Hi there, Dear Reader. It’s now almost noon (11:25 AM Eastern as I start this post on Thursday, October 29, 2020 here in New Hometown, Florida, and it’s shaping up to be a hot, humid day. Currently, the temperature is 85˚F (29˚C) under mostly sunny skies, but with humidity at 78% and the wind blowing from the south at 14 MPH (22 KM/H), the heat index is 95˚F (35˚C). The forecast for the day calls for partly sunny skies and a high of 88˚F (31˚C). That’s pretty summer-like; it does not feel like Halloween is only two days away!
As part of my newly established routine, I went for my morning walk a little over an hour ago. I normally try to go outside before 10 AM to avoid the heat and humidity, but I ate breakfast later than usual; I didn’t want to exert myself with only one cup of café con leche, so I showered, got dressed, and ate a bowl of cereal, a bowl of strawberries with Cool-Whip, and washed those down with a half-glass of orange juice. Once I finished this morning repast, I grabbed my phone, wallet, and house key, put on my Star Wars: Film Concert Series cap, and went for my morning constitutional.
I didn’t go farther than my usual hangout at the park; the temperature was probably in the low eighties, but there was a nice breeze blowing and there’s plenty of shade from trees along my route. And on the outward leg, the morning sun was at my back, so overall the temperature was warm, pleasant, and not at all uncomfortable.
I’m glad that I didn’t take any of my NaNoWriMo reference books with me, though. As nice as the weather was when I left the house at 10:25 AM, I didn’t choose the perfect time to go to the park; little did I know that today was also the day in which the landscapers mow the grass and tidy up the park. I was able to sit on one of “my” benches in relative peace for, oh, 10 minutes before two or three guys on riding mowers or wielding industrial-strength blowers started working close by, making an infernal racket as they went about their business.
I stayed as long as I could stand the high-pitched whine of the blowers and the roaring of the riding mowers, but as the landscapers gradually moved closer to my park bench under the shade, the noise was just too much to bear. Plus, the sun was higher up in the sky, and the heat and humidity increased as well. I snapped a few quick pictures, then got up and walked back to the house.
It’s now 12:15 PM Eastern; I had to take a break from writing so I could eat lunch (a small bowl of pasta topped with homemade beef stew). In my old life back in Miami, I didn’t usually have lunch; I used to have a big breakfast, then if I got hungry before dinner (which used to be served between 5 and 6 when Mom was still healthy and active), I’d either make myself a sandwich or eat Doritos, potato chips, or other junk food snacks.
Here, we don’t have a set dinner hour where we sit down as a family, and often I eat dinner at what I call Spanish time: 9:30 – 10 PM. As a result, lunch is now very much a part of my daily routine.
My plans for today are to prepare myself for NaNoWriMo 2020, which starts this Sunday. So as soon as I post this, I am going to play one of my four albums with music from The War: A Ken Burns Film as background while I read from Dean Wesley Smith’s Writing Into the Dark: How to Write a Novel Without an Outline and a few other books in my library for reference. I am still a bit bamboozled by my decision to choose historical fiction as the genre for my NaNoWriMo project, but the die is cast, so I am now locked into The Tonic of Their Victory: A Novel of Normandy. So…like the college student I once was, I have to hit the books and study before November 1.
So, on that note I will take my leave of you, Dear Friend. I sincerely hope you are safe and healthy. I’ll see you later; until then, take care!
On Tuesday, May 3, 2005, Sony Classical released Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, a 73-minutes-long album featuring 15 selections from composer John Williams’ musical score for the sixth installment of the Star Wars Skywalker Saga. The 1-CD album, which was produced by Maestro Williams and mixed by sound engineer Shawn Murphy, presented themes and action cues performed by the London Symphony Orchestra and the London Voices that were used as underscore in writer-director George Lucas’s dark and operatic film about the rise of the evil Galactic Empire and Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker’s fateful fall from the light side of the Force and his transformation to Darth Vader, Dark Lord of the Sith.
As in the five previous original soundtrack albums of the Star Wars film series – except, of course, the 1997 Special Edition reissues of the Original Trilogy soundtracks by RCA Victor and Sony Classical’s less-than-stellar 2000 Ultimate Edition of the score for Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace – the Revenge of the Sith soundtrack does not include the entire score for the eponymous film, which hit theaters 16 days after the album’s release.
Instead, Williams’ long-time collaborator and music editor Ken Wannberg and Ramiro Belgardt chose to follow the traditional commercial soundtrack album approach and chose a collection of musical moments that capture the mix of heroic derring-do of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin, and the rest of the Jedi Order during the last battles of the Clone Wars and the dark, doom-filled tragedy that ends with the fall of the once-grand Republic, Anakin’s betrayal of his fellow Jedi, and the rise of Sheev Palpatine (aka Darth Sidious) to the throne of a tyrannical and fascistic Empire as its first Emperor.
Thus, even though the Revenge of the Sith albumbegins with the traditional Star Wars Main Title march and ends with an End Titles symphonic suite that reprises a potpourri of music from the first two trilogies of the Skywalker Saga, the musical material is not presented in the chronological order in which it appears in the film.
Instead, Wannberg, Belgardt, Murphy, and Williams go more for the aesthetic effect of the music itself regardless of when it is heard in Lucas’s final blockbuster film as a writer-director. Some of the cues that are placed close to the beginning of the album are either from scenes that occur in the middle of the movie or even later; and the featured single from Revenge of the Sith, Battle of the Heroes, is presented here in its concert suite/music video version and not how it is heard in the film’s underscore.
