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Archive for the ‘Just Because…’ Category

My Dog In The Fight…

In It Bugs Me, Just Because..., no excuses, Think About It on June 22, 2015 at 7:59 pm

Ever since the tragic, criminal shooting of nine people at the Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, I have been holding my tongue.

When the shooter was arrested in North Carolina, I kept silent.

When it was said that he’d stated he wanted to fire the first shots in a race war, I kept silent.

When he was shown in photographs waving a Confederate “Battle Flag”, posing at Confederate history sites, burning and stepping on an American flag, and wearing a jacket with flags of pre-apartheid South Africa and Rhodesia, I kept silent.

When a racist and hate-filled “manifesto” was published on the Internet, I kept silent.

Even when a board member of the National Rifle Association blamed the pastor of the church, who had served as a State Senator, for this horror by voting against a measure that would have allowed firearms in churches, day care centers, and other public places in South Carolina, I kept silent.

It wasn’t easy, but I kept silent.

But when the discussion turned to the matter of a Confederate flag flying over a war memorial in the state capitol, and how it was not being lowered to half staff, while the U.S. and State flags were, and how people were defending the “Southern Cross” flag (for so the actual name of that battle flag is, not “stars and bars”) as a symbol of Southern heritage and the valor of Confederate troops during the Civil War, that did it. I had to speak up, and put my two drachmas in.

I have spent some time researching the history and symbology of the flag in question, and the mindset of the people who venerate it as the symbol of the “Lost Cause”.

I will be answering some of the “talking points” they brought up as thoroughly as I can.

And, just in case someone questions my credentials to do so, we have recently found through a combination of DNA and genealogical research that my biological father, whom I never met (since he left before I was born), was a collateral descendant of Robert Edward Lee of Virginia, who commanded the Army of Northern Virginia for the Confederate States of America. While on my mother’s side, I am related to several known Canadian and American patriots, some of whom fought in the First U.S. Volunteer Cavalry, a/k/a “The Rough Riders”, in the Spanish-American War, and who volunteered in the First and Second World Wars. In fact, I lost an uncle in the Korean Conflict, about two weeks before the Treaty of Panmunjom.

So you can’t say I don’t have “a dog in this fight”; I have one on both sides.

First of all, it was NOT “The War of Northern Aggression”; the states that seceded from the Union were refusing to abide by the Constitution of the United States, and were trying to selectively “nullify” (their words) actions of the Congress as a whole that they disagreed with. Prominent among these laws were tariffs which these states saw as a threat to their ability to profit from their system of slave labor.

Here is an interesting side note to the whole business… If Eli Whitney, a Northerner, had not invented the cotton gin, the economics of cotton growing would not have been sustainable, and neither would the slave economy.

The accusations are that the Civil War was not about slavery, but the economy of the South. It was about the economics of maintaining the system of slavery that maintained the aristocracy of plantation owners.

The Confederate battle flag is being held up as a symbol of the Southern Heritage, and the valor of the fighting men who championed the cause of “state’s rights” and “state sovereignity”, and as a symbol of the gentlemanly virtues of the antebellum South.

This flag was and is a symbol, without a doubt… a symbol of slavery, of treason, and of hatred. It was a “quaint” reminder of the losing side before the 1940’s, but also used as an intimidating force to those who tried to exercise the rights they had gained from the War and the Constitutional amendments immediately following. In 1948, the “Dixiecrat” party of disaffected Southern Democrats tried to splinter the Democratic Party in a Presidential election year, unless the nominee, Harry Truman, capitulated to their pro-segregationalist ideas. The Confederate flag, as we know it (the “Battle Flag”) was one of their symbols.

The upsurge of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1940’s also saw the use of the Battle Flag, the burning cross, and the lynching tree as their symbols of maintaining the “power” of white men in the South. Noted Southern politicians such as George C. Wallace of Alabama and J. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina (the “Dixiecrat” candidate in 1948) used the flag for their own purposes, being virulently anti-Federal interventionists, pro-segregationists, and supporters of the doctrines of “nullification”, “secession”, and even out-and-out disobedience to the laws of the land, as written by the Congress and interpreted by the Supreme Court.

