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How do you know that you've had a great time with someone? When it's only half an hour after you leave them that you realize that you're tired and cold. I went to see my half-sister Carlotta in Cambridge, and the time just flew. She's a lovely person, physically and mentally, and we found that we had no end of things to talk about. We even have the same research interests.
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All right, let's do this another way.

Last week, on Thursday morning, I set out for Canterbury.
Read more... )
(First part - to be continued)
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Sometimes you have to laugh. More than twenty years ago, I wrote a paper for the Social Anthropology course at SOAS, arguing that the Carolingian Empire was not a "state" in the sense we understand it, but rather a kind of military occupation of the territory with minimal administrative features. The paper was well received, but no more. Now I am reading "State and Society in the early Middle Ages" by Matthew Innes, published in 2000 - ten years later. It argues pretty much the same thing and it is presented as groundbreaking and novel. I wonder if anyone would have noticed if my paper had been presented not to Social Anthro, but to History.
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1. What bill do you hate paying the most?
What, there are any you line? But seriously, gas and electricity have been obscene and make me have murderous thoughts about directors, shareholders and privatizers.

2. Where was the last place you had a romantic dinner?
My old shared home in Leyton, actually.

3. What do you really want to be doing right now?
Write a passionate panegyric for a man who's been dead a quarter of a century. What do you do when you find out that a man who was so far above you that you had to bend your neck to look up at him has seriously done you a major kindness, and you did not find out for 24 years?

4. How many colleges did you attend?
St. John's College, University of Oxford, and, (alas), School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

5. Why did you choose the shirt that you have on right now?
It was around and it was washed.

6. What are your thoughts on gas prices?
Gas and electricity prices are living evidence of collusion and cartelization.

7. First thought when the alarm went off this morning?
I don't have an alarm.

8. Last thought before going to sleep last night?
Well, it still is last night as I am writing, so cf. question three.

9. Do you miss being a child?
No comment.

10. What errand/chore do you despise?
I kind of like errands and chores. The worst thing about most is that I might not be doing them well, and that I am lazy. But the only ones I hate are major breakdowns like the clogging of a drainpipe or the collapse of a heater.

11. Get up early or sleep in?
Depends. I used to think I was an evening person, but I found that is not really the case.

12. Have you found real love yet?
Too often.

13. Favorite lunch meat?
Bresaola rolled around a grissino.

14. What do you get every time you go into Wal-Mart?
It's called Asda in this country, and it always looks cheap and crowded. But they do have an amazing variety of stuff and it's cheap.

15. Beach or lake?
Lake. One thing that will never change is that I am a mountain person and beach holidays bore me unutterably.

16. Do you think marriage is an outdated ritual?
Do I think brething is an outdated ritual?

17. Sopranos or Desperate Housewives?
Neither. Can we please have something that does not insult our most basic moral sense?

18. What famous person would you like to have dinner with?
Gilbert Keith Chesterton.

19. Have you ever crashed your vehicle?
Two-three times, if bicycles count.

20. Ever use a fire extinguisher for its intended purpose?
Only in training as a security guard long ago. But I did have a real fire in my last flat, so my current one is well provided with extinguishers (plural).

21. Ring tone?
I don't use portable phones - it's too like being at the end of a long leash. In fact, I loathe the telephone altogether and I wish my countryman Antonio Meucci had seen fit to invent a jet-pack instead.

22. Strangest place you have ever brushed your teeth?
Army barracks in Sassari and L'Aquila.

23. Somewhere in California you've never been and would like to go?
I'm still short of places in Italy - but sure, I won't mind visiting Yosemite Park or San Francisco or Disneyland or the Mojave Desert if the opportunity ever comes.

24. At this point in your life would you rather start a new career or a new relationship?
I would fuck up either, but I am working on a new career anyway.

25. How old are you
47 until next July

26. Do you have a go to person?
No, never did. Very occasionally, my mother.

27. Are you where you want to be in life?
Is that meant to be a funny question?

28. Growing up, what were your favourite cartoons?
Classic Popeye the Sailor. Also Disney. Also Japanese big robots - but I did not dare say that at the time, because it was all the fashion to despise them in Italy then.

29. What about you do you think has changed the most?
I am more constructive, and I know a bit more about managing money.