In the album’s liner notes, writer-director George Lucas wrote:
“Throughout the Star Wars films, John Williams has created a complete musical language to describe the characters and essentially tell the story of the saga. Episode III completes the Star Wars story; it also acts as a bridge to the original trilogy. In that way, the film has allowed John to add his own final chapter to the musical lexicon by creating brilliant new themes as well as drawing upon the rich legacy of music he has composed for the five other films over the past three decades. The film chronicles Anakin Skywalker’s tragic turn to the dark side accompanied by such aggressively ominous music as Darth Vader’s march, the Emperor’s theme and a sweeping new piece that underscores the momentous duel between Anakin and Obi-Wan. In the end, the film reminds us that Anakin will eventually be redeemed through the determination and love of his children. John has beautifully captured this spirit of hope by reprising the most memorable music from the original trilogy, the themes of Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia. The balance of light and dark is central to Star Wars storytelling, and John has conveyed this expertly. His music for Episode III is joyous and adventurous at times, yet pulls us into the mournful and tragic as well. But as the saying goes, the darkest hour is always before the dawn, even the dawn of twin suns on a distant, arid planet.”
“Star Wars and The Revenge of the Sith”
“Battle of the Heroes”
“Grievous and the Droids”
“Anakin vs. Obi-Wan”
“Anakin’s Dark Deeds”
“Enter Lord Vader”
“The Immolation Scene”
“Grievous Speaks to Lord Sidious”
“The Birth of the Twins and Padmé’s Destiny”
“A New Hope and End Credits”
Because Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith was originally intended to be the final film in the (then) six-film saga (Lucas had, at the time, shelved plans for a Sequel Trilogy and stated many times that Star Wars’ alternate title should be The Tragedy of Darth Vader), the score is a musical bridge between the 1999-2005 Prequel Trilogy and the 1977-1983 Original Trilogy.
In that vein, Williams blends themes that are heard in both trilogies, including such standards as Star Wars Main Theme, Princess Leia’s Theme, The Force, The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme), The Emperor’s Theme, and Yoda’s Theme from A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi with musical cues from the Prequels, including Duel of the Fates from The Phantom Menace and Across the Stars from Attack of the Clones.
Of course, as with every new score he has written for the nine-Episode Skywalker Saga, Maestro Williams composed new thematic material for Revenge of the Sith, including a brutal, almost Stravinsky-like piece for the villainous cyborg General Grievous and the “featured new theme” for the tragic clash between Obi-Wan Kenobi and his former Padawan, Anakin, Battle of the Heroes. As befits a film that shows the collapse of a once-idyllic Republic and the demise of the Jedi Order sworn to protect it, Battle of the Heroes evokes some of the tragic and doomed heroism of Richard Wagner’s music for the Ring Cycle’s final opera, Twilight of the Gods (Götterdämmerung).
Battle of the Heroes is a classic Williams piece that features a bravura performance by the London Symphony Orchestra and the London Voices choir. It reflects the growing tension between the Dark Side of the Force and the Light Side, not just in that violent-and-tragic clash of lightsabers between two men who were once like brothers and are now on opposite camps, but also between the forces of good and evil in the galaxy as a whole. Williams uses both the theme for The Force and the Imperial March to good effect in Battle of the Heroes, as well as the new motif, which he introduces with the brass section at the beginning of the piece – almost like an overture – then turns it into a choral piece that is both rousing and elegiac.
As is the case with scores for a multi-film series, Revenge of the Sith is a soundtrack album that has flawlessly composed musical material yet suffers from the perception that it lacks brilliant originality. By the time of its release in 2005, the Star Wars saga was 28 years old, and the Prequel Trilogy was perceived by many fans to be inferior to the 1977-1983 Original Trilogy in many areas. And even though critics respected Williams’ undoubted talents as a composer, some believed that in Revenge of the Sith, the score was less powerful and focused than in the five previous films.
Revenge of the Sith is a score that introduces several outstanding (and sometimes spectacular) ideas that are relatively fresh in the maestro’s career but does not follow through with them to a level that will stick in the minds of average movie-goers. Its personality is therefore quite nebulous, a very odd characteristic for a Williams score of this magnitude.
I’m not sure if I agree with that statement, at least not 100%. But I have owned this album since its release 15 years ago and, after the initial burst of excitement over it, it’s the least-played Star Wars CD in my collection of soundtracks.
My main criticisms about Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack are the same ones that I have about Sony Classical’s previous commercially-released Star Wars Prequel Trilogy soundtracks: their brevity and the label’s obstinate traditional approach to soundtrack albums.
I understand, of course, that Sony was burned – badly – by the lackluster sales performance of its one attempt to go the Special Edition route with the 2000 Ultimate Edition of The Phantom Menace score. But it seems to me that the executives who allowed that 2-CD album – which many John Williams fans had clamored for since 1999 – to be released with serious timing issues and no liner notes set themselves up for the poor sales and the bad reviews. So unless Walt Disney Records, the owners of the Star Wars soundtrack licensing rights, hires Michael Matessino to create properly-conceived and executed Special Edition soundtracks for the Prequels, the “Greatest Hits” collection of 15-of-41 cues in this 2005 album will have to suffice.
But…yes. I think that even with a running time of nearly 72 minutes, Revenge of the Sith is far too abridged for my taste, and the fact that Williams, Wannberg, Belgardt, and Murphy chose to showcase highlights from the score spliced together to create a concert suite-like program rather than follow the film’s story musically.
The only saving grace that the original 2005 release of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack was that the CD also included a DVD titled Star Wars: A Musical Journey. Produced by Lucasfilm in conjunction with Sony Classical, this DVD featured sixteen music videos set to remastered selections of music from the six existing film scores, presented in a mostly chronological order, starting with The Phantom Menace and ending with selections from Return of the Jedi, although the final video featured the Throne Room and End Titles from A New Hope.
