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A final push today and the essay will be finished. Huzzah! I also need to pack today and prepare for the trip; I will also have to go to bed early as I want to get an early start tomorrow. The drive is about eleven and a half hours, not including stops; with stops, figure maybe twelve to thirteen. (The times are estimates, of course; I've made the drive in less than eleven hours before and it's also taken longer.) I also need to clean out my email inbox before I go; make sure there's nothing left hanging that needs to be taken care of, and then drug myself early into a nice, restful sleep (I really do need to go to bed around ten tonight, which is a minimum of an hour and a half earlier than I usually do.) I stocked the larder yesterday, have paid all of the bills that fall due before I get paid again, and other than the essay and packing, I'm pretty much done. If I can knock the essay out early, I can then go ahead and do some straightening/cleaning (I cleaned out the refrigerator yesterday after getting groceries, in an attempt to get everything to fit in there).

I did finish reading Gore Vidal's Empire yesterday, and frankly, wasn't all that impressed with it. Oh, Vidal was a great writer; he knew how to use words and string them together, but at least in this book he didn't create great characters; his characters are emotionless ciphers that don't engage the reader. Vidal was an incredibly smart man, and a very great thinker; no one can take that away from him. But just because he was smart didn't mean that he was right, you know? Often as I read the book, I would think to myself, man, he really hated this country; and then I would also find myself wondering, or is my reaction to his cynicism about this country a part of my own brainwashing?

As a child, going through public school, watching television with my parents, I was instilled with values and beliefs, some of which I have come to not only question but violently disagree with as I developed, through reading, my own experiences, and my own witnessing, my OWN set of core values and beliefs. Periodically I do catch myself thinking something automatically and not critically; and then I have to examine the automatic thought, figure out where is came from, and whether it actually has any value, any basis in reality and fact. Much of what I learned as a child has been, in fact, unlearned as an adult.

I'm not sure I agree with Vidal's analysis of our country and its history. To be fair to Vidal, I've not read his other fictionalized histories: Burr, Lincoln, 1876, Washington D.C., Hollywood, and The Golden Age; nor have I read his essays and nonfiction on the subject. I'd like to read Burr at some point; just to get some better idea of Vidal's thoughts about American history and what was true. Obviously, Aaron Burr is not a hero of American history, and yet Vidal seemed to think he was; I am curious to revisit this. I have always been taught that Burr was a villain; and in the interest of confronting things I was taught to decide on their veracity and validity, it may be necessary to reexamine that period of time in American history (which is why I am also interested in reading Howard Zinn's "People's Histories").

Interesting thoughts on a Sunday morning with an essay to write about writing crime fiction in New Orleans.

But the book I have selected as my new bathroom read is a book called Royal Renegades by Linda Porter. It is not published in the US, only the UK; I ordered my copy through Book Depository, and I don't recall how I heard about the book in the first place. The focus of the book, which is nonfiction history, is on the marriage of King Charles I and Henrietta Maria, and the lives of their children. I have some knowledge of Stuart England, but am not as well-informed as I would like to be, particularly on the 1620's (which is a period of particular interest to me for a secret project, which I have been trying to research for years, without a great deal of success). This particular royal marriage--which, of course, led to disaster for the Stuart dynasty; with repercussions well into the eighteenth century, only ending with the final defeat of the Stuarts in the 1740's--started a string of Stuart marriages in which Protestant English kings married Catholic princesses and made them Queens: two of their sons not only became king but also took Catholic wives; their second son even went so far as to convert (and this led to his deposal). Henrietta Maria was not only French, but her mother was Marie de Medici--yes, so her lineage went back to Italy and Florence and the amazing Medici family, reestablishing Medici blood into the French royal lineage after it died out in 1589. This was also the period of Cardinal Richelieu, one of my favorite historical statesmen; the Thirty Years' War in Germany; and the further colonization of North America by the European powers. Anyway, this history begins with the first meeting between King Charles I and his French wife; she would be the last French-born Queen of England, and she was, indeed, the first French-born Queen in nearly two hundred years, after centuries where a French queen was the norm, not the exception. I'm looking forward to it.

Yesterday evening, after chores were completed and work was done for the day, Paul and I watched the European Figure Skating Championships on our NBC Sports Apple TV app. we are both huge fans of the two-time defending world champion French ice dancing team of Guillaume Cizeron and Gabriella Papadokis; their performances are breathtakingly beautiful.

And so are they; Guillaume also, apparently, works as a model.



You can see why. I've never understood why American male figure skaters and male gymnasts don't get contracts as underwear models, at the very least; those bodies are en pointe.

And now, back to the spice mines.
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