Archivi categoria: Forge Today

Forge Today is the University of Sheffield’s official paper. I had to columns there: the diary of a snobbish Italian girl in Northern England (“Signorina in Sheffield”) and the music blog of a pair of Italian ears plunging into English pop culture…

Signorina in Sheffield #10 – Of nature’s burps and Air France

Standard

You would think that after all these years of evolution it would take a little more than a volcano’s burp to make the world panicking.

I mean, we were given rocks and leaves and we end up building laptops. That’s way over Mac Gyver.

But still, with all the computers, the skyscrapers, the carbonated mineral water that we have, a volcano belches some ashes and suddenly we all go ballistic.

The daughter of one of my professors got stuck in Saint Petersburg.

She had to spend a £90 top up before finding a bus that would take her to a boat that would take her to a train that would take her to Paris where she had to wait three days anyway before being able to cross the channel.

As you all probably know, John Cleese took a taxi from Oslo to Brussels in order to get a Eurostar to England.

The bill was £3300, which I am pretty sure was the highest one ever paid for a cab.

Is Oslo really that ugly? I mean it with no offence – as I am one of the most devout fans of all times – but being a Monty Python guy does not seem the kind of job that if you stay away from England for 6 days something dreadful is going to happen to the Country.

A friend of mine from Italy who was working for the Olympic Games in Vancouver is still there.

The Company told him he might be repatriated around the first day of May.

Then there is that English family I saw on TV: grandpa, grandma, father, mother and three kids: all in China for the family trip of a lifetime.

They were told that in order to reschedule they would have to pay another full price ticket each, £2000 each. You do the math.

They did not have enough money. Last time I saw them interviewed they were still at the Beijing airport, their visa expiring in 24 hours.

I don’t know about you, but I would not want to find myself in China without a visa.

I’ll probably keep wondering the rest of my life if (and how many) family members eventually made it back home.

But the most outrageous volcano story of all, and I could stick my life on it, happened to a friend of mine who lives in Sheffield.

She is Italian, from Florence, and she had to go back for her Graduation Ceremony.

Now, what we mean with “Graduation Ceremony” is nothing like a party.

In Italy in order to graduate first you take all the exams, then you write a “thesis”, which is like a final essay but that must be around 60000 words, with some proper research and months and months of work and discussion with the professors.

After the deadline, around 12 professors from the faculty are given 2 months to read it and when they are done they call you on a certain date to “discuss” your work in public.

If you don’t show up you don’t graduate. There is no rescheduling, no second chance.

You just have to be there, and be prepared with arguments not to have your research destroyed by boring academics; otherwise you don’t get your degree.

It is the most important date of your whole life as a student. When we first heard of the cloud it was a Thursday, and she was leaving on a Saturday.

She got immediately worried and wanted to get a bus ticket, so I told her: “Are you crazy? It is Thursday and you leave on a Saturday, there is no way airplanes will be stuck then”. Luckily people very rarely listen to me.

So she took a bus on Saturday afternoon and went to London.

She stayed 6 hours at the station and then took another bus to Paris.

She spent the night again at the station in Paris and then took a third bus.

In 22 hours she had crossed the country and was in Milan, from where she took a train and in just over three hours was in Florence, ready to sleep 6 hours and then wake up to go and do the presentation of her thesis.

Basically she left on a Saturday morning and arrived on a Wednesday evening.

On the plus side, on the bus to Milan she met this cool Colombian director who was going to Turin (my city) to attend the Gay Film Festival, which is the most important in Europe.

He had a first class ticket and she had a Ryanair last-minute, but volcanos bring together all kind of travellers.

As for me, I was supposed to go to Greece for a meeting with people from all over Europe to discuss some boring hipster stuff we pretend to be important.

Due to the world collapsing (my boss from Turin, who is usually a quite good tv producer, called me just to announce to me that this is the first sign that the world will end in 2012) we decided to call it off even if the airport finally reopened the following weeks.

My friends and colleagues called their companies and reschedule.

I so far spent £20 just to TRY to talk with some Airfrance guy.

I wouldn’t be that pissed off if it was just the complete arrogance, lack of any decency, improper way to treat clients, the fact that I will never ever see a pound back.

