Sixty-one and a day. It feels no different that sixty-one, of sixty and three hundred sixty-four days, or that matter. I had a lovely day yesterday–I must carve out some time today to thank people for all the lovely birthday wishes all over social media yesterday, which is always nice. I spent most of the day off-line, as I intended; I wanted to actually have a complete day off from everything, and it was lovely. I finished (finally) my book yesterday morning, and started Gabino Iglesias’ latest The Devil Takes You Home, which is superb. Gabino manages, somehow, to find terrible beauty in despair, and the first chapter is like a sucker-punch to the soul. I finished watching a documentary about post-war British cinema, Reel Brittania (it’s really good) and then we watched a whole lot of other things the rest of the day–the eleventh episode of The Sandman, which adapted two stand-alone stories from the comics run (“Dream of a Thousand Cats” was my favorite of the two, but “Calliope” was also incredible; seriously, The Sandman comic was one of a kind)–and watched some other things, gradually making our way to season two of Outlaws, which I don’t think is as good as the first season but it’s still fun to watch.
I am, however, looking forward to House of the Dragon dropping tonight, though.
It rained yesterday most of the day-some lovely thunderstorms added into the all-day rain for variety–which made it even more lovelier to stay home in my easy chair with a blanket tucked carefully in around me while I read my books and watched the television. It was really relaxing, which is what I wanted more than anything else in all honesty–a day where I could simply just completely unplug and let every part of me rest. It’s generally not a bad idea for me to do this with one day of every weekend–inevitably it falls on Saturday so I can spend the entire day watching college football (GEAUX TIGERS!)–but I am also going to need to take some time to go exploring around the outer edges of New Orleans; I was thinking the other day that I’d like to drive up the River Road, along the levee–the map can’t really give me the answer I need–and I also need to go explore the river and bayou parishes, to get a better idea of what they are like and what they look like and so on and so forth for this Scotty book.
I am probably going to spend today cleaning, revising and reading. I had thought I couldn’t actually spend the entire day sedentary yesterday and would inevitably get up to do some cleaning–because it bugs me, for one thing, when the house isn’t as tidy as it could and should be–but surprise! I guess having COVID did teach me one thing: that I don’t always have to be doing something and that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with doing nothing, if that’s what I want to do. Usually, when I spend an entire day doing as little as I did yesterday I inevitably feel guilty the following day about the loss of time (that whole you’re not getting any younger, Greg thing that constantly runs through my head) but maybe I am starting to mature enough as I realize gradually that I will never be able to write everything that I want to write, or read everything that I want to read. I don’t always have to be working, and relaxation and rest is essential for my mental health, particularly as I get older (the inside of my head is a very intense and scary place, trust me on this, Constant Reader).
But…I am now sixty-one, and that much closer to retiring from the day job. I am trying not to think about retirement with a lot of hope and longing; sixty-five will get here soon enough, and I would like to make some good use of the four years between now and then. So, I am going to bring this to a close, Constant Reader, and start the process of cleaning and organizing so I can start the editing/writing process for the day.
And I will talk to you soon, Constant Reader. May you have a lovely Sunday.
I am working at home today, which is kind of nice. I do have an errand to run this morning–or rather, on my lunch break–but have lots of data to enter and so forth, so I will be ensconced in the home workspace for most of the day. I am also laundering the bed linens–an every Friday chore–and have some odds and ends to clean up around here. I am going to try to get the chores done today so I don’t have to do a damned thing tomorrow; I think I’m allowed on my birthday to take an entire day off–not wash a dish or do any laundry or run any errands or do anything I don’t want to do. I want to spend all day tomorrow reading and relaxing and just chilling out; that’s my favorite kind of birthday. Paul is going to get us Chinese food for a birthday dinner treat, which we haven’t had in an extremely long time..one of my favorite things to do whenever I go to New York is to get good Chinese food. (I know it’s Americanized, don’t @ me.)
I was tired yesterday, the usual Thursday “I’ve gotten up at six a.m. four mornings in a row” thing more than anything else. I didn’t get nearly as much done as I would have hoped, but as I said, I felt tired all day–both body and brain fatigue–so when I got home from work yesterday I just kind of allowed myself the evening off. I finished rereading the first two Sandman graphic novels–Preludes and Nocturnes and The Doll’s House–which the first season of the show covered, and they were just as marvelous and well-done as I remembered. Hopefully, this weekend I will be able to get back into reading–which is my entire plan for my birthday; I want to finish reading the book I started two weeks (!!!) ago, and move on to the next book on my list. Sunday I will write and edit; and then of course Monday is another work-at-home day as August slowly but surely slides back into September. Whew. At some point–Sunday, most likely–I will need to run some errands, but I’m not going to worry about that today…although I do need to update ye Olde To-Do List.