Star Wars: A Musical Journey is hosted by actor Ian McDiarmid (Emperor Palpatine) and consists of the following 16 chapters:
• Chapter 1: A Long Time Ago (“Star Wars Main Title” from A New Hope) • Chapter 2: Dark Forces Conspire (“Duel of the Fates” from The Phantom Menace) • Chapter 3: A Hero Rises (“Anakin’s Theme” from The Phantom Menace) • Chapter 4: A Fateful Love (“Across the Stars” from Attack of the Clones) • Chapter 5: A Hero Falls (“Battle of the Heroes” from Revenge of the Sith) • Chapter 6: An Empire Is Forged (“The Imperial March” from The Empire Strikes Back) • Chapter 7: A Planet That is Farthest From (“The Dune Sea of Tatooine/Jawa Sandcrawler” from A New Hope) • Chapter 8: An Unlikely Alliance (“Binary Sunset/Cantina Band” from A New Hope) • Chapter 9: A Defender Emerges (“Princess Leia’s Theme” from A New Hope) • Chapter 10: A Daring Rescue (“Ben’s Death/Tie Fighter Attack” from A New Hope) • Chapter 11: A Jedi is Trained (“Yoda’s Theme” from The Empire Strikes Back) • Chapter 12: A Narrow Escape (“The Asteroid Field” from The Empire Strikes Back) • Chapter 13: A Bond Unbroken (“Luke and Leia” from Return of the Jedi) • Chapter 14: A Sanctuary Moon (“The Forest Battle” from Return of the Jedi) • Chapter 15: A Life Redeemed (“Light of the Force” from Return of the Jedi) • Chapter 16: A New Day Dawns (“Throne Room/Finale” from A New Hope)
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is not a bad album. John Williams is too good a composer and his music is sans reproach, but I do wish Sony Classical had hired the same editorial team that handled the RCA Victor Special Edition albums for the 1997 re-release of the original three Star Wars films rather than take the familiar but bland “concert suite” approach used by recording companies for most commercial soundtracks. I don’t hate this album, not at all.
But I don’t love it, either.
 Listeners who want to hear the album tracks in the proper “in-film” chronological orders would have to program their CD players to play the 15 tracks in this order: 1, 7, 13, 2, 6, 5, 8, 4, 11, 10, 9, 3, 12, 14, 15
Hi there, Dear Reader. It’s late morning here in New Hometown, FL (9:30 AM Eastern) as I start this first post for Wednesday, October 28, 2020. Currently, the temperature is 81˚F (27˚C) under partly sunny skies, but with humidity at 82% and an easterly wind blowing gently at 5 MPH (9 KM/H), the “feels like” temperature is 87˚F (30˚C). And in a repeat of the weather pattern from the past few days, today’s forecast calls partly sunny skies, high humidity, and a high of 90˚F (32˚C).
Well, at least I don’t have to worry about venturing out around the neighborhood in the muggy and hot Florida sun; I already went out over an hour ago for my morning walk. I hadn’t checked the weather apps on my PC or my phone before I stepped out the front door and walked to the nearby park to sit on my favorite bench, “people watch” for a bit, and get a little fresh air and sunshine before returning home for another day of writing and doing research for my NaNoWriMo project.
This being the middle of a work-week, there were not too many people out and about at 8:30 AM; on the far side of the park, I could see a couple walking a large dog – it looked like an Irish setter, but I wasn’t wearing my glasses (I’m nearsighted) at the time, so I can’t be sure of the breed. I also saw a military-looking guy (he looked fit, had the right type of haircut, and he had an “Air Force” PT T-shirt) walking a black Labrador along the sidewalk directly across the street from me.
Directly across from the park, looking west, I saw a moving van in front of one of the homes on that block. Apparently, the occupants of that house were in the process of moving out, as the movers – all wearing masks – were pushing hand trucks with stacks of moving boxes into the van instead of out of it. I was too far away to see if the soon-to-be ex-residents were a military family or not, but I think chances are that they were.
When I was outside – and this time I didn’t go for a long walk like I did yesterday – I saw signs that it had rained last night. Still, there was one house across the street from “my” park bench where the sprinkler system was spraying jets of water in various “zones” of the front yard. Out of curiosity, I bent down to check if the grass and topsoil near the bench – which thankfully was dry! – were wet. And to no one’s surprise, they were damp. Not waterlogged, mind you, but damp and with obvious signs that it had rained before the dawn. I’m guessing the sprinkler system in that particular house was set on “Automatic,” because (a) the lawn in front of the house is green and lush, and (b) if it was turned on manually, the residents of that house sure don’t mind paying a high water bill.
I didn’t take any of my books with me; my plan was to take a quick stroll and then come back, rest a bit, and then write my morning blog post. I did consider it, of course, but I didn’t know if the park benches would be wet or dry, and I hate, absolutely hate, sitting on a damp wooden or stone bench and ending up with wet spots on my trousers. So I dismissed that idea off hand and opted to just go for a quick in-and-out stroll, snap a few shots of the ‘hood, then come back home to write this post, eat something for breakfast, and do some research for my novel, The Tonic of Their Victory.
If you are wondering where I got the idea for the quote, I’ll be happy to explain. It’s from a quote by Ernie Pyle, the popular (and legendary) columnist and war correspondent who covered campaigns in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, and Normandy before briefly returning home to the States and – reluctantly – then headed out to cover the Pacific Theater of Operations in 1945.
