Words Of Dan

…we watched the Earth burning, and as it burnt we burnt you too.

Month: January, 2012

I Am Legend – Richard Matheson

I Am Legend is one of those books that everyone should devote a couple of days to reading. No man is an island, but Robert Neville sure as hell feels like one at times in Richard Matheson’s masterpiece.

It’s rare to find such a good book clocking in at the 40,000 words mark. I usually find stories that length too slow to begin, and too quick to finish. Matheson gauges the pace just right. There are sweet f*ck all other characters in the work, Neville’s wife, a dog and an odd person or two fill the entire cast, but those that are elaborated on are perfectly crafted. I have a particular softspot for a neighbour vampire who gives the story a nice sense of the familiar. Of homeliness. Despite being terrifying, he is a pillar of normalcy (yes, I just used that word).

Which is the overwhelming nature of the book. Despite being completely alone, surrounded by ravenously hungry neck biters, Neville adjusts to his new condition with aplomb. Not just surviving, but almost thriving. Ok, maybe thriving is an exaggeration. He deals with crippling loneliness and savage internal monologues aplenty, but his personal evolution to suit the needs of this new empty world speaks volumes for humanity. It also seems to suggest that we are our own worst enemy, and internal demons are far deadlier than the external.

Anyway, it’ll say different things to different folks. In short it’s a great read, good suspense, a nice bit of mystery, and a satisfying conclusion. It won’t change your life, but it’s good craic, which might not be what Matheson intended, but after three decades of sh*t vampire and zombie themed works they’re hard not to read lightly.

It’s one man’s struggle against a new world, and himself. And there’s vampire zombies.

4/5

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His Dark Materials – Review

I finished up reading Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy during the Christmas holidays. It was a heavy tome, so I’m glad I’m not carrying it around anymore. I was essentially carrying a bag with me everywhere just to accommodate it. But I liked it, I really liked it… then I loved it.

Without doubt it’s one of the most stirring, imaginative and engaging series I have ever read. Its reputation, for the longest time, is what put me off reading it. Its reputation was so good that I had no interest in jumping on the bandwagon. I didn’t want to read it because it was so widely read. That and the abysmal film effort.

It’s a series that can be, and is, read by teens, as well as a more mature audience. After reading it I honestly don’t know how any teen would adequately absorb its many nuances, and many there certainly are. I have often heard the argument that you had to have read it/seen it/played it as a child, with an open imagination, to fully appreciate a work of art. That’s a load of b*llocks. It’s the authors job to make sure it’s as engaging to older readers as to the younger crew. Pullman does this very well. The only thing that anyone who hasn’t read it before could possibly be missing out on is a sense of nostalgia on a second perusal. I do, however, plan to read this again at some stage of my life, so I might be treated to a dose of nostalgia yet.

In short, it’s almost the perfect story. Childhood, growing up, relationships, love and death are all constant companions in this epic. It manages a perfect blend of new-age religion, spirituality and theoretical science, and the challenges that face each.

It might be unfair to discuss or criticise the series as a whole as it’s comprised of three separate titles: Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass.

And no, the books are not equally great. The Amber Spyglass is better than the others in many ways, but lacks a lot of the imaginative character of the previous two. Northern Lights is the most typically straight-forward, being the foundation of it all, with a feeling that Pullman hadn’t exactly decided where he was going with his story either when he started or finished it. The Subtle Knife, however, puts you on the deliberate course you wanted with a lot of “Ah! It all makes sense now!” moments, and The Amber Spyglass takes you home neatly. Pullman feeds you the right amount of these revelations at the right times throughout the series. And lots of action.

Now, after saying all that, yet not discussing any part of the story (intentionally; it’s so good you shouldn’t need a blurb) it must be said that the series directly speaks to a part of our condition, our mortality, yada yada yada, and the lonely burden of it all. It’s all very Robert Frost and his Mending Wall. If you aren’t up for feeling a little less impressed with your reality, then maybe give it a miss. If you do persevere, I can tell you when you close the covers you will feel infinite sadness, dejection and then slowly, but surely, transcendant optimism creeps in.

One last tip if you’re going to take the plunge, maybe buy one volume at a time so it’s easier to carry rather than getting the hefty compiled trilogy!