Last night we couldn’t decide what to watch. I started watching a documentary series about British cinema while I was waiting for Paul to finish working, and when he came downstairs we just started chatting while the documentary continued streaming–and when it got to the part about James Bond, Paul remembered seeing something about the young woman who played Rosie Carver, the first Black Bond girl (who also turned out to be a double agent) and as we chatted, we both confessed that we had a special soft spot for that Bond film (Live and Let Die), which led to me remembering that watching that movie (the first Bond I saw in the theater, and why Roger Moore was always my favorite Bond–although I’ve really come to appreciate Connery’s a lot more and of course, DANIEL CRAIG) and I said, “I bet that movie doesn’t hold up anymore–I watched it a couple of years ago while making condom packs and I was a little surprised at how racist it actually was; why don’t we watch it again and see what we think?” I had also read the book when I was a teenager–very very little in common with the film, I might add–and had reread it sometime in the last decade and, like rewatching the film, more than a little taken aback about how racist it was. (Live and Let Die will probably be an essay I’ll write at some point, both book and movie.) There are some funny moments in the movie–Moore had a much lighter take on Bond than Connery, and the switch in actors resulted in a dramatic switch in tone for the films–and it’s highly entertaining…but yes, it definitely traffics in the worst 70’s stereotypes of Black people and the voodoo aspects of the story on the fictional island of San Monique are pretty bad, as well. Live and Let Die was also filmed and released during the “blaxploitation” period of film, which saw movies like Superfly, Cotton Comes to Harlem, Cleopatra Jones, Shaft, and Coffy being made and released–the time when the incredibly marvelous Pam Grier’s career took off. Was it an attempt to be relevant and possibly try to reach the audience for blaxploitation movies? Probably, but one of the few things that carried over from the book to the movie was that the villains were Black.
And yes, when we finished watching we agreed that the depiction of Black characters were, at the very least, problematic. The movie does have one of the best theme songs of the entire series of films, though (probably the best song Paul McCartney and Wings ever recorded, for that matter).
I had always kind of envisioned Colin from the Scotty books as a kind of cross between James Bond and Indiana Jones–one of the reasons I originally decided to never really talk about what Colin was doing when he wasn’t in New Orleans is yes, even back then I was thinking about spinning Colin off into his own action/adventure series before realizing can you write an action/adventure novel, Greg? I still would like to try–part of the reason my career is so strange and all-over-the-place is me trying new things to see if I could actually, you know, do it–but action has always been difficult for me to write (and now that little voice in my head is saying which is precisely why you should try to write one, jackass) and of course, an international intrigue plot would require a lot more planning than what I am used to doing. I might still do it, you never know–I have a plot in mind that involves the 4th Crusade and the sack of Constantinople; one that’s been in my mind now for several decades–but there are so many things I want to write, and time is running out…
Which, of course, is why I think I’m lazy and am taken aback when people say I’m prolific. My novels and short stories published are maybe about a fifth (if that much) of all the ideas I’ve had or things that are in some sort of progress; that’s what I think about when someone calls me prolific–the files and files of incomplete stories and ideas and characters and scenes languishing on the back burner and collecting dust.
And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Happy Greg’s Birthday Eve, everyone!
Monday morning and I am off to the office to cover for a co-worker rather than work at home. This works because my work-at-home day this week will be Friday, and then the next week it will be Monday again, so I’ll have four days of not going into the office around my birthday, which is kind of nice. I didn’t have any trouble getting up this morning–I woke up actually at 5:58 and stayed in bed through another two snooze cycles starting at 6, as usual–and now I sit, swilling coffee and feeling awake, as the clock inevitably makes its way to the time when I have to start getting ready to leave for work.
Costco was delivered yesterday, and it really is a remarkable convenience. I still need to run past their actual store one night after work this week–some things can’t be delivered, or they don’t offer them for delivery; it’s also entirely possible they do have the stuff in stock just don’t deliver it and that’s why I want to run by just to make sure. It’ll be an easy in-and-out, and after work one day should do the trick, I would think.
It’s weird going in on Monday morning and getting up so early an extra morning this week–I don’t have to stay the entire shift today, so will most likely leave earlier than I usually do on my day shifts in the office. I suspect we’re going to go back to our old way of doing things in September at last, and I am hoping that means I can swing back around to evening shifts once again–which would be super lovely. An adjustment again, to be sure, but one that should be much easier than adjusting to getting up early every morning, which goes against every grain and fiber of my being.