Here’s the quote:
“In their eyes as they pass is not hatred, not excitement, not despair, not the tonic of their victory – there is just the simple expression of being here as though they had been here doing this forever, and nothing else.”— Ernie Pyle
Today I expect to receive the following books that I ordered as part of the NaNoWriMo project:
Show, Don’t Tell: How to Write Vivid Descriptions, Handle Backstory, and Describe Your Characters’ Emotions (Writers’ Guide Series)
Writing into the Dark: How to Write a Novel without an Outline (WMG Writer’s Guides)
The D-Day Visitor’s Handbook: Your Guide to the Normandy Battlefields and WWII Paris
D-Day Illustrated Edition: June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II Hardcover – Illustrated, May 6, 2014
I’m also expecting a navy blue bathrobe that I ordered; I don’t know what happened to the one I used to have in Miami, and I like having one handy for when I come out of the shower. That’s arriving in the same shipment with the books I bought to help me with the novel. From what Amazon tells me, my orders – those that are scheduled for today, at least – are still “in transit” and not “out for delivery,” so the official ETA is presently “by 9 PM today.”
I don’t have any news to share beyond these tidbits of information about my NaNoWriMo project. I do plan to write a Star Wars soundtrack review before I do a deep dive into the Normandy campaign, so you can probably expect to see that as my second post of the day. Things here at home are calmer and everyone is being supportive about the “Alex is writing a novel” thing, so right now my main focus will be on NaNoWriMo and the things that make life more bearable.
This brings us to the close of this News from New Hometown update; I started this post at 9:30 AM and it is now 11 AM Eastern. Of course, the temperature rose between then and now, so the “feels like” temperature is now 95˚F (35˚C) under sunny skies. (Good thing I went out when I did, no?) I’m going to have “brunch,” then come back and do that Star Wars album review.
Until next time, then, Dear Reader, stay safe, stay healthy, and – please – be kind to others!
 I live relatively near a large Air Force base that hosts several major commands, so “my” neighborhood has a higher-than-average number of active duty personnel who either own or rent houses here. One of our next-door-neighbors is a lieutenant colonel in the Army. I haven’t met him, but The Caregiver has lived here since 2012 so she knows him.
 Pyle was killed on the island of Ieshima on April 18, 1945 while he was covering the Okinawa campaign, the last major battle of the Pacific War between the U.S. and Japan. He was only 44, but if you look at photos of him from the war years, he looks like he was nearly 60.
Hi (again), Dear Reader. Well, here in New Hometown, Florida it is 6:44 PM Eastern, and it is starting to get dark outside. Currently, the temperature is 83˚F (28˚C) under mostly sunny skies (although that “sunny” thing is relative since sunset is only a few minutes away). With humidity at 69% and the wind blowing from the east southeast at 11 MPH (17 KM/H), the heat index is 89˚F (32˚C). The forecast for tonight has changed a tad since we last talked; it calls for mostly cloudy skies and a low of 75˚F (24˚C) and rain in the overnight hours.
I went for my second walk of the day sometime after 5:34 PM Eastern; it was still hot and humid then, but the sun was fairly low in the sky and the heat was tolerable. I took a bottle of water from the pantry and drank from it during my stroll. When I drained it – and I did that relatively fast because I didn’t want to walk through the neighborhood with a plastic bottle in hand – I tossed the empty container into a nearby trash can.
As I did this morning, I walked past “my” park and walked two-thirds of a mile away from the house, then walked right back. Again, because the wind was at my back on the “outward” leg of my constitutional, I got to my “Stop” point within 10 minutes of leaving the house. The return trip took a few minutes more – partly because I was walking into the wind, but mostly because my legs were getting a bit tired. Ah, the price of nearly five years’ of leading a rather sedentary life.
I didn’t get as much reading done for The Tonic of Their Victory as I would have liked. If I had not gone for my stroll through the neighborhood, yeah, sure. I could have sat on the living room couch and read from James Holland’s Normandy ’44, a book that I bought last year because 2019 was the 75th anniversary of D-Day and the liberation of France. I did read part of a chapter that is relevant to the plot of my novel, so it’s not like I didn’t do any reading at all. Tomorrow I will read more.
I’m tired, my friend. I wake up early on weekdays because that’s the routine for almost everyone here. This morning I woke up around 5 AM, and even though I could have slept for another hour (I mean, no one forces me to wake up early…I just do), I just couldn’t relax and fall asleep again. That, and the two walks I took today have made me drowsy. Fresh air, the heat, and moderate exercise have that effect on me, after all, especially since it’s been a long time since I had gone for long walks on a regular basis.
And on that note, Dear Reader, this is where you and I must part company, at least until tomorrow. I’ll probably go watch something on the one cable-connected TV set (the one in the Florida room) and try to stay awake till dinner. After that, I plan to go to bed and catch some sorely-needed Z’s. So, wherever you may be, stay safe, stay healthy, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.
Hello again, Dear Reader. It’s now early afternoon here in New Hometown, Florida. Currently, the temperature outside is 86˚F (30˚C) under mostly cloudy skies. With the wind blowing from the east at 11 MPH (17 KM/H) and humidity at 72%, the feels-like temperature is 97˚F (36˚C). The rest of the afternoon will be partly sunny, and the chance of rain in the evening seems to have gone almost close to 0%; the forecast for tonight calls for partly cloudy skies. The low in the overnight hours is expected to reach 75˚F (24˚C).
I went for a walk this morning before the sun was out in full force. The temperature was still in the high 70s, and there was a brisk easterly breeze, so I had pleasant walking conditions. I didn’t take a book with me to read on a park bench; I considered it before I left the house, but I decided not to. I didn’t want to stay outside longer than 20 minutes, plus I didn’t know if my favorite bench was dry or wet from last night’s showers.