5/5

Coffee and Getting Shit Done

Right. I’ve locked myself in my room, and I’m going to get this fucking shit done. Ok. I’ll just make myself a coffee first. I leave my room, and walk out on the tiles, should have worn slippers, the tiles are freezing. In the kitchen I wash the mug I decide to use, the one that has a picture of Bugs Bunny on it, and a spoon. I always lose baby spoons. I don’t know where they go to, but for some reason I find myself buying baby spoons every other month. Forks last for years. And big spoons? Forget about it. At least two. There must be a baby spoon thief.

            The kettle boils up, shaking the counter-top as it approaches the boil. The steam rises and condenses, forming little waterdrops on my woodwork kitchen unit. Two spoons of coffee, or three? Three would keep me up all night, and possibly give me the shakes. But it’d be some craic. Nah, I’ll go for two, play it safe for tonight. Better safe than sorry. The aroma of coffee, goddamn. I’ve been cutting down on sugar lately, so the one spoon, not heaped, will do the trick.

            Ah, coffee. Right, so I’ll just clean up the desk so I can get this shit done, finally. Magazines over here. Wrappers, old receipts and stray pages in the bin over there. There’s I Am Legend! I’ve been meaning to read this. I really enjoyed the movie with Will Smith. I wonder if it’s similar, or completely different. Sure I’ll read a few pages, and then get my shit done.

            This is nothing like the movie! Ok, it’s sort of similar, but there are so many drastic differences! I drain the last of my coffee, it’s always cold and too sweet at the end.

            I boot up my laptop and lay back on my bed, quick check of the emails it is so. It makes the usual droning Apple sound that sounds a little out of kilter with the modern looking machine. Two hours later I am none the wiser what I have been doing all that time. I remember Facebook. And Twitter. And an episode of Peep Show. What a television show. They don’t make enough of it.

            I throw all my stray clothes into the washbasket, and throw on some music to psyche myself up for getting my shit done. I love this album. Definitely Alter Bridge’s best album to date. I decide, as it gets a little later, to throw on something a little more laid back. Beatle’s Revolver. Definitely their best album. I pick up my guitar and strum through a few of the chords. That string section on Eleanor Rigby, flawless.

            Christ, its one in the morning. I’ve got work at nine. Right, I’ve got everything set to get my shit done tomorrow night.

            Right. Ok. The following night I make myself a cup of coffee, where the fuck are all the baby spoons?

Shadow and City

Templebar by Roisin O'Farrell

Rubbing my hands off chalky old walls, the grit of yesterday comes off easy, leaving its fresher face gleaming on a cool Dublin evening. Winding down cobbled streets, bowing and nodding to familiar faces I meet, breathing the scene in deeply. In the air hangs the sweet smell of sawdust and tavern ale, mixed with fragrant perfumes and tobacco smoke. The chatter and bustle fills the street with merriment, accompaniment and solace.

My own face, wizened but pleasant, betrays my spirit, young and vibrant. The youthful rush past, sparing an odd glance, but ultimately I am a walking ghost. I had my chance. I danced and sung. And drank. I courted and loved.

In my youth I walked these old cobbled streets looking toward my uncertain, yet exciting, future. Now I look nowhere but to the past, because the future terrifies me. Then I see an old friend, stooped and creaky. “Not long now!”, he says. We laugh at the ridiculousness of it. We recount old days, pity the youth, and we part feeling better.

Walking in the shadows of ghosts fills me with hope, and pride. There is Kavanagh by the canal, Wilde overlooking the square, Burke’s and Goldsmith’s ruminations, and O’Connell’s firm gaze.

I inhale deeply, sucking as much of Dublin into me as I can. The cool night air refreshes me. If I could bottle some of this jovial old city and carry it with me through the out door I would never fear leaving. I would sup it eternally, and tell stories to make other souls green with envy.

Part of me I’ll leave here, in these living stones. I helped with this, I built that. I ate here, I studied there. My first job was over there, and I met my wife over here. We kissed for the first time over there, under the orange lamp glow.

Rubbing my hands off chalky old walls, the grit comes off easy. Renewal comes naturally to brick and mortar. I am not of a thousand layers; my layer is one, and it is now cracked and frail. But my soul remains whole, and unfettered. On it will glide towards its next destination, never forgetting home.