30. Looking back at high school were they the best years of your life?
No comment.

31. Are there times you still feel like a kid?
When I read old sixties comics - only the good ones, though. The dull ones only make me feel bored.

32. Did you ever own troll dolls?
I think I have one now, if that counts.

33. Did you have a pager?
Never had one, and never will have anything similar. Check my answer on portable phones: I would loathe to feel like I'm on the end of someone's leash. If I ever were given a pager by some well-meaning person, it would be sure to suffer an unfortunate incident involving the nearest river very soon.

34. Where was the hang out spot when you were a teenager?
No comment.

35. Were you the type of kid you would want your children to hang out with?
Christ, no.
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A number of friends, including [livejournal.com profile] johncwright, [livejournal.com profile] eliskimo, [livejournal.com profile] shezan and [livejournal.com profile] notebuyer, have posted links to my last entry, and as a result a number of previously unknown (to me, of course) readers have visited my LJ. I am glad to have raised so much interest, but all the same I feel I have to deliver two warnings.

One. I myself do not identify as a conservative, much less as the American brand. To mention one thing that is very much in the news right now, I am fiercely in favour of what American conservatives call, never without a shudder of disgust, "socialized medicine". I oppose the death penalty except in wartime under martial law; and I favour limitations and public control over the use of guns. I regard big business as a huge, stupid feudal system, remote from the discipline of competition and naturally rapacious, a necessary evil at best. I regard regulation as a necessity for a civilized country. I say this as a warning, just in case some of us who agree with me on the matter of religious freedom and national identity may be disappointed when some of my other views take them by surprise. You are welcome to stay and lurk or friend me, as you please, but you have been warned.

Two. While I am pleased and proud with my country's reaction to unreasonable judicial tyranny and oppressive atheistic fanaticism, the last word is by no means said. There is always a weak sister somewhere, and as in too many cases, the weak sister is in government. It may surprise those of you who only know Mr.Berlusconi from the ugly and careless caricatures spread by the media, but one of his great weaknesses is an abiding need to be liked. From this comes his biggest weakness as a boss (otherwise he is brilliant in his field), a constant unwillingness to sack anyone; from this, too, his unwise dallyings with international villains such as Gheddafi and Putin. He has long shown that Catholic morality is not his forte, either, and I have no doubt that he would not think much of throwing his Catholic allies overboard if he felt it suited him. Already a bad signal has come from government: they are saying that they feel perfectly confident that they can get the sentence overturned by legal means. What they should have said is that the European Court had no right to rule in this area and that their sentence was going to be ignored. Their reaction shows a worrying desire to accept the picture of legality dictated by the court.
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I've just had a very good idea for a prose novel about the Silver Angel, which I will probably never even begin. But damn it, it would be good.
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I have a growing problem with sleeplessness at night. I tend to wake up at about two, and, in the last few weeks, I have had serious problems with going to sleep again. That is no damn good, because it tends to make me fatigued and useless the whole day long. And then the cycle begins again.
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friends

...except that as of now, I do have a hundred friends. And we are doing something fun more or less every evening. Many thanks to all my online friends.

And no, I still don't have a pony. Or (my version) a Harley Davidson. Ah well.
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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.)
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You're supposed to ask me a question about each of the following categories, and I'm supposed to answer them. Then you're supposed to post the meme on your own lj. Supposedly you're not supposed to worry about being too personal or embarrassing me, but if you want to worry about it, that's fine with me!

1. Friends.
2. Sex.
3. Music.
4. Drugs.
5. Love.
6. LiveJournal.
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Ask me a question about each of the following:

1. Friends
2. Sex
3. Music
4. Drugs
5. Love
6. Livejournal

No matter how rude, sexual, or confidential. Then post this in your journal and see what questions you get asked.
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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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Reply to this post, and I'll tell you one of a lot of reason[s] why I like/love/adore you. Then put this in your own journal, and spread the love.
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swunked from [profile] curia_regis

LAYER ONE
Name: Fabio Paolo Edoardo Vigilio.
Birthdate: 24 July 1962
Birthplace: Sesto San Giovanni, near Milan, Italy.
Current Location: Brockley, London, England.
Eye Color: Dark brown
Hair Color: Black with a tiny few white strands hiding away for dear life.
Height: one metre seventy-two.
Righty or Lefty: Righty
Zodiac Sign: born in the month of the Lion of the year of the Tiger. Explains a lot, doesn't it?

