Sun Ra - Column for 3/31

Back from Italy

Well, I'm back.

I sincerely apologize for the lack of fresh Cant while I was away - for some inexplicable reason, the cron job that runs the update each night decided that, with me out of the country, it needn't bother. The logs show that it never even tried to update things, the instant after I was gone. Hey, at least it wasn't a bug in my code.

Oh, and thanks for taking the country to war while I was abroad. Jesus H. Christ, couldn't you have waited a week? I love finding out that we've gone to war through pictures on newspapers that I can't read.

The Italians were very nice about it though. At least, to us. I dunno how they would have gotten along with pro-war types. But we weren't spat upon, despite the fact that something like ninety percent of the country was against the war.

Now I'm going to take a moment to advertise the columns that were input but never seen during the missing weeks:
Pakeha had some general comments on war, America, and morality in State of Affairs.
Harlock ratchets up the vitriol level about the war, which hadn't quite happened when he was writing, in Put Your Butt On The Line.
And I, foolishly trusting in my UNIX system to run properly, had prepared two columns - the first, Address to Prospective Students, is a bit of short fiction I had fun writing. The second, Dog and Pony Show, was writtten pre-hostilities, and is my posing and answering the question "Whatever happened to a declaration of war?"

So that's what you've missed - or, to look at it another way, what's been saved up for you to entertain yourself with today! They are all properly linked from the authors' column lists, as well.

For the rest of this column, I'm going to ramble on about our trip. I'm composing web pages about it, as I did with our trip to Spain two years ago, so I'm just going to give you some stray, unconnected impressions here.

A brief intro: my wife had a two-day conference to attend in Rome, so we tacked on several days before and a week afterward, and made a trip out of it. She had been to Rome before, albeit as a much younger individual. I'd only gotten as far south as Venice, and was at the time even younger. So this was our first trip to Rome as grown-ups. We spent the first week in the Eternal City (or, as Arthur Herman described it when I told him I was going there, the "Belly of the Beast"), and then visited several central Italian hill towns for the second week.

We had a great time. The food was good, the people were nice, the weather was cool but not overly so, the tourists were scarce, and the history! Oh, the history!

So it was a good trip. Let me start with Rome.

Rome is... well. How to describe it. Rome is like a telephone pole. A very, very old telephone pole, covered in several inches of lost dog notices and concert flyers. Many of them for cool bands, or events that you've heard of. It's old, kind of seedy, and in need of some clean-up. Yet at the same time it has a power precisely because of its sheer, obvious age - the layers of history are all there for you to gawk at.

It's hard on the feet, I'll tell you that. There wasn't a day of seeing the sights in Rome that didn't end with aching, dog-tired feet. There's just so much there - which means not only is there a lot to see, but notable sites are lined up one next to another in every direction, which leads to lots of walking.

The food was good. Pizza. Their pizza is different - it's cardboard thin, and very, very tasty. I'm still puzzled by how they can fit so much yumminess into so thin a package. And they serve their pasta hard - it's still got firmness when you eat it, unlike the soft pastas you get here. It leaves more of the egg taste in, so you taste the pasta and the sauce, rather than just the sauce. Their bread, on the other hand, was remarkably blah. Italian bread in the U.S. is much tastier, for some reason.

All their manhole covers have "SPQR" on them. I found this both odd and really nifty. Odd, because "SPQR" is the motto of the Roman republic: the Senate and the People of Rome. And that form of government died a long, long time ago, so it was odd to see that they kept the motto. (And 'kept' is the right word - the Renaissance popes used it, too.) It was nifty because when the denizens of the Republic geekhouse played in multiplayer games, the clan tag was SPQR. So walking around Rome, I saw my clan tag marked in different fonts of different ages in every single metal plate in the ground. Some of them with fasces, even!

Which was also interesting. Mussolini hasn't been erased from Rome, the way certain other dictators have been erased. Which makes sense, since in Italy he was really just a tinpot dictator, not much different from other dicatators. But it meant that, walking around, every now and then his name would appear on some monument, or the fascist symbols of his government. Kind of strange.

Okay, that's enough for now. Stay tuned for a complete trip report later. And here's hoping that the server is working properly again.

- Sun Ra

Columns by Sun Ra