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Verona: Shakespeare, fascism and authenticity

Last month I did a talk about Romeo and Juliet, Verona, tourism and fascism at History Showoff, a fun night where a bunch of historians get up in a pub basement and have exactly nine minutes to share something interesting with the audience. Although I am not a proper historian, the organiser let me have a go anyway (thank you Steve!), and I think it went well. There’s a video on YouTube (and below), although I could only watch 30 seconds of it before turning it off, because I hate hearing my own voice!

Here’s the gist of it, adapted from my notes, though I realised while putting this together that I didn’t really keep track of citations, since I wasn’t thinking past the presentation (see again: not proper historian). So there are some parts in the talk that aren’t here (mostly jokes about TripAdvisor) and some parts here that aren’t in the talk (mostly because I was nervous and forgot).

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Travel blogging and capitalism

In June I suddenly started hearing about a product called the ‘Paradise Pack’, a package of e-courses and e-books that promised ‘Everything you need to learn how to make money travel blogging online!’ It was on sale for seven days (and seven days only!!). When you clicked to the home page, it asked:

Would You Like To…

Live rent free (yes free!) in villas and penthouses around the globe?

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The Briton’s Protection, Manchester

The Britons Protection

Unfortunately, I only passed the Briton’s Protection on my last day in Manchester, on the way to the train station, with no time for a pint. But I was interested by the sign, showing soldiers on horseback chasing down people carrying ‘REFORM’ banners. I took a picture and looked up the story behind it when I got home.

It refers to what happened at nearby St. Peter’s Field on a summer afternoon in 1819, when around 80,000 people gathered to peacefully demonstrate for voting reform. The British Library site has a good summary of the context and what happened that day.

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Ed Miliband, what has the internet done with you

I’m sorry.

I really didn’t want to talk about the election on the internet. (For those of you not in the UK, we’re having a general election in 10 days and it is e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e.) Maybe instead of ‘talking about the election’, think of this a kind of travel writing, to a very strange place, which Britain is right now. On Monday I got back from two weeks in North America, and found this was happening:

Milifandom tweet

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National Portrait Gallery and restaurant, London

Last December I had an afternoon unexpectedly free up, so I decided to spend it at my favourite big art gallery near Trafalgar Square. Not the grand one with the pillars, the National Gallery, but the one around the corner on Charing Cross Road, across the street from Pret, the National Portrait Gallery.

Both arrange their collections by chronology, so you go forward in time as you move through them. But while the National Gallery’s halls are just by century – “16th: Leonardo, Cranach, Michelangelo, Raphael, Holbein”, you can practically hear the curator yawning – the National Portrait Gallery, which has to fit into smaller rooms, has also grouped each era into themes.

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I’m already not reading books by white men in 2015, here’s how it’s going

Last week my friend Lydia retweeted a mention of “that widely discussed no-white-male writer challenge”, and I said “Er, what?”, and she linked me to this XOJane article by KT Bradford:

I Challenge You to Stop Reading White, Straight, Cis Male Authors for One Year.

This was both pleasing and surprising, because I’ve already been doing this in 2015 – I decided to do something like it last November, and here’s what I wrote then (on Booklikes – I like Booklikes a lot for keeping track of my reading, and it’s not-popular enough that I feel comfortable sticking unfinished and quick thoughts up):

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Header art by Tod Wills.