Sunday


Bats and Balls
By Mary Ann Sorrentino  (orig. pub. In the Keene Sentinel)

An article in the British magazine The Economist tells us about a scientific study done at Syracuse University in New York by Professor Scott Pitnick. Interestingly, researcher Pitnick was studying bats and the biological relationship between their testicles and their brains. ( Some readers are now asking, “Why?”)

Since many women have maintained for generations that men actually think with their, uhhh, testicles, the article had my attention. The premise of the research team is that a bat’s testicles would be larger in species where the females of that group were more promiscuous, and smaller when the females tended to limit their couplings.

The article went on to mention casually, as if we all knew a lot about such things, that:
“Greater promiscuity does, indeed, lead to bigger testes presumably because a male needs to make more sperm to have a fighting chance of fathering offspring, if those sperm are competing with a lot of other males.” This is fascinating since women are so often accused of ripping off those particular body parts, or “busting” them, as they say. Now we find out there is a legitimate scientific study that shows that we actually give men those things they love! More interesting, the naughtier we are, the bigger theirs get! It is only if we are prudish that they “shrink” to embarrassing miniatures.

Again from the article:
“Gorillas which discourage dalliances between other males and the females of their harems, have small testes. Chimpanzees, among whom females mate widely, have large ones.”

Then the addenda our curiosity has been waiting for:
“Human testes lie between these two extremes.”

This conjures a spectrum with King Kong on one end, J. Fred Muggs on the other, and your husband or boyfriend(s) -or both- somewhere in the middle.

The smallest bat testes were found among those whose females were monogamous.

Finally, the kicker:
“Brain size, by contrast…varied in the opposite direction.”

This means the bigger the testes, the smaller the brains. (Many women reading this column are now resting their case.)

This study is not likely to be nominated for a Nobel Prize, but it does give us something to ponder. The conclusion of the article said much more than anything I might add in summarizing the results of all this research referred to in the title as, “Bats and Balls”.

As the article ended, simply:
“…it is better to be virile and dim, than impotent and smart.”

But then again, a lot of us already knew that. Sleep tight King Kong: we now know you are much smarter than you look in those frontal nudity shots.


                                       _______________End__________ 

Wednesday

James Carville's GREAT Idea!



cartoon by Tony Hisgett and available from Wikimedia. (public domain)
Jan. 6, 2016

James Carville wonders (on Imus today)  why the Republicans don’t allow “open carry”
at their upcoming convention.  He says they are allowing guns in schools, churches and airports (in Mississippi) so why not at the GOP convention? He also suggests that the presence of guns will allow Republicans carrying guns to have an advantage at convincing supporters of rival candidates to vote instead for their favorite nominee. Finally Carville suggests that gun carrying conventioneers can use the falling balloons for target practice.

Something to think about.

Monday

Tuscany Discovered - July 2014



Like many of you, I had been to Florence many times. I even lived here for a year during my college days' Junior Year Abroad. During some of those visits, I had visited Fiesole, the mystical village high in the hills above Florence with its Roman amphitheater and breathtaking views.

I have seen Pisa with its leaning tower a half dozen times, and I have driven with my husband from Florence to Perugia in nearby Umbria, so we had been awed by what is in fact Tuscany, and Florence as its capital.

But the Tuscany countryside many of you know from films and books of recent years is an area we had not explored in detail -- until now.

Here are a few of the panoramas we would like to share with you.

First, San Gimignano with its many towers dating back to the first millennium. Buildings along its medieval streets were constructed anywhere from 1000 to 1400 and beyond.


The main square

  the beautiful residences beyond the square
An ancient castle still standing guard, with vines of caper plants pouring down its walls

After walking the whole town and soaking up its wonderful vibe, we stopped for a cold drink in the main square, listened to the medieval clock chime noon, then moved on to Siena, about 90 minutes away.


Siena is the home of the most authentic Italian language in all of Italy. It is also famous for its yearly Paglio - a horse race in its main conch-shaped square. The various neighborhood "Quarters" surround the square and each has its own flag and its own horse entered into this historic race. The men of Siena participate heartily (women have no role in the Paglio since Middle Age rules excluded them and that has never been changed.) The men still wear ancient costumes (or replicas of those) in the colors of their "Quarter."  The winning horse is allowed into the cathedral as a demonstration of the honor paid to that animal for winning the race. Never doubt that this isn't a VERY serious matter -- even today -- among the Sienesi. If a woman marries a man from another Quarter, on the day of the actual race she goes to her parents' home in her native Quarter not to participate in any way with her husband's rival territory!

Here are some images of lovely Siena:

 Siena's Main Square where the Paglio is held

The Medieval Costumes and Flags of one Quarter

This is a SERIOUS matter!!

We had a lovely lunch in Siena at a restaurant called "Le Sorelline" (The Little Sisters) which we HIGHLY recommend. All the pastas as well as the desserts are made fresh DAILY....the main courses were superb and the prices reasonable (party of 4, 90 Euros or about $120. total or $30. per person!)

