Reflections of a stormy petrel|
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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in
Fabio Paolo Barbieri's LiveJournal:
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|Sunday, December 8th, 2013|
|Horace Odes 1.22
Integer uitae scelerisque purus
non eget Mauris iaculis neque arcu
nec uenenatis grauida sagittis,
siue per Syrtis iter aestuosas
siue facturus per inhospitalem
Caucasum uel quae loca fabulosus
Namque me silua lupus in Sabina,
dum meam canto Lalagem et ultra
terminum curis uagor expeditis,
quale portentum neque militaris
Daunias latis alit aesculetis
nec Iubae tellus generat, leonum
Pone me pigris ubi nulla campis
arbor aestiua recreatur aura,
quod latus mundi nebulae malusque
pone sub curru nimium propinqui
solis in terra domibus negata:
dulce ridentem Lalagen amabo,
A man whose life is whole and without evil
Will never feel the need of Maghreb lances,
Nor of its bows and poison-heavy arrows,
Fuscus, my friend;
Whether to travel through the torrid Sirte
Or make it through Caucasus inhospitable
Or where Hydaspes, legend-laden, waters
For I was singing, all cares left behind,
(All weapons too) well past the forest's limits,
With nothing but Lalage on my mind
Here in Sabina;
A wolf saw me unarmed – and ran away,
A monster large as any born from fighting
Daunia, or from Juba's ancient kingdom,
Mother of lions.
So place me where in workless fields no tree
Is ever recreated by soft summer,
That part of earth where mists and a malignant
Or place me where the Sun rides far too close,
The soil denied to human habitation;
The sweetly smiling Lalage I'll still love,
The sweetly talking.
|Thursday, December 5th, 2013|
As a child I must have been one of those fussy eaters. I have an idea, indeed, that very early on I did not even like potatoes. I cannot say I have altogether grown out of the tendency. Some foods I reconciled myself with over time – gorgonzola and blue cheese; sauerkraut; fish; potatoes, of course – if I ever did dislike them at all, and if that is not a false feeling (it is barely articulate enough to be a memory). But some foods I still can't face; I react badly to many kinds of seafood, especially octopus; snails (although I used to go on snail-hunting expeditions with my grandmother); black olives; beetroot and rhubarb; and grapefruit. Most things with bitter in it I dislike. But there is one thing I have only recently rediscovered, and which yet did more than any other foodstuff to darken my early life.
There is a kind of leaf cabbage that grows, it seems, only in Italy, or that at least is only eaten there. It has no head, growing out in great, grim, very dark green leaves with an ugly bubbly surface. The person who first tried to eat it must have been very hungry. But it is an important plant in north and central Italian cuisine, the secret ingredient in two of the most popular and beloved soups, Ribollita and Minestrone.
Now black cabbage must be more dear to the good Lord than any other plant, because the punishment He has placed for anyone who overcooks it is something that has to be felt to be believed. There honestly is magic in it. It is not enough to say that it tastes awful, not even that it tastes like poison. Overcooked black cabbage tastes like the cry of the Nazgûl; there is no other way I can describe it. It tastes as if you will never again be able to remember anything good and pleasant.
My childhood is a long time gone, and there are a lot of things I only remember if I go back and find them. I always remembered, of course, that as a child I hated minestrone – I enjoy it mightily now – and I thought it was just one of those childish fads of mine, that I grew out of. But last year I bought a batch of black cabbage from the local supermarket, as a curiosity; and inevitably I made a mess of the cooking. And I remembered.
There is a busy cottage industry that dedicates itself to denouncing the cruelty of the Catholic Church to children and other living things. By the work people put in it, there must be money in the business. So here is my contribution to it. Most of my years at junior schools were spent in private nuns' schools. I cannot say that those nuns were cruel, or stupid, or bigoted, or nasty, or bullying, or uneducated. (Sorry!) In fact, some of them I remember as wonderful people. But they bloody well overcooked their black cabbage. As I recall it, they overcooked it every time, and their minestrone – which was served most days of the week, especially in winter – came out correspondingly awful. The very first mouthful I took of my own torturously overcooked black cabbage, I remembered. I remembered all I had suffered every winter day that I went to lunch and found minestrone on my plate; and I remembered why there would be merry Hell at home every time mother tried to introduce the idea. My poor mother, she never knew.