I didn’t get a lot of writing done this past weekend–not really a surprise, to be honest–but I was pretty worn down by the time the weekend rolled around again, and so I am not terribly surprised I didn’t get a lot of work done this weekend. By the time I got home on Friday I was feeling fatigued already, and of course, I didn’t have much energy the entire weekend, either. Which is fine–I was able to do things that didn’t require much thinking, like cleaning and so forth–and while my mind couldn’t really wrap around reading over the weekend, I did start rereading my Sandman graphic novels, which help make the show even more enjoyable, to be honest; seeing how well the books were adapted into the show–well, I may need to watch the show again because I can’t stop thinking about it and the concepts it explored. It really is an exceptional television experience. We also got caught up on Five Days at Memorial, which I didn’t realize was still airing, so we are caught up on everything available, and we also caught up on American Horror Stories–the last two episodes were vastly superior to the first two, but still, not the greatest–and I also watched The Manchurian Candidate (the original, with Sinatra and Angela Lansbury) for the first time; it was a bit dated, and I also couldn’t help but think how much better it would have been if someone like Montgomery Clift or Paul Newman had played the male lead rather than Sinatra (I’ve never been much of a fan of his acting, really). It was interesting, and of course Paul didn’t see the big twist coming–the Angela Lansbury thing–and she was fantastic. It was also very much of its time–Communist scare, evil Soviet and Chinese Communists, brainwashing–but I’d also like to go back and read the novel on which it was based at some point.
I have an errand to run today after work–picking up a prescription–which is why I am wondering if it would be smart to swing by Costco on my way home; I can catch I-10 right here outside the office and be there in like five minutes, give or take, plus it’s much easier to get uptown from Costco. Decisions, decisions–but why not get it all over with tonight, then go home and shave my head and face for the week? It does make the most sense. Ah, well, no need to decide now.
And on that note, this is my birthday week–I will be sixty-one on Saturday, ee-yikes!–which only bears mentioning (it’s not something I care about excessively, to be honest) because all of my social media will announce it eventually this week at any rate. So I am heading in to the spice mines; y’all have a marvelous Monday!
I ran my errands–got the mail (which had a check!), swung by the Latter Library (which will be the setting for one of my new series books if it takes off) and picked up my book about obscenity trials (Dirty Works: Obscenity on Trial in America’s First Sexual Revolution) and then swung by Fresh Market to pick up some fresh fruits and vegetables and some other odds and ends. I returned home, felt pretty decent, and then spent the rest of the day cleaning and organizing and redoing the kitchen cabinets to make them feel a bit less cramped and crowded. When Paul got home from work we watched some television, finishing The Most Hated Man on the Internet (recommended), watched Uncharted with Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg (not missing much if you skip this), and started The Sandman on Netflix, which is superb.
Today I am going to continue with some of the cleaning and organizing, but am hoping to squeeze out some time to write before sinking back into my easy chair to enjoy more of The Sandman, which is extraordinary. I read the comic series years and years ago–I have some of the hardcover collections, which I’ve always intended to go back to and reread–and loved it. I had also loved the Neil Gaiman’s books American Gods and Good Omens, but found the adaptations to leave something to be desired, so I was worried about The Sandman being well done and good. Rest assured, it is very well done; visually arresting and stunning, the story relatively easy to follow, and the casting is superb. I think I may have to take some time and go back and reread the collections I have on hand–I always like to read the source material while I am watching the adaptation–but I also want to spend some time with the Ippolito book, which I want to finish this week. I am definitely going to be working on my Scotty book this weekend; progress must be made on it sooner rather than later, else it’s going to turn into one of those nightmarish deadline scenarios and God knows I do not want to find myself in another one of those situations ever again, perish the thought. (I say that about every deadline, don’t I? I am nothing if not sort of self-aware…)
I’m also trying to decide what to cook. I’ve been wanting to make shrimp-fried rice, which requires making rice the day before (apparently it needs to be at least day-old in order to make it), and I’ve been thinking that it’s not a bad idea to cook some things today that Paul can just heat up at night for something to eat, primarily because I never feel like cooking (or rarely) on the days when I go into the office (I keep hoping that we’ll eventually go back to our old schedule so I can go back to my normal schedule, which will make my life ever so much easier to handle, mainly because insomnia won’t be such an existential threat to my well-being the way it is when I have to get up at six in the morning); it would also help to clear some things out of the refrigerator (which is something I have to deal with today–cleaning out the refrigerator) and that’s always a good thing, methinks.
I was trying to remember where I had sold stories to this year and what short stories I have coming out at some point in the near future last night, and of course, couldn’t remember some of the places I had sold stories–which is why I try to keep the spreadsheet of submissions and sales–and maybe today, if I have some time after working on the book (I really want to pull that first chapter together today and maybe even get started on the second, to be honest) I may work on one of my short stories in progress. I know I have promised two stories with paranormal elements in them to two specific calls, and there’s another one I want to submit to, but don’t mind if I don’t get into it. (Another thing to do this week if I have time; try to figure out what my next short story collection will look like) I am feeling rather ambitious this morning, am I not? I am going to try to get my writing, cleaning and organizing (and weekly cooking preparations) all taken care of before I sit down to try to read this afternoon, so I am going to try to stay focused this morning, which is never an easy process for me. I’m also writing an entry for here about the birth and growth of the Scotty series that I should probably work a little more on, as well as some of the other in-progress entries I have–that whole personal essay thing I was talking about the other day–and of course, I am in the process of inventing an entire parish in Louisiana for the new Scotty book. It’s not like it’s the first time; I think I invented one on the north shore for Baton Rouge Bingo that popped up again in Garden District Gothic, but I could also be remembering wrong. I know I am going to have to go back to an old Scotty book to dig out something from his past that he’s going to have to face up to in Mississippi River Mischief which is going to be a lot of fun for me to write, frankly.
