Edward and Mrs. Simpson: aristocratic selfishness causes political crisis

I've been doing something of a deep dive in archaic television serials.  I guess some of these could be called a "miniseries," since they aren't really a full season worth of programming, but the upshot is that I'm enjoying watching the old shows.

The latest offering is Edward and Mrs. Simpson, a drama about the romance between Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson that culminated in the Abdication Crisis of 1936.

The show aired in 1978, after Edward's death but while the Duchess of Windsor (nee Wallis Warfield) was still alive.  It is very respectful to the subject matter, and while it is taken for granted that Edward is carrying on a sexual affair with Mrs. Simpson, they never so much as make out.

That is to say, there is much discussion of bed-hopping, but all of it takes place off camera.

The story is quite well-known at this point, but I enjoyed this presentation, particularly Edward Fox's turn as Edward VIII.  Fox was one of those English actors who never quite became a leading man, instead serving in a supporting role.  To be sure, he played the assassin in Day of the Jackal, but it was a very restrained role with little dialog.

I think Fox does a splendid job, and many of the set pieces are designed to mimic known photographs or newsreels.  Cynthia Harris (who I don't recall seeing before), is just as good as Wallis, and the pair establish a compelling (and likely accurate) dynamic of co-dependency that explains why Edward would cast aside the throne and throw the British Empire into crisis simply because of his desire to date older, married women.

I'm sure a more modern treatment would celebrate the victory of love over duty, but this 1978 version does the opposite, noting that at every turn, Edward tried to shirk his royal duties and always put pleasure before business.  The picture that emerges is a fascinating one. 

Traditionally, first-born children feel a heightened sense of obligation to their families, particularly since they may have to help manage the care of younger siblings.  Edward seems to have been an exception to this rule, resentful of his birth and working tirelessly to avoid the responsibilities associated with his birthright.

In the end, of course, he succeeds, abandoning the throne in favor of his brother Bertie, who reigned as King George VI.  After some vague intrigues during World War II (which resulted in Edward being the go-to monarch for alternative history regarding the UK), the Duke and Duchess of Windsor became little more than minor celebrities and part of the Continental social scene.  The question of inheritance was moot because they produced no offspring, which was no surprising given that she was already nearly beyond child-bearing years when they met.

(There were of course salacious rumors about botched abortions and such to explain her lack of children.)

The one knock against the show isn't really against it at all, but rather FreeVee, which apparently owns the rights and streams via Amazon.  FreeVee uses commercials to cover its costs, which was once standard practice (and still is in the broadcast world).  However, the commercial breaks in Edward and Mrs. Simpson appear almost at random, cutting through a scene rather than the normal practice of doing it between them. 

I think there's a fascinating parallel with Edward VIII and Henry VIII, and at some point I'll dig a little deeper into it.

My new life as a civilian

I don't generally dwell on personal details, but as anyone who has looked at my body of work knows, I have done a bit of military service.  More than 20 years, actually.

That came to a close at the end of last year.

I'm looking forward to have more free time - that whole "one weekend a month" thing got to be a real drag after a while.  It seemed that every important event was slotted against drill, which not only wrecked the weekend itself, but cast a shadow of fatigue on the following week.  The weekend after was then a game of catch-up on chores. 

It played havoc with my writing schedule.  I might be writing at a good clip and then drill (or a training deployment) would pop up and that was that.  I might lose a whole month.

Folks sometime ask me how I could write at all given the pressures of two jobs plus a family, and the answer is that it became my creative outlet.  I gave up watching broadcast television and cable years ago.  Over the last couple of weeks I've joined the kids in playing console games, but that's also a function of having Walls of Men near completion.  I like to take  break after one project before diving into the next.

My new catch phrase is "people write what they know," and I'm looking forward to incorporating more aspects of that life in my work.  Yes, I wrote Three Weeks with the Coasties while still serving, but I also pulled some punches (and had to get it approved by DoD).

I've probably said before that I don't put a particular emphasis on the change of the calendar, but for once, the diving line is pretty stark. 

As in Olden Days, Happy Golden Days

I've taken particular care this year to reach out to as many old friends as possible.  Between the pandemic and the constant (generally electronic) distractions of modern life, it's easy to become isolated from actual people and instead be caught in a virtual world.

