East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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Going through the Second Barrage

A lot of online reviewers were less than kind with Black Lagoon‘s second season – called The Second Barrage. Most lamented the absence of Dutch and Benny from many episodes, the excessive focus on Rock and Revy’s “relationship”, and the less frantic action. So I was rather curious to see what it would look like.
And to me it looks… quite interesting.

To recap, Black Lagoon is an early 2000s anime/manga series set in the ’90s, and focusing on the day-to-day lives of a team of mercenaries, the Black Lagoon Trading Co., operating in the South China Sea. The first season follows four successive narrative arcs, throwing in a lot of firepower and an ample cast of supporting characters – including an organization of gun-running nuns, a Triad’s boss that is obviously Chow Yun Fat from A better tomorrow II, and a formidable unit of former Soviet special forces, known as Hotel Moscow, now working for the Russian Mafia.

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As easy as one-two-three

Today it was a good day.
I finished the first draft of the Job from Hell.
I finished the second draft of my historical non-fiction book.
I mailed off the first of three historical articles I plan to write and sell this month.

Of the three, the Job from Hell is the only one that is problematic – ghostwriting for a client that basically believes he knows better than me what this writing business is all about has meant wasted time, humiliations and a somewhat shell-shocked feeling on my part. Now I’ll tell the client the first draft is done, and he’ll tell me it’s not, and ask for changes that could easily be done during second draft…
See what it’s doing to me? It’s very hard to live with this sort of anxiety about what you do, and how it will be received.
But anyway – first draft done.

The historical essay is going as smooth as silk – and by the end of the month, barring accidents, and after a couple minor adjustments, we’ll have the final draft and hand it over to the publisher. If everything works out fine, and the Turin Book fair will take place in September, we’ll be there with our book.

And the article was fun.
It’s not every day you can quote The Black Amazon of Mars, by Leigh Brackett, in a learned piece about the history of science.

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My life as an explorer

Curiously enough, My life as an explorer is the title of two books, that were published in 1926 and in 1927. The 1926 one was by Sven Hedin, a man whose adventures in Central Asia are the stuff of legend, and the 1927 book was by Roald Amundsen, one of the greatest Arctic explorers.
And I’ve read them both.

The thing that strikes me is that both explorers had to be two of the most self-centered and egotistical individuals ever to walk the earth – and I find it quite funny that the books of these two world-explorers and adventurers end up being mostly about them and only tangentially about the places they visited and the people they knew.
Fascinating reads, mind you, but somewhat spoiled by the attitude of the central characters/authors.

Reading Hedin comment that some men were born to wear the spurs, others to wear the saddle, or reading the progressively more hilarious rants of Amundsen about Umberto Nobile (he himself another fine specimen of vain, egotistical man – with an extra side of collusion with the Fascist Regime), was not overly pleasant. In the end, there are books by other explorers and adventurers that at least make you feel it would have been nice meeting them and having a chat over a cool drink.

But comparing these two books with the same title, led me to wonder whether there was (or there is) something in the character of people that went to the farthest corners of the earth looking for adventure, knowledge or some other strange kicks.
I was reminded of Roy Chapman Andrews, that was not a very nice person and sometimes that slipped in his self-promoting books, and I thought about Freya Stark commenting scathingly on the adventures of Rosita Forbes. And there’s others, even if they now escape me (yes, I’ve read a lot of adventure diaries and travelogues).
We do read these books for the adventure, not for the sympathy of the authors – but sympathetic authors exist even in the adventurers/explorers field, and in the end these are the ones I’m likelier to bring with me afterwards.

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Into the Black Lagoon

It was a very stressful day, the prelude to a week that promises – you guessed it – even more stressful. But not everything was bad, and as a recipe of my own devising was broiling in the slow cooker, I was finally able to get to the bottom of the first season of Black Lagoon.
That’s a good way to wash away some stress.

I found out about Black Lagoon a few years back, as I was doing a research on the classic Universal monster, the Gill Man, aka The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Google searches being what they are, I stumbled on this thing called Black Lagoon
Japanese anime. Does it feature a Creature? No, it looks like straight action.
Straight action anime, references to a movie I like… let’s check it out.

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Radio Karavansara – why not?

I’ve been listening a lot to Martin Newell’s ODDCASTE, an irregular podcast in which the British musician and poet plays DJ, offering a selection of obscure and often fascinating pop tunes. I often thought that’s the sort of thing I’d love to do… but of course the ODDCASTE already exists, and there’s no need for more of the same.

On the other hand, I am having a lot of fun with the current work on Paura & Delirio, the podcast on horror and fantastic movies I host with my friend Lucy. Wouldn’t it be good to do something else, podcast-wise?
Of course it would!

Then last night the thought struck me.
Time to bring back Radio Karavansara.

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Dark Agnes

It’s the 11th of June, Robert E. Howard’s anniversary, and just 36 hours a go I did a post on my Italian blog about sword & sorcery, and mentioned Dark Agnes de Chastillon. And then yesterday, as we were recording our podcast, my friend Lucy and I talked briefly about Robert E. Howard’s women – because he did write a few very interesting women, and Dark Agnes was one of them.

I first met Dark Agnes de Chastillon, also known as Agnes de la Fere (a name that might ring a bell with those that have read Dumas) in the mid-80s. Having broken into the habit of reading in English, a whole world opened up for me, and I raided the shelves of the cheap paperbacks in the Sevagram bookstore. Some books I picked because of the author, others just because of the cover.
Sword Woman was perfect on both counts.

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