Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Remembering

I've been home all day typing, for work, and listening to NPR news radio. Most of the coverage has been, of course, about 9/11/01, and the testimonies happening in Wash. DC this week.

I interview a lot of soldiers in the course of my job. Some of them have been, or are due to be, deployed overseas, and quite often they're between 18 - 25. Some have been admittedly scared, not knowing what it was going to be like. Some were stoic, saying they understood they could be deployed when they signed up. Some have already been to Iraq or Afghanistan two or three times. If that's had any effect on them, they hide it fairly well face-to-face. There are often other indicators of trouble that we come across.

I still remember one individual who met me at a coffee shop on his way to the airport, the day he was flying out. His spouse was with him. Both of them were understandably preoccupied, but still managed to be cheerful, even friendly and chatty, with me. Every once in a while I meet people through work and think, if it weren't for the circumstances of our meeting, we could be friends. He and his wife were among those. I didn't hear about him after that. I hope he made it home.

I never hear the results of a background investigation I do. Occasionally I run into someone on a military base whose case I worked, so I know they made it through, but usually those are the officers. There have been so many names in the past 3 1/2 years, I can't remember most of them. But I still find myself looking through the lists of casualties published in the local newspaper. So far I haven't recognized anyone. I hope it stays that way.

However one feels about the politics, our service members are out there, doing their best at the dangerous work they've been given. I hope people remember that when they come home and need our help to return to civilian life. Never be too shy to thank a military veteran for their service. It's a small thing, but it's really appreciated.

Now, for a complete change of subject...
I've been reading some good books lately. I'm now on the last volume of a great series by Lian Hearn, "Tales of the Otori". It's a blend of fictionalized Japanese history, and Ninja fantasy. Basically it's Hearn's version of what it would be like to be a member of a ninja clan (although the work ninja is never used) in feudal Japan. Sounds corny, but she's done a lot of research as far as the cultural and historical aspects go. Nice detail about various martial arts, battle scenes, and relations between men and women of that period. There may be folks who know more about early Japan who disagree, but it seems fairly accurate to me. Technically Hearn is not writing about the actual country of Japan at all, she's just borrowed the environment, culture, and broad historical background for the story. I'm looking forward to the last volume, "The Harsh Cry of the Heron".

The other book is "Becoming Jane Austen", by Jon Spence. He's done a lot of research about the Austen family and extended family, especially Austen's early life and it's influence on her writing. One of the main topics he covers is a romance Austen had with a young man when she was about 18. She never married, and did not appear to have many suitors. This was a young man she really fell for, but it didn't work out. Probably because she did not have much of a dowry, but no one is really sure. The details of their relationship and why it failed have always been something of a mystery because Austen never wrote a lot about it in her letters to family.

The book is particularly interesting to me because I lived in an area of Hampshire near Steventon, where Austen lived, and have visited the house. Also, just outside our town are two family estates that Austen visited, and in the town itself is an assembly room where she was known to go to balls and dances.

There is a movie out now, based on this book. I think it's called "Becoming Jane". I'd like to see it, even though I've read it's mostly about the romance part, rather than the entire book. Realistically, if you're not already very interested in Jane Austen's life and how it affected her work, you might not like the book. I'm enjoying it, but I'm also alternating reading it with two other books, depending on my mood.

Back to work...

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