So here is my contribution to the “The Catholic Church is a vicious child-abusing torture cult” industry. I have had bad luck; I never met a vicious or savage nun of the kind that other people remember so well, nor even an abusive priest (though I know that such people exist). The priests and nuns of my childhood were decent people and they tried their best. But good God, did they overcook their black cabbage.
|My first post in a month and a half (I'll explain later); Obama, the Vatican and Italy
President Obama has made a unilateral decision to place the American Embassy to the Vatican in the same building as that to Italy, excusing that with expenditure and security considerations. This is my comment on it, as a historian who knows a little about diplomacy and its conventions, and an Italian who knows a lot about Italy and Rome.
Right. To begin with, the diplomatic world is a very artificial world, and there are things you do and don't do according to its own code. The do-est of the do things is that any country or organization of importance gets an embassy. They don't have to be huge mansions – several embassies in several capitals occupy little more than a flat – but they have to stand on their own. And states are not the only thing you send ambassadors to. You have embassies to the UN and to various UN bodies, to international organizations such as Organization of American States, to NATO, and so on. You DO NOT have the same embassy in Brussels merely because you have one mission to NATO, one to the EU, and one to Belgium. That's expensive? Sad. If you are not disposed to spend a certain amount of effectively wasted money, you are only proving that you are not a first-rate presence on the international circuit and that you are not able to afford what such presences are. Diplomacy money is in good part display expenditure, but anyone who does not see that display of various kinds is utterly essential to status in foreign eyes (and that in diplomacy it is part of a fixed system that you simply don't have the power to rewrite, since it is shared by every other state and international organization) should not be in politics in the first place.
Now from the point of view of Washington DC, both embassies in Rome (there is a third, to FAO, of which nobody seems to be talking) are first-rate missions, for wholly different reasons. Italy is a major ally, with the third or fourth largest fleet in NATO, two aircraft carriers, over 120,000 men under arms, NATO and UN missions in various places, efficient and wide-reaching security and secret services, one of the world's top ten economies, a crossways of trade and industry, and a strategically dominant position in the Mediterranean. It is also visited and lived in by millions of Americans who need consular services every day of the week.
The Vatican, on the other hand, is by far the single most important trans-national body other than the UN and its various parts. In some ways it is more important. For one thing it has a far better information service than the USA or anyone. They have men in places where the CIA would not dare send a drone, and because of the nature of priestly work and the close relationship of priests with their bishops, they get to hear things fast. Have you noticed recently that a country called the Central African Republic has come to the attention of leading governments? I had been trying to get people to notice the civil war – or rather, the pseudo-civil war – in that country for about a year. Why? Because I follow the missionaries' information agency, Fides, and I knew that the country was being invaded by a bunch of thieving, murderous jihadis under the guise of a local revolt. And that's me, a private citizen. How many more interesting bits of information like that would a friendly government get from all those nice, unworldly celibates in the Vatican? But Obama has a problem with that, obviously. And he does not want the operational and political support that any American presence in any country could get if they were friendly with the local priests. Obama does not want to be in any kind of debt with the Church, because he has long since declared war on the Church over abortion. And from this point of view, it makes sense that the change was an entirely one-sided affair which the Vatican had to swallow, with no consultation, no previous warning, no courtesy of any sort. And courtesy is the soul of diplomacy.
On a purely local and operational grounds, the two embassy complexes have remarkably different aspects, that correspond remarkably well with their two very different missions. The American Embassy to Italy is in a former World War One military hospital on Via Vittorio Veneto, the famous shopping avenue, near Porta Pinciana; a major highway, densely trafficked, within walking distance of the Italian Confederation of Industry and of the Ministry for Defence (if not to the Italian Foreign Ministry, which is located in the eccentric and distant Farnesina), close to a couple of underground stations and comparatively easy of access to any American in need of help or any Italian in need of any of its services. On the other hand, the US Embassy to the Holy See is in Villa Damiana on the Aventine Hill: a super-luxurious residential neighbourhood made for old money and a few of the more discreet institutions, isolated from main roads (although well connected) and served by churches of incredible antiquity. The head office of the Knights of Malta (a theoretically independent state and the last redoubt of Europe's bluest blood) is not far. It is about as likely to be struck by a riot or invaded by terrorists as one of the more exclusive gated communities in the richer towns in America. And it seems to me rather evident that each of the two settings was chosen – by wiser judges than Obama – with their different role and use very much in mind, and that they confer on each a clear atmosphere that means that the workers of each would find themselves terribly ill at ease in the other. The Embassy to the Holy See is, as I said, in the most expensive, quietest and most secure neighbourhood in inner Rome, a place for soft contacts, fine manners, delicate suggestions and careful deliberation. The Embassy to Italy, a former military hospital, is a large building that towers over the bend of Via Vittorio Veneto, one of Rome's busiest and most luxurious highways, surrounded by hotels, businesses and splendid fashion shops, and constantly at work with American citizens and foreign visa seekers. To bring them together in the Via Veneto building is an act of brutality.
