fpb: (Athena of Pireus)
I don't understand this. There is an American conservative I know who has considerable stores of intellectual honesty, learning and understanding. I like him and I appreciate debates with him, even when they get tetchy, because he understands what facts are and has a good store of them. But for some reason his LJ seems to draw the very dregs of conservatism. For the second time I have felt forced to defriend him, not because of anything he said or did, but because of the hideous crew to be met in his comments threads. To make a comparison, he is rather less extreme and arrogant than [livejournal.com profile] johncwright, but his comments threads are consistently less interesting, because his f-list is a roster of intellectual thugs who share neither his learning nor his decency - whereas [profile] johncwright seems to attract a reassuring amount of independent and argumentative minds. And that is what really stumps me. He is an upright person. Why can't he see that many of them are no better than online thugs? Does belonging to the same party necessarily have to blind you to the wrongs of others? I don't think so, but I can't see any other reason why some kinds of filth appear in the company of gentlemen.
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A person who was on my friends list made me the offensive "gift" of an "I stand with Planned Parenthood" tag. The only occasion I would stand with Planned Parenthood would be if I were a cop and I had the pleasure to take the members of that murderous organization to jail. I defriended the person concerned.
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Some damned fanatic went and added some insults (and no intelligent response) to a post I made FOUR YEARS AGO and which some other filth had, at the time, mischaracterized as racist. Lies never die, especially when people have an interest in believing, and are too stupid to work up a coherent response other than that which other and more wicked hands have prepared for them. I may be getting old, but I have no mind to try and convince the moron in question of his folly, and so I banned him and screened the article in question. I have to say that that "bullying be gone" community that the Livejournal creeps are pushing so hard - in the intervals of trying to make us give our money to Planned Parenthood, who don't need it - is a bad joke. The Internet is the biggest field for cowardly bullying there is, and there is nothing anyone can do about it.
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What with the post in Facebook and this, the Almighty must have found Himself positively pestered on my behalf by good people. Thank you and God bless you, every one.
I have been to see the doctor. The bad news is that the wound is infected again and that, to make matters worse, I've got dermatitis. The good news is that he took the matter quite seriously, as I hoped he would, put me back on antibiotics (and a cream for the dermatitis) and put in an application for me to be seen by a specialist wounds clinic. That was exactly what I wanted and I hope things may improve from now on. Again thanks to everyone - and I can still do with your prayers, whether or not I have done anything to deserve them. It's good to have friends.
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...is filling in forms. ("How much can I get away with telling them? What am I supposed to say here so they won't bin my claim?") And all of today I won't be doing anything else.
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...is to struggle to try and re-install Windows XP on a computer you suspect but do not know to be broken. So far I'm being led all sorts of a dance without actually achieving an installed OS.
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Teal Terror, you can post on my LJ as Anonymous. The comments will remain screened (invisible to anyone except me) until I unscreen them or comment on them. From what I've seen, that is not something that should worry you. One thing only: I suspect we are on different time fuses. The last time we debated, I was having a sleepless night, which is unlikely to happen regularly. So I may take some time ro respond to something you said, and I apologize in advance.

-----------------------------------------------

My first point is that when I make a comment I don't look for responses, and most often I don't get them. If my comment dissents from something or someone, I make it in order to place my dissent on the record. Of course my dissent is worth the same as my assent - that is, precisely nothing. I am not a judge, not a rich man, not a politician or a columnist or a celebrity. I have nothing to offer except my consent or dissent. However, being a free man, I reserve the right to offer them.

If you respond, however, you must be prepared for a tilt with men. As far as I am concerned, debate is a serious thing, because ideas are serious matters. Nothing could possibly be more serious. Ideas kill people.

Ideas kill people. I grew up in a place and time when they were killing them in great numbers and in front of everyone's eyes - Italy, the seventies: the golden age of terrorists, many of whose worst crimes are still unpunished (and some of which have been certainly punished on the wrong person). If anyone thinks I am too ferocious in attacking, say, the notion of inevitable national doom - which is a chickenshit evasion from personal and group responsibility - or the idea of inventing religions to fit this or that notion of what would be good for society at large, I suggest that they first stop and think whether there is nothing about such notions that would lead people to justifying the shedding of blood. Of course, if you think bloodshed in the service of an idea or "right" or "future" or "quality of life" or any other reason whatsoever is ever justified, then there is nothing more to say. Thou shalt not murder, says my God. Yours, or whatever you may take for God, may say otherwise, in which case our most likely meeting is on the battlefield.

