Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Io non capisco la bunga, bunga. (I don't understand bunga, bunga)

The big story here since we arrived is another scandal by the allegedly depraved Prime Minister of Italy, Silvio Berlusconi.  The scandal, referred in the press as “il caso Ruby” features a 17 year old Moroccan exotic dancer with the show name, Ruby Rubacuore  (her name is translated "heart stealer" but Fausto calls her Ruby Rubasoldi, or money stealer) who allegedly participated in “bunga bunga “ parties with Silvio and his buddies (who include Putin and Kaddafi) with underage prostitutes, and lots of drugs.  (La Repubblica reports cocaine; Fausto adds “e multo Viagra!”)

 Bear in mind, this is a man who has been indicted at least 12 times.  He’s always been able to beat the rap, and when not, was able to change the law and legislate his immunity.

You hear a lot of cynical young people refer to their society and its government as a  “gerontacracy.”  It’s hard to dispute this:  Berlusconi, the Prime Minister is 74+, and the President of the Italian Senate, Napolitano is 90.   I like Berlusconi’s full title: il Presidente del Consiglio dei Ministri della Repubblica Italiana, although he's often referred to by his nickname. Il Cavaliere. I asked Valter to compile a list of nicknames.  Here's what he sent me (untranslated):

Ecco i soprannomi di Silvio Berlusconi più divertenti :

- Burlesquoni: in omaggio alla sua goliardia
- Cavaliere Mascarato: perché l'immagine è la prima cosa per lui (copy: Striscia la Notizia)
- Sua Emittenza: a causa di Mediaset
- Bellachioma (copy: Marco Travaglio)
- Testa d'Asfalto (copy: Beppe Grillo)
- Psiconano (copy: Beppe Grillo)
- Er Catrame, sempre per la capigliatura immobile frutto del celeberrimo trapianto
- Nanefrottolo, per chi vuol mettere in dubbio la sua credibilità
- Al Tappone, da quando s'è messo in testa il panama bianco. Il riferimento ad Al Capone è chiarissimo (copy: Marco Travaglio)
- Il Caimano, dal celebre film di Nanni Moretti
- Il Cainano, parodia della pellicola di cui sopra
- Bandanano, riferito a quando ricevette Tony Blair e moglie, in Sardegna, con in testa una bandana bianca
- Silviolo

A little nip, a little tuck,
and molto hair plugs -
before and after.

(My own favorites are the two coined by political satirist, Bepe Grillo.  "Testa d'Asfalto" or asphalt head, and "Psiconano" or psycho-dwarf.)

Berlusconi owns most private TV stations and, of course, can influence the public ones. In addition, he owns newspapers, magazines, and Mondadori, Italy’s largest publishing house.  Over the past several decades, he has managed, thereby to shape the popular culture, especially its portrayal of women, replicating his predelictions on a grand cultural scale. For a serious account of psiconano's influence, see  Barbie Nadeau's perceptive article "Bunga Bunga Nation".

My research revealed that the first recorded use of the expression “bunga, bunga” goes back to 1910 and the long-forgotten “Dreadnought Hoax” the brainchild of Horace de Vere Cole, perpertrated by Cole and a small group of Bloomsbury smarty pants.  The group, which included Virginia Woolf with a false beard – see picture, she’s on the left – posed as a group of Abbyssinan princes on a state visit to  England, and managed to get a tour of the great battleship, HMS Dreadnought.  Where they were greeted by the flag and national anthem of Zanzibar – who knew?  As they inspected the ship, the princes would express their approval by nodding and exclaiming, yes “Bunga, Bunga!”
The current scandal is celebrated by an inane pop songby a weird, but musically respected, group known as “Elio e le storie tese” (Elio and the tense stories) whose brand of “dementia rock” is influenced by Frank Zappa and the dada pranks of the situationist artists.   The song itself is both a comment on Berlusconi’s behavior and I’ve learned a parody of a song called “Waka, Waka” by Shakira.  (How do you parody a song called “Waka, Waka”? )  

Next few posts:  So what?

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