There is no organizational or practical advantage in the transfer, either. Neither location is at all near the Vatican. They are both on the eastern bank of the river, within the circle of the imperial walls, but they could not be much further from each other either. Anyway, physical closeness to the actual territory of the Vatican does not matter. Visit your own capital city; see where the embassies of the main powers are. I shall be very surprised if they are all next door to the White House or to Foggy Bottom. At any rate Roman distances are smaller than American ones, and a healthy man can walk both from Via Vittorio Veneto and from Villa Domiziana to the Vatican in an hour or two (and enjoy some of the world's finest sights along the way). And if we are talking security, the Villa Domiziana, surrounded by high walls and a garden, isolated in quiet residential streets where any intruder would be easy to spot, is considerably safer than the Vittorio Veneto building, open to anything that can come up one of the city's great highways (and there were, in fact, some security scares a few years back). Obama and his accomplices are simply falsifying fact, as is obvious to anyone who knows Rome.
To finish with, it is not just the Vatican that receives a savage and undeserved insult with this crass decision. In case nobody had noticed, Obama has implied that the streets of Rome are no safer than those of Benghazi. Thank you so much, Mr.President. You may not be aware of it, but one of the things that binds Italians together is pride that we have police, carabinieri and security forces loyal, brave and competent enough to have broken the Red Brigades and brushed back the Mafia at the price of many, many courageous dead. This is an insult to them.
|Monday, October 21st, 2013|
|Saturday, October 19th, 2013|
Exhausted. Vaguely feverish.Did not write except for a bit of Facebook aguments. I actually made some progress with ordering my archives, so I can hope the crazy job may actually be finished one day.
|Tuesday, October 8th, 2013|
|Ian Duncan Smith
41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 for I was an hungred, and ye refused me even the least help until you had treated me as a scrounger and a thief and gave a lengthy account of what your blind eyes saw as my failures and immoralities: I was thirsty, and ye privatized water and forced me to pay ridiculous prices for the stuff of life: 43 I was a stranger, and ye not only refused me any space, but insulted those who would: naked, and confiscated my clothes: sick, and in prison, and you cut the funds for hospital and prisons and suggested that would make them more efficient. 44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? 45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. 46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: and the name thereof is... ah, but I think you can guess.
|Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013|
|A universal rule
Never trust anyone who will not back what he says with their own money.
|Monday, September 23rd, 2013|
|Happy birthday cette_vie!!
And do stay in touch, you lovely person.
|Sunday, September 22nd, 2013|
|Wednesday, September 18th, 2013|
|From a comment on the Tea Party policies
95% of American so-called conservative policy is nonsense. If you want to cut public expenditure, legislation and what are known as "cuts" are the bluntest and most damaging of blunt instruments. The very fact that Republicans talk about cutting federal departments as the measure of saving shows that they have not begun to understand the problem. The solution to obesity is not to cut off an arm, it is for the whole body to eat less. And that has very little to do with laws. What you want is to foster an administrative culture in which people take pride in doing more with less, in efficiency and effect. And there you can see why Reaganite demagoguery is a million miles from the point. How do you think the little guy at the bottom of the totem pole, the one who actually does the work, feels, when he is told by his own boss - the President is the head of the public sector, among other things - that he is the problem, not the solution, and that the scariest words in the language are "I'm from the government and I'm here to help?" Such demagoguery and effrontery (history books will remember the Ronald Thatcher age as the Age of Bad Manners) may tickle the prejudices of the more ignorant voters, but it will do nothing for your own subordinates (because if you are President, they are) other than embitter them and make them defensive and mistrustful. Congratulations, Great Communicator. Congratulations, cheap imitators.
|Wednesday, September 11th, 2013|
|about Obama's misguided attempt to apply pressure to Assad...
Actually, the time to intervene in Syria is going to be when the fighting ceases. I think by now it is fairly sure that in the long run the Alewis will win, probably yielding some eastern territory to the Kurds - it does not matter to them, there are no Alewis or other minorities there, and the area is far from the Syrian heartland and divided from it by scrub and desert. It is when the Jihadis are finally defeated that the "international community" will be in a position to give orders to the Alewi government, that will need massive investment, and foreign organizational help in resettling those of the refugees who will be willing to come back. But you can't hope to blackmail a military minority while it is fighting for its life.
|Monday, September 9th, 2013|
|Thursday, September 5th, 2013|
|"...there's still good things to be heard, and fine things to be seen..."
