Bad Luck, Good Luck

I just got back from a week in Vancouver BC with middle daughter Alisa, Maya (6), and Sahana (1). Vivek was off on a business trip, so they wanted company. It was cloudy and drizzly, a comforting relief from the desert heat.

Bad luck – I can’t upload the picture of rhododendrons. They were in their glory with enormous, pink to purple blossoms. The upload page choked on “crunching” five times for I don’t know how long because I stopped trying after ten minutes.

Perhaps remembering the fun I had is why my brain malfunctioned on the flight to Seattle. I left the first 20 chapters of Amara (working title) in the seat pocket in front of me. I’d put the folder there for takeoff. It never came out. The flight was only a half hour, just enough time to chat with my seat partner about why so many travelers these days are grandmothers flying to our far-flung children.

I’ve just confessed to working on a printed version, stark evidence that I don’t have a laptop. I’m not against it. But The Amulet’s first e-version had an embarrassing number of errors simply because it’s harder for me to catch mistakes on the monitor than on paper.

It’s OK. Elaine, my “I’ll read the early version” volunteer, saved her comments and re-sent them to me. They are now tucked away in a safe file ready to be applied to version 1b, on screen or on paper.

Because I had no manuscript and thus no work to do on the flight to Ontario CA (that’s California, not Canada), I took out a copy of The Amulet and started reading it. I hadn’t looked at it for weeks, so it felt fairly new. Here’s my opinion: It’s a good book, not a world-changing masterpiece, but entertaining enough to warrant the time spent.

I hope that if you’ve read it and enjoyed it, you’ll pass the word along. I don’t always do that with books I’ve liked, but those authors have a wider audience than I have.

Text message alert! Maya just found a four-leaf clover right next to a dime! That’s got to mean a hundred times more good luck than finding a penny! Maybe she’ll send some of that luck grandma’s way. Or not. I was lucky enough just to be able to see her again.

Blame Reincarnation

Chariot race mosaic at Roman museum in Lyon, France

I can’t let you think (if you do, after reading the first entry) that Greece was the only precursor to the Fall of the United States, should that actually happen.   Long before the U.S. ever was born, there was another nation that ignored history, and that was Rome.

Rome is a city, not a nation, you say?  No, of course you don’t say that because you know that Italy had a jillion city states, or nations, only one of which was Rome, and only one of which, Rome, grew up to conquer the world.  And then have a great Fall.

This link is the source of the following list of reasons for the fall of  Rome (and perhaps the U.S.):

  • Antagonism between the Senate and the Emperor [read President]
  • Decline in Morals
  • Political Corruption
  • Fast expansion of the Empire [remember your history lessons about the 18th & 19th centuries?]
  • Constant Wars and Heavy Military Spending
  • Barbarian Knowledge of Roman Military Tactics [today’s news told of the Iranians capturing a spy drone with all sorts of high tech important stuff, and of course there’s always espionage in the scientific places]
  • Failing Economy
  • Unemployment of the Working Classes
  • The ‘Mob’ and the cost of the ‘Games’ [The politicians had to pay to keep the ordinary people entertained, as in chariot races]
  • Decline in Ethics and Values
  • Slave Labor [insert “illegals”]
  • Natural Disasters
  • Christianity [taught peace, not war; one god, not many]
  • Barbarian Invasion [So far, no Huns overrunning us, unless you can think of some.]

So there is the writing on the wall.  Doomsday 2012 as forecast (supposedly) by the Mayan calendar.  Facebook had a cartoon showing a few Mayans watching another sculpt the Calendar.  He was showing them what he put in for the year 2012, saying  something like, “Just wait until they read this!  They’ll freak!”

Being born on December 31 in an unnamed year, I am used to apocalyptic prognostications [I think that’s the first time I’ve ever written that word].  I am hardened against them by now.  I do believe in history, though.  If I believed in reincarnation, I would say that the same spirits get born over and over again and make the same mess each time.

Maybe the rest of us are also born over and over again, and make the same mistake of letting the others get away with doing what they do.

Yep, History Repeats Itself

I love having the time and resources to resurrect my college education.  “Resurrect” because there were classes like Classical Literature I glossed over, barely attending enough times to pass.  Now, thanks to researching my novels, the classics are coming to life for me!   Here are a few things gleaned from Meyer Reinhold:

1)       Greece never recovered from the loss of wealth and manpower caused by the Peloponnesian War which lasted 27 years from 431-404 BC.

2)      There was a growing gap between the large number of poor and the few rich.

3)      Disillusionment with government caused a greater concern for self and family.

4)      The rise of professional politicians let others avoid civic responsibility.

Re: 1)  The U.S. has surpassed the 27-year war by 3.  For 30 years, since 1981, there has been continual involvement in military conflicts.  Some have been huge, like the Persian Gulf war (1990-1991), and some small like “peacekeeping” operations.  Before 1981, a whole generation had been demoralized by the Vietnam War and before that, the Korean War.  [Click this link for a good website about this.]

Greece may have lost wealth in their ancient wars, but the U.S. seems to depend on wars for gaining wealth.  There is higher employment, more manufacturing, more scientific research, and more support programs when we are fighting somewhere.  I could add that there is also more graft and corruption because of the temptation to grab some of the wealth.  The current economic wreckage  is not because of war but because of financial greed by bankers and investors worldwide who followed the example of the U.S.