In the second case, the case of inventing religions to fit, I have a still more personal reason to loathe it. There is, everyone knows, a well-known modern religion that was invented by a science fiction writer purely for his own ends. I have been near it as I have been near Fascism, Nazism, Communism, and one or two other murderous cults; I have seen its results from close-up, as I have seen the results of paedophilia, physical and mental child abuse, organized rape, Mafia, dope addiction, and alcoholism; and I have no hesitation in saying that it is the most evil thing I have ever met. If it killed smaller amounts than the rest, it is because it is so far, God be thanked, smaller in reach and power; but I can tell you from having seen it with my own two eyes, that they managed, and managed routinely, what only the fevered and terrified imagination of a West staggered by Communist power could ascribe to Communism - brainwashing. It's what they do. They regularly brainwash human beings, destroying and rearranging their minds. I have seen this, I have had to help save one of their victims, and I hope I never have to do it again, because I never want to see again anything so evil. And that is an inevitable result of the notion of creating religions to fit certain purposes, because it amounts to intruding from outside on human minds to reframe the very frame of their thoughts. Religion shapes thoughts; a religion dedicated not to its own purposes, but having its supposed purposes designed purely to shape the thoughts of the faithful, will do exactly that, and do so with an instinctive efficiency, an innate ability to go for the most damaging strategy of demolition, that would stagger anyone who did not know of it. You, of course, could not know I'd had that experience; but to imagine that I get angry at ideas for some strange bizarre vice of my own - that I enjoy it or something - does not do honour to your imagination.

My comment about trying desperately to respect, etcaetera, was based on the point from which I started: that I neither demand nor expect a reaction from anyone to anything I publish. The only thing I want to do with it is do my free man's office of recording my view, especially when it is in disagreement with something. The only thing I really want is to make it known to anyone who'd made the statement, not so much that I disagree - that means nothing - as that disagreement exists, that it is possible to take a different view. I simply want their and their readers' attention brought to that. But, f someone resolves to take it on, then I expect them to play the game according to the rules: answer questions, avoid the infantile strategy of sneering and pretending that something is beyond the reach of intelligence (that only proves that it is beyond the reach of yours) and defend your views like a man. When that fails to happen, I may, according to how and to what extent it fails to happen, be angry or disappointed; but I will be twice as disappointed if the person who behaves so foolishly also and at the same time happens to be the author not only of some of the most judicious and valuable reviews I have read in a long time (and I am a great lover of reviewing and of criticism as literary forms), but also the onlie begetter of some of the most beautiful, valuable and vital fiction to have yet been written in this new century.

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There is still another point I want to make to [livejournal.com profile] inverarity in particular. You have missed something utterly fundamental. Reflect on the different treatments I gave to Teal Terror and to a certain friend of yours with a fox-based name. Think on their different results and reasons.

Virus

Aug. 1st, 2010 06:35 pm
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I got a horrendous virus last night and I had to reformat and rewrite my whole hard drive. I had of course saved everything I could think of on external hard drives, but I only realized after starting work that I had lost all my favourites/bookmarks. And it took me hours just to get the machine restarted and properly online. Still, it could have been a Hell of a lot worse.
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What do you do when the Livejournal of one of your best friends on the net - in this case, [personal profile] dustthouart - hosts a person whose every feature you loathe, but who happens to be a childhood friend of your friend? I like and admire [profile] user, but I had to defriend her rather than having to do with this person again. This is something I have been forced to do only once before, and It makes me feel frustrated, angry and depressed.
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I understand being banned from the LJs of people whom I have called fifty kinds of scoundrel and whose mental deficiencies I have analyzed at length. And I can, with a little effort, understand the people who have been the innocent witnesses of arguments in their comments pages. But why on the face of God's green Earth should I be banned from the LJ of someone with whom I have never quarrelled, in none of whose comments pages I have been rude to anyone, and - to cap everything - whom I have repeatedly described as both vastly talented and luminously beautiful? Should I have implied that she looks like a hag? Only that would happen not to be true...