What I really can’t stand is that in their hold-the-line message they had Sigur Ros. sigur Ros. I used to think that not being able to travel by airplane but only by older means of transportation – trains, buses, boats – carried with it something romantic, like feeling again the sense of the distance, watching the landscape changing, taking time to observe the world around you. After holding the line on Sigur Ros for two hours, I started to hope this is really just a sign that the world is going to end in 2012.

By Marta Musso

Click on the picture to read the article on http://www.forgetoday.com

Signorina in Sheffield #9 – Of love at first sight, elections and other tv quizzes

Standard

The first TV debate in the history of UK elections, held on Thursday the 15th of April, 2010, has changed the political history of the country. Forever.

Or at least that’s what presenter Alastair Stewart said during the introduction to the debate; after an initial jingle that sounded like it was written to announce the arrival of the four Horsemen.

The day after, actually, nothing seemed to have changed. The world is still here, the three candidates are in the same position as they were the day before (Clegg advancing, Cameron standing still and Brown slowly sinking) and the voters don’t have the smallest piece of further information.

It is true that on the same night a volcano erupted covering the whole of middle Europe in a dark cloud that paralyzed the transports – but that can hardly be related to the debate.

The whole night the camera merciless panned back and forth across the studio in a desperate attempt to create tension over the debate; but the truth is that they said nothing that hadn’t already been said in any declaration or press release over the past year.

Nonetheless, the show hasn’t been the most boring TV programme ever produced.

It was clearly inspired by an Italian TV show, “Love at first sight”, that used to be extremely successful in the mid-90s.

In this show a young and pretty girl has to choose a man between the three candidates who were running to become the love of her life – or at least choose the one she will take on the prize cruise.

The three male participants stand still in front of the audience, dressed in the same exact suite; the only way to differentiate them is a tie: one is blue, one is red and third one is yellow. Ring a bell?

The girl cannot see the three men, because they are hiding behind a wall.

With the help of the presenter she asks several questions to the men and then chooses in base of the answers. Ring another bell?

Yes, ITV production went a little bit further, setting up the studio with blue-red-yellow neon columns and dressing up the three candidates with the most flamboyant single-colour ties ever seen.

“Love at first sight” had a more sober look. The main difference is of course that the audience here is able to see the three men before choosing them; in fact, the winner was the youngest and most handsome, Nick Clegg. It’s always like that.

I know that everything that I just wrote sounds very critical, but the truth is that I am actually a big fan of TV debates.

Even when they are as boring as this one, they remain a good virtual square in which to debate.

I wish the three aspiring Prime Ministers got rid of the matching ties and started to dress like real human beings, becoming interesting for what they say and not for how they dress the part.

After all, people will be forced to go on a cruise with one of them for the next five years. But I understand this is too much to ask.

Modern democracy is based on flamboyant characters.

In lack of one, we can at least get a flamboyant mise-en-scene.

By Marta Musso

Click on the picture to read the article on http://www.forgetoday.com

Signorina in Sheffield #8 – Cultural Learnings of London for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Italy

Standard

Last week I went to London on a school vacation.

Let’s say a University Field Trip, which sounds more professional, although the whole experience did of course revolve around terrible hangovers and being lousy on the train as though we were all 15 years old.

We visited a lot of media stuff and the House of Parliament, which was definitely the most interesting day.

Coming from Italy, I thought that in the other democratic countries politics and Parliaments would be a serious thing.

It is with great pleasure and a hint of discouragement that I can now say that the world is a small village when it comes to MPs’ behaviour in modern sacred buildings.

When the guide was taking us through the House of Lords everyone was silent and excited, holding our breathe while passing through the chairs on which Britain’s history was shaped.

Because the guide said that we were not allowed to sit down, as it is a privilege for those who had done the pledge of allegiance as members, I was really afraid of tripping down and end up insulting the House of Lords with my Italian butt.

That’s me: I trip and fall a lot, especially in smart occasions.

The university had 3 tickets to attend the scrutiny in the House of Commons, in which the Prime Minister and other members of the Government answer questions to the MPs on their work.

Three names were drawn and the people extracted were very happy and excited about it.

The rest of us went to the press room to assist at the event from giant screens.

We were all dressed in nice office suits, heels and ties in their places.

The MPs were laid down on the green chairs, bellies coming out of the pants, ties loosen on red faces.

I frankly don’t know who’s who in British politics, so I am very impartial in talking about the people: for most of them I can’t say if they were Tories, Labour, Lib Dems or else.