Re: 2)  Doesn’t the Occupy movement all over the world, pitting the 99% against the 1% , confirm that the gap exists now?  There’s not only an economic gap but an idealogical gap, a huge one.  Studies have shown that even the extremely rich don’t think they are.  There’s always someone richer, someone with more houses, more planes, more everything.  They are thus compelled to keep amassing wealth, to be at the top.

Croesus, the enormously rich king of Lydia (560-547 BC), was told by Solon that wealth was not the key to happiness.  Croesus dismissed Solon as a fool, but by the end of his reign he realized it was true.  [Told by Herodotus.]

Re: 3)  When people live together in larger numbers than families, like towns or cities or states, they usually develop a civilized way of cooperating with each other.  It is necessary for life.  Governments are set up to help people help each other by sharing resources, ideals, and working together.  When a government is run by selfish people, corruption inevitably follows.

When politicians parade their love of “family” for show, for gain, that’s selfish.  Families are the first building block of a nation because they are the smallest unit of people living and working together.  In a good nation, one that genuinely cherishes and supports the family unit, things go well.  Some of the more successful nations in this regard are the Scandinavian countries and others who tax heavily so all can benefit.

Here’s an example of non-civilized order.  It’s a Somali saying:

I and Somalia against the world.

I and my clan against Somalia.

I and my family against the clan.

I and my brother against the family.

I against my brother.

Re: 4)  Good people are often elected to office.  After a few years, surrounded by temptations of all kinds, many are corrupted and begin to think more about themselves and their cohorts than about the larger constituency who elected them.

Sometimes I think that there should be no politicians.  The responsibility for governing would be entrusted to every adult.  Each year, a certain number of names would be drawn from a hat (a large hat) and those chosen would be in charge for one year.  Each state would provide housing and per diem so these people could live in Washington D.C. and run the nation during their time in office.  No-one could repeat the same job.  The Athenians tried something like this and it was successful for a time, but eventually people lost interest and governing fell into the hands of the wealthier few.

It would also be a good idea to move the nation’s capitol to the geographic center so that the East Coasters would learn some humility.  Students near D.C. grow up with politics in their backyard.  Students west of the Mississippi rarely get a chance to see government in action or feel a part of it.

Roman gladiators, from the museum in Nimes, France.

If this blog has been too serious, don’t give up.  Humor is coming with the Greek comedies!

 

It Began in Boulder, Colorado

Plato wrote,  “Lying is in general wrong, but it is permissible for the ruling classes to tell ‘white lies’ when it is for the benefit of society.”  [Greek and Roman Classics, by Meyer Reinhold]

In researching my novels which take place during the Roman empire (196-198 so far), I’ve found so many captivating and unexpected “Eureka!” moments like that quote from Plato, that I thought it would be fun to share them with others who are intrigued, but not fanatical, about the stories  commonly known as “history.”

Around twenty-five years ago, in Boulder, Colorado, I started writing a novel.  Every morning I would leave the house at 5:30 a.m., so early that the raccoons were still out searching through garbage cans, and walk three miles to work, arriving two hours before my actual job began.

I worked at JILA, a scientific institute at the University of Colorado.  It’s one of the best in the world, with a governing body of Fellows that includes physicists, chemists, astrophysicists, astronomers, and variations such as physical chemists and chemical physicists, and of course theorists who collaborate with all of them.  A really counter-intuitive thing is that the arrangement is half NIST

Me and two of the grandchildren
Me with Vancouver, BC, grandchildren

(U.S. Dept. of Commerce) and half University!  Administrative duties are divvied up between the two!  It works so well that numerous prestigious awards are common – Nobel Prizes, MacArthur “Genius” awards, Gold Medals, grants, etc.

Best of all, for me, was an atmosphere that allowed me to mold my administrative assistant job to fit me, rather than the other way around.  What a concept!  It was a great place to work.

The university let employees attend classes for free.  One year, I took Latin from a graduate student named Gerald.  The hardest class I ever had, but I loved it!

That class inspired me to find out more about the Romans, and eventually to write The Amulet .  It is about a young girl from Britannia whose actions help determine who will become emperor, Albinus or Septimius (196-197 AD).

I would write for two hours, then work for six or seven.  After work, I’d take the bus home, do the family things (three children and a baby), and then write for another couple of hours or so if I could.

With family traffic swirling around, I’d sketch out the next scenes by pen and paper on the dining room table.  In the morning, I’d take the notes in to transcribe and flesh out on the computer.  It amazes me now that none of the kids suffered from this compulsion of mine.

The book grew and grew until it was finally finished.  I sent it out to a few publishers and a few agents.  In those days before the Internet, big manila envelopes held manuscript pages and SASE envelopes for the inevitable rejection letters.

Discouraged, I put The Amulet away for 25 years until last year.  Gosh, it was embarrassing to read some of the passages I’d been so proud of before.  Not just one but several rewrites later, I sent it off to Elaine, a friend and poet who had also worked at JILA.  She helped enormously by finding things that didn’t fit, by asking questions, and by making suggestions about things like the care of horses and the spinning of wool.

We went back and forth for months until finally I thought The Amulet was ready.  So far, no agent has taken it up, but I’m writing the second book now.

Whatever happens, it’s exciting to keep finding correlations between the Romans and us.    They and the Greeks whose culture and literature they adopted – and adapted – are surprisingly relevant to our time.  Half of the expressions we use every day seem to be quotes from Plato or Sophocles or one of those guys.

I promise that you will enjoy what is coming!