Come to think of it, I’ve invented rural parishes outside of New Orleans for several books now; I should go back and reread through them to get a sense or semblance of what I’ve already done and pull it all together.
And on that note I think I am going to head into the spice mines. I want to put the dishes away and get started on making this rice for tomorrow’s dinner (I also suspect it’s going to make way too much for both Paul and I to eat), and cleaning out the refrigerator while also doing some other chores until my brain is awake enough to start figuring out how to start this Scotty book and where it’s going to go. SO have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader. I’ll check in with you again tomorrow.
I think the first time I ever encountered amnesia as a plot point was in, of all places, Trixie Belden Mystery Number Sixteen, The Mystery of the Missing Heiress. Janey, a young woman who’d been in a car accident and been found wandering aimlessly along Glen Road near the Belden farm, had amnesia–and who she was turned out to be the key to the mystery bedeviling Trixie and the other Bob-Whites.
Amnesia is actually not nearly as common as film and television (especially soaps, where it is one of the handiest tropes at hand, along with evil twins and so on) would make it appear to be, and it’s not as simple as the visual media make it appear. I had to do research on amnesia for Sleeping Angel, and it was very interesting to see how many different types there are, and what causes them–there’s physical trauma to the brain, and then there’s psychological, where something has happened to the person with amnesia that is so traumatic to their very identity that their mind erases it. So, bearing that in mind, I was curious to see how Sandra SG Wong handled the subject in her recent In the Dark We Forget.
I awake with a shiver. Full on, from toes to the tingling roots in my scalp.
Sharp corners dig into my shoulders, down the length of my spine, underneath one set of ribs. My feet twitch. I feel the backs of my shoes slip on something wet
Shoes. Why am I wearing shoes while I sleep?
I push up on my elbows, can’t hold myself up, fall back with a thump onto those sharp corners again. I blink up at a murky sky. My head aches, like I’ve taken a chill. I hear a soft rustling of leaves, a lone chirping bird. My ears are cold. A slight breeze blows grit into my cheek. My eyes widen. Why am I outside?
That sounds like a frigging nightmare, doesn’t it? Imagine waking up somewhere and not only not knowing where you are, but who you are and how you got there. Wong’s main character remembers nothing about herself–her name, where she lives, anything–and is soon found by a charitable passer-by who picks her up and takes her to a local police station, where the mystery around this woman slowly begins to unfold.
The challenge for a writer telling this kind of story is that the reader doesn’t find out anything about the character until the character does herself–which is incredibly hard to do; does the loss of memory affect the person’s personality, their character, who they are themselves? Do they behave differently? What do you do when you start finding out unpleasant things about yourself that you have to face, things you may not want to believe are true?
Wong handles it all with the accomplished skill of a master. We start caring about the character, curious to find out who she is and how this all happened, and Wong keeps the reader on the edge of their seat the entire time. As the truths begin to slowly play out–who she is, what she was involved in, what was going on in her life that somehow wound up with her unconscious in the woods–Wong deftly starts showing us flashes of who the character is, and wisely never gets into the psychological vs physical questions about the amnesia itself. Her main character is also unreliable–not just because of the amnesia, but as we find out ever more about her, and the kind of person she is, we also begin to have to wonder if she’s telling the truth about anything…everything…or something in between.
Beautifully written and dripping with suspense, I greatly enjoyed my first experience with the fiction of Sandra SG Wong, and suspect you will as well, Constant Reader. Get a copy, read it, and thank me later.
And we have managed to circle back around to Friday yet again. Hurray! I have a training at work this morning (I think it’s “conflict resolution”, and I am astounded that management feels I need this, LOL–just kidding, it’s mandatory for everyone in department), and then I have a lot of things to get done at the office for the rest of my workday before I call the weekend’s beginning, which is rather exciting. I have some major things to get done that I am behind on, but have full confidence I can get it all done. I am going to order groceries for pick-up on Sunday morning (I love this) and I have some self-care scheduled for tomorrow morning; I am thinking I may even attempt a return to the gym this weekend as well. Scared o’that, you know? But it’s kind of past time.