And there are still those who reject the realities of the Twenty-First Century, and wish for the comfortable lies of the Nineteenth… those who believe the “Yankees” are out to “get them”, those who believe that the War never ended, and who still want to fight to establish their Utopia.

It’s unfortunate that no amount of reason will make these people see the truth. Their heads are stuck so far up their denial that even calling them Cleopatra is an understatement.

 

This Has Not Been A Test…

In blogging, Just Because..., no excuses, writing on June 20, 2015 at 9:48 pm

I should be writing more.

This is something I do not dispute.

Now there’s an incentive for me to write more… The Clarion Writers Workshop, which moved from Michigan State University in East Lansing to the University of California San Diego within the past few years, is holding their sixth Clarion Write-a-Thon.  They explain it using the walkathon model as an example; the more steps toward a goal that the writer gets, the higher total of pledges the writer piles up to go to charity.

My Beautiful Wife, who holds a much higher opinion of my writing talent than I do, has convinced me to sign up to participate in this endeavor; I have set myself a goal of 75 script pages completed by the end of the period – 22 June to 1 August.

For your part, I ask that you go to the site, Clarion Write-a-Thon, and pledge something to my account.  If you pledge fifty cents a page, and I complete all 75 pages I have undertaken to do, you would be donating $37.50 to charity.

Not an exorbitant amount, right?

You are free to pledge any amount you wish, and there are a choice of 69 authors (so far), including myself, who have signed up.  If you don’t want to pledge for me, then maybe there’s another you do want to pledge to.

Hey, I’m easy.

Just do this, okay?  Thanks.

The Sincerest Form?

In activity, digital video, fault, film, It Bugs Me, Just Because..., Roughly About Films, Think About It on February 4, 2015 at 9:12 pm

Sometimes I wonder…

Television executives, whoever and whatever they are, keep throwing new series at us.  Something worked once, so they change it slightly, and put it up again.  Cop shows are popular?  See ten or twenty copies come up.  Doctor shows?  All TV is falling sick with exotic diseases.  Private eyes?  You’d think half the population had a license.

And the sad thing?  This is not new.  Sketch comedy shows were big from the late 40’s through the 70’s, with Your Show of Shows, Texaco Star Theater with Milton Berle, The Jack Benny Program, carrying over from radio, Burns and Allen, Garry Moore, Red Skelton, and Carol Burnett… Westerns, once a staple of Saturday matinees in movie theaters, dominated early TV, with shows like Gunsmoke, Have Gun, Will Travel, Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Wagon Train, Wanted: Dead or Alive, The Rebel, Branded, Rawhide, Bonanza, High Chapparal, The Big Valley, and so many more.  Dragnet, another transplant from radio, led the police parade starting in the 1950’s, along with other shows like The Naked City, M Squad, Burke’s Law, and their private eye kin like Hawaiian Eye, Surfside Six, 77 Sunset Strip, and Checkmate,ringing the changes.

For every show I’ve mentioned above, I’m sure there are probably six or seven I’ve missed.

As I said earlier, imitation is a way of life in television… network executives want it “the same, but different“.  Series are sold, premiered, and, if they don’t get traction with an audience immediately, cancelled.  A series getting picked up for a full season’s worth of shows these days is news because of the infrequency of its occurrence.  The trade papers are full of stories of a series getting “the ax” after three episodes aired… and one was even cancelled before its first episode premiered.

Market research, focus groups, “target demographics”, the “Q” rating (a measurement of a performer’s “likeability”), and other quantifications are attempting to objectify the highly subjective field of audience taste.  These methods have been moderately successful, at best, mostly in providing the broadcast and cable networks with a means to set their advertising rates.  The highly coveted “18 to 49 male” demographic, supposedly the group that spends the most money, is the group at which most of the programming is aimed.  (No surprise.)  So, there are action-filled shows, adventure, sports, scantily clad women, and things on the order of “X-Games”, “Wipe-Out”, and “American Ninja Warrior”.

Since research is now showing that females are becoming more of a desirable audience, based on “purchasing power”, we have shows like “The Real Housewives of Wherever”, “The Bachelor/Bachelorette”, and nighttime soap operas which show both men and women in various stages of undress.  This, too, is not new; witness the 70’s and 80’s phenomena of Dallas, Dynasty, and Falcon Crest.  Today it’s Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, Revenge, or True Blood.