Solitude

Sitting on cold, damp earth, listening to leaves rustle, whispering wave sounds. Air smelling of fresh dirt and forest damp, and cold wind blowing past and through me, sending shivers up and down my body. Eyes closed. Inhaling. Exhaling. Place hands on top of crossed legs. Inhaling. Exhaling. And again. Slowly forget myself, and transient trifles. Forget body, free mind. Hear everything. Leaves’ rustle, rabbit’s sprint, wind crashing on the bark of oak trees. World peels back, only light in mind. Fall into it. Find warmth there. Forgotten memories. Faces. More. Spending time with them; they talk back, smiling. They never left.

Are Contemporary Renaissance Florentine Histories Sociological?

This is a relatively long one, but any opinions valued as always!

Question: Are contemporary Renaissance Florentine histories sociological?

Embedded within contemporary Renaissance Florentine histories are pronounced empirical sociological prototypes and observations. There are three main sociological trends that recur within the histories, and naturally, at times, they overlap with one another: firstly, contemporary Renaissance Florentine histories are histories of domination; secondly, the evolution and application of providence and fortune; and lastly, contemporary Renaissance Florentine histories are histories of decay and renewal. There have been assertions that the Quattrocento saw a dramatic evolution in art, with advances in style, technique and motivation, and a parallel change in political thought, historiography, new techniques in historical criticism and changed ideals in human and civic conduct.[1] None, however, take note of the very definite application in historical practice of sociological observation.

 The motives for writing these histories have been discussed at length. John R. Hale sees Francesco Guicciardini’s motives as a ‘psychological need to explain the causation of the tragedy of Italy as a whole,’ and Guicciardini’s interest in history was ‘sustained by the scope it offered for moral judgement and general reflection on human nature.’[2] Guicciardini concurs with this assessment of his motivation: ‘all men will be able to draw many useful lessons both for themselves and for the public good.’[3] He states his intentions clearly in his Ricordi: ‘past events throw light on the future, because the world has always been the same as it is now, or shall be hereafter… things accordingly repeat themselves, but under changed names and colours so that it is not everyone who can recognise them, but only he who is discerning and who notes and considers them dilligently.’[4] Louis Green sees similar motives in Goro Dati’s Istoria di Firenze, that ‘history was a source of moral edification, a means of inferring right and proper rules of conduct from a study of the past.’[5] Dati concurs with this profile by Green, feeling that history was ‘full of fine and useful examples for those to come.’[6] Many more identical accounts of contemporary Renaissance Florentine historians’ motives are littered throughout the numerous analyses of the works. However, none deal with the pressing matter of method. While all analyses acknowledge the motivation to write the histories as being to assemble a guidebook for future generations, as evidenced in the examples above in the case of Dati and Guicciardini, none mention the model which the historians followed while they attempted to construct a series of discernible patterns from history that could be applied to their present. In doing so, historians have overlooked a vitally important characteristic in the practice of contemporary Renaissance Florentine history.

            Max Weber is the sociologist most frequently cited by historians.[7] It can also be argued that the central theme of Weber’s sociology is domination.[8] There are three strains of authority in Weber’s theory of domination that legitimises it: rational, traditional and charasmatic.[9] We will pay attention to these three strains when analysing the theme of domination throughout the histories. Rational authority is the belief in the legality of the rule and the right of those in authority to issue commands. Traditional authority is based on an established belief in the sanctity of immemorial traditions. Authority through charisma rests on the devotion of followers to the exemplary character, heroism or special powers of leaders. Domination exists wherever subjects obey the commands of other subjects.

             Niccólo Machiavelli notes early on in History of Florence how Urban II could call a crusade, where ‘many kings and people joined them, and contribute money; and many private persons fought under them for their own expense; so great was the influence of reigion in those days upon the minds of men.’[10] This is the first example of Machiavelli noting how influenced the masses were by their ‘principal ministers.’[11] This is evident again when two members of the Cancellieri, one of the most prominent families in Pistoia, started fighting over the cutting off of Lore Cancellieri’s hand as revenge for slightly wounding Geri Cancellieri whilst playing; the ‘whole city of Pistoia had become divided.’[12] These are examples of charisma based authority in the case of Urban II (who had other-worldly powers) and traditional authority in the case of the prominent Cancellieri family in Pistoia.