I am not even tired this morning. It’s felt like I’ve not been sleeping deeply this week, but I have felt rested and relaxed all week, only getting tired in the evenings after I get home from work and do some chores around the house, which is not normal for me, but I like it. I woke up before the alarm this morning–Fridays I get to sleep an extra hour, which is quite lovely–and again, don’t feel any fatigue or anything; this is hopefully a good sign. I’m not sure what changed during my COVID infection, but it’s like something changed? Maybe I am tired, but since it’s not the same kind of fatigue/exhaustion I was experiencing during the COVID Times it’s not as noticeable and doesn’t bother me as much as it did before the pink line showed up on my at-home test? It is indeed possible that could be fact.
We watched the latest episode of American Horror Stories last night, and while episode two was vastly superior to episode one, it still wasn’t quite there. Both episodes were clever in concept, but didn’t completely deliver in execution (so often the case with things from Ryan Murphy), but it was entertaining, and then we finished season two of Into the Night, which is this amazing Belgian/French co-production that is non-stop stress, anxiety and drama–and very well done. The concept behind the show is that the sun has turned toxic, killing anyone and everything exposed to it–to the point where it even ruins gasoline and jet fuel and food–and in the first season, everyone was on a plane when they realized what was going on and turned around to fly west to stay ahead of the sun. At the end of Season One they’d managed to land the plane and find a military bunker, prepared for survival; season two is all the drama that one might expect from civilians and military personnel sharing an underground bunker and trying to get along and of course, conflict arises. No one else seems to be watching the show or talking about it, which is a real shame, but it’s quite good and its international cast is stellar. Quite marvelous. This is how you pull off high concept in a television series.
One thing I absolutely have to do is clean out my email inbox this weekend, for sure. Sheesh. It got out of control while I was sick and all I’ve been able to manage to do is stay current with new emails and so forth. I really want that marvelous experience of having an empty inbox again.
So, I have a lot to get done over the next few days, and feel pretty good about the possibilities of getting it all done in the meantime. I’ll have to get and stay motivated–tonight I need to do laundry and dishes, start putting things away and organizing, etc.–and I think we might watch The Gray Man tonight because why not?
And on that note, I’m getting another cup of coffee and heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader.
Sunday morning in the Lost Apartment and I slept really well again last night. I feel really rested now that I am over the virus, and the absence of the brain fog (which I feared was simply another sign in the inevitable decline of age) has been simply wonderful. I made groceries yesterday, taking advantage of the “order on-line/pick-up when you get there” systems which are marvelous and I will probably continue to use going forward. I do have to run an errand at some point this morning, but it isn’t really much of anything and it shouldn’t be an issue. I did manage to read some more of Sandra SG Wong’s wonderful In the Dark We Forget, which I am going to spend some time with this morning as well, and I am going to try to write and get some other things organized today. I did make some progress yesterday on things, but I also kind of took it easy on myself. I don’t want to overdue my recovery and potentially relapse–I’ve heard this is a thing, and that one must carefully dip one’s toe back in and slowly reenter the water slowly after getting over this monstrous thing. So, although I really want to just dive in headfirst and work on things all day today, I think I am going to continue to take it easy. Monday is usually my work-at-home day, but I think I am going to actually go into the office tomorrow–I’ve not been in for well over a week–and so it just kind of makes sense to me to go in. I don’t have to see clients tomorrow, for one, and so it’ll just be an easy way to ease back into going to the office as well.
We finished watching Special on Netflix, which was interesting and poignant and funny, and then watched a wonderful documentary about Showgirls, You Don’t Nomi–if you’re a Showgirls fan than you’ll really enjoy You Don’t Nomi (I also read It Doesn’t Suck, the academic book about it from a few years ago as well; it made me think about writing my own essay about the movie–because, of course, I think I should write about everything at one point or another)–and then started watching Chucky on Peacock, which was a lot more fun and better done than I would have thought. I didn’t expect the main character of the show to be a fourteen-year-old gay kid, which makes it a LOT more interesting than I would have originally thought. I’d never seen any of the Chucky movies–but I have a basic idea of what they were about, and I don’t think–at least not so far, but we’re only an episode in–you need to go back to watch the movies to pick up on things you can’t enjoy the series not knowing.
I also need to make a to-do list, update when my bills are due for August on my calendar, and of course, try to get some cleaning and organizing done around my home office workspace. Heavy heaving sigh. It never really ends, does it? LOL. It’s also been raining a lot this weekend–torrential downpours, with minor street flooding–but it looks sunny and very warm out there this morning. It also occurred to me last night that I’ve not had an entire week off from work in the last twelve years other than our trip to Italy in 2014 (eight years ago), so part of this slightly weird disconnect I’m feeling from everything probably has something to do with that. I am not, however, going to allow myself to get stressed out by how behind I am or how much work I have to get done. That doesn’t help and also causes paralysis of a sort. No, the thing to do is make a list, get everything organized as everything needs to be organized, and just start getting things done.
Step one is to get all this mess sorted and put away, which is what I am going to do right now before I put away the dishes. Then I’ll start working on my lists.
So I think I am going to head into the spice mines this morning. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again later.