This fractionating of the audience because of the proliferation of “new media” has also been going on since the beginning of our perceptions of media… The “legitimate theatre” begat vaudeville, which spun off burlesque… Movies arrived, silent at first, then gaining a voice and raiding theater, vaudeville, and burlesque for talent, as did its main competition, radio.  When television came into view in the 1940’s, the movies, reacting to losing some of their audience, came out with big gimmicks like stereophonic sound, Cinerama, CinemaScope, VistaVision, Techniscope, Technirama, Todd-AO, and other forms of wide-screen panorama projection… Sensurround, Dolby Stereo, THX from Lucasfilm, 5.1 and 7.1 stereo systems, and so much more became the buzzwords buzzing in our heads.

And all of this in the service of putting YOUR entertainment dollars into THEIR pockets.

And what are the net results of all this maneuvering, jockeying for position, and technical innovation?

I think one song sums it up… “500 Channels and Nothing’s On”.  In my opinion, there is precious little worth anyone’s time out there… and even with the growing trend of “rolling your own” with the now-ubiquitous portable video recording and editing equipment, which also started back at the beginning of movies with home cameras and projectors, is not a guarantee of anything worth watching.  (Think about it… the most popular things to see on the Internet are cat videos and pornography.)  The taste of audiences is a fickle thing; rapidly shifting, difficult to pin down.

It always was.

So, I still wonder…

Year’s End…

In beginnings, Just Because..., no excuses, screenplays, Think About It, writing on December 23, 2014 at 6:58 pm

How’s the saying go? “I was crazy once…”
2014 was not the “ideal” year for me in many senses of the word. I got hit with unforeseen circumstances up the wazoo, had some bad times, had some good times, and tried to get my felgercarb together.
Not that it worked
Dealing with insurance companies, alphabet-soup Federal agencies, collection agencies “cleverly” disguised as mortgage companies, the university I graduated from sending me letters asking for money, the high school I graduated from forty years ago sending me letters asking for money, seemingly endless streams of “junk mail” coming my way asking for money, and the things I really need – like inspiration, discipline, motivation, and the gumption to stick to a project until it’s done – in perilously short supply.
All this, and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. won’t be back until March, and Agent Carter won’t be here for another couple of weeks…
How is one to survive these holday times?
I don’t drink, and haven’t for a bit over thirty years… I gave up smoking a few years ago… I don’t cheat on my wife… I have an astounding number of food allergies, and can’t eat wheat, rice, barley, buckwheat, rye, hops, and many other things. Yes, this means no beer… the last one I had, a “non-alcohol” beer, had me being taken to the emergency room with severe anaphylactic shock; my throat swelled shut.
I want pizza. I want Chinese food, Mexican food, Thai food.
You always want most what you can’t have.
So, when you think about it, is it any wonder I’m conflicted? I want what I can’t have, and can’t seem to do what I want to do.
When I figure this out, I’ll let you know what’s going on with me… until then, I’m just trying to get by.
By the way, I’ve been in a short screenplay contest… It appears I won’t make it through the elimination rounds, but I’ll let you read the five-page screenplays I had to write in 48 hours for the first two rounds.


Sometime again!

Je me souviens…

In blogging, It Bugs Me, Just Because... on December 19, 2014 at 9:26 pm

It means, in case you’re interested, “I remember”…

The 13th of December was the 51st anniversary of the death of my grandmere.  She passed in her sleep, and I was the one who found her.  It was three days before my seventh birthday.

The 9th of December was my late mother-in-law’s 92nd birthday.  Since my wife and I married, just over 31 years ago, her mother had designated me her “bonus boy” – the child who was hers, but she didn’t give birth to.

Can’t argue with that.

The 19th of December was my wife’s baby brother’s birthday.  He would have been 54.  (He was killed before he was 17 in a particularly senseless auto accident.)

It’s been 40 years this year since I graduated high school in Baltimore.  This year, the fiftieth graduating class made it through.  An achievement to remember…

Memories, bitter, sweet, and bittersweet, all mixed together…

Something.  I don’t really have the words for it… yet.