            In Guicciardini’s History of Italy Lodovico Sforza attempts by using marriage to further legitimise and extend his traditional domination, by marrying his niece to ‘Maximillian who had lately succeeded to the Roman Empire through the death of his father Frederick.’[13] As a dowry Lodovico promised him ‘400,000 ducats in cash, and 40,000 ducats in jewels and other goods,’ and in return Maximillian gave Lodovico the investiture of the Duchy of Milan, ‘for himself, his children and descendants.’[14]

Leonardo Bruni in his History of the Florentine People traces the beginnings of the republic in Florence: ‘It is wonderful how great the strength of the People grew… the People was now itself a lord and font of honour.’[15] This particular type of domination, the Florentine republic, is the most rational authority described by the Florentine historians. But it is considered entirely problematic by them. To Machiavelli the fundamental problem was reconciling the interests of the popular classes and that of the nobility, ‘the desire of the latter to command, and the disinclination of the former to obey,’ and he claims that this is the ‘cause of most of the troubles which take place in cities and from this diversity of purpose, all the other evils which disturb republics derive their origin. This kept Rome disunited; and this, if it be allowable to compare small things with great, held Florence in disunion.’[16] Clearly Machiavelli has identified a sociological trend. Guicciardini, too, held republics as being problematic, as explained by John R. Hale: ‘republics had their disadvantages – they came to decisions slowly, they encouraged faction.’[17]

Guicciardini addresses this question of the ideal form of domination when Charles of France had left Florence and the Florentines were left to try and reorganise their city. Paoloantonio Soderini in his argument proclaimed that: ‘the city should be governed in the name and the consent of the people… truth obliges me to say this: that in our city always, a government  organised such a way that a few citizens have excessive authority will be the government of a few tyrants.’[18] Guidantonio Vespucci offers the counter-argument that inexperienced men are incapable of governing.[19] In this argument we see two threads of authority, traditional on the hand of Vespucci who feels that a select number of nobles should run the government, and rational on the side of Soderini. Yet Guicciardini pushes the question even further still by examining the influence of authority by charisma: the intervention of Girolamo Savonarola, whose influence was great as a result of his reputation as a prophet. He interceded in the debate by claiming that through divine revelation he learned that God’s will was ‘that an absolutely popular government should be set up, and in such a way that it should not be in the power of a few citizens.’[20] Machiavelli sums up the essential predicament and conflict by affirming that ‘tyranny cannot please the good, and license is offensive to the wise.’[21]

While John R. Hale feels that Guicciardini in ‘his Florentine histories came out strongly against the rule of man’,[22] it is a form of domination that is evaluated extensively in all of the Florentine histories. The histories seem to portray the masses as dependent on charismatic individuals. Urban II and Savonarola dominated because of their control over the spiritual nature of man. This is one of many traits that a man of authority by charisma may possess. Michael di Lando as Gonfalonier had to deal with a discontented popular class. He reassured the people, advised them to lay down their arms, and through his ‘courage, prudence and generosity’ quietened the discontented.[23] Machiavelli claims he ‘kept them in awe by the influence of his authority.’[24]

Lorenzo de' Medici, Il Magnifico

Another case of discontent soon followed, and once again the people gather around a charismatic leader, in this case Veri de’ Medici. Machiavelli claims that if he ‘had more ambition than integrity he might without impediment have become the prince of the city.’[25] In Guicciardini’s History of Florence he noted how the city ‘enjoyed perfect peace’ under the virtual tyranny of Lorenzo de’ Medici.[26] He concludes his appraisal of Lorenzo’s rule by noting how ‘that under him the city was not free, although it would be impossible to find a better and more agreable tyrant. Through his natural goodness and inclinations he brought great benefits to the city.’[27] Giovanni de’ Medici is painted as being the figure who instilled in Lorenzo and Cosimo de’ Medici the guidelines for domination, and maintaining that domination. ‘If you pursue the same course that I have, you will live respected in Florence, and in favour with everyone.’[28] As we have already seen Lorenzo was praised, ruling with a mixture of charisma and traditional authority. Cosimo, when he died, was hailed as ‘father of his country,’[29] and he ruled using the same blend of charisma and traditional authority.

