Only in Italy is a daily news column that reports funny and weird news on Italy, the mafia, Italian culture and Italian travel.

Only in Italy is a daily news column that reports funny and weird news on Italy, the mafia, Italian culture and Italian travel.

Only In Italy is a daily news column that translates & reports on funny but true news items from legitimate Italian news sources in Italy.
Only in Italy is a daily news column that reports funny and weird news on Italy, the mafia, Italian culture and Italian travel.Only in Italy is a daily news column that reports funny and weird news on Italy, the mafia, Italian culture and Italian travel.
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"Cell Soaps and Mosquito Hunts."


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"Buon Giorno!" Welcome to another Sicilian Pulitzer prize issue of "Only In Italy!"

Ciao Pasquale e Tutti,

Happy to see you are keeping a look out for your elderly, or as we call them here "Senior Citizens". Now I am not prejudice against them (I am 72), so keep telling your readers to come up with better care for their elderly, as they will soon be in their ranks. Don't disregard them but appreciate their contributions and knowledge to society. That whatever they do for them they will be doing for themselves in the future, if they can survive the way we old timers did. Saluti a tutti, Geraldo

Thanks for the letter, Geraldo! You couldn't be more correct!

Apart from the fact that the elderly sometimes forget to wear matching socks and some insist they participated in both world wars, we will always be in debt them for all the contributions and knowledge they have given to society.

And rest assure, Geraldo, today's Italian youth is certainly leaving their mark in society. We're inventing soap operas for cell phones and mosquito hunt tournaments.

The only thing we're worried about is what punishment tomorrow's youth is going to give today's youth for this brilliance!

Enjoy the issue, keep writing and Grazie!

Tanti Saluti,              
"Only In Italy" Staff       

Scientists Say Watching TV Speeds Up Puberty

Study finds it is a matter of light and radiation.

Florence - June 28, 2004 - Does watching television bring on early puberty? Many parents would not doubt that repeated exposure to Sex and the City or the kind of sensual variety shows common on Italian TV could as easily turn their daughters into Lolit@s as stir up the latent testosterone in their sons.

But researchers from Florence University have come up with an alternative explanation: watching screens, regardless of the subject matter, helps to advance adolescence.

A study carried out last month in the Tuscan town of Cavriglia detected a huge increase in production of the hormone melatonin in children deprived of TV, computers and video.

Among the functions ascribed to melatonin is that of slowing down the progress of children to sexual maturity.

Roberto Salti said: "We may thus be able to explain a phenomenon of recent years, which is the bringing forward of puberty in young children."

Vast amounts of research have been conducted to the effect of television on children. But most has focused on the psychological, rather than physiological, effects.

"In our study television does not feature, as it does in other scientific studies, as a source of strong emotions, capable of unleashing emotive reactions that contribute to development," said Roberto Tarquini, another member of the team. "For us, it is just a source of light and radiation."

The researchers studied 74 children aged between six and 12 who normally watched television for an average of three hours a day. In the week preceding the experiment they were encouraged to do so a bit more.

They were then deprived of TV, computers and video games for seven days. In addition, their families were asked to use less artificial light.

At the end of the period the children's melatonin levels had risen by an average of 30%. The increases were particularly marked in the youngest children.

Alessandra Graziottin, director of the Centre for Gynecology and Medical Sexology in Milan and a former president of the International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health, said the results were "very interesting and plausible".

She told reporters: "Studies in the US have shown that the greater the exposure to television the greater the number of early sexual experiences, including teen pregnancies."

Melatonin is known to have an influence on sleep patterns. But whether it also determines the onset of puberty is still a subject of research and debate. The Florence University scientists said they were planning a joint study with US researchers aimed at putting an end to the uncertainty.

Dr Graziottin said the results could also help to explain another phenomenon of recent years. "Sleep disturbances, nightmares, difficulty in getting to sleep and so on, are ever more common among children. Melatonin has a role in this area too and it is quite possible there is a link with exposure to television."

Setting up the experiment had not been easy, Mr. Tarquini said. "Some of the parents and grandparents were frightened. They didn't know how they were going to keep the children occupied without television."

