S. Worthen (owlfish) wrote,
S. Worthen

Five subjects

A getting-to-know-you meme. "Comment to this post and I will give you 5 subjects/things I associate with you. Then post this in your LJ and elaborate on the subjects given."

gylfinir asked me about:


My first memorable trip to Canterbury was the first major expedition I did entirely on my own. I was living in Oxford for a summer program as an undergraduate and wanted to see it. I looked up the train times, I arrived as early as I could, I saw the cathedral and the monastery ruins and the church which has Thomas More's head. I was so proud of myself for being able to be a Proper Tourist all by myself.

Now I work there one day a week, teaching Media Histories as a sabbatical replacement. It's a three hour commute each way, but I no longer need to look up train times. I've internalized them. The classes don't start until 1 pm, so although it's a long commute, I don't have to leave ridiculously early. The day I came down for orientation was the first time I've arrived in Canterbury and did not immediately think "Chaucer!". This time, I though, "Thomas More!" since I was about to start teaching Renaissance History as well.

I love the opportunity to get to know a city like this. I'm better at doing it when it's a time-limited opportunity. drasecretcampus went with me on a walking tour of the walls. I browse my Blue Guide and admire all the historic properties which are closed on Mondays (when I am there) or closed off-season (when I am there).


Anime failed to excite me when I was first introduced to it through the science fiction club at my undergraduate institution my first year there. Maison Ikkoku and Ranma 1/2 did nothing for me. The bug bit me with Sailor Moon, the first t.v. show I watched regularly live, during my last undergraduate year. I joined a fan mailing list and, my first (and then-thought only) summer in Toronto I met up with mailing list people and spent the evening watching anime samplers at the club I would later join when I was resident in the city. I bought tie-in products from both sides of the ocean, in Boston, mail-order, and on a sister-state trip back to Japan.

Going to one of the anime clubs at the University of Toronto each month was what really systematically introduced me to new series for consideration, an episode or three of a few new series at each meeting. I started going to the local, exponentially-growing anime con, Anime North, where everyone I knew was running it, not attending, so I had plenty of time to dabble further. theengineer introduced me to new series and shows too. Most of what I bought - often easier than trying to track down rentals of long obscure series - was heavily discounted and in the US. As I result, I still have more anime than anything else among my DVDs.

Anime is still very underdeveloped as a trend in the UK and, as a consequence, I'm rarely introduced to new series any more. In theory, there's a large London anime club that does showings on Sunday afternoons. I'd rather watch at night instead of during daylight hours. There are few anime cons and they tend to sell out a ridiculously large number of months in advance, so I haven't bothered. Manga prices are competitive here, but - last I checked - anime really isn't, and thus not usually worth the cost of buying here, given the expense.


As a graduate student at York (in the UK), I tagged along on a field trip that the early medieval studies students were doing up to Newcastle. We went to Monkwearmouth and to Jarrow, and then to Bede's World, which was one of the more surreal medieval touristic opportunities I've had in my life. Anglo-Saxon homes lay nestled under towering power pylons.

I think of that trip often when teaching about Vasco da Gama and the circumnavigation of Africa. His ships brought back peppercorns galore, crashing the economy of Lisbon, where a peppercorn had been a thing of great rarity and value, suitable for paying rent and debt. When Bede died, nearly 800 years earlier and in a place still further removed from sources of peppercorns, a few peppercorns were among his few possessions, left to the his fellow monks at Jarrow. He may have been humble, but in peppercorns, by the standards of the time, he had some small wealth.

It's funny that the peppercorn story should be my primary association, for Bede is also a notable figure in the history of timekeeping. I have Faith Wallis' translation of his popular work, On the Reckoning of Time, on my bookshelf. I've also visited Bede's tomb several times; it was moved from Jarrow to Durham Cathedral in the eleventh century. For a few years, when our friend K. was a graduate student at Durham, we visited the city frequently.


When I was three years old, I was fluent in Italian. My parents and I had moved to Florence for the year, my father on sabbatical, and my sister was born there. My parents had first met in Florence, before they moved back to their undergraduate institutions in Massachusetts and started dating. My sister would keep coming back to the city: junior year abroad as an undergraduate; and then she married a boy from the area, so my brother-in-law's family are there too. So that's where the Italian connection began, and why it's pervaded my life. We aren't Italians, although we're now related to some.

Eventually, my mother developed connections with Venice, and, two sabbaticals later, my family was there for a year. It was my first year as an undergraduate so I wasn't there for the whole period, just all the vacations. My sister went to high school and became durably fluent in Italian. My parents kept going back, eventually bought an apartment there, and now live in Venice part-time. Professionally, it makes some sense for them too: art historians, artist, curator, sister state exchanges between Iowa and the Veneto.

I am not now fluent in Italian. When I was four, we moved back to the states and I forgot more-or-less everything. I've studied Italian off-and-on since, can read it fairly well and handle fairly complex conversations in Italian, although I am not verbally graceful in doing so. The important part is that I am functional in Italian. My undergraduate major was Medieval Studies, with a concentration in Italian.

I have actually traveled very little in Italy on my own. It's a place I go to see family, and to travel with family. Given that I have, cumulatively, spent years of my life there, I know I am rather limited when it comes to experiencing the country.


I am lucky in family, especially given how many friends I have who are alienated from theirs. My family isn't all that large, which has meant that I know my second cousins, as well as my first cousins. I have one younger sister (who blogs here). My immediate family all have LJs: marzapane, printperson, geesepalace.

I knew all four of my grandparents, and one of my great-grandmothers, who lived on her own, strong and able, until she broke her hip at the age of 97. She died just shy of 103, when I was about 20. My grandmothers are still going strong at 90+ now, living independent, busy lives. They read my LJ regularly too.

We're all very scattered, however, which makes visiting a challenge. My parents are either in Iowa or Italy. My sister is in Washington, D.C. One grandmother (and great-aunt and great-uncle) are in Connecticut. The other (and aunts and uncles and cousins) are in Arkansas. I have an uncle (one of three total) in Maine and a cousin (one of three total) in Australia currently. We're in the UK. So we visit when we can and, in the meanwhile, talk regularly on the phone, and via email and FB and LJ. We don't live in each others' pockets, but we do keep in reasonably close touch. I feel very lucky to have them all.
Tags: italy
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