I slept in again this morning–which has been happening alot, which means I am going to have to get used to getting up early again next week because this morning’s COVID test came back negative. It’s finally over. Yesterday I still felt a little worn down and fatigued, but managed to get things done (not much, really; but some laundry and dishes and some reading and so forth–I was afraid to overdo it, even though I felt good; cautious and concerned about a relapse), but now that I can safely confirm that I am out of the woods, it’s time to start easing myself back into my life. I ordered groceries for curbside pick-up this morning, so once I get that text I’ll drive over to pick them up, but…I’m over everything. It is now safe for me to go out in public (wearing a mask, believe me; I know that doesn’t really protect me but other people, but I can’t help but remember that it was when I allowed myself to get more lax with the masking that I got infected. So yes, intellectually I know it’s not helping but emotionally it makes me feel better to do so, so I am going with the emotions over the intellect on this one) again, and it also means I can finally return to work on Monday. Monday is usually my work at home day, but having been out of the office for the last week, I kind of feel like I probably should pop in on Monday and make my presence known again.
Plus, I have to get all the sick time bullshit sorted–and might as well do that on a day when I don’t have clients.
Huzzah? Huzzah indeed.
We finished the second season of Condor last night, which was enjoyable. If you’re into espionage/political thrillers, this is a very good one. Ben Irons (Jeremy’s son) is really good in the lead as Joe Turner, a low-level CIA employee who catches on to something major in the first season and everything goes to shit for him from there–like the book and movies it was based on (the movie was Three Days of the Condor, starring Robert Redford; the book was Six not Three. I watched this as part of my Cynical 70’s Film Festival during the shutdown/work at home times). I have a copy of the book, by Richard Condon, that it in my enormous TBR pile. I’ve wanted to read it (along with The Manchurian Candidate) because these old political thrillers are interesting to me, with their extreme paranoia and evil Communist archetypes. I want to read them not only for their value as political thrillers but as remnants of a past time that could be said to also border on propaganda–painting the Communists, particularly the Soviet Union–as the bad guys. (This is not to say that the Soviet leadership weren’t bad people–some of them most definitely were–but their national interest also opposed to ours, so from their point of view Americans were the bad guys; that whole “no villain sees themselves as a villain” thing we talk about in character workshops and panels.)
It was also incredibly weird and strange resting so much over the last eight days. I have to recognize the fact that part of how I am feeling–the strangeness–is because I am actually no longer tired. I am always tired, apparently; not really sure why that is other than not getting enough sleep or something along those lines, but this morning, after sleeping off and on almost regularly for eight days, I feel rested this morning. Which means I can get all kinds of things done today–slowly easing myself back into my life, as it were–and plan to spend some time with Sandra SG Wong’s riveting In the Dark We Forget, should do some writing and editing, and then there’s of course all the cleaning and filing and organizing that needs to be done. I need to update my bills list, I need to make a new to-do list, I need to reread and revise a story one last time before submitting it to an anthology I want to get it into; and may I add how lovely it is not to have the brain fog this morning? My head is clear, and that feels amazing. My throat still feels a little bit more raw than I would prefer, and now I know that post-nasal drip is sinus related and a Claritin-D will take care of it. Huzzah!
I also don’t feel terribly daunted about getting started digging out from under the piles of everything that gathered while i was sick and foggy and exhausted, either–which is another good sign. I know it sounds weird, but now that I am sixty (sixty-one in less than a month; there’s still time to get a card and buy a gift, you know) I always worry that things aren’t necessarily related to an illness but rather are a permanent change to my life and my body and my brain. Our bodies and brains don’t come with user manuals, after all, so we are best off just getting by the best we can and always have to wonder. I was worried that the brain fog, for example, wasn’t something related to the COVID plague but rather a shift in my head that goes along with my age, you know? My memory has already become a lot more specious and less-specific than it used to be; I no longer remember things that were committed to memory just a few years ago. Admittedly, a lot of it was trivial information that really only came in handy when you’re playing Jeopardy or Trivial Pursuit, but damn it, I used to always run the categories and rarely, if ever, lost at Trivial Pursuit and those days are sadly long past me now.
And I also feel relatively certain you’re tired of listening to me whine about being sick–well, you don’t have to worry about reading about that any longer, Constant Reader. I was even taking notes on some thoughts about Mississippi River Mischief yesterday in my journal.
And on that note, I am going to get cleaned up so that when I get the text that my groceries are ready I can head down to the store for curbside pick-up, which will be lovely. Have a wonderful Saturday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.