Some of the younger children were reported to have cried when their TV was removed, but the mayor of Cavriglia, Enzo Brogi, presented each child with a book and board game, which seems to have helped.

Parents organized card games, ball games and fishing expeditions. They encouraged their children to listen more to the radio and arranged a collective reading of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince. The experiment ended on May 16 with a midnight ceremony in which the mayor symbolically smashed a television set in the town square.

The Ansa news agency quoted one of the children as saying seven days was not enough for all the activities that had been planned.

However, newspapers reported that the activities also included simulations of well-known TV quiz shows.

"Piccoli bastardi!" Now this is a big problem because we know Italy is not ready to deal with kids reaching puberty at the age of seven!

Can you imagine Italian seven year olds:
- shaving and trimming their sideburns?
- drinking grappa and wine?
- wearing little Armani suits?
- speeding around with their little girlfriends on 'Vespas'?

So, basically what these Italian scientists are trying to say is that as long as parents keep children away from TVs, computers, artificial light and radiation, puberty won't set in as fast.

Hmmm... The most interesting part of the article is the mention of Italian parents "organizing card games, ball games and fishing expeditions" to distract kids from television. Watching them having nervous breakdowns from organizing these events is definitely more entertaining than any reality TV.

It would be less challenging for them to repaint the Sistine Chapel.


Cell Phone Soaps Are Ready For a Close-Up

Rome - June 17, 2004 - Before there were soap operas on television in Italy, there was the photo-romance, "fotoromanzo," a soap in comic book form where love, lust and betrayal unfolded at one's own reading pace. The photo-romance invented in Italy boomed for two decades after World War II, before readers turned to the lustier loves of television.

Now, in the age of advanced technology and cellular telecommunications, Italian daytime drama is just a mouse click away. Lancio, the publishing house that is to photo-romances what Marvel is to U.S. comics, has adapted to keep up with the times.

"It's called mobile fiction, love stories on the phone," said Fernando Mercurio, one of four brothers who own Lancio. Mercurio said that the stories are downloaded from Web sites to cellular phones that use i-mode technology at a modest fee, 10 cents an episode. "And the pictures are nice."

As in the print version, the characters popping up on cell phone screens will speak without opening their mouths, stare off into the distance a lot and strike poses reminiscent of underwear models.

And for all the promise of passion, sex will only be hinted at, never ever seen.

"O.K., so now two unmarried people can sleep together, but it's a big leap from there to showing what happens in the bedroom," said Silvana Strizioli, one of the producers at Lancio. "Sex and the City" it isn't.

Strizioli stood behind a silver reflector, while lights flooded a miniature set made up to look like a living room where a woman and two men were having a surreal argument. They moved slowly, as though under water, and if bitter words were exchanged, they weren't heard.

Pier Paolo Marchetti, the director of this scene, explained that when shooting these stills, the camera had to be constantly in motion, capturing different angles, while the actors, who know the story line but don't have a script, had to emote without knowing what they would be saying. "It's very complicated," Marchetti said.

He spoke during a pause in the shooting so that a false tear could be applied to the cheek of an actress, Valentina d'Urbano. She was new to the job, selected through one of the regular casting calls Lancio holds. But most cast members are old hands and the fan base wants it that way.

Lancio has a very give-and-take relationship with its fans, who tend to be the show's harshest critics. "Sometimes stories are too slow or insipid, and sometimes the stories are too similar to plots they've had before," said Luca Sigismondo, a die-hard aficionado who says he has collected every Lancio title since 1966. "But they're very open to criticism. They'll accept and correct."

Since the genre was born in 1946, when the family-run publisher came out with "Grand Hotel," photo-romances have been credited with everything from spreading literacy - many classics like "Tess of the d'Urbervilles," "Anna Karenina" and "Romeo and Juliet" were adapted to still-picture form - to modernizing the country that emerged battered from World War II.

Anna Bravo, a social historian, says in her 2003 book "Il Fotoromanzo" that these magazines, widely available and easy to read, also presented a social model and a consumer-based image of postwar Italy that many Italians quickly aspired to. "More than mirroring Italian society, they helped to create Italian identity," Bravo said in a telephone interview. "Remember that postwar Italy was still rural, traditional and morally conservative, and the magazines became one path toward modernization."