A Romanian immigrant named Ion Purice, married to an Italian woman and with a young child, works as a long-distance trucker for a company in Rovigo, Italy. A day or two ago, as he was taking a load of foodstuffs (I think) to Holland, he saw a terrible road accident: just ahead of him, a Moroccan father and little daughter were in a car that smashed against the guard-rail. The little child, clearly brutally injured, was thrown in the middle of the motorway. Ion Purice placed the truck across the roadway to shelter the child (and the Red Cross volunteers who luckily just happened to be passing and stopped to help) from oncoming traffic, and kept signalling to the coming cars till help came. Once the little girl was placed on an ambulance, he moved off - he still had work to do, you know? At his destination he apologized for the hour's delay - I ran into an accident on the motorway. But meanwhile all of Italy had seen him on the news, and when he returned to his base, he found - his son, his wife, all his colleagues, some Trade Union representatives, several journalists, and the mayor of the town, to give him a hero's welcome. His reaction? "I just did what anyone would have done, the Red Cross boys were more heroes than me." No wonder that his boss hired him, years before, in spite of the bad reputation that Romanians have in Italy, because he was "una persona seria", an untranslatable Italian compliment that roughly says "a man who does his job, does it well, and thinks nothing of it".
|Monday, September 2nd, 2013|
|Wednesday, August 28th, 2013|
|Monday, August 26th, 2013|
|Sunday, August 18th, 2013|
|In real life...
...superheroes would become something not unlike a global protection racket. They would protect us, but there would be a price to pay.
|Thursday, August 1st, 2013|
|How to make a point
The world is full of people who think they can see through the motives of others, and that those motives are always bad. JK Rowling is a favourite target: hugely rich, quite pretty, and never giving an inch on her private life, she is an obvious target for envy and spite. Of course, the revelation that a mildly successful and critically very well received detective novel – The Cuckoo's Calling – had been written by her under a pseudonym sent the crowd into overdrive. In certain circles, it became Gospel to claim that the whole affair was a marketing trick thought up by the greedy and talentless (wrong on both accounts!) Rowling.
So Rowling not only forced the people who'd given the secret away to make a large payment to a charity of her choice, she herself earmarked THE NEXT THREE YEAR'S PROFITS from The Cuckoo's Calling to that same charity. In practise, she is giving away all the money she would be making because the book was revealed as hers, and you may be sure it will be a tidy sum. The charity in question just think they died and went to heaven.
Come on, lads and ladies. I have no doubt that you will find a way to claim that this was all selfish propaganda and market manipulation. I am just waiting to hear how, but I am sure that nothing is beyond the creativity of your hatred.
|Friday, July 26th, 2013|
|THE CUCKOO'S CALLING - a short review
I can't even remember the last time I stayed up all night reading a book, but I did tonight, with JK Rowling's "The Cuckoo's Calling." I had forgotten the feeling of simply being unable to put down a book. JKR has that capacity: her story draws you along with deceptive ease, and you find you are not even hooked, but simply there, living with her characters, moving along. The setting is superb - to those of us who live in London, everything is both recognizable and atmospheric - the characters, most of whom carry some wound, are fascinating and often lovable, the prose is perfect - not a word too much, and all of them working to create a world. The only slight problem is that the ending, although perfectly adequate, is the sort of thing that needed an Agatha Christie to have its full impact. JKR does it well, but not to the same level of crushing discovery. But of course, this is not a top genre writer working in the area she knows best, but a truly great novelist trying a genre new to her, and making, on the whole, a complete success of it.
|Thursday, July 18th, 2013|
|YOUR HIGHER MORALITY
Well, I suppose all my friends are right. We do need Zimmerman lynched. We are in need of a lynch mob unleashed by short and fraudulent media summaries to rip a man who has been judged innocent by a jury of his peers and hang him on a tree on the reports of MNBC and the rest. Because journalists never would lie and always understand everything that is going on, and are in fact fountains of virtue and sagacity, and we may confidently hate those whom they tell us to hate; whereas the jury that has spent weeks being exposed in detail to everything that could be retrieved of the facts are too stupid, ignorant and racist to make the right choice. We need more demos. We need more shouting. We need more threats. Current Mood: Lord, what fools these mortals be!