Swine

Jun. 29th, 2008 07:04 am
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The husband of a friend of mine has asked for a divorce just as she is beginning to cope with a long-term illness. I say, what part of "for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part" did he not understand?

This sort of thing makes me understand why "traditore" and "vigliacco" ("traitor" and "coward") have long been the two worst insults in the Italian language.
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...has been awful. My computers have gone, replaced by an uncertain and virus-ridden item which three sweeps of AVG have not managed to altogether clean out. The rest has not been much better. Gawd, I need a friend. How's the market in huggles looking?

(I also need a few hundred pounds and/or a new laptop, but this is not the place to find them, I guess. Besides, huggles are nicer.)

Disaster

Nov. 22nd, 2006 07:20 pm
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My software went and I had to rebuild it, losing in the process every bit of memory in my computer. Luckily, most of my research work and personal archives are safe on another computer and a lot of discs, but I lost every bit of my libraries and everything else in it. I am not happy, obviously.
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There are at least half a dozen people in cyberspace whom I have felt forced, at various times, to defriend: [personal profile] kennahijja, [personal profile] threeoranges, [profile] _redux, [profile] webbapettigrew, [profile] curia_regis, and now [personal profile] ani_bester. This is a subset of the much larger grouping ot people whom I defriended or got defriended by; but a subset with an important difference. I do not feel particularly bad about defriending or being defriended by the likes of [personal profile] rhiannonmr, [profile] straussmonster, [profile] theregoesyamum or [profile] ariss_tenoh. These are people in whom I was decidedly mistaken, and who revealed some very negative qualities - incontrollable and selfish rudeness, hysteria, duplicity, mendacity, to name a few - in the course of our acquaintance; revealed them with a sort of naive simplicity that makes me feel that, in losing them, I lose a lot less than I thought I had.

This, of course, is my view, and my feeling. If someone wants to write to me and say that one of the people I mentioned - or even anyone I did not - is a wonderful person and a true friend, I will not argue. She may be, to you. To me, she has shown attitudes I reject. You may be glad and grateful of her friendship - I am glad and grateful I escaped it. There is no point debating the matter.

But in the case of the subset, things are different. These are people whom, as human beings, I like, often whom I admire. I am on record no more than a couple of dozen times calling [personal profile] kennahijja a genius, and she also has a great deal of native sweetness and lovability. [personal profile] ani_bester once blushed because of the way I described her; for [profile] _redux I wrote a praise poem. [personal profile] threeoranges was once helpful to me personally in a way I had no right to expect, and for which I certainly did not ask. [profile] curia_regis sought my friendship and got it over more than a year. And I put in a semi-serious demand that my friends should go and encourage [profile] webbapettigrew when she felt that her dreams of becoming a professional writer were turning to dust, because I had a high opinion of her. These are good people, people of natural quality and distinction, people one would be proud to know. And yet, not only have I broken with them, but I have been thinking and thinking, and I honestly cannot see any way to mend the breach unless one of us alters fundamentally.

There are few things I resent more than the charge that I de-friend people I disagree with; and in most cases, de-friendings and bannings have been over matters of misbehaviour, insults, or, even worse, the abuse of people and things I love. I do not regret those things in the least. But there can be no doubt that in the case of these six - and perhaps of one or two more that I cannot remember right now - the issue at hand was ideological. I do not deny that in a couple of cases, behaviour had something to do with it; the hysteria of [personal profile] threeoranges towards the end of our final IM debate, which led me to delete the whole thing, and the arrogant condescension of [personal profile] kennahijja when I was trying to set her right about my reasons to do something, are things I do not like to remember. But with them and all the others, the issue is ideological. I defriended [profile] webbapettigrew, [profile] curia_regis and [profile] _redux over their support of various kinds of murder - euthanasia, partial-birth abortion; [personal profile] kennahijja over her nihilistic relativism, that denied the very possibility that someone might take a view just because he thought it right; and [personal profile] threeoranges and [personal profile] ani_bester, not so much for their support of "gay marriage", as for the assumption that anyone who disagreed with them on the matter was, to use the elegant vernacular, "batshit insane".