Piero de’ Medici, the successor of Lorenzo, ‘not satisifed with the power his father had obtained in the republic – although it was such that all magistrates were chosen according to his wishes,’[30] became enormously ambitious, desiring absolute power. He no longer spoke for the people, and violating Weber’s ‘stability is legitimacy’ rule of authority,[31] and was soon ousted.[32] Violence would have erupted if the authority of Savonarola had not interceded and ‘secured universal peace.’[33]

While excessive ambition may be blamed for the Piero de’ Medici’s failings, it would be unfair to claim his predecessors were not. Lorenzo’s ambition was described as being ‘excessive’ by Guicciardini.[34] It is entirely possible that Piero was the victim of the next sociological trend that is under investigation; that of decay and renewal. Guicciardini feels that men of wealth and power ‘should be content with that and not try for more, because in most cases they will suffer a heavy fall.’[35] Louis Green claims Goro Dati’s general theme in his history gives ‘the impression that decline is both a compensation for excess and a punishment of sin.’[36] Green claims Dati identifies ‘ambition with the fatal propensity of power to rise and decline.’[37] Dati observes the Duke of Milan in this light, where ‘the Milanese tyrant’s insistence on pursuing his goal reflected, in Dati’s view, the subordination of rational calculation to the dominance of an uncontrollable impulse that could not but bring disaster… and so paved the way for his own downfall.’[38] It is here that we see the first intersection of decay and renewal and the role of our third trend, that of providence and fortune. Dati notes that ‘fortune raises some very high to make them fall with greater impact.’[39] Fortune to Dati ‘operated through natural channels; yet at the same time conveyed the idea of a destined decline of earthly power.’[40] The influence of fortune is a ‘temptress,’ biding her time, making him ‘rise all the higher to give him a greater fall.’ The Duke of Milan’s success to Dati was no more than the crest of the wave, and the ‘fullness of fortune that signalled its impending decline.’[41]  Fortune, therefore, has the ‘regularity of a force of nature… it dictates that decline shall follow rise with the inexorable certainty of law.’[42]

While Dati may have connected the pattern of decay and renewal with providence and fortune when it came to rulers, other contemporary Renaissance historians, to a large extent, did not. While Guicciardini does suggest in his History of Italy that the ill-judged actions of rulers ‘forgetting how often fortune changes, and converting to other peoples harm the power vested in them fort he public good, they become through lack of prudence or excess in ambition the author of fresh upheaval,’[43] he fails to carry that connection he had made throughout his History.

Machiavelli opens his history with a short observation of decay and renewal, giving on account of the ruined, or decayed, cities of ‘Aquileia, Luni, Chiusi, Popolonia, Fiesole and many others,’ and the emergence of the new cities, ‘Venice, Siena, Ferrara, Aquila.’[44] Bruni takes notice of how settlers in new cities attempted to ‘out of nostalgia or love for their old home… imitated Rome in their planning of the city.’[45] Bruni fails to recognise their desire to emulate ‘that greatness to which (Rome) had risen with marvellous virtue and good fortune,’[46] and that the general consensus was that it ‘had decayed under imperial monarchy,’[47] and how most felt that while Rome was ‘weakened by the decay of her ancient customs’[48] it was still the pinnacle to which all new socities must strive to emulate when the opportunity of renewal presented itself.

Florence is an extraordinary example of constant renewal. Machiavelli argues that ‘republican governments, more especially those imperfectly organised, frequently change their rulers and the form of their institutions.’[49] They debated the form of government extensively, as witnessed in the Vespucci and Soderini debates, or desired a strong leader when they were disconted as evidenced with Michael di Lando and Veri de’ Medici so that ‘with a  comprehensive mind at the head of affairs she would easily have been made to take any form that he might have been disposed to give her.’[50]

Machiavelli attempts to explain this constant decay and renewal by noting how ‘as soon as they have arrived at their greatest perfection, they soon begin to decline. In the same manner, having been reduced by disorder, and sunk to their utmost state of depression, unable to descend lower, they, of necessity, reascend.’[51] Guicciardini concurs asserting ‘all cities, states nd kingdoms are mortal, since either by nature or accident everything in this world must sometimes have an end.’[52]