Around 4 PM se said good-bye to Siena and headed through the breathtaking Tuscan countryside toward our last stop, Piensa...but I'll just let these images speak for themselves.



Looks like a post card, right??

Finally, the fairytale town of Pienza, one of the most well-kept, meticulously manicures towns I have ever visited.

Pienza's ancient gate with beautiful fresco scene in the arch



Typical Pienza side street



So we said farewell to breathtaking, Pienza hoping that


THESE two (on the side of Pienza's duomo)  will last as long as



                      


THESE TWO






uh..duhh..uh..duhh...That's All Folks!  (for now anyway)



Sunday

PSH - Always FLAWLESS

                                                                                 


Originally published: February 05 2014 01:00  in the Providence Journal

In the next little while, the media will be describing every possible angle of the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman’s life. He died Sunday — probably from an overdose. Hoffman had bravely told the world last year that he was losing his long battle with his drug addiction: He had fallen off the wagon and was headed for rehab — again.

As part of the post mortem, his films will be endlessly analyzed until the one-of-a-kind stamp Hoffman left on every role he played is blurred. People will recall his Oscar-winning best actor performance in “Capote” and the challenging electricity between him and Meryl Streep in “Doubt.” They will surely mention his last big movie, with the equally eccentric Joachim Phoenix, “The Master.”

Few will talk about my Hoffman favorite, a 1999 drama with romantic-comedy edges called “Flawless,” about an ultraconservative street-wise New Yorker (Robert DeNiro) who has a stroke and becomes dependent on his much-hated neighbor, a drag queen played beautifully by Hoffman. “Flawless” was made 15 years ago, when Hoffman was cleaner and more sober and DeNiro had not yet wasted his great talent by playing second banana to Billy Crystal.

One poster for “Flawless” showed a color portrait of Hoffman in drag and DeNiro at a piano. This final scene of the film, behind the rolling credits, shows the queen using musical notes, drilled over and over, for speech therapy for DeNiro. One copywriter added, “They couldn’t like each other less, or need each other more.”

Watching a bevy of drag queens and a tough, homophobic street guy bond is pure delight. The queens bringing comfort and gifts to the stroke victim is the mirror image of the scene in “Zorba” when the dying heroine lies helpless and unaware as shrieking Greek widows plunder her home.

As a movie buff, I have watched many of Hoffman’s films — some twice or more. Though he was real and mesmerizing, we loved him because he was like most of us — imperfect.

He wasn’t breathtaking, like Johnny Depp, or intense like Ben Affleck. He was not a great romantic lead like Montgomery Clift. Hoffman was just the person he was playing — perfectly. He was an average drag queen, a real one, not a rare hermaphroditic beauty like the Lady Chablis in “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” or Peter O’Toole, about whom Noel Coward noted they “would have had to call it Florence of Arabia” had the star been any more beautiful.

Philip Seymour Hoffman’s drag queen was, instead, your gay cousin from Pawtucket. He wasn’t a man you’d mistake for a beautiful woman, but a gay man, in drag, feminizing his aid to a bigot who might otherwise feel threatened by a nurse who was too much of a “guy.”
How brilliant.

Like millions of movie fans, I shall miss him, but I shall never forget him.
                                               ______________________

Mary Ann Sorrentino (thatmaryann@yahoo.com) writes from Cranston and Hillsboro Beach, Fla.

Tuesday

RIP JFK: A Half-Century Later, Johnny, We Hardly New You

__________________________________________________________________


The soft autumn dusk draped the city. Blocks from the Duomo in Tuscany's capital, I drank tea with a friend in Florence's Torricelli Café. Suddenly, the third member of our Junior Year Abroad trio bounded into the tearoom, breathless and teary. Leaning on our table to steady herself she blurted out, "The President's dead!"

That is how I learned that John F. Kennedy, prince of the Camelot America longed for, had been taken away by an assassin's bullet that instantly sent him into history.

On November 22, 1963, American students in Italy (for a year designed to shape our lives) stammered, wept, and held tight to each other, trying to stay grounded. A cocktail of emotions sped to our heads and our hearts, blurring the lines where grief began and shock ended; where fear started and overwhelming loss took control.

In those days before instant news, cell phones and internet connections, we made our way to Florence's main train station in Piazza Santa Maria Novella, hoping to find the Herald Tribune and details on our nightmare. Florentine pedestrians approached us to express condolences, as if we were Kennedy intimates. Many wept with us.

Florence then, as now, is a sophisticated capital of art and elegance. Its residents have been politically discrete and emotionally controlled for centuries. Tuscans are proud and reluctant to invade the emotional space of outsiders. Yet, on that cool fall night when Oswald's shot reverberated around the world, Americans clung to the comfort Florence offered-- its natives, like us, devastated by the loss of a young president who had personified hope for the future.