This clarified my mind. All my defriendings fell into two fundamental categories. The first three supported what I regard as murder. There the objection is immediate and fundamental: I will not even argue that there can be any reason that justifies euthanasia or partial-birth abortion. The tone did not matter; [profile] curia_regis was angry and disappointed because she did not feel she had been particularly provocative or aggressive. She does not realize, poor woman, that, if anything, her dismissive tone - as of anything too obvious and simple to need defending - revolted me even more than an aggressive assertion would have. On the primacy of the right to life, I do not accept argument. In the case of the other three, however, it was not so much the argument, as the attitude, that repelled me. [personal profile] kennahijja's calm and unquestioning acceptance of the revolting notion that people only argue because of personal desires or interests - and that therefore the important thing in argument is not to answer your opponent's points but to detect his/her bias and then nail it, so as to disqualify his/her reason to argue - makes, in my view, any further argument with her impossible. How can you argue anything with someone who is always on the look-out for your secondary and irrational reasons for your arguments? And by the same token, I am always disposed to argue on all things to do with sex; it is not I, but [personal profile] threeoranges and [personal profile] ani_bester, who start from the principle that anyone who disagrees with them on "gay marriage" is ipso facto "batshit insane".

In other words, here we have the duo that Socrates denounced long ago: hatred of argument - misology - and hatred of humanity - misanthropy. The one, in his view, led to the other. But I do not have to demonstrate that misology leads to misanthropy here; all I am saying is that this is the point where I instinctively feel I cannot go on with someone, that there is not enough in common. All these defriendings have been instinctive, done on the basis of immediate unthinking revulsion; and it is just now, reflecting on them, that I have understood what they have in common. What made a breach inevitable even with people I like and admire, is that they either showed toleration for murder, that is implicit rejection for human life, or else an irrational refusal to defend their views and argue according to reason. Of course, none of these ladies will recognize any such thing in them. Those who threw off the very attempt to build a rational argument, will say that they did so because they were impelled by love, rather than hate, of at least one group of human beings, namely homosexuals. And those who support murder have been taught from the cradle to identify humanity with happiness, so that the status of someone senile or in inescapable pain - or of an as yet undeveloped human being, a foetus - strikes them as not human at all, and therefore not deserving of love or protection. That is how they no doubt perceive their position; but, to me, it is a position for the killing of human beings.

I also feel that the peculiar nature of online friendships have something to do with this. It is a wonderful thing that online we meet as much of each other's minds, and as little of anything else, as possible. We meet as debating, talking, thinking, narrating, joking, inventive minds. In real life, to make friends with the likes of [personal profile] kikei or [profile] goreism would have been all but impossible. But, by the same token, we are a great deal more exposed to each other's basic views and attitudes than we would be in real life, and a lot less protected against them. Also, everything we place on our LJs is there for years, perhaps for life. Every time I were to revisit my friends page, I would find pages written in the name of views or attitudes I detest. That, as much as anything, made defriending over such matters inevitable.

I have neither f-locked nor lj-cut this article, because I want it as accessible as possible. And that not only because my reasons to take such serious steps should be clear, but also to put on record, and in no uncertain terms, that defriending these persons, at least, implies no change in my high esteem for them. I still regard them as fine people. I still am at their disposal in the unlikely case that they might need any help or anything at all from me. I may still lurk on their LJ from time to time, to see what is going on. I do not approve of certain of their ideas or attitudes, but I still am glad for having known them.
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I don't know. I just cannot seem to stay out of trouble. Time and time again, I encounter viewpoints, even among friends, that I have discarded with contempt long ago - if I ever accepted them at all - and which seem to me to violate all common sense and even basic fairness. And yet they are not only kept, but entertained and fed and honoured like sacred cows. And then there is a kerfuffle.

Case in point. I am reading recent postings from my f-list. One person has an entry in her LJ that seems to want to do nothing more than bash Ann Coulter. Fair enough, I don't much like her either, and I said so before. But this person does not seem to want to even understand whatever it is that Coulter is saying; just because it is like nothing she ever heard before, therefore it is condemned. It is unlike what I and my friends say. I never heard anyone talk like that. Therefore it is wrong, and, what is more, ridiculous. I have no need to understand it - just laugh at it, because she thinks and acts differently from the way my friends and I think and act.