Instead, I decided to walk past the park and go almost to the end of the east-west road that is connected to the “curving road” in front of the house where I live. (I hate having to be so vague about my exact whereabouts; someday I’ll explain why I have to be so mysterious.) On the westward (outbound) leg, I had a “tail wind” of 11 MPH (17 KM/H) from the east, so I walked relatively faster than on the way back home. I walked a third of a mile (according to Google Maps), although I think it took me longer than five minutes to reach my “stopping place.” (I didn’t take my phone with me this time, so I can’t be sure of that.)
On the way back, though, the 11 MPH (17 KM/H) breeze was a “head wind,” and even though it was a cooling breeze that mitigated the effects of the rising temperature, it did slow me down some; to me, it felt as though the wind was trying to get me to stay outside rather than come back inside to the house.
2nd Lt. Claude Cox, CO, 3rd Platoon, A Co., 1st Bn., 117th Infantry Regiment
Col. Henry E. Kelly, USA, CO, 117th Infantry Regiment
Maj. Gen. Leland S. Hobbs, USA, CO, 30th Infantry Division
Ernie Pyle, War Correspondent
Ernest Hemingway, War Correspondent
Robert “Bob” Capa, Photographer, LIFE magazine
And that’s it for the cast of characters, at least for the moment. I will come up with more characters and names as the project moves along. I definitely need to create quite a few more, especially some German and French characters; The Tonic of Their Victory is, after all, a war story, and it is set in Normandy, so…yes. The Dramatis Personae list is definitely in need of expansion!
As for the rest of my Tuesday….
After I add a few more names (and roles) to the Dramatis Personae list, I will probably go to another part of the house and read for a while. I’ll probably read a couple of chapters from The Guns at Last Light: The War in Northwest Europe, 1944-1945 by Rick Atkinson or the more focused Normandy ’44: D-Day and the Epic 77-Day Battle for France by James Holland. I could do that in this room; I have a couch and the lighting isn’t too bad. But I spend way too much time in one room, more so ever since my study also became my bedroom, so I like to find different spots in the house to read in.
That’s about all the news I have for the moment. If I can, I’ll post again later tonight. Until then, stay safe, stay healthy, and please, be kind to each other.
Hello there, Dear Reader. It is morning here in New Hometown, Florida, and it’s just a little after 9 AM Eastern. Currently, the temperature outside is 79˚F (26˚C) under mostly cloudy skies. With humidity at 92% and an easterly wind of 7 MPH (11 KM/H), the heat index is 79˚F (26˚C). And following the same pattern as the past few days, the forecast for today calls for partly sunny skies with a high of 89˚F (32˚C), with rain expected in the evening hours. The low tonight is expected to be 76˚F (24˚C)
Today I will be spending much of my time doing research for the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge for 2020; since I was 10 years old, I have dreamed about writing a novel, but for a plethora of reasons, the most ambitious literary projects I have completed are two screenplays (plus one third of another that I was asked to contribute) and one short story (Reunion) that I wrote a long time ago and self-published through Amazon two summers ago.
I did write a 40-page science-fiction “novel” for my ninth grade English class at Riviera Junior High School when we studied the structure of this style of prose writing in the second semester of the 1979-1980 school year. It was a clichéd mash-up of Star Wars-like space battles and Cold War-turned-hot melodrama titled Hypercraft One: A Sound of Armageddon and it earned one of the highest grades in Ms. Allen’s fourth period English class (five As, since it was graded in five areas), partly because it was well-written (for a ninth-grader, anyway), and partly because my manuscript went beyond the 20-page minimum.
Obviously, Hypercraft One – impressive as it might have been for ninth-grade me – was only a “novel” because it had the structure of one – but it wasn’t a 50,000-word “long fictional narrative which describes intimate human experiences.” The NaNoWriMo challenge is all about the creation of a 50,000 word manuscript within a 30-day period. That means that I have to write 1,666.666666666667 words a day from November 1 to November 30, 2020.
Yesterday I announced my project on the NaNoWriMo website; it is one of the requirements for participants, especially at this point in the game where we are less than a week before the 30-day challenge begins less than six days from today. I had, as they used to say in the 1940s, the “heebie-jeebies,” but I wrote the novel’s title – The Tonic of Their Victory: A Novel of Normandy – and the genre – historical fiction – in the appropriate spaces. Thankfully, NaNoWriMo doesn’t require writers to give any more details than that, because as of right now, I can’t give the Powers That Be there anything beyond that.
Since I am a “free-form” or “seat-of-the-pants” writer and don’t do outlines or even story boards – two things that are recommended by most of the “how to write novel” books I own – I ordered (somewhat at the last minute) Dean Wesley Smith’s Writing into the Dark: How to Write a Novel without an Outline. I should have done that earlier this year, but between my tendency to procrastinate, my focus on blogging, and the distractions – both good and bad – of everyday life, I did not. As the publisher’s blurb puts it, “Dean takes you step-by-step through the process of writing without an outline and explains why not having an outline boosts your creative voice and keeps you more interested in your writing.”
I also ordered The D-Day Visitor’s Handbook: Your Guide to the Normandy Battlefields and WWII Parisby Kevin Dennehy and Stephen Powers. Though The Tonic of Their Victory is not a D-Day-centric novel, it is, even in this nebulous state of preliminary concept, set during the Normandy campaign, so I figured that this 192-page book will be a good reference to use.
I will probably spend most of this Tuesday doing research for the novel, but I also need to take a shower, change into street clothes, and go for my walk before the temperature climbs to that 89˚F (32˚C) high. But before I go, let me share a few bits of trivia I’ve learned about the 1944 U.S. Army:
When a GI wrote a letter to his wife or girlfriend, it was called writing a “behavior report.”
A medical corpsman was called a “bedpan commando.”
A World War II–era M1 helmet weighed approximately 2.85 pounds (1.29 kg), including the liner and chinstrap.
