects a range of information on the reading- and numeracy-related activities of respondents, the use of information and communication technologies at work and in everyday life, and on a range of generic skills, such as collaborating with others and organising one’s time, required of individuals in their work. Respondents are also asked whether their skills and qualifications match their work requirements and whether they have autonomy over key aspects of their work” (OECD).
Around 166000 adults aged 16-65 were surveyed in 24 countries and sub-national regions: 22 OECD member countries – Australia, Austria, Belgium (Flanders), Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, the Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom (England and Northern Ireland), and the United States; and two partner countries – Cyprus and the Russian Federation.

Literacy is defined as the ability to understand, evaluate, use and engage with written texts to participate in society, achieve one’s goals, and develop one’s knowledge and potential. Literacy encompasses a range of skills from the decoding of written words and sentences to the comprehension, interpretation, and evaluation of complex texts. It does not, however, involve the production of text (writing). Information on the skills of adults with low levels of proficiency is provided by an assessment of reading components that covers text vocabulary, sentence comprehension and passage fluency.

Oct 9, 2013

Unstable Territory. Borders and Identity in Contemporary Art

Unstable Territory. Borders and Identity in Contemporary Art,  11 October 2013 – 19 January 2014, opening: Thursday 10 October 2013 at 19.00, Centre for Contemporary Culture Strozzina, Palazzo Strozzi, Florence.
Artists: Kader Attia, Zanny Begg & Oliver Ressler, Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin, Paolo Cirio, Tadashi Kawamata, Sigalit Landau, Richard Mosse, Paulo Nazareth, Jo Ractliffe, The Cool Couple.
Unstable Territory showcases work by international artists which will encourage visitors to reconsider the notion of territory in a contemporary world.  Whilst the latter is increasingly characterized by the obsolescence of such concepts as the nation state and borders, there is, at the same time, a return to new forms of nationalism and renewed interest in the individual in relation to a specific area or community.
The astonishing development of mobility for both people and goods, the digitization of communication and knowledge, migration and an increasingly global economy have all radically changed people’s perception of territories, borders and boundaries.  In view of the instability of these concepts crucial to the definition of personal identity, two different – though not necessarily conflicting – trends appear to be taking shape: one based on seeking shelter in the safety and proximity of the micro-territory, the region or even the family; the other, as theorized by sociologist Ulrich Beck, involving a new conception of cosmopolitanism in its most democratic and egalitarian sense.
What does it mean when we talk about “territory” today?  The term does not simply refer to a geographical or spatial area, it also refers to a concept of social and cultural belonging and extends into the personal, psychological and mental sphere.  The works in this exhibition reflect different approaches, lifestyles and ways of perceiving the unstable relationship between identity, territory and borders in an age of great expectations (and illusions) regarding a border-less society, a shared global territory.  Photographs, videos and installations spark reflections on the notion of the border as discovery or barrier, on the hybridization between cosmopolitanism and territorial claims, on the figure of the artist himself as traveler, nomad or experimenter teetering on the edge of physical and symbolic territories. Read more: Strozzina Center for Contemprary Culture at Palazzo Strozzi.
Below an interview with Richard Mosse

Oct 3, 2013

There must be a Vespa!

Sixty year after Roman Holiday, an old Vespa is mandatory! It has to be shown in an American movie about the “Italian Dream”. It does not matter if it’s rare to see old Vespas in the street of Florence or Rome. One day we will find  this classical Italian scooter, along with a Gondola, in a movie that takes places in Venice: it is a “must”. The same goes for other cultural objects. A dish of pasta has to be dressed  with tomatoes and some vegetables on top;  pasta (white), vegetables (green), tomatoes (red): the Italian flag. If you digit “pasta” on Google image, in 99% of the cases the above mentioned chromatic combination will appear. Italian women will be of course portrayed only as mothers or wives. The traditional Italian family (eating of course, with kids running all over the places) will be shown at one point or the other. We have one of the lowest fertility rate in the planet, but who cares. The movies has to fit the stereotype, or, better, the Grand Tour archetype: a traditional, authentic, genuine world.
Eat,Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia is a 2006 memoir by American author Elizabeth Gilbert.
“In her early thirties, Elizabeth Gilbert had everything a modern American woman was supposed to want--husband, country home, successful career--but instead of feeling happy and fulfilled, she felt consumed by panic and confusion. This wise and rapturous book is the story of how she left behind all these outward marks of success, and of what she found in their place. Following a divorce and a crushing depression, Gilbert set out to examine three different aspects of her nature, set against the backdrop of three different cultures: pleasure in Italy, devotion in India, and on the Indonesian island of Bali, a balance between worldly enjoyment and divine transcendence” (Goodreads, check the Community Reviews)
The film adaptation (directed by Ryan Murphy, starring Julia Roberts and Javier Bardem) was released in theaters on August 13, 2010. You can read the NYT review Globe-Trottingand Soul-Searching, by A. O. Scott, I was not able to understand what the journalist was trying to say, may be you can.
Here you can find a positive review of the movie Happymeals: Roberts shines as a divorcee on a journey to find herself: 
“By far, the section set in Italy is the movie’s best — and not simply because of the food or the joy Roberts shows in eating it. Murphy surrounds Liz with Italians who tutor her in both the language of words and the body. This is the movie in which Roberts finally learns to use her hands. Luca Argentero, Tuva Novotny, Andrea Di Stefano, and the marvelously rotund Giuseppe Gandini play her circle of friends. And it’s fun watching Roberts out of her element acclimating to strangers as expressive as she is”.
And here a negative review  Eat, pray, hurl!: 
“Nunsense! In search of self, Julia Roberts instead discovers the healing powers of gelato in Rome… A year-long, around-the-world quest for self-fulfillment that basically goes nowhere, “Eat Pray Love” is a very shallow, very glossy 2½-hour travelogue starring a miscast Julia Roberts as a spoiled, self-centered divorcée who decides to get away from it all”.
In Rome Julia Roberts…
Learning the art of doing nothing (Dolce far Niente)