Now, obviously, that sets me off. It is one thing to say that Coulter is ill-tempered, self-satisfied and very poor at arguing; it is one thing to take her points and dismantle them, or point out that she herself does not understand them; or even moderately approve some, with the proviso that her personality and her poor arguing skill make even those moments unloveable. And it is another, quite another, to ask whether "she even means" what she has spent a lifetime and several books to say; as if her ideas were such strange and uncouth things, that no ordinary human could ever contemplate such things. Of course she means it; and just because nobody from your own small circle ever says such things except in derision, it does not mean that they cannot be said and thought by intelligent and honest people. And you are too young to realize it, my friend, but it is you who, by treating ideas not as something to be discussed and refused, but as ordure that decent people do not dirty their hands with, are being dishonest.

Then someone else posts on the subject of JKR getting an award, and finds herself unhappy because JKR is not really that important. And why is she not important? Because she is not clever or original, and because she is successful. At which point I lose it completely. If there is one prejudice I utterly loathe, one false and prevalent idea that seems to me to stand near the core of all the poisonous and evil things that have happened to our culture since the beginning of the twentieth century, it is this crass and totally false opposition between popular and deserving. What underlies it is simple contempt for human beings; because the majority of human beings like something, therefore we have to assume that it is bad. The majority is bad in its tastes, its passions, its political and religious views, its artistic attitudes. If you cannot hear in these assumptions the murderous sound of self-satisfied elites resolving to treat the masses as mere vile bodies on which to practice their own political and intellectual views, in other words, if you do not hear the sound of the crimes and massacres of the twentieth century, you are not listening hard enough. And far from the multitude's tastes being automatically bad, nearly the reverse is true. Almost every one of the really supremely great artists and writers, with the single exception of J.S.Bach, was a huge hit in his or her time. Sappho became famous from one end of Greece to the other. Aeschylus, Sophocles, Eurypides, won dozens of theatre competitions judged by ordinary Athenians. Virgil, who was shy, had to duck into doorways to dodge his fans. Thomas Aquinas received letters on the most absurd questions from all corners of Europe. (One asked whether there really was a Book written up in Heaven with all the good and bad deeds in the lives of men; Aquinas answered, with typical patience, that as far as he could see it was not so, but that the idea could be entertained without damage.) Dante heard his own verses read by literate peasants and workers to their illiterate friends. Shakespeare was so successful that he was able to retire in his forties and buy the largest house in his native village. Cervantes, Moliere, Racine, were stars in their lifetimes. Voltaire's works were read as soon as published from one end of Europe to the other. Goethe spent most of his life being treated as the greatest living poet; not only Beethoven, but Napoleon too, made a point of meeting him - and in each case the meeting had something of a State occasion. Dickens was as popular as JKR, and, as in her case, bookshops had to open at midnight to accommodate eager fans. And the same is true in the other arts. Hell, when Michelangelo completed the Sistine Chapel ceiling, the populace of Rome were let in, and they went in an admiring and enthusiastic procession that lasted for weeks. The only thing as poisonous as the belief that popular equals bad is the absurd overrating of cleverness and originality. The greatest writers are only original in so far as they discover, or rediscover, an universal experience. But we have to deny their claim to greatness, which that every man and woman can see their greatness, in order to flatter a cancerous little presumption that only what the select few like is good - and, by our own singular fortune, we are among the selected few. Can you see why this kind of attitude makes me sick?

And yet... here are two more people, indeed considerably more, with whom I am likely to clash.
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The cyber-stalking note referred to in my previous post turned up as the cherry on the cake of one of the most miserable days I had in months. As you know, I have been moving my books out of storage and into my flat. This, as a rule, involves a couple of daily journeys to the storage warehouse - which is a long way away - with a suitcase or a trolley.