What I saw was a nice, well dressed woman answering questions about education, and a bunch of MPs laughing and screaming so hard from the benches we could barely hear her.

The poor speaker was yelling “Shut up! Shut up!” every ten seconds, like a hysterical teacher in an elementary school.

An elementary school in a very poor neighbourhood.

He threatened to expel a few of them if they kept on with that behaviour, receiving a big burp as an answer (I swear: a burp!) followed by endless laughs.

It was like watching monkeys in a cage; or better, monkeys returning to the cage after a night out in a very chavvy pub.

At first I didn’t say anything because I did not want to be disrespectful towards MPs who weren’t mine, but when I saw the English students laughing so hard they were crying I just joined the group.

The annoying thing is that as soon as Gordon Brown and David Cameron entered the room, aka as soon as the cameras started recording something that might end up on TV news, the ties were straightened, the belly put back inside the pants, the yelling stopped immediately and they all started to look very elegant and efficient.

At least in Italy they keep being embarrassing with or without cameras onto them.

But if you ever come to the Parliament, sneak into one of the press rooms while no VIP is present in one of the two Houses: it’s like the Big Brother, but trashier.

By Marta Musso

Click on the picture to read the article on http://www.forgetoday.com

Signorina in Sheffield #7 – Of laws you should know about

Standard

When you first arrive to a new country, it’s important to adapt to new laws.

Usually when it’s inside the European Union it’s no big deal, although when I first came to Britain at the age of 16 our teachers kept imploring us for weeks not to play any drinking games whilst on the island, because they had a legal drinking age over there.

Funny laws exist all over the world. In Italy for example, if you are the Prime Minister you cannot be prosecuted for any crime, even if it has been proved that you bribed lawyers, judges, politicians, inspectors, policemen, carabinieri, journalists, secret services agents and priests.

In France, it is forbidden to call a pig Napoleon (nothing is said about calling him Sarkozy though). In Indonesia masturbation is punished with decapitation.

As an international student, I feel the duty of helping other international students, but also young English people, to find out about a few laws that are quite hidden from everyday life and shared moral values, but not less important:

1) It is illegal to die in the House of Parliament. This is for the journalism students, as their forthcoming trip to London is approaching… touch wood everyone. Also, for whoever is considering a career as MP, watch out for your heart condition. A stroke while debating a law might put you in jail for attempted death.

2) It is illegal to gamble in a library, according to the Library Offences Act of 1898. Yes guys, that applies in the IC as well.

3) Trespassing is illegal, except by huers and baulkers, according to an act dated 1603. “Huers and baulkers” were guys who would stand on the cliffs and shout to fishing boats, directing them. What exactly gave them the right of trespassing is unknown, but if you decide to stalk your ex girlfriend make sure you do it near a fishmonger’s.

4) It is illegal to hang washing across the street. Beating or shaking carpets or mats is also illegal. Doorman can be shaken, but not after 8am.

5) It is illegal to sing profane or obscene songs. This is a very very useful one: next time your housemate plays Girls Aloud, you are allowed to call the police under the Town Police Clauses Act of 1847

6) It is illegal to drive a cow while drunk. And that’s a pity because it could have been a cheap alternative to taxis.

7) It is legal to shoot a Scotsman inside the walls of York with a crossbow upon seeing one, except for on Sundays. However, any Scotsman caught drunk or with a weapon can still be shot on a Sunday, except with a bow and arrow. This is also a very useful one, for that guy from Glasgow you just can’t stand. Similarly, in Chester it is legal to shoot a Welsh person with a crossbow, as long as it is within the city walls and is done after midnight. And in Chester, Welsh people aren’t allowed to enter the city grounds before sunrise and from staying after sunset.

8) It is legal for a pregnant woman to pee wherever she wants. Also, the law specifies, in a policeman’s helmet, if she ask. Now, if you are a pregnant, no-global, who hates the police and is planning to go to the next protest in London, this is just ace.

9) Eating mince pies on Christmas day is illegal. This needs no comment.

10) Suicide is a capital crime. But nothing is said about attempted suicide. I would assume it is NOT a capital crime: it would be too easy

11) It is illegal to shave, mow your lawn or work on a Sunday. Ooops. I should go.

For in-depth examinations of the subject matter, http://www.yousaytoo.com/nesher/strange-and-funny-laws-in-uk/28672

By Marta Musso

Click on the picture to read the article on http://www.forgetoday.com

Signorina in Sheffield #6 – Of studying at University level

Standard

So here I am again, the Italian gal in the land of Shakespeare.