Well, here we are on Day Three of the coronavirus and I don’t feel much better than I did yesterday. M throat still feels congested, and the mental/physical fatigue thing is exasperating, to say the least, as is the lack of focus. I often reference my ADHD–but usually when it comes down to it I am able to force myself to focus. I wasn’t really able to do that much yesterday. I did managed to finish reading Devil’s Chew Toy, which was a lot of fun, and I tried to start Sandra SD Wong’s In the Dark We Forget, which has a great opening, but once I started trying to read it my mind began to cloud and lost focus, which was the case for the rest of the day. Paul is also sick, so he came down and we watched documentaries at first–we watched Worst Roommate Ever, which was horrifying–before switching to entertainment (Red Notice, starring Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, and Gal Gadot, which was charming and entertaining enough) before settling in for Our Flag Means Death, which is quite fun. I had tried to start watching it before but didn’t much care for it, but according to Twitter, I needed to give it another try, so we did and we really are enjoying it. Could it be COVID brain? I don’t really think so, to be honest.
I had intended to submit a short story to a submission call that ended on July 15th, Friday; all I had to do was go over the story one last time before sending it off–but it the mess of being sick and everything else, I completely forgot about it until yesterday afternoon. However, I just looked at it again and the deadline is July 31, so I got lucky there for a moment, didn’t I? I think I’ll do that this morning–go over it and then go ahead and send it along to the editors to be done with it so I no longer have it hanging over my head, which makes the most sense. I was also trying to brainstorm on everything else I am in the middle of working on, which wasn’t easy–the foggy brain thing again–so maybe, just maybe, I should try rereading everything I have in progress and figuring out from there where I need to go, but I don’t know how long or how often I am going to feel okay enough to work. When I woke up this morning I felt very clear-headed, but as I have been writing this (while blowing my nose and swilling my coffee) I can literally feel the fog rolling into my head, which is actually most unpleasant.
I can also feel the fatigue returning. There are few things worse than fatigue/exhaustion, to be honest, and I do think the fatigue is tied together with the brain fog.
I hate when I can’t focus on things. I have so much to do! But when my brain is like this it’s probably best that I try not to get anything done or work on anything much because I can’t be certain that I’ll be doing a good job of anything and everything. I hate that. I also hate being sick, to be honest–although I can’t imagine anyone liking being sick, you know? It also comes in waves, which is weird. I always feel relatively okay when I wake up (granted, it’s only been three mornings so far) but the longer I am awake the worse I start to feel; like waking up somehow triggers it out of slumber or it gets put on pause while I am sleeping–which of course makes no sense. And even writing this is taking longer than it usually does, which should give an indication of how my brain is functioning today. Even now I can feel the fatigue creeping through my body.
So I think I am going to go sit in my chair with my coffee and my book for a little while. Heavy heaving sigh. I hate complaining though, because this could be so much worse.
Everyone has heard of Constantinople at some point in their life, I should think–at least they’ve heard that annoying song “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)”. Some may even know that it fell to the army and navy of the Ottoman Turks under Sultan Mehmet II in 1453, ending the Eastern Roman Empire after a thousand years of existence. The Ottomans relocated the capital of their empire there, renaming it as Istanbul. (Christian Europe continued calling it Constantinople for centuries; it’s only over the last hundred years or so that Istanbul has come into more common usage.) But few know much more about the city and the empire it served as capital for over a millenium. Of those, some may know the basics–the Emperor Constantine, the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity, recognizing that the enormous Roman Empire had become impossible to rule or enforce law or protect, split the empire into eastern and western halves, and founded a capital for the east on the site of the village of Byzantium, renaming it Constantinople. The Western Roman Empire collapsed in 473 when the city fell; yet the eastern empire continued until 1453. Western Europe, always trying to reclaim the heritage of the Roman Empire (and ambitiously planning to rebuild it), always referred to the still existing Roman Empire as “Greek” rather than “Roman,” although the citizens of that great city and the vestiges of its empire continued calling themselves Romans until the Turks finally ended it.
But that thousand year history? It’s not easy to find information or books with much information; even the one history of the Empire I did read–Lost to the West by Lars Brownworth, along with his City of Fortune, a history of the Venetian Empire–glossed over centuries and only hit highlights. I’ve always wanted to write something historical set in the new Rome.