We have hosted more gatherings this year than ever before, and I intend to build upon that a year from now.  I think back to the pre-internet age, and holiday parties were the way people caught up with one another.  I spent Christmas Eve going from party to party as my mother caught up with old friends who were back in the old neighborhood.  I was typically bored, because I'd last seen these people when I was a toddler.  I often begged off, but of course part of why I had to come was so she could show me off.

Which was fine, really.  Lots of snacks and treats and then Midnight Mass to wrap up the experience.

After Christmas Day, there were the informal parties - ad hoc get-togethers of people in town to play games or watch movies.  I'm glad to see my kids doing this.  We hosted a considerable party the week before, and I'd like it to become a regular thing because these are what the best memories are built on.

People may stress about family gatherings, but after all that is done and the gifts bought, delivered (and possibly exchanged), the "quiet" part of the holiday is often the most satisfying.

Happy Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord!

Among the  many homilies I have heard, a few stick with me.  One of them was built on the idea that while we have all been through Christmas before, each one is different in its own way.  That's very true.

Yesterday we went to the Children's Mass and it was great.  Despite sub-zero wind chills and near-white out conditions, the place was packed with extended families and friends greeting one another.  This wasn't the normal hand-shaking an nods in the pews, either.  Children dashed about the church, embracing aunts, uncles and grandparents.  It was great to see.

The children's choir was also perfect.  Mostly in tune, and very sweet, they also went after a couple of carols with the wild abandon of youth, belting out the high notes in total disregard of intonation.

The awful weather prevented our full family from attending, and that was also poignant.  Our feast afterwards was somewhat subdued for that reason, though we hope to get everyone together today.

That's why each day has to be seen as fresh and new.  I've celebrated dozens of Christmases, and yet each is unique in its own way.  We should approach holidays with a freshness and expectation because in a sense, the birth of the Christ-child is an ongoing thing.  Every day someone learns of it for the first time, or experiences it more fully than before.  I went through 33 Christmases before I entered the Church.  I'm still learning its true meaning. 

Merry Christmas!

The malign spirit of glitchy technology

The site glitched yesterday, and I think I have it fixed.

Amusingly, I've been having software issues in completely unrelated areas.  Coincidence?

Some folks might call it karma, which is an acceptable Western religious sentiment.  Declare it to be a work of the devil, and well, that's crazy Christian nonsense.

In any event, hopefully things will run smoother for a bit.

UPDATE:  Hah!  No sooner do I post this than Typepad goes down for 3 hours.  Naturally, I said the St. Michael the Archangel prayer.

I'm sure a "rational" explanation will be found, but some of us know the truth.


This year I'm thankful for the Rosary

As an (ongoing) convert to Catholicism, I'm still exploring many aspects of the faith.   Just as it took me time to understand, accept and eventually implement the full slate of beliefs, I'm still learning about all the different forms of worship.

For example, I've yet to experience a Latin Rite Mass.  I know, I know, in certain circles that's practically a mortal since, but I'm hard-pressed just to make my weekly parish Mass.  Going farther afield will have to wait just a little longer.

Over the last couple of months events in the world really started to get to me, and so I once again began to tune out the world.  I also wondered why the forces of darkness were almost everywhere advancing from victory to victory.

As I pondered this, I noticed our bishop continuing to stress the importance of the Rosary.  I had of course said a few of these over the years, but I found them time-consuming and my attention wandered.

However, the military strategist side of me noted that multiple authorities (I'm talking saints here) have highlighted the fact that the Rosary is one of the Church's most effective spiritual weapons.  That being the case, how could I forgo using it giving the increasing operational tempo of spiritual warfare?

I think part of the issue was the environment.  I started saying the Rosary with Gregorian chant playing in the background, and I found a quiet part of the day in which to do it. 

And then I understood.  I am not yet at the point where I say one every single day, but I find that having it there, and praying it several times a week has given me an incredible sense of calmness.

This Thanksgiving Day, I look back on the last 12 months and can say without hesitation that things for our family are vastly improved.  We have so much to be thankful for.  Most people will focus on the health of loved ones, or their physical comfort and financial security, all of which are important and we should be grateful for them.  However, I'm thankful that God was there for me when all of those things were fading and some I feared might never return.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving.

Veterans Day, 2022

Later today I will be playing "Taps" for the last time as an active service member.  Amidst all of the changes of the past couple of years, this is one that has come in an entirely unexpected way.