I apologize for my prolonged absence, but I have been…well, studying for the exams.

And I went back to Italy for vacation. Twice. But mostly, I have been studying… Promise.

About that, I could not help but being very surprised by the cover article in the February 18 issue of Forge, “Lecturer ridicules students’ mistakes”.

While correcting the exams scripts, a Management School lecturer from Sheffield University wrote to his colleagues an email in which he pointed out two incredible mistakes made by students in their exams.

For accuracy’s sake, here is the transcript as it appears in the article:

Dear All,
Having spent the last couple of days dismally working my way through the first bunch of truly uninspiring undergraduate exam scripts, I thought I’d just share with you some little known facts about Milton Friedman that two of our final year undergrads have provided which you may (or may not!) wish to include in your future lectures:
1) Milton Friedman was the founder of capitalism
2) Milton Friedman was a socialist
I am feeling truly depressed!!
Only another 200 to go!!
Jon

The article goes on blaming the lecturer’s for his students’ ignorance and accusing him of having ridiculed the students.

Now, firstly I want to make clear that when I chose to come and study in England it’s because I admire the Anglo-Saxon’s studying system.

In Italy we are better theorists but we cannot apply a single notion, even if our life was at the stake (which sometimes is).

It is all so based on tradition that my IT compulsory exam was comprised putting frames on a word document (I got and A+, how smart am I?) and in my class there were still people who would hand-write their assignment.

If a book doesn’t come with three inches of dust it’s considered academically worthless and a young professor is usually around 55 years old. In short, I like the organization here.

This said, I think I should write three things about this desperate lecturer’s letter that were not mentioned in the article.

1) This was an exam from a University Management Business School. Please Note: University.

2) The students who wrote that Milton Friedman was, respectively, “the founder of capitalism” and a “socialist” are in their final year. This means that at the end of the year they might graduate in economics.

3) Milton Friedman was one of the most important economists of the 20th century. And capitalism is an economic and social system that evolved over the centuries. As all historical processes, it is self-evident that it cannot be founded by a single person. Writing that Milton Friedman was the “founder of capitalism” does not show a lack of teacher training: it shows a complete absence of thinking from whoever wrote that.

This person should be named and ridiculed in front of every fellow student of his class, because this is what will happen as soon as he lands any economics-related job.

University students are adults that get trained to a high professional level, not clients of a beauty farms.

We are not here to relax and enjoy our time; we are here to be trained in the best possible way.

The success or failure of our preparation relies entirely on our commitment, not on the fact we are treated nicely. We cannot blame the professor for our ignorance, we can only blame ourselves.

And the lecturer, by the means of harmless irony, was actually pointing out a grave lack of preparation to his colleagues, showing concern and interest in his job.

The only disrespectful behaviour was of the students who dared to go and take an exam with such little preparation.

By Marta Musso

Click on the picture to read the article on http://www.forgetoday.com

Signorina in Sheffield #5 – Of the exquisite pleasure of alcohol

Standard

So last week I was in New York and something amazing happened that made me feel really nostalgic of Italy.

I was in an Irish pub in Manhattan (you can’t escape Irish pubs – trying is useless) around midnight and I was drinking my beer.

Suddenly I felt like having chips, I mean, French fries and I asked the barman if I could order them.

And he cooked them for me!!

Whenever I go to a pub crawl in Sheffield starting at 7, I still take for granted that we will eat there, because this is what I’ve done for 25 years of my life.

As a result, I have skipped at least one third of the dinners since I arrived in town.

Something else felt really out of order in my Manhattan pub.

I could easily talk to the other people on the table, without having to scream or gesticulate like we were all Italians at the table; the music was only a background, something to accompany the flow of words and not to prevent it from coming out.

It wasn’t all about drinking and getting drunk: it was also about enjoying the company and the food.

In sum, nothing like a West Street night out.

I almost felt home.

Don’t get me wrong, in Italy we like to get drunk as fuck too.

We also have a big issue with driving while we are not even able to remember the alphabet; which, with all due respect, is much more severe than urinating on the war memorial for people die instead of just being rightfully humiliated for life.

By the way, I could bet my life on the fact Philip Laing will never see a drop of alcohol again; in terms of preventing pancreatic cancer that’s the best thing that could happen to him.