Well, to begin with, it was freezing cold. And I really mean freezing cold: a street indicator in Stratford gave a temperature of one degree centigrade above zero. And it rained. And rained and rained and rained - with the kind of drippy obstinacy only England knows, and that has made the English climate a by-word throughout the world. So... on my way to the warehouse, the bus before mine broke down, stopping the road. We all had to get off and walk to a different stop and... stand there in the freezing rain... waiting for another bus. As I got to the warehouse, the rain seemed to stop; so I made up my mind to use the trolley (which allows me to carry greater weights - rather than the suitcase - that is waterproof.

So, of course, by the time I got out of the warehouse, it was raining again.

In Stratford, the inevitable happened: the larger of the two boxes broke, scattering old, valuable and beloved comic books into the mud and driving rain. I do not even want to think of what happened; it just so happened that the books that fell included some of my all-time favourites - The death of Captain Marvel by Jim Starlin, two bound collections of the original Dan Dare comics by Frank Hampson, several Perishers by Dodd and Collins, and so on and so forth and so following... all ruined, and incidentally made valueless (not that I would ever have considered selling them). After the disaster had taken place, some twerp came along and told me, do you know that your box is torn there? I will not repeat my answer, but I think the whole borough heard it clearly.

So there I was in Stratford station, with two drenched and collapsing boxes full of beloved and valuable material. There was only one thing I could do: I caught a taxi - money down the drain - and had myself and my wet property taken straight back to the warehouse, where I ripped up what was left of the torn box and left the comics to dry on some shelves which I also have warehoused there till I take them back. By this time, my heart was in my boots and my mood somewhere beneath Mount Vesuvius; but luckily, the suitcase I should have used before was there waiting to be used, and I filled it up and went home...

...on the way back, the bus I was on caught fire...

...the next one I boarded was carrying a man in the last stages of intoxication, who spent all my time there yelling about Jamaica, and was working himself up to what looked like violence when I reached my stop...

...the final bus would never come. It was after six in the evening, and eight hours after I had set out from home, that I came back - only to find that, contrary to my normal practice, I had left heating and light on while I was away, wasting them.

It was while I was in this mood that I found the cyber-stalker's most recent note in my e-mail.
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The phone engineer was supposed to come today to start my phone line.

Did not turn up.

Still no phone line.

Sorry.
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There are very few sadder things than to lose a friend. My post on Monday caused a breach with a person that I care for greatly, and that unfortunately looks very much like being permanent. It hurts, and I spend my time wondering whether there is anything that I could have done differently, but I doubt it.
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If I were to state in public - not my opinion, for that is too weak a word - but what has increasingly presented itself before my eyes as true, what I have thought upon all my life and drawn from all that I have done and felt and seen, what the whole world I have lived in has convinced me of - my view of what is true and what is false - I would lose half my friends. I would inevitably fall out with people I care for, whose happiness is important to me, people whom I cannot help but love, for whose kindness and talent I have nothing but admiration and gratitude. In order to keep their friendship, which I value, I have made dozens of tiny compromises, consented in millions of small ways to a view of the world which I know to be wrong - know from personal experience; I have violated my integrity in many ways.

Anyone who says that friends like that are not worth having does not understand what is at issue here. First, they are very much worth having: kind, talented, warm-hearted people, people whose presence would enrich anyone's life. They are not forcing their viewpoint on me; anyone who does that will find that I am not short of weapons. People who try to use force do not get far with yours truly. That is not the problem. What forces me to live with a viewpoint that I regard as wrong is that it is held by people whom I regard as precious. And who will never have any doubts about their view, because it is the commonplace view in their generation. And not only is this viewpoint prevalent, but it is fundamental in its claims about human personhood. On it hangs their sense of self,`their view of the world, of human society, and of their place in history.

I cannot say to them, it is not my place to say to them, "your view of yourself is mistaken". Great poets such as Euripides can stage such a statement - "You do not know your life, nor what you are"; but would they have said it to their own friends? I doubt it. I know that I cannot; not just because I feel fairly sure that I would get nowhere with any of these people, but also because, while I am convinced of the truth of what I believe, I do not believe that I am the right person to state it. If we started work on all the faults that my friends have to put up with, we would be here till Monday week. I have no moral authority of any sort and, as I love and care for my friends, I do not want to make them unhappy either (nor face them with undesirable choices). So... "But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue!"

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