The Eastern Empire out-lasted its western counterpart by nearly a thousand years. Constantinople was one of the greatest Christian cities of all time; there was certainly nothing even remotely close to it in western Europe in terms of population, art, culture, education, and trade. It’s location put it in control of access and egress from the Black Sea; it also controlled the trade routes between Europe and Asia. Its fall in 1453 meant that those trade routes were now controlled by the non-Christian Islamic Ottoman Empire–and as such, other ways to reach the far east became necessary to the western Europeans, hence the Portuguese circumnavigating Africa and the Spanish attempt to sail west to find a route, leading to the “discovery” of the Americas. The fall of Constantinople was an incredibly important and necessary piece of the interlocking puzzle that led to European colonization and the global empires that resulted from it (as well as the oppression and enslavement and genocide of native populations); but Western historians–in particular, those monastic scholars in Catholic orders–have always tried to erase and /or lessen the importance of the eastern Empire and its capital, calling them “Greeks”, renaming the Eastern Roman Empire as the “Byzantine Empire,” etc.–and in no small part, this was also because of the Christian Schism of 1054, in which the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church split in two over questions of dogma. Therefore, it was in the interest of the Western Europeans to underplay the vital importance to European history of the remains of the Roman Empire because western Catholics considered their Orthodox brethren as heretics; their church was the true one, even if it was in the east that the religion originally came from, and it was in the eastern half of the empire the tenets and dogma of the “true” faith were established. The Pope in Rome always tried to assert his own authority over the Patriarch in Constantinople; the Patriarch considered himself to be the head of the faith and the Pope just another bishop. Thus, when Charlemagne conquered most of central Europe, he and the Pope created the Holy Roman Empire (which wasn’t holy, or Roman, or even really an empire in the traditional sense); the Romans in Constantinople were not pleased. (At the time, through some political machinations and drama, a woman was seated on the throne in Constantinople–the Empress Irene, one of the most interesting women in European history; she was also pretty terrible. The Pope decided there could be no such thing as a female Emperor, and so he crowned Charlemagne.)
The Holy Roman Empire also lasted over a thousand years.
Anyway, I’ve always been interested in the eastern Empire, even though it’s largely neglected in European histories. But one event in its history has always been interesting to me in particular –the fall of Constantinople to the Catholic 4th Crusade in 1204, which essentially set the stage for the second fall of the city, to the Ottomans in 1453. I also have an idea for a Colin book–which I’ve had for a very long time–that would have its beginnings in the 1204 sack of Constantinople.
It’s remarkably hard to find much information–granted, it’s not like I’ve tried very hard, but the fact that you have to try hard to find histories and/or books about the Empire and its capital, let alone the 4th Crusade–even histories of the Crusades themselves gloss over the fact that a Crusader army, blessed by the Pope, allowed itself to be diverted by the Venetians to capture and sack two Christians cities (Zara and Constantinople), and established “Latin” (western European) kingdoms and principalities out of the provinces that were once the Eastern Roman Empire. These Catholic kingdoms were so despised by their subjects that they didn’t last long, with another dynasty of the old empire arising to drive them out. The sack of the city and the pillaging and destruction that followed created such a deep hatred for the Catholic Church and the kings that followed the Pope that they preferred the Ottomans to a reconquest by the Catholic nations–which is saying something. Ernie Bradford’s The Great Betrayal: The Great Siege of Constantinople is a very thorough account of the tragedy and how it came to pass; the destruction of the mighty city–along with the destruction of priceless books and documents and art forever lost to us–was on a par with the burning of the Great Library at Alexandria.
The book itself is very interesting; the siege took nearly a year, and it’s actually kind of shocking that the Crusaders succeeded in taking the city, bearing in mind the strong defenses and so forth. A lot of things had to fit into place for it to happen, and they all did. The city came so close to holding them off successfully; it’s almost as though, as they would have said at the time, it was God’s will for it to happen. The city was also filled with all kinds of priceless Christian relics; after all, the religion was founded in the east, and as city after city fell to foreign invaders, a lot of priceless artifacts and holy relics were moved to the capital. (The great horses from the Hippodrome, for example, are proudly on display in the Piazza San Marco in Venice to this day.) A lot of the art was destroyed, jewels picked out of reliquaries, the gold or silver or bronze melted down for coin, and so forth.
As someone who has always loved history, and also has always loved treasure hunts–especially those that are involved with the history and development of Christianity, many years ago (I will freely confess to being inspired by Indiana Jones movies) I thought about writing such a treasure hunt story–where the ‘treasure’ being hunted was some important document or book or relic from the earliest days of Christianity that would revolutionize the faith as well as show how off-course it had gone since the earliest days…and wouldn’t it have made sense that whatever it was could have been kept in Constantinople, deep in the archives of the Orthodox Church? And with western, Catholic Europeans besieging the city, wouldn’t the Patriarch have wanted to keep it out of the hands of the Pope, and smuggled it out of the city to be hidden somewhere else, safe from the prying eyes of Rome?
And of course, when I created Colin–actually, when I brought him back in Jackson Square Jazz–I loved the character so much that I considered spinning him off; what about the jobs he’s on when he’s not in New Orleans? “Oh,” I thought, “my fall of Constantinople story! That could work for Colin!” And it even occurred to me the other day that I could even do them as “case files,” setting them throughout the past, both before and after he met Scotty and woven in between the Scotty stories. (It also occurred to me that I could do Scotty stories to fill in the years between books, if I wanted to…)
And reading this book–which i recommend if you want to know more about “holy wars” and how corrupt and unholy they actually were–made me think about it even more. I do want to include something about the Empress Irene, too.
Something to brainstorm at some point. Like I have the time to squeeze in another book…but it would be fun; although I don’t know how good I would be at writing action/adventure/thrillers.