There is a very definite acknowledgement of the existence of the pattern of renewal and decay of society, rulers and its institutions in contemporary Renaissance histories. And many accounts of this decay are combined with providence and fortune. Another example of providence in the form of portents being the ‘ancient reputation of comets as changers of kingdoms. For after the comet things changed immediately, and the condition of Italy was entirely renewed.’[53] ‘The heavens and mankind joined in proclaiming the future calamities of Italy.’[54] There were many ‘unnatural things’ occuring, sacred statues sweating, monsters were born and ‘in the Arezzo district a vast number of armed men on enormous horses were seen passing through the air’[55] in forewarning of the French invasion. And ‘the highest pinnacle of the church of Santa Reparate was struck with lightning, and great part of it thrown down, to the terror and amazement of everyone,’[56] in anticipation of Lorenzo the Magnificent’s demise.

While Guicciardini only invokes fortune as a ‘last resort, and never without reason as escort,’[57] he certainly flirts with the idea of fortune and providence in the form of portents, along with Bruni and Machiavelli. Guicciardini also sees in Fra Girolama Savonarola someone who ‘possessed more than human power.’[58] When Piero de’ Medici ran to Charles VIII of France ‘he thought he was following his father’s example, who in 1479 finding himself in grave danger through war waged on Florentines by Pope Sixtus and Ferdinand King of Naples went to see Ferdinand in Naples and brought back to Florence peace.’[59] Guicciardini condemns Piero’s actions as naïve and ‘if the same conditions do not apply not in general but in every particular, if the matter is not managed with equal prudence and if in addition to everything else the same good fortune does not play its part.’[60] Here, Guicciardini places an equal importance on fortune as conditions and planning. To him, God’s purpose existed but it was entirely inscrutable. Fortune operated somewhere between God’s purpose and man’s own decisions, but it was capricious.[61] This is congruent to Dati’s own interpretation of fortune and providence, and he attempted through his history to analyse the ‘operation of fortune… to discer a quality or tendency of action, the knowledge of which would be of advantage to his readers or hearers.

There is no doubt that contemporary Renaissance Florentine histories exhibit these three sociological trend prototypes and observations, which would be discovered and defined much later on in the field of sociology. They are histories of domination; they are histories of decay and renewal; and they are histories of providence and fortune. This aspect was of utmost importance in the practice of history, as they attempted to rationalise the world they lived in by using empirical research, the history of their ancients, to establish definite trends. This discussion warrants an enormous amount of further research, looking at pre-Renaissance Florentine historians, and indeed post-Renaissance Florentine historians, to collate their method of sociological analysis to that of our contemporary Renaissance Florentine historians. Another possible further field of research would be are these trends apparent in non-Florentine Renaissance histories? While Pietro Bembo’s History of Venice exhibits none of the trends in our Florentine histories based on some investigtions made for this essay,[62] a more extensive analysis of contemporary Renaissance histories and their sociological method would be fascinating, and advantageous to understanding the evolution of historical practice during the Renaissance.

 Jon Elster insists that there ‘is no presumption that a society is well ordered. The interaction that defines a society can be destructive – the war of all against all – as well as cooperative.’[63] Contemporary Renaissance historians certainly attempted to address, if not order, this chaos by analysing sociological trends, which were treated by them like the ‘cycle of night and day, the seasons, the tides, the orbits of the planets, to life and history.’[64] Every domination will decay. This decay will be the result of fortune or providence. And from this state of decay will come renewal, and new domination will begin. ‘From good they gradually decline to evil, and from evil again return to good. The reason is, that valour produces peace; peace, repose; repose, disorder; disorder, ruin; so from disorder order springs; from order virtue, and from this, glory and good fortune.’[65]


[1] Hans Baron, From Petrarch to Leonardo Bruni: Studies in Humanistic and Political Literature (Chicago, 1968), p103

[2] John R. Hale (Edited by and Introduction by), Francesco Guicciardini, History of Italy and History of Florence (Buckinghamshire, 1964), pXVIII

[3] Francesco Guicciardini, History of Italy and History of Florence (Buckinghamshire, 1964), p85

[4] Francesco Guicciardini,History of Italy and History of Florence (Buckinghamshire, 1964), p85

[5] Louis Green, Chronicle Into History: An Essay on the Interpretation of History in Florentine Fourteenth-Century Chronicles (Cambridge, 1972), p114