LAYER TWO
Your heritage: Italian. Which means I am the natural-born heir to half of planet Earth. And English, but that comes after.
The shoes you wore today: er... black.
Your weakness: Food.
Your fears: rejection.
Your perfect pizza: Any kind.
Goal you'd like to achieve: become a well-known historian before I die.

LAYER THREE
Your most overused phrase on IM: Someone else should tell me, I don't know.
Your thoughts first waking up: Grump ump ump. I am not at my best early in the morning.
Your best physical feature: Hair, eyes.
Your bedtime: 11PM-1AM.
Your most missed memory: the women I have loved.

LAYER FOUR
Pepsi or Coke: Diet coke with lemon
McDonald's or Burger King: There's a difference?
Adidas or Nike: probably Adidas.
Lipton Ice Tea or Nestea: Not a tea person.
Chocolate or vanilla: May I have both, please?
Cappuccino or coffee: both, so long as I am allowed to have sugar.

LAYER FIVE
Smoke: One of the few bad habits I do not have.
Cuss: Especially when alone.
Sing: Yes.
Take a shower everyday: a bath. But yes, every day.
Have a crush(es): If I felt it ever happen again, I would run away so fast I would break world records.
Do you think you've been in love: HELL YES1
Want to go to college: been there, done that, have the emotional scars to show for it.
Like high school: No. But on account of family break-up I did not have much of it.
Want to get married: I wish. But the female sex have collectively decided that no such thing will happen to me. Besides, I am middle-aged, short, poor, fat, and snore in bed.
Believe in yourself: Not very much, no.
Get motion sickness: Very rarely.
Think you're attractive: I KNOW I'm not.
Think you're a health freak: HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA...!!!!!
Get along with your parents: One of them.
Like thunderstorms: Yes
Play an instrument: sooner or later I will.

LAYER SIX: In the past month...
Drunk alcohol: no.
Smoked: no.
Done a drug: No
Had Sex: No.
Made Out: No.
Gone on a date: No.
Eaten an entire box of Oreos: No
Eaten sushi: No
Been on stage: No
Been dumped: No
Gone skating: No
Made homemade cookies: No, but I did a good deal of rather fancy cooking.
Gone skinny dipping: No
Dyed your hair: No.
Stolen anything: No

LAYER SEVEN: Ever...
Played a game that required removal of clothing:
Been trashed or extremely intoxicated:
Been caught "doing something":
Been called a tease:
Gotten beaten up:
Shoplifted:
Changed who you were to fit in:
ANSWER TO ALL LAYER SEVEN QUESTIONS: Minjerownbluddybizness.

LAYER EIGHT
Age you hope to be married: In my next life, if there is such a thing as reincarnation.
Numbers and Names of Children: See above.
Describe your dream wedding: My sister's. She got married in one of Rome's most magnificent churches, being ferried to and from the church in an open horse-drawn carriage. The omily at the wedding mass and the party afterwards were both perfection.
How do you want to die: It's not death that bothers me, it's what comes afterwards.
Where you want to go to college: Been there, done that.
What do you want to be when you grow up: Someone who does not piss people off quite so much.
What country would you most like to visit: all of them.

LAYER NINE: In a guy/girl...
Best eye color?: Grey, green or pale blue.
Best hair color?: Natural blond. It is rare for me to like bottle blondeness.
Short or long hair: depends on the face.
Height: I have a thing for small - five-foot - women, but I have fallen in love with women of every size. My first love was five feet eleven.
Best weight: Light according to height.
Best articles of clothing: No idea.
Best first date location: In a London park late on a summer day, or on top of Capitol Hill, Rome, just before sunset.
Best first kiss location: Ditto, with a soft cool wind blowing around.

LAYER TEN
Number of drugs taken illegally: None
Number of people I could trust with my life: My mother.
Number of CDs that I own: Couple of hundred, growing all the time.
Number of piercings: Don't be ridiculous.
Number of tattoos: Ditto.
Number of times my name has appeared in the newspaper?: Do comics-related monthly magazines count?
Number of scars on my body: One or two.
Number of things in my past that I regret: Only the last forty-three years. Apart from that, everything's hunky-dorey.

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