I Got Friends With Low Faces…

In blogging, fault, Just Because..., no excuses, Think About It on August 9, 2014 at 8:56 pm

Recently, while I’ve been trying to keep at least one eye on social media, I notice that many of my friends (of the “in-person acquaintances” kind, not just on Facebook or Twitter) have been having days – or weeks – that most people would consider horribly bad.

Relatives dying.  Bouts of major depression.  Treasured pets dying, or having to be euthanized.  Crippling, disfiguring, or wasting type diseases.  Feelings that creativity has deserted them, perhaps forever.  Even these friends themselves dying suddenly.

To quote Queen Victoria, “We are not amused.”  (At least, I think it was Queen Victoria… Have to research that further.)

And I and mine are not immune… My Beautiful Wife Megan spent several hours in an emergency room early last Sunday morning, with a gushing, non-stop nosebleed.  With no medical intervention, it stopped, and when she was discharged, and stood to get into the wheelchair to leave, it started again… and the staff did nothing, since she’d been discharged.

How’s that again?

I do not think that the way things are, and have been for a while, are the “best of all possible worlds”, as the saying goes.  It never was, and probably never will be.  But as for a solution?  I got nothing.

I merely try to live as perfectly as possible in an imperfect world… and fall short in most instances.  Such is the way of things.

I can’t really offer any solace or constructive advice to anyone, since any I might have hasn’t seemed to work that well for me.  The only thing I can think of doing is pressing on, regardless… “Forward momentum”, as Lois McMaster Bujold advocated in many of her Miles Vorkosigan stories.  Well, that and “newt nuggets”… (You might not want to know…)

“Endeavor to persevere”… as the “civilized tribes” were told (in “The Outlaw Josey Wales”)…

Screw it.  I’m getting more dessert right now.

Excepting Perceptions…

In Just Because..., Think About It, writing on June 23, 2014 at 9:09 pm

What do you hate?

What do you fear?

If that’s what you’re looking for, chances are that’s what you’ll see.

What do you love?

What do you admire?

Seek these things in others, and you’ll find it in yourself.

*

Platitudes?  Yes.

That doesn’t stop them from being true.  (In point of fact, the truth of the proposition would seem to contribute to the likelihood of that proposition’s being a platitude to begin with.)

Many of the things we are taught from childhood onward could be considered platitudes, clichés, or “old folk wisdom”… their familiarity makes them easy to remember, and hard to forget.

But when, as you grow, you learn something that contradicts one of these ingrained messages, it takes a while to replace the older pattern with the new.  Some people, it seems, never replace the old patterns… and they become more and more out of sync with those who do.  These holdouts don’t seem to experience any cognitive dissonance between what they believe and their perception of the way the world is.

This is, it seems to me, a shame… these people waste a learning experience that way, because they won’t – or can’t – adjust their view of the world.  You can’t live someone else’s life for them, though… much as we’d want to, sometimes, to make it easier for them.

Personally, I still struggle to keep old habits of speech and thought from interfering with who I am, and who I need to be.

It’s not easy.  It never was.

Nothing good, it seems, ever is.

An Oasis of Sanity (?)

In It Bugs Me, Just Because..., Think About It on May 13, 2014 at 7:35 pm

Is the world going crazy, or am I?

Some fundamentalist Muslim dingbat kidnaps over three hundred schoolgirls and threatens to sell them into marriages, because his interpretation of the Qu’Ran holds that women should never be allowed education…

A racist nutjob who doesn’t recognize the existence, let alone the sovereignity, of the United States tries to start a war with the Bureau of Land Management because he hasn’t been paying grazing fees for feeding his herd on Federal land for something like twenty years, and more gun-happy “right wing” nutjobs join in…

More political asshats, flying under the banner of the Republican Party, are making more and more outrageously racist, classist, sexist, and elitist remarks that get reported, and they make the “excesses” of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette seem tame…

I don’t think these people see the cognitive disconnect between what they say they believe and what they say for public consumption.

Were it not for the fact that those alleged humans are trying to dismantle the foundations of representative government here in the U.S., I’d feel more comfortable ignoring them completely.