The Army’s M-1941 field jacket was also known as the “Parsons jacket” because its design was based on a civilian windbreaker suggested by Maj. Gen. James K. Parsons.
A GI who served as an officer’s messenger was known as a “carrier pigeon.”
An infantryman was sometimes referred to as a “cornplaster commando.”
Well, Dear Reader, that’s all the “dope” or “scuttlebutt” I have for now. I will go out while the temperature is still on the tolerable side, and then it will be time to hit the books and do a bit more prep for The Tonic of Their Victory. I will also try to write another blog post this afternoon. So, until then, my friend, stay safe, stay healthy, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.
Hello again from New Hometown, Florida, where it is now late (9-11) morning. The temperature rose several degrees since I last chimed in; it’s now 78˚F (26˚C) under partly sunny skies – according to my PC’s Weather app, anyway. With humidity at 82% and the wind blowing from the northeast at 4 MPH (7 KM/H), the feels-like temperature is also 78˚F (26˚C).
I went for my walk after having a cup of café con leche and a couple of slices of white bread, but I did not take a book with me. I’m glad I didn’t, because it rained last night and though the puddles of water were already starting to evaporate, the sidewalks and grassy spaces were soggy and the wooden park benches were damp. It was nice out, too, aside from the damp benches; I might have walked farther afield and thus stayed outside longer. But, no. I just went to the park, snapped a few photos with my phone’s camera, and returned home.
I’m still a bit groggy and fuzzy-brained even after my brief constitutional. If the temperature had been lower, like in the mid-60s range, I’d be wide-awake. But it was actually a bit warmer outside than inside the house because the thermostat is always set at 71˚F, so while the walk was beneficial for my morale and my body, it didn’t exactly recharge my batteries – so to speak – as much as I’d hoped.
Trump vs. 60 Minutes: Profile of Cowardice
I didn’t watch the 60 Minutes broadcast of Lesley Stahl’s abbreviated interview with President Donald Trump last night. My TV is not cable-connected, and I assiduously avoid watching any televised appearance by the man I often refer to as “Orange Caligula,” so I wouldn’t have watched it anyway. However, since my Facebook newsfeed was chock-full of posts about it, I decided to read the complete transcript just out of curiosity.
In case you haven’t heard about this latest clash between Trump and a reporter from what he calls the “fake news” media, Stahl – a poised and tough interviewer who has worked for CBS News since 1971 – attempted to ask Trump questions about the upcoming election, the COVID-19 pandemic, his alleged plans to replace the Affordable Care Act with a “better” health care plan, and other topics.
Trump, as is his wont, was combative from the start and complained that his Democratic Party opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, always received “softball questions” and replied to Stahl’s questions with bluster, caginess, and dare I say, rudeness. And, as you probably know, 37 minutes into the interview, he abruptly got up and left Stahl to ask Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, “And the President isn’t coming back?”
McEnany replied, “The President has given you a lot of his time.”
Here are some high- I mean, lowlights from this latest exercise in Trumpian rudeness and lack of gravitas, courtesy of the online edition of the British Daily Mail.
Lesley Stahl: Are you ready for some tough questions?
President Donald Trump: You’re gonna be fair?
Lesley Stahl: Are you g–
President Donald Trump: Just be-
Lesley Stahl: I’m gonna be fair.
President Donald Trump: Just be fair.
Lesley Stahl: But you’re okay with some tough questions?
President Donald Trump: No, I’m not. I mean–
Lesley Stahl: (LAUGH) You’re not okay with tough questions?
President Donald Trump: I want them to be fair. You– you don’t ask Biden tough questions.
President Donald Trump: Okay. Are you ready–
Lesley Stahl: You ready? Everybody ready? So we have the pandemic. On your watch, we’ve had racial strife, we’ve had looting. Why do you want this job? Why do you wanna be president again?
President Donald Trump: Because we’ve done a great job and it’s not finished yet. And when I finish, this country will be in a position like it hasn’t been maybe ever. The economy is already roaring back. And– other people aren’t gonna bring it back, certainly the person that we’re dealing with is not gonna bring it back. They’re gonna raise taxes.
And further along in the interview, there is this hilarious bit of the President’s use of Orwellian unlogic regarding the Trump Administration’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the unemployment spike it caused:
Lesley Stahl: Four years ago, you were behind in the polls, as you are now, and you pulled it out. But this time, you have kind of a double migraine. You have unemployment claims going up. You have COVID cases going up. I mean, it’s like the gods have suddenly decided– decided to conspire against you–
President Donald Trump: I don’t think so at all, no. I think we’ve done–
Lesley Stahl: Well, what about the–
President Donald Trump: –a great job with COVID.
Lesley Stahl: Sir, excuse me, cases are up in about 40 states.
President Donald Trump: Okay– you know why cases are up also? Because we do more testing. The fake news media loves to say cases are up. The fact is, we’ve done a very, very good job–
Lesley Stahl: Cases are up.
President Donald Trump: We have done– that’s right because we’re doing so much testing.
There is increased testing, but according to the COVID Tracking Project, that doesn’t account for all of the rise in new cases sweeping the country, or the 40% increase in hospitalizations in the past month.
Lesley Stahl: When you’re out there saying we’ve turned the corner, this thing is disappearing–
President Donald Trump: That’s right. We have turned–
Lesley Stahl: –and people can see–
President Donald Trump: –the corner. We have turned the corner.
Lesley Stahl: –people can see cases going up all over the– in the Midwest, in the Mountain West, record numbers of cases–
President Donald Trump: We have turned the corner.
Lesley Stahl: –in some states.
President Donald Trump: We understand the disease. We understand the elderly, and we are taking care of them like nobody’s ever taken care of ’em. So we are taking care of our people.