Because of the Everyman quality of the genre, the sets tend to be simple. At Lancio, on the outskirts of Rome on Via Tiburtina, there's a large warehouse divided up into dozens of tiny rooms that continually metamorphose into new environments.

Although artists are now hailing the photo-romance as a pop culture phenomenon, the genre has been losing steam with mainstream viewers.

Long gone are the days when talking heads sold millions of copies each month. According to Bravo's book, in 1965 there were 73 magazines on the Italian market and translated versions were sold in the rest of Europe, Turkey, North Africa, French Canada and Latin America. In France, she writes, 12 million people were photo-romance aficionados by the mid-1960s, reading mostly Italian translations. Nous-Deux, which was launched in 1947 by the same family that came out with "Grand Hotel," is still publishing today, though gossip columns, interviews with celebrities and hard-boiled news stories have increasingly edged out photo love.

Lancio, which was selling about a million copies of each title every month (about 9 million copies in all) for a good part of the 1970s and early 1980s now averages around 150,000 per title. It still has Dutch, German, Spanish and French editions and sells rights to its romances in Brazil and several African countries, but it publishes far fewer titles than it used to.

"We emerged in a period when there was no private television. We had the right faces at the right time," said Lancio's Luisa Avena, describing long-ago mob scenes outside the Lancio studios, where fans clustered every day to get a glimpse of their photo idols. Many Italian film stars got their start in photo-romances, including Sophia Loren, Vittorio Gassman, Ornella Muti and many actors who went on to successful careers on Italian television.

Perhaps photo-romances never really managed to completely shake off a denigrating reputation of being "magazines for maids" and the onset of television and later new media did the rest to distract new readers.

But Lancio hopes the new i-fiction project launched last month will kindle interest in a new breed of loyal readers.

This is not mobile fiction. This is called "The Adventures of Too Much Free Time".

"Mamma Mia!" You can now watch lame Italian soap operas on your cell phone.

Do our readers understand that this is what brilliant Italian minds are inventing?
Is anyone reading this newsletter?
Do we have to start yelling out the window?

"Fantastico!" While artificial lights and radiation are crash-landing Italian kids into puberty, their mothers' skulls are thickening from watching the Italian version of "All My Children" on the phone.

Can't they invent a way to download a good Sicilian lasagna recipe on a cell phone or a reminder to go check on what your kids are destroying or hacking into?


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Third Annual Mosquito Hunt Tournament, ENPA Not Laughing

Torino - June 17, 2004 - "There are dozens of ways to fight boredom during summer. The mosquito hunt tournament must be the worst way to have fun". Giovanni Pallotti, the regional coordinator of Enpa (animal protection organization) in Piemonte, said this with regard to the announced third Italian male mosquito hunt tournament next Sunday in San Nazario Sesia near Novara.

"We want to press charges for animal abuse - said Pallotti - against all 'sportsmen' who will take part in this singular and ridiculous tournament". "It is a terrible event and the mayor should ban it. The prizes to be won are even worse: a donkey for the winner, a pig for the runner-up and a goose for third place".

Pallotti reckons the excuse that mosquito's "need to be eliminated because they irritate people" are unfounded. "People need to know - explained Pallotti - that the increase in the number of mosquito's in Italy can be ascribed to two factors: the increase in water flows and abandoned or manmade wet areas and the decrease of the number of birds who live on insects, killed by hunters or by those who plant trees without any criteria, killing thousands of birds in their nests".

"Porca Miseria!" As you can obviously see we're really bored! After all, how many times can one see the Sistine Chapel or Michelangelo's David? And coffee sipping in Italy takes 12 seconds.

The shocking part of the article is the "third Italian male mosquito hunt tournament". That means that no one was arrested after the first tournament.

Although you have to admit, the prizes are very interesting. Imagine a 12-year-old coming home with the runner-up prize hog.

So, when you have your family barbecue this weekend, send a thought out to us Italians having to choose from watching soap operas on cell phones or attending mosquito hunt tournaments for entertainment.


Julian - Julius Caesar's cousin
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