Unfortunately for me, there is no way I can, in good conscience, ignore them and stay true to what I believe in as an American.

I do not believe that either side of the gridlock that exists has all the answers. (Truth to tell, I am becoming more convinced by the day that no one has any answers. To anything.)

Still, we continue to do the best we can with the information we have at the time. When we learn better, we can do better.

The question is, do we? In our current system, it’s “money talks, suckers walk”“Murphy’s Golden Rule: Those who have the gold make the rules”“We have the best government money can buy”

These attitudes, cynical as they may be, make it hard for me to stay a loyal, patriotic American. But I doubt I’d find it better anywhere else.

And that’s a shame.

Now would be the time for me to propose sweeping changes to our system to bring things under control… Only thing is, I got nothing.

Maybe some other clever person can come up with something… I’m dry.

And that’s a shame, too.

2014: The Month With Two Faces…

In activity, beginnings, Just Because... on January 23, 2014 at 9:27 pm

In the days of the Roman Republic, the first month of the year was January, named after Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and endings, war and peace, gates, doorways, transitions, birth, and trade. He was depicted with two faces, one looking to the future, and the other simultaneously to the past.
What does this have to do with the turning of the year? Romans named the first month of the year in honor of this god, because of the beginnings, transitions, endings, et cetera, which occurred in this month. And this seems a good enough place to start this month and this year.
Year two thousand fourteen of the Common Era (so used by those who eschew AD (“Anno Domini”, or “In the Year of Our Lord”) and BC (“Before Christ”) dating) has been, in its first twenty-three days, an interesting year… the consciousness of the Vatican has been moving into the twentieth century from its previous stronghold in the fourteenth; in the estimation of many whose opinions I respect, the Republican Party in the United States continues to shoot itself in the foot – repeatedly; observations of the Canadian Parliament, posted by more people whose opinions I respect, don’t seem to be faring much better; it seems to me that all those in power have cried “Havoc!” and let slip the squirrels of war. [Squirrels are rats with better P.R. people.]
In my estimation, no one is likely to escape this year unscathed and unscarred… least of all we, the people.
Is this a good thing? Is this a bad thing? Is this a thing at all?
My best answer is this:
I got nothing.

What Is The Meaning Of Christmas? (Or Is There One?)

In It Bugs Me, Just Because..., Think About It on December 23, 2013 at 10:01 pm

Christmas time is almost here. (Imagine my exuberance.)
The original, religiously-based meaning of the day (the birth of the Christ, the long-awaited Messiah, who would bring all mankind to salvation) has been watered down so much by our secular society that it’s almost gone. Mostly, in today’s world, it’s the culmination of a three-to-four-week feeding frenzy of consumer insanity, greed, violence, inhumane behavior to animals as well as to fellow humans, apathy, grinding poverty, depression, suicidal thoughts and actions, anger, and other “negative” aspects.
All told, this has never been my favorite time of year, for reasons I’ve expressed elsewhere and elsewhen. Celebration has never been my strong suit.
Can someone tell me what about the end of the year – call it solstice, Yule, Saturnalia, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or whatever else – is good? Because, maybe because of my own lack of vision, I just don’t see it.
What would happen if there were none of the holidays at the end of the calendar year? Or, for that matter, what would happen if there were no holidays at all? No Independence Day… no Easter… no New Year’s Day… no Labor Day… no Memorial Day… no Halloween. How would stores survive? How would we keep commerce going when every day is like every other day?
Stores would have no emotional “hooks” to try and get you in and spend your money. What would happen then?
Would the feeding frenzy fade… or would it escalate to a constant, high level?
It may be an interesting experiment… but, personally, I’d rather just keep it on the Einsteinean “thought experiment” level. Things have changed enough in the last fifty years without this sort of tinkering.
Besides… could you trust the government, or the heads of major corporations, to implement this sort of policy in a manner that would be fair, equitable, and beneficial?
I didn’t think so.
So ponder… but don’t act unless you’re as sure as you can be that it’s an action that will promote the general welfare, and not just line somebody’s pocket even more.
To misquote Dickens, “God help us… every one!”

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