The interview gets truly contentious when Stahl – whose voiceover for the piece is also part of the transcript – grills Trump about the “October surprise” concocted by Rudy Gulliani to smear Joe Biden’s son Hunter:
As we moved from subject to subject, our conversation grew more tense. President Trump brought up what he calls the unfairness of the fake media. Most prominently: a lack of coverage of his unproven and unverified charges that former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, have received millions of dollars in corrupt payments from a Russian oligarch and a Chinese billionaire.
President Donald Trump: I wish you would interview Joe Biden like you interview me. It would be so good. You know what?
Lesley Stahl: You like this, I thought-
President Donald Trump: The, the–
Lesley Stahl: I thought you liked spy– sparring–
President Donald Trump: I don’t mind it. I don’t mind it. But when I watch him walk out of a store, and he’s walking with an ice cream. And the question the media asks him, ‘What kind of ice cream? What flavor ice cream do you have?’ And he’s in the midst of a scandal.
Lesley Stahl: He’s not.
President Donald Trump: And he’s taking
Lesley Stahl: He’s not, no–
President Donald Trump: Of course he is, Lesley.
Lesley Stahl: Come on.
President Donald Trump: Of course he is.
President Donald Trump: It’s the biggest — second-biggest scandal. The biggest scandal was when they spied on my campaign. They spied on my campaign, Lesley-
Lesley Stahl: Well, there’s no– real evidence of that.
President Donald Trump: Of course there is. It’s all over–
Lesley Stahl: No–
President Donald Trump: –the place. Lesley, they–
Lesley Stahl: Sir–
President Donald Trump: –spied on my campaign and they got caught–
Lesley Stahl: Can I– can I say something? You know, this is 60 Minutes. And we can’t put on things we can’t verify–
President Donald Trump: No, you won’t put it on because it’s bad for Biden. Look, let me tell you–
Lesley Stahl: We can’t put on things we can’t verify–
President Donald Trump: Lesley, they spied on–
Lesley Stahl: And–
President Donald Trump: –on my campaign.
Lesley Stahl: Well, we can’t verify that–
President Donald Trump: It’s been totally verified.
Hi, there, Dear Reader. It’s morning here in New Hometown, Florida on Monday, October 26, 2020, and with sunrise still 42 minutes away, it’s still dark outside. The current temperature is 72˚F (22˚C) under mostly clear conditions. With humidity at 97% and the wind blowing – barely – at 2 MPH (3 KM/H) the feels-like temperature is also 72˚F (22˚C). The forecast for the day calls for mostly sunny skies and a high of 88˚F (31˚C); rain is expected in the evening.
Last night I went to bed relatively early; I ate dinner in the kitchenette and then made my way into my room. I was tired and didn’t feel like socializing, so I closed my door and settled down on the couch to watch Revolution, the eighth part of the 2003 British documentary The First World War. I’d seen it before, but it’s an interesting episode, and it reminded me that many of the world’s current socio-political issues – especially the never-ending fight between the “right” and “left” in the West – have their roots in World War I and Wilhelmine Germany’s meddling in the Russian Revolution(s) of 1917.
I stayed awake till the episode ended, but after I turned off the TV, I fell asleep. It was as if someone had aimed a remote control and hit a Sleep button. I don’t know if the family dog slept on the futon with me, but I did find her asleep on the floor next to it when I woke up at 4:45 AM to answer the call of nature.
I plan – among other things – to go out for a walk this morning before the sun is out in full force and the temperature gets too hot. Getting out of the house, even if it is just for 20 minutes, is doing me some good. I won’t go until I’ve had some coffee and a little bit of food, plus I need to change into street clothes, but I definitely need to get away from here. I might even take a book with me and read for a while. We’ll see what develops, as they used to say in the tagline of old Polaroid camera commercials on TV.
After that, Dear Reader, I’m not sure. NaNoWriMo begins on November 1, and I need to officially announce my novel this week at the latest. I have a title – The Tonic of Their Victory – and a vague idea that one of the central characters will be a young war correspondent…and that’s it. I’m still hazy about the exact setting, thought as of this moment I’m leaning toward the Normandy campaign of June-August 1944.
I don’t think I’ll attempt a sprawling epic that begins on June 6 (D-Day) and ends on August 25, 1944 (the liberation of Paris). I’m a rookie (a “noob,” if you prefer) at this novelist gig, so tackling the 77-day campaign is definitely not in my game plan. And a novel that focuses only on June 6 would probably come across as a pale – and predictable – attempt to channel The Longest Day and Saving Private Ryan. So, somewhere in July, maybe, around the time of the Battle of St. Lo and the beginning of the breakout from the beachhead?
Again, as I said about my morning walk, we’ll have to see what the day will bring.
Hello again, Dear Reader. It’s late afternoon/early evening (5:00 PM Eastern) here in New Hometown, Florida, and it is still quite summery outside. Presently, the temperature is 84˚F (29˚C) under partly sunny skies. With humidity at 65% and an easterly breeze of 6 MPH (9 KM/H), the heat index is 89˚F (32˚C). The sun sets at 6:49 PM Eastern, so if I can finish and publish this post before 6:10 PM, I might try going for another walk.
As I wrote earlier today, Amazon delivered my copy of DK Books’ World War II Map by Map, which I ordered to supplement the stack of books that I’m using as references for my NaNoWriMo 2020 manuscript. I have only leafed through it; I’m tired and sleepy, so I didn’t dive right into it to fully immerse myself in the various maps and short essays that accompany them.