But getting wasted is not the main point of going out.

We like alcohol, of course, we have the best wines in the world, but we also like to taste what we are ingesting – even if it’s cheap.

We don’t just gulp it down wanting to forget ourselves. We go to pubs to talk to our friends and in order not to drink too much most of the time we also order something to eat to go along with the cocktails.

But yes, cocktails and wine are just too good (while beer sucks, unfortunately) and we always end up hugging in the street and singing some very sad love song at 3 am in the morning: but it’s not the main aim of the whole let’s-go-out-on-a-Saturday-night thing.

Drinking is one of the purest pleasures of mankind and I recommend practising it as much as possible; but what’s the point of a pub crawl if everywhere the beers and the cocktails are all tasteless and the same?

What’s the point of alienating ourselves in a gigantic pint and loud music instead of interacting with other human beings?

I don’t want to sound prude, but think about it: life is too short to drink bad alcohol.

By Marta Musso

Click on the picture to read the article on http://www.forgetoday.com

Signorina in Sheffield #4 – Of bureaucracy and other tragedies

Standard

I don’t know if in the UK is common, but one of the most popular Italian travelling games is “the market game”.

One person says that he went to the market and bought something. The second person buys the same thing and something more.

The third person lists the first two items and adds one and so on…

Then you grow up and you apply it to real life.

I woke up this morning after a four-hour sleep and I am running a temperature of 39.

I am running a temperature of 39 and I am leaving in two days for New York City.

I am running a temperature of 39, I am leaving in two days for New York City and my passport needs an extra stamp in order to leave.

I am running a temperature of 39, I am leaving in two days for New York City, my passport needs an extra stamp in order to leave and therefore I have to go all the way to Manchester to get it.

I thought I had it all: I had booked my flight; made sure the luggage was ok; filled the Esta Visa Waiver form on line; got rid of super dangerous material such as contact lens liquid and toothpaste; officially signed that I was never a Communist in my life (they still ask – I guess they want to hold on to all those sci-fi movies from the ‘50s) and gave them every single address I will be staying at during my trip.

I was ready to go. Then I remembered that in Italy we have an extra tax for the passport, something we have to pay every year in order to make it valid.

We have a super-valid passport this way, in your face, Britons! And of course, I had not paid it over the last year.

If I were in Italy, I would have simply gone to a tabaccheria to buy the stamp to glue to the passport.

But I am in England and I leave in two days, where can I find it?

So it’s Monday morning and instead of going to lesson I am going to the Italian consulate in Manchester while shaking in fever.

I arrive at Piccadilly station and run at 111 Piccadilly Square, the address of the consulate according to google.

It is a consulate, but a big sign and a big red and white flag recite: Polish Consulate.

I try to check out the other buildings in the square but nothing; there are at least 4 pizzerias though, which giving the situation I found quite annoying.

Eventually I ask for information at a conference hall reception.

They tell me the consulate is two blocks away, on the corner with Portland Street. I run there. It’s the Portuguese consulate.

I ask to the Portuguese receptionist and he sends me in the direction I came from, in front of the Polish Consulate.

I go back to the first address. In front of the building there is the most stereotypical English pub I have ever seen. Hardly the Italian consulate.

Determined not to cry over bureaucracy, I step into the Polish building.

Maybe I’m still on time to get a Polish passport, I think.

In a world where Sarah Palin ran for vice President, anything is possible.

I enter the door under the big “Polish Consulate” sign and I look at the list of the floors.

Actually, on the 10th floor, near a Tesco Express accountant office, here it is: il Consolato Italiano! Finalmente!

I go to the reception and ask to go upstairs.

The doorman hands me over a card on which I have to write my name.

No documents, no signature. Just my name. I could be Bin Laden complaining for a corked Barbera and no one would ever notice.

Anyway, I make my way to the 10th floor and ask for the stamp.

The employ hardly speaks any Italian: he is from Rome.

Half an hour and a long explanation later, I am free to run for the station cash machine – because they don’t accept credit card… but I can pay my tax and get my stamp!

They even homage me with a free copy of the Italian Constitution.

And so with my stamp, my Visa, my electronic passport, my credit card checking and my declaration forms I am ready for the land of freedom.

Unless someone at the customs think I have swine flu, of course…

By Marta Musso

Click on the picture to read the article on http://www.forgetoday.com