Wednesday writing wire - Thursday edition

 

What I'm reading

I finished listening to Margaret MacMillan's epic (nearly 30 hours long) Paris 1919. A real review would be a task for actual history buffs; being that I'm just a corndog trying to become slightly less pig-ignorant about the world, I'll just give my general thoughts, for whatever that's worth.

The Paris peace conference, led by the USA's Wilson, England's Lloyd George, and France's Clemenceau, lasted six months and produced the Treaty of Versailles. It was an incredibly complicated and ambitious task, basically trying to reorganize Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia after the end of World War I. No pressure! This was a time when the whole idea of what a country should be, and who should have one, was in flux. The Ottoman Empire and Austria-Hungary had crumbled; new countries such as Yugoslavia and Iraq were being born. The new concept of coming up with borders based on self-determination and some measure of fairness was starkly at odds with the older way of doing things ("to the victor go the spoils"). The whole self-determination thing was mostly for white Europeans, some of whom got to vote in what country they wanted to be part of, a privilege not afforded to non-white colonial subjects, who weren't considered "advanced" enough to govern themselves (though with proper supervision, they one day might be). As for imposing new borders, what a giant unsolvable can of worms. No matter where a line was drawn (based not only on high-minded principles but on down-and-dirty opportunism and horse-trading), some people would end up in the "wrong" country based on ethnicity, language, politics and/or history, thus setting the stage for many future conflicts (the Middle East, the Balkans, WWII)--though MacMillan goes a long way towards debunking the conventional wisdom that punitive reparations imposed upon Germany by the Treaty of Versailles caused WWII to be "inevitable". Wilson's Fourteen Points were wonderfully forward-thinking, but also vague and unrealistically idealistic. The League of Nations, the  first international organization dedicated to preserving world peace, did come into being, but the USA never joined, ironically because Wilson's inflexibility had pissed off some powerful political 0pponents.

Paris 1919 contains a tremendous amount of material but fortunately is structured in a way that made it easier to digest. Instead of going in strict chronological order, MacMillan tackles one country at a time, delving into its history and politics, and then showing how the 1919 conference affected it. She also paints a detailed picture of the personalities involved, particularly the Supreme Council (Wilson, Clemenceau, Lloyd George and Italy's Orlando). It's a ginormous book but thoroughly readable and I'd definitely recommend it to anybody who digs history and/or wants to understand more about all the troubles going on in the world today.

OK, I'd better stop babbling there. Now playing in audio book land: Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin, and Sadat at Camp David by Lawrence Wright. This book is about the Camp David conference in 1978, when President Jimmy Carter brought Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian president Anwar Sadat together to hammer out a peace treaty. It's a great read (listen) so far. I'm about 3/4 of the way through it, and trying to finish it before the library demands their electrons back, hehe. 

In fiction land, I'm reading The Dark Defiles, book 3 in Richard K. Morgan's Badass Mofo With A Sword trilogy... OK, I know it's not really called that. But yeah, it's dark and nasty and if the movie version had a soundtrack, it ought be performed by MANOWAR. Yeah! I don't read much fantasy these days but I like it... I very like it.

What I'm writing

Same thing as I was writing last time--only I've gotten past the figuring out stage (for this particular section) and am doing actual writing as opposed to nattering and planning and making a chart to figure out which of my secondary character's split personalities knows what. I know, I know--why do I make things more difficult for myself? Don't answer that :)

What else I've been doing

My band went on a mini-tour (New Jersey and New York) last week. As I may have mentioned before, this particular band is a two-piece consisting only of myself & my husband. Otherwise known as "two people schlepping three people's gear". But yeah, it was fun! It was the first time we'd left Illinois (as a band, that is). 

Besides playing shows, we tried to make it a little mini-vacation. We kept on the lookout for diners, and I added to my collection of "D at diners" photos.

 Dale's Diner, Barnesville PA. We were on the lookout for vittles when D yelled "Pancakes!" and pulled over. 

Dale's Diner, Barnesville PA. We were on the lookout for vittles when D yelled "Pancakes!" and pulled over. 

 Eagle Diner, Solebury PA. Rather than the ham & cabbage, I had pepper steak over rice.

Eagle Diner, Solebury PA. Rather than the ham & cabbage, I had pepper steak over rice.

 D at diner in Queens, NY. I've forgotten the name (possibly the Cozy Diner?)

D at diner in Queens, NY. I've forgotten the name (possibly the Cozy Diner?)

 John's Plain & Fancy Diner, Quakertown PA. We tried "scrapple" (a local breakfast meat item) here for the first time. Not bad!

John's Plain & Fancy Diner, Quakertown PA. We tried "scrapple" (a local breakfast meat item) here for the first time. Not bad!

While passing through Doylestown, PA, we visited the Mercer Museum, which is a poured-concrete castle-like building constructed in 1916 to house an extensive collection of artifacts from pre-industrial America, mostly tools of every trade. It's a weird place, with almost a House on the Rock feel to it. (The House on the Rock is a house/museum/folk art/collection of weirdness located in southern Wisconsin).

What's inspiring me right now

Playing music!

  DRILLING FOR BLASTING at Silent Barn in Brooklyn  (photo by Miguel Chavez) 

DRILLING FOR BLASTING at Silent Barn in Brooklyn (photo by Miguel Chavez)