Friday, September 11, 2020

September 11 [CW: Language, imagery]

I will not show the Towers today. Here's a pic from the city Trumpo says is "in flames"
A lot of people want to commemorate 9/11 today. I won't deny them that. I won't downplay it. But - as a New York City native - I wanted to give you a little perspective.

For most people 9/11 is a disaster.  But for some people, it's porn. I don't mean they're fapping to falling bodies. I mean it's an opportunity for them to get weepy or to get angry without any personal loss. It's as real to them as John Wick's dog or Inigo Montoya's father - no more, no less. And politicians use it for their personal gain.

I remember when the 9/11 anti-terror funding bill was pushed through to give the states money to protect themselves against terrorism...BECAUSE EVERY STATE GOT AN EQUAL SHARE. Wyoming, population 492,976, got the same amount of money as New York - the center of the tragedy, with a population of 19 million and more high-profile terrorist targets than any other state in the union.

I remember the same politicians, who wept crocodile tears about the tragedy of 9/11 at every hoedown and country fair, fighting tooth and nail, year after year, against the reauthorizations of the Zadroga Bill - which mandates lifesaving money for the healthcare of the 9/11 responders who suffered permanent, chronic damage from smoke inhalation, injury, and exposure to toxic chemicals in the poisonous smoke of the towers.  [In case you're curious, here are three of them: Mitch McConnell, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz.]

And I remember those politicians using it as an excuse to invade two countries that had nothing to do with 9/11. [George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Ari Fleischer, David Frum, Karl Rove.]

 Now I'm watching the GOP mouth platitudes about 9/11 again, and I have to ask - which of them will actually do something about what's happening right now - something that has already killed sixty times as many Americans as al-Qaeda? Because they have done nothing...

...except try to distract us.


Monday, September 7, 2020

Research for "Hero's Army," the Sequel to "The Wrong Sword"

Right now, I'm at a scene in which my protagonist, Henry the Rat, is about to enter the city that everyone covets but him - Jerusalem. 

This is Jerusalem at a very specific time in history. It's 1191, the tail end of the Third Crusade, in which Saladin, sultan of Syria and Egypt, faced against Richard I, King of England. Saladin had wrested Jerusalem from Crusader control four years before and captured, exiled, or ransomed the entire Latin-speaking Christian population [as opposed to Greek Christians - Byzantines and others - who were allowed to remain]. It should be noted that when he allowed the Crusaders/Franks/Latins to surrender, Saladin was being considerably more merciful than the Crusaders had been 88 years before, when they had massacred Moslems and Jews until the "streets were knee-high in blood."

The big problem for a writer is that the histories of the time - at least, those available in English - are good when it comes to politics, armies, and trade, but less so when it comes to descriptions of daily life. You want to be able to describe the sights, the smells, the sounds. What people are wearing, how they're talking, what they're eating. How the streets are built, how the houses are constructed and why.

Basic histories tell you none of this. So you go looking for telling details - bits you can use to suggest a bigger picture - in primary sources: documents and artifacts created at the time.

Which is to say I found two tonight. YAY!

1. The Travels of Benjamin of Tudela - tbh, I already knew about this, but I'd forgotten it. Benjamin was an Andalusian Jew who kept a journal of his travels across the Mediterranean and in the Levant. Full of little tidbits, like the story of two workmen who accidentally uncover the tomb of King David, which reads like the Tale of Aladdin.

2. The Metropolitan Museum of Art's exhibition "Jerusalem 1000 to 1400: Every People Under Heaven." Because, you know, ARTIFACTS.