Sunday, September 29, 2019

I need a nap.

What a difference a week makes, huh? Last Sunday, we were just beginning to hear about the existence of a whistleblower complaint against President Trump. The Washington Post broke the story about the complaint on Wednesday, September 18th. Then everybody in the media got busy adding details. By the time Tuesday afternoon rolled around, enough information had come to light that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi officially dubbed the ongoing committee investigations into Trump an impeachment investigation.

Impeachment. Boy, that word brings back memories -- none of them good.

I was in high school in Indiana when the Watergate hearings were underway. I remember walking into classrooms where the teacher had requisitioned a TV so he or she could watch the hearings during passing periods. President Nixon resigned in August 1974, just two weeks after the House of Representatives returned articles of impeachment against him. He never went to trial in the Senate. And then of course President Ford pardoned him, thereby dooming his own election chances but ensuring Nixon would never face prison for his crimes, either.

Then in late 1998, President Clinton was impeached. I have to tell you that '98 was a blur for me; that was the year I took family leave to spend the summer with my mother while she recuperated from cancer surgery. Then at the end of that summer, I was laid off from Mutual/NBC Radio News. So I spent the denouement of the Clinton saga -- the House referring the articles of impeachment and the Senate trial that ended in acquittal -- in Denver, where I was earning a paralegal certificate. I'd sometimes cast an eye at the headlines in the local paper, but to be honest, I was just as glad to be out of the fray.

Now it's Trump's turn. It's already the craziest impeachment story ever, and I have no doubt it will get worse.

Sometimes, when a big story breaks, old newshounds will ask each other whether we wish we were still part of it all. News people are adrenaline junkies. It's a rush to know something consequential before anyone else does and to be the person who tells the world. So when something big happens, "Do you miss it?" we ask one another. "Do you wish you were still doing news?"

Honestly? For this one, I'm just as happy to sit on the sidelines. Ever since Tuesday, the media has gone into overdrive. Keeping up with the headlines is like drinking from a firehose. It's been less than a week, and I'm already exhausted. And I'm only posting stuff to Facebook.

Delyth Williams | Pixabay | CC0

No, today's news business is for the young. Like, for instance, Andrew Howard of Arizona State University, who got the scoop that the US Special Envoy for Ukraine was resigning as a result of being named in connection with the impeachment inquiry. Kudos to him for recognizing he had a big story and for going with it.

These moments of impeachy blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. (If enough people buy my books, I'll never have to go back into news again. Thanks!)

Sunday, September 22, 2019

On balance.

The fall equinox -- known to many Pagans as Mabon -- has kind of crept up on me this year. It still feels like summer in DC (today's high was 92 degrees Farenheit; tomorrow's is forecast to be 93, and we may get another 90-plus-degree day next weekend, ugh), and we were in Europe on Labor Day, which has been the calendar marker for summer's end for me since I was a kid.

But the autumn equinox hits here at 3:50am tomorrow, so fall it shall be, regardless of whether I'm able to don a sweater without boiling to death.

Thank the gods we have more than cooler temperatures associated with Mabon. As I mentioned three years ago, Mabon is the second harvest, and as the fall equinox, it's also one of two days of the year when day and night are in balance. Which means it's not a bad time to consider how well our lives are balanced, and whether we should consider making any adjustments.

For me, this year has tipped toward travel to far-off lands. There was the Rhine River cruise I took in the spring, and the Mediterranean cruise with the girls just a few weeks ago. I've packed a lot of sightseeing into these past few months, and I expect to tip back to more normal travel levels from here on out. Which is to say I'm unlikely to do any more European travel for a few years -- although if I get an interesting offer, I might hare off somewhere. You never know.

I'm also looking with increasing anticipation toward retiring from the day job in less than a year, and the move that will accompany it. I'm balancing that with plans to hit some of my favorite places and events here on the East Coast one last time. Of course I made a list, and I've actually managed to knock a few things off of it, but I won't beat myself up if I don't get to them all. I want to be mindful of balancing my day-to-day life against all these "last chance" opportunities, and of not making myself crazy trying to do them all.

My writing life, too, needs to be in better balance. At the beginning of the year, I promised myself that I would write and publish all four Elemental Keys books this year. My original timetable had me publishing Molten Trail this week, but it's not going to happen -- I just sent the manuscript to my editor a week ago, and the book still needs a cover. So I'm expecting now that I'll publish it next month -- hopefully in early October, but certainly well before Halloween. Then I'll be drafting book 4 during NaNoWriMo in November, and I probably won't publish it 'til after New Year's.

This has been a valuable lesson for me. Some writers can churn out ten or more books per year. I've known for a long time that my best pace is three per year, but I wanted to push myself this year to do four. I know now that was a mistake -- I've spent too much of 2019 feeling guilty for not keeping to this accelerated publishing schedule, even though I knew I'd be doing a lot of traveling.

So! The new, more balanced plan: Molten Trail should be released around October 15th, and the final book will be out around late January 2020. I will let you know if that changes.

And looking farther forward, I may write a stand-alone novel in early 2020. I don't want to commit to another series, as late spring and summer will be sucked up by packing and moving. But I don't want the whole first half of the year to get away from me, either. We'll see how things are going once the final Elemental Keys book is out the door.

Blessed Mabon to you all! Here's hoping your life is in better balance than mine...

These moments of balanced blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

The last days of a civilization.