Just as with storytelling, how an experience ends can have a profound impact on how one looks back on the whole thing.  I've written before about how a botched conclusion can not only wreck a particular film or book, but trash the entire franchise.  I'm talking about you, Star Wars.

As I wrap the 21st and final season of "A.H.Lloyd's Remarkably Uninteresting Military Career," I'm definitely getting same vibe as watching the lamentable last season of Miami Vice.

Maybe it will look better in re-runs.

On the positive side, I will have a lot of spare time and  more much more latitude to vent my spleen on military affairs.  This opens up new areas of writing as well as more time with which to do it.

Speaking of writing, Walls of Men is now undergoing its final edit prior to being formatted for publication.  It's been through my hands and those of two test readers, but reading it aloud has found a great many areas of improvement.  I think this will be standard practice for me from now on.

A Strange November

This is the mildest start of November I've ever seen.  It is no unusual for Halloween to be balmy (or freezing), but the long streak of warm weather is uncanny.  I keep running into people who smile at the weather and then shudder at the thought that we'll be "paying for it later."

Perhaps.  Sometimes there are mild winters.  A succession of these added fuel to the global warming movement (which was strange, since mild winters are a good thing - more please!).

I don't like to bring up current politics, but I will note that while huge sums of money are being spent on campaigns (my mailbox is hit with glossy fliers every single day), no one seems really interested in it.  The "yard sign wars" are the most restrained I've seen.  I don't know if it's people not caring, the campaigns not spending money or what, but the political signs have robust competition from contractors and the virtue-signalling Yard Sign Calvinists.

(Speaking of which, after decades of pondering, I've realized a similar term describes the hatchback covered with leftist bumper-stickers - Bumper Sticker Calvinism.)

My little burg's most common sign is in favor of the library millage renewal, which will certainly pass.

I'm not going to complain about either, and I'm approaching Election Day with more calmness than a felt a month ago.  I must keep reminding myself that God ultimately decides who wins, and if "my cause" loses, I should embrace that cross and also ask myself what lesson we are being taught.

In the meantime, I need to keep going on walks and even take a few bike rides while I still can.

Time for a new 40k discussion forum?

For two decades, I got my 40k fix at one of two discussion sites.  First there was Portent, which started in the 1990s and was for a time the premier news and discussion site for all things Games Workshop.  Sometime in the Aughts, the proprietor had enough, and sold the site to some of the administrators.  That became Warseer.  There was a seamless transition - new accounts were needed but everyone kept their handles and so things went.  I eventually lost interest in being "current" in 40k, but continued to chat with 2nd edition enthusiasts.

I also developed Conqueror: Fields of Victory on Warseer, and the site hosted a "sticky" threat where one could actually read how it came about and discussion about what mechanics it should use.

Alas, a few years ago there was an attack on the site that knocked it down for months and when it came back, most of its users had gone away.  Since then, a few straggled back, but it was mostly a ghost town, a vast site populated with conversations that were frozen in time.

Further complicating efforts to revive it, the site owners refused to authorize a much-needed reorganization, nor were they punctual about updating site credentials, which meant users had to click through warnings to even get there.

It's been down for a bout a week now, and while it has not year reached the "site not found" stage, I fear the end is not far off.

It's a reminder that the internet is by its nature a very temporary thing, and a beloved site with thousands of users can vanish in the blink of an eye.  Warseer may yet come back, but I think it will only continue its zombie existence. 

A large part of the problem is the competition by facebook (the site has a page) but I have no interest in giving my content to tech billionaires.  I guess I should check to see if any of the other contemporaries are still out there.

Peak Color in Michigan

A busy week has left me scant time (or energy) to write, but happily I was able to enjoy the height of the fall color season.

This is one of the things that makes autumn so poignant.  The season doesn't just signal the transition from summer to winter, it is constantly in motion, each day reflecting an irreversible change from the day before.

This is entirely unlike winter and summer, where the seasons sort of settle in.  Spring is also a time of transition, but even the most spectacular floral bloom cannot compare the majesty of an entire forest painted red and gold.

There is also the sadness that peak color is immediately followed by the "little death" of winter.  No sooner to the branches blaze than the leaves fall away.

This is why "color tours" exist, and our family conducted its own miniature version last week, savoring the peak color at the Straits before watching it follow us home.  Halloween is close and in these parts it's even money on whether comfortably warm or bitterly cold.