We were paralyzed in a dark and terrifying political void, missing the comfort of Kennedy's steadying presence-- a paralysis many of us still feel, a half-century later.

                                                    ____________

Saturday

Highland Beach Memories : When Life was Beautiful


Warwick’s Highland Beach epitomized the wholesome side of 1950’s America. Stay-at-home Moms devoted themselves to their families in airy homes with all the latest gadgets and comforts. Their husbands provided enough income for almost every want to be met and we children suspected even then that we were experiencing close-to-perfect childhoods.
Highland Beach came alive each summer on the bay front just north of Rocky Point. Our house on Burnett Road had a lawn about 30 feet deep that ended at a sea wall with steps bringing swimmers directly into the bay. A year-round garrison it had a sweeping porch facing Barrington’s Rumstick Point across the water. Similar homes stretched along the beach toward Longmeadow to our north, most occupied by families eager to enjoy a summer retreat. There were few year-rounders.
The mainly Italian-American residents had names like Pari, Zinno, Radoccia, Isacco, D’Arezzo, and Palmisciano forming one huge summer clan.  On beach days, children knew that if their own mothers were home cleaning or baking, the mothers with us were our overseers. We understood that we answered to and could be scolded by all and any of them. This insured against sassiness and, conversely, only added to our sense of well-being as we stared adulthood in the eye.
Our fathers returned each evening, weary from the hour-long drive from the hot city before Rt. 95. After a quick swim, they dined on the porch with the family. My mother often served pasta with littlenecks: she was a champion quahauger able to harvest dozens from the murky bay bottom in minutes. As summer waned, the sweetest corn from Morris Farms hit the table. For dessert there were sliced peaches in red wine. There was no rush to watch Fox news: better, there was no Fox news.
Offspring of hard-working immigrants, we were living the American dream and we knew it. Yet the traditions of our roots lived on.  Mothers swam on the feast of St. Ann (July 26) when that saint-- the mother of Mary and patron of mothers, grandmothers, homemakers and housewives-- traditionally bestowed blessings on the bather. I don’t remember any openly feminist women in the Highland Beach of my childhood, though I feel certain some there must have been planting those seeds, however subtly.
Newborns were baptized at St. Benedict’s Church in Conimicut where the dead were also remembered, and after-Mass feasts always included the traditional pastas, roasts and cakes our grandmothers had served. Even “hot dog roasts” relied heavily on Italian sausages lovingly brought to the beach house from the city’s Charles Street, Federal Hill or Silver Lake neighborhood shops by our commuting Dads. Fried zucchini flowers spilled off heaping platters, and homemade wine always materialized.
For us children it was paradise, with guardian angels around every corner. When I fell out of a tree at Carol Radoccia’s tenth birthday party, a host of Moms were at my side in seconds spewing ice cubes and comfort. On torrid days when none of us wanted to come out of the water, someone’s Mom would appear beachside with sandwiches and watermelon slices for whoever needed them. Elders who didn’t want us to understand what they were saying, would slip into the Neapolitan dialects of their parents. Drug problems and infidelities were never discussed in any language: In Washington, Senators McCarthy and Kefauver were busy taking care of anything that might be wrong with America.
Highland Beach was the place where most of us experienced our first cigarette, our first kiss and our first death. When, at sixteen, one beloved son died of Mediterranean anemia-- an affliction most of our parents had never heard of—he was waked, buried, mourned and remembered in the traditional ways which insured that, even now—a half-century later—his name still echoes in our hearts.
Highland Beach was the hothouse for the ethic which still lives in all who spent summers there.  In the stillness of late summer mornings, from my bed,  miles and a lifetime away from my room on Burnett Road, I sometimes still strain to hear the quahaugers’ voices being carried ashore on gentle low-tide waves.  And sometimes, I think I still hear my Mom downstairs in the kitchen baking a mulberry crostata with fruit from her neighbor’s bayside garden.
Having returned many times to my father’s and grandfathers’ beloved island of Ischia in Italy’s Mediterranean, I appreciate why my Dad loved Highland Beach so much, and can still hear him whispering-- as he often did, relishing HIS Highland Beach-- “Che meraviglia!”  (“What a marvel!”)
And that it was.               

                                                     Winter visit to Highland Beach, circa 1946 

This piece originally was published in the Providence Journal 8-4-2013
 

Mary Ann Sorrentino

Mary Ann Sorrentino
Italy Series of articles runs Aug./Sept/Oct 2015

Hope for the Future: Uruguay 2007

Hope for the Future: Uruguay 2007
Happy New Year!

About Me

Hillsboro Beach, FL/ Cranston, RI, United States

"JOACHIM" - Oct. '92-March '08

"JOACHIM"  - Oct. '92-March '08
We Miss You, and Love You, Good Dog

Castel Del Monte

Castel Del Monte