I want to take one more look back at our fabulous cruise -- not just because I have a lot of pictures (sooo many pictures) but also because I've been thinking this week about what happens to a civilization when its big ideas are just about played out.

As I said last week, a number of cultures are overlaid on one another in the Mediterranean, owing to successive waves of battles, invasions, and cultural assimilations. Eventually the vast majority of the area around the Mediterranean Sea -- as well as a good-sized chunk of Europe -- was part of the Roman Empire. Rome struggled to keep it all under control; in 285 CE Diocletian split it into the Eastern and Western Roman Empires.

The Romans who lived in Pompeii and Herculaneum at the time of their destruction by volcano in 79 CE were undoubtedly pagan. Herculaneum was named for Hercules -- he created it, according to myth -- and archaeologists have unearthed temples and mosaics of the Roman gods at both cities. In Herculaneum, this fresco depicts Hercules with Rome's three most important gods: Minerva, Juno, and Jupiter (he's the rainbow in the background). Above and to either side are depictions of the goddess Nike in her chariot.
Copyright Lynne Cantwell 2019
Ephesus, Turkey, was in the Eastern Roman Empire. It was partly destroyed by an earthquake in 614 CE -- but hundreds of years earlier, it was a base of operations for St. Paul. Our tour guide told us that in 56 CE or so, Paul preached in this amphitheater, which sat 25,000 people (and is used as a concert venue again today).
Copyright Lynne Cantwell 2019
She went on to tell us that the local merchants got together and had St. Paul thrown in jail -- not because they were particularly faithful to the old gods, but because they had a good business selling statues of Artemis and Paul was ruining their livelihood. (The Temple of Artemis in Ephesus was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. There's virtually nothing left of it today.)

Here's the thing that struck me: All this beauty, all these colossal monuments, were built before Christianity. The Romans, and the Greeks before them, created beautiful art and monumental buildings. They developed philosophy and poetry. Western government is based on Rome's. The ancient world didn't need Christianity to come up with any of those things. So why did this new religion of Paul's get any traction at all?

Big thinkers have ruminated on this for centuries. My take is this: By the time Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the empire in 317 CE, Rome's heyday was nearly over. It rolled on for another hundred years or so in the West, until 476 CE. (The Eastern part morphed into the Byzantine Empire.) Well before then, corruption had crept into Roman government, and society was stratified, with regular folks having little chance to improve their lot in life. Jesus gave them a way to fight back against a civilization that treated them like chaff.

So Christianity flourished -- and then its flaws became apparent. The Romans in particular were tolerant of other religions; Christianity was not. And thus came the Inquisition and the Dark Ages and all the rest.

Some Christians escaped the religious strife in Europe to come to America. But when they got here, they enacted their own religious intolerance. So we had Christians accusing women of witchcraft in Salem, and justifying slavery with Bible verses, and using Manifest Destiny to support their treatment of Native Americans -- who, by the way, were not savages at all.
And now, here we are, at what feels like the end of an era. To be fair, Western civilization has made great strides in the centuries since Rome fell: in the arts, sciences, and technology. But today our society is stratified into a tiny number of haves and a huge percentage of have-nots. Our government is corrupt, with a tiny percentage of old white men holding onto power any way they can. And certain influential Christians support them.

Christianity got a toehold when Roman society began to break down. You've gotta wonder what will follow Western democracy when it crumbles to dust.

Sources:; and our tour guides.

These bloggy musings have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Cruise Year, Vol. 2, or: What I did on my summer vacation.

A couple of weeks ago, Kitty, Amy and I got on a cruise ship in Rome and got off about nine days later in Venice. In between, we toured a bunch of places. Some had been on my second-string bucket list (Rome! Venice! Greek islands!) and some had never been near any iteration of my bucket list (Turkey and Croatia). All of it turned out to be cool, and sometimes better than I'd expected. For instance, I was tickled to discover that some of the things we saw -- for lack of a better word -- rhymed.

Having never been to that part of the world before, I was struck by the way the cultures of so many countries on the Mediterranean Sea have intertwined. A lot of it is due to the spoils of war; the Greeks, the Romans, the Venetians, and the Ottoman Turks fought for control of the region for hundreds, even thousands of years, and so there's a certain amount of homogenization among the ancient sites. The mosaic floors at Pompeii in Italy, for instance, look a lot like the mosaic floors in the terrace houses at Ephesus in Turkey. And the frescoes adorning the walls of those Ephesian terrace houses look a lot like a wall I spotted in Museo Correr on the Piazza San Marco in Venice. Here, take a look:

Mosaic floor in Pompeii

Mosaic floor and frescoes in a terrace house in Ephesus

Wall - Museo Correr, Venice
I'm not sure, actually, whether that wall in Venice isn't a later-period homage to ancient Roman styles. Certainly artistic techniques go in and out of style -- like, say, black-on-black pottery. The ancient Etruscans made it, and so do potters from the San Ildefonso Pueblo here in the United States.

Etruscan pottery at the Museo Correr

Maria & Julian Martinez wedding vase | Wikimedia Commons |
CC 1.0

I could go on -- we saw so many wondrous places that I'm already forgetting some of the cool stuff we learned -- but I'll stop for now, if only to get some sleep.

These moments of bloggy comparative arts have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. (All photos in this post: Copyright Lynne Cantwell 2019, unless noted otherwise.)

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Gone cruisin'.

Yup, I'm on vacation this week. Come on back next Sunday and I'll show you where I've been.

These moments of out-of-office blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. (Click my name to find some stuff to read while I'm away.)