[6] Goro Dati, Istoria di Firenze,Chroncile Into History: An Essay on the Interpretation of History in Florentine Fourteenth-Century Chronicles (Cambridge, 1972), p115

[7] Bryan S. Turner, Max Weber: From History to Modernity (New York, 2001), p24

[8] Turner, Max Weber: From History to Modernity, p28

[9] George Ritzer, Sociological Theory (New York, 2008), p129

[10] Niccólo Machiavelli, History of Florence and of the Affairs of Italy from the Earliest Times to the Death of Lorenzo the Magnificent (New York, 1960), p21

[11] Machiavelli, History of Florence, p21

[12] Machiavelli, History of Florence, p65

[13] Francesco Guicciardini,History of Italy and History of Florence (Buckinghamshire, 1964), p119

[14] Francesco Guicciardini,History of Italy and History of Florence (Buckinghamshire, 1964), p119

[15] Leonardo Bruni, History of the Florentine People, vol.1, James Hankins (ed.) (London, 2001), p111

[16] Machiavelli, History of Florence, p108

[17] John R. Hale (introduction), Guicciardini, History of Italy, pXXX

[18] Guicciardini, History of Italy, pp.201-4

[19] Guicciardini, History of Italy, p204

[20] Guicciardini, History of Italy, p208

[21] Machiavelli, History of Florence, p158

[22] Guicciardini, History of Italy, pXXX

[23] Machiavelli, History of Florence, p138

[24] Machiavelli, History of Florence, p138

[25] Machiavelli, History of Florence, p150

[26] Guicciardini, History of Florence, p1

[27] Guicciardini, History of Florence, p8

[28] Machiavelli, History of Florence, p175

[29] Machiavelli, History of Florence, p319

[30] Guicciardini, History of Italy, pp.130-1

[31] Paul Hirst, Social Evolution and Sociological Categories (London, 1976), p50

[32] Guicciardini, History of Florence, p82

[33] Guicciardini, History of Florence, p82

[34] Guicciardini, History of Florence, p4

[35] Guicciardini, History of Florence, p69

[36] Green, Chronicle Into History, p117

[37] Green, Chronicle Into History, p119

[38] Green, Chronicle Into History, p121

[39] Green, Chronicle Into History, p116

[40] Green, Chronicle Into History, p116

[41] Green, Chronicle Into History, p121

[42] Green, Chronicle Into History, p122

[43] Guicciardini, History of Italy, p85

[44] Machiavelli, History of Florence, p7

[45] Bruni, History of the Florentine People, p13

[46] Guicciardini, History of Italy, p86

[47] Hans Baron, From Petrarch to Leonardo Bruni, p104

[48] Guicciardini, History of Italy, p86

[49] Machiavelli, History of Florence, p158

[50] Machiavelli, History of Florence, p109

[51] Machiavelli, History of Florence, p204

[52] Guicciardini, History of Italy, pXXXII

[53] Bruni, History of the Florentine People, p193

[54] Guicciardini, History of Italy, p145

[55] Guicciardini, History of Italy, p145

[56] Machiavelli, History of Florence, p407

[57] Guicciardini, History of Italy, pXXXIV

[58] Guicciardini, History of Florence, p38

[59] Guicciardini, History of Italy, p164

[60] Guicciardini, History of Italy, p164

[61] Guicciardini, History of Italy, pXXVI

[62] Pietro Bembo, History of Venice (London, 2009)

[63] Jon Elster, The Cement of Society: A Study of Social Order (Cambridge, 1989), p248

[64] Louis Green, Chronicle Into History, p122

[65] Machiavelli, History of Florence, p204

20 Year Leap

           ‘I can resist everything except temptation’

‘Life is too important a thing to be talked about seriously’

           ‘We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars’

– Oscar Wilde

          Waking up the morning after the night before, and not being able to remember where the hell I am, was somewhat of a speciality of mine. I kinda’ pride myself on my ability to wind up someplace inconceivably far away from the bar stool of my first drink. Some guys throw javelins, well, this was my olympics. Finding myself twenty years away from last night, however, was a new record. Even for me.