Appreciating the amazing sound of the Italian word ‘attraversare’…

 Hands gestures of course

 Eating spaghetti with aria

The philosophy of Pizza, Love and Jeans in Naples…

Let’s end with the clip “Dets Ammorei”:  mainly romantic  movies with Italian locations: playing with the clichés of Olive Garden.

And below the Olive Garden, by Cinnamon J. Scudworth – See also the interesting project TVTropes

Olive Garden
"Maybe we could have dinner! Perhaps the Olive Garden! It's like dining in the private kitchen of a delightful Italian stereotype!"
Italy, mostly known for its food and the fat mustachioed guys who prepare it. There are only two cities in Italy, Rome and Venice. Neither city seems to contain a single building constructed after the 17th century. Rome is heavily populated by gourmet chefs, effete fashionistas and handsome, Vespa-riding homewreckers all too eager to give young female tourists a romantic ride past the Trevi Fountain — oh, and most famous landmarks are within five minutes of each other, too. The Leaning Tower of Pisa is usually found here as well, as opposed to, you know, in Pisa.
Venice, meanwhile, is chock full of handsome, gondola-riding homewreckers all too eager to give young female tourists a romantic ride under the Bridge of Sighs. Either way, men: if your wife or girlfriend steals away on one of these intimate little tours, you're probably flying back home byyourself. Sorry you had to hear it from us.
Apparently, Tuscany has swallowed up the rest of the country, as all the surrounding countryside consists of tomato farms and vineyards. If anybody's got any kind of sound system, expect to hear it blasting either "Funiculì, Funiculà", "O Sole Mio", "Santa Lucia" (all Neapolitan songs) or some famous Giuseppe Verdi aria.
Female Italians are usually dark haired beauties, feisty and wildly slutty, yet for some reason are also very faithful and jealous of their man. In other words, Spicy Latinas through and through.
Expect plenty of Gratuitous Italian.
There's also a dark side to this idyllic country: the time-warped post-war black-and-white Italy that somehow survived till today, directly from neorealistic movies. It's a dangerous and unhospitable country mostly populated of black clad old women that speak quietly and make emphatic gestures, act as superstitious yet religious fanatics, and still don't own a TV set or a vehicle. The only intelligible words these creatures seem to be able to communicate is some distorted provincial dialect like "goomba", and they still claim to vote for Mussolini (Well, you still can...). The remaining population of dark Italy is composed of dark skinned and dark haired (almost Indian looking) scoundrels, good-for-nothing or whores.
In a twist of supreme irony, the whole American continent was discovered by an Italian sailing under the flag of Spain; rather than coming from Rome or Venice said Italian came from Genoa, the sailing/merchant republic which destroyed the Pisans (yes, them of the leaning tower) and scared the Venetians shitless in several naval battles (back in the day when they went around in heavily armed galleys rather than gondolas, defeating Venetians was an achievement to be proud of, like sinking the U.S. Navy). Contrary to the more popular Italian tropes Genoese are famed to be a surly bunch of seldom-smiling, understated, humorless fellows, disdaining songs and dances and preferring pesto to tomato on their pasta; they also have an unjustified reputation of being stingy.
Following a rather lacklustre performance in WW 2, the Italian armed forces are popularly regarded as a bunch of Chianti drinking surrender monkeys, even if their previous and later performances were never as bad as that one.
The trope is named after an American chain of casual dining restaurants.
See here for info on the real country.