Published in September of 2019 to commemorate the 80th Anniversary of the start of the largest and bloodiest conflict in history, World War II Map by Map is one of the many history-themed references DK has created in a partnership with the Smithsonian Institution. Aimed at young readers as well as adults, it depicts, in a wide array of maps, the ebb and flow of the war, from Germany’s invasion of Poland in 1939 to the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay, as well as major events in the immediate postwar period.
As the publishers describe World War II Map by Map in the DK Books website:
Trace the epic history of World War 2 across the globe with more than 100 detailed maps.
In this stunning visual history book, custom maps tell the story of the Second World War from the rise of the Axis powers to the dropping of the atom bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Each map is rich with detail and graphics, helping you to chart the progress of key events of World War II on land, sea, and air, such as the Dunkirk evacuation, the attack on Pearl Harbor, the D-Day landings, and the siege of Stalingrad.
Historical maps from both Allied and Axis countries also offer unique insights into the events. There are timelines to help you follow the story as it unfolds, while narrative overviews explain the social, economic, political, and technical developments at the time. Fascinating, large-scale pictures introduce topics such as the Holocaust, blitzkrieg, kamikaze warfare, and code-breaking.
Written by a team of historians in consultation with Richard Overy, World War II Map by Map examines how the deadliest conflict in history changed the face of our world. It is perfect for students, general readers, and military history enthusiasts.
I’ll probably review this book in the near future. From what I’ve seen of its content, World War II Map by Map has a nice blend of colorful maps, black-and-white and color photos, and concise but informative narrative text that enhances the graphics within the 288 pages.
As I write this, the family dog – a sweet and smart female miniature schnauzer – is sleeping comfortably on a corner of my couch, which converts easily into a futon at bedtime. She looks so relaxed and content there!
Well, Dear Reader, that’s all the news that’s fit to print for this Sunday, October 25, 2020. I still have a chance to go for a constitutional before it gets dark, so I’ll go ahead and post this so I can get a bit of fresh air. So be safe, stay healthy, and be kind to each other. I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things!
Hi again, Dear Reader. It’s now noon on Sunday, October 25, 2020, and although it looks like it is a nice day, it’s also a hot and humid one. As I write this, the temperature outside is 83˚F (28˚C) under mostly sunny skies. With humidity at 79% and the wind blowing from the southeast at 3 MPH (5 KM/H), the feels-like temperature is 91˚F (33˚C). As of 12:06 PM Eastern, the forecast for the day still calls for a high of 86˚F (30˚C) and sunny skies. Rain might affect the area tonight, and the low is expected to reach 73˚F (23˚C).
I also got into my street clothes, grabbed a bottle of water, my key, wallet, and smartphone, and went to my usual place-where-I-clear-my-head: the nearby park. Unfortunately, by the time I went for my constitutional, the sun was already out in force and there wasn’t a lot of cloud cover to mitigate its effects; I could not get temperature information from AccuWeather on my phone because our account is out of data, but it was hot and sticky. I drank the entire bottle of water while I sat on “my” park bench, but that only prevented me from becoming dehydrated. It did not do anything to alleviate either the heat or the humidity, so I snapped a few photos with my phone’s camera and hightailed it back to the house.
On the good news front, my copy of World War II Map by Map was delivered not long ago, so I have one more reference work that I can use for NaNoWriMo 2020.
I am still weirdly ambivalent about this NaNoWriMo project. Part of me wants to do it; I am, after all, a writer, and I have dreamed and talked about writing a novel since I was a boy. I have written a couple of short stories, and I even self-published one (Reunion) two years ago through Amazon’s CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
It is February 1998. 33-year-old Jim Garraty is a respected history professor and bestselling author who lives in New York City. Popular with both students and readers, Jim seems to have it all. Fame, a nice apartment in Manhattan, and a reputation as one of the best World War II historians in the U.S. But when he gets a cryptic email from his best friend from high school, Jim is forced to relive his past – and a trip to his hometown of Miami reopens old wounds he thought had healed long ago.
Please forgive me for indulging in a bit of self-promotion, but I’m proud of my work on this short story, and self-published authors have to, ahem, to do a lot of self-promotion.
So…I know I can write fiction. I can even write screenplays; I have earned three credits as the writer and/or co-writer of three free-to-watch short films on YouTube, including Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss.
Anyway, I know I can handle short stories and short screenplays, but I’ve never successfully written a novel. I tend to be plagued by self-doubt and worry way too much about What if it isn’t any good? In many ways, I am my own worst enemy, especially when it comes to my writing endeavors.
And this is where the ambivalence comes in.
On the one hand, I have invested money into buying how-to books on writing, reference works, a biography of Ernie Pyle, a former aviation writer who gained fame in the Great Depression for his journey across America and writing a popular syndicated “human interests” column, then gained even more acclaim as America’s most popular war correspondent, plus Pyle’s 1944 Brave Men. (No, my novel isn’t about Pyle, but one of my characters is a young war correspondent covering the European Theater of War after D-Day. Per my preliminary idea for the novel, Ernie Pyle, Ernest Hemingway, and a few other famous war correspondents will either have cameos or be mentioned.
On the other hand….and let’s be brutally honest here, I’m scared.
Scared of what, you ask?
I am scared about the prospect of writing a crappy novel.
I am scared about being unable to come up with interesting characters and situations.
I am scared about my ability (or, more correctly, my inability) to blend fact and fiction.
I am scared about my daily word count and being able to produce 50,000 words’ worth of material for the same project for 30 straight days.
I am scared of starting, sticking to a routine for two or three days, then quitting.
I could go on and on, but I won’t. I’m sure that the basic theme is I’m scared!
Yet…despite that….there is a part of me that stubbornly says, “Yes, you’re scared, but this is what you’ve wanted to do since you were nine years old. Try anyway.”
I will try to listen to that part of me rather than the fear-frozen one.