           How did I get there? Good question. As always is the case it started with a lick of brandy, off a stripper’s stomach this time. Peachy. It was a particularly quiet night when I met with the soon-to-be-hitched Marl. It was supposed to be a relaxed night of reminiscing. Jovial conversation. Misty-eyed, barrel-laughed, squeeky-clean fun between two old college buddies who had seen less and less of each other as their hairlines receeded and their guts expanded. Fuckin’ nightmare. Instead I took him to a strip club and hoped for the best night possible. Marl was a real good guy, the type with a healthy bank account and a well thought out savings scheme. He had tried to get me onboard with the whole ‘plan-ahead’ thing, but the thought of planning for being old was, to me anyway, morbid and repugnant.

           Marl had a good lady too, a teacher, cute as hell, but dressed like shit. For a thirty-something to wear so many beige cardigans and ankle-length skirts has got to be a crime someplace. Someplace with sense. A sense of life, and living. You can imagine that I wasn’t particularly fond of slaving either. I had jobs. I just never found the job. Y’know… the one that makes you want to get up out of bed in the morning?

           Instead, I wasted everything that had ever been given to me by anyone who had ever cared about me, and I drank myself into a good time.

           Marl ordered himself a beer, a light beer, as we walked to the smoking area outside the club’s side door, and took a seat. Being enclosed in a circle of waist-high barriers, advertising Dutch beer, was supposed to make you feel like you were still in the realm and spirit of the club. It didn’t. Making smokers sit outside always felt like exile to me, particularly in a strip club. Was it because the strippers were afraid of their tarty delicates reeking of tobacco? Or maybe they felt the cloud of smoke provided too dense a veil of secrecy for the many husbands of many, many wives to hide behind while they ogled some guy’s writhing, oily daughter.

           The sky was clear; completely black. A sort of awe-inspiring, big blackness. A ‘look at how unimportant and small I am in the grand scheme of things’ sort of blackness. We took long drags from our cigarettes in between shit conversation. Nothing he said made sense to me anymore. I still loved him, he was still Marl, but Christ he was boring. Twenty years is a long time, and people change, and their lives change.

           A lone star glinted in the otherwise empty black sky. It was exceptionally bright, or maybe I was exceptionally bored off my tits. I passed a look from the star to Marl who was still talking bullshit, to two ugly, lecherous individuals up against the wall outside the club, and then back to Marl, who was looking for my opinion on something. ‘You know it buddy’, I said unconvincingly, taking the last swig from my almost empty bottle of beer. Stale, lifeless beer. Stale, lifeless Marl.

           We went back inside the club to get another round of drinks. Marl got a gin and tonic, and I got a whiskey. I thought of asking for cola as a mixer before realising that the longer it takes to get wasted, the longer I have to listen to Marl talking about late-night shifts at the company, and broken water-coolers, and shirt and tie combinations, and dental care benefits, and the bits of coffee in the sugar because people don’t wash the fucking spoons after themselves.

           I knocked back the whiskey in a gulp, wiped my mouth, and ordered another one, and another gin and tonic for Marl.

           We threw some cash at the girls, drank from their greasy navels, and slowly the world peeled back around me, and it started to spin a little, and I was happy.

           Back outside for another smoke I threw another glance to the two uglies, still at it. I looked up into the great blackness as I lit my cigarette, and the world twisted in my state of blissful intoxication. How bright that solitary star was! It wouldn’t sit still. I tried squinting and focusing my eyes, but I was too far gone; it danced a wonderful dance and blazed a trail right into my drunken stupor. Then it disappeared. My wonderful companion!

           It shone again. ‘Join me!’ I cried to it. It was gone again. I was alone. The feeling of dejection was full, and damaging. I sobbed into my coat sleeve, until, wiping the tears from my eyes, I seen its merry glint. Brief celestial friend!

           I followed it, and followed it. Wanting it to be mine. I chased it, running and twisting down the street as it glinted, winking flirtatiously at me. I barely saw the Nissan Micra as it smashed into my body. A fucking Micra. I woke up twenty years later, unable to move much and my hair had grown grey in parts. I feel cheated to this day, it was Marl’s round to buy drinks, and the asshole choked on a scone seven years ago.

           The last thing I remember from the night I was put in my twenty year coma was the look on the driver’s face, and her fucking beige cardigan.

First Entry

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